Wednesday, October 26

10 Halloween Etiquette Tips and Tricks

With the spooky occasion almost upon us, I'm sharing these helpful holiday tips from Sharon Schweitzer, an international etiquette expert, author and founder of Protocol and Etiquette Worldwide. (And just for the visual appeal, I'm also sharing some of my girls' best Halloween moments!)

-        Select Appropriate Costumes: Costumes that represent a culture, race, ethnic or religious group or someone with a serious illness, poverty or other hardship, are inappropriate.  Sexually explicit costumes and those mocking LGBT or gender identity encourage negativity. During this election year, American public political figures are certainly on the table; expect to see Clinton and Trump. 

-        Age Appropriateness: While many adults enjoy Halloween dress up, remember this is mostly a children’s holiday.  What your teenager might wear, is not a good fit for a first-grade Halloween party.  Gage the costume based on your child’s age, and the age of his or her peers. Even if you think your young child might be able to handle dressing up as Freddy Krueger, it might be too much for his or her friends. 

-         Candy Alternatives: Traditional chocolate or sugar-laced candies are always a hit. With more health conscious parents, consider sealed mini bottled water, pre-packaged popcorn, coloring books, pre-packaged healthy snacks, small inexpensive toys, or pens/pencils.

-        If You Don’t Want Anyone To Ring Doorbell or Knock: By simply turning off the outside lights, you will alert trick or treaters to skip your house and go on to the next.  As an option, consider leaving a bowl of candy by the front door.  Putting the car in the garage may also remove the question of whether someone is home. 

-        Knock One Time and One Time Only: If no one answers, move on to the next house.  There’s no need to be excessive and knock 10 times. The homeowner might be on an important call or trying to help a baby to sleep. On a related note: know when it’s appropriate to knock. Trick or treating generally starts just before sunset and ends by 9 p.m. 

-        No Homemade Treats: While it’s a nice thought to want to bake homemade Halloween treats, don’t do it.  Parents have heightened safety concerns for good reason, and will discard these items.  Buy pre-packaged candy from trusted brands like Hershey, M and M, Skittles, Dove and Reese’s. 

-        Teach Your Kids Manners: Halloween is a great opportunity to teach your kids manners, such as greeting and thanking each homeowner who gives them candy. Explain to older kids and teenagers that bullying and pushing smaller kids out of the way won’t be tolerated. When they encounter a bowl of candy at the door, make sure they are considerate and only take one or two pieces.  Be sure they respect private property, including homeowner decorations, and don’t leave unwanted candy or wrappers on lawns.

-        Never Arrive Empty-Handed: Anyone invited to a Halloween party does not arrive empty handed.  Bring a small hostess gift such as tea towels, diffuser, candle, coasters, fresh fruit, wine, packaged sweets, or children’s game.

-        Office and School Policies: Office culture varies, so be sure to research your workplace policy. Ask a trusted colleague about the ‘unwritten rules’. Some offices encourage tasteful costumes, while others frown upon the practice.  Education policies vary, so don’t assume children may wear their costumes to school.  In many school districts, costumes are prohibited for safety reasons. Double check and don’t assume. 

-         Stay Safe: Younger children should always be accompanied by parents or a designated chaperone. Older children and teens should trick or treat as part of a group.  Never enter someone’s home you don’t know, no matter how nice they seem.  Carry a flashlight and mobile phone.  Follow your intuition and if you have a bad feeling about something, avoid it.

Thanks, Sharon!


Friday, October 14

Win a Baeumler Prize Pack - Plus Bryan and Sarah Chat About Bryan, Inc.

On September 25th, HGTV Canada premiered a fun new series with Bryan and Sarah Baeumler called Bryan, Inc., where the powerhouse couple buys and renovates two homes for a profit while balancing their busy home life with four active kids: “Q” (11), Charlotte (10), Lincoln (5) and Jojo (3).

Since I always love to pick the brains of my favourite TV personalities, I was happy to have the chance to fire some questions at both halves of this duo. Here's what they had to say, starting with Bryan himself.

What would you say really sets Bryan Inc. apart from your other series?

Bryan Inc. is really the natural evolution of the House of Bryan series, but we’re not building our own home, this series focuses on two of our ‘spec’ builds through Baeumler Quality Construction. Sarah has been involved in our construction and other businesses for the past 15 years – now we’re just filming more of her role, and giving her a little more responsibility by actually being on site more and directing traffic on a few of the jobs. It’s an inside look into our business, our relationship and our family – with no holds barred!

How did Sarah handle working with you as "the boss"?

Let’s just say this is a bit of a role reversal…at home, Sarah is definitely the leader of the pack. She keeps the kids, the house, and our lives organized and running smoothly. I have no idea how she does it all, but when she’s away for a day and I have our 4 kids and a household to organize, I definitely miss her! On the business side, Sarah’s handled the transition very well – we try to keep our working relationship at the office, but of course there’s times when our two lives collide. We try to keep it lighthearted and have a lot of fun at work.

Moms always get asked about balance, so I'm throwing this question to you instead: can you think of a time when you've had "Dad guilt", or felt like work was keeping you from something important with the family? How do you resolve that?

Of course – I feel guilty all the time, but I try not to beat myself up about it! I learned quite young from my parents that in order to provide for your family, you have to make sacrifices. It’s impossible to be home all the time, and be the perfect parent every day. I’m not sure you can ever spend enough time with your family…but they need a place to live, they need to eat, and I feel a duty to provide them with the best opportunities I can to grow up happy, and be successful in their own lives. Sarah and I get asked how we balance everything all the time – and the honest answer is that we don’t! I don’t think anyone really ever achieves total balance – the scales are always moving, I think you just have to adapt and refocus your attention on the areas that need it, when they need it, and do your best. Life is too unpredictable for balance. Or maybe that is the balance?!

How would you finish the sentence "This Dad loves..."?  

This Dad loves Purdy’s chocolate hedgehogs, scuba diving, Biltong (South African air dried beef from Florence Meats Butcher Shop), Sarah’s baked salmon (YUM!), Jack Daniels and Coke, Islamorada (Florida Keys) and the 30,000 Islands of Georgian Bay.

Now on to Sarah (a woman after my own heart, by the way, who gets her caffeine fix from diet cola instead of coffee):

The press release says that Bryan is the boss on this new show. How did you deal with that? Did any work issues spill over into home life?

Bryan and I have been working together for over 10 years in some capacity, both on camera and off, so the relationship between boss and co-worker is often blurred!  We have always been partners both at home and at the office but we also have our own interests, independent of one another, which allows us to remain individuals. Truly, you only have to ask our four children who the real boss is in our household!!!

From one lifestyle blogger to another, I'm curious to know what you think the highlights and low points of blogging are?

The Sarah Baeumler website has given me an opportunity to engage with other women who have similar interests.  It is an amazing accomplishment to finish a blog with the satisfaction of knowing I have shared something very personal that may also resonate well with others.  I have enjoyed receiving feedback from all of my followers and readers. That being said, it can sometimes be a challenge to find the time to sit down and put my thoughts into words after a long day on set. 

With four kids, I'm sure back-to-school was a busy time for you! Any tips to offer parents for managing school routines, paperwork, etc.?

Stay organized!  Our family uses a shared Google calendar that helps Bryan and I keep track of who is where. I try hard to stay on top of things by preparing in advance for the upcoming week rather than running around frantically the night before. But inevitably, best laid plans…

How would you finish the sentence "This Mom loves..."?

This Mom loves all things chocolate
This Mom loves carbohydrates
This Mom loves hot yoga
This Mom loves scuba diving with Bryan and Quintyn
This Mom loves building sandcastles with Josephine on the beach
This Mom loves escaping to New York City for a weekend away!  

Thanks for opening up, Bryan and Sarah!

Now, one lucky Canadian This Mom Loves reader will win a great prize package from the Baeumlers, consisting of:
  • One Sarah Delivered box featuring items personally selected by Sarah (if you're interested, these boxes are for sale every month)
  • One autographed Measure Twice book from Bryan

The contents of the winner's Sarah Delivered box will be different, but just to give you an idea of how packed with great products they are, here is what I received in her "Revive" box (kindly sent by HGTV Canada):

Please fill out the following form to enter to win, with bonus entries for following HGTV Canada on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and following This Mom Loves on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The contest will end Thursday, October 20th at midnight Eastern, after which time a winner will be chosen by random number generation.

Good luck, and be sure to catch Bryan, Inc. on Sundays at 10 pm ET/PT on HGTV!

Thursday, October 13

A RepliKate Update - My Fashion Finds in the Style of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge

While I haven't yet stocked up on any of the Duchess of Cambridge's looks from the 2016 Canada Tour, I have had fun with a few RepliKates since I last updated my dear readers! (Though if you follow on Instagram, you probably saw all of these in real time!)


Earrings from D Baker Jewelry on Etsy (bottom, under $40), replicas of Kate's Kiki McDonough Lauren Yellow Gold Pave Diamond Leaf Earrings (top; roughly $3600 Canadian). I've worn them several times a week since they came in the mail - love them!


While in Toronto on the holidays, I made an appointment at Sephora for a Custom Makeover (free with minimum $50 purchase). The makeup artist (Khadijah) and I discussed my goals (to try out and report on some of Kate Middleton's favourite items) and it was a lot of fun! Of course I wasn't worried about replicating the Duchess's exact shades of products (although we do have similar colouring).

We know for a fact, through sources directly at Bobbi Brown, that Kate has worn the brand (including on her wedding day, when she did her own makeup!) Some other companies have confirmed that she has bought or worn their products, and on occasion she has even been spotted making a purchase. (Lots of info on my favourite Kate site, What Would Kate Do?)

So, in good fun, I tried out the following:

Urban Decay Naked Eye Shadow Palette (which I didn't end up purchasing, because I have almost all of the same colours at home by different companies...and I'm not made of money!)

Bobbi Brown foundation stick
Bobbi Brown creamy matte lip colour
Bobbi Brown lip gloss

Lancome Kohl Eye-Liner (recommended by the makeup artist over the Kohl Le Crayon, likely worn by the other Kate, which the pro finds drier and harder to apply)

There were many other products used to create the look above, but I ended up buying the three Bobbi Brown items as well as the eyeliner, which I really liked. (I already have a great mascara, blush, etc. at home.)

In the future, I'd still like to try out the Bobbi Brown Shimmer brick, Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer (seems like a quick and easy school-day product), and a bee venom mask that doesn't cost more than a mortgage payment.


When in need of new running shoes, of course I wondered, "What would Kate wear?" Some quick research indicated that her latest sneaker appearance involved a pair of Adidas Pure Boost X trainers...which of course immediately sold out. However, someone on eBay happened to be offering up the exact same pair (in my size!), and I won the auction, paying much less than the regular selling price. They're funky-looking shoes in person (you can actually put your finger right through the area under the foot and above the sole of the shoe!) and SOOOO comfy.


Again, I "needed" a neutral-looking scarf as the cold weather why not go with the exact same one Kate wore on her very first visit to Canada? Here's my new Aquascutum Club Check scarf, and a grainy photo of Kate sporting hers while out on the Canadian water.


While I haven't yet copied any of Kate's style from last month's royal visit, once again she copied mine - which proves to me that I have chosen the right style icon! She was seen in a nice cozy red sweater, similar to the Joe Fresh version I've been wearing for over a year!

Until next time!

Tuesday, October 11

Did Your Back-To-School Checklist Include Vaccinations?

As our kids prepared to return to school—or attend for the very first time—I'm sure we were all diligent about school supplies, lunch containers, indoor shoes, and maybe even some new clothing. But how many of us remembered to make sure our children were up-to-date on their vaccinations?

Now, I know there are moms out there who have mixed or negative feelings about vaccines. One of my very first interviews for This Mom Loves was with a doctor whose medical expertise I trust wholeheartedly. I asked her what she thought, and this was her reply:

"Vaccinations are the biggest improvement to public health after handwashing for prevention of disease, so I'm a pro-vaccine advocate. There is evidence now that there is no link between any vaccines and autism and the safety and efficacy data on the vaccines that we use are excellent, so I am a great pro-vaccinator. I encourage my parents to understand that primary prevention is your best strategy, and this whole concept that getting a disease makes the immune system tougherthere is no science behind that at all."

I also have mom friend who is also a doctor, and whose children are similar ages to mine, and I have followed her lead when it comes to vaccinating our children—which is to say that we've followed  Ontario’s publicly funded immunization schedule thoroughly.

Parents are naturally concerned about any medication being given to their children, and the Ontario immunization site says this about vaccine safety:

"In Canada, we have very strict controls for making vaccines. All vaccines are tested to make sure they are both safe and effective. The most common side effects are mild pain, swelling and redness where the injection was given.

Some infant vaccines may cause a low-grade fever (approximately 38°C) or fussiness for a day or 2 after the injection. Doctors may recommend acetaminophen to prevent fever and pain. Serious side effects are rare."

While it's very important to keep our newborns and babies safe from disease, school entry is another essential time to make sure your child is protected...and will also not infect his or her classmates (especially vulnerable children who may not be able to be vaccinated themselves for medical reasons).

In order to attend school in Ontario, children must be immunized against tetanus, diphtheria, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, meningococcal disease and whooping cough (unless they have a valid exemption). Cost is not an issue: vaccines in the routine schedule are provided free of charge.

A piece of parenting advice, now that my girls are 10 and 8: make sure you bring your children's immunization cards with you every time you go to the doctor for a vaccination. It was current when I registered my girls for school, as I had to show proof of their immunizations. After that when they returned for further vaccines, there were a couple of times I didn't have the card on me and didn't worry about it because I knew the doctor's office would always have the records.

Then, when my daughters were in school, I received notices that their immunization records weren't up-to-date at our local health unit (because doctor's offices don't update those records), and I needed to send proof of the vaccinations to them, which I then had to get from the doctor. Not a big deal, but a minor inconvenience that could have been avoided if I had been diligent about bringing the immunization cards with me, and letting the Health Unit know afterwards.

As children get older, vaccines are also offered for meningococcal disease, Hepatitis B and human papilloma virus (HPV). There was an expert on Your Morning this week discussing how HPV rates have seen a huge decline over the past ten years since the introduction of that vaccine, which is pretty amazing. Also, don't forget there are necessary boosters for teens and adults, too, so check out Ontario's Routine Immunization Schedule to be sure everyone in the family is fully immunized...including the parents! 

Here you see my beautiful girls on the first day of school: new outfits, backpacks stocked...and fully immunized to be safe from disease. 

Disclosure: This post was developed in association with the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The opinions are my own.

Saturday, October 8

Protect Your Kids Online with KidsWifi: Spokesperson Cheryl Hickey

I'm always interested when my TV personality friends put their support behind causes or companies, and when ET Canada's Cheryl Hickey let me know that she was the spokesperson for a worthwhile new product called KidsWifi, I immediately wanted to share it with my readers.

Here's how it works: KidsWifi provides your children with their own plug-in-and-go online network (using your home internet connection) which filters, monitors and controls all of their (or their visiting friends') online devices in your home: iPods, tablets, computers, game consoles, it's all covered.

Through the Parents' Dashboard you can set KidsWifi to filter adult and mature content, social networks, gambling, illegal downloads, ads, even Google searches and YouTube videos. It can be automatically turned off at bedtime, and you can even disable it through your phone if you want the kids offline for a period of time. You can also review the sites your kids have visited (by each device); a very helpful feature to spark discussions.

When kids are really young (as Cheryl's are) KidsWifi can be helpful for making sure they don't accidentally stumble upon undesirable content. As children get older, and conversations are ongoing about what's appropriate (in terms of videos, social media use, amount of time online) you can gradually release responsibility as your kids earn it by adjusting the settings. They still maintain some privacy, as activity inside a site or app (e.g., messages sent or received) is not recorded. KidsWifi can handle dozens of devices at once, while devices on your regular ("grown up") network are unaffected, unfiltered and run at regular speed.

At one point we took internet browsing off our younger daughter's iPod, as she loves to look up videos for the songs she hears on the radio, but some of them were just not appropriate. With KidsWifi, the device could be set to run only on YouTube Restricted mode, blocking the more mature content. You can even make personalized exceptions to block or unblock a particular site for the whole network or a specific device (helpful if you have kids of different ages hooked up).

Here's what official spokesperson Cheryl Hickey has to say:

“Take it from me – a busy mom, wife, entrepreneur and host of ET Canada. I can’t monitor my kids’ screen-time 24/7. KidsWifi enables me to provide my kids with the joy of the Internet, with the peace of mind knowing they're safe while surfing and I can set the boundaries of when it is time to shut down and head outside!"

The price for this peace of mind: a one-time cost of $99. Plug it in and go. (There's even a great "Support" page right on their website if you have any technical questions.)

Thanks for sharing this with me Cheryl! I think KidsWifi is going to be a great resource for parents.

Saturday, October 1

Kate's Favourite Things - October 2016

The reason you haven't heard from me much this month is of course because my new favourite thing is....

Our Kindergarten Classroom

The start of the school year is always a whirlwind, and the switch to kindergarten has added in a huge learning curve for me, but I think we're finding our groove! A couple of little highlights:

The interactive word wall. The kids and their families sent in pictures to go with their assigned letters, and it really helped give them ownership and add to the enthusiasm for the wall. It will just be used for names and age-appropriate sight words, but I still think a word wall is important for the classroom. It has already been rearranged since this picture was taken, as we have seven "K" names in the class and needed to adapt the space!

Our new classroom carpet. The saga of ordering and waiting for this piece of beauty is a story in itself, but long story short: we now have a wonderful spot where each of our 29 students can have their own space when we gather, and a soft, cozy place to sit and play for all of our open blocks of the day.

Cross Country

We have lots of staff members at our school willing to pitch in, so my big coaching commitment begins and ends in the fall with Cross Country. This year our 90-member team once again achieved amazing results, and my girls' hard work paid off as well, with Liv bringing home gold and Eva bronze. I'm so proud of everyone, not for running ability (though that helps) but for their determination and their sportsmanship.

Fall Decorating

If you know me, you know I love the heat, and I'm always sad to see summer go. However, I do get excited about seasonal decorations, and being at my mom's house last week really got me inspired. Here's a selection of her festive touches.

Great Kids' Book

I was sent a copy of The STEM Club Goes Exploring (from the My Future Story series) for review, and it's fantastic. While it's picture-book style, there's a lot of rich text on each page, so it's not a read-aloud, but instead a fun way for growing kids (I'd say 8+) to explore different career possibilities. Diverse boys and girls are represented in the detailed illustrations, and the book offers a great age-appropriate overview of the huge range of amazing options for kids who love STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). We know that girls may need added encouragement to pursue their passions in these areas, so it would be a great gift for a little lady in your life - or a little gentleman, of course!


If you're usually drawn to these posts for my book and movie recos, I'm sorry to disappoint you! I don't have one non-professional grownup book to recommend this month (I tried and abandoned a couple of works of fiction), but I did see one great movie: Bridget Jones's Baby. I learned, from my fellow movie-goers, that not everyone is a Mark Darcy fan (what is wrong with you people?) and believe it or not the fact that 2016 Renee Zellweger doesn't look identical to 2004 Renee Zellweger (from the last Bridget movie) did not ruin the film for me. If you haven't read her Huffington Post piece, you must.


Just a final note that when life doesn't leave time for full blog posts, I do a lot of micro-blogging on social media, so if you want to be sure to get all my updates, I'd love for you to follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I also do a lot of flash giveaways and you have to follow to enter and win! Thanks!