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Holiday

7 Tips for Getting Toys the Kids Really Want

GEAR, toys By December 11, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

Tips for Getting Toys the Kids Really WantI’m one of those moms who shops all year long. I buy things on sale and fun items fill the cupboards in the spare bathroom. By the time wrapping week comes around in December, the gifts have trickled into the bathtub, hidden under towels.

While this system has always worked in my house, this year things are different. The boys are 6 and 7 and have very specific HOT toys in mind. I realized yesterday in a panic that I didn’t have what they really wanted. Scouring the internet I finally found the toys in stock at one online retailer and pulled out the old Amex.

This mom has learned a few tricks and I won’t be making the same mistake in the future. Here are 7 tips for getting the toys the kids really want.

1. Write letters to Santa on December 1. If you do it too early the kids may change their mind about what they really want.

2. As soon as the letters are written, hop online and order the special present.

3. Stocking stuffers are great to collect over the course of the year, but larger bulky items are best sourced in December. Having an expensive bathroom as a storage area isn’t very practical.

4. Canada has caught on to Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales in a big way. Making a good list of items and finding the best deals on those days can save a fortune and eliminate the need to shop all year.

5. Pull up a few ‘hot toy’ lists and go through them with your kids to gauge interest. Mattel has a great Hot Toy List and I love Dr. Toy’s annual list as well. This will help you give Aunts and grandparents some ideas. Mattel also have a great online wishlist where you can keep track of the kids’ desires!

6. Check the safety of the toys and whether there have been any recalls. Healthy Canadians and AllAboutVision are great places to check.

7.  Canada’s official Free Shipping Day is happening this Thursday, Dec. 12, and eager online shoppers are gearing up for great deals.  Over 230 stores have signed up to participate, with several more expected to be added to the site before offers go live at 12:01 a.m. EST. In addition to big-name participants like Indigo, Garage, Roots and SportChek, independent retailers are also offering free shipping with delivery by Christmas Eve.

Once you’ve eliminated the stress from your shopping, you’ll have lots of time to bake, decorate, do charity work and make beautiful memories with the kids during the holiday season.

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Mattel Canada.  All opinions are our own.

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Mommy’s Christmas List

FAM, self By December 5, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , , 2 Comments

A mom’s life is always busy, but the holidays are even more intense.  Have you ever stopped to think of what you honestly & truly want for Christmas? Presenting Mommy’s Christmas List.

I want..

1. to go to the bathroom alone
2. someone to remove the smushed Cheerios & rotten milk smell from my car
3. to check the lost and found and not find something with my kid’s name on it
4. other people to stop telling me how advanced their kids are
5. to open the fridge and not find empty containers
6. to have a few pieces of clothing my daughter doesn’t borrow
7. a Saturday morning listening to whatever I want instead of Dora and the Wiggles
8. my Mom to stop saying ‘you ate/did/played with it and you turned out fine’
9. my kids to know where they put their library books
10. An ipad with my own apps on it
11. invisible full-body spanx
12. to remember every second of their childhood
13. to have someone other than me put on the new roll of toilet paper

What would you add to mommy’s Christmas list?

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Amber MacArthur’s Top 5 Holiday Apps for Moms

apps, GEAR By November 19, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

Remember those folks who said computers wouldn’t last and cell phones were a passing fad? Snicker. Not only were the naysayers incorrect, but our tech is now so mainstream and we have so many apps for our smartphones that we need experts to tell us about the true gems. In a special interview with Amber MacArthur, co-host of APP CENTRAL, she revealed her top 5 Holiday Apps for Moms as she gears up to celebrate a spectacular milestone: APP CENTRAL’s 100th episode on Wednesday, Nov. 20 at 9:30 p.m. ET on BNN and on CTV, Saturday, Nov. 23 at 5:30 p.m. ET/PT.  100 episodes!  No wonder we need more storage in our phones.  I was ‘appy’ as a clam as we spoke.  (OK I had to say it).

Amber MacArthur’s Top 5 Holiday Apps for Moms

1. Santa’s Magic phonecall iOS – free Call Santa on demand

2. Appy Holidays – allows you to get you xmas lights on your tree to dance to xmas carols. Plug the Appy Holidays Box (Available at Canadian Tire, $59.99) into any tree and turn it into a musical light show! Download the app to your smartphone or use the remote (included) to control your tree’s tunes & make lights dance

3. Martha Stewart Makes Cookies – Holiday Baking app  iOS – $1.99  A mouthwatering assortment of Martha’s favorite cookies is now available at your
fingertips! Learn from the best with this indispensable baking resource, which combines cutting-edge technology with beautiful design and a generous sprinkling of good, old-fashioned fun. With 6 recipe bundles, instructional videos, baking tips, packaging

4. Go Gift – lets you manage your gift list. iOS – $0.99
Thanks to quick reminders and gift status notifications, this is the best holiday app to manage your gift list. You can add photos of people on your list and gift pics to match.

5. Mixologist Drink Recipe App – holiday drinks and low cal drinks.  iOS/Android – $0.99/$1.49
Browse and search through nearly 8,000 drink recipes and over 1,000 ingredients, including holiday and low-cal drinks.

So get downloading to make your life easier, and don’t forget to tune in to the 100th episode of APP CENTRAL as Amber speaks with James Milward, Founder and Executive Producer of Secret Location (CTV.ca’s INTERFERENCE). Milward discusses his new app, Tug of War on Drugs, which reveals the realities of the war on drugs in support of Matthew Cooke’s documentary How to Make Money Selling Drugs. Plus, the APP CENTRAL team tests the latest in waterproof smartphones and phablets.

 

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Dried Cranberry and White Chocolate Chip Cookies

EAT, holidays By December 28, 2012 Tags: , , , 1 Comment

Are you looking for something new to brighten up your holiday cookie plate? The Old Farmer’s Almanac Everyday Baking cookbook is bursting with recipes that will satisfy a sweet tooth, cookie exchange or dessert for a holiday gathering.
Everyday Baking features 118 original recipes by celebrated baker and longtime Almanac collaborator Ken Haedrich. A winner of the Julia Child Cookbook Award, Haedrich may be best known as the author of Pie: 300 Tried-and-True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie, which was recently named one of the best baking books of the past 25 years by Cooking Light magazine.

Everyday Baking, with its handy reference section and time-tested advice sprinkled throughout, demystifies the art of baking and will inspire home bakers of all skill levels to make delicious breakfast treats, after-school snacks, and impressive desserts. The easy-to-follow recipes in Everyday Baking don’t demand unusual ingredients or abstract cooking techniques, but rather just a desire to make delicious home-baked goods completely from scratch.

Everyday Baking is available online at Almanac.com or wherever books and magazines are sold.

From The Old Farmer’s Almanac Everyday Baking cookbook (page 48)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
Optional: Fleur de sel or sea salt, just a few pinches

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter in a large mixing bowl. Beat in the sugars and eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add in the vanilla. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Stir the dry mixture into the creamed ingredients, half at a time, until evenly mixed. Stir in the cranberries, white chocolate chips, and nuts. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours (or overnight).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly butter two large baking sheets or line them with parchment paper. With lightly floured hands, shape the dough into 1-1/2-inch-diameter balls. Place the balls on the baking sheets, leaving about 2-1/2 inches in between. Optional: sprinkle a tiny pinch of fleur de sel over each ball, literally just about 5 granules on each cookie. Bake one sheet at a time on the center oven rack for about 17 minutes (this sounded like a long time to me, but because the dough was cold, it was perfect!). When done, the edges of the cookies should be golden brown and the centers much less so. Cool the cookies for 5 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer them to a rack to cool completely. Makes about 30 cookies.

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Nine Holiday Gift Ideas for Every Family Member

beauty, GEAR By November 29, 2012 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

Like most parents, you probably know exactly what to buy for one or two family members this holiday season. But what about the grandparents? The new baby down the street? The pool boy? (Just making sure you’re paying attention). Here are UrbanMommies’ ‘generational picks’ to get you through the busy shopping season. And you can get them all online, so you can spend less time looking for a parking spot and more time basting the turkey.

For Babies

Holt Renfrew has partnered with Missoni to offer these plush bear and elephant toys for babies, crafted out of their iconic prints in support of OrphanAid Africa. It’s definitely one baby item you won’t have to hide when company comes. $50; holtrenfrew.com.

 

For Toddlers

The Educo Gourmet Chef’s Kitchen is a wooden option to inspire little ones to earn their Michelin stars. The realistic knobs make clicking sounds and kids can check on what is ‘baking’ through the oven window. Be warned: it’s a top seller you’ll want to order early. $140

For Preschoolers

The new Hexbug Warriors Battle Stadium with Battling Robots is a huge hit in my house. It comes with an arena, is available in different designs and colours (all the better to entertain kids for hours) and is reasonably priced. It makes the perfect stocking stuffer. $20; Hexbug

For Tweens

The new Sifteo cubes are the coolest thing to hit tech since the internet. These motion-activated blocks with full-colour touch-sensitive LCD screens communicate wirelessly and respond to the proximity of players’ gestures during gameplay. (Channeling Big Bang Theory right now). Unlike many other games, kids have to use physical and mental intelligence while playing. $130; Sifteo.com

For Teenagers

The word ‘Teenager’ as almost synonomous with ‘Social’. There’s no better gift than technology they can use to keep in touch with friends, family, and (ahem) – Snap.

For Moms

I let the cat out of the bag. I actually told my husband that car detailing would be a better gift than diamonds. Whoops. So you should get mom that (for her stocking, of course). But for the real gift? Something fun. Like a Coach Legacy bag. Or a trip to New Orleans. Or hot sports gear. Not that we find moms easy to shop for or anything. $348, www.coach.com. (Provide links to other articles on UrbanMommies for each option).

For Dads

Finally, it exists! I may have to keep it for myself though. Sony has come out with the Cybershot 18.2MP with 20x Optical Zoom featuring wireless technology that allows you to share photos instantly on Facebook, email and Twitter. The only catch? You’ll have to tell him your Facebook password and you’ll no longer be able to hide those messages from exes. $449

For Grandparents

The ubiquitous photo mug and bottle of scotch are passé. At our house, we get creative and use fiverr.com. With endless options and fun ideas, the dreaded grandparent gift can be acquired with a click . We sent a digital image to one seller that was converted into a watercolour jpeg and purchased another ‘gig’ from an artist who drew the kids in ‘children’s storybook’ format. Add a funky Ikea frame and voila – a gift to cherish that won’t break the bank. $5 fiverr.com

For the Mailman/Pool Boy/Gardener

And you thought we were joking. Ditch the gift cards. This may sound odd, but who wouldn’t want a gorgeous festive Dish Soap? Method changes its designs based on the season, and the holiday designs are stylish and chic (not to mention eco-friendly). We wouldn’t want their hands to get chapped as they do the holiday dishes.. Method

Discalimer: Post sponsored by Wind mobile. As always, opinions are our own.

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Thanksgiving Tips from Martha Stewart Weddings Darcy Miller

EAT, holidays By November 21, 2012 Tags: , , , , , , 2 Comments

I have been infatuated with Darcy Miller, Editorial Director of Martha Stewart Weddings from the first time I ever saw a luscious spread in the magazine and was planning my own wedding.  (I drove my wedding planned nuts, BTW. “But in Martha Stewart I saw….”)

We know how important entertaining is in terms of role modelling for your kids.  As a child I remember holiday ‘children’s tables’ that made me feel special and kept me on my best behaviour during special occasions.  So who better than Darcy Miller to demonstrate affordable and easy ways to create a gorgeous Thanksgiving table.

Darcy shares tips and deals with us so that you can create her show-stopping look in your own home.  We’re sure you must already get it in your RSS feeds but in case you want some last-minute tips, here are her ideas on the Martha Stewart Living website.

Happy Thanksgiving, and may your children embrace the memories that they will pass on to their own kids one day.

 

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5 Ways to Green your Halloween

GEAR, toys By October 16, 2012 Tags: , , , , , , , , , 1 Comment

Green Your HalloweenTake the spookiness out of Halloween with healthier choices that are easier than you might think. Start with these simple 5 ways to green your halloween – steps to avoid toxins, sugars and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying a safer, ‘eek-o’ friendly Halloween with your kids.

1. Non-Toxic Face Paint In its ‘Pretty Scary‘ report on heavy metals in face paints, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found an alarming 10 out of 10 face paints tested contained lead, a neurotoxin. Instead of gravitating towards a pack of face paint or make up from the likes of the dollar store that may or may not contain lead or other nasties, invest in a set of quality non-toxic lead-free face paints that will last well beyond Halloween. Another great option is to wear a reusable mask.

2. Healthier Treats Now more than ever Halloween treats with less sugar and additives than the average rocket or caramel abound. From organic chocolate to fruit bars and apple crisps, the possibilities are endless, you just have to keep an eye out. One to try are Bug Bites from Endangered Species Chocolate. Another alternative is non-food treats that last a little longer like recycled newspaper pencils, recycled crayon sticks, colourful soy rock crayons and if you want to really lead by example, compostable toothbrushes.

3. PVC-Free Treat Bags Avoiding PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and the poisonous chemicals it can off-gass is always a good idea, especially when it comes to items used by kids. Choosing PVC-free bags, backpacks, and toys means nasty dioxins won’t be leaching or off-gassing into the air and causing potential hormone disruption, respiratory issues and more. For Halloween, give the nasties a miss and go for a PVC-free treat bag like this Envirosax pirates bag or this pretty pink sweet treats bag. Both can hold up to 44lbs of goodies!

4. Swap a Costume Save money and reduce your carbon footprint by trading costumes with family and friends. Alternatively, go to National Costume Swap Day Canada and find a costume swap event near you. It’s a great way to change things up without spending a lot and let’s face it, does anyone really want to wear the same costume twice, even if you haven’t outgrown it?

5.  Make Reusing Part of Halloween Consider ways to decorate without buying new and you’ll not only save money but help teach your kids about the value of reusing. Here’s a great idea for making spooky eyes in the bushes with toilet paper rolls and for these clever ghost lights use old bleach bottles. Using what you already have around the house also works great for costumes. Make a jet pack out of pop bottles for your little rocket man or transform an old t-shirt into a scary skull for an easy adult costume. After the 31st, be sure to reuse your pumpkin for pie, muffins, scones or any of these 23 Ways to Use Pumpkin Puree. For the more adventurous, try a pumpkin hair mask or pinata from these 10 Fun Things to Do with Pumpkin.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. With just a little thought and planning, it’s easy enjoy a ghoulishly green Halloween!

– Louise Campbell, co-founder eco boutique Lavish & Lime

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Great-Great-Aunt Eliza’s Scottish Shortbread

EAT, snacks By December 20, 2010 Tags: , , , , 2 Comments

Ok, so there might not be any thing “light” about these Christmas delights, but the way these cookies melt in your mouth you’ll think they are! They are so easy to make and will be a Christmas tradition if they aren’t already.  Canada is made up of so many cultures and we are very lucky to sample the world in our cuisine.  Thank you, Scotland, (and Aunt Eliza) for these gems.

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Healthy Thanksgiving Eating Tips

eat, LIVE By October 5, 2010 Tags: , , , , , , No Comments

It’s harvest time. So take advantage of fall’s bounty and fill your plate with the season’s freshest flavours and you’ll actually be doing yourself a favour. You needn’t compromise taste or tradition to stay on track this Thanksgiving season.

Some of the season’s most traditional foods are packed with health. Here’s a taste:

Brussel Sprouts:  Are a huge source of fiber, containing four grams of equal parts soluble and insoluble fiber. And they are touted for their cancer-fighting properties.

Zucchini
: Perhaps best known for its vitamin C content, is also a good source of vitamin A and lutein, which is important for eye health, as well as folate and potassium.

Pumpkin: It’s an antioxidant powerhouse, filled with beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, potassium, and a hefty dose of veggie fiber. The seeds offer a wallop of protein, fiber, iron and potassium. Canned purree is good too, just watch for sugar.

Sweet potato: Coined as a superfood, it is an excellent source of beta-carotene, a very good source of vitamin C, B6, manganese, and a good source of copper, dietary fiber, potassium and iron. It is an antioxidant food that works in the body to eliminate free radicals and is also a natural anti-inflammatory.

Turkey: It’s a very good source of zinc, vitamins B6, B12, protein, selenium, niacin, and the amino acid tryptothan. Roasted skinless, white meat has less total fat, and less saturated fat and cholesterol than chicken, pork or beef. So make sure to go skinless.

  • Don’t go hungry. Just because it’s Thanksgiving, make sure to eat a whole grain filled breakfast and lunch. Don’t look at the meal as an endless buffet you are saving up for. Stop the madness of piling the plate. Remember you are celebrating Thanksgiving. So give thanks to your body by not over eating.
  • Watch portion size: Go for smaller portions. This way you can sample all the different foods. Moderation is always the key.
  • Make a conscious choice to limit high fat items: Remember try to eat vegetables as close to their whole, natural state as possible. Traditional dishes—like fried and creamy dishes as well as cheese or sugar-filled casseroles—are where the high fat lurks. If you cannot control the ingredients that go into a dish, simply limit yourself to a smaller helping size. Again moderation is the key.
  • Skip the gravy boat: The gravy is where all the saturated fat lurks. Instead, opt for the cranberry sauce. Cranberries are huge source of antioxidants and promote gastrointestinal and oral health. So skip the boat.
  • Keep to the special stuff:  No need to graze on the chips, cheese, and other assorted treats scattered around. Wait for the main event.
  • Don’t give in to the tryptophan: Go for a walk instead with family or friends and walk some of the calories.
  • Don’t cut your favorites out completely: If you indulge occasional, you will be less likely to binge. So go for it, but again, moderation is key.
  • Be Mindful how good that first bite is: No other bite will taste as good. You’ll be getting more calories but not necessarily more pleasure. For dessert, leave behind the pie crusts. Ever notice how seconds are nearly as pleasurable?
  • Help clear the table: Rather than sitting and picking at leftovers.

The Season’s Best Bets: Skinless white turkey, roasted sweet potatoes, plain vegetables, defatted gravy or cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, wine spritzers.

We work with busy women who are starved for time, hungry for balance and crave more energy. We help them develop and instill individual lifestyle solutions so they feel fabulous while they maximize their time doing what they love.  The modern woman can do it all. Nourished will show you how. Alyssa-Schottland Bauman received her training to practice Health Counseling at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, which is the only nutrition school integrating all the different dietary theories—combining the knowledge of traditional philosophies with modern concepts like the USDA food pyramid, the glycemic index, the Zone and raw foods. www.nourished.ca

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