Sunday, December 29, 2013

She & Him, 52/52


A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013.


She: showing granny how to make videos on the iPad mini
Him: getting his sense of humour back following a day of tummy pain yesterday

Oh my gosh - 52/52! I guess 2014 is on its way, huh. Happy New Year friends! Thanks for hanging out here in 2013. It has been a pleasure.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Ideas for Snow Day Family Fun



We Canadians have a love/hate relationship with snow. At least I do. I'm not a skier. I don't snowshoe. I don't often toboggan. I like to witness the beauty of fresh snow on Christmas Day, but come January the snow could go bye-bye as far as I'm concerned.

Since that's not likely to happen, I'll try to make the best of it. After all, my kids love to get out in the snow and get active. Plus, snow days call for indoor fun as well - nestling by the fireside with hot cocoa and a shared family game or craft. For inspiration, I turned to my Canadian blogger friends to find out what indoor and outdoor activities they like to share with their children on snowy days.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!



Merry Christmas friends! I hope that you are experiencing peace and joy this holiday season. And nibbling on some goodies, of course.

All the best from my family (including Miss Jolene the beagle mix) to yours!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Take Care of Yourself This Holiday Season



This is an article I wrote for a local magazine. I am reprinting it here in the hopes that it will help you to de-stress a bit this holiday season. Take a moment or two each day to take care of yourself so that you stay well into the new year.

With the holidays approaching, it might seem like you don’t have a minute to spare. There are gifts to be bought, parties to be planned and house guests arriving on your doorstep. Mix in a tendency to indulge in holiday treats and a few skipped visits to the gym, and you’ve got a recipe for a wellness disaster. Avoid a post-holiday crash by putting yourself at the top of your to-do list. Find a few minutes each day to enhance your personal wellness using these nine simple tips.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

She & Him, 51/52


A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013.


She: skating on the front walkway after the ice storm
Him: thoroughly enjoying the ice

I hope you are all warm and well.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Holiday Gift Guide Review


I had a great time putting together Woman in Real Life's holiday gift guide. Most of all, I enjoyed corresponding with wonderful people from creative, forward-thinking companies. Here's a review of the products in the guide.

1. 100% Pure Cosmetics  2. Imm Living Designs  3. ecojot Journals & Holiday Cards  4. DK Essential Shakespeare Handbook  5. Stocking Stuffers from Natural Food Shop  6. BabyLit Art Print by Alison Oliver  7. Johnny Cash: The Life  8. Records on Walls Frames

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What I Ate Wednesday


Happy Wednesday! Yes, just one week to Christmas. I confess I still have presents to buy, a menu to plan, groceries to be bought and rooms to be cleaned! But I'm not nervous. Why ruin Christmas worrying about silly things? (Okay, I'm a little nervous.)

But I digress. It's What I Ate Wednesday. I have been craving citrus fruit recently - and fruit in general. Probably as a result of this dismal winter weather (and it's not even really considered winter yet - that's a bit of a joke in these parts.)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Give a Unique Gift This Holiday Season


If you're looking for an extraordinary gift for a loved one, nothing beats an unforgettable life experience. That's why I love this idea - IfOnly is a marketplace that sells experiences rather than products. They can connect you with the world's top talents, so you can make an amazing dish with a Michelin-starred chef, meet your favorite musician before a concert or have your tennis swing analyzed by Andre Agassi's coach.

Gifts for Kids: BOOKS ABOUT ADVENTURESOME DUOS


BOOKS ABOUT ADVENTURESOME DUOS


Crystal from Raincoast Books sent me these two lovely books recently. I will be adding them to my stock of Christmas goodies for the kids. I know my kids are going to love these stories, because both books are about adventuresome duos - a set of boy/girl twins in one case and a pair of best friends in the other. When it comes to adventure and mystery (and being kidnapped!), two heads are always better than one.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

She & Him, 50/52


A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013.


She: is fighting a little cold; she has a tendency to get watery eyes with a cold
Him: taking some time to relax after yesterday's basketball games and before today's soccer practice; plus he's going out with his dad to buy a set of drums - this mama is scared!

Week 50 of 52!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Gifts for Her: DK ESSENTIAL SHAKESPEARE HANDBOOK


ESSENTIAL SHAKESPEARE HANDBOOK

DK Canada

When I was studying English in university, Shakespeare was a required course. Turns out it conflicted with another course I wanted to take, though, so I had to meet with the English department head to plead my case for skipping Shakespeare. He was incredulous at first - how can you get an English degree without studying Shakespeare? But somehow I persuaded him.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What I Ate Wednesday - with a picnic


Happy Wednesday! Dare I say it? Only two weeks until Christmas. My preparations are not as far along as I'd like, but that's not unusual for me this time of year. It all comes together in the end.

I have not been experimenting too much with new cooking lately. Making cookies is much more tempting! Last week was Christmas Cookie Week on the blog so I was focused on baking yummy vegan (and sometimes gluten-free) sweets. Poor me! I did try one new dinner though. I bought some fish batter mix and followed the package directions, only using sliced extra-firm tofu! It was greasy and kind of fun and pretty tasty. I served it with broccoli and squash soup made from those packages of cut-up squash and onions that you can find at the grocery store.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Holiday Wishes


With very few days left on the holiday countdown clock, the joy of Christmas morning will soon be here. Our holiday preparations are well underway. We have completed my favourite journey of the year - to the Christmas tree farm to get our special tree. For the second year in a row, my son spotted the prized tree. He is quite proud of his tree-selecting skills.

Hitting the Mall In Style


Shopping with the kids can be trying at the best of times. During the busy pre-Christmas season, with crowds to battle and long to-do lists, the stresses are even greater. This past weekend (on a Saturday no less!) we decided to face the crowds and bring the kids shopping at Toronto's Yorkdale Shopping Centre. Brave, right? Well, it turns out that if you're an RBC Avion cardholder, the mall (even during the holiday season) isn't so bad after all. In fact, you can enjoy some perks that are actually quite nice!

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Safety Tool for Families


I was raised by very cautious parents. As a child in the seventies and eighties, I don't recall having the kind of freedom that my friends describe. In that way, my parents were ahead of their time, as cautious as parents tend to be today. As a result, I am very focused on safety myself.

Recently, I was introduced to a new (free!) app that can help provide peace of mind to parents, students and anybody who works, travels or exercises alone. The React Mobile app turns your iPhone or Android smartphone into a security device, allowing you to send a quick SOS alert (including your GPS coordinates) to select emergency contacts.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Gifts for Kids: CHILDREN'S ART FROM MINTED


CHILDREN'S ART PRINTS

Minted

If you're looking for a unique gift for a niece, nephew or grandchild, or to brighten up the bedrooms of your own little darlings, check out Minted's beautiful selection of children's art prints. Many of them can be personalized for that extra special touch. This adorable Dream Big print by guess what? makes a fitting statement for any child's room.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

She & Him, 49/52


A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013.


She: pretty in pink at the Christmas tree farm
Him: minus a tooth at the Christmas tree farm

Friday, December 6, 2013

Keep Your Holiday Budget In Check with Boomerang Kids (Giveaway - CLOSED)


I used to buy all my kids' toys and clothing brand spanking new. As a new parent, I didn't know any better. Over the years, though, I started to see that we parents were all buying the same kinds of toys for our kids. In the meantime, the toys our kids no longer used were sitting untouched in our basements. That's when I came around to the possibility of buying gently used toys and clothing.

Boomerang Kids is a Canadian children's resale chain that sells toys and clothing in stores and online. Popular with moms in the Ottawa area, Boomerang Kids has just opened their first location in the Greater Toronto Area, in Vaughan. They also ship across Canada from their online shop. During this holiday season, with all of the demands on our wallets, Boomerang Kids wants customers to know that it's okay to buy resale at Christmas.

Sweet Marie Bars


I have very much enjoyed Christmas Cookie Week! It has been a busy week of experimenting with recipes and eating lots of sweet goodies. Friday being what I consider a more relaxing type of day, I am sharing a recipe that I previously posted two years ago.

Sweet Marie Bars are one of my favourite Christmas squares. They are gluten-free and dairy-free as well as delicious. They can be whipped together in a few minutes and they don’t need any baking. Plus, they are a combo of chocolate and peanut butter, just like the No Bake Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Balls I made for Wednesday's post.

If you are looking to get some holiday baking done, check out this week's recipes for Coconut Pecan Chocolate Chunk CookiesVegan Toffee Squares and Vegan Candy Cane Fudge. I hope that my Christmas Cookie Week posts have demonstrated how easy and tasty vegan (and gluten-free) desserts can be! Enjoy!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Products We Love - C is for Clean (Giveaway - CLOSED)


I have been a vegetarian for close to two decades. Although I started eating vegetarian out of respect for animals, over the years I naturally began to explore other issues as well. I collected books and clippings about healthy eating, green living and protecting the environment. And I began to search out organic foods and chemical-free cleaning products.

This became particularly important to me when I was pregnant with my first child over 12 years ago. I wanted to reduce my baby's exposure to toxins that could harm him. I have developed a pretty good understanding of natural and organic living over the years and I have sampled a great number of products. I want to share some of my findings with you through Woman in Real Life's new "Products We Love" series.

Vegan Candy Cane Fudge


Welcome to day four of Christmas Cookie Week! I'm glad that Angie invited me to participate in this particular blogging party because it has forced me to start my holiday baking early. Although, truth be told, I have eaten quite a few of the Christmas cookies already. But at least I'll know what to make when I start baking again!

Monday's recipe was Coconut Pecan Chocolate Chunk Cookies. Day two was Vegan Toffee Squares. Yesterday's recipe was No Bake Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Balls. Today I have prepared a simple-to-make yet lovely and festive vegan fudge. This fudge has a pleasant hint of peppermint flavour and a nice crunch from the candy cane topping.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What I Ate Wednesday, with chocolate and peanut butter


It's What I Ate Wednesday...in December! Can you believe the year has nearly passed? Let's enjoy what we have left of it, including all the holiday festivities with family and friends. And let's make cookies!

It's Christmas Cookie Week here on Woman in Real Life. There are three vegan cookie recipes to be enjoyed so far, all of them delicious and pretty darn easy to make - just the way I like them!

No Bake Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Balls



It's day three of Christmas Cookie Week and I have consumed quite a few cookies in the name of taste testing. Do you really need to taste test cookies at breakfast? Let's just say yes.

Day one was Coconut Pecan Chocolate Chunk Cookies. Day two was Vegan Toffee Squares. Today's featured cookie is No Bake Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Balls. They are so tasty and easy to make that you should definitely make them right now. Go. Now. Seriously.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Gifts for Girls: MAPLELEA DOLLS AND CLOTHING


CANADIAN DOLLS & ACCESSORIES

Maplelea Girls

My daughter loves to retrieve the mail and she often wishes that more of it was for her. While I tell her that my mail is mainly bills, she is not deterred. So, she is thrilled to bits whenever her Maplelea catalogue arrives. She pours over the pictures of the adorable dolls and their fashionable clothing for a very long time!

That's why I'm 100% positive she is going to be thrilled to get these stylish, winter-ready outfits for her dolls Brianne and Alexi this Christmas. The Maplelea Girls, otherwise known as Canadian Girl dolls, are a collection of premium play dolls, each representing a different city or town in Canada.

Vegan Toffee Squares


Christmas Cookie Week continues! Monday's recipe was for Coconut Pecan Chocolate Chunk Cookies. Today I'm getting even more decadent with these delicious Vegan Toffee Squares. Don't worry Mom, I popped some in the freezer for you and Dad!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Christmas Cookie Week 2013 Begins! Cookie 1: Coconut Pecan Chocolate Chunk Cookies


Welcome to Christmas Cookie Week 2013! 
This year, 8 bloggers have come together, each of us sharing a daily recipe for yummy and delicious cookies that we hope will inspire you during this season of Christmas baking! We come from different parts of Canada, with one friend joining us from Alabama, but we all share a joy of baking which makes for love…fresh from the oven! 
My very first Christmas cookie of the week is not the most Christmas-y cookie in the world, but it is delicious! These Coconut Pecan Chocolate Chunk Cookies are guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser. After all, who ever objects to a chocolate chip-style cookie?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Gifts for Him: DIGITAL ART PRINTS


MINIMALIST DIGITAL ART PRINTS

Posteritty

Here's another gift my husband will be getting this Christmas. Although his favourite TV show, Breaking Bad, is no more, he can still have a visual remember of his beloved Walter White with this digital art print from Etsy shop Posteritty. Posteritty creators Paul and Rob, out of Matlock, England, make "modern minimalist poster prints" using vector images printed in limited edition runs.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

She & Him, 48/52


A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013.


She: making pink lemonade...while wearing pink polka dots, green skinny jeans and orange socks
Him: on a quest to make the perfect snowball

Gifts for Her: CAMERA COATS (Giveaway - CLOSED)


STYLISH CAMERA BAGS


I love my camera, but I hate my camera bag! It's bulky, it's heavy, it conflicts with my purse and, as a mother, I have way too much going on to tote that thing around on my shoulder. I have even been known to pop my digital SLR camera right into my purse where it rests on top of my wallet, keys, cell phone and about 50 lists, flyer clippings and receipts. That's why I was excited to discover Camera Coats. These sleek, lightweight, camera-shaped bags make a great gift for photographers and any mom who likes to carry around a camera.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Making of Elf: A Behind-the-Scenes Look


I am totally and completely enamoured with the movie Elf. And I know I'm not the only one! Many of you have told me how much you love Elf too. So when I found out that the creator and owner of Grasse Roots Perfumery acted in one of my favourite Christmas movies ever, I just had to ask her for a behind-the-scenes look.

Yes, in addition to making gorgeous natural perfumes from her base in beautiful Stratford, Ontario, Claire Lautier is also an actress who has played leading roles on stages in Canada, the United States and abroad, and has been featured in mainstream motion pictures and on television. You will no doubt remember Elf's NY 1 reporter Charlotte Dennon whose Christmas wish was for "a Tiffany engagement ring and for her boyfriend to stop dragging his feet and commit already." That was Claire and she graciously agreed to answer my questions about Elf. (I'll have to ask her about acting with David Duchovny another day!)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Gifts for Her: 100% PURE COSMETICS (Giveaway - CLOSED)


FRUIT PIGMENTED VEGETARIAN & VEGAN COSMETICS

100% Pure

I am very excited to share this gift idea with you. These 100% Pure fruit pigmented colour cosmetics contain no synthetic chemicals, chemical preservatives, artificial fragrances, artificial colours, harsh detergents, parabens, perfumes or any other unhealthy toxins. All of the products are vegetarian and many are vegan. (Some contain beeswax.) 100% Pure products are cruelty-free too. In fact, the ingredients are all food grade so they don't require testing. The lip gloss actually tastes fruity! The lip creme sticks look like thick lip liner pencils, but go on like lipstick. They stay put nicely too so they offer protection from the outdoor elements like wind and blowing snow. I also sampled the black pearl eyeliner, which is actually a pretty silvery colour. 100% Pure offers lots of fun, girly colours (there are many, many shades of pink!). 100% Pure also has bath and body, skincare, hair and kids lines too! So many temptations.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My Tips for Holiday Shopping for Kids #HotHolidayToys



I'll never forget the moment I got my favourite Christmas gift ever - it was a (big!) Barbie van, and my whole family conspired to make sure it was a Christmas morning surprise. It was the only thing I really wanted that Christmas and there was no way Mom would disappoint me. But that didn't stop the gang from playing a little trick on me.

Even wrapped, a Barbie van would be pretty darn obvious - a giant, lumpy package that surely wouldn't fit under the Christmas tree. So, they kept the van hidden in another room. I confess I was a bit worried as presents were unwrapped and my Barbie van was nowhere in sight!

What I Ate Wednesday


I find that November is such a busy time, with the kids in sports and dance activities, my attempts to plan, shop and clean early for Christmas and my work on the holiday gift guide for this here blog. All of this is to say that I have not been putting the optimum amount of effort into meals lately.

Still, I believe you can eat healthy without spending hours in the kitchen. For a quick meal one day recently, we enjoyed vegan fajitas filled with faux chicken, a rice/quinoa mix (pre-cooked in a bag from Costco), refried beans (from a can) and stir-fried peppers.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gifts for Her: BABYLIT PRINTS BY SUGAR (Giveaway - CLOSED)


BABYLIT PRINTS

Sugar by Alison Oliver

I told you before how much I love the BabyLit series of literature-inspired books for toddlers and children. The inspiring artwork in the books is by Alison Oliver. Fortunately for the literature fans among us adults, Alison has also designed a series of BabyLit prints to grace our walls. I was immediately taken with her timely Anna Karenina line of prints, like "Earrings," shown on my family room wall above.

Gifts for Him and Her: TVA HOLIDAY GIFT PACK


TVA HOLIDAY GIFT PACK

Toronto Vegetarian Association

For a limited time, the Toronto Vegetarian Association (TVA) is offering this fun holiday gift package. For $50 you get:

  • a one-year membership to the TVA
  • a subscription to their newsletter (Lifelines)
  • a Toronto Veg Card, offering 5 to 15 % off at more than 100 restaurants and shops across the GTA
  • a gluten-free, vegan caramel bar from Sweets from the Earth - yum!
  • a TVA member button
  • an inspiring vegetarian cookbook!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Holiday Gifting with Shoppers Drug Mart

 



Our holiday to-do lists are long - shopping, party planning, baking, cooking and preparing the house for guests. While some things must be done last-minute out of necessity, we can avoid a holiday meltdown by taking shopping off the list as early as possible.

The added bonus of shopping early is that you can take advantage of special holiday promotions and exclusive holiday gifts. With convenience (and Shoppers Optimum Points!) in mind, I like to pick up gifts while buying my household necessities at Shoppers Drug Mart. Shoppers Drug Mart has gifts for everyone on your list and, with more than 1,100 stores in Canada, you're sure to have a location nearby. In fact, I can easily walk to Shoppers Drug Mart from my house. And if I do drive (all the better to load up on packages), Shoppers has lots of free parking. So much better than battling the dreaded mall parking lot!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

She & Him, 47/52


A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013.


She: was less than thrilled at the prospect of watching her brother play basketball games all day
Him: made the mistake of saying he never gets hurt playing basketball - took an elbow to the face the very next day

Friday, November 22, 2013

Gifts for Dogs: COMPLETELY WIRED DOG TAG


WHIMSICAL CUSTOM DOG TAG

Completely Wired

Some might argue that money spent on a gift for a dog is money wasted. After all, dogs don't know squat about Christmas, right? I don't agree. Jolene the beagle mix is a big part of our family. She loves us, she cuddles with us and she puts up with our crap (just as we put up with hers). Besides, it's just fun to buy gifts for your dog. Like this totally cool and hilarious dog tag from the lovely Trisha of Completely Wired Jewel in Illinois.

6 Diy Decor Ideas for Christmas



I'm feeling that urge to get Christmas crafty again. I've been hunting for fun, inexpensive, do-it-yourself projects to spruce up our holiday decor. Seeing as I'm a rather inexperienced crafter, I figure I better get started pretty soon! Here are some inspirational ideas I found on my travels through the Internet.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Gifts for Her: GRASSE ROOTS PERFUMERY (Giveaway - CLOSED)


SUMPTUOUS SCENTS FOR HOME & BODY

Grasse Roots Perfumery

If you want to win the prize for the most beautifully scented house this holiday season, head over to the Grasse Roots Perfumery website and order some of their "Aroomatherapy" wax tarts. You just pop these yummy-smelling tarts into the top of a tea light diffuser. As they melt, the tarts release a natural, people-friendly scent into the air. They are available in three festive fragrances - pomander, winter solstice and frankincense & myrrh. I have been using our pomander tart regularly and the house smells incredible. Once the candle is out, the tart solidifies - just start over again the next day. They last a very long time. They would make a well appreciated hostess gift or sweet-smelling stocking stuffer too!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Gifts for Him: RECORDS ON WALLS (Giveaway - CLOSED)


VINYL RECORD FRAMES

Records on Walls

This is an awesome gift for the husband who likes to collect albums, like my husband. He got this Christmas gift early - six Records on Walls frames for his basement music room. The great feature of these frames is that they are open so you can still play and enjoy the records easily. You simply lift them out. Made right here in Ontario, these frames are affordable and easy to install too. Especially when you stand and point while your husband does the work! You can switch the albums depending on your mood. Jazz today, 70s rock gods tomorrow! Check out the image gallery to see some of the incredible ways people have used these frames.

What I Ate Wednesday


Happy What I Ate Wednesday! I am sharing a look at food highlights from the week, starting with this past Friday. The kids were home for a PA Day. We have a fairly new tradition of enjoying PA Day brunches. We had lots of fruit, pancakes and veggie sausage.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Gifts for Him and Her: ORIGINAL ART BY LAURIE APPLEBY-WILLIAMS


ORIGINAL SCULPTURE

Laurie Appleby-Williams

Art can take an ordinary home and turn it into something extraordinary - a place that reflects the hearts and minds of the people who live there. My husband and I have made some effort to collect original art over the years and we are thankful for every last piece. We're not talking Picassos here - art doesn't have to be expensive. It just has to appeal to you.

Monday, November 18, 2013

12 Great Things About Christmas


I have been thinking about past Christmases lately, and just what it is that makes Christmas so special. There is a magic to the season - a spirit of love, giving and celebration that makes the whole month of December more joyous than any other time of year.

Like other moms, I can get a bit frenzied in the weeks leading up to Christmas. With shopping, baking, housecleaning and all sorts of other tasks, the to-do list can be overwhelming. Which is why I spent some time recently thinking about all of the moments that make Christmas wonderful. As I looked back at Christmas photos from last year, I came up with my own personal list of "12 Great Things About Christmas."

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