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.
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!)
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! Thelip 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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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."
DK Canada In our little family, everybody gets at least one book for Christmas. Sure, books don't make the flashiest of gifts. In fact, my kids are likely to smile and toss their books aside in favour of dolls, electronic toys and games. When the initial excitement wears off and the batteries run out though, the kids will be reaching for those books. Then we can enjoy them together, parent and child, sharing in incredible stories and amazing facts.
If you're looking for a gift that's sure to garner some attention, look no further. Based in the eclectic downtown core of Toronto, imm Living creates modern cultural artifacts by drawing from traditional and popular cultures. imm handpicks new and fresh voices from around the world to bring you inspired designs from a wide variety of locales and perspectives. I guarantee you will love their unique and playful "everyday functional artifacts."
Natural Food Shop Natural Food Shop is an online natural food retailer based in Toronto. You can shop for natural foods and health products right from your couch and enjoy delivery to your door. For the fitness buff, vegan, raw foodist or anybody who is aiming for a healthier lifestyle, Natural Food Shop has lots of fun product choices. The shop is organized in convenient categories such as vegan, raw foods and natural remedies. You can also shop by brand or health condition.
Karen from Simply Fun Families sent me this lovely "25 Days of Christmas" kit recently and I wanted to share it with you. I think it's such a beautiful way of encouraging families to bond in the busy weeks leading up to Christmas.
I love to sample new natural and organic products. And I love to save money on my grocery shopping! That's why I always keep an eye out for the Healthy Shopper coupon book at my local health food store. It contains loads of coupons for the natural and organic products I prefer to buy for my family.
So you can imagine how thrilled I was to receive this package, pictured above, recently. The nice people at the Healthy Shopper sent me their healthy picks for the fall of 2013. The package contains products from some of my family's favourite companies, like Pamela's. I'm looking forward to using the flour blend and the chocolate cake mix. Both are wheat and gluten-free.
Recently I had the opportunity to review a fun, personalized subscription box service. Wantable.com navigates the world of fashion and beauty to bring you the latest trends, personalized just for you. They offer three types of boxes: makeup, accessories or intimates.
I found it difficult to choose from these three tempting options, but, as you can clearly see, I went with the intimates box. And there is no way I was going to model these goodies! Once you have chosen a category, you are asked to answer a few questions about your preferences. This is the fun part! (Okay, not quite as fun as getting your box in the mail!)
Mmmm...muffins. There's nothing better on a cold morning than a warm muffin and a hot cup of tea. Let the wind bluster outside and take a moment to enjoy a homemade, tasty, nurturing baked good before starting your busy day. No time? Grab a muffin to take to work for your mid-morning coffee break!
Once I started making homemade muffins, I couldn't stand the fluffy, cake-like ones from the stores anymore. The kind of muffin I crave most often is banana. I think that also has something to do with the aging bananas that often sit on our kitchen counter!
Hachette Book Group There's nobody quite as cool as Johnny Cash. Like the golden Betty White, Cash is more popular now than ever before. Unlike Ms White, unfortunately, he's not around to enjoy it. When I heard that there was a new book about Cash, "Johnny Cash: The Life," I knew it was a perfect gift for my guitar-playing husband.
Bamboosa The bean bag-style design of Bamboosa's Lap Log allows you to view your iPad, Kindle or other tablet or e-reader at many different viewing angles. Each Lap Log is made in America from highly sustainable materials. The outer fabric, available in a range of colours and patterns, is certified organic cotton. The filling of naturally grown buckwheat hulls ensures the Lap Log conforms to any surface. The wooden shelf insert is made from salvaged wood with a natural, non-toxic finish. Every bag is carefully sewn to ensure long-lasting durability. Lap Log can be used in bed, on the couch or sitting at a desk. Use it on the kitchen counter to handily display recipes while you cook. When travelling, you can remove the wooden insert and use it as a travel pillow. You can also dump the filling into a container and run the cover through the wash. This little gem is going to my mom this Christmas. At 79 years old, she is hooked on her iPad mini!
Blurb Gift Center When people reach a certain age, they don't usually want a lot of stuff. That's why personalized photo books are a wonderful gift for grandparents. Whether your book is full of photos of the kiddies or photos from the various stages of your parents' lives, a photo book never fails to please. I have made a couple of books now with Blurb and I have found the site to be user friendly with lots of lovely templates. Check out the Blurb Gift Center for ideas. For a really unique gift, consider making aBlurb Family History Book. For those with newborns aBlurb Baby Book might be just the thing. And if you’re the kind of person who keeps getting asked for copies of your recipes, think about making aBlurb Food Book.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? So why do we pay it the least attention? Well, maybe you don't. But I do. Besides on the weekends, I don't really want to put a lot of time into preparing breakfast. It has to be quick and tasty.
Inspired by my children, I had a bagel topped with peanut butter and banana for breakfast today. The banana slices are certainly healthier than the jam I usually choose to sweeten up my peanut butter.
Ecojot journals are proudly made in Canada of 100% post-consumer recycled material. They come in an array of colourful, whimsical designs. Each purchase of ecojot items like this fun "Every Girl Loves A Polka Dot Dress" jumbo journal helps a child in need in a developing country. A portion of each ecojot sale goes toward providing school supplies to kids to build their literacy skills. These lined-paper journals make a wonderful Christmas gift - one that the recipient can use to record her hopes and dreams for 2014.
Pumpkin-infused baked goods are a must in the fall. You shouldn't miss out on them because you're eating gluten-free. This lightly spiced and delicious loaf won't give away its gluten-free status. It is as moist and satisfying as any loaf should be.
Plus it comes with the benefits of pumpkin. Not only are pumpkin muffins and loaves delicious and warming on a cool day, but pumpkin is rich in Vitamin A, dietary fibre and potassium. It's also a good source of Vitamin E and iron.
DK SMITHSONIAN MUSIC: THE DEFINITIVE VISUAL HISTORY
DK Canada Don't you find men so difficult to buy for? One thing I know for sure is that my husband loves books and music. His two interests come together nicely in this coffee table book. Produced in association with the Smithsonian and including images from The National Music Museum in South Dakota, "Music: The Definitive Visual History" explores the history of music from its prehistoric beginnings to today. The book explains musical developments era by era with sections such as Music In The Middle Ages, The Baroque Spirit, Music In The Modern Age and Global Music. With features on musicians from Antonio Vivaldi to Edith Piaf to David Bowie, this book is sure to please any music lover.