Back-To-School Shopping Guide

School is back in session but if you’re like me, you resisted buying anything while officially still on summer break. I loathe to start back-to-school shopping too soon, and often find waiting until after school has started to be a better time to make well-thought out and needed purchases. Whether your little one is starting pre-school for the first time or heading off to university, we’ve got a list of need-to-haves and nice-to-haves.

Preschoolers and Kindies

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Jump Kids World Pre School Animal Lunch Bag ($7). Lunch containers sold separately. Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.

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Lunch boxes just got sweeter with these School Mini Cookies by The Teeny Tiny Bakery (50/box, $70).  Available at OneofaKindOnlineShop.com

Grade School

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Tera Gear “Doddle” Backpack ($20), variety of colours. Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.

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PC Stainless Steel Containers ($7-$9). Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.

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Everyday Essentials Twist and Clip Insulated Lunch Bag ($6), variety of colours. Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.

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Heroes & Villains Notebooks ($10), available online only at http://www.potterybarnkids.com

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This Mini Lazy Susan will keep all the desk accessories in one place ($29).  Available at Pottery Barn Kids, http://www.potterybarnkids.com

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Magnetic Bookmarks ($6-$15) from Craft’ed, http://www.craftedvan.com

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Affordable and stylish fashions from The Children’s Place.

High School

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TOMS StandUp backpack ($60), variety of colours, and with every one purchased, TOMS will help stop bullying, one youth at a time. Available at Journeys.ca and www.Toms.ca

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Solid Task Lighting are ideal for brightening up any homework space ($52).  Available at Pottery Barn Kids, http://www.potterybarnkids.com

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Getting organized and staying organized can be a challenge but the Espresso Daily System ($49) does the trick.  Available at Pottery Barn Kids, http://www.potterybarnkids.com

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Dry Erase Whiteboard Magnets ($11) from The Tulle Box, http://www.thetullebox.etsy.com

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Storiebrooke Dipped Twig Pencils ($17.19) from Storiebrooke, http://www.storiebrook.etsy.com

University

Everyday Essentials 20 Shelf Hanging Shoe Organizer ($14). Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.

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Everyday Essentials 5-Piece Bath Accessory Set ($10). Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.

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Life at Home 7-Piece Bed in a Bag ($54). Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.

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The SodaStream POWER turns ordinary water into sparkling ($179).  Available at SodaStream.ca

For Mom

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PC Cupcake Display Try Set with Pop Out Display Tower ($20). Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.

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PC Enameled Cast Iron Pot ($60). Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.

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PC Textured Togo Mug ($10). Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.

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How To Create Your Perfect Backyard Oasis by Cindy McKay

I am so happy to introduce Cindy McKay of Cindy McKay Interiors as our guest for today. Cindy is not only a self-professed fabric addict with a sharp eye for affordable design, mom of two super cute kiddos and stylish dresser . . . she’s my friend! Cindy is also an inspiration. A year ago Cindy left a high-pressure, glamorous job to pursue her passion: interior decorating. It took an incredible amount of chutzpah to leave the security her job provided to embark on something new and uncertain.   Judging by the projects she’s shared on Instagram things are working out just fine! She’s also the happiest that I have seen her. Proof that when you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.  Check out Cindy’s projects and her talent for design by visiting her website.

Today Cindy shares with us how to create the perfect backyard oasis to get the most out of the summer days.

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How to create your perfect backyard oasis!

When I’m designing outdoor spaces, I like to suggest that clients have various zones (regardless of how small) on their property for different types of meals and to take advantage of the best light at specific times of day. I’m a follow the sun kinda gal (in my SPF 30, hat wearing way). Start with a foundation that mixes both hard and soft landscaping. By adding some comfortable patio furniture and layering in various accessories, you can really make your outdoor space feel as well appointed as your indoor space.

Morning coffee

This backyard faces East, it gets a lovely soft morning sun. I’ve set up a small area on the upper patio that is ideal to enjoy a fist morning coffee and perhaps sit and enjoy the newspaper. It’s not a large space, but just enough to comfortably allow the family to sit and chat. I’ve layered in some pillows, all in indoor/outdoor fabric and some blankets to cuddle up with on cooler days. The area rug helps to identify the space and separate it from the more functional areas of this patio where the BBQ sits.

Coffee

Sources:

Patio furniture and pads, D.O.T. Furniture; toss cushion fabric, Fabricland; side table, Lowe’s; lanterns, Target; blue blanket, WestElm; white blanket, IKEA; rug, Write Impressions; turtle, planter, Homesense.

Outdoor lounge areas

There are so many great options of outdoor lounge furniture these days at a variety of price points, they are really available to everyone! And what could be better than to enjoy an afternoon nap on an outdoor couch while hearing the birds chirp and smelling the sweet smells of the garden. These are also great entertaining spaces for any time of day as they are so versatile. Here I used the rug to delineate the space from the rest of the stone patio and added some fun mirrors behind the couch to help distract the eye away from the long run of fence line. I layered in toss pillows in indoor/outdoor fabric along with some great Turkish towels that are ideal as a light blanket on cooler days or can be used as this family does, to dry off after coming out from their hot tub.

Lounge Area

Sources:

Outdoor couch and coffee table, D.O.T. Furniture; mirrors, garden stool, Homesense; rug, Walmart, tray; Lilly Pulitzer for Target; fabric and custom pillow sewing, Tonic Living; pamuk & co. Turkish Towels, Tonic Living. 

Cocktail Hour

Wherever possible, try to find a spot that takes advantage of that last light of the day, when the sun is low and warm and you can enjoy a hard days work with a cool and refreshing beverage. It doesn’t have to be large or elaborate, two chairs and a small cocktail table and you’re set! In this particular property, the front yard faces West and I created a tiny little spot within the front garden, to carve out their much desired ‘cocktail patio’. You hardly even notice it from the road since it’s well integrated into the garden but still allows them to watch their young children play on the driveway.

Cocktails

Sources:

Chairs and chair pads, Homesense; table, West Elm; glasses, thrifted; bowl, Target; all plants, Sheridan Nurseries.

Dining Areas

Don’t be afraid to bring the indoors out when it comes to dining al fresco! Pull out a fun tablecloth and try it on your outdoor table. It’s a fun way to switch up your outdoor décor and adds something different and perhaps unexpected. Don’t forget the lighting! Just as lighting is an important indoor element, it’s equally important when dining outdoors. Nobody wants it to be so dark that they can’t see the beautiful meal you’ve just worked hard to prepare! Add lots of candles in various different vessels, lanterns and for some extra fun add a string or two of patio lights! There is an amazing selection out there and they are a fun way to add light to the underside of your table umbrella or to your fence line!

If a tablecloth feels too formal for the way you like to entertain, there’s a great selection of carefree, wipe able, placemats out there also! Mix them in with some linen napkins and you’ll create an easy and functional but elegant table setting.

Tablecloth

Sources:

Sources:

Patio table, chairs and pads, D.O.T. Furniture; plates, Pottery Barn; utensils, William Ashley; napkins, clients own; glasses, thrifted; chargers, Canadian Tire; tablecloth, lanterns, votives, Target.

Dining Area

Sources:

Patio table, chairs and pads, D.O.T. Furniture, placemats, napkins, small plates, Homesense; large plates, Pottery Barn; glasses, Crate & Barrel; lanterns, votives, patio string lights, Target; utensils, William Ashley.

Cindy’s 5 easy steps to create your perfect backyard oasis:

  1. Create zones based on how you want to use your property. Don’t forget to factor in the sun and the light at various times of day.
  1. Create your foundation using hard landscaping and a good dose of plant material in planters or garden beds, whichever suits.
  1. Source comfortable outdoor furniture that is versatile and suits your needs and budget, keep in mind clear-out sales often start as early as the beginning of July.
  1. Layer in accessories to make it interesting and unique!
  1. Don’t forget the lighting! Adding various lanterns, candles, patio lights all help to create a relaxing and inviting atmosphere.

Copy and photography courtesy of: Cindy McKay Interiors

How To Take Timeless Family Portraits

BethAnneJones-10_EYears ago I hired a photographer to capture my family. The boys were ages 4, 3 and 1 and I was desperate to hang onto their cuteness . . . and populate a very barren, very large wall.

Family portraits run the gamut from the cheap(er) and cheerful to investment photography. Since I wanted these prints to be enlarged and framed, it was important to me to have a professional whose artistic eye and professionalism I admired. I splurged and hired a high-end photographer who took beautiful photos of my family and years later I still cherish them. These photos are classic in part due to her creative genius but also her guidance on how to create lasting, timeless portraits.

Thinking of capitalizing on the warmer weather and lush greenery, and taking family pictures this summer? Before you do, heed some this advice I compiled by asking photographers for their best tips on creating classic photos.

Research!

Take the time to research a photographer. When you’ve narrowed it down, be sure to set a meeting and go through their portfolio. Ask lots of question about their process. Do they prefer to do staged photos or candid? What equipment do they use? How are the photos presented? Are the prints colour corrected and photoshopped as necessary?

Price is something that is best discussed up front. Is there a sitting fee in addition to the proofs? How many proofs are provided? Are photos ordered in packages or a la carte? Know what you plan to do with the photos. This will help to determine the dimensions and overall cost.

Location! Location! Location!

Researching the location is just about as important as the photographer. You’ll want to choose somewhere that is comfortable and maybe even familiar to your family. If walker-bound grandma is going to be in the shoot maybe hiking along a bramble path isn’t the best fit. If wearing stilettos in your photo is a must, a cobble stone street may be great for posed shots but not as natural for candid shots of you chasing around after your toddler.

It’s also worth noting the natural light. Know what time the sunlight is soft as opposed to beating down. Squinty eyes, sweat stains, and shadows don’t make for the best photos. Neither does the dog parade or all you-can-eat rib festival encroaching on your frame. If choosing a public place, ensure there are no events scheduled on the day that might conflict with your plans. Also, permits are required for many locations. A good photographer will know this, but it’s worth checking into so you’re not disappointed.

What To Wear!

imgres-1This is where things can get tricky.   Remember the 80s? Perms and frosted lipstick were the beachy waves and smoky eye of today. Hair and make-up should be simple and natural or else you may find yourself groaning over your look in a few years time.

Clothing can also be a challenge. White can make you look larger and washed out, and black can look severe. Stick with clothing you feel comfortable wearing that reflects your personality but at the same time is not too trendy or flashy and unless you’re being paid to advertise for Gap, keep clothing with logos in the closet.

imgres-1Planning outfits for the entire family is an exercise in patience and good humour. Remember that episode of Modern Family when Claire loses her mind trying to make sure everyone is picture-perfect in their all-white ensembles? You don’t need that stress. Instead, make sure everyone is in the same colour palette but not matchy-matchy. I’ve never understood the appeal of family photos where everyone is wearing jeans and a black top, or khakis and a white-button down. It looks less like a family photo and more like a greeting card from your local Walmart staff.

I love this photo. It pretty much sums up everything not to do if you want to create a timeless photo! Thanks Awkward Family Photosimgres-1.

Be Yourself!

It may sound obvious but be yourself. Take some time with the photographer and take some silly shots to help loosen up or play with your kids with the photographer snapping in the background.

Don’t be afraid of “time and place”.  The night before my family photos my middle son scratched his older brother ALL OVER HIS FACE. It looked liked poor Jack had been locked in a closet with Cujo. He still has the scars to this day. I had a Claire (from Modern Family) moment, and cried to the photographer that the pictures “were ruined” but she calmed my nerves and reminded me that photography is for capturing the now. She graciously photoshopped several of the images but she didn’t do them all, and for that I am actually grateful.

Lastly, speak up! Most photographers shoot with digital so you can preview the shots on-site. If you don’t feel good about the direction of the shoot, you need to say something. Photographers take pictures, they don’t read minds.

 

Kids Need to Be Doing It For Themselves

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I had the great pleasure of going to a presentation by Dr. Karyn Gordon at Eldest’s school recently.  Her talk was entitled “Raising Kids in an Age of Overindulgence,” and I came away from the night with so much practical help.  If you ever get a chance to hear her in person, take it.  She’s not only a wonderfully dynamic speaker, her talks are crisp, on-point and so well organized.

The piece that resonated most strongly with me, and that fits so well for our month of posts on Doing It Yourself, was her discussion of how parents have to stop over-functioning for their kids.

Are you your child’s alarm clock/maid/chef/chauffeur/laundress/bank machine?  Do you find yourself resentful and stressed in one or more of those roles?  Do you notice that your kids are not in the least bit motivated to act for themselves because you are their snowplow, clearing their path through life for them?

Gordon used the image of a teeter-totter to illustrate her point: when one person does all the work on the see-saw, the other person slacks off and stops working.  When you do too much for your children, they not only fail to learn how to cook/clean/manage time/manage money/eat well/etc, they stop looking for ways to learn those skills.  Why should they?!  You have removed all their motivation to do so by doing it yourself.

Well, in the spirit of DIY month, I did an inventory of the ways I may be over-functioning for my kids, and I handed in my resignation as the household alarm clock, bank machine and short order cook.  “Kids,” I said, “from now on, you will be doing more for yourselves.”

You know what?  It worked beautifully!

Eldest is already his own alarm clock, and at 13 he gets up, out the door and onto the subway before I am awake most days.  But I sat down with Middlest and Youngest and helped them to write up their morning routine and timetable.  I’m still prompting them to look at the clock, but there’s no more nagging about time to get dressed/brush teeth/pack backpacks.  Glorious.

Then I took the little kids out to the toy store with their wallets and let them loose.  When we travel without their money, it’s an endless litany of “Can you get me this?” from the snack booth at the subway to the candy machines at the rink to the impulse items in the check out lines.  I am very good at sticking to my guns and not giving in, but I do get so, so very tired of saying no.  This time, I took them to the bank machine to check their bank balances and then set them loose.  They spent over an hour looking at Lego and video games, then they spent about $10 each.  That’s it, that’s all.  Littlest also bought himself a pack of gum at the subway newsstand and then proudly spent the next week offering all and sundry a piece of gum.  It was wonderful to witness their care and generosity.

And, beginning this week, Eldest will be cooking one family meal a week.  It must be balanced and it must be healthy.  From the age of 13, Gordon says, kids should be able to prepare a simple family meal, and I don’t think I could be happier to let one night of meal prep go.  He is already an able helper in the kitchen, and he makes the most beautiful fruit and vegetable platters, like this one he made for a Habs playoffs game party last year.

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I think we are both more than ready for him to take the reins one night a week.

How about you?  What have you happily delegated to your kids?

Celebrity Hairstylist, Jason Lee’s Simple Tips for a Hair Refresh

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I met Jason Lee on a sweltering, humid July day.   My hair looked as though I had just injected my finger into an electrical outlet. In a bathtub. Not a good day to meet a superstar hairstylist.

Jason exudes cool.

Growing up the youngest of three boys, Jason’s love for art and creative expression were encouraged by his professional parents. At the age of seventeen while working as a choreographer and dancer renowned hair stylist, Sabino DiTacchio, discovered him. At the urging of DiTacchio, Jason studied the craft of hair design and with the pragmatic voice of his accountant father in his head, found a way to marry his passion and practicality with his salon, Salonière.

Jason Lee is no amateur stylist. He’s earned his stripes under the tutelage of masters like Marc Anthony, been decorated with awards from his peers in the industry and has built a loyal clientele of all ages, aptly dubbed “the cool kids”.

His clients rely not only on his skills but his eye for style, which he hones with frequent trips to New York City, his former stomping ground. He finds inspiration everywhere in the city from the architecture, to the fringe art community and the diverse neighbourhoods.

When I go to visit him at Salonière, he’s in his element talking with clients and mentoring younger stylists. The space is bright and quaint with nods to both NYC and Paris in the brick detail, the gilded mirror and the embellished fireplace. Even the name, Salonière is rooted in historical Paris where women would be invited to salons to discuss and exchange ideas about politics, literature or social events. This refuge is nothing like the McSalons that are known for pumping out the perfectly coiffed amid a cacophony of blow-dryers.

Despite, or maybe in spite, of his coolness Jason, Anthony and the entire team at Salonière are welcoming and professional.   Each member of the team conveyed genuine interest in me – what a typical day is like, what are my hobbies, what movies/celebs/books do I like.

It is having a real understanding of his client that sets Jason apart. He is firm in his belief that women can wear any style, any trend, but it is in the tailoring of the style that delivers confidence and is transformative.

I asked Jason to share with our readers looking to update their hairstyle for some dos and don’ts. His advice may surprise you.

Move On From:

  • Chunky highlights
  • Angled bobs
  • Unkempt or inexpensive hair extensions. Extensions require a considerable amount of time and money to keep looking fresh and natural.
  • “Housewives” hair – too long, overly stiff and perfectly curled.
  • Short layers
  • Not taking any time for yourself. Find 5 minutes in the morning to pull your look together. You will exude more confidence and feel better about yourself. Quick tip: Sleek ponytails and polished high-buns are a busy woman’s friend!
  • It’s okay to cheat on your stylist and have fresh eyes give your look the once over. Stylists differ in their technique and may suggest an update.

Do More Often:

  • Communicate with your stylist. Bring pictures of what inspires you – it doesn’t have to be photos of hair. Bring pictures of art, architecture, celebrity style, movies, clothing, and interior design. A hair cut should never be an exact replica of something from a magazine. A good style will reflect your personality.
  • Remember this: lifestyle trumps face shape! Almost every haircut can be tailored to suit your face.
  • Be honest about your lifestyle. You can only love a cut that reflects your personality and is manageable to maintain and style.

Upcoming Trends:

  • Shorter bobs with bangs and texture
  • Bleached out colour
  • Baby fine highlights
  • Anyone, regardless of age, can pull off any trend. It’s a matter of tailoring.

Jason has appeared on E!, Slice, CTV and Entertainment Tonight Canada. His work has also been featured in the Globe and Mail. Be sure to follow Jason on Instagram, stop by Salonière (2470 Yonge Street, Toronto, 416-480-0020)

Did You Resolve to Have More Sex? Sex Tips and Facts from Carol Anne Austin, Sex Therapist.

kmaBefore the holidays, I had a chance to attend  What Mama Didn’t Tell Us, a panel presentation hosted by The Purple Fig It was a fabulously fun night of presentations and Q&A sessions about sex and pelvic health, featuring, among others, Carol Anne Austin, a sex expert and therapist at KMA Therapy.  She was a wonderfully funny and engaging speaker, and I felt that she really got the crowd: mothers, rookie and veteran, who were keen to get her tips on how to keep the spark alive with their partners.  Here is a distilled list of her best tips and facts.

1.  The research is really clear: sexual satisfaction is highly correlated to effective communication.  Talk about what’s working and what isn’t.

2.  The most common problem she sees in her clients is a drop in libido as people age or are in long-term relationships.

3.  The lower desire partner is much more likely to rush foreplay and initiate intercourse faster.   There’s a “get it over with” attitude.

4.  There is a circle of low desire: my partner wants to have sex; I don’t but I feel like I should; I’m not aroused before or during sex; I’m not that satisfied by the sex; I have a memory of having sex for someone else and not for me; sex becomes about someone else’s needs and satisfaction; I’m less likely to initiate or to feel like having sex again soon.

5.  To break that cycle, you need to find a way to bring something for you back into the sex.   Ask yourself what was going on when the sex was good?  Do that.

6.  There is no normal when it comes to the frequency of sex.  Frequency is a totally unreliable indicator of sexual satisfaction. Much more important is to emphasize quality over quantity.

7.  If you make time for yourself, you will have the energy for your partner.  Schedule time for yourself.

8.  Schedule time for your relationship.  Put it on the calendar!

9.  Shake up the script of sex before bed and sleep.  Find a time of day when you have more energy.

10.  A healthy active sexual relationship with yourself correlates directly to a healthy active sexual relationship with your partner.  (A woman asked, “What if I get addicted to my vibrator?”  Answer: she has never heard of that happening.  Using a vibrator is far more likely to improve your sex with your partner than to become an addiction.)

11.  Menopause is a challenging time for your sexual relationship.  To stay engaged in sex during a hot flash, switch up the order of kiss, foreplay, penetration and orgasm.  If it’s not a one way street then you can take a break.

12.  During menopause, intercourse can become painful because the change in hormones causes a drop in natural vaginal lubrication.  Use a lube.  BUT be careful and keep an eye out for glycerine in the list of ingredients.  Glycerine is a sugar and can affect the growth of yeast and cause a yeast infection.

Six Benefits of Yoga

meditation-609235_640It’s starting.  The stress levels are rising.  The glow and relaxation that summer brought has been replaced with the hectic work/play/school schedules.  The season of holidays is gearing up and thoughts of Halloween costumes and Christmas gifts are cluttering your mind at night.  Was the hockey equipment aired out?  Where are those strands of lights?  Did that trip permission form get signed?

It’s hard to carve out time for yourself.  Moms and Dads are often pulled the minute they get home from work.  Replacing one “hat” for another, and collapsing into bed exhausted, only to wake up a few hours later and do it all again.

But the reality is, for you to be the best employee, caregiver, parent, friend or partner, you need to be the best you.  The only way to do that is carve out some protected time in your weekly schedule for yourself.  This time isn’t meant to be spent trolling Facebook or the half hour spent grocery shopping solo while you wait for your daughter’s karate to finish.

A few months ago, I made a commitment to myself and my family to take better care of myself.  The hope being, I would become a happier, more caring and more thoughtful person.  The first thing I did was get block off two one-hour blocks in my weekly schedule.  Full disclosure:  I work out almost every day, even if just for 20 minutes, and it does feel like something that I have to do.  My protected timemala-beads-688163_640 was going to be time for me to really nourish my body and my mind while slowing down.

I was a regular at my yoga studio before kids and with the arrival of each son, my practice time slowly whittled to once a month, if that.  I knew that I missing it and so I recommitted.

It hasn’t been easy squelching my guilty feelings but I am back in the studio and it feels great!    I asked my yoga instructor Lori, of Harmony Yoga Wellness, to share what she believes to be some of the benefits from a regular practice.

  • Mental: Deep breathing and thoughtful movements help us to reset the mind to a state of calmness.
  • Physical: Movement combined with breath work improves posture and spinal alignment as well as increases flexibility and strength.
  • Neurological: Yoga nurtures the mind-body connection, stimulating our deep relationship with the power of our own brain, which in turn improves memory and our ability to focus and concentrate.
  • Psychological: By nurturing ourselves and showing self-compassion in our yoga practice, we learn to take these habits with us into our daily lives.
  • Community: Sharing regular time with others, in a safe, kind and peaceful environment creates a sense of belonging and community, a feeling of connectedness and compassion towards ourselves and others.

    Lori is a certified yoga instructor and graduate of the Esther Myers Yoga Teacher Training Program and teaches at Harmony Yoga Wellness.

    Lori is a certified yoga instructor and graduate of the Esther Myers Yoga Teacher Training Program and teaches at Harmony Yoga Wellness.

Sounds like a pretty good trade-off doesn’t it? Just a few hours of self-care for all of those benefits! But how do you protect your time, especially if you tend to be a people-pleaser? Here are some tips:

  • Block off the same few hours in your calendar each week.
  • Consider signing up for an activity outside your home. It’s a lot harder to skip-out when you’ve paid hard-earned cash in advance.
  • Tell everyone: your kids, your friends, and your partner. Tell them about your plan to protect your time and ask them for their support. You may be surprised by how little time it takes for those around you to adjust to your new schedule.
  • Don’t bail on yourself. When someone asks you to do something during your protected time say no. You don’t have to give any more details. A simple, “That’s not going to work for me,” will do just fine.
  • Practice what you preach. When someone else is practicing protected time be respectful and supportive.

Tried yoga and it’s not for you? Consider some other ways to nourish your mind, body and soul.

  • Take a walk outside but leave the iPod at home.
  • Exercise classes
  • Guided meditations
  • Art or photography sessions
  • Locking the bathroom door, and indulging in a warm bath
  • Cooking classes

How do you practice self-care? 

Tips for How to Turn Off the Television (Without a Fight)

old-691069_640One of the transitions my kids like the least when we move from summer mode to school mode is the return of strict limits on screen time.  We are barely one week in, and already our heads are spinning from the number of things on the calendar.  With all of the sports, extra curriculars and playdates, there just isn’t time for television during the week, so our house rule is no television until after school Friday.   We usually have a movie night on Friday, and weekend mornings are fair game for whatever screen time the kids want (if the hockey schedule allows!) and it’s back to no screen time on Sunday nights.

Even with these limits, and even with a whole morning of available screen time on weekends, we still have a hard time when it comes to turning off the tube.  The kids resist unplugging, and there’s inevitably a squabble once the television stops entertaining them.

So at CBC Kids’ Days, when I met with Dr. Lynn Oldershaw of CBC Kids, I knew exactly what I wanted to ask her:

1. How can television teach kids how to regulate their emotions when the t.v. goes off?

2. How can we turn off the television without the meltdown that almost inevitably ensues?

Oldershaw pointed out that as part of their teaching of emotional intelligence, CBC Kids shows teach kids how to name their emotions, regulate their emotions and then problem solve to cope with their emotions.  Shows like The Adventures of Napkin Man and Poco teach strategies for how to manage anger or sadness, for example.  I’ve taken to getting Youngest to name the sense of aimlessness he feels when he unplugs.  At least if he’s able to recognize the pattern of feeling at a loss when the tv goes off, he can begin to find ways to overcome it.

Her advice for how to turn off the screens without a meltdown is to make empowerment the key.  Give your children choices.  The more control they feel they have, the less they will resist the limits you impose.  Have a family discussion about what is a reasonable amount of screen time and when it can happen.  Present them with choices before and after screen time:

“Do you want to watch television or play on the Wii?  It’s your choice how to spend your screen time.”

“Do you want to put in a movie or watch a television show?”

“Do you want to have lunch or go to the park?  It’s your choice what to do next.”

What do you do to help your kids unplug?  Is it a difficult transition? 

Reignite the Spark and Heat Up Your Summer: Sex with Dr. Jess

jessIt’s a tough life, but somebody’s got to do it.  A few weeks ago, Durex invited 4Mothers to a women’s only evening of Talking Sex with Dr. Jess, a Toronto-based sexologist.  It was a blast!  Jessica O’Reilly is a fabulous speaker, and she made us laugh and put us at our ease in seconds flat.

She’s full of zippy one-liners, and one of her best was to “Do a sister a favour and share the wealth.”  So, with no further ado, here is the PG version of Dr. Jess’s tips to reignite the spark

1.  Fantasize during sex, and let your mind wander.

The top four fantasies for women are domination & submission, having sex with a stranger, role-playing and exhibitionism.  Try them out as fantasies and see where they take you.

2.  Seduce with surprise.

If you are not usually explicit, then explicitly express your desire.  Be unpredictable.

3.  Talk.

Reconnect.  Do not talk about the kids or the day to day stuff.  Ask an intimate question, focus on yourselves.

4.  Talk Dirty.

“If you can talk dirty you never, ever have to get on top again.”

5.  Change something old.  Try something new.

Try changing just one thing outside and one thing inside the bedroom.  New date night, new lingerie.

6.  Time & Space Challenge.

Have sex at a different time of day than you usually do.   Do not have sex in the bedroom.  Just those small changes can be enough to re-ignite the spark.

7. Be the teacher

Using plenty of lube, teach your partner some new ways to touch you.  (I can’t keep it PG with specifics.  Suffice to say, she used a vulva puppet, and had us miming various techniques, and was shouting, “Do it!!  You won’t remember it if you don’t do it!  Muscle memory!!”)

Have fun! 

The Final Stretch: Lunches

Here is a hilarious beginning vs end of the school year post on BuzzFeed.

Here is lunch at the beginning of the school year:

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and at the end:

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I have not quite sunk that low, but I can tell you that I have 49 lunches left to pack.  Yes, I’m counting.

applesAnd that is why I am always glad to hear about new things to put in the lunchbox.  Ontario grown and produced Martin’s Apple Chips are new to the market, and they were kind enough to send us a sample.

They are 100% apple.  That’s it, that’s all.  The apples are thinly sliced and dehydrated and have a lovely crispy crunch.  I really enjoyed them on their own, but they also make a great gluten-free alternative for cheese crackers.  Check out the other ideas on their blog.

We love to support local businesses and to tell you about the products that we have received and enjoyed.  This definitely checked a lot of boxes for us: healthy, tasty, local.

Enjoy!