Tuesday, April 27, 2010

For the Love of Books

I started reading to Little One when she was still a tiny little sprout growing inside me.

Since she was born at 28 weeks (3 months premature!), we spent the first 70 days of her life in the hospital. While she was in her isolette (incubator), I read to her. When she "graduated" to a "big girl crib" and was moved to the Level II nursery, I read to her. I have to say that those long days spent in the NICU, I did a lot of singing and reading to Little One.

She's now 17 months old and I still read to her every day. Okay, more like several times a day...only because she is constantly bringing books to me so I can read them to her.

I often wonder if those early days of being read to explain why Little One just loves books now. She loves her books more than she loves her toys. She just sits on my lap and listens, points and talks to the pictures on the pages, sings, laughs, turns the pages...and then wants more! She can sit through three or four books and still want to be read to!

The gift of reading is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children. What better way to cultivate creativity and imagination than to share the wonderful world of books with our kids?

One of Little One's absolute favourite books is Rosemary Wells' Read to Your Bunny. Little One's Neonaologist gave her a copy at one of her Neonatal Follow-Ups as part of the www.caringforkids.cps.ca Reading with Young Children's "Prescription to Read".

Little One never seems to get tired of that book. The pictures and rhyming story seem to appeal to her. It's one of the books I have to take with us in my "magic bag of tricks" whenever we go anywhere. Margaret Wise Brown's Good Night Moon, Sandra Boynton's Barnyard Dance, and a few other books are always in that bag too (along with lots of snacks and a few non-noisy toys).

Here's some great news for you guys! We're giving one lucky reader their very own copy of Rosemary Wells' Read to Your Bunny.

To enter the contest, all you have to do is:
1. Leave me a comment and tell me what your child's favourite children's book is.
2. Additional entries can be obtained by mentioning this contest in a post on your blog. Please link back to me and let me know that you've mentioned the contest.
3. You can also receive additional entries for Tweeting and Facebooking the contest. Again, please let me know if you've done this.
4. Yet one more entry can be earned by following this blog with Google Friend Connect. That's a total of up to FIVE entries per person. That's five chances to win!

The contest closes on Monday (May 3, 2010). The winner will be announced here on May 4th.

Little One absolutely loves her copy of Read to Your Bunny! I hope your child will too.

**Don't forget to enter our Iams ProActive Health contest too! The contest closes on May 14th!**

Friday, April 23, 2010

Choco-Latte Fest 2010

My parents were kind and wonderful enough to babysit Little One for the evening while Hubby was at a training session for the fire department and I went gallivanting with the girls. Let me first say that I almost NEVER go anywhere without my baby girl. I take her everywhere with me. The only times she doesn't accompany me are for some of my meetings that are in the evenings and for rehearsals for the play.

Though I love, love, love my Little One and often can't bear to be away from her, sometimes I do need a little break.

Tonight was the first night in AGES that I was able to go out with just the girls. No kids. No husbands. Just the girls.

Guess where we went?!

We began the evening with supper and wine at The Anchor. This is not your standard pub grub fare.

On the menu they had: Chipotle Chicken and Red Pepper Rotini, Steak with a curried onion sauce,and Whitefish.Our main purpose for our outing was (apart from hanging out with the girls and getting a little downtime)...

The Choco-Latte Fest! It was an evening of chocolate and coffee tasting held at Loco Beanz. How exciting! I'm not a sweets or desserts person, but the one sweet thing I do love is chocolate.

It was an introduction in taste testing the different types of chocolate ranging from white, milk, semi-sweet, dark/bittersweet...and we even got to sample an actual cocoa/cacao bean and cocoa nibs (the centre of the cocoa bean).The cocoa bean is on the right and the cocoa nibs are on the left. Who would have thought that the bitter cocoa bean would eventually make chocolate!?
After fermentation the beans are dried, cleaned, and roasted, and the shell is removed to produce cacao nibs. The nibs are then ground to cocoa mass, pure chocolate in rough form. Because this cocoa mass usually is liquefied then molded with or without other ingredients, it is called chocolate liquor.

I brought a piece of my cocoa bean home to show my husband. To my surprise, he LOVED it! I just thought it was bitter. Cocoa in its pure form (though healthy for you), is not my favourite.

We kick started the session with the pairing of sweet drinks and tasty chocolate flavours.Drink: Chocolate Banana Smoothie
Chocolate: Green and Black's 37% cocoa content (organic milk chocolate with caramelized peanuts and a hint of sea salt). The sweet and salty flavour of the chocolate was a welcomed surprise. I never imagined sea salt and chocolate to pair well together.
Drink: Chai Latte
Chocolate: Cocoa Camino 71% cocoa content (Fair trade and organic chili and spice chocolate). To be honest, I didn't really notice the chili and spice! Perhaps it's because I've sampled a lot of chocolate from Mexico (given to me by my Mexican students) that contained large amounts of chili! This one was mild. The friends I went to the Choco-Latte Fest with didn't like the chili and spice. I wouldn't say it was my favourite, but I kind of liked it.

The next thing we did was tasted and compared white chocolate for baking.Callebaut Select vs. Chipits white chocolate chips
After sampling the Callebaut Select, I don't think I can ever use Chipits ever again. Sure, the Callebaut Select is pricier, but the quality and taste is far superior. In the photo, the Chipits are on the left and the Callebaut Select is on the right.

Next was the tasting and comparing of milk chocolate.
Drinks: Mocha Latte and Iced Mocha Latte
Chocolate: Cocoa Camino 38% cocoa content (organic/fair trade milk chocolate)
Cocoa Camino 41% cocoa solids (organic/fair trade milk chocolate)

The semi-sweet chocolate tasting was next.
Drink: Mocha frappe
Chocolate: Russell Stover 60% cocoa content (Venezuela)
Russell Stover 60% cocoa content (Ghana)

Drink: Americano
Chocolate: Theobroma Dark Chocolate "Burst of Raspberry", 60% cocoa contentI have to say that the Burst of Raspberry was by far my favourite chocolate of the evening. The REAL raspberry was the perfect addition. Not to sound like uppity, but I tend to favour the real thing and not things like "raspberry flavour" or "vanilla flavour".

Last on the list was the bittersweet/dark chocolate.Please excuse the blurriness of the above photo. Those were all dark chocolates. I think by the end of the evening, I had my fill of caffeine and my hands were a bit wobbly! :)

Drinks: Fair Trade Dark Roast
Fair Trade Decaf
Chocolate: Cocoa Camino, 70%
Cote d'Or, 70%
Swiss Delice, 72%
President's Choice, 72% (extra dark)

I know dark chocolate is far healthier, but I do believe it's an acquired taste. I'd love to be able to say I can appreciate the finest dark chocolates, but I'm not quite there yet. I do have to admit though, I am beginning to enjoy the dark chocolate more and more. I'm still *gasp* a milk chocolate kinda gal though!

I learned a lot from tonight's chocolate and coffee tasting. For example, things to look for are: the appearance, snap, aroma, mouth feel, and taste.

My husband is now addicted to TOFFLES!

In addition to the wonderful tasting and comparing lesson, each attendant got to take home a grab bag of gifts! My husband was happy when I returned from my evening out with the girls and handed him a box of TOFFLES by local chocolatier, Ultimately Chocolate and a sample of SUMATRA medium roast coffee.

Interesting tidbits:
* A 3.5 oz dark chocolate bar provides the following % of our daily mineral requirements:
-Iron 20%
-Magnesium 33%
-Potassium 27%
-Copper 25%
-Calcium 13%

* Chocolate is good for your teeth! It contains fluoride and the cocoa butter forms a coating in the teeth that protects against bacteria!

* Chocolate gives you energy.

* Chocolate contains PEA (phenyl ethylamine). PEA is said to increase attention and activity, as well as relieve depression and anxiety.

Information on chocolate taken from the literature given at the tasting session.

One would think that after an evening of sampling many different types of chocolate and coffee, one would be wired and suffer from insomnia. Nope. Not I! There's something you should know about me. Coffee makes me sleepy! Close friends and family (and people who have been reading my blog since 2006) will know that I'm one of the very minute percent of people in the world that coffee has an adverse effect on. Instead of keeping me awake, it puts me to sleep. I drink a cup of espresso or cappuccino if I have insomnia and I'm out within minutes.

If you're on the Island, make sure to stop by The Anchor for lunch or supper and definitely head to Loco Beanz for some really good coffee and/or chocolate! Great service and friendly, knowledgeable staff. Love, love, love Loco Beanz!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day

...and a special Thank You to Majesta and Mom Central!

Photo from Google Images

Earlier on this month, I posted about Majesta's green efforts. The company believes in practicing responsible tree management. For every one tree used in making Majesta paper products, three will be planted.

To celebrate Earth Day this year, Little One and I planted a tree. I'm hoping to do this with her every year on Earth Day. Here's our "ceremonial" tree planting video.

Apart from having regular Earth-friendly practices (recycling, using reusable bags and water bottles, using passive solar energy, composting, etc...), I wanted to do something special with Little One. Even our cat, Spike wanted in on the action!

We also planted the seed card that was included in our Majesta package.Oh! Remember the "shake test" we did? We tested one of the leading toilet paper brands and the Majesta brand to see which one disintegrated faster. The Majesta toilet paper won hands down. It's been over two weeks and the other toilet paper is still clumpy and semi-solid. The Majesta brand broke down within minutes.
Here's the video we took of our shake test.

It definitely earns its name as "the soft, green bathroom tissue"! Gone are the days of super thin, sandpaper-like green toilet paper!

Don't forget to enter here for your chance to win a $15,000 green home makeover!

What kind of things do you do with your family on Earth Day?

Smart solutions for everyday moms!
**I wrote this post while participating in a blog tour campaign by MomCentral. As a thank you for writing my review, I received a $25 Chapters gift card.**

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Iams ProActive Health: Even Our Canine Babies Deserve a Blog Prize!!!

I was going to entitle this post "For the Love of Dog", but scrapped the idea at the last minute. I never know what to put in the "title" box for my posts sometimes!
Many of you know that my canine baby, Chance has been
with me through thick and thin.
I've had him since he was five weeks old and small
enough to fit in my hands! Now he's seven years old
and weighs 55 lbs!

We've been through so much together: Break-ups, new
beginnings, moving from the city to the country,
a wedding (with Hubby and not Chance!) and the birth
of Little One. Chance has been at my side (or by my
feet!) for the past seven years and he never ceases
to show his love and loyalty to me.

What better way (other than lengthy walks, playing
on the beach, belly rubs, and a bit of pampering!)
to show our beloved canine babies how much we love
them than by giving them the best food possible?

Mom Central has partnered up with Rocket XL and
Iams for the "Iams Healthy Inside, Healthy Outside
Blog Tour".

Iams has introduced ProActive Health, prebiotic
formulas for our beloved feline and canine pets.
It's formulated to maintain our pets' gastrointestinal
health. It helps promote the growth of good bacteria to
encourage healthy digestion, nutrient absorption and the
maintenance of a strong immune system.

I was asked to introduce Iams ProActive Health to my
pet. Chance, like his human sister, Little One, just
loves food. It was no surprise that he loves
Iams ProActive Health!

From the list of ingredients on the Iams ProActive
Health package, I feel comfortable knowing that
Chance is getting the vitamins and minerals he needs
for strong bones and a strong immune system.

What do you look for when choosing dog food for your
furry, four-legged family member?

Here's some good news for you guys!

I'm hosting a giveaway! All you need to do is leave
me a comment for a chance to be entered to win! One
lucky winner will receive a coupon for a free
17.5 lb bag of Iams ProActive Health
(value of approximately $20).

Don't forget to leave a comment! A winner will be
chosen at random.
The deadline for the draw is
May 12, 2010.

**I wrote this review while participating
in the Iams Blog Tour by MomCentral on
of Iams. I received a voucher for
a bag of Iams ProActive Health to
facilitate this
review and a $20 gift
card as a thank you for my

Smart solutions for everyday moms!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A New Blog Has Been Born

I've been thinking about deliberating contemplating trying to decide (for quite some time now) if I wanted to begin a new blog. I have been blogging since 2006 and the blog has become something very different from what it was intentionally meant to be.

It started off as a place for me to jot down my thoughts and keep friends, family and students up to date with my new life on "the Island". It somehow morphed into a Mommy blog when I gave birth to our daughter, Little One.

I've also been fortunate to have all these new opportunities to do freelance work (editing essays and other documents and write articles), sample products, host giveaways, write reviews, network, and meet so many wonderful people via the blog.

I had everything lumped under one roof for the longest time, since I didn't want to be bothered by maintaining yet another site. However, today will be the start of my review blog. This is just going to be an extension of my existing blog, but exclusively for reviews.

Thanks for stopping by!

Do the Potty Dance!

When Mom Central included me in their Huggies Pull-Ups Potty Dance Blog Tour, I couldn't help but get excited! I've got a toddler. She's seventeen months old. Though Little One seems a bit young to be potty training, she has been showing interest in her potty (and has been trying to rip off her diaper every chance she gets!). This blog tour couldn't have been timelier, since a lot of my Mommy friends are in the midst of potty training their little ones!

Some Moms have told me that potty training can be a little frustrating at times. A few of my friends have offered their potty training kids rewards like stickers (and sometimes M&Ms). I don't really have a game plan yet. Although she's only now showing interest in potty training, I've been letting Little One come into the bathroom with me when I "use the facilities" and I have been letting her sit on her potty when she's interested. I don't think she's quite ready yet, but she will be eventually.

When Mom Central told me about the Huggies Pull-Ups Potty Dance, I thought it was brilliant! What better way to encourage kids in their "potty rituals"? Music and dance is something fun and positive and can help make the whole potty training experience great for parents and kids.

Little One and I previewed the DVD Huggies sent for each of our Huggies Dance Party guests.
This is what Little One thought of the video:

"The Pull-Ups Potty Dance Blog Tour aims to let more parents know about the Potty Dance as a tool to reduce anxiety and motivate success throughout the potty training journey."

Here's a video of Canadian comedienne, Jessica Holmes doing the Potty Dance:

...and here's eTalk's Traci Melchor bustin' a move:

Here are some pics from the Huggies Pull-Ups Potty Dance Party I hosted! I invited 10 moms and their potty training kids this morning. I thought morning would be best, since most of the kids nap in the afternoon and I didn't want to throw off any nap schedules.

Moms were able to chat about their experiences potty training their kids, give and receive advice, and just have a good time.

Now that you've got the Potty Dance song stuck in your head, check out the Huggies Pull-Ups site!

Smart solutions for everyday moms!

*This post is part of a Mom Central Blog tour. By participating in the tour and sharing my potty training experiences, I am receiving a $25 gift card to Chapters and a chance to win an iPod Touch.*

Monday, April 12, 2010

Being Tree-sponsible

We check the labels when we buy food at the grocery store, but do we check the labels when it comes to other household products that we purchase for our family? When it comes to paper products, the only things I really ever checked for were: whether the product was made with recycled materials, if it was made without chlorine bleaching, and the price. Other than that, it never really occurred to me to really read the labels on toilet paper, facial tissue paper, or paper towels.As part of the Majesta Moms blog tour at MomCentral, I was sent a kit that included Majesta products to try out. How fitting, since Earth Day is fast approaching!
In my efforts to be as environmentally friendly as possible, I've always bought "green" toilet paper for my family. The only problem is that our current toilet paper feels like sandpaper. It's thin, rough, and just not the greatest. I often felt the urge to indulge and splurge on a softer-on-your-bum toilet paper. I just cannot justify spending so much money on something we're just going to flush down the toilet though.

Thank goodness for this blog tour! I don't know if I would have ever known how great Majesta products were had I not been given this opportunity. Not only is the Majesta toilet paper amazingly soft, but it's also "green"!

Wait! I've got proof! Through my experience with the Majesta Moms group, I learned a lot about the company's efforts in being green. For starters, Majesta practices responsible forest management. For every one tree used in making the paper products, three are planted. By purchasing Majesta products, you support tree planting.

There are no dyes or fragrances added to Majesta toilet paper. Majesta paper products are also whitened without chlorine, and (now, this is the BEST part for us living in the countryside) it's septic safe!As part of the Majesta Blog Tour, Little One and I did a "shake test". We were able to see how the Majesta toilet paper breaks down and how another leading company's toilet paper fares in comparison. The other brand did not break down...even after a few days.Please excuse my dorky voice in the video below! :)

In honour of Earth Day (April 22nd), what will you be doing to tread lighter on the Earth?

This Earth Day, Majesta is giving Moms across Canada a chance to win a $15,000 Green Makeover for their home! All you have to do is visit the Majesta website and enter! The promotion ends on June 27, 2010.

We use cloth grocery bags, keep our thermostat lower than many would in the winter, we don't have air-conditioning, we hang our laundry to dry (as much as we can), we've replaced all our windows in the house, we use passive solar energy from our greenhouse to help heat our house and have installed in-floor heating. To add to our efforts to live a greener lifestyle, we will now be adding purchasing Majesta paper products to the list.

If we were to win the $15,000 Green Makeover from Majesta, I would love to buy new energy efficient appliances (washer/dryer, fridge/freezer), install new energy efficient faucets in the bathroom and kitchen, and get a double flush toilet (you know, one flush for things of the yellow nature and another for brown stuff!).

What would you do if you were to win $15,000 for a green makeover?

Smart solutions for everyday moms!

**I wrote this post while participating in a blog tour campaign by MomCentral. As a thank you for writing my review, I received a $25 Chapters gift card.**