November 30, 2015

Days of the Month: December

December days of the month

Another month, another 31 days worth of celebrations! Here are December's days of the month and more fun blog post ideas, for those days when the creativity is lacking...

  1. National Pie Day - Share your favourite pie recipe.
  2. National Mutt Day - Do you have a dog? Introduce your readers to your furry friend.
  3. Roof Over Your Head Day - Give your readers a tour of "your space".
  4. World Wildlife Conservation Day - What is your favourite animal?
  5. World Soil Day - Share your favourite outdoor activity.
  6. National Microwave Oven Day - Share a quick and easy dinner recipe.
  7. Letter Writing Day - Write a letter to your younger and future self.
  8. Pretend to Be a Time Traveler Day -If you could time travel, where would you go?
  9. National Pastry Day - What is your favourite sweet treat?
  10. Nobel Prize Day - Have you ever invented something? Share with your readers. 
  11. International Mountain Day - Share your favourite landscape photo.
  12. Gingerbread House Day - What is your favourite holiday tradition?
  13. National Cocoa Day - Share your favourite holiday beverage. 
  14. Monkey Day - Monkey see, monkey do. Teach your readers something new!
  15. Cat Herders Day - Do you have a cat? Introduce your readers to your furry friend.
  16. Chocolate Covered Anything Day -What is your favourite chocolate recipe?
  17. Re-Gifting Day - Share a tutorial for a repurposed or handmade gift. 
  18. Bake Cookies Day - Share your favourite holiday cookie recipe.
  19. Look for an Evergreen Day - Share your Christmas tree and the story behind your ornaments.
  20. Games Day - What is your favourite board game, and why?
  21. Short Story Day - What inspires you to write? 
  22. Forefather's Day - Share your family history. 
  23. Roots Day - Have you researched your family tree? Was there anything that surprised you?
  24. Egg Nog Day - Share your favourite holiday beverage. 
  25. Christmas Day - Take the day off from blogging and spend time with your loved ones.
  26. Thank You Note Day - Share your tips for writing the perfect thank you note.
  27. Visit the Zoo Day - Have you visited a Zoo lately? Share your favourite photos!
  28. National Chocolate Candy Day - Share your favourite chocolate recipe.
  29. Tick Tock Day - Share a day in the life of you!
  30. Bacon Day - What is your perfect breakfast?
  31. Make Up Your Mind Day - Share your New Years' resolutions!
December is...
Safe Toys and Gifts Month - What were your favourite toys as a child?
National Write A Business Plan Month - Starting a small business? Write your business plan.
Tomato and Winter Squash Month - What is your favourite winter-inspired recipe?

This is just a small sampling of the many interesting and fun days celebrated in the month of December.  I hope you enjoy this feature, and that it brings your some inspiration when the creative juices just aren't flowing this month!

Happy December!

Past months: March  |  April  |  May  |  June  |  July  |  August  |  September  |  October  |  November

What will you celebrate this month?


November 27, 2015

My First Black Friday

Before moving to the US, Black Friday was just something that I had heard about on the 6pm news because some lady got trampled in Walmart. In Canada, the day after American Thanksgiving was just a normal day - no holiday, no day off and definitely no sales. We have Boxing Day, also known as the day after Christmas, for that. Although Boxing Day's claim to fame is also a holiday, day off and sales, sadly, it falls [very] short of its American cousin. So, when we moved to the Alaska, experiencing my first Black Friday was a must. 

The morning started out bright and early at 5am. Or dark and early, because it was Alaska in winter after all. We had mapped out our route the night before, and had grand plans to get to the stores early. That is until we opened the front door and were greeted by a hefty overnight dumping of snow. Fair enough, we were living in Alaska, and again, it was "winter". Black Friday rookie mistake #1 for not allotting time to dig out/warm up the car.

After pouring all of our energy into digging out the car, we didn't make it past store #2. And all I had to show from the adventure was a measly pair of snow pants for $25. 

Despite the snowy, yet uneventful, first Black Friday experience, the view as the sun rose over the mountains was quite beautiful and made waking up that early all worth it. 

So beautiful, we decided to abandon the remaining stores on our 'list', and take a scenic drive down the coast of Turnagain Arm, just south of Anchorage.  Can you blame me for opting outside instead? It's a pretty spectacular view. 

It's safe to say that my first Black Friday experience, was also my last. I think I'll stick to shopping from the comfort of my pjs and couch on Cyber Monday.

Do you battle the crowds on Black Friday? What is the best Black Friday deal you've scored?


November 25, 2015

10 things To Do in Toronto This Holiday Season

10 things to do in Toronto this holiday season

Christmas is just 31 days away, and chances are in your neck of the woods, its beginning to flock and feel a lot like Christmas. If you haven't begun to already, its time to start getting in the holiday spirit. One of my favourite things to do during the holiday season is to take in some of the many festivals, events and experiences the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) has to offer. At over 7000 square km and with a population of over 6 million and growing, this list of things to do this holiday season is pretty long. 

Do you live in the GTA, or perhaps are just passing through for the holidays? While this list is just the tip of the iceberg, I've compiled my top 10 things to do in Toronto this holiday season.

10 things to do in Toronto this holiday season

10 Things To Do in Toronto This Holiday Season

1// Stroll through the Toronto Christmas Market
Inspired by the European tradition that originated in Germany in the 1400s, the Toronto Christmas Market celebrates all of the sounds, sights and scents of Christmas. Taking place in the Victorian-era, cobblestone-lined Distillery Historic District, this annual festive event brings local craft-makers, carollers, musicians and artisanal food-makers together for a truly magical experience. Sip on mulled wine, European Christmas cocktails and hot chocolate as you peruse the selection of Christmas merchandise including hand-made ornaments, wood carvings, candles and crafts. 

Location: 55 Mill Street Toronto, ON
Hours: November 20 - December 20; hours vary by day of week
Cost: Free admission Tuesday to Friday and $5.00 admission (incl. tax) Saturday and Sunday.

More information here.

2// Shop at the Toronto Eaton Centre
With 1,722,000 square feet of retail space — that’s nearly 30 football fields — there’s nowhere better to check off wish lists while admiring glittery decorations. The shopping mall is Toronto's top tourist attraction, with around one million visitors per week. The mall contains a wide selection of 330 stores and restaurants.

Location: 220 Yonge St, Toronto, ON
Hours: Holiday hours Nov 30 to Dec 27: Monday to Saturday 9:00-9:30pm, Sunday 10-7pm (some exceptions)
Cost: Free to admire. 

More information here

3// Browse the Hudson Bay window displays
For the most iconic holiday window display in the city, take the subway down to Queen station where the flagship Hudson’s Bay store location rivals Macy’s in New York with functioning train sets, mechanical mice and moving Santas.

Location: 176 Yonge Street Toronto, ON
Hours: Approximately November 1 to the first week of 2016
Cost: Free

More information here.

10 things to do in Toronto this holiday season

4// Take in the Cavalcade of Lights at Nathan Phillips Square 
Mark the official start of the holiday season at the 49th annual Cavalcade of Lights, taking place on November 28. This holiday tradition at Nathan Phillips Square, home of City Hall, features the first illumination of Toronto’s official Christmas Tree, performances by some of Canada’s top musical talent, a spectacular fireworks show and skating parties. While the Cavalcade takes place one night only, the tree remains on display throughout the holiday season.

Location: 100 Queen St W, Toronto, ON
Hours: Saturday, November 28 6-10pm
Cost: Free

More information here.

10 things to do in Toronto this holiday season

5// Skate amongst the skyscrapers
There are several outdoor public skating rinks located around the city. For an iconic urban skating experience, glide around Nathan Phillips Square amidst the tall buildings, the sparkly lights and massive Christmas tree. Skating at the rink continues all season long, and skate rentals are available on-site.

Location: 100 Queen St W, Toronto, ON
Hours: Open November 28 - March 20 (weather permitting)
Cost: Free

More information here.

6// Lace up your skates at the Harbourfront Centre
For a waterfront experience, make your way down to Natrel Rink at Harbourfront Centre, set against the beautiful shoreline of Lake Ontario. The centre hosts Saturday skating nights on its outdoor rink complete with a DJ spinning groove-worthy tracks.

Location: 235 Queens Quay West Toronto, ON
Hours: Open November 28  (weather permitting)
Cost: Free

More information here.

10 things to do in Toronto this holiday season

7// Spend time with nature at Evergreen Brick Works
Celebrate the start of winter with a day of shopping, ice-skating, eating and mulled-wine drinking at Evergreen Brick Works. Visit on Saturday and check out the Farmers Market, the largest in Toronto, where you'll find a wide selection of local, farm-fresh food farmers, producers and chefs. 

Location: 550 Bayview Ave Toronto, ON 
Hours: Vary by day. Saturday Farmers Market runs 9-1pm from November 14 - April 30.
Cost: Free entrance. Check website for cost of various activities, such as skating. 

More information here.

8// Go on a culinary Christmas tour through Kensington Market
Located in the heart of Toronto, Kensington Market is one of Toronto's most vibrant and diverse neighbourhoods. This 3-hour holiday food tour aims to provide guests with the chance to sample the range of delectable offerings available throughout the market, while learning interesting information about the area and its history. Enjoy artisanal cheeses, charcuterie, gourmet sandwiches, mulled wine and lots more.

Location: Just west of downtown, bordered by Spadina Ave, Dundas St, Bathurst St and College St
Hours: Check the website. 
Cost: $60 + tax

More information here.

9// Celebrate old & new at Black Creek Pioneer Village
Tour the historic houses and discover the origins of Christmas traditions popular today. Enjoy a horse-drawn wagon ride around the historic Village and meet with Santa in Santa's Cottage.

Location: 1000 Murray Ross Parkway, Toronto, ON M3J 2P3
Hours: November 21 - December 23
Cost: $11.00 (Child 3+) to $15.00 (Adult 15-59)

More information here.

10// Cut your own tree
Take a short drive north of the City to one of the many Christmas tree farms. Whether it’s a family holiday tradition or a new experience, there’s nothing quite like the real thing.

Location: Several locations throughout the GTA.
Hours: Varies by location.
Cost: Varies by location. 

More information on local farms here.

Looking for a little something extra special this holiday season? Why not start with 10 traditions to start with your special someone.

What are your favourite things to do in your area during the holidays?

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November 20, 2015

Child, You Will Move Mountains

It's extremely important to me that our child is an nature lover just like his/her parents. Baby can be a hockey star like dad, but they must also love animals and the outdoors. There's no debating it. 

alaskan-themed nursery

Considering baby won't have their own dedicated space until our nightmare of a condo is built, planning a nursery has had its challenges. But on the plus side, having limited space is also a good thing. It keeps me from going overboard in furniture and decor 'wants', and makes me think more along the lines of 'needs'.

alaskan-themed nursery

We still don't know if Baby W is a boy or girl (although I'm strongly leaning towards boy), but that hasn't stopped me from picking up many cute outfits on my solo trips to the grocery store. I've been drawn to anything animal or outdoorsy, and have not been deterred away from the more "boyish" colours. Who said only boys can wear blue?! True story - Joe Fresh is addicting, and I am no longer able to go grocery shopping by myself. And did I mention, I'm obsessed with baby jeans?! Here are some of the outfits that are already hanging in baby's closet...

alaskan-themed nursery

Thrift stores are a gold mine for children's books. How can you not love gently used books for $1? When searching through the stacks, I've found some of my favourites from when I was younger and some that will quickly become my favourites. Here are some of the books that are already in the book shelf, and some that will definitely be added to the list of favourites... 

alaskan-themed nursery

When we were living in Alaska, we bought quite a few pieces of art for our future 'Alaska wall'. In the meantime, they are the perfect pieces of art for baby. Bright and colourful. The animal watercolour paintings below are actual portraits of some of my favourite Alaska Zoo pals...

alaskan-themed nursery
#1, 2, 3 & 7 - VRae 
#4, 5, & 6 - Katie Sevigny

And then, there was this find at Goodwill. A little paint will make it good as new. One mama's trash is another mama-to-be's treasure...

alaskan-themed nursery

I can already see Steve shaking his head with the number of 'projects' I've signed up for. 

If it's not obvious, we're going for an Alaskan theme. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I'm a HUGE Alaska pusher. Even to an unborn child. 

Stay tuned for the final product!


November 16, 2015

Lake Huron in the Fall

Lake Huron brings a feeling of nostalgia whenever I am there. It is where I grew up and where I spent endless hours at the beach with friends. It is where I spent my summer with family at our cottage and where I grew my love of the water. It is where I got married and where we will spend countless hours in the future with the little babe. 

My parents' live right on the shore of Lake Huron. So without fail, every time I visit, a beach walk is in order. While the beach is certainly the place to be in the summer, Lake Huron in the fall is just as spectacular. I think you'll agree. 

lake huron in the fall

I'm not the only one that loves a good beach stroll. Our family dogs, Lola and Titus, are always game for checking out the new sights and smells. Beach is a regular word in their 'vocabulary' and part of their daily routine. As soon as they hear the word, its straight for the door. 

lake huron in the fall

And once that door opens, its a mad dash down. There's no stopping them, not even with their second favourite word, treat. Its always the same game - they lead, we follow. So helpful. 

lake huron in the fall
lake huron in the fall
lake huron in the fall

Most of the time, they're just happy to have the freedom to wander. But sometimes, it does get them in trouble. Especially if they come across a dead fish or a fresh patch of poison ivy

lake huron in the fall

Titus can be a bit of a drama king. It can never be a perfect walk. Whether he's too cold (hence his sister's leopard print sweater), the flies are out (he has bad fly anxiety and thinks they're all out to get him) or he just feels like being dramatic, there's always something he's not happy with. So sometimes a time out is needed, to remind him to slow down, relax and enjoy the view. 

Because I definitely enjoy that view.

lake huron in the fall

If you asked me to tell you one of my favourite places on Earth, the answer would be simple. Lake Huron. And I think Lola and Titus (on most days) would agree.

Have you been to Lake Huron? Where is your favourite place on Earth?


November 12, 2015

5 Tips for Hosting on a Budget

One of my most memorable holiday dinners was Easter of 2013, when we were living in Alaska. The building we lived in was occupied solely by my husband's hockey team, giving it a very "dorm-like" feel. Like us, the majority of the team was also thousands of miles away from their families, which led us to celebrate many milestones, holidays, etc. together. 

With the guys out of town the week leading up to Easter, one of the other girls and I took it upon ourselves to treat everyone to a great Easter dinner. We collected $10 from every person that planned on attending, which set our budget. With a list and calculator in hand, we set off to Costco to bring our vision to reality. Surprisingly, we were able to stay on budget, only going over by a few dollars to splurge on a few extra bottles of wine. In the end, the meal was a hit, and all 20+ guys walked away full and happy.

tips for hosting on a budget

Whether its Canadian thanksgiving, American thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, or a holiday in between, hosting a large dinner should not break the bank. Here are 5 tips for hosting on a budget.

Tips for Hosting on a Budget

Plan a menu. 
Once you know the number of people that will be attending dinner, and their likes and dislikes, plan a menu accordingly. If you have some picky eaters, now might not be the time to whip up that new recipe you've been dying to try. Use an online meal calculator to figure out just how much food you need based not the number of people. If you're cooking a turkey this holiday, there are many resources available online to be sure what size you'll need for the number of mouths you're feeding. 

Stretch your dollars. 
Plan a menu that takes advantage of ingredients already in your pantry and fridge, or menu items that use similar ingredients. Before you go shopping, check grocery store flyers for sales and promotions and always, always, always go with a list so that you don't go overboard. If possible, buy generic instead of name brand and use loyalty rewards points toward your final bill. 

Cook from scratch.
When time is limited, it may be tempting to pick up pre-made items, but in the long run, they will just end up costing your more and chances are, they are less healthy than cooking from scratch.

Don't go overboard with the decor. 
Focus on the meal. Chances are, people are going to remember the meal more than your centrepiece. If you do want to spruce up the atmosphere, purchase decor from the dollar store, reuse what you already have or take inspiration from the outdoors with natural evergreen clippings, twigs or fall leaves. 

Make it a potluck. 
If you're feeling overwhelmed due to lack of time to prepare a large meal, or even the cost of preparing a large meal, don't be afraid to ask your guests to bring certain items. Let guests bring dishes they enjoy making. This is also a great way to start new traditions. 

Do you have any tips or tricks for hosting on a budget?


November 10, 2015

All Natural Whipped Belly Butter

It’s interesting what pregnancy does to your body, aside from the obvious of what’s going on inside. On the plus side, my hair and nails have been growing like weeds and have never looked better.  But, on the other hand, my skin is like that of a 13 year old, and not just on my face. And I can’t forget to mention the dryness and itchiness, thanks to that rapidly expanding belly. 

For the past few weeks that I've checked my pregnancy app, two little words have been staring back that I just dread - stretch marks. I know it's inevitable that they will come, and when they do I should consider them a 'badge of honour', but dammit, I am going to try as hard as I can to prevent them. 

DIY all natural whipped belly butter

When it comes to my skin, all natural has been the way to go. Lately, that's been more important than ever now that baby is on board. While there are many products on the market that remedy the dryness and itchiness of stretching skin, a lot contain some not-so-friendly ingredients that have no business being near baby. 

Are you expecting? Try this recipe for an all natural whipped belly butter, my secret weapon from day 1. It is easy to whip up at home, easy to apply and has a calming scent. Enjoy!

All Natural Whipped Belly Butter

  • 2 tbsp shea butter
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp sweet almond oil
  • 3 tsp vitamin e oil
  • 10 drops frankincense essential oil
  • 10 drops lavender essential oil

  1. In a double boiler on medium-low heat, combine butters and almond oil and heat until melted.
  2. Allow mixture to cool completely (i.e. place bowl in freezer for 15-30 minutes).
  3. Spoon cooled mixture in Kitchen Aid mixing bowl.
  4. Add vitamin E oil and essential oils. (By adding the essential oils once removed from the heat, you ensure the integrity of the essential oils won't be damaged.)
  5. Using whisk attachment, whip on high speed 6-7 minutes or until whipped to a light, airy consistency.
  6. Spoon whipped body butter into a glass jar and cover tightly.
  7. Store at room temperature, or refrigerate if your house is warm enough that it melts the oil.
  8. Apply daily during pregnancy and after birth. 

The above ingredients are all safe and beneficial for you and your growing baby. Here are their benefits: 
  • Lavender essential oil is healing and calming.  It also nourishes broken, cracked skin.
  • Frankincense oil promotes cellular health and calms and soothes the skin.
  • Vitamin E oil is moisturizing and highly nourishing.  It also prolongs the life of your butter.
  • Sweet almond oil contains vitamins A and E.  It contains a large amount of antioxidants which help skin appear younger.
  • Coconut oil is extremely healing. It is full of antioxidants and Vitamin E.
  • Shea butter helps rebuild collagen which is broken down when the skin ages or becomes damaged.

*I recommend applying this body butter right after the shower. It is oily, so allow it to dry on your skin before putting on your clothes.

diy all natural whipped belly butter

Do you have your own secret recipe for keeping your skin moisturized? 


November 6, 2015

5 Completely Free Photo Editing Apps

5 completely free photo editing apps
Photo: Jordan McQueen  //  unsplash

We all want our photos to be liked, which is why we spend that extra time tweaking them before hitting share to let the world see. Today's photo editing apps make it easier than ever to crop, enhance, add effects and filters, and more

Editing your photos is a fun and important part of phone photography. But, with thousands of photo editing apps available, it can be difficult to choose which ones to use. Today, I am sharing my 5 favourite photo editing apps. And the best part? They're all completely FREE!

1 // Instagram
Inarguably the most popular photo sharing community, Instagram (owned by Facebook) is also a fast, hassle-free photo editing app, packed with several beautiful filters. The app lets you share your photographic endeavours on its network, follow other users, and view, like and comment on photos uploaded by others. After uploading your photo, you can also share to your favourite social media networks.

2 // VSCO Cam
VSCO Cam (pronounced visco) is one of the best photo editing apps if you want advanced controls. With a great collection of free filters, you'll have to pay for many others. Editing tools include brightness, contrast, saturation, tint, crop, rotate, sharpness, highlights, shadows, among a few others.

2 // Adobe Photoshop Express
Adobe Photoshop Express is free to download and contains similar editing tools to the previous apps mentioned. It has a basic set of filters and adjustments, such as contrast, exposure, brightness, etc., and you can purchase additional ones within the app. It also has tools for cropping, red-eye removal and adding borders. I use this app most of the time to tweak my photos before adding to Instagram. since it’s got the most needed features and it’s extremely easy to use.

4 // Pic Stitch
Pic Stitch is perfect for quickly combining multiple photos into one beautifully framed picture. With multiple templates and borders to choose from, you can combine both horizontal and vertical photos and also add filters. After you’re done creating your photo collage, you can share your masterpiece on your favourite social media networks. 

5 // Studio Design 
Spice up your photos with words, graphics and textures with Studio Design. Upload a photo or take one inside the app and begin playing with the thousands of graphics or textures you can add. If you can’t find a design you like, there are paid downloadable options. Though you can export to your photos to your favourite social media networks, Studio Design also also has a sharing community of its own. Add beautiful layers to your photos and share your creativity with friends and family. 

For more photography, check out these tips.

What are your go-to photo editing apps?


November 3, 2015

Celebrating Half Way There w/ 3 GIVEAWAYS

T.O. & fro 20 week bumpdate

Today marks the half way mark. In just 20 short weeks, Baby Wardo will be taking the world by storm and we can't wait!

Here's this week's 'bumpdate'...

How far along? 20 weeks

Due date: March 25, 2016

Baby's size? According to my app, Baby W is about the size of a banana - 10 inches from head to heel.

Gender? I say boy, Steve says girl, but we won't know until the end of March because we're keeping it a surprise :)

Weight gain? Up about 8-10 lbs. 

Maternity clothes? LOVING maternity pants. I can't even think about going back to regular pants after baby is born.  I can still wear the majority of my normal tops. 

Symptoms? Mama is one tired chick! I'm tucked into bed by 9:30pm every night. Belly button is almost an outie and my sense of smell could rival a dog's. Besides that, I'm feeling great. 

Sleep? Trying to get a solid 8 hours, which includes lots of tossing and turning. As a 'former' stomach-sleepover, I've had a hard time adjusting to side sleeping. 

Aversions/cravings? Aversions: chicken. / Cravings: anything salty. No odd combinations, but I have been caught a few times eating salt straight from the shaker. (Bad, I know.) 

Miss anything? I could say beer and wine, but to be honest, it hasn't been that bad. How about -I miss being able to stay up past 10pm. 

Best moment of the week/what I want to remember? I have been able to feel baby's movements for a few weeks, but now that they're getting stronger, Steve was finally able to feel the kicks for himself. The look on his face was something I want to remember forever.

Looking forward to? See our little nugget on next week's ultrasound.


Today I'm going to celebrate half way there with not one, not two, but THREE awesome giveaways for some pretty awesome prizes, brought to you by some pretty awesome chicks. Good luck!

First up is brought to you by How To Make A Life and friends. Sheryl is an extremely positive person, and whenever I need a pick me up, I turn to her self care posts. She also strongly believes that gratitude and journal writing can change your life! So as we enter into this season of gratitude, this giveaway includes: a copy of the new book The Gratitude Diaries, The Happiness Project sentence a day journal and a beautiful journal to start yourself!

Second giveaway is brought to you by SeptemberFARM and friends. Who doesn't love a boat load of cash? And just in time for the holidays. Plus, if you're still trying to decide on that holiday card design, Karli from September FARM is to the rescue!

katie | annie
karli | libby | shelly
alexis | brittney | macy | hannah
lindsey | jenn | hayley | mar

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Last, but definitely not least, if the books, cash and other goodies aren't good enough, how about a boat load of ad space, brought to your by Christine Everyday and gal pals. The best way to grow your community. This lovely group of bloggers is giving away 21 ad spaces, to ONE luck winner! 

21 Ad Space Giveaway - Christine Everyday

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