July 29, 2017

The Gift of Knowledge

At this stage in my life, it seems that everyone I know is having babies. And with those babies come many celebrations – from baby showers to birthdays, and even graduations.

Dont get me wrong; I love my friends and family, I love their children and I love a good celebration. But, what I dont love is the challenge of deciding on just the right gift for that celebration.
The Gift of Knowledge - Heritage Education Funds

Finding the perfect gift for the little ones in our lives gets harder and harder every year. On one hand, you want to buy them the latest and greatest gadget or toy. But, on the other hand, you want something that wont lose its value or appeal in the blink of an eye. You want something that is the perfect balance between what the child wants and what wont drive their parents crazy (Trust me, we have plenty of the latter.).

Instead of the next greatest gadget or toy, I want to gift them with something that is memorable. Something that they will not outgrow in 2.5 seconds. Something that they will remember for a lifetime.  Something that will, instead, grow with them.

I want to give them the gift of knowledge.
The Gift of Knowledge - Heritage Education Funds

Yes, you can give educational toys. And yes, you can give books. Books are good, we do love a new book. But, you could also take it one step further and give a monetary contribution to that childs registered education savings plan (RESP).
Some may think that giving money as a gift is impersonal, insignificant or the easy way out. They may not see the direct benefits of handing a one-year-old a $20, $50 or $100 bill. But, they must look beyond the “right now” and see the benefits that that small amount of money will bring to the childs future.
The Gift of Knowledge - Heritage Education Funds

The RESP is a Canadian investment plan used to save for a childs post-secondary education. One great thing about RESPs is that money saved in the plan  is tax-sheltered until withdrawn, whereupon it is taxed at a student rate – and students typically pay little to no tax. Another great feature bonus to this type of plan is that – provided you qualify – the federal government will also make contributions through the Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG),  which provides an additional 20% on contributions to a maximum $500 per year, and a maximum $7,200 over the life of the plan.

So while you may not think that a few dollars in an envelope each year will benefit the child, think again. The gift of money, if invested in an RESP, will grow with the child. And down the road, will also help them grow.
The Gift of Knowledge - Heritage Education Funds

Trust me, as a mom that is dreading the cost of a post-secondary education 18 years from now, giving the gift of an RESP contribution will be much appreciated. And as a 30-something who benefited from an RESP started in her name, I am now beyond appreciative of those monetary gifts I received throughout my childhood.

So, the next time you find yourself pondering what to get that child in your life for their birthday, graduation or celebration in between, think of their future.An RESP contribution is truly a gift that keeps on giving.

What unique gifts have you gifted, or received? Id love to hear!

*As a Heritage Ambassador, I received compensation in exchange for this post. However, all opinions and advice shared are 100% my own. Thank you Heritage! 

July 21, 2017

Love Where You Live

Live Green. Green Living. Both common phrases used to describe how we live, what products we use, when we use these products and even why we choose to live a sustainable and responsible lifestyle.

Now, we can take these phrases a little more literal and apply them to where we live. 

As someone who has lived in rental apartments for the past 10 plus years, and someone who is conscious of my environmental impact, one of the biggest frustrations with the properties I have called home is the lack of a sustainability plan. Or, if there is a plan in place, the lack of accountability and communication with tenants regarding the important topic of sustainability. 

Like many, I work hard to separate my waste, and conserve water and energy. But, when I see that our recycling stream is contaminated with non-recyclables and the building's lawn sprinklers come on in the middle of a hot summer's day, I'll admit, it's quite frustrating. And quite discouraging. And in a building of hundreds of tenants, I'm sure I'm not the only way that feels that way.

Recycle? Check. Walk to school? Check. Turn off the light? Check. So inspired by the resident's at a recent CRB building event I attended!

Thanks to the Certified Rental Building (CRB) Program, it's now possible to rent with confidence. When you see the “Rent with Confidence” Certified Rental Building Program symbol you can be assured that the building and the property manager responsible for the building have met the over 55 requirements of the only multi-residential apartment building quality assurance “certification” program in North America. 

What is most impressive about this program is that 10 new environmental standards of practice are now a part of the CRB Program quality assurance commitment. The "Living Green Together " standards focus on four main practices - reducing energy consumption, reducing water consumption, reducing waste and promoting recycling and promoting conservation.

Ultimately, the goal of these standards is to reduce the environmental footprint of rental apartment buildings, while promoting healthy and more sustainable apartment communities. 

Our future generation sure knows where its as when it comes to how you can green your community!
When you think of it, these standards really are no brainers. Reducing our energy consumption, recycling and promoting conservation are all actions that we be striving to achieve each day already. If not for the environment, for our wallets and for what we will be leaving behind for our future generations.

Thanks to CRB, residents can now be assured that when they choose to live in a Certified Rental Building they are selecting a Property Manager and staff that not only care about the quality of their building and the service provided, but also the impact that daily operations have upon the environment.

And to me, that is extremely important. 

Find a "greener" CRB apartment home and live the CRB quality difference! Join the over 225,000 Ontario residents living in over 950 CRBP-approved apartment communities across the province. Learn more about the program here

See more from the recent CRB event I attended here

Do you live in a CRB building? Be sure to watch for a CRB event coming to you this summer! And don't forget to enter the #LoveCRB contest on Instagram to win some great prizes! 

How do you "live green"? Any tips for "greening" where you live? I'd love to hear!

*This post was brought to you by CRB, however all opinions are 100% my own.

July 19, 2017

Time For Mom

Being a mom has taken life’s responsibilities to a whole new level. Gone are the days of focusing solely on yourself. Now, as a mom, you wear many different hats!

In the past 14 months, my resume has expanded from full time employee and partner to include chef, personal stylist, hairdresser, dentist, housekeeper, librarian, doctor, and even therapist. My sense of hearing has increased, I have magically grown eyes on the back of my head (my mom always warned me about this), I am a comedian (to at least one person in my house), and I can magically heal all boo boos. 

Creating Mom Time

While it is extremely rewarding to be able to wear all of those hats and develop the skills that come with them, it is also extremely exhausting. I will admit, there are days that I wear my invisible cape proudly. 

But, despite the number of hats hanging in my closet, I am by no means perfect. If there is one super power that I lack, it is the power of time. As in, time for myself.

Creating Mom Time

Life is busier now than ever, and as I juggle all of the responsibilities that come with it, the hours in the day seem to slip away.

As a mom and a partner, it is my responsibility to be the best that I can be for my familybut how can I do that if I don’t first take care of myself?

According to one psychologist, moms should have at least 15 to 20 minutes a day of “me time” to decompress. In a day with 1440 minutes, 15 to 20 seems like peanuts, am I right? 

Well, even in that 1440-minute day, sometimes it takes a bit of creativity to get in those 15 to 20 and really make them count.

Creating Mom Time

The psychologist goes on to say that, “The key to tapping into your “me time” is to be honest about what things make you feel rejuvenated and what drains your energy reserves.”

So, how do I incorporate those 15 to 20 into my day to take care of myself?

Creating Mom Time

If I’m being completely honest here, working out drains my energy reserves. But, going for a walk does not. Going for a walk makes me feel rejuvenated. So, I trade one for another. Oftentimes, this means getting off the bus a stop earlier to walk a little further. It gives me time to clear my head, take in the fresh air and walk through the door with a smile on my face. 

Creating Mom Time

Other days, it means a walk in the park with my family. Not exactly time for myself, but time spent outdoors with my family also rejuvenates me. 

Another way I take care of myself is with my morning routine, and ensuring that my day begins with a healthy breakfast and vitamins. Oh, and a big cup of coffee. Coffee, a healthy breakfast, and daily vitamins help fill my energy reserves so that I can tackle the day ahead. 

Creating Mom Time

I have always been fairly good about taking my vitamins. But, as I get older, I have realized that not all vitamins are designed the same. And as someone who is conscious of what I am putting in my body to be at the top of my game, that is a bit of a problem. 

Sundown Naturals® offers a full line of the best quality vitamins and supplements that are 100% free of GMOs, dairy/lactose, artificial flavours, and gluten/wheat to suit your individual needs, and busy mom lifestyle.

Creating Mom Time

While you may not always be able to make the healthiest choices in your 15 to 20 minutes (yes, a bag of chips and glass of wine can be consumed in 15 minutes), you can rest assured that Sundown Naturals® is here to support you through every step of your super mom journey.

Do you wear your mom cape proud? How do you make the most of your “me time”? I’d love to hear!

*This post is brought to you by Sundown Naturals®, however, all images and opinions are 100% my own.

July 14, 2017

The Best Hashtags for Outdoors Lovers

While there is nothing I love more than disconnecting in nature, I also love photographing our outdoor adventures. And, sharing those photos on social media

Photography and the outdoors have always gone hand in hand, and if you love both, Instagram is the place to be. Its easy to get lost for hours scrolling through the thousands (maybe even millions) of shared photos of our incredible natural world.

The Best Hashtags for Outdoors Lovers

Love 'em or hate 'em, as a blogger and social influencer, hashtags are extremely important. Whether you're a lifestyle blogger, fashion and beauty blogger, mommy blogger or any niche in between, hashtags play an important role in growing your online community and influence.

Hashtags are also the key to getting those beautiful outdoors photos seen in that sea of millions. 

The hashtags you select must be carefully curated in order to maximize visibility before it gets buried by the next big adventure.

New to hashtags? I recently shared this post about the importance of utilizing hashtags on Instagram, including the 30 best hashtags for mommy bloggers. If you're new to the hashtag game, you'll want to start here

The Best Hashtags for Outdoors Lovers

For outdoors lovers, the number of relevant hashtags is endless. 

Need a little help to get started? Below is a list of the most popular nature-, adventure- and outdoor-related hashtags, as well as some of my favourites. Copy and paste this list into the notes section of your computer or phone. Add or subtract hashtags relevant to the photo subject, and watch your engagement grow. 

Please be warned, exploring the photos associated with these hashtags may spark a serious case of wanderlust and the need for adventure. Or, they maybe inspire you to seek out some seriously beautiful new outdoor spaces and travel destinations. Enjoy!

Top 30 Instagram Hashtags for Outdoors Lovers


Other Hashtags to Use

If you have kids, be sure to include children-related hashtags.

For example:

Tag your location. 

For example:

Bonus to tagging the location - there is a chance you may get a regram!

Tag your activity. 

For example:

Use hashtags relevant to what is being shown in the photo. 

For example:

The Best Hashtags for Outdoors Lovers

Bottom line - hashtags are important. If you don't use them, the only people that will see your content will be your followers, and maybe your mom. 

Check out To & Fro's Instagram to see how I effectively utilize hashtags to increase engagement and influence. 

What are your favourite hashtags? Any tips or tricks? I'd love to hear!


July 11, 2017

Lets Go Outside - Benefits of Outdoor Play

Playing outside is one of the greatest joys of childhood, but it also serves a larger purpose than just being a way to have a good time.

Benefits of Outdoor Play for Toddlers

One thing that I love about Morley’s daycare is that they are always outside. Some days, we will secretly arrive a bit early for pick up so that we can watch her interact with her new friends at the playground. We usually get a few minutes to stand back and watch before we are spotted and play time is over. It really gives us an appreciation for how much she has grown the past five months since she has started there. It also gives us an appreciation for outdoor play.

Benefits of Outdoor Play for Toddlers
Benefits of Outdoor Play for Toddlers

When I think back to my own childhood, some of my fondest memories are from time spent outdoors. Whether it was swimming in the lake, camping with family or just playing in the backyard with friends, outdoors was the place the be. As kids, being outdoors just seemed like the natural thing to do. 

As an adult, I have now learned that child’s play is not just all fun and games. The act of play itself is a crucial component in the growth and development of the brain, body and intellect. And what better setting to play than the outdoors? 

Benefits of Outdoor Play for Toddlers

Because of my own childhood experience, my current field of work and my own daughter, I am a huge advocate for outdoor play. (The messier, the better.) These are just some of the many reasons why you should be too. 

Importance of Outdoor Play

Physical Benefits

Playing outside is a good way for your child to get some exercise. Outside play helps children to gain motor skills and increase strength, balance and flexibility. Walking, running, jumping, stomping and rolling also improve physical development so that he gains muscle strength and builds strong bones. Being outdoors also helps strengthen a child’s immune system. 

Mental and Emotional Benefits

Playing outside allows children free time to pursue activities they enjoy, which make them happy and less stressed and increases self-esteem. Taking a break to go and play outside will also help to increase focus in the classroom and reduce potential behavioural problems. 

Being outside leads to a connection with nature. Because the natural world is filled with beautiful sights, sounds, and textures, it's the perfect resource for the development of aesthetics in young children.

Cognitive Benefits

Playing improves a child's memory, thinking skills and ability to learn as they explore the world around them. It introduces them to new sights, sounds, textures, smells and, maybe even, tastes. Bring outdoors allows children to make choices, see how things work and use their imaginations. It also teaches independent learning, as toddlers are just learning the meaning of sharing.

Social Benefits

While outdoor play teachers a child to be independent, when children play outside with others, they learn about relationships and inclusion, and how to behave as a member of a group. Spending time outside as part of a larger group of children allows children to make friends, resolve conflicts and express feelings. They also learn how to follow rules, and gain self-control skills.

So, take the children outside to play. It's a wonderful way to spend the day! 

What is your favourite outdoor activity? I’d love to hear!


July 4, 2017

Good Times Outside This Summer

Good food, good drinks and good company make me one happy mama. Do it all in the great outdoors? Now that's some good times outside.

A few weeks back, I was invited to “Picnic en Flannel” to test MEC's brand new GoodTimesOutside.ca digital platform. MEC is Canada's go-to place for outdoor gear, know-how and inspiration, so I knew it would be a good time and right up my alley. Inspiring others to enjoy our natural world is what I do best. 

MEC GoodTimesOutside.ca

Armed with my sister-in-law/outdoor adventure buddy, we donned our best plaid and boarded a boat from the downtown Toronto waterfront destined for Mugg's Island, a small private island in the chain of what we know as the Toronto Islands. As a popular outdoor destination for Toronto residents and visitors, the Islands were the perfect setting for this intimate, outdoor bash (despite some flooding from this spring’s immense rain fall). 

MEC GoodTImesOutside.ca
MEC GoodTimesOutside.ca
MEC GoodTimesOutside.ca

Kayaking, paddling boarding, a sleeping bag race, relaxing in hammocks, enjoying some BBQ and roasting marshmallow around a campfire (and so much more) were the perfect way to spend the late spring night. It was a night filled with good food, good drinks, good company and, of course, good times outside.

Top if off with the sprawling skyline of downtown Toronto as our backdrop, and I would have to correct myself and say it wasn't just a good time, it was a GREAT time. 

MEC GoodTimesOutside.ca
MEC GoodTimesOutside.ca
MEC GoodTImesOutside.ca
MEC GoodTimesOutside.ca

MEC GoodTimesOutside.ca

We all know that being active outside is beneficial for our physical and mental health, so why don’t we do it more often? GoodTimesOutside.ca is a MEC-vetted source for city-dwellers to discover fresh outdoor experiences in their own backyards. Its designed to easily break down the barriers that might keep people from heading outdoors, and spark mini-adventures, while giving solid advice on how to make it happen. 

With outdoor adventures from coast to coast and for all levels of outdoor expertise, there is something for everyone, including hiking, biking, running, camping, water sports and climbing, all within a few hours of an urban centre. The ability to filter activities by vibe, ability, location and duration, GoodTimesOutside.ca shows you that fun is never far away. Think of GoodTimesOutside.ca as the Spotify for outdoor activity! 

MEC GoodTimesOutside.ca
MEC GoodTimesOutside.ca

In addition to the self-guided activity ideas, the site also includes organized events in your area, delivering good times outside across Canada all summer long, and include major festivals, pop-up activities (like sunrise hikes, bike crawls and adult summer camps), and 25 one-of-a-kind outdoor events dreamt up by MEC staff.

I can't wait to start exploring more of this great province of Ontario with the help of MEC!

Check out more photos from the event, here

How do you explore the outdoors? What are your favourite outdoor spaces? I'd love to hear!

Disclosure:  A big THANK YOU to MEC for inviting me to this amazing event! All opinions are 100% my own.

Photos of the night provided by Nick Lee and Jess Baumung

July 1, 2017

Raising a Future Leader

Today, on Canada's 150th anniversary, we take the opportunity to reflect on all things that make this country such an amazing place.

Heritage Funds Registered Education Savings Plan

As Canadians, we are proud of the country we call home, and rightfully so; Canada is a great place to both live, work and play.

Poutine, hockey, Caesars, the Rocky Mountains, the word “eh” and Tim Horton’s are just a few of the “perks” us Canadians can enjoy. But, there is so much more to why we are called the "True North Strong and Free".

Heritage Funds Registered Education Savings Plan

Given my current family situation, I can’t help but be thankful for the aspects that make Canada such an amazing place to have a family. Public health care, year-long maternity leave and the Registered Education Savings Plan all make this country unique when it comes to bringing up our future generations. 

Heritage Funds Registered Education Savings Plan

Public health care allowed my husband and I to welcome our daughter into the world, without having to worry about the burden of medical bills. The opportunity to take a full 365 days leave from work after my daughter arrived allowed me to focus on building the strong relationship her and I share. And, having the opportunity to invest in my daughter’s future will one day empower her with a quality post-secondary education, without the worry of affording one. 

Heritage Funds Registered Education Savings Plan

Despite having access to a quality education in Canada, it does come at quite the hefty price tag.

It is estimated that for a child born in 2016 (my daughter, for example), the cost of a 4-year undergraduate degree from a Canadian university in 2034 could cost around $82,000. Factoring in expenses such as books, shelter, food and transportation, that cost will be closer to $148,000

With university fees in Canada having nearly quadrupled over the last two decades, the high cost of getting a post-secondary education is an enormous financial stress for families. 

Heritage Funds Registered Education Savings Plan

Luckily, as Canadians, we have options. One of them being a Registered Education Savings Plan, a special savings vehicle for parents who want to save for their child’s education after high school. It's also the only government-registered investing vehicle in Canada specifically for post-secondary education. 

While college or university is still many years down the road for Morley, it's important to my husband and I that, when the time comes, she be allowed to focus on her schooling and not how she's going to get out of debt once she graduates.

We are so fortunate to live in a country that values education and investing in our future generations, and future leaders.

What makes you proud to be a Canadian? I’d love to hear!

GIVEAWAY: To celebrate Canada150, I’m giving away a $50 gift card for one of three Canadian favourites: Tim Horton’s, Amazon.ca or Hudson’s Bay (winner’s choice). Giveaway open to all 18+ Canadian residents. Giveaway ends 7/8 at 11:59pm. Enter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: As a Heritage Ambassador, I received products and/or compensation in exchange for this post. All opinions and advice shared are 100% my own. Thank you Heritage! 

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