July 31, 2018

The Deal with the Gender Reveal

As a pregnant woman, you get asked a lot of questions - some odd, some normal and some totally predictable.

For example, a few months back I was crossing a fairly busy intersection downtown Toronto, when an early 20-something yelled out, “How is being pregnant?” as we walked past each other. Without stopping, I said the first thing that came to my mind - awesome! She responded with, “Really?!”, as I laughed and kept on walking. 

Awesome? That’s the best I could come up with? It was a lie. This pregnancy has not been what I would call awesome. But, what did she expect me to do? Stop mid-intersection and say, “I’m sore, my feet are swollen, I don’t sleep and for the first few months I was nauseous as hell”? And so, I went with awesome. She seemed satisfied enough with the answer as I walked away.

Like I said, some questions are odd. 

The Deal with the Gender Reveal

By far, the biggest question I get when people find out I’m pregnant is, “Do you know what you’re having?”. It’s pretty common, and really comes at any point in the pregnancy and from anyone - man, woman, old, young. You name it, they’ve asked.

And when I give them the answer, they always seem surprised.

The answer is no. As in, no we did not find out what we were having. Not with baby number one. And not with baby number two.

The Deal with the Gender Reveal

When I was pregnant with Morley, I never would have guessed I was having a girl. From day one, I was convinced it was a boy. I read into all the signs - my OB telling me the baby had a “girl’s heartbeat” (of course she was playing mind games with me) and the ultrasound tech quickly moving the screen as she looked between baby’s legs (because she didn’t want me to see what was there). I was even told how I was carrying was indicative of a boy. Surely someone who’s gone through it before would know the truth in that, right?

In fact, I was so convinced, I had also convinced others. Mainly my family. When Steve walked out of the delivery room saying it was a girl, there was a bit of shock before the tears of joy. That’s how convinced they were.

This go around, I haven’t even wagered a guess. I stay mum when people ask. When you’re pregnant, everyone assumes you have a preference. The fact is, I didn’t and don’t care what we have. I think we both agree when I say, we just want a healthy baby.

If genetics had their way, we would be having a boy. I am the oldest of three kids with a younger brother next in line and Steve is youngest of two with an older sister. Girl, boy would be the trend.

But, I am also fully prepared to be a girl mom. We march to the beat of our own drum, so it wouldn’t surprise us to “buck the family trend”. (And if that’s the case, I pity my husband. There are going to be some serious hormonal girl spats in his future.)

The Deal with the Gender Reveal

Many people don’t find out the gender for many different reasons. For some, it may help to teach them what it feels like to lose control - you know, when your house is an absolute mess and there is nothing you can do about it loss of control. It may also help with the shopping - if you don’t know what you’re having you can’t go wild buying pink or blue. Or, like many suggest, it may help with “the final push” - the eagerness to meet your little miss or mr helps you get through those final moments of labour. 

Having gone through it once before, I can’t be certain it helps in the moment, but I do think it comes down to the anticipation.  Call me crazy, but I like the element of surprise (and I’m not typically one for surprises). Personally, I think it’s one of the biggest surprises we will ever experience in life. It sure is an exciting moment when the doctor says, “It’s a little [insert gender here]”.  For us, no confetti filled balloon or coloured cake reveal could top that moment. 

The Deal with the Gender Reveal

So that is why we wait. It could be a few days or it could be a few more weeks, but we will wait for the ultimate gender reveal. And that, my friends, is the deal. 

Oh, and if you’re wondering what the second most common question a pregnant woman gets usually is? It’s, “Will you be getting an epidural?”. To which I quickly respond, “Ah, hell yes.”

Did you find out the gender of your children? Why or why not? I’d love to know!


July 26, 2018

A Clean Shoreline, A Healthier You

I’m sure by now you’ve heard the phrases like “plastic pollution”, “micro-plastics” and “marine debris”. And by now, almost everyone and their mother is aware that there is “an island made of garbage” floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This type of talk seems to be everywhere in the media these days. 

But, the question is, do you know why? Or more importantly, why you should care?

“I don’t live by the ocean” you think, “marine debris doesn’t affect me”. 

Well my friend, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Lake Ontario Shoreline Cleanup with A Greener Future

Whether you live on the coast or thousands of miles inland, trash in our lakes, rivers and oceans DOES affect you. These bodies of water all play an important role in our daily lives, from providing us with the oxygen we breathe to the food we eat, regulating our climate and providing us with hours of relaxation and enjoyment. Protecting these natural resources is essential to our wellbeing.

For example - the above photo was take along Lake Ontario last summer during a shoreline cleanup. Keeping in mind that last summer Toronto experienced record spring rainfall and as a result, record Lake Ontario water levels. Looks beautiful, right? Like a beach and a lake should, right? 

Well, if you look closer, you’ll see the photo below. 

One of those things is not like the other.

Lake Ontario Shoreline Cleanup with A Greener Future
Lake Ontario Shoreline Cleanup with A Greener Future
Lake Ontario Shoreline Cleanup with A Greener Future

That’s plastic. Tiny pieces of plastic. Plastic that once was large, but over time has broken down (or photo-degraded) into smaller and smaller pieces with no where to go except our lakes, our rivers, our oceans and our beaches. 

That big fancy word “photo-degrade” doesn’t mean bio-degrade like a compostable product may, completely disappearing after a period of time. It means that over time, the rays of the sun break the plastic into smaller and smaller pieces. It never completely disappears. 

So, while folks are so concerned about this “patch the size of Texas” floating in the Pacific Ocean, they don’t realize that the problem is also occurring without our own backyards. In the Great Lakes. Our drinking water.


Lake Ontario Shoreline Cleanup with A Greener Future

But, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. There are ways to help. While completely eliminating single-use plastics from your lifestyle would be the ultimate goal, it is a big ask. Plastic is EVERYWHERE! By making small changes, such as refusing the straw, using a reusable water bottle and coffee mug and even participating in a local shoreline cleanup, those small changes become cumulative and CAN make change.

Each year the environmental non-profit A Greener Future embarks on a cleanup adventure along the shores of Lake Ontario. Starting in Niagara-on-the-Lake, they work east towards Kingston, ON completing 100 litter cleanups along the way. 

So far this year, they’ve picked up over 13,000 pieces of trash on Toronto’s shorelines, with about half of the cleanups still coming. Most of that amount has been made up of completely unnecessary single-use items such as straws, food wrappers, cutlery, cups, etc., while the remainder is coming from uncertain sources such as sewage bypasses, storm debris and even shipping cargo on the lakes. And then there’s the more bizarre items, such as toilet seats (yes, as in multiple) that just can’t be explained. 

The point is, there’s way too much trash in our lakes. The beauty of our natural landscapes and the health of all species on Earth are being threatened by the waste we're leaving behind. But you CAN do something about it. The time to act is now. 

Interesting in joining? Check out A Greener Future’s website to find a cleanup near you.

Have you ever participated in a shoreline cleanup? How are you a good steward for the environment? And, why do you care? I’d love to hear!

Note: This post was sponsored by A Greener Future. All thoughts and opinions are 100% that of To & Fro. 

July 24, 2018

Exploring Toronto’s Must-Visit Family-Friendly Hidden Gems

Like every city, Toronto has its share of hidden gems. No two city adventures need to be the same. Toronto’s diverse populations and characteristic neighbourhoods make it a gold mine for unique places and experiences.

Looking for some new places and spaces to explore in Toronto this summer with your family? As we enter the last month of summer break (sigh), be sure to add these to your must-visit list.

Toronto downtown skyline

We love exploring new places, especially those that are outdoors. Getting the entire family out into nature is extremely important to us, but living in a city [affectionately] known as “the concrete jungle”, it can also be somewhat difficult.

One of my favourite places to explore this summer has been Rouge National Urban Park, located in the east end of the city (near the Toronto Zoo). 

While it is a part of the Parks Canada system, it is relatively new to the Toronto-area and still in the establishment phase. Once fully established, Rouge National Urban Park will be one of the largest and best protected urban parks of its kind in the world, spanning 79.1 square kilometres and  overlapping the cities of Toronto, Markham and Pickering and the Township of Uxbridge.

Rouge National Urban Park, Toronto

It’s close proximity to Canada's largest city provides Parks Canada with an excellent opportunity to engage current and future generations of stewards to connect with and protect the Rouge for the benefit, education and enjoyment of Canadians now and for countless future generations.

Wildlife viewing, photography, canoeing or hiking, the Rouge has something for every level of outdoor adventurer and is truly a hidden gem within the city limits.

For those with children 2-6 years, they also have a kids' club called Club Parka that runs three times a week in the summer and is led by Parks Canada staff.

Rouge National Urban Park's Club Parka

Looking for your own outdoor adventure, or perhaps a sweet treat? Check out what some of my favourite Toronto parenting & lifestyle bloggers have to say about their favourite family-friendly places in the city. Toronto mama approved!

Erica from AnnaGeorgianna
Blog  //  Instagram  //  Twitter

We LOVE Ice Cream Junction - it’s a sweet little '50s-style ice cream parlour with pink striped walls. They serve Kawartha Dairy ice cream & have loads of old-school candy. I’m not sure I’ve ever gone by it without going in for a scoop (or 3)! My favourite is “Moose-tracks” and Morris always orders “Super Hero”.

Location: 3103 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON

Ice Cream Junction, Toronto

Care from With Care
Blog  //  Instagram  //  Facebook

Our family has enjoyed countless days and evenings strolling along the beautiful Humber River. In the hot summer months we love that there is a ton of shade and a cool breeze off the water. It’s so much quieter than most large parks, and offers so much lush green space along the river and at the playground for picnics. Some of our favourite memories at the river include bike rides along the endless path, seeing deer along the banks, watching the salmon run upstream in the fall, and tobogganing down the hills in winter. We feel so fortunate to be raising our children near the humber river so they get to experience this beautiful piece of nature throughout the year. The Humber River is a must visit for all families.

Location: Dundas St W to Bloor St W & Jane St to Prince Edward Dr S

Humber River trails, Toronto

Renee from My So-Called Mommy Life
Blog  //  Instagram  //  Facebook  

Madame Boeuf and Flea for burgers and hot dogs. It’s outdoors, so kids can make noise without it echoing like other restaurants or bothering patrons. It is super kid-friendly and they have games such as bocce ball and cornhole to keep them busy! For the adults, they have an amazing frozé (a slushy made from rose), which is the perfect thirst quencher. And if you’re looking for something non-alcoholic, the slushy is just as great (and a tad tart).

Location: 252 Dupont St, Toronto, ON

Madame Boeuf and Flea, Toronto

Do you call Toronto home? What are your favourite hidden gems in the city? I’d love to hear (and check them out)!


July 18, 2018

Practicing Safe Skin as Self-Care

*This post is sponsored by Bayer®. To make sure Bayer® products are right for you, always read and follow the label.

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about "self-care" - the things we can do to promote, maintain and manage our own health. As our lives get busier and busier, prioritizing self-care becomes increasingly important.

Many of us think of self-care as practicing yoga, a day at the spa or even spending quality time with friends. While these are great ways to relax, there is much more to it than that.

Practicing Safe Skin as Self-Care

The concept of self-care is about empowering individuals, families and communities to practice healthier habits, prevent diseases and cope with illness or disability to achieve optimum health. Taking better care of ourselves by utilizing the products available to us not only helps Canadians lead healthier lives, it also alleviates strain on our healthcare system. Making a commitment to practice self-care has so many benefits.

That’s why Bayer, a global health products leader, is working to educate consumers on how Better Self-care for a Better Life can make a difference in quality life, while improving healthcare sustainability. 

How do you practice self-care? 

One of the ways I practice self-care is by getting outdoors. Whether it be a trip to the park with my daughter, a weekend-long family camping trip, or even a cup of coffee or tea out on our terrace, being outdoors is my happy place and always helps clear my mind, leaving me feeling refreshed and ready to tackle what lies ahead.

Practicing Safe Skin as Self-Care

In the past decade, I have begun to put a large focus on my skin. I am what you could call a “moley kid”. I’ve always had moles, but they were something that I never really paid any attention to in the past. But, as my skin continues to change so do the number, size and shape of my many moles and freckles.

A few years back, I paid a visit to a dermatologist and was asked if I had ever had a full body scan - a look at every single mole and freckle on my body. Three appointments and eleven mole removals later, I wondered why I had never done it before. I always kept an eye on certain moles - a funky one of my back, a raised one on my chest - but it was a small one on my ankle that I honestly didn’t even know existed that raised the red flag. 

While everything worked out in my favour and it was just a scare, it was scary enough to cause me to start paying better attention to my skin. Besides routinely inspecting the moles on my body, a part of my self-care now includes the sunscreen I use. Especially with the outdoors being my happy place,  sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen is now a priority whenever I leave the house. And not just in the summer. Even in the winter, I make sure to use a facial moisturizer with SPF. 

Practicing Safe Skin as Self-Care

My family’s go-to sunscreen this summer has been Coppertone® WaterBABIES® Whipped Sunscreen (SPF 50). Yes, even mom and dad use it - specifically for the broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection and the fact that it is paraben- and PABA-free. The unique whipped formula spreads easily and absorbs quickly, helping leave skin soft and smooth, and it is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes!

I’m slowly starting to incorporate more self-care into my routine and the routine of my family, but as it can be just that, a change in routine, it takes time. Baby steps are key to get where you want to live a healthier, happier life. I can’t be the best for my growing family, if I’m not at my best for my self. 

Practicing Safe Skin as Self-Care

International Self-Care Day is a worldwide campaign encouraging responsible self-care. We use this day as a reminder that the benefits of self-care are life long and can be felt 24 hours a day, 7 days a wee.

In support of International Self-Care Day on July 24th, I challenge you to share your self-care practices with me! To help get you started, Bayer has created a self-care calendar with one tip for each day of the month. Starting July 23, will also be running a Buy 3 for $10 promotion through Amazon.ca on most of their brands! 

Together, we can make self-care a priority for all Canadians!


Over on To & Fro’s Instagram, I will also be giving away ten (10) $15 Amazon gift cards so that you can purchase your favourite self-care products! 

To enter, all you have to do is share how you practice self-care on THIS photo. Tag your self-care practicing pals in the photo comments for more entries.

Giveaway Rules:
  • Giveaway will run July 18 to July 25 at 11:159pm.
  • Ten (10) winners will be selected at random and contacted via Instagram messenger.
  • Winners will have 24 hours to respond with a valid email address.
  • Gift card code will be sent via email.
  • Open to Canadian residents only, excluding Quebec. 
  • This giveaway is not affiliated with Instagram.

So, how do you practice self-care? I’d love to hear!

*This post is sponsored by Bayer®. To make sure Bayer® products are right for you, always read and follow the label

July 16, 2018

The Perfect Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

The Perfect Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

One thing I can bring to the table when it comes to desserts is a crisp. Whether it is an apple crisp in the fall or this strawberry rhubarb crisp recipe in the summer, my crisp game is on point.

In Ontario, strawberries are currently at their peak. If you are lucky enough to have one nearby, now is a great time to visit your local u-pick farm to take advantage of these delicious berries. 

Fruit picking is also a great family activity - you get some exercise from all the bending you’ll do, can teach your kids about where their food comes from and the importance of eating their fruits and veggies and you get to spend some quality time together.

The Perfect Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups + 3 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 3 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 3 cups fresh rhubarb, diced
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 cup rolled oats

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
  2. In large bowl, combine white sugar, 3 tbsp all purpose flour, strawberries and rhubarb and mix well. Place the mixture in a 9x13 inch baking dish.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix 1 1/2 cups flour, brown sugar, butter and oats until crumbly. Spread mixture evenly on top of the rhubarb and strawberry mixture.
  4. Bake in oven for 45 minutes, or until crisp and lightly browned. 
The Perfect Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Whether you enjoy eating them plain, or with other ingredients, such as rhubarb, strawberries are an excellence source of Vitamin C, potassium and fibre, and are low in calories, at approximately 28 per 1/2 cup.

Rhubarb is an underestimated fruit and if you haven’t had it before, you don’t know what you’re missing. It is very similar to celery, but treated like fruit and paired with berries, takes any dessert recipe up a knotch. Available from January to June, it is grown both in the greenhouse and outdoors. It is an excellent source of calcium, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and potassium, and while you might not want to eat it raw due to its tartness, it is also low in calories, at around 27 calories per 1 cup diced.

The Perfect Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Strawberries and rhubarb go hand in hand, like two peas in a pod. Delish!

Have you ever made a crisp before? What is your favourite berry recipe?

 photo TampF sig_zpsi50j9kbk.jpg

July 10, 2018

Hiking While Pregnant: Tips for Mastering the Trail & What to Pack

Hiking while pregnant can mean different things to different people, and it can also depend on many different factors. 

How far along are you? Are you second trimester and have all the energy in the world, or about to burst and afraid your feet will swell to the size of balloons? Are you leisurely hiking a park trail, or challenging yourself to an uphill climb?

Regardless of how adventurous you are or how far along you are, pregnancy shouldn’t stop you from exploring the outdoors and getting a good workout. Not to mention, getting outdoors is a great way to clear your mind and any anxieties that may be lingering as baby’s due date approaches. 

There are, however, some things to think about before lacing up your shoes. Here are a few things to consider, including recommendations for what to carry in your daypack. 

Tips for Hiking While Pregnant

Cardio exercise is one of the most important ways to stay healthy during pregnancy. For the most part, hiking while pregnant is safe. But every woman is different and every pregnancy is different too. First things is to check with your health care provider before you think about heading out on any adventures. If you're a long-time hiker, hiking is probably safe. But, if you have had a complicated pregnancy or have never hiked before, it might not be your best choice. 

Once you do get the go-ahead, plan the trail accordingly. Keep in mind that even terrain is best. Be sure to always wear appropriate footwear - good traction and support are key. Wearing the right shoes is vital to staying on your feet and preventing back pain. Until you know how your pregnant body handles the hike, start with an easy trail and go from there. 

If you are heading out of town for your hike, take note of the closest healthcare facility to where you’re going. You should prepare yourself for any possible emergencies - it’s good to have a plan in place for how you’re going to get there fast in an emergency. Be sure to hike with a buddy and where there is cell phone service. You never know.  

Don’t carry too much weight. Carrying an extra 20, 30, or 40 pounds of baby weight already can throw off your centre of gravity, putting you at an increased risk of falls. Stick to even, clearly defined trails and only bring enough supplies for the day, packed in a small daypack. Being comfortable is key. 

Tips for Hiking While Pregnant

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! While pregnant, you’re going to get overheated and dehydrated faster, so you need to drink about twice as much water on a normal day. When you go hiking, you’ll need to up that even more. Staying hydrated will help replenish all the water you lose when you sweat. It will also prevent muscle cramps. Remember, drink only bottled or filtered water. Do not get adventurous and drink from a steam or river you come across as it may make you sick.

Protect your skin. Regardless of the season, your skin is susceptible to the sun’s UV rays. This is especially true during pregnancy, when pregnancy hormones can make your skin sensitive to the sun. Follow shaded trails when possible and always apply a sunscreen with a minimum 30 SPF prior to your hike. 

Keeping your blood sugar up while you’re hiking is crucial too. As soon as you realize you’re getting hungry, have a snack. It can be trail mix or a protein bar. Anything small, healthy, and easy to eat will do.

No matter how far along you are, your bathroom trips are probably frequent. Pay the toilet a visit when you see one, even if you don’t have to go. Pack some TP in your daypack just in case nature calls at an inopportune location. Don’t forget the hand sanitizer and maybe even some baby wipes. 

Tips for Hiking While Pregnant

Stay comfortable. Pregnancy can be uncomfortable enough as it is. Wear loose fitting clothes that will wick away sweat, comfortable shoes and a large sun hat to cover your face, ears and neck. Tucking a small package of baby wipes in your daypack is also handy to help wipe the sweat from your face (and other unwanted places). 

Finally, know your limits. Be aware of over exertion - symptoms include uterine contractions, excessive perspiration and increased shortness of breath. Remember that regardless of the activity, you shouldn’t push yourself while you’re pregnant. Your body is busy growing another human - it needs energy, rest, and relaxation as much as exercise. You know your body best. Listen to your body and what it is telling you, including when you need to slow down and when you need to ‘call it a hike’. 

Tips for Hiking While Pregnant

It’s easy to let people judge what you decide to do during your pregnancy. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something because you’re pregnant. Including hiking. Remember to always talk to your health care provider. But, once you do get the green light, get out there and enjoy making memories hiking while pregnant! 

Photos taken on a recent day hike through Toronto's Rouge National Urban Park.

Do you have any tips for hiking while pregnant? I’d love to hear!

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Tips for Hiking while Pregnant

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