Valentines or Galentines Giveaway For Her @Hallmark_Canada (CAN 02/24) #LoveHallmarkCA

My sweetheart and I have been together 20 years, and married 18 years in April. We don't make a big fuss over Valentines Day but we make a point of showing love daily, even something as simple as my hubby getting up to make me coffee when I have 5 AM wake up calls. When we were dating all those years ago, we stayed connected with notes and cards since we were living in different provinces and trying to finish University. This year hubs has asked if there is anything on my Valentines Wish List to mark our 20 year as a couple. I suggested he visit a flower store and Hallmark store for a nice card to personalize. Hallmark Canada gave me an assortment of Valentines gift ideas if you need inspiration.
Pictured center, set of two stemless wineglasses $9.99
I genuinely look for gift inspiration for almost any occasion from Hallmark. This brown, marbled pink, and gold accent wristlet is my favourite item from my product assortment and it will be a gift to you courtesy of Hallmark. My second favourite product, Pictured below with the wristlet, is a faux leather mirrored compact. It comes boxed and in a velvet pouch. These items are from the Signature Collection which offers stylish, practical items that we use almost every day.

Recent trends are leaning towards celebrating Galentines Day on February 13 as an alternative holiday, it celebrates friendship and fun with your female friends. Whether you celebrate Valentines with a loved one, or are solo this year, I pray that you take a little time to love yourself and treat yourself to something nice.

Hallmark Canada Wristlet Purse

Disclosure: I received product as part of my involvement in the #LoveHallmarkCA blog community. All opinions remain genuinely my own.


On the Right Track With New Healthy Options @KelloggCanada #Giveaway

I don't do New Years Resolutions, but I did start 2017 with a goal of eating less take out food and taking better care of myself. Plagued by chronic fatigue, headaches, and possible high blood pressure, I was challenged to monitor what I eat and drink in a typical busy day.  There were work days that I realized I hadn't had more than a sip of water in five or six hours, which explained why I felt tired and headachy most of the time when my shift was over.  I also worked through my lunch breaks getting caught up on chores I can't do while in program with the children. So I would grab take out, sometimes looking for healthier options like soups, but knowing that sodium levels can run high in many take out foods.  Through tracking, I saw that I make healthy choices most of the time- portion control and unknown fat and sodium counts in take out food are a down fall.  For four weeks I have been packing my own lunches, walking on my lunch breaks (3-4 times a week) and setting water consumption goals.   Some of my symptoms have improved and I am committed to taking care of health in 2017. I can't 100% walk away from tasty food though.

I was excited to receive and taste some of the new Kellogg Canada products launched for 2017.  Part of my approach to monitoring blood pressure is to get my sodium intake down and to eat more fibre, fresh fruit and vegetables. Since I leave my house at 5:45 am, I take my breakfast with me, to eat once I arrive at work.  I like to have SPECIAL K NOURISH POPPED GRANOLA WITH BERRIES mixed with plain greek yogurt to get a boost from the lean protein. 

Since I was skipping meals, snacking became a problem for me. I have been carrying the KELLOGG VECTOR PROTEIN BARS (boasting 10 grams of protein) in my purse for the commute home, so I don't cave into the tempting smell of fast food as I go to my bus stop. It is still considered a treat with the sugar content, but a working girl deserves a treat to keep the winter blahs away.

To learn more about the nutritional value and progressive ingredients in their newest products check out the details here kelloggs.ca
"Kellogg Canada is debuting eight new products that are sure to satisfy your taste buds. From quinoa and dark chocolate, to mixed nuts and real fruit pieces, these new products feature real, visible ingredients and delectable flavours. The new lineup offers tasty options for cereal and snacking from favourite Kellogg Canada brands, including Kellogg’s Special K, Kellogg’s All-Bran, Kellogg’s Vector and Pringles." 
Press Release January 2017

Kellogg Canada Product Pack

Product Pack Contents:
Special K Nourish Popped Granola w/ Quinoa – Mixed Berries
Special K Nourish Popped Granola w/ Quinoa – Dark Chocolate Coconut
Special K Nourish w/ Quinoa Bars – Caramel, Sea Salt & Mixed Nuts
Special K Nourish w/ Quinoa Bars – Coconut Cashew & Dark Chocolate Chunks
Vector Protein Bars – Trail Mix
All-Bran Granola – Cranberry Almond
All-Bran Multi-Grain Crunch cereal
Pringles Ketchup Chips

Disclosure: I received product to taste and to aid my review. All opinions remain honestly my own.


School-Safe & Dairy Free Oatmeal Cookies.

A friend of mine gave me the simplest oatmeal cookie recipe ever! It is easy for little ones to get their hands into and help in the kitchen too.

Basic Recipe:

2 mashed, ripe/brown bananas
2 cups of large flake oats
2 TB honey

Mix ingredients, let sit in fridge for 15 mins, drop by teaspoonful on a non-stick baking pan.  Bake for 7 minutes. Makes 12-18 cookies depending on how big you make them.

Flavourful additions:
1/2 cup of chocolate chips,
1/2 cup chopped apples or 1/4 cup applesauce and a pinch of cinnamon.
Substitute maple syrup for honey, add raisins plus a pinch of pumpkin pie spice.

Hints: After making this recipe twice, I have made a few changes to suit our preferences. I used non-stick baking spray on the pan because the cookies can be hard to remove when baked.

*This is a repost from September 2015. I have tweeked the recipe a bit, enjoy! I hoped to have a better picture too,  but that didn't work out.


Pantry Potato Soup #ComfortFood

I don't consider myself a chef, but I do like tasty food. I keep a well stocked pantry as well as freezer and have been trying to eat at home more. My craving for my favourite potato bacon soup from Tim Hortons is strong so I pulled a bunch of items off of the pantry shelf tonight and decided to make potato corn soup (since I have no bacon).  I will share the ingredients and method I used tonight, but have to say, the next time I make it I will use a cream of celery soup and add more potatoes because I want more texture without using a roux or cornstarch.

 Pantry Potato Soup

What I Used
Phase 1:
6 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 1 pound)
Cool water with a big pinch of salt, use enough water to cover potatoes while boiling in pot

Phase 2:
2 cups of potato water reserved after cooking
1 can condensed creamy chicken soup
1/2 can skim condensed milk
1 cup frozen peaches and cream corn
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon chives
Salt and pepper to taste

Other garnish options:
Cooked bacon crumbles
Grated cheese
Green onions
Sour cream
What I Did
Boil the potatoes until soft enough to mash with a fork, about 15 minutes.
Ladle out 2 cups water into a bowl, drain away excess water and return potatoes and water to pot.
Mash the potatoes in the water with a masher, until they are mushy or leave more texture if you like.
Add canned soup, skim milk, corn, and seasoning. 
Boil for about 10 minutes, and serve as is or with garnishes that you may have available.


Reflecting on 2016: Moments of Loss and Memories of Love.

This is the week that often leaves me feeling like a deflated balloon. The build up to Christmas and jam packed days of festivities is over and the days of the old year are winding down.  I am sad for the beloved ones who are no longer on earth to share Christmas with, and the separation from loved ones who live too far away.  Here we are, with less than ten hours left to this year, and my girl is building up to the excitement of the beginning of a new one. I don't get super excited about New Years Eve the way I did as a kid and teen. We usually stay home and eat all the holiday food we have bought or prepared and didn't have time to eat at Christmas. My seven year old decided she wants to stay up to midnight for the first time so she will be joining in the annual movie and junk food countdown.

This is supposed to be the time for reflection on what moments and memories we have lived in the last 364 days, and the time to make wishes or goals for the next 365.

1. One major highlight for 2016 was having my mom and sister visiting for a week in July. We don't see each other often but make the most of our treasured moments when we get them.

2. My girl asked me to take photos of her with two different trees this year, she has become the resident tree hugger. The large pine was on our front lawn for 30 years and had to be taken down because it was a danger to the house. It had been capped twice and just continued to expand in width.

3. This random photo made me laugh as I scrolled through my archive. I imagine the cat is sending subliminal messages to feed her fresh salmon.

4. I marked my 41st birthday with a tattoo, it is one of the traditional meanings of my name. It also is a permanent memorial for my loved ones who have received their wings.

5 & 8. I had moments of splendour, where nature blessed me with the vision of a double rainbow in the spring and a big praying mantis in my yard this summer.

6. My girl was thrilled to finally join the ranks of her pumpkin head friends and start losing teeth. The gapped smiles are a rite of passage into big kid turf.

7. I started the year with an eye exam and bifocals. I am terrible at selfies but this captures the first day and the fact that I was not happy to have to wear them.  After 11 months, I'm used to them and have settled into this gift that 40 has delivered.

9. Other special moments came from baking or making something every week with my girl or even alone. I had ignored my creative side since returning to work full time in 2012, and it took me years to figure out why I was crabby and stressed most of the time. The beginning of this year, I made an effort to plan crafts and recipes to complete together weekly.

What's ahead?
I don't do resolutions because they give me added anxiety, and most people don't live up to their resolutions anyway. I am looking forward to the fresh start and potential that 2017 may hold. I have been feeling stuck in my profession and looking for a challenge, so was brave in applying for a transfer to a new location after 15 years in my current location. It could be an adventure or add chaos to my busy days with the longer commute. I may have hand delivered an invitation to trouble and have a date with it my near future. We will have to wait and see.


Gifts to Build Imagination & Exercise Creativity From Hatchimals to Cake Pops #HolidayGiftGuide2016

 Don't Hate Me Because We Have A #Hatchimal

The hottest toy of the season may or may not be considered educational. We have secured a Hatchimal against all odds at the local Scholars Choice store. It is hiding at a family members house so we haven't seen, played with, or tested it out to give it a fair review yet. It is a toy that brings interactive technology to children and encourages empathy as they care for "living" things. Some stores are still receiving small quantities of them if you are lucky enough to be there when they are going out on shelves.

Here are a few of my tried and true favourite toys that build imagination, creativity, and fun!

To encourage spatial problem solving skills, Lego Classic Brick Boxes of assorted pieces give freedom of  invention. If you want more construction guidance, there are hundreds of sets in a variety of themes and set sizes. My girl discovered Lego sets for her the first time around her sixth birthday, and she is now an obsessed collector of the Lego Elves sets. Lego ranges in price with the large set on my daughter's Christmas list costing $100, so we looked for sales to get the best deals. I bought a Classic Lego Brick Box for one of my nieces and had it shipped right to her from walmart.ca.

To encourage sensory and pretend play, or for children who like being in the kitchen,Ultimate Easy Bake Oven is fun and offers a large variety of refill kits, not just the cookies and cakes I remember making as a girl. This classic toy has been revamped and is not just for girls. I have seen them sell for $30-$60 dollars, but read the package carefully. Sometimes the box will include starter kit with recipe and ingredients, while others times it will only include the Oven, rectangle baking dish, and plastic pusher for the dish. Refills sell for $9-$15 in my local Walmart, and our favourite one this year was the cake pops kit.

Science and Discovery is a big interest for my girl. She loves dinosaurs and will be getting a Dinosaur Dig kit. It is one of many science kits from Smithsonian Science products. These science kits sell separately at a few stores.  There is Super Value pack being sold at toysrus.ca for $60 (pack includes four kits: gem dig, crystal growing, volcano making and prehistoric sea monster kit). I scored this jumbo pack for $24 at Costco in October!
image credit toyrus.ca
There are many toys that will give your children a boost in creativity and foster their natural need to discover. I try to make any gift giving opportunity a balance of fun and learning.

Disclosure: This post is not sponsored or endorsed by any of the brands named within. All opinions are genuinely my own. Prices subject to change, and I cannot guarantee product availability.