Wednesday, April 16

Easter Hunt Tips and Tricks (and cute kid photo alert!)

I want to make it clear how aware I am of the religious importance of Easter. I'm a Catholic schoolteacher after all (I was going to use the phrase "for heaven's sake" but thought perhaps it would be inappropriate) and our yearly remembrance of Jesus' death and celebration of His resurrection is paramount to our faith.

I must confess though: I also really love the chocolate.

Cadbury Mini Eggs in particular. (With over 750 million sold in Canada each year, I don't think I'm the only one. Seriously, I don't eat that much chocolate.)

I'm a sucker for anything piece-y, that I can eat by the handful and still feel like it haven't had too much (it also takes longer this way, in my experience, which prolongs the joy).

So while I select sponsored posts for This Mom Loves very carefully, I couldn't hit "reply" fast enough to accept an opportunity to share some Easter ideas with you, courtesy of Cadbury.

First, I'd like to let you in on two very important Easter traditions that I have carried over from childhood:

1. The Easter Bunny leaves a special note to let the kids know how many chocolate eggs they are looking for

2. The Easter Bunny does not wrap gifts (nor does Santa).

I have found that following these guidelines helps to make Easter run very smoothly! The egg count is super helpful, as my daughters know how many they should each be finding (so one girl doesn't locate the majority of them, leaving fewer for her sister to hunt down).

Note: if there's an odd number when they're being hidden, then at least one chocolate must be consumed by the Easter Bunny to keep it even. But if two are consumed, it must be evened out again. And then the note with the total count has to be rewritten accordingly...

Providing a number to hunt for certainly doesn't guarantee that every egg is found, of course. A couple of years ago there was one last chocolate which none of us could locate, which was finally spotted several weeks later - perched on the baseboard trim in the corner of the room (there's a suggestion for you!)

Cadbury actually  conducted a survey of Canadian parents and children (ages 7-12), in part to find out some hiding and hunting strategies. 

·         One in four Canadian parents surveyed say the window ledge is the best place to hide Easter Eggs, along with behind the couch and in shoes.

·         When hunting for those Easter eggs, one in four Canadian kids surveyed first look on the window ledge which is interesting considering the same number of parents surveyed say the window ledge is the best place to hide eggs.

·         The majority of parents surveyed try to mix it up when hiding eggs, making some easy to find and others more challenging.

I'm sure that last point is related to age as well. You want the little ones to be able to have success, but for older kids to have a bit of a challenge as well. 

A gallery with more tips on planning an Easter egg hunt can be found here:

Just for fun, I thought I'd share with you some of my favourite photos from Easter mornings gone by.

Mullet-haired Maggie shows off an egg back in 2010 (this was the transitional year where she began to realize that she couldn't eat chocolate with wrappers still on - always a milestone for children):

The two little bunnies ready for their hunt in 2011:

Frannie makes a find in 2013 (the hunt had been officially moved downstairs, to allow the Easter Bunny to get started earlier without disturbing children sleeping on the main floor):

If you're looking for any last-minute Easter recipes (or something to do with the leftover chocolate next week), there are some great ideas here, including a delicious-looking recipe for Easter Chocolate Chip Cookies...with Cadbury Mini Eggs on top! (Yeah, as if I'll have any left over, with no idea how to use them!)

What's your favourite Easter tip or trick? I'd love to hear it! Now back to my chocolate...I mean, my prayers...

Disclosure: This post was generously sponsored by Cadbury Creme Eggs, but the opinions and images are my own. For more information, visit Cadbury Creme Egg Canada on Facebook.

Tuesday, April 15

Pregnancy Skin Conditions and Tween Celeb Crushes: My New Parents Canada Articles

I'm thrilled to say that I have two articles in the April issue of Parents Canada.

The first is all about skin conditions that affect women who are expecting (e.g. stretch marks, acne, melasma), and what safe solutions they can turn to while they're pregnant (with thanks to dermatologist Dr. Shannon Humphrey for her expertise!)

You can read it here:

The second piece deals with tweens and their crushes on (obsessions with?) celebrities. Hey, I think we've all been there (can you guess who mine was? I share it in the article!) Mom Kathryn Howell was also kind enough to share her experiences with a celeb-obsessed daughter, and psychotherapist Alyson Schafer provided the expert input!

That article is available in full here:

As a sidebar in the print version, I also got several well-known Canadian personalities (Ben Mulroney, Tracy Moore, Marci Ien, Jessica Holmes and Jian Ghomeshi) to reveal which celebs they crushed on as tweens.

Thanks to Amy, my great editor at Parents Canada, for the opportunities. You can look for more articles from me in the next few issues of PC, as well as their sister publication, Today's Bride (yes, that phase is well behind me, but I can still write about it, right?)

Sunday, April 13

A Dress Intervention from my Personal Stylist, Lisa McLatchie

My personal stylist, Lisa McLatchie, is back for another critique of my closet! Two summers ago, she came to the house for a wardrobe makeover, and last year she took a look at photos of all of my coats and gave me her feedback.

This time around, she's tackling my dress collection! Here are the photos I sent to Lisa (the photographer was eight, so cut her some slack). As you can probably tell, I was working on my hands-on-hips-and-one-foot-forward red carpet pose. Which I will totally need. Someday.

Below, Lisa has provided her professional (and honest, as always) feedback, complete with recommendations for accessories.

Dress 1 - I would get in on the black and white trend for Spring 2014 and update this dress with some funky and feminine black and white shoes and accessories.

Dress 2 - I would get creative and do some mixing of prints/textures by adding a playful scarf in an opposing print or texture (but picking up a colour in the dress). I love this lace one because it does just that, and of course, lace is still super hot right now! As for footwear, I would stick to a nude when you are already mixing the prints/textures of the dress with the scarf. Mesh is a big trend for Spring 2014 though, so I picked these nude heels that include that trend.

Dress 3 - I LOVE this dress on you - the colour, the shape, and the belt details! The only thing I would add is a pair of super cute black ankle booties. I picked some open toe ones for Spring and to add a little extra edge. If you're nervous about doing that though, stick to a closed toe ankle bootie with tights. 

Dress 4 - I don't mind the shape for you, but the style and print is a bit dated looking. I would ditch it.

Dress 5 - I feel the same about this dress.

Dress 6 - I like this dress. It's simple and pretty, so you can play with it a bit. I would add a pastel scarf and some playful wedges in a fun colour to go with the scarf. Not too "matchy matchy", but it should still go together well. 

Dress 7 - WOWZA! You won't get lost in the crowd in this dress, but I like it. I would add a simple jean jacket to bring it down a notch, but still keep it fun with your accessories and footwear. I picked an iridescent clutch (VERY Spring 2014) and edgy sandals to juxtapose the overly feminine (yellow/fuller skirt/lace) style of the dress.

Dress 8 - Very classic print and cut, so I would just update with a trendy belt (I went for the mesh trend again), and some metallic heels. It could probably also be shortened about an inch. 

Dress 9 - Super cute style! I would pair the metallic heels with this, a little denim jacket, and a coordinating statement necklace (picking up the grey/silver and blue).

Dress 10 - Another dated print - I would get rid of it.

Dress 11 - I can't tell from the pic, but it looks like it is a little drawstring waistband? I would play up your waist more and put a thicker belt over the drawstring, and in a funky or edgy style - to again, juxtapose the classic shirt dress style. Add on a statement cuff bracelet and those nude mesh heels, and you're stylin'! 

The ones she suggested I pitch are already in the pile for donation...and now it looks like I need to do some accessories shopping!

If you're as impressed with Lisa's work as I am, you might want to check out her Ready Set Style program. It's an online program that can teach you how to develop your own personal style, figure out your best colours, dress for your shape, shop like a stylist and makeover your wardrobe...pretty much everything you need to know to get a handle on this style thing once and for all!

Plus, when you sign up, you become part of the private Ready Set Style Facebook group where you get support from Lisa herself, as well as former and current RSS participants! The next session starts on May 5th. Registration is open and spaces are limited, so check it out!

By the way, there are a few dresses that I didn't even show her, because they are either brand new and I would be pained to learn that they don't work for me, or I still love them even though they may be a couple of seasons old (I'm realizing I have gone through a bit of a stripes phase!):

My thanks to Lisa McLatchie, for once again sharing her valuable expertise with me! Be sure to check out her Ready, Set, Style program!

Friday, April 11

Family Fun at Courtyard by Marriott, Niagara Falls

Last weekend, our family hit the road to experience the newly renovated Courtyard by Marriott in Niagara Falls, just minutes from the main attraction itself.

We headed out on Saturday morning, and with a bit of a bathroom-break detour, arrived just before 1 p.m. Parking is right onsite, and the lobby was warm and inviting, with lots of cozy seating areas and a fireplace (I'm a sucker for a fireplace.)

I had emailed in advance and requested an early check-in, and our room was ready to go. We were in a "Junior Presidential Suite" on the 6th floor, and while that sounds very elite, the rates are surprisingly reasonable (it can't boast a view of the Falls, but how much time do you really spend staring out a hotel window? If it's a lot, I think you may be doing travel wrong.)

We had a king-sized bed in addition to a pullout couch in the sitting area, bathroom with shower, two-person in-room jacuzzi, and yes...a fireplace! There was lots of space for the four of us, and room at the desk for anyone who may actually need to do work while staying in Niagara Falls. While we were only there for a short stay, the complimentary WiFi, mini-fridge, coffee maker and safe are handy features of the room as well for those staying longer.

We took a quick walk to Subway for lunch, and then a drive down to check out the Falls. In nice weather, it would totally be within walking distance, and we would have wandered the touristy streets to show the girls, but it was a cold April day, and, know me!

Once back at the hotel, the girls were very eager to enjoy the indoor pool (which was comfortably warm), hot tub and sauna. They also have an outdoor pool with a small side, which will be open when the nicer weather arrives.

I think my only complaint about the entire stay was that the chlorine was super high in the pool that day, which stung Frannie's eyes, and totally changed the colour of her bathing suit! For a minute, I actually tried to remember if it was some sort of trick-swimsuit which was supposed to change colour in water, as the difference was that major.

Waiting for the elevator after our "swim" (I use the term loosely, as my time was spent in the hot tub, reading magazines. "In Touch" and "Family Circle" balance each other out, right?) we noticed a TV screen welcoming special visitors...and we were on there! Nice touch. Plus, one of our local hockey teams, obviously staying in the hotel as well, was mentioned right after us.

Next we relaxed in the room for a bit, where the girls enjoyed their pretend play: "Let's be two moms who have babysitters and we came to a hotel!" They loved playing in the empty two-person whirlpool, which, let's be honest, might have seen more use had the kids not been there.

We enjoyed a fantastic dinner at The Keg, located right in the lobby of the hotel (there's also a T.G.I.Friday's). Cody was an attentive server, and was kind enough to compliment our well-behaved kids. (They were warned that this was a very nice restaurant and switching places by crawling under the table wouldn't be acceptable, but they're generally good when we eat out. You'd think they had practice.) The Keg's prime rib with garlic mashed potatoes is probably my favourite restaurant meal ever, and they even let me have hot fudge instead of fruit topping on my cheesecake. Perfection.

Back in the room, it was time for PJs and teeth-brushing, and we all climbed into the king bed to watch "Frozen" together on the flat-screen TV. Hubby (not at all a fan of children's movies, even the ones that are supposed to have another level for adults) hadn't seen it yet, and the girls were excited to share it with him.

After the last rendition of "Let It Go", the girls were sent to their pull-out couch, where Maggie was very quickly asleep, with Frannie not too long behind. She *may* have seen a bit of the Saturday Night Live that they show before the new Saturday Night Live, but oh well. Maybe she'll be the next Tina Fey.

We took advantage of the buffet breakfast served in The Keg on Sunday morning, then it was time for a speedy checkout before programming the GPS for "home".

Niagara Falls Top 3 by Maggie, age 5:

1. The breakfast buffet
2. Swimming
3. Seeing The Falls

Niagara Falls Top 3 by Frannie, age 8:

1. The warm swimming pool
2. The cool room
3. The amazing Falls

I would definitely recommend the Courtyard by Marriott Niagara Falls for families travelling to this tourist destination. I'm not sure what it looked like pre-renovation, but the whole place felt warm and clean, and we didn't come across a single staff member who wasn't friendly and helpful (and most had no idea I was there to review the place).

Disclosure: We were provided with a free stay the the Courtyard by Marriott to facilitate this post. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Wednesday, April 9

Kids' Party Roundup - Themes Galore!

Over the years, I've shared several party themes here at This Mom Loves (with LOTS of help from my themed-party-planning friend, Krista!)

For some reason it seems like the birthday party season ramps up in spring, so I thought it would be the perfect time to share a roundup of different party ideas.

My First Party Post, with some miscellaneous ideas for activities, food (cupcake cones were a bit hit!) and loot:

The Polkadot Party (from Krista)

The Military Party (this one is thanks to my friend Trina, who thought I needed some more masculine ideas!)

The Pajama Party (Krista) Don't you love the cake, decorated to look just like her daughter's bed? I *may* have copied this idea a couple of years later!

The Back-to-School Party

I planned this one as a way for my daughter to get to know the other girls in her JK class (and yes, that's a pencil and eraser in the cupcake!)

The Jumping Party (Krista)

This theme is perfect for a party with a bouncy castle!

The Rock Star Party (Krista)

A Pinterest favourite, this one's a "hit" with little performers!

The Purple Party (Krista)

This could be modified to work with any favourite colour!

The Butterfly Party

I planned this one myself, and it was pretty darned themey, from the decorations to the crafts to the loot bags...and of course the cake. Fine, I didn't make that...

The PC Cooking School Party (at Loblaws)

I was extremely pleased with how Maggie's fourth birthday party was pleased that I chose the same location for Frannie's seventh!

Happy party planning!

P.S. If you've posted about a themed birthday party, please feel free to leave a link to your blog in the comments section. We love new ideas!