Friday, August 1

Family Fun at Medieval Times

I know you've heard about Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament, where guests journey back in time, enjoying a four-course medieval feast (eaten only with the hands, of course) while taking in games of skill, falcon and Andalusian stallion performances and the main event: the jousting knights!

This week, we visited the Toronto Castle (the only Canadian location), and the girls both say it's the highlight of the summer so far.

Upon entry (after paying $11 for parking at a pay-and-display machine), guests are given a table card color-coded to indicate which Knight of the Realm you will be cheering for, which in our case was the Black and White Knight. Next, there's a photo op with one of the characters (Frannie and Maggie were thrilled that they got to meet the princess).

After that, we headed into the great hall, offering a bar, merchandise for display, and lots to look at. You can even take a peek through windows at the gorgeous stallions.

Once the "call to table" occurs, guests make their way into the arena and find their colour coded tables. Your "wench" greets you (yes, you're supposed to call her that), drink orders are taken, and the show begins, with portions of the meal being served intermittently. We feasted on tomato bisque soup, garlic toast, a huge portion of oven-roasted chicken, spare rib, herb-roasted potato and an apple pastry.

My girls loved watching the falcon and horses, but by the time the knights were showing off their skills, the kids were eager for the actual jousting to begin!

We cheered hard for our Black and White Knight, and both girls were thrilled to received a carnation from him during the show:

While our Knight did not ultimately win the competition, the girls were still absolutely thrilled with the experience, and I would highly recommend it as a family destination. It's not a cheap outing (regular price for adults is $66, kids are $43 with children under 3 free), but check out the Special Offers section of their website when making plans. The current deal has adults for $40 and children for $30 which is a huge discount, so be sure to look for bargains so you don't have to pay full price.

As a testament to how much action and adventure was involved in our afternoon, this was Maggie on the ride home:

P.S. I also recommend it as a class trip destination as well. I've gone twice, and both times it was fantastic. There are special group rates, and kids LOVE it.

Disclosure: We were provided with a free Medieval Times experience for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Tuesday, July 29

Girl's Bedroom Facelift # 1

The girls' rooms are finally finished and all back together again! Today I'll give you a tour of the room belonging to my 8 year old, "Frannie".


Newborn Frannie originally came home from the hospital to the corner bedroom, which was the guest room when we built the house. Originally I chose yellow for that room, thinking that it would be a nursery someday, which worked out perfectly. Then when I was expecting Maggie, we decided to move Frannie over to this room, which was a sage green (see "before" photos of bathroom for colour) office.

I chose the paint colour for Frannie's first "big girl" room more than six years ago, and I'm not sure how it's coming across in photos but it was PINK. A little too pink.

As you can see from the "befores", getting the room organized was as important as any other changes (Frannie may *look* like a mini-me, but....) so we spent a lot of time sorting through drawers and deciding on items to donate, sell or pitch. I'm teaching her to be ruthless!

Yes, there was a closet in my house looking like this. I try to let them have ownership of their space...


The basic idea was not so much a renovation as a facelift, which we accomplished by changing the paint colour (to Dulux Night Magic), putting up crown moulding and a fresh coat of white on all of the trim, new blackout drapes (instead of the plain white roller blind) and a more streamlined system of organizing her "stuff".

She selected her own bedding (from Target) and paint colour (I gave her a few choices), which looks incredibly soft and fresh in the updated room.

I made the decision to move Frannie's dresser into the closet (I did this with Maggie as well) because the space in there wasn't being used very efficiently (she didn't have many items to hang), and it seemed like she had a ton of furniture filling up her room. This has worked out really well so far.

It will be hard to get much work done with that beautiful view...good thing she never works at her desk anyway! The curtains are a bit monochromatic with the paint colour, but that's okay (I couldn't find ones to match the other colours in the comforter, which of course I feel the need to do).. In Maggie's room you'll notice much more contrast.

There's even an empty shelf! You have no idea the joy that brings me. For real.

Frannie quickly volunteered to be part of the "after" photos!

A much more efficient closet.

Frannie decided to create some of her own artwork, and framed this fashion design. (The photo is cut off because of course she autographed her masterpiece with her real name!)

The walls are pretty bare but I'm hesitant to mess them up with anything yet. I've ordered a cool Shutterfly photo collage for Frannie with memories from the past year (it was included for free with a frame I received from Hallmark) which I'll hang above her headboard, but that will be it for now. Since I'm expecting this room to grow with her for several years, I'm sure it won't be long before the walls are covered in posters of some sort anyway!

Thanks for following along! I'll share Maggie's room with you in a few days. I'm already thinking about which room to do next...definitely not this summer though!

Friday, July 25

Melissa Grelo: Behind the Scenes at THE SOCIAL

When CTV's THE SOCIAL launched last September, I immediately identified with co-host and moderator Melissa Grelo (who does double duty as a news anchor and co-host on CP24 Breakfast as well). We're both '77 girls, born just a couple of days apart (Melissa being the older and wiser of course), we had similar Catholic upbringings, and we both trained to be teachers...though Melissa's path ended up taking her in a very different direction. (More on that later.)

We have even more in common now since the birth of her first child, daughter Marquesa, four months ago, so I was very excited when I got to meet Melissa on the set of THE SOCIAL just last week.

When I went behind-the-scenes at the show, I had the chance to hang out with Melissa in the makeup room, and soaked up her pre-show conversation with producer Brandon. She chatted about the party she and her hubby (and fellow "cuddlebug") Ryan had thrown on the weekend, ran through some of the comments she might make on the day's hot topics and what photos should be on hand, and also shared lots of colourful tidbits that were definitely not intended to make it to air. Melissa has an interesting mix of personality traits: super smart and articulate, while very much giving off a party-girl-and-proud-of-it vibe.

It didn't take too long to make her already beautiful face camera-ready, by the way...and I watched carefully as the false eyelashes were applied, as I've never quite managed to brave that!

Of course I needed to get a (somewhat blurry) selfie with the queen of the smartphone after her makeup was done:

Before THE SOCIAL went live that afternoon, Melissa and I sat down in the guests' green room backstage for a quick one-on-one chat (as she munched away on an apple that she had proudly packed in her lunch bag that morning!)

What milestones has little Marquesa reached lately?

We're thinking she's starting to teethe! She had her four month vaccinations last week and she had a rough week, so I figured it was just the vaccinations because she reacted kind of poorly to the first set as well. She was just hot and cranky and crying, but then we realized that she was also shoving everything she could into her mouth, so we're not a hundred percent sure but I think it's going that way. So that's her thing right now!

Jennifer Blakeley Photography

There was some backlash when you decided to return from maternity leave after three months. You've been in the public eye for a while and I'm sure you've faced criticism before, but how do you handle reactions like those, and how much does it bother you when it's so personal?

You're human so it's definitely going to hurt you, but the more you get it, you develop a thicker skin. Every time someone scratches at you your skin gets thicker. I anticipated it, so it wasn't a surprise to me. Sometimes people come at you and you don't expect it, which can be a little more off-putting, but with this situation I fully understood from friends and colleagues who went through it that some people might say "Whoa! That's pretty fast!" and considering we're on a show that really speaks to women and they're predominantly our audience, I was prepared for it in a sense. 

It was far outweighed by the support I received, but sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the oil and people were squeaking. I wanted to use it as an opportunity to address the issue dead on and so that's what I chose to do with it. It was sort of a teachable moment for everybody else, at my expense in a sense, but it didn't hurt in the way you might think because I was anticipating it.  I didn't necessarily want to give voice to the few negative people out there, but at the same time, if I'm experiencing it, that means someone else who's choosing to go back early is probably experiencing it too, and our show is about highlighting diversity in all choices, and when someone chooses to do something, let's support them. 

Photo: Courtesy Melissa Grelo

You're obviously passionate about what you do - and very good at it. I'm curious to know whether you think you would have been as drawn to return to work as soon if you were in a different industry, or if there's a bit more pressure because you're in television?

I definitely think there's a different standard in television, but regardless of what industry you're in, my perception is that the pressure is just different for females, period. For a lot of women, we're ambitious, we're go-getters, so even though I happen to be passionate about my job on television, there's someone else who could have a corporate or office job and is just as passionate and wants to come back early as well. 

Having said that, this is a very visible role. The show is new, it's my baby and I was just as passionate about that as having my baby. This is part of me, and my identity and my satisfaction, and the happier I am as a whole, the better mother and better person I can be. It was a choice that I made before I even had her, because I know myself. I was flexible enough to know that something could change, and if I had decided to stay home a little longer everyone would have been okay with it, but this was different in the sense that the show was so new and I love it so much. So yes on the one hand, it's different because it's TV, but I don't think that's unlike the same struggles another woman might have in a job that she's equally passionate about.

As a teacher, I'm curious what made you decide that teaching wasn't the right career for you? 

The decision really came when I started, and became very disenchanted with, the Masters in Ed program I had enrolled in. I wanted to study Gender Equity in Education and found that I wasn't getting what I had hoped for in the program. It was likely also a sign that I was seeking something else, another avenue to pursue in life, my passion. After seeking the help of a business coach/psychologist, I discovered that my obsession with news and writing could actually be a career. A few months later, I enrolled in a Broadcast Journalism program and the rest is history! 

Who would your dream guest be for THE SOCIAL?

We just missed her! Hillary Clinton. Everybody knows that she's my idol, for every reason in the book and she was in town for her book launch so we had tried and tried to get an interview with her. Unfortunately, her schedule was so ridiculously tight that she could only do very select media, but she would have been my dream guest on the show. Not just because we're not sure if she's going to run for president or not, but because of her stories, her writing, what she's lived, and what her initiatives are right now. Overall she's so fascinating as a person, but it does add to the appeal for me that she is a woman, and in politics which is still predominantly a man's game. She's learned so much. Definitely my dream guest.

You're definitely a glamour girl who enjoys getting done up. As a busy mom now, if you only had time to grab one beauty product, what would it be?

Lip gloss. A fun coloured lip gloss, if that's all I could use. If I had two, it would be mascara and lip gloss.

Thanks for the chat, Melissa!

You can follow Melissa Grelo on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and of course catch her daily on CTV's THE SOCIAL.

Wednesday, July 23

Our Bathroom Reno: The Big Reveal (With Before and After Photos)

Yes, it's finally done!

Other than Maggie's bedroom, there was only one room left in the house that hadn't been repainted since we first built in 2003, which was the main bath. Over the past 11 years I've switched up some accessories, but nothing major, and I was ready for a change!

I saved up my freelance money for the entire year to be ready to foot the bill(s) for a bathroom renovation...and here's how it went:


  • sage green colour (I believe the actual name was "Raintree Green")
  • single, basic vanity and light
  • builder's grade trim and fixtures

No, there was nothing "wrong" with it, other than being outdated, but if you have the means (definitely money, but also energy and patience) I think keeping your home up-to-date is a good investment. It's not just about to speak!

(Notice the cheap-looking white kickplate? When we took the vanity out - and sold it on Kijiji- 
we realized the oak-looking side was on the back. It had been installed backwards.)


  • "Grey Tabby" paint colour
  • double vanity from Anden Kitchen and Bath (the girls are still young but we're thinking ahead to having two teenagers getting ready at the same time), white shaker style with quartz countertop and rectangular sinks
  • all chrome fixtures (faucets, lights, even the vent cover)
  • new chandelier for ceiling (all lighting from Canadian Tire)
  • double mirrors: we actually had our original rectangular mirror cut into two ovals at the local glass shop for a labour cost of $30! Purchasing the chrome holders definitely brought the cost up though.
  • sheet vinyl floor, dark grey offset rectangular pattern
  • new crown moulding
  • additional trim around window and door frame
  • higher baseboard trim
  • new artwork (really high-end: my husband bought it for me last Christmas at a cost of $20 - doesn't it tie everything together so nicely?)
  • new shower curtain from Target

Now the photos:

I'm a bit jealous that the girls now get to use this washroom, while hubby and I share single sink and vanity!

There you have it - the big reveal of our new bathroom.

If you were interested in this post, you might want to check out our ensuite bathroom facelift or perhaps our laundry room reno

The girls' bedroom reveals are coming up in the next couple of weeks as well so stay tuned for that!