Get Out and Bounce!

OK.  I’m calling it.  Yes, it snowed in Toronto last night, but winter is over.  Officially.  The calendar and I both say so.  It’s now just a matter of mind over sub-arctic winds.

As hard as it may still be to imagine a summer’s day, the sunny weather IS coming, and with it, the chance to gather outdoors for your parties, fairs and assorted extravaganzas.

Adventure Mania has a great range of bouncy castles for your events, with products to suit toddlers to teens.

A brand new offering for 2015, they’ve just brought in a movie screen bouncer, so that you can transition from daytime bouncing to night-time movie theatre.  The rental comes complete with a PS3 console, a loud speaker, and a projector, with a movie screen that is 9 feet long, and 5 feet high.

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There is a huge selection of bouncers with movie and game tie-ins, and you can combine them with various things, like slides and basketball hoops.  For your little Frozen fans, one of their most popular rentals is the line of Frozen bouncers.

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There is also a bouncer that operates rain or shine, so if you want your bases covered for your event, this is a great, safe bet.

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Haley Chiappino is the Event Specialist at Adventure Media, and she is a delight to work with.  Such a friendly ally in what can often be the stressful process of event planning.  You can reach her at (905)864-3290 or info@adventuremania.ca.  Best of all, if you mention this blog post, you will get a 10% discount for your rental.  They rent everything from bouncy castles and slides to sno-cone makers and carnival games.  All you need for a fun day in the sun.  Based in Milton, they serve the entire GTA, and you can check out their full range of offerings here.

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*Adventure Mania offered 4mothers1blog a rental for review consideration.  The opinions expressed are our own.

 

Mother’s Day Gift Guide

Mother’s Day is coming up.  It’s Sunday, May 10, and we’ve complied a go-to gift guide for mom whether she’s a glamorous grandma or green thumb, a book lover or a foodie . . . or maybe she’s everything all rolled in to one! Do you see something that catches your eye? Forward along to Dad or the kids . . .or better yet, wait for no one and treat yourself!

From Beth-Anne:

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Mist & Fix from Make Up For Ever is now part of my morning beauty routine. It’s a professional grade alcohol-free setting spray with the texture of water that improves your makeup’s staying power. It’s easy to use – hold it about 40 cm from your face and mist continuously for a few seconds and allow to dry. It smells glorious and leaves my face looking fresh and dewy. (starting at $14)

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This handmade pewter pendant is plated in silver and its message, Live Love Teach by Foxy Originals is the perfect way to describe and thank mom. ($20)

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Alex and Ani create and design eco-conscious jewelery. Their latest collection, Persephone is available at select Hudson’s Bay stores and features bracelets and charms with special meaning. My favourite is Guardian of Answers because aren’t moms the keeper of them?

from Nathalie:

I’m going to depart from my usual “Please don’t buy mothers anything with which to cook or clean” rule and say that I’d love to receive these sets of ombre bowls from President’s Choice and Real Canadian Superstore.  They have them in cool blues and hot reds and oranges, and the colours are just so juicy!

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Ombre mixing bowls from PC $25

Ombre mixing bowls from PC $25

And, now that patio season is finally, finally here, you could gift a mother with this awesome retro cooler chest for the back yard or the beach.

Cooler chest from Tera Gear $149

Cooler chest from Tera Gear $149 at Real Canadian Superstore

One of my favourite things to do in the yard with the kids is to roast marshmallows on the fire.  Somehow, spending an evening that way feels like the most luxurious kind of family time.   No hockey, homework or housework to attend to, just sharing the fire.  We saw this great Hampton Bay fire pit at The Home Depot spring preview.  ($79.98)

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I am asking for a gift of experience this Mother’s Day.  I want us all to go to the McMichael Gallery and look at art and hike the trails around the gallery.  I’d also recommend trips to the Art Gallery of Ontario to see the Emily Carr and Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibits, and to the Royal Ontario Museum.  If you think you will visit a museum multiple times, a membership is a wonderful gift.  (For our family of five, a membership costs what we’d pay for just two visits.)  We have family memberships at both museums, and, honestly, it’s some of the best money I’ve ever spent.  I get so much use and value out of our memberships.  It feels like true luxury to be able to just pop into the museum for a quick visit, and to see the exhibits multiple times makes me feel like royalty.  I have taken the kids to see the Basquiat twice already.  The first time we sketched, and the second time we used the play dough that all kids can get in a loot bag from the front desk when they go in.  I got to really attend to the art, and the kids kept busy with their interpretations.  Time spent together is the gift I love best.

Youngest's sketch of a Basquiat self-portrait.

Youngest’s sketch of a Basquiat self-portrait.

Middlest's interpretation in play dough.

Middlest’s interpretation in play dough.

 

From Carol

Almost four months ago, noticing I was depleted and in need of a recharge, my husband offered to hold the fort at home while I visit with favourite cousins in California this week.  In what goes down as good old fashioned mistake-making, I did not take him up on this.  At the time, I almost felt too tired to plan for this, and now I’m sitting here in Toronto feeling rather foolish.

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Most of the moms of young kids I know would really relish some free time.  Sometimes with their spouses, or their friends, or alone.  The best gift ever would be sorting out which of these the mom in questions needs most, and try to make it happen.  I bought a Buytopia getaway to Ste. Anne’s Spa in Ontario with this in mind, and Groupon-type offers make short jaunts like this more affordable.

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But the truth is brunch at favourite local haunt (mine is Lady Marmalade on Queen Street East) would be perfectly splendid too.

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May is also the season of growing… if you know a mother who likes to garden, the handmade offerings at Spade and Feather are simple, well made, and gorgeous.  This handmade trug is my favourite: elegant and functional, a treat that will lift the spirits of anyone collecting the bounty of her plantings.

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And to boost that greenery along, Spade and Feather’s Wild Bee and Insect Houses translate the essential work of pollination into functional beauty for any garden.  I love them.

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Maximizing space is always on the minds of urban gardeners in particular, and these Felt Wall Planter Envelopes from Spade and Feather are a great option.  They’re eco-friendly (made from Eco-Felt, 100% recycled plastic), easy to hang, and make vertical gardening accessible to everyone.

 

Giveaway and Review: Alcatel One Touch Idol S2 Smartphone and Tablet

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Until a few short months ago, I still used a phone that looked pretty much like this. Well, not exactly like that, because it was portable.  But it did have a screen that was about 1.5 inches square, with no data capability, and you had to press a key three times to get the right letter of the alphabet when texting. Which meant that it was never used for texting. It was basically like an emergency phone line. Or a walkie-talkie. Or maybe a bottle containing a SOS note.

For a long time, this didn’t bother me.  Who wants to be available 24/7?  I’ve given up instantaneous everything almost, even the Ramen noodles which I love. Convenience isn’t everything; slow and plodding could be a decent personal motto.

But then things started happening. My husband was gifted two iPads from work, and I got the little one. And you know, after I got used to it, the thing was actually pretty handy. It was nice not to have to rely on the big now-clunky desktop all the time.  And those smartphones… people did look kind of smart using them.  I started to notice how agile Beth-Anne and Nathalie were with their phones and, well, as someone on social media, I finally began wondering whether I ought to join the game. Sure it looked efficient and all that, but it also looked kind of fun.

And then, as I contemplated relaxing my grip on the Ghost of Telephones Past, I got the most perfect gift over the holidays and in time for 2015: my very first smartphone. The crew at Alcatel One Touch generously gave an Idol 2S as well as a Pop 8 tablet and just like, they swept me into the new millenium.

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Like a proper nerd, I read the manual (a couple of times). The truth is I had never used a smartphone before and had no earthly idea how they worked. I was nervous, but didn’t need to be – the phone is easy peasy to use, and it was a cinch to start figuring out what all the fuss is about. Turns out these gadgets are really useful!

Texting, unsurprisingly, is a revelation.  Tapping a big key just once is a lot faster than punching a little one three times. But not just that – the Idol S2‘s predictive keyboard is fast and accurate. In the spirit of research, I borrowed my sister’s smartphone to compare, and was that new phone’s texting capabilities ever clunky (how does she manage with something so slow)!  I double-checked my impression with my 14 year old nephew, who categorically strikes me as the best possible judge of my phone. He played around with it for a few minutes and handed it back: It’s a good phone. It’s fast.” Gold seal of approval, people.

There’s a lot of other things to like about the phone.  It’s very slim and good-looking, for starters. It’s gentle on the eyes, with its clear wide screen (5″ HD 720 display), which is lovely when using the 8 megapixel camera.  As a blogger and a mom, this is a boon.  I also like that the battery lasts a good while.  I’m not glued to my phone, but heavier users will be glad to know that charging the Idol S2 is fast.  I love the camcorder, and that the phone can turn into a little flashlight.  It’s a marvel!

The Pop 8 tablet is a great little toy too.  Like the Idol S2. the Pop 8 is slim and sleek, and handles easily.  I was a bit less of an inexperienced user when it came to tablets, and the Pop 8 is intuitive and simple to use. It’s perfect for check-ins with the online world and handing to the kids for an educational app or 5.  Both the phone and the tablet clock in as fast, effective devices at affordable price points.

I can say without hesitation that my presents from Alcatel One Touch are among the most impactful items to enter my realm.  And as a former Techno-Resister, you’ll know I speaketh the truth when I say I really love my phone!!

The amazing thing is that you can enjoy similar presents too:  Alcatel One Touch is generously offering both the Idol S2 smartphone and a Pop 7 tablet to one lucky reader!  The contest will stay open until Sunday at midnight EST, and is open to Canadian readers (except Quebec).  Enter to win by liking our Facebook page, following us on Twitter or Instagram or simply leave a comment. It’s a great giveaway – best of luck to you!

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Gerry Dee’s Tour: You Gotta See It!

About a year ago, I saw my first stand-up comedy show in Las Vegas and I loved it.   To celebrate my birthday, I asked my husband to forgo the fancy dinner out and take me to the local comedy club. We still did the dinner, courtesy of my brother and his wife, and the four of us made our way to the 11 pm show at Absolute Comedy.

Seeing live performances, be it Shakespeare in the park, a big-budget flashy musical or a lone comic standing at a mic, is electrifying. The performers have logged many hours honing their craft and their moment of truth is when they take the stage.

When it feels off, like the marks are missed or cadence wavers, my stomach usually knots and I feel a mixture of anxiety, embarrassment and disappointment for the performers. But with that, I always feel admiration. They put themselves out there to be judged, albeit harshly when the price of a ticket is attached, and I simply don’t have the chutzpah to do that.

But last night, the four of us went to see homegrown comedian, challenger on Last Comic Standing and star of his own eponymous CBC show, Gerry Dee and everything clicked.

Gerry Dee took the stage at historic Massey Hall and after being introduced by his solid opener Graham Chinden, his 90-minute set was an enjoyable ride!

Dee’s bits are taken from his life as a former teacher, dad to three young children and husband to a levelheaded, east coaster who is the perfect yin to his yang.

His banter is relatable; relationships are universal and if you’re not a parent, you’ve been a kid.

When you see a consummate performer like Dee, whose polished routine fails to falter, the energy in the room becomes exhilarating. A good performance brings about a high for the audience, and in the case of last night with 2,600 people united by laughter the room buzzed.

It’s no wonder it feels so good to experience a release of energy through laughter. The Mayo Clinic sites the short-term benefits as endorphin enriching, stress reducing and muscle relaxing. Need proof? The elevated people exiting from the crowded theatre did so with nary a kerfuffle.

Laughing Canadians = very gracious folk.

Gerry Dee is on a national tour and you’ve gotta see it!  Check if he’s coming to your city by clicking here.

And I leave you with my favourite bit from the night.

Attention Toronto Parents: The Great Kids Stuff Sale is coming!

10407575_889876101025044_7323590842128034865_nIt’s that time again!  The North Toronto MOMS Group is hosting their bi-annual Great Kids Stuff Sale.  This large-scale mom-to-mom consignment sale benefits several charities in the Greater Toronto Area which is just one of the reasons that make this a must-check-out event.

In the past, I have picked up two bikes for $20, a pair of all-leather, never worn shoes for a baby for $5, an almost new GAP coat for $8 as well as a bag of clothes for less than $50.

It’s the perfect place to pick up baby gear for a fraction of the price.  Bumbos for $10, Bjorns for $20, strollers for a less than a third of the retail value!  There are mounds of clothing, stacks of books and so many toys that it could easily take hours to sort through it all.

Here are my insider tips for you:

–        Arrive early.  The doors open at 9 am and there is always a line-up.

–        Bring a large bag to carry around your finds.

–        Have a plan of what you are looking for.  The sale can be overwhelming so it’s better to know what you’re looking for before you get lost in the piles.

–        If you can, leave babies and kids at home as the sale can get crowded

–        Become a vendor!  Clear out the outgrown clothing and never played with toys that are cluttering up your home.  It’s not uncommon for vendors to make hundreds of dollars!

SATURDAY, APRIL 25 from 9:00 am – Noon @ St. Clement’s Church (70 St. Clements Avenue, at Duplex)

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Just check out the rows and rows of clothes!  Everything is organized by gender and size so finding what fits your little ones is much easier.  Shoes, formal wear, and outer wear are also separated so make sure you know what sizes you’re looking for!

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It really is a sea of clothing!  The first two rows have bedding, receiving blankets and room decor.  It’s not uncommon to find the original price tags still on sheet sets.

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Need a bouncy chair?  How about an extra one for the upstairs or grandma’s house?  For $15 or less, it’s hard to say no.

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And you thought your toy room had lots of stuff!  Toys run the gamut from baby to six years old.  Games, puzzles, books, DVDs, – if your kid wants it, it’s here!

Fun with Non-Newtonian Liquids: Liquids That Act Like Solids

Here’s a slippery slimy activity to do with the kids for the month of April Fool’s: make a liquid that acts like a solid.

Non-Newtonian liquids are liquids that act like solids when pressure is applied to them, and you can make one with just two ingredients from your kitchen: water and corn starch.

Materials

small pitcher of water

measuring cups

molasses

corn starch

food colouring (optional, add it to the water if you want a coloured mixture)

two plastic trays or baking trays with a lip

Method

Begin by looking at how different liquids move.  Pour 1/4 cup of water from one container to another.  Pour 1/4 cup of molasses from one container to another.  Both are liquid, but water moves faster because it has a lower viscosity.  Ask kids to name the things in the house that act like water (vinegar, juice, milk) and the things that act like molasses (shampoo, ketchup, syrup).

Make your non-Newtonian substance by mixing 1 cup of corn starch with about 1/2 cup of water.  Gradually add the water to the corn starch until you have a mixture that pours like honey.  Pour this mixture from one container to another and observe how quickly it moves.  Is it more like water or molasses?

Ask kids to predict what will happen if they squeeze the mixture?  Will it run through your fingers?

Now scoop some of the mixture in your hands and squeeze it.  The harder you squeeze, the more solid the mixture becomes.  Force makes the liquid act like a solid.  Now stop squeezing.  What does the mixture do?

Pour enough water onto one of your trays to make a thin layer of water from edge to edge.  Ask kids to predict what will happen if you bang your hand onto the tray.  Splash!

Now do the same thing with the mixture on the second tray.  Will the mixture behave like the water?

Hit it and find out!  (There is a video here of the experiment if you want to see it before you try it in your own home!)

Experiment with different ways to exert force on the mixture: touch it softly, quickly, stir it slowly, hit it with the spoon.  You can even hit it with a hammer.

Clean up

This can get a bit messy, especially if you are using food colouring, so be prepared to wipe up spills and splashes.  Also, DO NOT POUR YOUR MIXTURE DOWN THE DRAIN.   It will clog your pipes.  When you are done, scrape your mixture into the garbage for disposal.