Bedtime Stories Are My Abiding Delight

I am a big believer in making time, and lots of it, for books before bed.  My family was even interviewed about it once by Andrea Gordon at the Toronto Star.

Four years later, and the boys are bigger and, significantly, they play a lot more hockey.  All three boys play competitive hockey, and we make 10-12 trips to the rink a week.  This is a good thing, mostly, and I’m a little bit proud and a lot relieved to be raising kids who are so eager to be fit and healthy and active.  (Not my DNA.)  However, hockey eats into time for all kinds of things: playdates, family dinners, unstructured time, and, yes, bedtime stories.

Time is never found, it’s made, and I make time for bedtime reading whenever it’s remotely possible, which is still usually four times a week of an hour of reading aloud before bed.  I am a stickler for bedtimes, because some of us are quite cranky if we don’t get a full night’s sleep, even if some of us are in our forties.  But if I can squeeze in a chapter before Youngest’s bedtime, I will always go the extra mile to do so.  I’m now reading aloud to Youngest and Middlest, and it’s all Harry Potter all the time.  After Youngest pops off to bed, Middlest reads by himself, sometimes curled up with me and my book, and sometimes for up to two hours before it’s time for his lights out.  (Definitely my DNA.)  It’s a magical time.  I am so profoundly grateful for it.

endgameEldest does not read with predictable regularity any more, though, and that saddens me.  He is at the rink most often, and he comes home late.  He will occasionally get immersed in a series, but it’s not a dependable thing.  I recently heard an interview that impressed me so much, I went out and bought the book for him.  (Seriously, go listen to this interview: James Frey being interviewed by a boy named Joshua for The Guardian.  It’s not often I am more impressed by the interviewer than the interviewee, but this kid is sharp.)  Anyway, I learned from this interview that James Frey’s new YA novel The Calling, the first in the Endgame trilogy, has a puzzle built into it, and the first person to solve the puzzle has a chance to win $500,000 of James Frey’s own dollars, currently sitting in a vault in Las Vegas in gold bars.  “This will get his attention,” I thought.  I’m glad to say that while it did get his attention, and while he did find my enthusiasm about the interview infectious, he did not make a huge effort to read the book quickly to solve the puzzle to win the gold.

Reading should be its own reward, and I’m glad that money was not sufficient enticement.  I have a quiet faith that one day, when there is somewhat less hockey (and soccer and basketball and swimming) on his schedule, Eldest will make his way back to daily and lengthy engagements with a book.  Reading is my abiding delight, and I do so want them to have that kind of pleasure in their daily lives.

Decorating Your Home for the Holidays

It may seem early to our readers around the world, but in Canada the day after Halloween marks the unofficial start of the holiday season. Gift guides and wish-books from retailers arrive in the mailbox, and the windows of shops are decorated with garland, glitter and the occasional tree. Even Starbucks has replaced their white cups with their traditional, red holiday ones.

We’ve barely put away the ghoulish masks and spooky ghosts and my boys are asking when we’re going to put up the Christmas tree. I try to be all zen about it and remind them that the holidays are weeks away but there is no denying that those weeks are going to pass in the blink of an eye and the bulk of holiday happiness resides squarely upon my shoulders.

So whether you celebrate Christmas or just like to create a cozy home for winter, here is a round up of my favourite items from Indigo, President Choice Home and The Home Depot.

Indigo

I love these copper mule mugs. They add sparkle and shine to the table and can be used at any festive meal.

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These Woodland Cabin napkins are reminiscent of Kurt Cobain and the grunge era, but there is something undeniably Canadian about this print.

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Cake plates are my new favourite tabletop accessories. Last month we did a post on DIY flower arrangements and used this wooden pedestal as the focus point. Additionally they are a great way to display ornaments, treasures and of course desserts.

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medium marble and wood pedestal Dessert plates are an inexpensive way to add whimsy to a table. These ribbon plates are less than $35 but if you wanted to choose something with more longevity, consider the New Year’s Eve Countdown plates that could do double-duty for a birthday celebration.

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Snow globes have come a long way from tacky tourist souvenirs. These globes would standout on any mantle or atop a stack of books arranged on the coffee table.

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Last year I bought some festive pillows on a whim, successfully transforming my living room into a Christmas-y nook. Santa is not for everyone, but these current designs have staying power and will last long past his visit.

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PC Home

I was amazed to learn how much of the PC Home line is designed in Toronto. The creative minds behind the 2014 Holiday collection were on hand to answer questions at the holiday preview and to be honest, I was impressed by both their ingenuity and their desire to create products for every day life. They get that people are clumsy and Waterford crystal chips. They understand that Santa mugs are irresistible to little hands. Above all, they understand that we want beautiful, functional design for our home at a reasonable price.  All the items here are available at Real Canadian Superstore and select Loblaw banner stores.

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My sister-in-law does a cookie exchange with her friends every year and this tin would be ideal as the chalkboard surface allows for the giver to write a message on the lid.

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My most favourite holiday accessory is this faux crystal glassware set. The bowls and the glassware are so well crafted you’ll be amazed when you discover it’s plastic! So stop worrying about chipping your finery, lay this out for Christmas dinner and pull it out again come patio season.

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PC Home outdid themselves when it comes to ornaments.   Beautiful colour palates from muted pastels, to icy jewel tones and classic holiday. For the price, I’ve seen nothing comparable.

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Home Depot

Usually I am opposed to chotchkies but the holidays are the time to bring them all out! Go hog-wild! Clutter-up them surfaces! These are a few that I am clearing space for this year.

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But it’s this tree that has me trying to reconfigure my living room.  Imagine two of these book-ending a sleek, modern fireplace. . . .hmmmm, maybe it’s time for a new fireplace.

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Sadly, I am not on the payroll so I didn’t receive a penny for these recommendations. However, I was invited to their holiday preview events and they were a lot of fun! For more images of what’s new and in stores, follow 4Mothers on Instagram.

Tips For DIY Fall Floral Arrangements

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Oh, the Fall! Be still my heart! Nature’s display of oranges and reds almost makes up for the dull, dreary winter that is looming before us and what’s better than bringing those colours into our homes to brighten up the day?

I remember reading somewhere years ago, when North Americans seemed hungry for everything French and their je ne sais quoi, that French homes often have fresh flowers throughout. While I am not a fan of foie gras or mass transit strikes, I can firmly assert that I side with the French on two things: champagne and flowers.

Lured by the vibrant colours and clusters of blooms, I stopped into neighbourhood florist Gilded and Green where I met owners Nancy and Charlotte.

If ever you’ve wondered why arrangements from florists cost more than corner store bouquets wrapped in cellophane, I can tell you. Nancy and Charlotte are artists. They agonize over every detail of each arrangement: the perfect vessel, the balance of blooms to greenery, the length of each stem and the overall composition. With their discerning eye and unwavering dedication to quality, they select only the best for their shop. Like curators of a museum, each vase, plant and flower is part of a larger story.

On the day that I was in the shop, oranges, reds, yellows and purples prevailed. And oh, they were just so pretty!

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I was amused by these whimsical moss sculptures that I was assured were low maintenance.

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I said that I thought they would make for lovely gifts and Nancy was quick to offer some other suggestions for thank-you or hostess gifts that are not the traditional bouquet.

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I couldn’t leave the shop without asking if they could share a few tips for budding wanna be florists (pun intended!) like myself.

  • Keep it simple. Stick to 1-3 different varieties of flowers.
  • Always add some greenery.
  • Don’t be afraid of using colour but keep the colours in the same family, or go monochromatic.
  • Cut the stems! Lop ‘em off! Very few arrangements actually look their best in tall vases. Tall arrangements are a tough look to pull off and you need the perfect space in your house to display them (think: hall foyer, large dining room table)
  • Think about the vessel. If you have a vessel that you want to use, make sure that the flowers are cut down, and there are enough to fill it.
  • Hire a professional. You may pay a bit more but a professional brings an understanding of the flowers as well as an artistic eye.

Want to see more of Gilded and Green’s work? Check out our Instagram here, and Gilded and Green’s website here.

Have an arrangement you want to show off? Send us a tweet, an Instagram or Facebook message – we’d love to see it and we like to share!

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I’m Thankful for My Bugaboo Stroller

I can’t live without my smartphone.  I have had marginal success with detoxing from my excessive use, but the thought of cancelling my contract and tossing it into a drawer  is never going to be a reality.

I felt the same away about my Bugaboo Frog stroller a few weeks ago when I was cleaning out the garage.  I just can’t part with it.  I have had my red Bugaboo Frog and all of its accoutrements for almost 8 years.  Eight years!

That stroller means more to me than a plastic, canvas and rubber contraption meant to transport my child from A to B.  There are times when it felt like a lifeline tethering me to the outside world from my post-natal cocoon.  I would push through the snow, the wind and the rain, my destination unclear but my motivation crystal.  I needed to be out and among the land of the living.  I needed to walk the busy streets and look in the shop windows.  I needed to create urgency to complete mundane errands.  My Bugaboo made it possible for me to do just that.

I knew from early on that Bugaboo was the stroller for me.  It took little convincing that we were a perfect fit.  Its sleek design; adaptable seats and functionality were in my mind unparalleled to the available options.

My parents generously gifted the Bugaboo to me when my first son was born.  My mom loved it too,  and like me saw value in its merits.  My dad took some convincing.  When he saw the price tag, admittedly not cheap, he choked out that his first car had cost less.  It made me think of this scene from Father Of The Bride:

In eight years that stroller has survived three boys, more spilled milk than one could imagine, and enough vomit to make Public Health concerned.  It’s been washed, scrubbed and de-Cheerioed several times, each time impressing me with its resiliency.  And I’ve easily put more kilometers on it than my car.

So when Bugaboo invited me to preview their exciting line-up for 2015, I of course said yes, not withstanding that my strolling days are numbered.  I am glad that I did.

Bugaboo is one of those brands that marry functionality and aesthetics so perfectly and come the New Year their fans will be delighted by their many collaborations.

The lifestyle brand Diesel, known for its rugged, utilitarian look has toughened up the Bugaboo Cameleon.  The dark green and brown colour combination give the stroller a decidedly masculine look, while the interior finishes are the soft, comfortable and functional details that Bugaboo is known for.

 bugaboo-cameleon3-by-diesel-iconic-image-2(Available November 2014)

 There is also the new Bugaboo Bee3 for the parents who zip around the city and live life on the fly.  The Bee is lightweight, easy to use and has a larger underseat basket for storing everything from groceries to a diaper bag.  For parents who like to express their individuality, the Bee is available in 64 different fabric colour combinations and provides UPF50+ sun and extendable sun canopy while being water repellent and washable.

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(Available in stores now)

And there is this . . . the Bugaboo Runner.  Oh, be still my heart!  Why buy two strollers when you can buy the Bugaboo Runner, a base that fits all Bugaboo models?  The three-wheel model, with its front wheel fixed, makes for a smooth run and the base collapses compactly making at-home storage easy.

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(Available Spring 2015)

 It’s not just the artistry of the Bugaboo that impresses me; it’s the story behind the product.  While at the launch I had the opportunity to meet members of the Bugaboo team.  Their passion for their product was inspiring and not overly surprising considering the quality of their strollers and accessories.  Bugaboo started off as a design school project by Max Barenbrug and twenty years later it has expanded to include numerous stroller models and functional accessories while staying true to their mission to create innovative products that inspire people to explore the world.

Speaking with members of the Bugaboo team, I learned that designers watch people with children navigating everyday life, identifying obstacles and dreaming of ways to make life simpler and more accessible.  I was fascinated, and not at all shocked, to hear about the push-back the North American team had in convincing the designers to create a cup-holder.  The Europeans were flummoxed as to why someone would need to take their coffee to-go and hesitated in creating what is now the best-selling Bugaboo accessory in North America.

It’s always the stories that attract me to products.  It’s the people and their passion, their commitment and their innovation.  Creative people always inspire me and I am moved to see the world through their eyes, whether the medium is a stroller or a bar of soap, because when I do, it’s enlightening.

 Disclaimer:  I didn’t receive a penny for this review, but when I do I will let ya know!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Drizzlecorn. Yup, It’s THAT Good!

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You’ve done it!  You’ve just survived the first week of school.  Now it’s time to celebrate. . . and you can forget the wine.
Popcorn, Indiana has just launched their newest and in my opinion, their most yummy treat yet . . . Chocolate Peanut Butter Drizzlecorn.
We’ve told you before that we get sent treats, products and books all of the time to sample and try out but we only write about these things unless we truly love them or think our readers will love them.
Well this time I am telling you to step away from your computer, put down your hand-held device and run to your nearest grocer to pick up Popcorn, Indiana’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Drizzlecorn.  I love this stuff and I bet you will too!
The chocolate and peanut butter balance nicely with the crunchy, lightly salted kettle-popped corn.  I opened the bag expecting to nibble on a few kernels but then the hounds, err boys, whom could practically smell the deliciousness and sense my sheer elation descended on the open bag like a pack of starving wolves.  Within minutes the bag was empty and we were licking chocolately, peanut butter from our fingers.
This hand-crafted popcorn contains nothing artificial or high fructose corn syrup and at 180 calories for 1 1/2 cups you won’t feel too guilty about indulging in this delectable treat.
Unless you eat the entire bag.  Yourself.

Back To School: Getting & Staying Organized

IMG_1451I was never one of those kids who bemoaned the end of summer holiday. I was the one that was stalking the aisles of Zellers for three-ring binders and fresh stacks of lined paper in July. For me, September is the unofficial start of the year and I still revel in the anticipation of the new school year. I love organizing my supplies, charting the schedule and re-working our routines.

Here are some back-to-school products and tips that I like for this September. Sound off with a comment and let us know if you agree, what you’re planning for this back-to-school season and what you know is an absolute bust!

Let’s start with the backpack. Kids need a good, sturdy backpack. I am of the mindset to buy little packs for little bodies. I don’t think that kids should be carting around the entire contents of their desks, their gym clothes and their lunch. I tend to believe that if it doesn’t fit, you probably don’t need to carry it. Bigger kids – a completely different story.

Of course LL Bean does their classic knapsack in a variety of sizes. They are incredibly durable and can be monogrammed. The downside: three boys at my son’s school have the same pack and the same initial as my son. The first day of JK we had a mix-up and there were tears (his, not mine). That’s why I love these packs by Herschel. They are reasonably priced and come in a variety of sizes. This one is from Mini Mioche, a conscious, ethical shop located in the Distillery District in Toronto.

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What goes in the pack is just as important as the pack itself. Staples is my go-to for office/school supplies. They’ve got everything that I need and even more that I don’t! I love these life-time guarantee three-ring Better Binders that they carry. I remember throwing away several binders at the end of each term when I was a student and they are probably wasting away in a landfill somewhere.

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Colourful markers, like these neon Sharpies, are not only fun to write with, they are instrumental in keeping the schedule organized. I have colours for each child and everything is written in those colours.

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I have budding writers at home and leaning on my experience as a classroom teacher, I know how imperative it is that children learn how to hold their pencil correctly. It seems like such a little thing but holding a writing tool the proper way actually assists in proper letter formation, and reduces muscle fatigue (among other things!). I have a package of these grippers and will be buying even more this year . . . they seem to go missing as often as socks.

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Homework is never fun (unless you’re me!). My boys whine a little bit, but I created homework boxes much like this one. I keep it on the desk and when they’re doing homework on the go, it’s easy to toss into the bag. I like to put a checklist on the outside of the kit and it’s a weekly job to ensure that the homework kit is properly stocked and pencils are sharpened. In our kit: 2 pencils, 1 eraser, 1 highligher, 1 ruler, 1 mini-stapler, 1 pair of scissors, a few coloured pencil and a glue stick. Make sure to toss dried-out markers or broken pencils. Always, always, always have a stack of presentation boards available because it never fails that on Sunday night at 7 pm, someone says that they need a piece for a project due tomorrow!

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Organized homework stations can help to alleviate homework anxiety and reduce procrastination. A homework station that is sufficiently stocked (not too cluttered, not lacking for anything), and neat might be what’s needed to reduce the entire family’s stress level. Consider using file folders and vertical boxes, one dedicated to each child to store on-going projects or paperwork that comes home from the classroom. Also,have a file folder for you too! You need one place to keep all of those permission forms that need your signature. Clare Kumar, an organizing expert, suggests going vertical instead of using horizontal trays or pegboards. I have to agree.

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I don’t have any locker occupiers, but this kit speaks to my desire to organize and de-clutter. This locker kit, also available at Staples, comes complete with magnets, a magnetic pencil box, locker wallpaper, magnetic mirror and magnetic dry erase and marker. The kit is available in a variety of looks so your tween can express themselves. . .

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and might look like this inside your tween’s locker . . .

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Collect While You Spend!

Back-to-school hits the bank account hard. Other than Christmas, this is the time of year my credit card takes a pounding so why not shop online and collect points that you can cash-in to help with the holiday crunch that will be here before we know it. The best way to stay rewarded while checking-off the back-to-school wish list is to shop through AIR MILES Shops (airmilesshops.ca) that has partnered with brands such as Indigo, LL Bean, GAP, Old Navy, Toms and Roots. Many of these stores carry packs, lunch sacks, school supplies and uniform pieces that you may have planned to purchase already, so why not shop online through airmilesshops and collect? Come December you can redeem those miles and tick-off the holiday gift list.

Vote With Your Dollars

I always go back to what Carol says, “We vote with our dollars.” Me to We has partnered with Free The Children and Staples to help make a difference in the lives of children and their families in a Free The Children developing community. The program is so simple. Every purchase makes a difference! For example, when you purchase a lunch pack, Me to We will donate food to feed a child. When you buy a water bottle, Me to We will donate clean water to a child. What’s more, Me to We products have a tracking number that is entered on-line so you’re able to learn more about the gift your purchase gave and how it changed the life of a child or family. Imagine the potential for change if everyone bought just one Me to We item for their back-to-school list this year. That’s voting with your dollars!

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It’s first day of school today and so I would like to wish all of the students a wonderful year of learning, friendship and fun. I would like to wish all of the teachers a year of inspiration, engagement and fun. I would like to wish all of the parents, good luck!

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Elderflower Everything

stgermainliquuerI am obsessed with Elderflower.  Obsessed.  I discovered it a few years ago in a pop I found at Winners.  Do you know, I sometimes go to Winners just to shop in the crazy impulse buy aisles they have you weaving through miles of just to get to the cash register.  Seriously.  Just for that.  I find the best stuff in those aisles!  It’s where I found this elderflower pop.  It’s where my elderflower adventure began!

From a rare find at Winners to England, where elderflower pop is readily available at Tesco, and a habit was formed.  I drank a lot of it in England and brought home a bottle of elderflower cordial in my suitcase.

From elderflower softdrinks, I moved on to a discovery of elderflower liqueur.  St. Germain is available at the LCBO, and mixed with a splash of soda, it’s a little taste of heaven.

Also available at the LCBO is Rekorderlig elderflower and pear cider.  Serve very well chilled.  See above re: heaven.

Finally, a friend, aware of my passion, brought me a bottle of elderflower cordial from Ikea.

If you are feeling ambitious, you can make your own!  Recipe here from the Tree Council.

So, I’ve got several ways to find it, and now I’m working on ways to mix it.

Elderflower Bellini

A really indulgent cocktail that’s perfect for summer, is a simple mix of Prosecco and St. Germain.  Pour half an ounce of St. Germain into a champagne flute, fill with chilled Prosecco and feel the bliss.

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I made this cocktail for my Mad Mums’ Martini afternoon.  It was incredible.  At the time, I left out the beer from the original Bon Appetit recipe because I’m not a big fan of beer cocktails.  I’m thinking, though, that the Rekorderlig cider would be a delicious substitute for the beer and would amplify the elderflower flavour.

I also adapted the recipe by substituting vodka for gin and soaking segmented grapefruit in the vodka for a few hours.  I then used this flavour-infused vodka to make the cocktails and used the grapefruit for garnish.  Delish!

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Just add Elderflower cordial to pink grapefruit juice and add a splash of soda water.  Yum!

Please tell me about any other elderflower drinks you may know about!!

 

Ladies, It’s Time To Ditch Those Granny Panties!

boyshortIt’s August and even though the weather here in Toronto hasn’t exactly been summery these past few weeks, it’s definitely warmer than the wintery polar vortex that swept the northeast only a few months ago.

The month of July at 4Mothers was all about learning, but for the month of August we’re turning up the heat, and embracing steamy summer nights!

Let’s start off with an underwear refresh. It’s time to ditch those granny panties and discover some beautiful options that are made for real women by real women. I did it (you can read about it here) and you can do it too. Your partner will thank us.

Knix Wear

Joanna Griffiths is the founder and hands-on visionary behind these high-tech knickers.  Joanna learned about the realities of real women’s bodies, specifically the challenges many women face post-pregnancy, from talking with her mother, a doctor.  When Joanna became aware that one third of women will experience some bladder leakage at some point in their lifetime, she set out to revolutionize women’s underwear.  Not believing that a little bit of leakage should condemn a woman to wearing ugly panties to accommodate bulky drugstore pads, Joanna built-up a team of expert professionals to make her dream of creating seamless undergarments for women that don’t roll, have built-in leak resistance, have anti-odor and moisture wicking technology, all while still being beautiful and flattering to all bodies.  Sound like a tall order?  Well, Joanna succeeded with Knix Wear and now women can feel sexy and confident. Nude boyshort

Knix Wear is available in a variety of colours, styles (bikini, boy short, thong and high rise) and fabrics, from athletic to lacy. Sizes from XS-XXL.  Priced from $22-$38.  Sign-up for their newsletter and get $10 off your first purchase! 

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Mayana Genevière

I don’t think that I have ever met someone as passionate about women’s undergarments as Nadine, founder of Mayana Genevière.

After giving birth to her daughter, Nadine found herself disappointed with the selection of nursing bras: the one item a woman should never skimp on!  Everything she came across was either frumpy or hyper sexualized. She took it upon herself to create something not only beautiful but functional.  She designed the first of its kind, metal clasp-free nursing bra and when her friends caught a glimpse of it, they encouraged her to design a line of feminine undergarments, including shape wear, that are to be worn throughout the entire journey of womanhood. Gallery3_Empress420x420-May16-300x300

Her Canadian designs are well constructed with attention to detail such an adjustable hook & eye that allows you to choose your desired level of compression and every garment is made of the highest quality fabrics including organic cotton gussets. Nadine maintains that a woman’s undergarments should never roll or shift and it won’t happen so long as they are well made and fitted properly. “You’ll always look fabulous when you dress the body you have!” says Nadine and she’s made it her mission to celebrate women’s bodies and at the same time instill acceptance and confidence in her clients. To further her dream of developing a socially conscious brand, Nadine established Maternal Goddess, an organization dedicated to the education and awareness of postnatal maternal health.

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A portion of every purchase from Mayana Genevière is contributed to this incredible platform that supports new mothers.

The brand will be available in the Fall at 7 boutiques in the Toronto area. Check the website for details in the coming weeks.

Bras are available in a variety of styles, including nursing from 32B to 42D.  Control panties available in sizes S-XXL.

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Both Knix Wear and Mayana Genevière are both committed to using real women as models. Can we get a hallelujah? The last time I checked not every woman was a size flawless XS!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images courtesy of Knix Wear and Mayana Genevière.

 

CBC Kids’ Programming: Combining Learning and Fun

photo (8)File this under things I never thought I’d say: if I had it all to do again, I would let my preschoolers watch more television.  At least, that’s how I feel after meeting some of the great minds behind CBC children’s programming.

I love meeting people who are infectiously enthusiastic about their jobs, and that was very much the case at CBC Kids’ Days when I met Kim Wilson, creative head of CBC children’s programming, and Dr. Lynn Oldershaw, child psychologist and children’s’ programming consultant for Kids’ CBC.  They were introducing three new shows coming to CBC Kids– Chirp, The Moblees, and You & Me–and they invited 4Mothers along to their Very Important Picnic, where parents and kids could mix and mingle and meet some of the people in front of and behind the camera.

(Confession: I have a crush on Mamma Yamma and I got to meet her!  In the potato flesh!)

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Almost as exciting as that celebrity spotting, I learned a lot about their whole child approach to children’s programming and how their shows fill their mandate to educate and empower children.

“We are not just making content, we are making a difference.”

Kim Wilson

Both Kim and Lynn emphasized how television can make a positive difference to preschool-aged viewers, and, I confess, I was a bit skeptical at first.  As a rule, I place tight limits on screen time because I’d prefer my kids to be active, but as Lynn pointed out, preschoolers do not watch television passively in the way that adults and older children do.  Their minds are constantly working as they watch, and they are active consumers of what’s on the screen.  If you make sure to put them in front of quality, interactive programming, then they will engage and learn.

The team at CBC ensures that learning happens with their Whole Child Development Approach to programming, in which five areas of development are being targeted in shows that are very interactive:

1.  Cognitive Growth (science, spelling, numeracy, learning to read; Bookaboo, Monster Math Squad)

2. Social Skills (equally important in preparing for academic success is how to get along with other children; Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood)

3. Emotional Intelligence (empowering kids to identify and regulate their emotions and then problem-solve to cope with powerful emotions; Poko, The Adventures of Napkin Man)

4. Creativity (music, art, storytelling–children have an enormous capacity for creativity, and quality programming will stimulate it, not stifle it, by enabling kids to extend on what they see and hear; Artzooka; I noticed how simple the monsters in Monster Math would be to draw ourselves)

5. Physical Development (many aspects of the programming encourage, and even require, kids to move in order to propel the story; Bo on the Go)

I was thrilled to learn that John Mighton, of Jump Math fame, was a consultant on the numeracy content in Monster Math Squad, and Mary Gordon, who founded Roots of Empathy, was a consultant for the emotional intelligence content of The Adventures of Napkin Man.  These are thinkers and activists whose work I have long admired, and to hear that they are contributing to children’s television is nothing short of delightful.

We had a great day at the CBC studios, and I left feeling really grateful to have had the chance to look behind the curtain.  It has given me a much rosier view of how the small screen can be a positive part of at home learning.

 

Learning to Draw

Our theme for our posts for July is, loosely, homeschooling: learning at home.  Partly, we are talking about avoiding the summer slide, but we are also looking at how learning at home and outside of the classroom is important for broadening our kids’ horizons.  And, yes, we include our trip to LEGOLAND in the learning category!  You should have seen how the boys looked at each others’ car models and sought advice and inspiration from each other to make their cars faster.

One of my goals for myself and my kids this summer is to create more art.  I am powerfully drawn to art supply stores in a way that totally defies logic because I can’t draw!  All those gorgeous colours of markers, and here’s be barely able to draw a smiley face.

I’d like to change that.

Here are three sets of books that I have found really useful.

animalsEd Emberley’s illustration instruction is an outstanding place to start, not only because the method is so simple and fun but because results are so instant.  Seriously, no one can mess this up.  We have several of his books, but the web site is fun and useful, too.  It has printable sheets and animated instruction.  I really like the step-by-step method, but also how he includes ways to vary the basic image.  We own a copy of his Drawing Book of Animals, originally published in 1970.  It is dedicated to “the boy I was, the book I could not find.”  That broke my heart a little.  Well, your boys and girls can find both the book and the web site and can get busy making art right away.  His fingerprint illustrations are particularly fun, and they even incorporate literacy into the method: if you can write IVY LOU, you can draw an owl.

owl

Another series I love is based on shapes.  Chris Hart has a whole line of illustration instruction books, but the ones I go to all the time are his very basic shape-based ones: Draw a Triangle/Circle/Square, Draw Anything.

drawAgain, the key to the success of these books is step-by-step instruction and instant gratification.  My son’s hockey team, whose logo was a deer, made it to the finals in their division a few years back.  For luck, I decided to give them all lucky underwear (inspiration from the coach, who had a pair) and I went to this book to find a super-simple image of a deer to draw onto the underwear.  Huge hit.

20Finally, I have fallen in love with a great series of books that encourage artists not only to make art but to find a style that suits them: the 20 Ways to Draw series from Quarry books.  The illustrations are a lot more advanced, but the books demonstrate various styles for illustrating the same object, from simple to more complicated.  There is no step-by-step instruction, but there is a lot of inspiration!

20-ways-draw-penguin-244

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TMN-logo_Square1A reminder that voting is open for the best mom blog of 2014, for which we are thrilled to have been nominated.

Please head over to Toronto Mom Now and check out the other nominees.  You can vote for your favourite three.  Voting closes on Monday, July 14.