Gifts for Her

Here’s what we are crushing on and hoping to see under the tree!

From Nathalie

I’m all about books and one of a kind crafts.  And anything with images of houses.  Especially these.  Made by Stoneware Studio.  Again, all I did was enter “houses” into the search box at Etsy.  It’s a playground out there, I tell you.

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If there is a woman on your list who loves her nails done right and likes a little sass with her spa, check out this new line of nail polishes from Trust Fund Beauty.  With shades like What’s a Budget?, this package has humour and good looks.  This is Kiss Kiss Darling.  Perfect for the holidays.

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I think manicured nails look wonderful wrapped around a tumbler of scotch, and I don’t think that the guys should get all the booze.  I’ve grown to love a really peaty scotch.  (Check out this website that tells you how to pronounce the names of various types of scotch.  So funny.)

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I also don’t think that the guys and the kids should get all the gadgets.

Beth-Anne and I had a tour of the new Blacks store at Yonge and Eglinton today, and we got a demonstration of this super-fun printer.  The Fuji Instax Printer ($199) allows up to eight people to wirelessly send photos to print, and out pops a little photo that develops in front of your eyes.  So much fun for a party, shower, or family gathering.

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After meeting Avery Swartz from Camp Tech, who helped us with some issues with our blog, I’m feeling a lot more empowered to experiment, play and learn with and about my devices.  The folks at Staples very kindly sent us this Samsung Galaxy Tab.  I am very excited to have gadget of my own!  I have big plans for this baby.  I do all of my blog posts at my desk and from my computer, because my phone is way, way, way too small for my aging eyes the vast scope of my creativity.  This should help a lot!

 

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From Beth-Anne:

I never seem to have enough totes and this sequin and linen maple leaf design from Indigo appeals to my Canadian spirit.  Indigo, $49.50.

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I love this mug so, so, so much because reading is sexy! Maybe someone ought to pass the message along to some of today’s pop-starlets that booties are out and bookmarks are in! Indigo, $10.00.

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I have been following Carrie Synder’s blog for years and loved her critically acclaimed book The Juliet Stories so when Girl Runner came out, I was anxious to get my hands on a copy.   Nominated for awards and praised by her fans this book is the perfect read on a snow-stormy day.  Need more convincing?  Read Nathalie’s review here.  Indigo, $19.76.

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Warm fire, hot cuppa tea, a good read . . .all you need is to have toasty tootsies and these  Faux-Fur Slouch Booties are available in a variety of colours and textures.  Indigo, $34.50.

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Not everyone is a fluffy slipper kinda gal, so if you prefer a more glam look, these Ruby & Ed velvet bow ballerina slippers in dusty plum do the trick.  Town Shoes, Ron White and Shop Vincent, $70.

Coffee table books can add an element of decor to your home, but if they are not absolutely enchanting, what’s the point?  Vogue and The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute: Parties, Exhibitions, People is full of glamorous celebrities, trendy fashionistas, stylemakers and icons.  Eye candy and inspiration! Indigo, $37.95.

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Personalized stamps appeal to anyone who loves stationery and/or organizing.  For the baker, the book collector and the monogrammed obsessed these personalized stamps go far beyond the standard return address stamp.  Available in a variety of styles, colours and fonts.  Pretty In Ink, pricing varies.

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Canadian jewelry designer Jenny Bird has caught my eye.  Her designs are reminiscent of ancient times and reference powerful goddesses and rulers, and a departure from the dainty pieces and glittery statement necklaces that dominate the boutiques.  Wear a Jenny Bird and feel bold, feminine and graceful. Jenny Bird, a variety of styles and prices.

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Bill Baker, the creator of Consonant , truly cares about what we’re putting on our skin.  His passion and commitment to creating safe and effective skin care is evident in his un-ending desire to learn more and improve upon his award winning formulas.  Start the new year off right and remember Consonant’s philosophy: what goes on your body, goes in your body.  Consonant’s Healthy Skin Detox For Face, $99.00. 

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The Mophie, a mobile battery pack to extend the daily life of your smart phone is the ideal gift for the social media junkie.  Available in a variety of colours but it’s this champagne colour that has made my wish list.  Mophie, Prices vary.

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A great gift for the cottager or the city dweller.  These hand-made vintage style map prints on pillows with 100% down-filled inserts are available with maps of Muskoka, Prince Edward County, Georgian Bay, Toronto and more.  County Cupboard $69.99.

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Don’t forget to stuff her stocking with all sorts of baubles and treasures.  Be sure to add Make Up Forever Artist liner.  The colour palate covers the range from basic black to deep plum.  Sephora, $24

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And this all-natural, organic Simply Natural Lip balm available from their website for $5.

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Gifts for Him

From stocking stuffers to big ticket items, here are some fabulous gift ideas for the men on your list.

From Nathalie:

One word: cufflinks.  My beloved loves to wear the cufflinks that “the kids” give him every year.  Each boy chooses a theme from the year: hockey, soccer, Lego, camping, maps, a special trip, bike chain links, a symbol of their name….  The possibilities are really endless.  Etsy and The One of a Kind are my go-to sources.  These are a favourite:

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Personalized gifts.  Last year, we gave my father-in-law and my four brothers-in-law a puzzle made from a photograph of the family cottage.  Each family got a different image, but the theme was the same: this is a place that brings us together and holds special memories.  Some of us got engaged there, some of us got married there, all of us have loved being there.

Booze.  You can be literal or figurative with this.  It does not have to be hackneyed.  Wondermade makes handmade marshmallows in Bourbon and Guinness flavours.

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Check out these awesome Canadian coasters made from upcycled beer bottles.  $42  Rebeer by Artech Studios.  (Do you see the joke??  It’s Canadian.)  They make all kinds of fun things out of recycled beer, wine and booze bottles.  Meeting Jennifer Wanless-Craig and Terry Craig was a highlight of attending the OOAK show.  Fun people, fun gifts.

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From Beth-Anne:

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For any hockey lover Gordie Howe’s autobiography Mr. Hockey is sure to be a hit.  Indigo, $19.00

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Make fitness a priority in the new year with the Fit Bit that counts your steps and tracks your calories.  My favourite feature is the sleep tracker . . . or in my case the “lack-of-sleep” tracker.  Available in a variety of colours including this gun metal at Indigo, $99.95.

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Barware is always a fun gift because it’s something you rarely buy for yourself.  These Woodland Animal lowball glasses (set of 4) are available at Indigo for $38.  If the Canadiana theme isn’t your guy’s thing, the On the Rock Glass and Ice Ball gift set, for $39.50, is a more classic option.

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Or to heck with the glassware and go straight for this flask for $25.00 (Indigo) with a quote by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald.

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Wine may be more your guy’s thing, and the Corkcicle, an artificial icicle is inserted into the bottle to help keep the temperature just right.  Indigo, $25.00.

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The curse words may not be everyone’s taste but the final dishes in this book don’t disappoint!  Indigo, $18.77.

Cufflinks are a fail safe gift but these are anything but hoo-hum.  Handmade of vintage watch movements the Time In Fantasy Longines Steampunk Cufflinks are eye-catching, whimsical and at $98.12 the right price!  Etsy.

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How about these one-of-a-kind numbered bicycle prints from Etsy’s Bicycle Paintings, now also offered at Frank & Oak… perfect for the cyclist in the house.

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For the guy who hits the gym after work, the Cote and Ciel Isar Rucksack Twin Touch is the perfect bag.  The asymmetrical design includes a padded external document compartment and two internal pouches.  Available at these boutiques across Canada for $272: Etoffes, Montreal; J2 Fashion, Burnaby; Lev Boutique, Calgary; UN Luggage, Winnipeg; Nomad, Toronto; Zane, Toronto.

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From Carol

Almost every man is on the hunt for the perfect shave, and Toronto’s Crown Shaving Co. has stepped in to help by creating a line of quality personal grooming products targeted specifically to the men in our life.  Its distinctively masculine (okay, black) packaging calls out to “vagabonds, gentlemen and ruffians”.  You’ll also feel great knowing that these products are made with natural and botanical ingredients, and are free of alcohol, artificial colours and fragrances, sulfites and parabens.  Available at Little House in the City.

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For your favourite handyman, Leatherman multi-purpose tools are pretty much perfect.  There are many versions to choose from, which can accommodate a wide range of budgets.  They invite so much possibility, I kind of want one.

leathermanFor the explorers and adventurers out there, both of body or spirit,  The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition by Caroline Alexander is pretty much a sure thing.  With this kind of real life drama, how could this book not be destined to amaze and awaken the imagination?  I’m gifting it to my husband.

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Gifts that Give Back

This week, we will be posting gift ideas that we have collected over the past few months.  In a month with the theme of minimalism, these posts are decidedly maximalist, but they should help minimize your work as you search for great gift ideas.  Today, it’s gifts that give back.  In the days ahead we will have posts with ideas for gifts for teachers, mentors and coaches, gifts for the kids, gifts for him, and gifts for her.

The three of us celebrate a secular Christmas, but we have picked gifts that should fit into many traditions and gift-giving opportunities.

This month, 4mothers1blog became an Indigo affiliate, so if your shopping list includes gifts from Indigo, please consider getting to their website through ours.  If you navigate to their site from here, we will receive a portion of the value of your purchase.  Just click through from the Indigo logo on the right side of the page.

Our first collection of ideas is gifts that give back: gifts with a charitable side.

From Beth-Anne:

LiveFashionable is one of my favourite on-line retailers.  They are committed to helping African women start their own small business cooperatives and they partner with manufacturers that employ women and practice fair-wage compensation.  My Selam scarf is on high rotation!  (Tizita bracelet, $34 and the ABLEscarf, $48.)

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FEED is an organization dedicated to fighting hunger and eliminating malnutrition throughout the world.  These organic cotton and burlap totes, if filled with food, would feed a school aged child for one year.  (FEED tote, $80)

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Consonant, an award winning all natural skincare company, has developed the Today Body Bar for Causemetics.  $4 from each Today Body Bar is donated to the Canadian Breast Cancer Support Fund that provides financial assistance to breast cancer patients to help ease their financial burden.  At $12 this is the perfect stocking stuffer! (Consonant Today Body Bar, $12)

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Approximately 287,000 women die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth complications each year.  Founded by model, film-maker and activist, Christy Turlington, Every Mother Counts is dedicated to reducing that number through education, and providing transportation and supplies.  Several boutique shops and big-name retailers have partnered with Every Mother Counts and contribute donations based on products sold.  For example, these Citizens of Humanity maternity jeans, A Pea In the Pod collection are on sale for $159.00.  Citizens of Humanity will donate $25 and A Pea In The Pod will donate $15 to Every Mother Counts!  Visit their on-line shop for a complete list of retailers and products.

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Two Penny Blue is the place to buy fashionable accessories and luxury blazers and jackets in a variety of punchy colours or reliable classics.  For every jacket purchased, Two Penny Blue will donate a school uniform to a girl in need in Africa – opening the door to her education.  And we all know the powers of education!  (Blazers range $325-$399)

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Oliberté became the world’s first Fair Trade Certified™ footwear manufacturing factory in 2013.  Based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia the company believes in creating fair jobs and workers’ rights.  In addition to building a company based entirely in Africa (from materials to labor),  Oliberté donates 1% of its proceeds to non-profits dedicated to sustainability and the environment.  For a complete list of 1% For The Planet businesses click here.  Shoes from Oliberté range from $50-$160 and gear is priced from $25 -$300.

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From Nathalie:

I met Rafik Riad, the managing director of Salt, at the Distillery District in the summer, and I knew right away that I wanted to spread the word about his company.  Salt sells earth-friendly, hand-crafted and fair-trade gifts at all price points that are made by artisans in impoverished communities.  They work from the ground up, helping to train artisans, and to ensure that they receive a fair payment for their craft.

I lived in Egypt when I was in high school, and when I saw the Sahara Leather Bag ($150), I was immediately taken back to the homes and the markets I visited there.  The bag is made from fabric quilted in the traditional tent-makers’ style, and you can see this kind of quilting on awnings in markets and on throw pillows and blankets in people’s homes, including my own!  It’s beautiful and bold and makes a great statement.

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Far and Wide Collective partners with artisans in post-conflict and emerging economies to bring to an international market unique and high quality gifts.  I love that the website includes information about the artisans and their trade.  This sage green silk scarf ($60), for example, was made in Afghanistan by silk weaver Saleh Mohammad, who learned his trade while living as a refugee in Pakistan during the civil war.  Beginning at $20, there are lots of gifts here for teachers, hostesses and BFFs.

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Indigo is the Canadian merchandiser for Angela & Roi vegan bags.  The bags are not only animal-friendly, they are wallet-friendly and charitable, too.  Priced from $75-$150, each bag is linked to a different charity, and a portion of the sales goes to that cause.

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From Carol

Sayula‘s lovely agave bath mitts, soap pouches, wash cloths, and root brushes make perfect feel-good stocking stuffers.  The Mexican-Canadian company goes the extra miles for environmental and social responsibility, creating bath and kitchen products from regional plants that don’t require much water or any pesticides.  Sayula also works directly with rural communities to provide stable income and fair prices.  Available in Toronto at Little House in the City (Carol’s shop).

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The Fair Trade Jewellery Co. in Toronto is the destination for ethical jewellery, including nickel-free gold, platinum and Canadian (from Ontario’s Victor mine) and Australian diamonds.  FTJC is also known for its custom designs – the perfect place to shine with an easy mind and heart this holiday.

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Holiday Hair: Keep It Minimal

I met Jason Lee, celebrity hairstylist and owner of Salonière (and oh ya, he’s danced with Madonna!), back in July when the air was humid, hair was frizzy and nary a thought of the holidays was in anyone’s consciousness.  Unless of course you were like me, and soaking in holiday preview week in architectural lofts decked out as cozy winter wonderlands.

Lured by the offer of a hair fix-up, I ended up in Jason’s chair.  Within minutes my hair had beachy waves that put Gisele’s to shame.  As Jason worked away we chatted about what looks would be hot for holiday parties.

Jason, aware that most women are running on all-cylinders, said that this year hair should be minimal.  Sleek.  Sophisticated.  Easy to do.

He had me at easy to do.

Jason has shared his three go-to holiday hair picks with us today, along with some tips on how to flawlessly achieve these looks.

Tight and Right Bun

Melissa Gorga would be a fan of this look.  It’s a severe look that really highlights your face so spend an extra few minutes grooming those brows and perfecting your smoky eye.

How To:  Pull your hair back into a centre parted low ponytail.  Anchor that ponytail with either a bungee elastic (which has hooks on either end), or an elastic that won’t tear your hair.  Then, tease the ponytail and smoothen it out for added volume.  Finally wrap the pony into a cool bun and anchor with bobbi pins or hair pins.

Jason’s Pro Tip:  A trick that celebrity hairstylists use to create a slick look for the root area when shooting for magazines and red carpets is to simply use conditioner!!  Apply a little conditioner to the centre parted area and you will instantly have a slick super fashionable style.

 

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I’m No Soccer Mom

The neighbours will do a double take.  Where’s the messy pony?  The nest of tangles?  The hat hiding the bedhead?  Make way for Ms. Sassy pants!  This look screams chic and confident, but be careful to execute correctly or else the neighbours will be wondering if you’ve neglected to wash for your hair for a month.

How To:  Jennifer Lopez just wore this sultry look at the AMA’s last week. The style is done on clean blown out straight hair and then combed back with a little coconut oil!  Just remember that a little goes a long way and don’t forget to warm the coconut oil in your hands before before applying to the hair.  Comb the coconut oil through the hair allowing for the mid length and ends to still look dry.

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Here’s lookin’ at you, Rita Hayworth:

In contrast to the first two looks, the swooping waves are undeniably feminine.  A little bit retro, a lot a bit glam, but still simple and minimal these tresses are a statement.  Admittedly, this one is not so easy and requires a few tools. Warm up that barrel curling iron!

How To:  The most important step here is setting the hair first.  Jason suggests using a 1 1/4″ curling iron to curl the hair away from the face and then anchor the hair with clips.  Heating up hair and then letting it cool down holds the hairstyle much longer which is why we set the hair.  Once you’ve allowed the curls to sit for 5-10 minutes, then take out the clips and brush the hair out completely.  Jason uses a Mason Pearson brush for this step and then uses just his hands to place the waves into a 40’s Old Hollywood wave, hairspraying as he goes.

 

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Visit Salonière at 2470A Yonge St. in Toronto and follow his Instagram for hair-spiration.

 

 

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.

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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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