Monday, December 30, 2013

How I Kept My New Year's Resolution & Lost 70 lbs!

BEFORE: Jenna Em at 215 lbs
The year I turned 40, I felt like I was having a health crisis. After having had 5 babies back-to-back, I was at my heaviest weight ever--and the most unhealthy self I had ever been. When ascending a flight of stairs caused knee pain due to my excessive weight, I knew that I had to do something or my health would continue to decline. I was also embarrassed: strangers would ask me when I was due with my "baby", and my family was also on eternal pregnancy watch with me. I had no one to blame but myself.

On December 31st 2012, I made a New Year's resolution to myself and my family. I resolved that we would do our best to eat healthful foods, smaller portions, cut out prepared foods, fast food, and junkfood--and to increase the family's activity level.

What pushed me to make this health and fitness resolution, was that my kids were beginning to emulate my poor eating habits and low activity levels. I was too heavy to be properly active with the kids, and they in turn were becoming sedentary creatures.

I took damage control on that night: 5'8", 215 lbs, and a size 14 clothing. I was one step away from not fitting into clothes sold in conventional stores. I was a chocoholic, fast-food- and junkfood-lover, with aversions to fruits, veggies, and most healthful foods. This was not going to be easy, but there was too much at stake to fail.

I purged the entire house of all junkfood, as at the time I could not eat moderately. I did a big shopping with lots of fruits, veggies, beans, lentils, fish and chicken that I could cook into nutritious, home-made meals. I started to implement a strategy of adding at least one fruit and one veggie to each of the family's meals for better nutrition. I started reading food labels and cutting out salt.

The next day, I pondered how to increase my activity level with 5 kids (ages 2 to 7) at home, in the dead of a frigid Canadian winter. I decided to take the kids tobogganing, as the sidewalks were icy and snow-covered. For the next six weeks I took the kids sledding every single day for one hour, and I lost 15 lbs! Believe it or not, you burn 476 calories per hour just by tobogganing! Of course, the kids and I had lots of fun together too.

When the sidewalks had thawed, I walked every single day for one hour--and pushed my toddlers in a double baby stroller. I bundled up the kids very well, and we all had a great time. If the weather was too cold, we would walk indoors at the local mall and do the full circuit. Weight continued to fall off me, and my body was feeling lighter and more limber.

Two months after having made my New Year's resolution, I decided to get a family membership at the local YMCA. I decided to work out 3 times per week, for 1 hour at a time, in order to tone up and slim down. I made my routine simple: 30 minutes of elliptical and 30 minutes on the treadmill. It was not difficult at all, as I went at my own pace and did my best.

Eventually, I added other machines to my repertoire at the YMCA, took exercise classes, and swam on occasion. I continued to take daily walks on my non-gym days. In the meantime, the kids were signed up for weekly swimming lessons at the "Y" and staying active.

Six months later we moved houses and had to leave the YMCA, but by that time, I was able to self-regulate my daily exercise and food intake. I continued on with daily exercise outdoors with my kids, who were also eating nutritiously and looking fit and healthy. The whole family, including my husband, was feeling much better.
AFTER: Jenna Em at 145 lbs(70 lbs Lost)!
A year has passed since I first made a New Year's resolution to myself and my family to eat better and stay active, and I have succeeded! In these 12 months, I have lost 70 lbs, 4 clothing sizes and I am looking and feeling much better. I am now lighter than my pre-pregnancy weight 9 years ago! True to my word, my family now eats in a healthy fashion and we are regularly active as a family!

It has been a big boost to my self-confidence to have shed so many pounds due to a simple New Year's resolution. People who have not seen me in one year's time cannot believe how drastically different I look; some say I look like an entirely different person--I know I feel like one. I had to purchase a whole new wardrobe to fit my new body size, as my former clothing was swimming on me. A stranger in a grocery store remarked how good I look, (considering I have 5 kids). I just laughed that one off.

My New Year's resolution for 2014 is simple: to continue eating well and staying active as a family. I hope to find a new gym and tone up in the new year, which would equate to losing an additional 5-10 lbs.

Here's a message of encouragement for anyone looking to make the same New Year's resolution:
If this mother of 5 could make a major lifestyle change at age 40-years old, you can surely do it too! The first week is the most difficult, but each week only gets easier and easier! You will be glad that you made this lifestyle change and never regret it. Even greater, you will look and feel much better and gain confidence in yourself!

Before & After! 70 lbs & 4 Sizes Lost!
BEFORE Size: Size 14
AFTER Size: Size 6
Sizes Lost: 4

BEFORE Weight: 215 lbs
AFTER Weight: 145 lbs
Pounds Lost: 70 lbs

Did you make a New Year's resolution this year? Are you trying to get fit and eat better?

Are you starting from the beginning with healthier eating and exercise?  Check out Multi-Testing Mommy's blog as she strives to eat healthier and become more active!  Want to motivate yourself?  Visit Big Daddy Kreativ as see how Craig has lost 8 lbs and 4" off his waist! 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Guess What Kellogg's Added to These Favourite Cereals?

Kellogg's has just added vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, to 13 of its most beloved cereals (see specially marked packages).  Only 60% of Canadians are receiving enough vitamin D, and a whopping 85% of children are not meeting their daily vitamin D requirements!  During the darker Canadian winters, vitamin D levels can drop, which is usually synthesized by exposure to natural sunlight.  

Some of the Kellogg's breakfast cereals which are fortified with vitamin D include Rice Krispies and Special K (which my family regularly eats for breakfast), Crispix Krispies, Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes, Corn Pops, Mini-Wheats Little Bites, Corn Pops, Cinnamon Pops, Frosted Flakes, and Krave.  When half a cup of milk is added to a serving of Kellogg's cereals with vitamin D, a single bowl provides up to 45% of the recommended daily intake.

Kellogg's Has Added Vitamin D to 13 Best-Loved Cereals
Look for the Green Banner on Top
Do YOU Get Enough Vitamin D in Your Diet?
Is your diet rich enough in vitamin D foods or substitutes?  Some foods high in vitamin D include salmon (264% of daily value), sardines (43% DV), tuna (39% DV), beef liver (12% DV), egg (10%), and sundried mushrooms, like shiitake (25 % DV).  

Taking vitamins or eating foods fortified with vitamin D is another way to enrich your diet with vitamin D.  The Kellogg's cereals listed above, when paired with milk, provide 45% of the daily value, vitamin D fortified orange juice (34% DV), milk fortified with vitamin D (39-41% DV), and fortified yogurts (20%). 

What is your strategy to get enough vitamin D in your diet?  Are you more likely to choose a cereal fortified with vitamin D?  

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Scholastic Bridges Reading Gap With "Branches" Books!

My Son Reading Scholastic's Captain Underpants Book

I'd mentioned earlier on this blog that my son had been a reluctant reader in the past.  It used to be extremely hard to get him to do his 20 minutes of homework reading per night, although now it just takes a bit of coaxing.  The truth is that there are so many distractions at home that can call to an 8-year old boy.  Videogames and movies-on-demand are the two most persuasive distractions in my home; in my generation, it was television.

What made reading a more pleasurable experience for my son, was finding book series like Captain Underpants (Scholastic) and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  Both of these are comedic series that feature little cartoons throughout the book, which provide a break from solid text.  Although I don't hear it frequently, I'll never forget the day that my son cried: "I love reading this book so much more than playing videogames!"  Yes, he was engrossed in a new book from one of the two series, and it was music to my ears.
Books for Reluctant Readers from Scholastic
Boy Recommended
Have you heard of Scholastic "Branches" books for readers ages 5- to 7-years old?  It's a new line of illustrated early chapter books, that fills the gap between levelled readers and traditional chapter books.  It was this style of books that first got my son interested in reading, as it has a 50:50 text-to-art ratio with illustrations that reinforce test on every page.  At 80-96 pages per book, the book is not overwhelming in length either.    

Some of these books from the "Branches" collection include (shown below): Missy's Super Duper Royal Deluxe: Picture Day, by Susan Nees, and Kiki, by Kyla May.  I ordered these books for my 7-year old daughter, whom I'm also having a difficult job getting to read.  She completes her weekly reading homework with determination, but has no interest in reading on her own once her homework is finished.  

Scholastic "Branches" Books For Ages 5- to 7- Years Old
Recommended for Girls
I think that she has to build up her reading level a bit, as well as her confidence in reading, before she moves on to these books.  She does love Roald Dahl books very much like The WitchesCharlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach.  My husband will read these books to her, and ask her to read a passage to him if she's receptive.

Nonetheless, I have given my daughter the Scholastic "Branches" books to look over and she has taken them to her bedroom.  I know that the Kiki book has caught her eye, and I will revisit it shortly and ask if she would like to read it to me.  I think that it will be quality mother/daughter time spent together, and help her build a love of reading.

If you have a reluctant reader who is 5- to 7-years old, I would suggest that you try out some of Scholastic's "Branches" books.  I think that the books with 50% illustrations break up the monotony of text, and make the books a more hospitable place for growing readers!

Follow Scholastic Canada on Social Media!
Scholastic Canada on Facebook

Does your child or grandchild enjoy reading or being read to?  What is his or her favourite book--or what was yours in your childhood?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Adventures of Chuck & Friends: Trucks Versus Wild Coming to DVD & CONTEST (~OVER~)!

The Adventures of Chuck & Friends: Trucks Versus Wild on DVD Jan 21!
My 4-year old son is obsessed with cars--with "eyes"!  Give him a car with no eyes, and he just won't play with it.  Some of the cars with eyes that fit the bill, are Chuck & Friends cars and vehicles.  Over a 2 year period, I have played out hundreds of different scenarios with Chuck & Friends toy cars and my son.  My son received his first Chuck & Friends vehicle as a present, quite a long while before he ever saw his very first episode of The Adventures of Chuck & Friends.  Needless to say, he was overjoyed when he discovered the Chuck & Friends television series!  

Can you spot the Chuck & Friends Vehicles?
The Adventures of Chuck & Friends: Trucks Versus Wild is coming to DVD on January 21st!  If you have a toddler, preschooler or kindergartener who loves cars, then this title should be well-received.  This show is currently airing on The Hub TV Network in the U.S., and on Treehouse in Canada.  I like that the show stresses the importance of good morals and values for kids. 

The Adventures of Chuck & Friends: Trucks Versus Wild Synopsis:
Join in the fun with Chuck, the little dump truck with big dreams, and his friends Digger, Handy, Rowdy, Biggs, Boomer and Flip!  The Adventures of Chuck & Friends: Trucks Versus Wild DVD includes 10 exciting episodes, including one with a helpful mechanic, a camping trip, and a star-studded trip to the beach!  The disc also contains a brand new sing-along.

Episode Guide:
1.      The Checkup
2.      Chuck’s Perfect Plans
3.      Trucks Vs. Wild
4.      Kid Stuff
5.      As The Engine Coughs
6.      Beach Blanket Uh-Oh
7.      Fender Bender
8.      Sleep-Driving Chuck
9.      Mind Your Own Business
10.  The Pothole



The Adventures of Chuck & Friends: Trucks Versus Wild on DVD from!  Contest open to Canada & the US, and ends Wednesday January 29th, 2014.

How to Enter:
Leave a COMMENT below stating if you have a car fan in your family OR who you would like to WIN this DVD for.  Then, use the entry form below to enter the contest.  GOOD LUCK!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Shaw Communications Offers Free Treehouse & YTV Apps for Treehouse & YTV Subscribers!

Shaw Communications FREE YTV App!
Shaw Communications just introduced FREE Shaw Go YTV and FREE Shaw Go Treehouse apps, for Shaw customers who currently subscribe to YTV and Treehouse channels!  If you are a parent with a smartphone or tablet, this service is sure to be appreciated when you need to entertain bored kids in the car, or while sitting in a doctor's waiting room.  These two Shaw Go apps are value-added services offered to customers, and they're a watch-on-demand service with kid-only content.

Shaw Communications FREE Treehouse App!
My kids and I recently tried the Shaw Go YTV and Shaw Go Treehouse apps to see how well they performed and entertained.  First, we downloaded the Shaw Go YTV app, followed by the Shaw Go Treehouse app.  Both apps were quick and easy to download, and of course free!  The apps were available in iOS or Android, and we downloaded both to try on our tablets and smartphones.

First, we logged into the Go Shaw Treehouse app using our Shaw credentials and we were ready to go!  (There was an option to register for Shaw e-mail, if we weren't set up yet.)  The login was identical on the Go Shaw YTV app.
We Easily Logged Into Go Shaw Treehouse App With Our Customer Centre ID
After signing into our Shaw Go Treehouse account, we were ready to be entertained!  My 3-year old had a big smile on his face when he saw all his favourite characters on the bright, colourful Shaw Go Treehouse app!  There was a tutorial when the app was first initialized, but it was really quite an intuitive app, and my child and I figured it out very quickly.  

In a nutshell, your child just touches the picture of the tv show that he or she wants to see (ie: Dora, Caillou, Bob the Builder etc), then the available tv episodes appear beneath--and your child clicks to play said episode.  My 3-year old was able to switch between shows without my assistance, due to the simple pictorial nature of the app which did not require any reading.

As of press time, the Shaw Go Treehouse app had the following shows: Thomas & Friends, Toopy & Binoo, Waybuloo, Wonder Pets, The Wot Wots, Zigby, Are We There Yet, Babar and the Adventures of Baclou, The Backyardigans, Big and Small, Bob the Builder, Bubble Guppies, Caillou, Care Bears Welcome to Care A Lot, Dora the Explorer, Fireman Sam, Franklin and Friends, The Fresh Beat Band, Guess Wth Jess, Max & Ruby, Mike the Knight, My Big Big Friend, Ni Hao Kai Lan, Octonauts, Peppa Pig, Roll Play, and Team Umizoomi. 
The Shaw Go Treehouse App Is Pictorial and  Easy to Use
Next, my older kids and I tried out the Shaw Go YTV app on both tablet and smartphone.  It was just as easy to navigate as the Shaw Go Treehouse app.  When the kids saw which shows were currently available on the app, they were very pleased: iCarly, Spongebob Squarepants, and Pokemon are some of my older kids' favourite tv shows.  As of press time, we counted 25 different tv series offered via the Shaw Go YTV app.

Again, the app was very easy to navigate, also with a pictorial format that did not require reading in most cases.  Just as there was with the Shaw Go Treehouse app, there was a tutorial at the beginning that showed how to work the app (if in doubt).
The Shaw Go YTV and Go Treehouse Apps Offer an Easy Tutorial
If you are a parent who wishes to control your child's content, the Shaw Go YTV app offers a Parental Control area.  It's password protected, and allows you to choose content that is appropriate for your child.
Shaw Go YTV Features a Parental Control Panel
After having parent tested (and kid tested!) the Shaw Go Treehouse and Shaw Go YTV apps, I can state that it's a great free service that Shaw is currently offering to YTV and Treehouse subscribers.  As a parent, I'm always delighted when a free tool is offered that will make my life easier, or bring joy to my kids.

Shaw has noted that they will be adding more episodes to their current library, which I fully support.  As of press times, the Shaw Go Treehouse and YTV apps feature on average 2 to 5 episodes of each tv series, and I think that by offering more episodes, the Shaw Go service will become like a mini (free) Netflix.
FREE Shaw Go YTV & Shaw Go Treehouse TV Apps*!
*for existing Shaw YTV and Treehouse subscribers
Follow Shaw Communications on Social Media:
Shaw on Facebook
Shaw on Twitter
Shaw Website

Free Shaw Apps:
Free Shaw Go YTV App
Free Shaw Go Treehouse App
* both apps require Shaw YTV and Treehouse subscriptions to login

Are you a currently Shaw subscriber with YTV and Treehouse channels?  Have you registered yet for the free Shaw Go YTV and/or free Shaw Go Treehouse apps?  Non-Shaw customers, what is your impression of the free Shaw Go YTV and Shaw Go Treehouse apps?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters Now on Bluray/DVD & CONTEST! (~OVER!~)

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters Now on Blu-ray/DVD!
Do you have tweens or teens who are interested in action and adventure movies--or fans of the Harry Potter movie series?  Then Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters from 20th Century Fox is sure to entertain your crew this Christmas!  It's the sequel to the 2010 Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.  Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is now on blu-ray and DVD in stores everywhere.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters Movie Synopsis:
Teenager Percy Jackson is the son of the Greek god Poseidon, who is about to embark on an epic, cross-country adventure!  United with his demigod friends, they journey into the treacherous Sea of Monsters, where they will battle terrifying creatures, an army of zombies, and a dark, evil force. With time working against him, Percy must find and bring home the fabled Golden Fleece, which has the power to save his world!  Oh, I forgot to mention that the Golden Fleece is located in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle!

To find out what happens next, join Percy Jackson on a magical, mythical adventure in this heroic, action-packed thrill ride!

Some of its elements from Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, including the flying taxi, remind me of magical scenes in Harry Potter--and I believe that Harry Potter fans will enjoy it very much.  The best viewing ages for the movie would be ages 7 (with parental guidance) to 14-years old.  My older kids enjoyed the movie very much and would recommend it to other tweens or early teens.

(VIDEO) Have a peek at the Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters movie click, below!  


WINNER: Heidi C.

WIN Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters on bluray from!  Contest open to Canada & the USA, and ends on Monday January 27th, 2013.

How to Enter:
Leave a COMMENT below stating your favourite mythological or made up creature (ie: mermaid, cyclops, minotaur, etc) OR how would you do good if you had secret powers.  Then, use the entry from below to enter.  GOOD LUCK!

We always read your comments, and so do our sponsors.  Comments also allow us to give you the benefit of the doubt if you entry has been completed incorrectly.

Friday, December 20, 2013

NEW Julius Jr. Episodes Every Sunday on Nick Jr! Check out Sheree's Recipes!

NEW Julius Jr. Episodes Every Sunday at 11am EST!
Do you have a Julius Jr. fan in your household?  Watch NEW episodes of Julius Junior every Sunday at 11am EST--only on Nick Jr!  You can also rewatch past episodes on Julius Jr on!  As mentioned previously on the SnyMed blog, I'm a Saban Brand-Bassador!  In honour of my role with Saban, the kids and I did some fun Julius Jr activities over the past few days!

A Special Julius Jr. Kit for the Kids!
This package of Julius Jr. aprons, puzzles, stickers, stamps, tattoos and magnets arrived from our friends Saban Brands!  First, the kids wanted to decorate their own Julius Jr. aprons with fabric markers!
Colouring Julius Jr. Aprons!
All 5 of my kids, from the youngest to the oldest personalized their Julius Jr. apron with their favourite colours.  Take a look at the final creations!

The Kids' Julius Jr. Apron Creations!
My littlest guy wanted to colour a Julius Jr. puzzle next, and I think he did a great job!  He really coloured his little heart out, and I helped a little too!
Colouring & Assembling a Julius Jr. Puzzle!
Lastly, my son wanted to have fun with his new Julius Jr. stamp and inkpad.  Needless to say, he was there for an hour stamping out Julius's face again and again.  Simple pleasures!
Having Fun With a Julius Jr. Stamp Set
Check out the three recipes below, inspired by dishes from Sheree, one of Julius Jr.'s best friends!  They are very tasty, and fairly easy to make!  

Have you watched the Julius Jr. episode "Fruitronic 3000"?  Try this scrumptious recipe for fresh Winter Fruit Salad!
Fresh Winter Fruit Salad Recipe!
Click HERE to supersize & print!
Here is also a great Spaghetti Pizza recipe, below, from the Julius Jr. episode called "Dez the Dragon"!  You're kids will enjoy making and eating this one!
Spaghetti Pizza Recipe!
Click HERE to supersize & print!
Last by not least, here's a Banana Sammies recipe inspired by Sheree's banana treats in the "Banana-licious" episode of Julius Jr.!  Your little monkey will love these!
Banana Sammie Recipe!
Click HERE to supersize & print!
For fun, here's some great Julius Jr. winter and Happy Holidays colouring pages!  Just click the links below to supersize and print out copies for the kids to enjoy this winter break! 

Happy Holidays Julius Jr. Coloring Page!
Click HERE to supersize & print!
Fun in the Snow Julius Jr. Coloring Page!
Click HERE to supersize & print!

Sheree Cupcakes Julius Jr. Coloring Page!
Click HERE to supersize & print!
Do you have a child in your household who enjoys watching Julius Jr?  What is your child's or grandchild's favourite animal?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Danny Phantom: The Complete Series on DVD Jan 28 & CONTEST! (~OVER~)

Danny Phantom: The Complete Series Comes to DVD Jan 28!
How did an average teen become part-ghost, and all-ghost hunter?  Danny Fenton gained the extraordinary ability to turn himself into a superhero with ghost-like abilities, when his DNA mutated while inside of a "Ghost Zone" portal that his parents built.  Danny must learn to control his new powers with the help of his best friends Tucker and Sam, while at the same tracking down and defeating ghastly ghouls!  Oh, and did I mention that Danny has to keep his identity secret?

Danny Phantom is a comical series that has adult humour interlaced into the show that parents can also enjoy.  If you are a parent who watches with your kids (or has to sit near the television set while the kids are watching), you'll enjoy these comedic nods that will give you a smile. 

Danny Phantom Is Part Ghost, Part Ghost Hunter!
Danny Phantom: The Complete Series comes to DVD on January 28th, 2014!  The DVD contains all 3 animated seasons of Danny Phantom, which encompasses 10 DVDs, 53 original episodes, and 1170 minutes (19 hours and 30 minutes) of the hit Nickelodeon series!


WINNER: Anthony B

WIN Danny Phantom: The Complete Series on DVD from!  Contest open to Canada and the USA, and ends Tuesday January 28th, 2014.

How to Enter:
Leave a COMMENT below stating if you've ever seen any of the Danny Phantom episodes OR say what you'd do if you had ghost-like powers.  Then, leave the entry form below, to enter the contest.  GOOD LUCK!

We always read your comments and so do our sponsors, thank you!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Littlest Pet Shop: Lights, Camera, Fashion! Movie Now on DVD & CONTEST! (~OVER)

Littlest Pet Shop: Lights, Camera, Fashion! Is Now on DVD!
A few years ago my daughter got caught up in the Littlest Pet Shop toy craze.  Little girls were collecting them and trading them at school, to the point that they were banned in the classroom.  Every time that my husband and I went to the store, my daughter wanted us to promise that we'd bring home a new Littlest Pet Shop animal home.  Well, her tactic must have worked, as years later her collection is close to 100 Little Pet Shop characters strong!

Littlest Pet Shop animals are cute, colourful, fashionable, and adorable--with giant eyes.  Well, if that wasn't enough to endear little girls everywhere to Littlest Pet Shop characters, the Littlest Pet Shop cartoon series goes one better and gives the LPS creatures cute voices, big personalities, and funny antics!  Needless to say, my daughter has seen most, if not all of the episodes from the LPS animated television series!

Littlest Pet Shop: Lights, Camera, Fashion! DVD Synopsis:
Blythe is a little girl who loves fashion, her friends--but possesses the ability to talk to animals! Join Blythe and her very best friends: Zoe the spaniel, Pepper the skunk, Sunil the mongoose, Russell the hedgehog, Penny the panda, Vinnie the gecko and Minka the monkey for fashion-filled fun in Littlest Pet Shop:  LightsCameraFashion!

The DVD includes 5 great Littlest Pet Shop episodes, and also comes with a collectible My Little Pet Shop toy, Zoe the spaniel--and a LPS trading card!  This makes a great Christmas gift for that little girl on your shopping list who loves animals, pink, purple, and all things cute and tiny!


WINNER: Kristin A.

WIN Littlest Pet Shop: Lights, Camera, Fashion! movie on DVD from (movie comes packaged with collectible Zoe toy, shown above)!  Contest open to both Canada & the USA, and ends on Wednesday January 22nd, 2014.

How to Enter:
Leave a COMMENT below stating who you would like to WIN this DVD for, OR what animal you think is the very cutest.  Then use the entry form below to enter the contest.  GOOD LUCK!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Despicable Me 2 Is Now on Blu-ray & DVD - Right on Time for Christmas!

Despicable Me Is Now on Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack!
In July, I wrote this review of Despicable Me 2: Despicable Me 2 a Riot for Kids...and Their Parents!  My kids had seen Despicable Me 2 in theatres and had really loved it, as did my husband and I.  It was beautifully animated, entertaining, and hysterical.  I highly recommend this title if you're looking for a great kid's, or family film!  It's the sequel to 2010's Despicable Me, (which is also a wonderful family movie).

Despicable Me 2 is now available to purchase on blu-ray/DVD combo pack, from Universal Studios Home Entertainment!  Buy it in stores everywhere, and put it under the tree this year for Christmas!
One of the Many Funny Moments in Despicable Me 2
Despicable Me 2 revisits Gru (Steve Carell) who has retired from villainhood to pursue a respectable career  in jam preserving.  He lives happily with his three adopted daughters Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), Agnes (Elsie Fisher) and his little yellow Minion creatures, until Anti-Villain League agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) tasers him (with a lipstick container!) and abducts him.  Gru then is taken to meet Lucy's boss Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan), who recruits him to crack the identity of a mastermind villain--who has a serum that changes animals and humans alike into purple monsters.  

Can Gru find the bad guy before his yellow Minions are turned vicious and evil?  Can he also open his heart to love, and find a wife for himself and mother to his girls?  You will have to watch Despicable Me 2 on blu-ray or DVD to find the answer to these, and other questions!  

(VIDEO) Check out the trailer for the Despicable Me 2 blu-ray/DVD combo pack, below!  It includes the Despicable Me 2 movie, as well as 3 NEW Despicable Me 2 Mini Movies!  

Did you see Despicable Me 2 while it was playing in theatres?  Does this look like a film that you'd gift for Christmas, or add to your own movie library?  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Finding a Stroller & Carseat for Your Little Bundle with Evenflo & CONTEST! (~OVER~)

Our First Child In His Stroller/Carseat Travel System
Four months before our first child was born, I remember puzzling over all the stroller and infant carseats on the market--and feeling confused.  Which one was better?  Would it be preferable to purchase a travel system (stroller and carseat package combined), or purchase the stroller and carseat independent of each other?  Which one would be the safest for our new baby?  What features would I need in both?  Was the most expense stroller and carseat on the market also the best one?

Unfortunately, I did not have anyone to recommend a stroller to me at the time, as all my friends were either childless, or had had their children many years earlier.  So, I sat down one day at my local mall--and ate a chocolate icecream cone--and watched which strollers other mothers were pushing.  I noticed that many of the moms were pushing travel systems, in which the carseat was attached to the stroller.  To me, this looked cumbersome and I wondered why a mom wouldn't just put an infant directly into the stroller?   

So, after I finished my icecream cone I walk over to Wal-Mart and decided to browse through their selection of strollers, carseats and travel systems.  To be honest, I felt overwhelmed and confused--there were just so many of them!  I wished that one of them had a sign that said: "Buy me!  I'm the best value and I'll keep your infant safe!"  Unfortunately for me, there was no such sign, and I tried my pregnant best to compare each and every one.

When I finally concluded that purchasing a travel system was a better value, I focused my search on the stroller and carseats sold as teams.  I ended up selecting a gender-neutral one in light green which featured pictures of Pooh bear and friends on its fabric (shown in my photos, above).  I had no prior experience with the manufacturer of the travel system, but decided it must be okay, as I had seen some mothers in the mall pushing the same brand.

That pooh bear stroller was used for about 14 months until my second child was born, and I then had to upgrade to a double stroller.  The stroller and carseat worked well enough for me, but I wish that I had had a little more information before purchasing it.  Below are my own insights when purchasing a travel system, stroller, or infant carseat.

Points To Consider When Purchasing a Travel System, Stroller or Infant Carseat!
  1. Compatible - If purchasing stroller and carseats separately, do ensure that the stroller and infant carseat carrier are compatible.  Yes, you heard me right: many infant carseats carriers will not snap into the stroller of a different manufacturer.  So do your research before purchasing!
  2. Canopy - Make sure you purchase a stroller and infant carseat carrier that each has a generous canopy.  If you do not, you will always have the sun, rain and wind on your infant. 
  3. Adult Height - If you are short or tall, test out the stroller in the store to see if it works for you.  You will need a stroller with height-adjustable bars to prevent discomfort and grief.  If your husband is tall and will be pushing the baby, have him test it out too and you will prevent him for having a very sore back.
  4. Accessories - Check out the infant carseat or stroller to see if the brand offers any accessories.  A rain cover and foot muff for the winter are great accessories to have, and fit better if you purchase the one manufactured by the same brand
  5. Infant Headroll - If your infant carseat does not come with a removable headroll, I highly recommend the purchase of a compatible one for your newborn.  Keep in mind that up until 3-months old, an infant cannot hold it's head up.  In a carseat, this translates into no neck support for the baby without one.
  6. Carseat Base - If you have the chance, purchase an infant carseat carrier that comes with a base.  If you do not buy the base, you will regret it and waste a crazy amount of time fiddling with the car seatbelt.  Purchase an extra carseat base for each and every car that your infant will be riding in--including grandma's--and install it properly in each.
  7. Baby's Weight/Height - My biggest regret when purchasing my very first infant carseat carrier, was purchasing one that only went up to 22 lbs and 29".  It's so convenient to be able to lift a sleeping infant out of the car while they are still inside the carseat.  If you have a tall or heavy baby, he or she could be 22 lbs or 29" at only 9-months old and will grow out of the infant carseat carrier quickly.  My recommedation is to read the product specifications and purchase an infant carseat carrier that goes up to the heaviest baby weight and tallest height that you can find.   
  8. Rear/Forward-Facing Carseat Combos - After my son outgrew his infant carseat carrier, I moved him directly into a rear-facing carseat, that converted into a forward-facing carseat.  I so regretted that I didn't have an infant carseat carrier that supported his height and weight.  As a result, I had to fuss with a 9-month old and put him in/take him out of the rear-facing carseat.  Not only was it quite the manoeuvre, I was always waking him.  Although a rear-facing carseat is a great investment--as it can take your baby from infant to toddler to child--save your sanity, and use an infant carseat carrier for as long as your baby will properly fit in!

Evenflo JourneyLite Select Travel System
Say hello to the Evenflo JourneyLite Select Travel System, in "Rings Classic Green" pattern, an absolutely neutral pattern for baby boys or girls!  The set comes with a JourneyLite Stroller in "Rings Classic Green" pattern, an Embrace Infant Car Seat carrier in "Rings Classic Green" pattern, and coordinating Embrace infant carseat carrier base.

If you are a first-time parent, let me explain that the Evenflo Embrace Infant Car Seat carrier quickly and easily snaps into the Evenflo JourneyLite Select Stroller!  I highly recommend this feature, as you can take baby out of the stroller (still securely strapped into the carseat), and snap baby into the carseat base without waking him or her at all.  The same is true in reverse.

Evenflo JourneyLite Stroller Features
Evenflo JourneyLite Select Stroller features:
  • one-hand fold
  • lightweight and durable
  • great storage space (trust me, this is important when you need to store your purse, winter jacket and baby's gear)
  • full parent console with coverage storage and integrated headphone cord access
  • deep child's tray with 2 cup holders, which pivots for easy in and out
  • canopy with peek-a-boo window
  • cushioned, multi-position reclining stroller seat offers a comfortable fit for children
  • lockable front swivel wheels for great maneuverability
  • stroller self-stands when folded - no bending necessary (great if you've had a c-section)
  • compact fold for ease of storage or transport
  • 3-point harness
  • holds a child up to 40 lbs
A Look at the Evenflo JourneyLite Select Stroller
  • holds infants 4-35 lbs (this is great if you had a preemie or you have a heavy baby)
  • 25% lighter than similar infant carseats (light weight for mom and dad; same protection for baby)
  • up-front harness adjustment for easy access
  • 3 shoulder harness positions for better fit and longer use
  • infant carseat canopy shields baby from the elements
  • auto belt guides for use without a base
  • adjustable auto base includes central pendulum level indicator to ensure a proper recline
  • separate stay-in-car base allows for easy transfer of baby from home to car
  • parent-friendly ergonomic, easy-to-carry handle
  • easy-off, machine-washable car seat pad (trust me, you'll be glad you have this!)
  • energy-absorbing foam liner provides added safety and comfort
Evenflo Embrace Infant Car Seat Carrier
Visit Evenflo website for more Evenflo JourneyLite Select Travel System product information.  (Model # 47411419C!)


WINNER: To be announced shortly...

WIN an Evenflo JourneyLite Travel Select System from!  Includes the Evenflo JourneyLite Select Stroller, Evenflo Embrace Infant Car Seat AND Evenflo Embrace Infant Car Seat base.  NOTE: travel system pattern and model subject to availability, and prize sponsor reserves the right to substitute prize with a similar travel system if inventory merits.  Contest open to CANADA only, and ends on Friday February 14th, 2013 (Valentine's Day)!

How to Enter:
Leave a COMMENT below stating who you'd like to WIN the Evenflo JourneyLite Travel Select System for OR what do you love the best about babies.  Then, use the entry form below to enter.  GOOD LUCK future mommies, daddies, grandmas, and grandpas!

Friday, December 13, 2013

CST Makes Saving For Your Child's Future Affordable & CONTEST & TWITTER PARTY!

The Boys After Swimming Lessons

Before our first child was born, my husband and I had a heart-to-heart conversation about what future lifestyle we wanted for our family.  By "lifestyle", I mean what non-materialistic things were important to our family life.  My husband stated that he didn't want to spread himself too thin, and wished to be able to provide one-on-one attention for our children.  It was so important for him, for example, to be able to help all the kids with homework, read to them, play board games together, and teach each and every one to ride a 2-wheel bicycle.

Another very important and forward-thinking thing that my husband wanted to do too, was to be able to put away for our childrens' educations.  In fact, as soon as my first child was born and we got him a social insurance number, we started putting away monthly for his RESP.  My husband told me that if we had other children one day, he would also do the same for each and every child.  Yes, it involved a monthly committment of funds, but it has been well worth it.
My Husband Assisting My Son With Homework
For our first child, my husband researched carefully and presented the option to me of C.S.T Consultants for our son's RESP.  He felt that they had been around for a long time, were stable and had competitive fees.  I trusted my husband's research and agreed to go forward with C.S.T.  8-and-half years later, we are still saving monthly for our son's future education with C.S.T.!  He wants to be a scientist when he's older--even has a microscope and is thrilled by bacteria--and my husband and I want to help him realize his dream.  Just as my husband's earlier plan, we have RESPs for our other four children too.                

As parents of 5 young children, my husband and I cover expenses in quintuplicate: food, clothing (for four Canadian seasons), books, toys, and extracurricular activities.  We enroll all 5 of our kids in weekly swimming lessons all year round, and I can attest that even this one cost can really add up.  

However, with some planning, we do both: the extracurricular activities and the monthly RESP contribution for all kids.  We want to ensure that if our kids wish to get a college or university education, or wish to learn a trade of any kind, that they will have the funds to be able to do it.  Paying for the kids' education month-by-month over a 17-year period makes the kids' education affordable.
My Son Examining a "Specimen" In His Microscope
He Wants to Be a Scientist One Day
Reading from the C.S.T website, you can pay even as little as $9.50 per month toward an RESP, which is less than the cost of a few cups of coffee!  In 17 years you will have saved a base of $1938 + interest (ie. conservatively 5% per year) = $2034.90.  Add the 20% that the government contributes to this amount via the Canadian Education Savings Grant (CESG), (before interest $387.60), and you come up with $2422.50 for your child's post-secondary education, on an initial investment of just $9.50 per month!  Canada Learning Bond (CLB) also provides an additional grant of up to $2,000 per child to help families with a modest income.  

Did you know the basic Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG) will top up your annual contribution by 20%, up to a maximum of $500 each year for each beneficiary. The lifetime limit for the grant is generally $7,200. Additional CESG grants may be available, depending on your income.

Sometimes funds are tight, but it's necessary to plan for our childrens' futures now.  As a woman who put herself through University and earned her degree, I can attest that it was very expensive prospect from my late teens to mid-twenties.  Can you afford $9.50 per month to put aside for your child's education?  It will be dollars well spent!
C.S.T. Consultants Inc. understand the benefits of extracurricular activities, but don’t feel they should come at the price of investing in your child’s education.  As parents, we all dream to see our children do well in life.

Take a look at these statistics provided by CST:
  • 89% (of parents, as surveyed by CST) believe it's important for parents in Canada to help their child pay for their post-secondary education
  • 3 out of 5 Canadian parents (61%t) say they, or someone they know, have borrowed money or used their retirement savings to put a child through hockey or other extracurricular activities.
  • 36% believe paying for extracurricular activities like hockey is more important before saving for post-secondary education


C.S.T. Consultants is running the "Beyond the Blue Line" contest!  WIN $10,000 to help make hockey less-expensive for your hockey team or organization .  Entries must be received by December 31st, 2013.  Enter the Beyond the Blue Line Contest HERE!  GOOD LUCK!

Join Canadian Scholarship Trust plan during a Twitter Chat on Tuesday December 17th, 2013 at 9:00pm EST!  They'll be discussing the cost of hockey vs. education and RESPs.  5 x $50 VISA gift cards are being given away.

Follow: @CSTConsultants, @beyondtheblueline, @THNKenCampbell
Use hashtag: #hockeyvseducation in all your tweets.

What does your child or grandchild want to be when he or she grows up?  Do you put aside for your child's or grandchild's education through a monthly RESP contribution?

Disclosure: I am part of the C.S.T. Consultants Inc. – Beyond the blue line blogger program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.
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