Wednesday, January 30, 2013

SnyMed Blog TWITTER PARTY! You're Invited! (CAN/USA)

The SnyMed blog just turned 1!  To celebrate all the awesome people people I have met this year, and the prospect of new friends, the SnyMed blog is having a #SnyMed Twitter Party!  It will be Thursday February 7th, 2013 from 8:00pm - 9:00pm (hashtag #SnyMed)!  Thanks to our good friends CheeCha Puffs, there will be 104 PRIZES offered at the party!  WOO-HOO!  Anyone can participate, but 4 grand prizes are open to CANADA/USA, but the other 100 prizes are open to CANADA.  You must RSVP by the close of the Twitter party on February 7th, 2013 by 9:00pm EST, in order to win a prize, RSVP form below!

To learn how to participate, read my article about How to Attend a Twitter Party in 10 Easy Steps!

JOIN the SnyMed Blog Twitter Party!
1.RSVP with your Twitter @ name in order to be eligible to win prizes (form below).
2.On Thurs Feb 7th, 2013 from 8:00-9:00pm Eastern Standard time, join the party on Twitter.
3.Use hashtag #SnyMed with each & every party tweet, to be eligible for prizes.
4.Follow @SnyMed @SnyMed2 @CheeChaPuff @tjeanneC to receive party tweets & to be eligible to win prizes.
5.COMMENT (Optional) - Please leave a comment below, in honour of SnyMed's 1-year blogiversary!
6.Optional - Hey, it's my blog, so I'd love for you to follow my blog by e-mail (see right panel), like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, follow me on Pinterest, follow me on Instagram, follow me on Vine via SnyMed, follow me on Google + or Google Friend Connect, subscribe to my blog feed, etc.   

2 x CASES of CheeCha Puffs Snacks, 32 single serve bags (CAN/USA)
2 x CASES of CheeCha Puffs Snacks, 12 large bags (CAN/USA)
100 Product Coupons: 50 x FREE Product Coupons/FPCs & 50 x Buy 1 Get 1 FREE/B0G0 for CheeCha Puffs (CANADA only)

Click to read my review of CheeCha Puffs snacks!

RSVP Below by clicking blue oval "add your link button!  Be sure to add your @name in "name" field!  In url field, please put your twitter url or blog, ie:

Good Luck!  Open to both CAN/US, but only grand prizes open to US.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

SnyMed 1 Year Blogiversary!

Woo-hoo!  Sunday January 27th, 2013 was my 1 year blogiversary!  I can't believe all the friends I've met, all the brands I've worked with, or how quickly my family has grown in this 12-month timeframe!  This year truly has been a blast, with lots of personal and professional growth!

In celebration of the SnyMed Living High on the Hog, Without Paying Through the nose 1 year blogiversary, stay tuned for either a Twitter party or a Facebook party with prizes (date will be announced on the blog).

Thank you to my readers for joining me on this wild adventure!

Cake image source: imagechef dot com.

Monday, January 28, 2013

My Review of the Vine App!

Since I posted this blog article, Vine has been acquired by Twitter and has posted a fix for some of their bugs. Not all have been corrected.

I recently heard how the new Vine app was taking the Social Media world by storm.  It’s an iPhone app that allows you to shoot a 6 second looping video and upload it to Twitter, Facebook and the Vine network. (Facebook has blocked the app, I’ve heard, but Vine did upload to my timeline.)  At first the idea of making a mini movie didn’t sound novel, but I still knew that I wanted to check it out!

It took me several attempts to download the free Vine app via the Apple App Store, but finally there was the emerald green icon with the white cursive “V” on my iPhone desktop.  I registered a Vine account using my Twitter profile (you can also register using e-mail), and I was ready to go!  (The app also works on iPad.)
The first thing I did after registering an account with Vine, was learn how to use it!  To use the video app, you touch anywhere on the screen and it records.  Remove your finger, the recording stops.  This allows the user to film multiple “scenes” with Vine, or opt for one seamless video (if you don’t remove your finger from the screen).  There are no zoom in or zoom out functions with “pinches”, like the typical iPhone app.   

Next, I checked out what other users had created in 6 seconds using Vine.  There was a lot of stop motion videos (teddy bears moving across a bed); hand-drawn animation video shorts, including “flip-book” type animations; time-lapse videos (a rose growing); how to videos (how to bake brownies, a soufflĂ©, etc); before and after videos (showing the before and after of clearing snow off of a car), and videos that showed a sequence of events (dog sees ball, ball chases ball, dog brings back ball).

Ever the app junky, I set out to try Vine.  My first movie was very simple, comprised of only 2 scenes of my computer screen—and me narrating in the background.  With enthusiasm I completed my video, only to find that the app froze and would not progress to the next step of uploading it.  Sadly enough, if the app freezes, then the completed video is lost.  This happened several times, but I persevered and refilmed my Vine video

Finally, my video uploaded and I was given the choices to share to Facebook, Twitter, Vine or all—and put a brief message to accompany my clip.  I was surprised by how quickly the video loaded to all 3 networks, as I had heard that it had been taking 30 minutes to upload to Twitter.  My video appeared immediately on all fronts. 

Pleased to have my first movie on the Vine, I embarked on my second video clip.  I encountered the same issues as previously mentioned: my movie would not upload and I had to refilm it about 6 times.  Finally my video uploaded—it was a simple video of me flipping through kids’ book titles—and the app would not allow me to add any text or tags to the clip.  So I sent out the video through the Vine, an unlabelled, unsearchable video clip in a huge “Vineyard”.

Despite some of the technical difficulties I’ve mentioned with Vine, (and the recent issue with porn appearing on Vine’s home page as an “Editor’s Choice), I found the app addictive and offering more potential than it may seem at first.  Yes, some may argue that Vine is a dumbed down version of video as we’ve know it for eons, but I view Vine as a kind of game.  The rules to Vine are to complete a video in 6 seconds exactly, but to create a storyline that is persuasive enough to get others to respond to it via Social Media.  Whether that response be a comment, a “happy face” (akin to a Facebook like), a “follow” to the user account, or a share via Facebook--or retweet on Twitter--that is the kind of response I am talking about.

This is where all the advertising social media types will get excited and put their brands up on the Vine!  After all, a 6-second clip for Coca Cola showing someone thirsty, and then refreshed with a Coke, is very impactual, and a perfect candidate for this media.  Same if McDonald’s were to put up a video at lunchtime, showing a hungry dude knocking back a Big Mac burger.  Hey, give me the advertising dollars and I’ll even make your brand a 6-second Vine video!  

All joking aside, this kind of creative challenge with a 6-second canvas isn’t easy, and it’s definitely not an app for the uninspired.  To create a persuasive storyline in such a small timescale requires thought and planning.  If you’re skilled, you can tell a multi-episodic tale in those few seconds and become a mini cinematographer (by multi-episodic, I mean you can tell the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy story in 6 seconds)!   Vine is a powerful tool and a slice of life; encompassing thought, emotion and mood—when used to its full potential.
Follow Jenna Em on Vine via SnyMed!

This article was written by me, Jenna Em, and appears in the January 31st, 2013 issue of the Huffington Post.

10 Tips For Doing Walt Disney World!

Our Family Trip to Disney 2012!
I have fond memories of going to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida when I was a child.  Every year from the ages of 6- to 9-years old, my parents would take my older brother and I to Disney.  And what a trip we had, all four of us--my parents included!  We really created memories that have carried throughout our lifetime: memories of togetherness, memories of fun, and memories of Magic.  Over 30 years later, and we still talk about the great times we had at Disney in the 1980s!

Previously I wrote about planning a Disney vacation on this blog, and about how my husband and I really wanted to take our own 5 young kids to Walt Disney World.  Although we had wanted to wait until our youngest was about 3-years old for the trip, we decided to go early when our youngest was 2.5-years old.  My husband really got the itch to go, and who was I to say no?  It turned out that all 5 of our kids were a great age to visit Disney: from ages 2.5- to 7-years old!

We planned our trip for early December 2012, right before the rush of Christmas break.  This turned out to be a good strategy, as the Disney parks were lively, but lineups for rides were reasonable!  As we were travelling as a large group of 8 family members (including my mom), we opted to rent a house about 10 minutes away from Disney.  Of course, with lodging outside of Disney, we had to rent a van, which was an additional expense.  But we did like the freedom that our vehicle afforded on non-Disney days.

Although we were staying in Orlando for one week, we decided to visit Disney for only 4 of these days.  Travelling with 5 little kids, we thought that we should set aside a few days to rest, or anticipate that one of those days someone might get sick.  Although none of the kids ever got sick, planning days to rest was a good strategy.  And this was essential for my mom, who on a fluke fell and hurt her knee.  (She attended only 3 out of 4 Disney days, as a result.  She's okay now!)

Once we were at Disney, we decided that we would do Disney in this order: Day 1 - Magic Kingdom, Day 2 - Animal Kingdom, Day 3 - Hollywood Studios, and Day 4 - Magic Kingdom again.  Looking back, I was pleased how this schedule worked out.  The Magic Kingdom was completely targeted toward my kids' age group, and there was enough to see on 2 separate days.  In fact, I think there was only one ride that we ended up repeating, due to personal fondness (the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride)!

My family had such a great time at Disney, that my kids are still talking about it almost 2 months later!  I was surprised by how many "adult" rides the kids could go on.  In the Magic Kingdom, my 2.5-year old was permitted on the Barnstormer roller coaster, and my 4-year old went on the Space Mountain roller coaster.  In Hollywood Studios, my 4-year old went on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror drop elevator ride & the Dinosaur wild time rover ride!  My 7-year old went on his first roller coaster ever: the Aerosmith rock band upside down roller coaster that reaches 4.5g (44/m/s²)!  Disney does big fun.

There is so much to say about Disney, including the awesome rides, the exciting shows, the thrill of the parks, the parades, the fireworks, how clean the park is, and how customer service is a priority of each and every staff member at Disney.  I could say this all, but I will sum it up at this: we had originally planned to go back to Disney in 2014, but our family had such a great time, that we will likely be coming back to Disney this year in 2013!  It's that good!

10 Tips for Doing Disney! 
Here are some tips I will pass on to you, if you are planning a Disney vacation!

1.STROLLER - Bring a single stroller (or double stroller), even if your kids are too old for it.  Your kids will get hot and tired and need to rest.  The stroller also doubles as a great place to hold your water, extra clothing and souvenirs.

2.EARLY - Get to Disney early, and plan to have parked BEFORE the gates open.  The parking lots fill up quickly, and this will guarantee you a good parking spot.  If you are taking the Monorails, still arrive early, and you will have your choice of rides with NO line-ups!

3.MAP - Study the Disney map BEFORE you go to Disney, and decide which rides and shows your family cannot bear to miss.  When you are at the gate, get a paper map of Disney and bring it with you throughout your visit.

4.PLAN - Some shows and events are offered at only certain times and only on certain days, so plan your trip strategically and you can see everything.  For example, the Star Wars live show in Hollywood Studios requires that you line up at ABC Studios to secure your child a position in the show.  By 9:00am when my family went, all the spots were filled up until the 3:00pm show.  Get there early to avoid disappointment.    

5.PHOTOPASS - Get the Disney PhotoPass.  It's free and will collect all the photos together that were taken of your family at the parks in Disney.  Even if you don't end up buying any of the photos, you can create greeting cards and send them with your Disney photos.

6.CAMERA - If you opt against the Disney PhotoPass, your family can still have photos taken with the Disney characters using your own camera.  It's a great way to get a photo of the entire group, so don't forget your camera!

7.CHARACTERS - Get your photos taken with the Disney characters, easily found on the Disney map that you can find at the front gates.  Yes, there are often line ups, but your kids will be thrilled by meeting their favourite characters, and the photos make an incredible souvenir.  My husband wanted to skip the characters throughout the parks, due to the wait time, but now he is so enjoying looking back at the photos that we collected.  Such great memories!

8.BRING - Bring lots of water as you'll get thirsty, bring lightweight raincoats just in case it rains ($1-$2 at the Dollar Store), and don't forget to bring a few sun-protective hats and sunscreen for the whole family (it can get hot at Disney)!  As stated above, bring a camera of cellphone with good camera.  And of importance, bring cell phones along for your group, in case you need to communicate.  Arrange a good roaming plan with your cell phone provider before your trip to Disney.

9.STICK TOGETHER - Watch your child at Disney, as the parks get busy and a child could wander off and become lost.  If you have a toddler, keep your child buckled into a stroller between rides or shows.  Dress your child in brightly coloured clothing so they will be easy to spot in a crowd (ie: florescent yellow, green, etc).  You can dress your entire group in the same colour, so you're all easy to spot in a crowd!  Have a meet up plan in case members of your party get separated, and ensure your whole group knows the plan.  Tell younger children if they go missing to find a staff member at a ride, restaurant, boutique, etc.  Keep a paper photograph of your child in your wallet, in case they get lost.  

10.MY BEST TIP - FAST PASS! You can skip the line ups without paying for it!  Simply insert your Disney pass into the Fast Pass kiosk, and it will spit out a ticket telling you to return at a later time.  During this time, you can eat lunch, see another show, or even go on a completely different ride!  This is a little known fact, but when you return at the designated Fast Pass time, you completely skip the line and go straight on the ride.  BONUS - Sometimes when you go to the Fast Pass kiosk, it will spit out a second Fast Pass ticket as a bonus!  So, when my family went to get a Fast Pass for The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh ride, we got a second Fast Pass for the Dumbo ride!  There was next to NO waiting involved!  I believe you can only request Fast Pass for one ride at a time.  Once your Fast Pass expires, you can request a new Fast Pass again.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

My Grandma's Green Bean Recipe!

Green Beans with Lemon & Slivered Almonds
My family is getting healthy in 2013, as one of our resolutions!  To realize this goal, we are increasing our servings of veggies and fruits.  One such side dish that I recently served was green beans with lemon and slivered almonds!  This dish is very low in calories, but packed with vitamins and minerals!

This dish is inexpensive and quick and easy to make!  More importantly, it provides a huge amount of nutrition in just a small serving.  Green beans on their own provide a good source of vitamins K, vitamin C, manganese, vitamin A and dietary fibre.  Lemons are a good source of folate, potassium, and vitamin C (you get a double dose of vitamin C here, as the green beans also rich in this vitamin)!  Almonds are a good source of riboflavin, magnesium, manganese (you get a second dose of manganese, as the green beans also have this mineral), and vitamin E!       

My Grandma's Green Bean Recipe
4 cups green beans
1 lemon (1/2 lemon can be used for less zing)
1/3rd cup on slivered almonds

1.Cut off the head & tail of the green beans & then rinse all.
2.Drop green beans into a large pot of boiling water, reduce heat to a simmer.
3.Cook green beans for 10-15 minutes, until they are tender, but not soft.  Drain & set aside on a serving plate.
4.Optional - toast slivered almonds on a cookie sheet for about 5 minutes, or until brown.  Set aside.
5.Squeeze the lemon on top of the green beans.
6.Sprinkle the handful of slivered (toasted) almonds to the green beans as a topping.  If you did not toast the almonds, you will be adding them plain.

What do you think of my Grandma's Recipe?  Would you try it?

Monday, January 21, 2013

How to Knit a Hat Scarf (Hat with Attached Scarf)!

On cold winter days, I try to keep the kids warm by dressing them in both a hat and a scarf.  However, I noticed that scarves have a way of untying when the kids get active with winter activities like sledding, snow angels, and snowman building.  The result is a cold kid with a wet scarf on the ground.

So I was in awe when one of our children was gifted a beautiful handknit winter hat with an attached scarf.  What a simple, but brilliant idea!  I liked that if the scarf becomes untied, it does not fall to the snowy ground and get wet.  You simple retie the dry scarf.

Of course, you can take and existing hat, cut the scarf in half, and then sew it on either side of the hat.  However, I found knitting instructions for the hat scarf, here.  If you can knit a hat, then you can definitely knit a hat scarf, er, scart, harf, scat, uh...not sure what to call it!

What do you think of the "hat scarf"?  Would you put one on your child, or does a separate hat and scarf serve you better?  

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Maple Leaf Monster Jam Monster Truck REVIEW!

Wrecking Crew Catching Some Serious Air!
To say that we had a good time at Maple Leaf Monster Jam in Toronto last night would be an understatement: we had a GREAT time!  And when I say GREAT time, this included our 5 young kids (2- to 7-years old), my husband and I!  I wrote about Maple Leaf Monster Jam earlier in this blog post.  

The first thing that I noticed about the show was that it was deafeningly loud, so bring earplugs for your entire family!  When I say loud, I mean louder than rock concert loud, 110-140 decibels!  (A jet engine is 140 decibels.)  Next, I noticed that there was not a bad seat in the house at the Roger's Centre.  The arena was brightly lit and each and every seat had a great view!

So why did we love the show so much?  It was just spectacular to behold: sheer testosterone mixed with adrenaline, and lots of cool Monster Truck moves!  Hearing the exhaust pipes rev up was very exciting, regardless of the noise, and it was a thrill each and every time a Monster Truck went soaring through the air after launching off a mound of dirt!  Watching cars get crushed like toys, was also pretty exciting!  And the smell of octane in the stadium made the whole experience real, and reminded us it was a real show--so much better seeing it on tv!      

The drivers at Monster Jam were very skilled and entertaining.  We were particularly impressed by Wrecking Crew driver Steve Koehler.  He caught the most air of any truck that we saw that night, and kept thrilling us as he tricked off of the central dirt mound and the mini mounds!  He kept going until his front Monster Tires were completely misaligned and warped!  Awesome!

We were really pumped to see how the Monster Trucks would break apart next, which also fostered  a wild response from the audience!  We saw Batman leaking some fluid and completely shutting down; Avenger lost its massive rear wheel; another Monster Truck flipped over upside down and had to be righted by heavy equipment, and one flipped and landed completely on the windshield!    

It was difficult to know how many of the Monster Jam demolitions had been staged and how many were genuine, but this did not matter!  Maple Leaf Monster Jam tapped into a primal part of us that harkens back to the times of the Gladiators--and the spectators who wanted to see strength mixed with sheer pandemonium, destruction and theatrics.

We were so sorry to have had to leave the event early, as our kids are too young for a late night out (was scheduled to run from 7-9:30/10pm), but my family would go back in a heartbeat!

If you haven't seen the show yet, buy your Monster Jam tickets for Canada & the US!  Great show!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

10 Simple Strategies to Get Your Family Healthy & Active!

Out & Active!

This year I resolved to get my family more healthy and active, by employing 10 simply strategies.  I had taken inventory of my family’s daily nutrition, and realized that there was room for improvement in both the quality and quantity of food that my family consumed.  And assessing my family’s fitness level, it was clear that we could all do better in terms of increasing our daily physical activity.  So here are the 10 simple strategies that I implemented this year, to get my family healthy and active!

1. Add a Veggie, Add a Fruit! – This is such a simple step, but has been important in building my family’s nutrition level.  What this strategy entails, is adding at least one veggie and one fruit to every meal that my family consumes.  It goes something like this: boneless skinless chicken breast, with a side of green beans, and cantaloupe for dessert.  Just by adding this strategy to each family meal, it ensures that my family gets at least 6 servings of veggies and fruit per day.

2. There’s No Place Like Home! – Any way you slice it, homemade food is healthier.  Whether it’s a homemade soup, stew, roast or simple sandwich.  By making meals at home instead of purchasing  heavily processed or take-out food, I control the salt, sugar, fat and preservatives going into the family meal!  This strategy has allowed my husband and I plan out the nutrition of each family meal, and make it from scratch most days.
Trike in the Snow
3. Foods that Pack a Punch! – In my quest to make my family healthier, my strategy has been to regularly serve foods that “pack more punch” (those higher in vitamins and minerals than the average food).  Some of these widely available foods have been broccoli, carrots, blueberries, mangoes, salmon, chicken, liver, and beans, to name just a few.  I’ve had no objections from my kids, as I’ve been sure to offer a mix of their favourites!   

4. Snacking Strategically – I found that my kids would always gravitate toward sweets after supper time.  They were programmed to believe that if they finished their dinner and displayed good behaviour, then they’d be rewarded with a treat.  So I’ve changed that mindset by implementing dessert 1 – 2 times weekly, and not necessarily offering it after dinner time.  If the kids are still snackish in the evening, my husband and I break out healthier choices like a sliced apple or pear. 

5. Portion control – Serving large portions is not just bad for the body due to the excess, but it’s also more costly, and can create food waste when the portion is too big to manage (especially among kids).  So, I’ve cut down on portion size for my entire family, offering an extra serving for those who are still hungry after the meal.  This strategy has been successful in combating overeating in my household, and has proven that moderation is key!
Some Very Talented Soul Made This Snow Dog!
6. All For One, and One For All! – It has been wonderful that my husband and I’ve embarked on this health and wellness journey together, so our vision of a healthier family is aligned.  I’m aware that getting one’s family onboard to eat better and exercise more regularly is not always easy, but having such a support system in place really helps contribute to the success of such a strategy!

7. The Family That Plays Together, Stays Together! – The Canadian winter can be long and cold, but I strategized to get out and active with my family this year—regardless of the weather.  When we had snow, this meant tobogganing as a family; and with the milder weather we’ve taken long walks together, albeit bundled up in parkas and snowsuits!  My aim has been to get 60 minutes of family exercise every day. 

8. Housework Hijinks! – Although this may not be the most popular option, one of my strategies has been to get my family more active around the house via housework.  Don’t underestimate the power of vigorously vacuuming, hefting laundry baskets up and down the stairs, and scouring the bathtub!  For rock hard abs, get the kid’s to pick up their toys and books off the floor—standing in an upright position!  Organize them into two teams, and it becomes a game—with the added bonus of a cleaner house!

9. Mall Walking! –  I find that mall walking can be a good source of exercise for my family, especially in the colder winter months.  My strategy has been to walk the mall’s entire circuit, in order to stretch out the exercise.  Did you know that many malls open early and have a Mall Walking Programme?  It’s a great way to stay fit for free in the extreme Canadian climate.

10. A Choice to Be Active & Healthy!  – It’s a choice to be active or remain sedentary.  Let’s face it, it’s easier for the family to be sedentary in the harsh Canadian winter, and choose to hibernate until the spring.  It’s also easy to choose unhealthy comfort foods during these cold, long days, instead of nutritious food choices.  However, good health isn’t just a number on the scale; it’s an elevated mental and physical state.  And with strategies like these in place, it’s a choice you can “actively” make for your family!

This article was written by me, Jenna Em, and appears in the Friday January 18th, 2013 edition of the Huffington Post Canada.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Kellogg's Special K - Putting Resolutions into Action!

This Tasty Package Showed Up on Our Front Step!
My husband and I set out some goals for our family in 2013: one of which was eating better and staying more active.  I did not think that this goal would be hard for my children, who already like engaging in active play, and savouring all kinds of nutritious foods.  For me, this goal was not so much about the number on a scale, but about feeling more energetic and healthful everyday.          

One of the first things we did as a family, was do a very nutritious shopping!  A big focus for us was making our own foods, and not buying a lot of processed items.  Our goal was not to be perfect, but to try to do better.
We Stocked Our Fridge With Healthier Foods
Winters are tough in Canada, but I remembered the adage "The family that plays together, stays together."  So my family and I embarked on some fun winter activities together, such as sledding and taking walks on brisk days.  Not only did we get our heart rates up for a sustained period of time, but we also had a great time as a family of 7.
I love being a member of the Kellogg's network!  Right in time for our New Year's health resolutions, a massive Special K food package arrived on my family's front step!  Not only was it swagworthy, but the items in the box were perfectly aligned with my family's health goals for the year.  I had decided that for 2013, I would focus on portion control, cutting out excessive junk food, and would focus on "getting more bang for my buck" in terms of eating strategically, and getting more essential vitamins and minerals.

In terms of portion control, the Kellogg's Special K Crisps are only 100 calories per package of 2 crisps!  Knowing that each package was only 100 calories made me feel good about treating my children on occasion.  It is a very generous-sized snack, but very tasty too!  My kids loved both the chocolate and strawberry Crisps.

It is no secret that I love Kellogg's Special K Red Berries cereal!  My kids do too, and always remove the berries from the box!  But with my new 2013 vision, I scrutinized the nutrition facts label: 150 calories per 3/4 cup (with 1/2 cup of skim milk), no trans fat, excellent source of iron, vitamin D (especially when milk is added), thiamine and manganese.  Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones & teeth; thiamine processes fats into energy for immediate use, and manganese plays an important role in building good bone structure and bone metabolism.
Special K Red Berries Cereal:
High in Vitamin D, Iron, Manganese & Thiamine
I do believe that Special K products fit well with my family's healthful eating goal for 2013.  If you are also looking to eat well and get active this year, do check out My Special K plan.  There is a daily tracker to help keep track of your progress and achieve your health goals.

Are you hoping to eat better and/on become more active this year?  Please weigh in by leaving a comment below!    

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Our 2 Years in the GTA Housing Bubble!

It was November 2010 when the perfect family home presented itself to my husband and I.  It was spacious enough for our growing family of seven, in a good neighbourhood, steps to the local public school, and reasonably affordable!  And oh, the 3rd floor loft!  It would’ve been like having a playroom upstairs for our kids!  We hadn’t been house hunting, but after viewing the property, agreed that we’d put in an offer on it.  This was just before the great housing bubble in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Little did we know that the seller of our prospective property had been burnt before, and as a result would put unconventional clauses into the buyer agreement.  We came in with a fair offer very close to the seller’s asking price, and a closing date in line with those in the sell sheet (90 days).  But the seller wasn’t pleased, and asked that we close instead within 60 days—and waive the housing inspection entirely!  (The proposed house purchase price was acceptable.) 

My husband and I agreed to the 60-day closing, although we still had to ready our own house for sale, and offered a quick housing inspection within 48 hours.  The seller still wasn’t satisfied that we’d kept in the housing inspection clause, and next asked for a 30-day closing date AND an irrevocable security deposit.  (For those unfamiliar with irrevocable deposits, it means that if the deal goes sour, the buyer loses their entire deposit!)  Unwilling to take such a big financial risk, we walked away from the house heartbroken.  The house was later sold to people who’d waived the house inspection, agreed to a 30-day closing—and paid the seller less than we’d originally offered them.    

There seemed to be no justice, as after we “lost” the purchase of the family home, housing prices in the GTA began to grow at an exponential rate.  It wasn’t long before houses originally priced at $650K ballooned to $850K!  This included an identical home on the same street as the one we had bid on, which received multi-offers over the first few days, and sold for well above asking!  My husband and I were in disbelief, that simple family homes in the GTA could sell at the same prices that mansions used to!

But we didn’t give up: we kept looking through the house listings that our real estate agent e-mailed us; kept prospecting the streets in desirable neighbourhoods, and visited houses of interest with our agent.  No matter how hard we tried, we encountered three commonalities in the GTA housing market: the houses available were smallish, these same houses were priced very high, and said houses received multi-offers on the first day of listing the property.

My husband and I refused to participate in multi-offer situations, and more importantly, refused to pay an already overinflated price.  After all, we already had a great family home purchased 15 years earlier—and at a fantastic price!  It didn’t even matter that a neighbour had sold a house identical to our own for $300K more than we’d paid in the late 1990s.  The truth became evident: there was just not an appropriate home for us in the current GTA real estate market.  Well, not at our price anyway.         

Fast forward 26-months later, and my husband and I are still hunting for our family home to this day.  Although we haven’t found one yet, there’s good news: as of January 2013 there’s been a gradual, but noticeable drop in the GTA housing market prices, compared to prices at the peak of the housing bubble.  There also seems to be more “house” for the money now, and a resale home may very well be in reach for my family in 2013. 

And although it doesn’t seem that 2013 will be the year that the GTA housing bubble bursts, (as prices have not returned to those of November 2010 and prior), prices are definitely levelling out.  And this will mean more equal opportunities for both sellers and buyers alike.

This article was written by me, Jenna Em, and appears in the Wednesday January 9th, 2013 edition of the Huffington Post Canada.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Strawberry Shortcake on Tour in Toronto & CONTEST! ~OVER~

The Strawberry Shortcake: Follow Your Own Berry Beat live theatrical show is coming to Toronto on Sunday February 17th, 2013!  It will be staged at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, and special guests Doodlebops Live will be making an appearance!  Not in the Toronto area?  Here's the list of Tour Dates and show locations.

If your child loves Strawberry Shortcake, do not miss this show!  This is an all-new musical production by Koba Entertainment starring Strawberry Shortcake and her berry best friends Lemon Meringue, Orange Blossom, Raspberry Torte, Blueberry Muffin, Cherry Jam and Plum Pudding!  Together they show that little girls can do berry big things!

This musical adventure takes place in the whimsical land of Berry Bitty City where the whole town is buzzing in anticipation of the Glitzy Glaze Talent Show! Watch Strawberry Shortcake and the girls as they each prepare to step into the spotlight.

But first, the Doodlebops take the stage, getting the audience singing and dancing!  Join siblings Rooney, Moe and Dee Dee Doodle in a great live concert performance.  Doodlebops Live is the opening act for Strawberry Shortcake: Follow Your Berry Own Beat!

This must-see theatrical production is based upon the hit CGI-animated preschool television programme: Strawberry Shortcake’s Berry Bitty Adventures.  It also draws on the success of the Doodlebops’ popular tv series.

For more information, visit the Strawberry Shortcake Tour Website.
Click here to Buy Tickets or see Tour Dates here.


Congratulations to Courtney F. & Sarah P!

WIN 1 of 2 Strawberry Shortcake Prize Packs (Canada & USA)!  Each prize pack consists one  Strawberry Shortcake dvd and one book.  (Title of dvd and book may be subject to change.)  Runs from Monday January 7th, 2013 to Monday January 28th, 2013.  Click here for Terms & Conditions.

How to Enter?
First, leave a comment below stating you or your child's favourite Strawberry Shortcake character (ie: Strawberry Shortcake, Lemon Meringue, Orange Blossom, Raspberry Torte, Blueberry Muffin, Cherry Jam or Plum Pudding).  Or your favourite Doodlebops character.  Next, enter using the entry form below.  Good luck!

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Do We Need Paper Books Anymore?

I recently cleared out 2000 books from my home and donated them to various organizations.  There were just so many books that my family had read and would never read again.  It was a difficult mindset to get into, but I finally concluded that my house is a home and not a library.  And you wouldn’t believe how much room was freed up after this large scale purge!  To this point, does society need paper books anymore?  After all, there’s a widespread availability of e-books—and a treasure trove on free virtual information accessible to the wired world via the internet. 

Truth be told, I like the way a book feels in my hands, as I am lounging on a hot sunny beach during winter vacation.  I like the weight of the book, and that the thickness of the book diminishes as I dive deeper into the tome.  And I like the reward of flipping a page to mark my progress, and the passage of time.  And in terms of aesthetics, I love falling in love with the cover of the book that I am about to read for the very first time.  I also like bending back pages, inserting a bookmark, cracking the spine, and the new book smell­­­­­­. 

But does reading have to be tied into the tactile sensations that I’ve mentioned, even though it’s meant to be a cerebral experience?     

Reading on my smartphone, tablet or e-reader doesn’t give me the same thrill as reading an old-fashioned paper book.  I don’t like that the thickness of the device never varies, or the feeling of being a hamster on a wheel, as I make unchanging progress in the book.  Although I see that the page number is advancing as I read, the antiquated part of me wants to see and feel physical evidence, in respects to a thicker front half of the book, and a thinner back half!  To me, these are the “perils” of an e-reader, which won’t be faced by the newest generation—born with an iPod, instead of a silver rattle.

I’ve concluded that despite the tactile experiences that I enjoy while reading paperbacks, I’d much rather peruse e-books and do my research online.  The idea of visiting a library and treasure-hunting through stacks of books for information, just holds no appeal to me.  I simply don’t have the time or interest.    After all, an e-reader fits an entire library of books, magazines and newspapers into the device itself—and is just as portable as the average paper book!  Why would I stop by the bookstore, or visit the local library, when I can download the latest books in seconds or minutes?  And must we really chop down forests of trees in the pursuit of paper books?

So back to the original question: Does society need paper books anymore?  P­­aper books are so engrained in us and our collective unconscious, that I doubt that they’ll ever fully disappear from society.  As a people, we’re sentimentalists and historians—and books will live on, if only for a memory or a relic.  However, in the industrialized world, virtual books are the tidal wave washing over our bookstores, libraries, workforces, schools and families.    So to answer the question, no, society doesn’t need paper books anymore and they’re quickly on their way out.  And we’ve now arrived at their final chapter…

What do you think?  Does society need paper books anymore?  Do you read e-books, paper books or a combination thereof?  Please leave a comment below!

This article was written by me, Jenna Em, and also appears in the Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 issue of the Huffington Post!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Have a Great New Year: 2013!

Wishing you and yours a great New Year of health, wealth and happiness!  Thank you to those of you who have followed the SnyMed blog since January 2012, and thanks to everyone else who has recently joined us!  There's lots of fun coming up in 2013 on the SnyMed blog, so please stay tuned for upcoming developments and announcements!
--Jenna Em
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