Pregnancy 101

Trying to Be A Mom: Questions and Answers to Get You Started

Pregnancy 101

Whether you’re considering becoming a parent for the first time or having a second (or third), it’s an experience that can be both exciting and scary at the same time.

How long will it take to get pregnant? Should I start tracking my cycle? How do I care for a newborn? Will I ever fit into those skinny jeans again… all good questions and while I don’t have all of the answers, here are a few questions and answers to get you started and on the right track.

1.       How can I keep track of my cycle? Simple! Pick up a First Response® Digital Ovulation Test, which predicts your most fertile days based on your personal LH surge. Remember that the best time to start tracking your cycle is before you start trying to conceive. Your two most fertile days begin with the LH surge and you are most likely to get pregnant if you have intercourse within 24-36 hours after you detect your personal LH surge.

 

Don’t panic if you’ve never heard of your LH surge before! I didn’t know what it was either. If you’re curious, visit firstresponse.com for more info.

2.       I think I may be pregnant. Now what? Anxious to find out if you’re pregnant? The First Response™ Early Result Pregnancy Test can tell you if you’re pregnant up to six days before your missed period. If you’re interested in sharing the news with friends and family, how you share it is up to you!

 

3.       Who will take care of me during my pregnancy? It’s important to determine if you would like a doctor or midwife (or someone else) to care for you during your pregnancy. There are many different options. Pick the person who you feel most comfortable with and don’t let friends or family sway your decision.

4.       What should I pack in my hospital bag? There are lots of great suggestions for the must-have hospital bag items. I suggest starting your research on Pinterest. Pick a list that feels right to you and start shopping/collecting the items. You’ll want to have the bag packed and ready to go well before your bundle of joy is set to arrive.

5.       How else can I prepare? The most important tip is to enjoy the experience and make sure to take time for yourself! Unwind after a busy day with a good book and a cup of tea. Plan a weekend getaway and sneak away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Curl up on the couch and watch your favourite movie. These are just a few suggestions.

 

Before you know it, you’ll be holding your little one in your arms. Nine months went by quickly and being prepared is essential, especially as you tackle sleepless nights and dozens of diaper changes! I suggest stocking up on the essentials – diapers, baby clothes, blankets and bottles are a must. Don’t forget to also stock the medicine cabinet with diaper cream and something to help with colic, such as OVOL™ Drops, which is a simple, alcohol-free solution that can be added to a bottle or used on its own. It helps relieve discomfort caused by trapped gas, making it easier for babies to pass gas and burp at feeding time. Don’t forget to ask your doctor first to find out if this product is right for your new baby!

Oh and those skinny jeans… they’ll fit, eventually!

Are you a first-time mom? Do you have a story about trying to conceive? I’d love to hear it.

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A Netflix Oscar Winner to Watch: The White Helmets

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On Sunday, Netflix won an Oscar. The White Helmets shows the true world heroes working every day in Syria. This movie brings to life the real lives of Syrians today.

What was shocking about Sunday though? The US denied the director of the movie, a Syrian, Khaled Khatib  entry into the USA. We could have a whole conversation on that alone. He sent others to accept the award on his behalf. They spoke for him. His words in his acceptance speech from the Quran though rang loud, ” To save one life is to save all humanity.”

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The world has debated the refugee crisis out of Syria for a couple of years now and watching this documentary helped me to understand what people were fleeing and those that stayed and the heroes that exist among them.

One of the things I love about this Netflix win is that it will encourage Netflix in bringing these important stories to the world. They bring context to the conversations we need to be having. I have been a Netflix subscriber for years.I love that they entertain me, but they also help me learn. The documentaries have helped me have a new perspective on many topics from learning about the White Helmets,  to looking at food choices around the globe in Food Choices, to questioning the guilt of a man in Making a Murderer, to learning about the science of happiness in Happy.

If you have not already watched Netflix’s first Oscar winner, The White Helmets is worth the watch. Let me know if you have seen it or what you have watched and the lessons you are learning from it.

 

Fashion Friday

Friday’s 5 Fab Finds with Flipp – Store Mode

Have you ever been looking for an item and look down the aisles reading the signs to see if you have found the right one? With store mode,  it tells you where your shopping list items are in the store to help you navigate quickly. Shopping just got easier.

Dollar Deals

Store Mode

Add your products to your shopping list and while on your list, click the grocery store you will be shopping at it will show you each aisle you will be heading down.

Store Mode

Store Mode

 

Friday’s 5 Fab Finds

 

Giant Tiger – Spring Deals 

Store Mode

Leon’s – Furniture Deal 

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Toy’s R Us – 1/2 Price Toys

Store Mode

If you missed the dollar deals at Freshco last week, they are back again this week with new sales.

Freshco – $1, $2, $3 Deals

Store Mode

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Enjoy the weekend and have fun shopping with Flipp. See you next week with more great deals.

 

 

Life, Death, Taxes and RRSP

Life, Death, Taxes and Your RRSP

Life, Death, Taxes and RRSP

In the past few years, there have been deaths of my friends, co-workers, fellow bloggers and their mates. All were under the age of 50. All left their families ill prepared for their untimely deaths. Most did not have wills. Most had not planned their estates; many left behind young children without a parent or a financial plan in case something happened. In this month, where we celebrate love, one of the most loving things you can do is plan for your death. Having an estate plan is one of the most loving acts you can do for your family. Yes, it is a difficult conversation to have. It is an essential one if you do not want to leave a mess for those you love.

Last week, I had a great conversation with Christine Van Cauwenberghe, Vice-President, Tax and Estate Planning at Investors Group. We had a great conversation about life, death and estate planning.

Estate Needs Analysis

Many Canadians do not want to think about death. I know it is a conversation I dread. The first step to being prepared for it though is to have an estate needs analysis done. If you have small children, it’s essential. Meet with a financial advisor who can help you develop a plan.

Your estate plan is simply a part of your financial plan. Do you want your estate to have enough money to cover day-to-day expenses if you are not there? Do you want to pass on a legacy to your children? These are just a couple of things to think about as you plan your life and death.

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Naming the Beneficiary

In my conversation with Christine, one of the things she emphasized was to never have minor children named on any insurance plans or RRSPs as the beneficiary. It is better to name the estate and to have an executor in place to take care of the financial needs of the children.

Her suggestion was never to name a young person under the age of 30 as a direct beneficiary. There are several reasons for this. If you die without a will in place and have left your kids as beneficiary, the money they inherit is held by the government for the children until they reach the age of eighteen. If you need to feed them, clothe them etc., you have to apply to the court for access. Really, if you do not have a plan in place, you are leaving a mess for your spouse and are not able to provide care for your children in ways that you may want too.

Minimizing the Tax Hit

Death, taxes and probate fees go hand in hand. Have your will written in such a way that unregistered investments, such as real estate, will pass outright to your spouse or you can use the principal residence exemption to eliminate the capital gains tax.

Have your estate administrator consider, whether it is in your family’s best interest, if an additional spousal RRSP contribution in the year of your death might help lower taxes. While speaking with Christine Van Cauwenberghe, Vice-President, Tax and Estate Planning at Investors Group she said, “Ensure that all possible tax deductions, such as medical expenses and donations are also included in the final tax return.”

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Gifts and Family Disputes

Some people try to avoid taxes or simply because they want to see their loved ones enjoying a certain item, will choose to gift an item before death. This is generally not recommended, but if you do decide to give one child part of their inheritance before you die, you will want to somehow equalize your estate through your will to ensure all are being treated equally to ensure there are no disputes.

There are so many things to think about when creating an estate and a financial plan which is why it is best to include an expert in the conversation. Investors Group has experts in tax and estate planning and I know I am now better prepared after my conversation with Christine.

A comprehensive plan really does look at all aspects of your life. It is best to be prepared for life, retirement and even death. Have you designed a plan for your life yet? Check out the Investors Group site to learn how you can be better prepared with a comprehensive plan. It really is more than just thinking about RRSPs.

Young woman inside sitting on window seat and laughing while loo

Life Hacks to Spend Your Tax Refund On

Young woman inside sitting on window seat and laughing while loo

It’s that magical date that comes but once a year. No, it is not Christmas! Today is the day Netfile opens for Canadian tax filers

. For those of us who will be getting refunds, it is like Christmas day, and we are already thinking of ways to spend our refunds.

If you are ready to file your tax return for the 2016 year and are looking for an easy free way to do it yourself, look no further than the free version of TurboTax! From its fully guided experience that walks you through your taxes step by step, to TurboTax Free, a simple free option that covers most tax situations and can be used anywhere anytime, TurboTax has you covered.

With TurboTax and its accurate step by step guidance, you are sure to get your maximum refund. Now how to spend that hard earned money.

Do you want to be smart and improve your life with your tax refund? Here are some life hacks you may want to invest in:

Reduce Debt

Whether it be student loan debt or credit card debt, it is always smart to use the extra cash to reduce these amounts. Pay off this kind of debt as quickly as you can, and a lump sum payment helps you to reduce the amount you will have to pay. You also win in the long run as you will also be paying less interest.  Think of it as a life hack that pays off later.

Add to Your Emergency Fund

Think of all those rainy days when you could have used a few extra dollars in your bank account. Putting money aside into your emergency fund means the money is there for when you need it most.  Think of it has the life hack that brings peace of mind.

Invest in Yourself

Sometimes developing new skills can lead to more opportunities at work but other times they simply help you improve the quality of your life. You can take a cooking class so you are not tempted to eat out as much when you can cook gourmet meals at home, you want to buy a camera and learn about photography, to may want to learn a second language to help you communicate better with those around you. Perhaps you want to improve your health and take a yoga class.  This life hack is all about you.

Get Your Health in Order

Many Canadians have to spend out of pocket on medical costs. If you need to spend on that much-needed visit to the dentist, buy those new eye glasses or to meet with a nutritionist as you make healthy choices. This is a great time to spend that money. Remember to save your receipts as well because most of this can be written off as medical expenses.

The One Big Thing

Sometimes we have been dreaming of that new big screen TV, the new laptop, the new cell phone, or perhaps it is that new bag. Whatever it is, if it can enhance your life, now would be the time to make that purchase.

There are so many ways to save and spend your tax refund. Tell me what your favourite is, and you can win a free download of TurboTax.  I am giving away five downloadable TurboTax codes to help you get your taxes done and get that refund in your hands.

*Giveaway rules: Open to Canadian tax filers who leave a comment letting me know how they would spend their tax refund.  Giveaway ends March 5th, 2017
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Do You Know How Much Steel is Your Vehicle? #SteelMatters

Ever had your perspective changed? This year I attended the Canadian International Auto Show with the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI). It was fabulous to walk the floor of the show with the team and learn the steel stories of each car. I also learned more about the economical use of high-strength steel in making the vehicles we drive safer.

 

As we walked the floors, I started asking more questions about safety, steel intensity, and cost. Did you know that steel leads the way in performance because of its superior strength, weight, durability and repairability? Think of your wallet, the steel content of your car could save you dollars.

 

Here is an interesting fact. The cost of ownership (that includes the purchase price of your vehicle, the insurance and repair costs) are lower for steel-intensive vehicles. Owning a steel-intensive vehicle is simply a smart choice. Steel is two to three times less expensive than aluminum. Want to know more interesting facts visit DriveUsingSteel.

 

Care about greenhouse gasses? Steel has the lowest production phase greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to alternative materials. Living with a daughter who is always reminding me about being eco-friendly steel wins again.

 

Think of safety. Would you rather drive something that was made of the same material used in bridges or the same material used in pop cans? Just something to think about. There is a time and place for everything and when it comes to vehicle production, steel definitely has its place. It also has its place in helping save money and as the mom with common sense, it’s sensible.

 

Let’s get to some of the interesting steel stories I learned while at the Canadian International Auto Show.

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Let’s start with the car that won the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada Canadian Car of the Year, the Volkswagen Golf (Alltrack). The stamped steel body and chassis boats a large percentage of high-strength, hot formed steel.  The winner of the Canadian Utility Vehicle of the year, the Subaru Forester is also steel intensive.

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Now let’s talk about another vehicle in the Volkswagen line the VW Tiguan. It has a rigid laser-seam-welded body shell, crash-optimized, energy-absorbing front end, and heat-formed steel center pillars.

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Want to know which car is 100 percent steel? The Chevrolet Traverse is! How is that for steel intensity! It positions high strength steel in the correct locations of the vehicle and optimizes the door weights through higher-strength steel reinforcements and lighter steels for skins and cosmetic areas.

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The Kia Stinger had a cool reveal and with 55 percent high strength steel, it is definitely steel intensive.  I love the reveal of this car. It was fun to watch.

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The sweet Chrysler Pacifica has a body structure that is made of 72 percent high-strength steel. I rather loved some of the features on this 7 seater.

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The All-Electric Bolt EV, winner of the Motortrend Car of the Year and the North American Car of the Year, is also very steel intensive. Do not let its small size fool you. I loved the lines on this car!

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Even my beloved Ford Mustang which is all new this year is very steel intensive.  There is extensive use of advanced technologies and materials including high-strength steels.

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Some of the other things I enjoyed at this year’s Auto show included the array of concept cars. From the Aston Martin AM-RB001 Hypercar to the Lincoln Navigator Concept to the Cadillac Escala Concept there was lots to see. Another thing I cannot wait to explore when I go back is the number of VR activities and contests to enter. Make sure you check them all out.

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SMDI is even hosting their own giveaway. While at the Canadian International Auto Show, follow @DriveUsingSteel and share with them your favourite car from the show using the hashtag #SteelMatters and you will be entered to win a drone.

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You can also win right here on my blog. I am giving away 4 Guest Passes to the Canadian International Auto Show. Simply leave a comment on this post and on Tuesday February 24th I will give them away! Let me know what you are most interested in seeing at the show when you comment.

 

*This post has been sponsored by the Steel Market Development Institute. If you want to know more about the fabulous advancements in steel do check out DriveUsingSteel.com.

Fashion Friday

Friday’s 5 Fab Deals with Flipp – Dollar Deals

Dollar Deals

This week when I opened up my Flipp app to prepare for my weekly shopping trip, I was happy to find some awesome dollar deals. When the stores have their dollar sales it gives me a chance to stock up on a few items to make the next grocery week easier on the pocket.

 

Friday’s 5 Fab Finds – Dollar Deals

Frescho’s $1, $2, $3 Deals

Deals-freshco   FreshcoSale

Pancake Tuesday is February 28.

No Frill’s  – $2 Deals

Deals-noFrills  Dollar Deals

Giant Tiger Deals

Get fit in style with clothes that fit.

Dollar Deals  Dollar Delas

With so many great deals this week, stocking up the cupboards is has never been easier. Head on over to the Flipp app and start browsing and saving the items you need to your grocery list.

5 Essential Oils for a Better Night’s Sleep

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We seem to be in a sleep recession.  Everywhere we turn, we’re hearing about the health hazards of not getting enough quality sleep each night, but even though we know we need it, it’s not always so easy to come by.  Between stress, hormones, and not being able to shut our minds down at night, a good night’s sleep often eludes many people.

 

Essential oils can help though.  The trick is finding exactly which essential oil your body responds to best. Everybody is different; an oil that works well for one person might not do anything for someone else. I know finding my perfect oil combination took a little time to find.

 

Finding the best oil for you may take a little trial and error, but once you find the magic combo, your life will never be the same.  Here are a few to try:

1.Lavender

Most people are aware that lavender can play a role in helping you sleep, but what most people don’t know is that its benefits have been studied extensively.  One study found that inhalation of lavender and other essential oils improved sleep quality of hospital patients.

2. Chamomile

Chamomile is known for its calming, soothing, and relaxing qualities. It has a light, floral scent and is wonderful for creating a peaceful atmosphere.

3. YlangYlang

Ylang ylang is a wonderful choice if you want to improve the quality of your sleep. It’s very floral and smells a bit fruity so some people might not like the smell.

4. Sandalwood

This is a beautifully rich, woodsy oil. It is a little more expensive than some other oils, but a little goes a long way, so it will last you a long time.

5. Marjoram

While you may recognize Marjoram as an herb you cook with, its benefits go far beyond that. Not only is the essential oil beneficial for sore muscles and joints, it also excels in giving you a peaceful night’s sleep.

6. Cedarwood

Cederwood is an oil with an earthy, woody scent. It’s wonderful for calming your brain after a busy day. It blends well with lighter, floral oils, and works great on its own.

 

HOW TO USE ESSENTIAL OILS FOR SLEEP

 

There are two popular methods for using these oils:

 Topical Use:

Apply the oil topically for a wonderful way to reap their benefits. Rub them on the back of your neck or on the bottoms of your feet before bed. Use olive oil to dilute them, and then rub them into your skin and massage your feet.

 Aromatic Use:

You can also use an essential oil diffuser. It’s easy to add a few drops of any of these oils to some water in your essential oil diffuser, set it by your bedside, and you’ll be in dreamland in no time.

For the last 2 years, I have been using Doterra oils here at home and have found that I sleep better. If you would like more information about essential oils please do ask.

5 Budget Friendly Date Night Ideas

budget friendly date ideas

Remember when you first met your sweetheart and started dating? You probably looked forward to going out on date night. Making plans and going out was so easy. Just find something fun to do and do it. There are many budget-friendly date night ideas.

Life can get busy and distract you.  You may have started feeling a little disconnected from each other. Some quality time, just the two of you is exactly what you need to reconnect. And make even more great memories together!

It’s time to enjoy date night again. Whether it’s a special occasion or just an average night, hire a babysitter or drop the kids off with friends or family and get out for a kid-free night.

Your date doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are some great ideas for an inexpensive budget friendly afternoon or evening out:

1. Star Gazing

Star gazing is a perfect cheap date. Pack a picnic and a bottle of wine, head out to an open field where you can clearly see the stars, and lie back on a blanket to marvel at the universe together. This is a great way to reconnect and just spend some time talking to each other.

2. Groupon and Living Social deals.

You can find many great deals for date night adventures on Groupon and Living Social. You can score discounts on weekend getaways, restaurants, wine tastings and more. The deals are typically a 30-60% discount, and you can find deals for things you would not have done otherwise because of the cost. Here in Toronto I have loved using these to get a great night out.

3. Museums.

Many museums and other tourist attractions are free. Some offer special events or exhibits. Usually, we tend not to be “tourists” in the city we live, but that means we’re missing out on the history and fun of our local area. Find a great museum exhibit or site to take in for the evening. Check the museum schedule, they often include a time when they are free to the public.

Here in Toronto, you can take advantage of the Sun Life Financial Museum and Art Pass that is available at the Toronto Library.

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4. Rent Bicycles.

If you don’t have a bike, look for someplace that offers bike rentals then head out to the nature trails or parks in your area. This is a great way to see your community in a new way. Pack a picnic and enjoy an afternoon in the sun. Or go for night ride and enjoy some star gazing.

5. Go for a walk downtown.

A weekend night is the perfect time to just walk and window shop. There is so much to see and people watching is always fun. Get creative and make up stories about the interesting people you see while grabbing dessert in your favorite cafe. You’ll share a lot of laughs and enjoy some quality time together.

Spending quality time with your sweetheart doesn’t have to be expensive. What other ideas can you think of to enjoy date night on a budget?

Celebrating Love this Valentine’s Day with a Giveaway! #LoveHallmarkCA

Tis the season of love. In our house, I am a single lady, and my teen is the one who has a beau. The one thing we have in common though is we love to celebrate love. There are so many ways to celebrate love. We love our sweethearts, our best friends, our classmates and even ourselves.

Here in Canada, the average Canadian adult spends more than $100 on Valentine’s Day. You may choose to budget or go all out for this special day. Last week, my friends at Hallmark Canada sent a wonderful box of goodies that are helping my teen, and I celebrate the day in style.
Hallmark Valentine's Day

One of the things, we have done this year, we kept our Christmas tree, but we changed out the ornaments. The tree is full of hearts and everything red, pink, silver, white and gold. Right now there are a few gifts under the tree all in pretty bags and wrap provided by Hallmark Canada.

Hallmark gift ideas

You can find gifts for all you love at Hallmark from a cute clutch for you BFF, to a journal for your favorite writer, to wine glasses and bottle openers for your wine expert.

For me, I love to find humor in all things, so I found this video on Youtube that I just had to share. This Valentine’s Day I am on my own, so it will be a night of wine, heart shaped pizza and most likely a night of colouring and watching a favourite show on TV. One of the ways, I celebrate all the things I love is to journal daily. I actually keep one by my bed so I can write each night.

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To help you celebrate, during this month of love, I have a special giveaway from Hallmark Canada. A sweet cork journal.  I hope that no matter how you choose to celebrate, you celebrate those you love.

To win the cork journal I am giving away here on the blog, you must be a Canadian resident. Giveaway ends Feb 19th.

Valentine' Day Giveaway with Hallmark Canada