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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Healthy Lunches: Good in Every Grain

With only a few days of school left before the holidays, the last thing you want to think about is preparing school lunches. But, because getting all the essential nutrients that a growing brain needs is important any time of year, it's always a good time to talk brain food. We all know that we should "aim for four" when it comes to selecting foods from the four groups in the Canada Food Guide. Yet, sometimes it isn't so easy to come up with lunchtime ideas that not only get our children excited but also provide them with a healthy and balanced meal. 

Luckily, Grain Farmers of Ontario is here to help! As part of the Good in Every Grain campaign, they have teamed up with Healthy Grains Institute and Registered Dietitian and mom, Cara Rosenbloom to help parents across the province prepare balanced meals for their children. Using the "Food for Thought" tips below, I recently used our new Bento lunch box to send my daughter to school with a chicken sandwich using leftover chicken breast and mayo stuffed into a mini whole grain pita. I paired it with fresh broccoli, cauliflower and cherry tomatoes with a Ranch dip and a side of seedless grapes. 

Food for Thought:
  • Whole grain products are a great source of nutrients such as fibre, B-vitamins and minerals that are necessary for growth and development.
  • A balanced meal should include: whole grains, vegetables & fruit and protein.
  • Cara recommends the balanced plate approach: fill your plate, or lunch box with: half vegetables or fruit, a quarter protein and a quarter whole grains.
  • Get kids excited about their lunch by giving it a cool name and using bright colours.
As part of the Good in Every Grain campaign, Cara has developed some simple, tasty and nutritional lunchtime meal ideas that are balanced and fun. Both recipes for Whole Grain Pizzadillas With Tofu Ranch Dipping Sauce and Grainiac Mediterranean Lunch Box are accessible below by simply clicking on the thumbnails.

Ten Thousand Villages: Fair Trade Fashion

As one of the oldest and largest Fair Trade organizations in North America, Ten Thousand Villages is a non-profit program that sells artisan-crafted personal accessories, home decor and gift items from the world over. They have as their mission statement the goal of creating "opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn income by bringing their products and stories to our markets through long-term, fair trading relationships." And what could be better than giving a gift made by a talented artisan that has been fairly purchased from sustainable sources? 

Given that Ten Thousand Villages is an organization designed to benefit artisans, they market products from handicraft and agricultural organizations based in low-income countries, thereby supporting their livelihood. So not only will you find products that are truly unique, you can shop in good conscience knowing that the artisans who have made them have received respect, dignity and hope from earning fair value for their hard work.

For review, Ten Thousand Villages sent over a lovely package that contained a gorgeous Garden Paisley Infinity Scarf ($34) and a pair of teardrop earrings. I think I'm going to get a lot of use out of my new scarf. It suits me well, no?

To view more of their products, visit Search for a store near you or order online by tomorrow to guarantee that your order is shipped by Christmas. And if you spend over $100, you can enjoy flat rate shipping for $5.

Disclosure: I received product to help facilitate this review. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Make Your Own Paper Star Christmas Decoration

This paper craft was taught to me by one of my teacher colleagues at work. She does them every year with her students and every year I marvel at how beautifully they turn out. Last week, she showed me how to make them and now I'm hooked! If you're interested in learning how, let me know and I can post a tutorial on how to make your own paper star/snowflake Christmas decoration. It's a great activity the whole family can enjoy!

Stopping in for Wordless Wednesday? Be sure to link up your post below.

PS. Read about an exciting announcement here on Toronto Teacher Mom! 

Monday, December 15, 2014

2014 Canadian Weblog Awards

It is with great honour that I share with you that Toronto Teacher Mom has recently received a 2014 Canadian Weblog Award. Among an impressive group of 42 blogs in the Sponsored & Product Review Blog category, my blog was selected to receive First Place based on ten criteria. The Canadian Weblog Awards is the work of Elan Morgan of and supported by a large panel of 34 jurors. 

I would like to send out a big thank you to Elan and Aidan, as well as the volunteer jury, for their tireless work over the past year compiling an incredible list of nominees and working their magic to make it all come together. I truly appreciate this special achievement and am very humbled! I would also like to send a shout-out to all my friends, family and readers who have supported my blog over the years. It really means a lot!

Be sure to head on over to to view the full list of 2014 Canadian Weblog Award winners.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

VEX Robotics Giant Ant Kit by HEXBUG

When it comes to the hottest toys of the season, you can pretty much guarantee that remote-controlled robots will be among them. This year, VEX Robotics by HEXBUG, the makers of Aquabot 2.0, bring you hands-on play as you construct your very own jumbo-sized robot ant. Drive the robot manually using the remote control or select the autonomous drive mode to send Ant scurrying about all by itself, mimicking real-life movement. 

The Ant includes six wheels, dual bump sensors, one on each end, and interlocking gears. Its bump sensors allow the Ant to move away from obstacles in its path. The Ant can even climb over certain obstacles with its large wheels. 

There are 64 different programming variations to play with. To program, simply flip a series of switches on the robot’s brain and easily experiment with different modes to determine how it reacts when the sensors are activated.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Affordable Gifts From Top Brands at Walmart #Flipp4Holidays

Affordable Gifts From Top Brands at Walmart #Flipp4Holidays

For those of you who've been following my blog for a while now, you probably already know that I'm far from perfect. I procrastinate, struggle with organization and fail miserably in the kitchen. I make no apologies for my imperfections but I feel the need to explain that I do try my best to get things done on time and in an organized fashion. Improving my cooking skills? Well, let's just say that it isn't high on my priority list right now. But mark my words when I say that, over the next few weeks, I am determined to accomplish all that needs to be done in time for Christmas without breaking the bank. Or losing my sanity. 

Affordable Gifts From Top Brands at Walmart #Flipp4Holidays

As one of Canada's Walmart Moms, I was tasked with a mission to flip my way of thinking when it comes to shopping for the holidays. With the help of the innovative Flipp app, I had to browse through Walmart's electronic flyers, make a shopping list and visit my local Walmart store in search of the selected sale items. I had previously downloaded the app on to my phone on the advice of the wise Gail Vaz-Oxlade a few months ago and fell instantly in love with the idea that I no longer needed to rely on paper flyers. They were are all at my finger tips, including previews of new flyers to come. The app is very intuitive and makes it easy to clip items to your shopping list as well as comparison shop. Plus, you have easy access to affordable gift ideas from top brands available at Walmart!

Affordable Gifts From Top Brands at Walmart #Flipp4HolidaysAffordable Gifts From Top Brands at Walmart #Flipp4Holidays

If you've never used the Flipp app before, I highly recommend you connect yourself to a WiFi and download it now. Your cafe mocha can wait. It really doesn't take long. Then, search for "Walmart" to find all new and any soon-to-be released e-flyers. Don't forget to click on the heart icon to add Walmart to your list of favourites for ease of reference.

Affordable Gifts From Top Brands at Walmart #Flipp4HolidaysAffordable Gifts From Top Brands at Walmart #Flipp4Holidays

If you're looking for big savings, use the percentage slider at the bottom to isolate items that are within your desired discount range. Any items that do not fall within it will be darkened making it easier to find the best bargains. Found an item that you want? Tap it once and it will be circled in yellow and automatically added to your clippings. Not sure if it's what you were looking for? Tap and hold to pull up details about the item and either clip it or buy it now via

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hallmark Holiday Gifting and a Special Delivery from the Northpole

Hallmark Holiday Gifting - Appetizer Plate Set

Ho, ho, ho-ly mackerel! There are only two weeks left until Christmas and I still have much to do to get ready. Okay, I will never be ready just like I have never been ready for Christmas since I'm such a procrastinator. Leaving things to the last minute has always been a fault of mine. I guess that's why I loved childhood so much. It was my parents' job to worry about getting ready for Christmas while all I had to worry about was begging them to let me open just one gift on Christmas Eve. Golly, those were the days! Now, I need to make sure that I have enough gifts for everyone, all the decorations are up and the house has had a good cleaning before hosting dinner guests next weekend. At least I've had some help with one of those items on my to-do list thanks to Hallmark Canada.

Hallmark Holiday Gifting - The Perfect Tree Snowman Plush
The Perfect Tree Snowman Plush by Hallmark - $29.95

For a special little one on my shopping list, I will be gifting the adorable Perfect Tree Snowman Plush that has a sign that lights up as the snowmen sway. It is a great commemorative item for 2014 and this year the plush features a parody of "Up on the Housetop." If you purchase three Hallmark cards, you can nab this plush for $15.95. It also coordinates with "There's Snowbody Like You!" storybook, sold separately.

Hallmark Holiday Gifting - Rudolph Push and Play Techno Plush
Rudolph Push and Play Techno Plush - $19.95

And what child wouldn't love a Push and Play Techno Plush? Hallmark's Rudolph is simply irresistible, so much so that I had to keep him at work. My grade one students are so eager to be chosen as my special helper who gets to take care of Nez Rouge during French class! Also available: Clarice, the reindeer and Bumble, the abominable snow monster.

Hallmark Holiday Gifting - Rudolph 50th Anniversary itty bittys Collector Set
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer 50th Anniversary itty bittys® Collector Set - $29.95.

Hallmark is also expanding their collection of itty bittys® with their Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer 50th Anniversary Collector Set. Buy the whole kit and caboodle for $29.95 or individually for $6.95 each.

Hallmark Holiday Gifting - Gifts to Go Mug Bowls Plates
Hallmark Gifts to Go: Nesting Bowls - $9.99, Cozy Mug - $12.95, Appetizer Plate Set - $24.95

If it's a hostess or a teacher gift you're looking for, Hallmark has several "Gifts to Go" that come packaged with a designer to/from hang tag and a festive sprig of evergreen tied with a bright red ribbon. Choose from a cozy mug, nesting bowls, a Christmas tea set or an appetizer plate set (featured above).