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Friday, January 30, 2015

Transforming Frowns Into #KinderSmiles


With February looming around the corner, it's hard to believe it's been fours weeks since we took our son skiing for the first time. It was a last-minute family getaway, one that began with a cold evening of fun at Horseshoe's Tubing and Adventure Park. I took my daughter there last year so I am glad we had a chance to share the experience with my son this time around. I will never forget the look on his face when he smiled a great big toothy smile as we flew down the chute on a cushy tube. The following day, we took to the bunny hill and faced cold winds and freezing snow. We wanted to ski some more but the weather wasn't cooperating. Surely we would return for some more wintry fun, right?

#KinderSmiles

We aren't quite halfway through the winter season and, while we haven't been back yet, I am hopeful we will return to the slopes before the snow disappears. What little we have of it, that is. The below-freezing temperatures are a bit of a deterrent and have made it hard to find the time to send the kids outside. This means I have had to find alternate activities to occupy the kids and keep boredom at bay while stuck indoors. We've played board games, watched movies, read books and tried out some new video games. But sometimes it just wasn't enough. So of course, I made it my mission to add some extra cheer, especially where my son is concerned. He loves playing outside with the neighbours and gets really down when he has to stay inside on extremely cold days. I was at the store last week when I noticed a set of KINDER® Surprise Valentines. I picked up a set each of the Transformers and Disney Fairies limited edition sets, saving them as an extra special treat on an extra cold day.


And surely, my son was happily surprised. The look on his face when he saw his new little toy was enough to melt my heart. He has now decided that he wants to collect the entire set and already has three, including his favourite - Bumblebee. He also has his eyes set on the new race cars in the 2015 toy collection.


My daughter has already found some of the new toys, including a little green ball, and is starting her Disney Fairies collection.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Dinner With Mr. D

Photo courtesy of BestOfToronto.net

Last week, I was extremely honoured to be a guest of CBC at a special dinner with the cast of Mr. D. Hosted at P.F. Chang's at Shops at Don Mills, the event was in celebration of season 4 which premiered last Tuesday. If you aren't familiar with the show, Mr. D first premiered in 2012 and follows the hilarious antics of a private school teacher played by award-winning comedian Gerry Dee. Dinner with the cast was very amusing, to say the least, and the food was delicious. What surprised me the most? How extremely friendly everyone was. That and how incredibly dreamy Mark Little's eyes are. While I was somewhat disappointed that Jonathan Torrens and I sat too far apart to play footsies, I was lucky enough to be seated next to Wes Williams near Darrin Rose and Canadian Screen Award nominee Lauren Hammersley. For more photos from the event, head on over to BestOfToronto.net. Oh, and a big congratulations to executive producers Gerry Dee and Michael Volpe on the 2015 Canadian Screen Awards nomination for Best Comedy Series! It's well-deserved!


 Photo courtesy of BestOfToronto.net
Lauren Hammersley, Lisa Mason on Mr. D

Jonathan Torrens, Vice-Principal Robert Cheeley on Mr. D

Wes Williams, Paul Dwyer on Mr. D

Darrin Rose, Bill on Mr. D

Monday, January 26, 2015

Super Smash Bros. For Nintendo 3DS

Super Smash Bros. For Nintendo 3DS

Last fall, Nintendo launched Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and I am fairly certain fans of the battle game leaped for joy while spewing flames of fire as they rejoiced. My husband had purchased this game for the Nintendo Wii and both he and my son took an instant liking to it. Me? Not so much. Although it did bring me back to my youthful years since it reminded me somewhat of the Mortal Kombat game my brother and I used to play as kids. I think, for me, I had no interest in learning all the moves and how to use the special items. For my son, however, he managed to pick it up quite easily. And he's only six! When we received a copy of Super Smash Bros. to test out on our new Nintendo 2DS, my son couldn't wait to try it out.

Super Smash Bros. For Nintendo 3DS - 2DS

With the New Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS, gamers can now smash anywhere, anytime. Choose from an expansive selection of over 40 characters that include memorable classics such as Pac-Man, Mega Man, Sonic, Kirby, Pikachu, and Zelda. This is in addition to Nintendo favourites Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, Yoshi, Diddy Kong, Princess Peach, Bowser and many more. And for the first time, you can create your own Mii fighters with their own fighting style: brawler, gunner or swordfighter. Players can now battle on new and exclusive stages and pick up new items and assist trophies. Game modes include Home Run Contest, Target Blast, Multi-Man Smash, Classic Mode, and the newest Smash Run, exclusive to Nintendo 3DS. With this mode, you begin with a five-minute sprint through a mazed filled with enemies, gathering stat-boosters along the way to improve your character's statistics. Finish it off with a free-for-all battle against other fighters. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Let's Talk Workspace Ergonomics - Fellowes Style


Did you know that almost 7 out of 10 people experience back pain while working at their desks? If you tuned in earlier this week to the Fellowes Canada #WorkSmart Twitter chat, you probably already knew that. And perhaps you're among the 70% of us who suffer from back tension. As much as I would love to remedy the pain with a week's vacation lounging at the beach or a weekend getaway at the spa, we all know that there is a more feasible solution: remove the risk from your workspace. Prevention is the best medicine, as they say. 

Fortunately, Fellowes has identified back tension as one of four well-being zones to target if you want to make your workspace more ergonomically sound. They offer, as a solution, a selection of back supports and lumbar cushions to be used on chairs that do not provide proper lumbar support. The Professional Series Back Support with Microban Protection, as seen above, provides mid spinal support as well as lower lumbar support with memory foam cushions that help to promote good posture. This back support is designed with your spine in mind and is contoured to support the natural curvature in your back. It is made with a soft, breathable fabric and I found it quite easy to adjust. It is currently available at Walmart for $72.97.

Fellowes Workspace Ergonomics Lumbar Support

Fellowes also sent over an I-Spire Series Lumbar Cushion for me to try out as it targets one of my most troublesome areas - my lower back. Designed to help reduce back tension, the cushion is made with breathable mesh fabric and has an adjustable strap with buckles. I wanted to use it at work but the back of my office chair is quite narrow which meant I couldn't tighten the strap enough to prevent it from moving. So I now use the lumbar cushion in my home office and the Professional Series Back Support in my work office.

Fellowes Workspace Ergonomics Lumbar Support
I-Spire Series Lumbar Cushion - $25.28 at Walmart
We all know that good posture is important but I wanted to share some tips from Fellowes on how to improve the way we sit at our desks. My short-legged self needs to try the first one. I've never had a foot rest at my desk before but I suspect I would greatly benefit from one.

Checklist Zone 1: Seating and Posture

  • Chair Height - Keep your feet on the floor or on a foot support.
  • Seat Pan Depth - The back of your knees should not touch the seat.
  • Back Position - Your back should be in contact with as much of the chair as possible.
  • Neutral Posture - Work in a position that requires the smallest amount of muscle activity.
To learn more about the remaining zones, visit the Fellowes Solution Centre. Additionally, you can read about how Sheri of Kidsumers tackled Zone 3: Neck, Shoulder and Eye Strain. For more tips on how to achieve a healthy and comfortable workspace, I highly recommend that you refer to Fellowes' Ergonomic Checklist. There are so many useful suggestions so you may want to bookmark it for later reference.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Dimoitou Chez Nous French Take-Home Activity - Grade 1


For my grade 1 French class, we have a program called Dimoitou. If you went to school here in Toronto, there's a chance you may even remember the main character, a green, lanky puppet that is always an instant hit with the little ones. Sometimes, I will pick a student of the day to take care of Dimoitou during class but I thought it would be great to let them take Dimoitou home as incentive to practice their French. I got the idea from when my daughter was in nursery school and they had a similar take-home teddy. Only I call this Dimoitou chez nous!  Given that this full-size Dimoitou puppet is our only one and they are no longer in stock, I decided to make my own Dimoitou hand puppets out of felt. They were fairly easy to make once I created the initial design and didn't talk all that long to stitch together.


Then I created a cover page to be glued onto a primary notebook and coloured it in. (Tip: I 'laminated' it using packing tape!) This was our classroom journal where the students would draw a picture of what they did with Dimoitou. For example, did they sing a song, read a book or play with Dimoitou? While they weren't required to write anything down, I did include a language card to help them get started with a greeting, an introduction and a series of sentences au passé composé that they could copy if they wanted to. (Tip: I printed this on card stock to make it a little more durable.) Many of them chose to do so, some parents helped them write their own sentences and some wrote as little as, Bonjour! There were a couple of students who didn't have to time to finish their drawings or journal entries at home so I gave them time in class the next day to finish, especially since they really wanted to contribute. Students were also delighted to have me read their journal entries and share their drawings with the class. 

On the inside front cover of the journal, I included a note to parents explaining a little about the Dimoitou take-home program and that it was completely optional. The goal was merely to have students engage with the puppet and practice what they have learned in French outside of the classroom. On the inside back cover, I glued a class list and kept track of those who had their turn. I placed the journal, the language card and the Dimoitou puppet inside a large zipper bag for storage and included a sharpened pencil, a pack of pencil crayons and a beginner book from our levelled readers collection. The one in the photo above has a lot of repetition and vocabulary already covered in class. It also tied in well with my French rendition of a popular Wiggles song, Salade de fruits!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Mr. D on CBC Returns With Season 4!

Mr. D on CBC - Season 4, Episode 1
Mr. D Season 4, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: CBC

Today's the day! After Mr. D first premiered on CBC three years ago, the show has grown a strong following across the nation, myself included. And today it returns for what will surely mark another knee-slapping fourth season. If you haven't seen it yet, what are you waiting for? Mr. D is a hilarious weekly comedy that follows the life of an under-qualified private school teacher played by award-winning comedian Gerry Dee. Joining him is a seasoned cast of Canadian talent, many of which have recently received nominations for the Canadian Screen Awards 2015. Returning this season: Booth Savage, Jonathan Torrens, Bette McDonald, Wes Williams, Lauren Hammersley, Naomi Snieckus, Mark Little, Suresh John, and Darrin Rose. Joining the cast this season are Bill Wood who will return as Frank the new guidance counsellor and Kathleen Philips who will play the role of Emma Turdie, the school librarian.

Mr. D on CBC Season 4, Episode 1
Mr. D Season 4, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: CBC

After turning down a St. Pat's phys. ed. position at the end of season three, Gerry is back at Xavier Academy. While he won't get to teach phys. ed., he will finally be able to show off his athletic coaching abilities when he takes over the senior boys' championship basketball team. No more grade five girls' volleyball!
Gerry's moving up the inter-scholastic athletic competition ladder and he's dangerously motivated. Unfortunately, the team's prior success puts a spotlight on them, and spotlights rarely do Gerry any favours. When the pressure's on, true to character, Gerry will find a way to ruin a good thing. Many of the usual suspects butt heads with Gerry, questioning his "unique" teaching style and questionable choices. But season four also introduces several new students and staff members...some of whom even match Gerry's knack for inappropriate behaviour. 
This season, Gerry has his eye on his future and begins striving for more. With a whole world of opportunity, he just might be able to showcase his proficiencies well enough to move beyond the high school level.

Here's hoping you will join me tonight at 9:30 PM ET on CBC and support a hilarious (and really good-looking!) cast of Canadian actors. And just so you know, I had the great fortune of dining with many of them last night at P.F. Chang's and I can vouch for that fact. Plus the fact that they are an incredibly nice and fun bunch of people to hang out with. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

RSVP For The Fellowes Canada #WorkSmart Twitter Party!

Did you know that 9 out of 10 people suffer from pain linked to poor desk habits? Given that we spend an average of seven hours each day in front of a computer screen, it really isn't that surprising. I think back to when I took a keyboarding course in high school and one of the first things we were taught was correct posture, from the positioning of your feet to where you rest your hands and wrists. Posture is definitely important when sitting at a desk for long periods of time but how often do we remember to do a posture check? At least 19% of work-related pain is caused by improper posture while 1 in 2 people experience neck strain, eye strain and/or headaches while working at their desks. And back pain? Oh, the back pain! I'm one of the 70% of people who experience back pain while working at a computer. My lumbar region can attest to that. Hence the reason I am thrilled to be testing out the Fellowes Professional Series Back Support. Yes, I'm in ergonomic heaven!


On January 21, Fellowes Canada invites you to chat about home office ergonomics at the @FellowesCanada #WorkSmart Twitter party. This is definitely one you don't want to miss because have some pretty amazing prizes to be won. Trust me, your lower back will thank you for it!

Date: Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Time: 8:00 pm ET

Party Hashtag: #WorkSmart

Host: @FellowesCanada

Moderators: @Listen2Lena @kidsumers @TeacherMomofTwo @Candace_Dx

Prizes:
  1. I-Spire Laptop Lapdesk  (Value: $30.00)
  2. I-Spire Mobile prize pack: Tablet lift, Phone and Pencil station (Value: $50.00)
  3. $100 Staples Gift Card
  4. $100 Staples Gift Card
  5. I-Spire Prize Pack (includes: Monitor Support, Mouse pad wrist rocker, Keyboard wrist rocker, Lumbar support, Document Lift, Foot Support. VALUE: $220.00)
  6. GRAND PRIZE: Complete Home Office Set-up [incudes: ISpire Series collection (Monitor Support, Mouse pad wrist rocker, Keyboard wrist rocker, Lumbar support, Document Lift, Foot Support, Phone and Pencil Stand, File Station), 73Ci Powershred Shredder, AP200 Air Purifier, Décor Boxes, Décor Literature Sorter and Décor Mag File. VALUE: OVER $825.00]

Please be sure to RSVP using the linky below and use the hashtag #WorkSmart during the party to be eligible to win.

New to Twitter and/or Twitter parties? I have written the following tutorials to help you out, complete with screenshots: