Preparing The Drivers Of Tomorrow

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When I was new to parenthood, the biggest worry I had was when the next diaper change would be.

As my children got older, the worries changed, and each stage brought new challenges and experiences. Now my boys are six and eight years old and in many ways things have gotten easier, but there is still always something to worry about.

I'll often catch myself thinking about the day I hand them the keys to the car and let them go... all on their own. This causes me a lot of anxiety, and I want to make sure that I've done everything in my power to make sure they're as safe as can be on the road. It is our job as parents to guide our children in the right direction, and to help them make the right decisions even when we're not around to help. There are a lot of things we can do to make sure our children are protected and aware, especially when they're driving.

I remember the first time I took my driving test—I failed. As upset as I was, I remember studying and practicing again until I passed.

According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, as many as 26% of people who took their G1 exam in 2012 did not pass. (I don't feel so alone now!) Proper preparation can help lower this number. Teens learning to drive should prepare ahead of time, so they're ready. The truth is, the more you study—the more you are aware and well educated on the rules of the road—the higher chance you'll have of not only passing your test, but of being a safe driver when you're behind the wheel.

A new website that I'm a huge fan of is G1.ca. This website lets users practice their G1 test for free as many times as they like. The new free G1 practice test website allows anyone needing to take the G1 exam to practice in a way that's very similar to the official exam. This would have been so helpful to me when I was 16!

The site currently provides access to six practice tests (with 300 unique questions) that are similar to what you'd see on the actual G1 exam. Every practice exam is based on this year's official Ontario Driver's Handbook, meaning that users can be sure they're receiving the most up-to-date test information.

G1.ca also wants to encourage parents to participate in their teens' learning of what it means to be a safe driver. I don't know about you, but I could certainly use a reminder or two. The Parent Driver Contract is a tool that can be used to facilitate a discussion between parents and teens about the elements of remaining safe behind the wheel. This contract is available on the G1.ca site, and you can even Sign the Pledge.

After all, there's nothing more important that being aware and staying safe behind the wheel.




Disclaimer: I received compensation for this post. All views and opinions are my own. 
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Das Auto At The Canadian International Auto Show

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I've always loved Volkswagen. 

I've been a VW girl my entire life, in fact.


I learned to drive a stick-shift with my dad in a 1980's white Rabbit.
My most beloved car was a red four-door VW Golf.
The next cars I owned were a Jetta, a Passat, and another Jetta.

We are most definitely a VW family.

My next car will be a Golf again, because I can't stop thinking about the new 2015 VW Golf GTI. I'm craving a new Golf in a big way.


I spent the weekend in Toronto, thanks to Volkswagen Canada, exploring the Canadian International Auto Show, and getting a sneak-peek media tour of the new line-up of Volkswagen cars, all of them beautifully designed.


The beauty of any Volkswagen car—whether you're looking at a Golf, Eos, Jetta, CC, Passat, Touareg, or Tiguan—is that they all have so many awesome features and amazing safety standards, like standard airbags. (Every 2014 VW comes standard with front and side airbags for front seat passengers, as well as Side Curtain Protection airbags which deploy in severe side impacts to help reduce head injuries for front and rear seat occupants.) Attention to detail, especially when it comes to safety, is most important to me. I like knowing the car I'm driving is safe for my children.



While all the VW cars at the CIAS were quite impressive, the one that caught me eye (and heart!) was the all-new 2015 Golf GTI.



The new VW Golf is the seventh generation, with all new-design. This classic hatchback is better than ever. The Golf made it's first appearance in 1974, even before I was born, and it's still going strong.

The new Golf GTI is lighter, faster, and more powerful than before. The 2015 Golf GTI also comes loaded with all of the latest VW technology like a touchscreen infotainment system, Bluetouth and SiriusXM satellite radio. All of this is standard.

Here are some other great features this car has:

  • 2.0 TSI 210 HP Engine
  • Direct steering
  • Optional 18" Austin Alloy wheels
  • Front LED fog lights


Talking about the VW cars I love is one thing, but driving around in one is something else. If you haven't had a chance to test out of the new cars yet, you should, as soon as you can. I promise you'll be very impressed.

I can't imagine driving anything but a VW, for life. Thank you, Volkswagen!


Disclaimer: Volkswagen Canada took care of my transportation (thank you, Porter Airlines!) and accommodation (thank you, Hilton Toronto!) during my stay in Toronto for the Canadian International Auto Show.
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Valentine's Day Gift Ideas

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Happy (almost) Valentine's Day!

I hope you'll all get the chance to celebrate with the ones you love. The most important thing I love to receive on Valentine's Day are hugs and kisses from my boys, and hand-made cards. Those are the things I cherish the most, always.

If you're looking for some great Valentine's Day gift ideas, check out my segment from today's CTV Ottawa Morning Live.

I've got a ton of great gift ideas from Holt Renfrew and some cute stuff from Pottery Barn Kids, too!

I love the adorable Valentine's Day cards from Pottery Barn Kids, because they're great for everyone, boys and girls, of any age. Also, they are so very retro, no? So cute. My boys especially love the little mail box you can attach to the back of the chair to receive your love notes—it was so adorable!






Enjoy, and Happy Valentine's Day!

xoxo

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On Loathing Winter

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I don't like to complain. Wait. I take that back. I do like to complain, but for very valid reasons.

I complain about the things that annoy me, and about things I have no control over.

Like the weather.

I complain about the weather all. the. time.

You know why?

Because I am freezing, you guys.

I have never been more cold in all my life, and I am cold all. the. time. 




I feel like every morning when I step outside, there is a good chance I'll never make it back inside. I fear you'll find my skeleton curled up in the fetal position two feet away from my car, once the snow has melted, because winter finally got me.

I think winter has given me arthritis. I can't fell my extremities anymore. I have constant headaches. (Note: I was headache free the entire week I was in south Florida. I am 100% allergic to winter.)

I don't LIKE the snow.
I don't LIKE the minus 30 and minus 40 temperatures.
I don't LIKE how dirty all the cars look.
I don't LIKE the daily frostbite warnings.
I don't CARE that I live in Canada (so suck it up, buttercup.)

No, you guys. I can't just pick up and move to Florida, unless I win the lottery and convince my entire family to move with me. So since I'm allowed to practice free speech, let me say this:

YOU'RE CRAZY IF YOU THINK IT'S NORMAL TO ALMOST DIE JUST FROM STEPPING OUTSIDE.

The cold starts in October.
It gets worse in November.
We put up with it in December, because we're drunk on Christmas.
January is painful, so we go down south.
February is unbearable.
March is no better.
April the snow starts to melt.
May is okay, but not patio weather.
June to August is perfection.
September it starts to change... and
The cold starts again in October.

We don't really have four seasons where I live. We have a very short summer and a never-ending winter. 

Staying active in the winter is annoying. The fact that I have to look like an astronaut to enjoy any sort of outdoor winter activity is absurd. You know what's cool about summer? Shorts, t-shirt, go.

Anyway, I'm happy Canada is doing so well in the Olympics. We all deserve these medals just for surviving.

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All Good Things Come To An End

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Time goes by way too quickly, but mostly when you're having fun.

My family and I just got back from our annual winter vacation to south Florida, one of my most favourite places on earth.

Escaping winter is an absolute necessity for me, because I'm one of those people who really, really cannot understand how we live in these frigid temperatures for so many months every year. It makes me a little... crazy. The cold, the snow, the blowing wind... yes, I do complain about winter a lot, so going somewhere warm and tropical to remember what it feels like to not have to bundle up... to remember what the warmth feels like on my skin... is a must. (I try to enjoy the beauty of winter, and we've gone to Chateau Montebello and Mont Tremblant, and yes, it's beautiful, but um... I've definitely had enough.)

At the end of the day, I am thankful to live in Canada, but I could really do without winter. Eventually, I'd love to make south Florida my home from January to April, every year. I'm nowhere near retirement, though, so please, bear with my winter whining for a little longer.

We had the most fabulous week in Florida at the Westin Diplomat. 


The weather was perfection—very hot and sunny every day. We swam all day long in the beautiful pools at the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa, and took full advantage of the ocean, making sand castles, getting buried in the sand, and collecting sea shells.


We usually travel all together—my family, my parents, and my sister and her family—which makes our vacations that much more fun. It also allows us to escape for a drink or two at night, after the kids have gone to bed. Built-in baby-sitters, hooray!





It was so wonderful to be back in summer clothes—dresses and flip flops and sandals... it was wonderful to feel warmth on my skin, and to hear the sound of the ocean waves, and to sip tropical drinks with my feet in the sand, and it was mostly wonderful to just be away together, having fun in the sun.


Now, we're back home, and it's not easy getting back into winter mode. I am really looking forward to warmer days again... but until then, vacation memories will have to do.

Thanks again, Westin Diplomat, for making our stay perfection!
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Luxury, Defined: The St. Regis Bal Harbour

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The village of Bal Harbour is South Florida's most glamorous travel destination and has been one of my favourite places to vacation for years.  The village of Bal Harbour is considered the "jewel" of South Florida, and when you arrive, you can easily see why.

Bal Harbour is my go-to place to get away from it all, featuring the very best of everything: five-star restaurants, luxurious shops, and family-friendly (and couples-friendly) accommodations, like the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort. As much as I love to travel and explore different destinations from Aruba to Greece, there is something I especially love about south Florida, and in particular, Bal Harbour.

Bal Harbour epitomizes luxury living, from the St. Regis to the Bal Harbour Shops right across the street. It's a place where you're constantly surrounded by beauty, so heading back to reality is a little bit of an adjustment.

St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort

During my recent stay in south Florida, I was given a tour of the beautiful St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort. This resort was awarded the Forbes five-star, AAA five-diamond award for 2014, and everything about this resort was truly stunning.

Classic elegance? Check.
Quiet, breathtaking grounds? Check.
Oceanfront balcony views? Check.





The grand entrance will take your breath away, and as you walk around exploring the grounds you'll soon discover a world of tranquility and luxury at its finest.

The pools at the St. Regis are beautiful, and I was really impressed with the  Oceanfront Day Villas. These 600 foot villas are right by the pool, a short walk away from the ocean. The rooms are air conditioned and elegantly decorated, and include marble floors, a full bath and shower, flat screen TV, mini fridge, a wet bar, a daybed, and an outdoor patio area. Of course, these villas come with a butler, too.  For families travelling with young children, there is nothing better than having a cabana or villa to relax in during the day. That way when the kids need a break or a nap, you don't have to head back to your room.





The St. Regis has an adults-only pool, and a pool the entire family can enjoy. There is also a kids club, so the kids can keep busy all day, or for half the day, meeting new friends while they take part in all the different activities the club offers.

There are 227 elegant guest rooms at the St. Regis Bal Harbour, and all include a spacious glass-enclosed balcony, with floor-to-ceiling panoramic views of the ocean. The decor in the rooms is pure elegance—clean, crisp, and classic, with a touch of modern, too.




The Neiman Marcus Closet

While touring one of the gorgeous suites, I walked through the closet area, feeling very much like Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City. "Do you know about about the Neimain Marcus Closet at The St. Regis Bal Harbour?" I was asked.

Neiman Marcus (right across the street at the world-famous Bal Harbour Shops) has partnered with the St. Regis Bal Harbour, bringing a one-of-a-kind  personal shopping experience to their guests.

This personal shopping experience is like no other, and allows guests and residents the opportunity to have their closet stocked with items from Neiman Marcus in advance of their stay, ensuring the perfect wardrobe is hanging in their closet when they arrive. No need to even pack a suitcase!

Once you arrive, you try on the items, keep what you love, and return what you don't need. Looking for that perfect black cocktail dress? A new pair of Louboutin's? It's all taken care of... talk about perfect personal shopping on a whole other level.

Remede Spa

My favourite part of the tour was experiencing the popular Remede Spa.  I quickly changed into my soft robe and explored. I hadn't even started my one hour massage and I was in paradise...



The Remede Spa is 14,000 luxurious square feet with marble floors and walls, and features a full spa menu including a Bal Harbour 24-Karat Designer Facial where guests enjoy a facial treatment that begins with a copper-enriched peel and ends with a bejeweled sprinkling of gold oil. Extravagant, yes?

I had a one hour massage and it was pure bliss. Of course, the hour passed way too quickly for my liking. It was pure relaxation, and just what I needed to unwind.

The Remede Spa also has a couples treatment room, 11 spacious treatment rooms (the room where I had my relaxation massage was the biggest massage room I've ever been in) a Vichy shower room, Finnish saunas, aromatic steam rooms, and a full service salon, where you can get freshen up your pedicure or manicure, or get your hair done after your massage. The women's lounge was lovely and calming, with ocean views and an array of fruits, water, and tea to enjoy while waiting for your treatment to begin.

The Wellness Program

Just because you're on vacation doesn't mean your exercise routine has to be put on hold. The St. Regis Bal Harbour has a fantastic Wellness Program, developed in partnership with celebrated fitness trainers Tracie and Christopher Vlaun, of V Art of Wellness. This wellness program tailors individual fitness, relaxation, and culinary experiences for guests of the St. Regis.

If you want to eat more healthfully during your stay, keep on track with your regular fitness program, or freshen up your exercise routine, the Wellness Program has something for everyone, from beginner to expert, including yoga.

You'll find a great fitness centre at the St. Regis, with views of the Atlantic Ocean... can't beat that for motivation! There are also group fitness classes and personal trainers available to cater to your every need.


If you're planning an upcoming vacation, I'd recommend the St. Regis Bal Harbour. It would be perfect for a romantic weekend away, and it would be equally wonderful for a girls shopping trip.  The St. Regis Bal Harbour is luxury, defined.

For more information on the St. Regis Bal Harbour, check out their website.

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