How To Throw A Skateboard Themed Birthday Party

Themed birthdays are my thing. I’ve thrown some epic celebrations for my son over the years, focused on themes like Batman, outdoor movie drive-ins, and Pokemon.

This past summer, my son requested a special theme for his 8th birthday: a ‘skateboarding party’.

I was excited about the challenge – but after checking my usual party stores and consulting trusty Pinterest, I came up empty-handed. So I called CJ’s Skatepark in South Etobicoke, where my son has recently started taking private lessons. And sure enough, they do parties. Cue the happy-mama dance.

We opted to have a one-hour lesson there, followed by the rest of the party at home. But they also offer full-service parties that include everything – including the lesson, access to a Sony Playstation room, to the pizza, drinks, and even the invitations.

Their space jaw-dropingly awesome.

Best of all, the staff are amazing with kids. I didn’t think it was possible to get eight sugar-rushed boys to stand in a line and listen up, but here is photographic proof that our instructor Travis pulled it off.

He had all the kids feeling confident and having fun by the end of the lesson – even the beginners and those who shed some tears the first time they tried to go down a ramp 😉 He mixed technical instruction with fun games like American Ninja Challenge.

Once home, we made these cute skateboards out of polymer clay and practiced our skills on the DIY ramp my hubby made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The only decorations I was able to find in my mostly-fruitless search were mini skateboards, which I added to balloons and the cupcakes, along with a little SK8RBOY tags.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re interested in more info about CJs, for your little SK8RBOY – or SK8RGRL – visit cjsskateboardpark.com.

I’d be thrilled if my son wanted to return to CJ’s next year… but I have a feeling he’ll have a whole new challenge in store for me next year!

The Best Baby Handprint and Footprint Crafts

Over the years, we’ve tried many handprint and footprint crafts via our classes.  Sourcing our inspiration from Pinterest, our moms and babes have created some wonderful handprint art.

By far, the most popular design is “Love” – a craft that every mom completes during our mom and baby program.

Our mini mover crew (little ones aged 6-18M) recently shared their patriotic pride by creating this Canadian Flag.

We also made some adorable Father’s Day handprint crafts.

Want to make something Spooooky?  Try this Frankenstein Halloween Handprint Craft:

At our Superhero Boo Bash, we made this adorable ghosts – way less messy as there’s no paint required.

Do you have your own handprint craft that you love?  Please let us know!

Canada 150 Quiz

As we celebrate Canada 150, I created a fun Canada Day Quiz for our Mini Mover class participants.  How Canadian are you?  Take our Canada Trivia Quiz and find out!

Thanks to Global News for providing the Canada Day Facts I used to create this Canada 150 Quiz…answers at the bottom of this page…but no peeking!

Canada 150 Quiz in honour of Canada Day

ANSWERS: 1. B, 2. A, 3. C, 4. C, 5. A, 6. C, 7. A, 8. B, 9. C

We also munched on these cool Canada Day themed snacks:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We created a special Canada Day craft.  This hand print craft of a Canadian flag will be a special keepsake to commemorate Canada 150:

Top Toronto Farmers Markets – 2017 Edition!

As a mother of a child who is obsessed with any and all type of fruit, I have unfortunately eaten my fair share of imported strawberries during the winter months.  Every summer after visiting the local Farmers’ Markets I am reminded just how good locally grown fresh produce can taste.  I encourage you to visit the local West End Toronto Farmers Markets this summer, and comment below with your favourite finds!  Here are my favourite Summer Farmers Markets for 2017!

Saturdays:

  • The Junction Farmers Market provides local, sustainably produced fresh foods in ways that build community, support local food growers and producers, and promote access to healthy food for all. Saturdays, 9am-1pm from May 27 until Nov 4, 2017, Train Platform, 2960 Dundas St W.  Don’t forget to check out their famous Junction Night Market on Sat July 22, 2017.
  • At the Etobicoke Civic Centre Farmers’ Market you’ll find fresh eggs, hot apple fritters dunked in maple syrup, bread stands, meat carts, and of course…fruits and vegetables!  Saturdays, 8am-2pm June 3rd until October 28, 2017, Etobicoke Civic Centre, 399 The West Mall
  • The local condo association presents The Humber Bay Shore Farmers Market (HBSCA Farmers Market) With over 30 vendors, Local Farmers from Ontario present fresh produce, meat, herbs, cheeses, and preserves.  Plus enjoy delicious coffee, sandwiches, BBQ and more.  Saturdays, 9am-2pm May 27 – Oct 7, 2017 at Humber Bay Park West, 58 Marine Parade Drive.

Mondays:

  • The bustling and bountiful Sorauren Farmers’ Market has fresh local produce, meat, baked goods and foodstuffs of all kinds, plus entertainment and kids’ activities.  Mondays, 3–7 p.m. outdoors until Mid October when it moves indoors at the Fieldhouse, Sorauren Field, Corner of Sorauran Ave  and Wabash Ave

Wednesdays:

  • Montgomery‘s Inn Farmer’s Market features local & organic produce, meat, cheese & much more. Don’t miss fresh baked bread from the Inn’s wood-fired oven!  Wednesdays, 2-6 pm until October 2017 when it moves indoors, Montgomery Inn, 4709 Dundas Street West
  • Annette Village Farmers’ Market features fresh Ontario fruits and vegetables, Farm-Fresh Eggs, Ontario cheeses, local sustainably raised meats, preserves, fresh bread and baked goods, VQA wines, delicious prepared foods, and other artisan delights. There is a constant flow of neighbours enjoying the tantalizing tastes and leaving with bags of fresh Ontario produce.  Wednesdays, 3-7pm until October 4, 2017, Runnymede Presbyterian Church, 680 Annette Street.

Fridays:

  • At the Sherway Farmers’ Market you can enjoy the ambiance of open-air shopping, the freshness and flavour of Ontario grown produce plus locally raised lamb and venison, sausage, peameal bacon,  deli meats, Ontario cheese, honey, preserves, pies, breads and much more!  Fridays 8am-2pm until October 27, 2017, NEW LOCATION:  Parking lot of Church on the Queensway
    1536 The Queensway (Queensway and East Mall)

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Now you have amazing produce, but you still find meal time a chore?!  Read our Mealtime Made Easy Fave 5 List!

Springfree Trampoline Influencer Event

Many families (including mine) wish that their kiddos would spend more time outdoors being physically active. That’s why we love Springfree Trampoline. So much so, that we hosted 10 local families at a special VIP event at the Springfree headquarters.  We wanted them to experience firsthand what makes Springfree so special.

A unique design that focuses on safety

Springfree trampolines were invented by Dr. Keith Alexander, a father and mechanical engineer who was determined to design a trampoline that would help reduce common injuries associated with trampolines and provide safe backyard play for his kids.

Instead of springs, their safety design uses flexible composite rods that lie beneath the jumping surface completely out of harms way.

The metal frame is located beneath the jumping surface where you can’t land on it.

By removing the hard edges at the jumping surface, they have created the SoftEdgeTM mat – a shock absorbent edge that allows jumpers the freedom of jumping across the entire surface of the mat.

The flexible safety enclosure prevents jumpers from falling to the ground, giving parents peace of mind that their kids are having a safe, fun jumping experience.

The only Smart TrampolineTM with the addition of a gaming system called tgoma

Four sensors on the trampoline mat connect wirelessly via Bluetooth® to a tablet. Using the body as the controller, the sensors track the movement creating an outdoor interactive Smart Play experience.

Tgoma offers a collection of activities – including educational games that teach math, language, problem solving and trivia, promoting learning at home through fun activities that strengthen coordination and creative thinking.

They are built to last

Springfree trampolines can withstand the four seasons, they are tested to withstand 5,000 hours of harsh sun exposure. The mat and net rods are made from a special formulation that is three times stronger than steel and tested to withstand millions of bounce cycles. All trampolines come with an extensive warranty, and have the option of delivery and installation.

Not only did the families bounce to their hearts content, Claudia Agudelo Photography also set up a photo booth with two of our favourite heros from The Superhero Company.

 

 

 

 

 

We refueled on a delicious raw cookie dough bar from Sweet Flour Bake Shop, crafted up some Superhero magnets with Mod Podge, and then bounced some more (even the parents)!

 

 

 

 

 

With 7 designs available in Canada, there’s a trampoline for every backyard and every family. To find a location near you, please visit www.springfree.ca or check them out on Facebook or Instagram.

Check out our video of the event, be sure to turn the sound up for a blast from the past!

Overnight Oats 101 (A Breakfast Game-Changer!)

 

I used to find breakfast to be a challenge. I needed a cup of strong coffee before even saying good morning to my family, and usually forced myself to eat something a couple of hours after that (if at all).

A few years ago I got tired of feeling sluggish and uninspired in the mornings and decided to make a change. So I started making this granola recipe – and it’s been a staple of my family’s diet every since.

The energy boost from the oatmeal combined with the protein punch of the nuts and Greek yogurt keep our energy sustained, but man am I ever B-O-R-E-D of it.

So the new-to-me phenomenon of overnight oats could not have come at a better time. Quaker invited me to attend an event hosted by Kortney Wilson of HGTV’s Master Flipp that was all about achieving overnight oat success for busy moms.

 

 

 

 

 

It was fun, interactive, and SO inspiring – and the rest, as they say, is history.

Overnight oats had me at hello. At the event I learned that, with just a few short and simple steps the night before, I could have a wholesome and delicious breakfast ready for my family each and every morning – that we can mix-up and shake-up in dozens of ways.

I love that each of us can customize our portions to suit our tastes and preferences and, of course, how delicious they are. But perhaps the BEST part of this discovery is how much my son likes making them!

He sees overnight oats a fun science experiment and loves creating different versions. I love that it’s a totally kid-safe and kid-friendly recipe to let him run with (no knives or hot stoves involved!) – whether I’m around or not.

Would you believe me if I told you that my 7-year-old son got his own breakfast this morning while I relaxed in bed? Because he did. (Pinch me.)

 

The parent in me also feels obliged to point out that, in addition to being fun, overnight oats are a great option for picky eaters, and an excellent way to introduce alternative milks to your children in a fun and delicious way.

Below are some recipes to get you started – followed by some tips for success based on my experience.

Recipes:

You can also get a sheet full of recipes courtesy of Quaker.

My personal favourite recipe? This one.

I wasn’t sure about the dates, but it turns out I love them and can’t get enough. Who knew? (I loved them so much that I snuck a few extras home with me in this cute bag – don’t tell Quaker!)

A few tips for success (and maximum deliciousness):

1. I prefer mixing my ingredients in a bowl first and them putting them into the jars, as opposed to layering them individually in the jar. While not quite as pretty, I find that it makes for optimal flavour-disbursement.

2. I’ve made Sunday my meal and lunch prep date. I clean all of our fruit so that it’s ready for lunches, snacks – and our oats. I then pre-measure the oats and dry ingredients into the mason jars and leave them on the counter for the week so all that’s left to do each evening is assemble.

3. Overnight Oats don’t need to be eaten straight out of the fridge. I prefer to leave mine out for an hour to remove some of the chill. You can also thin them out a bit with almond milk (cold or you can get fancy and steam it). They could absolutely be taken on-the-go (just add a lid and toss it in your bag!).

4. These Ikea extra-long spoons for regular mason jars, and mini jars for kids are the perfect overnight oats accessories!

If breakfast inspiration – or time – is lacking in your house in the mornings, pick up some Quaker oats and try out some of the recipes above – or visit overnightoats.ca for even more inspiration. You’ll be glad you did!

This is a sponsored post for which Mommy Connections may have received compensation. Rest assured though, we will never endorse a product or service we don’t absolutely love (and think you will too).

LIVING IN THE ‘PRESENT’ – Choosing a career that suits you and your family

I dreamed of working in the movies since I was a little girl. The idea of being on a film set, creating a whole world around fictional characters, and making the ‘magic happen’ were always ideas that I wanted in my future. So that’s what I pursued and I got quite far. I worked my way up to become a set decorator in the industry (the youngest in Toronto at the time) and thought I was set for life living my dream job. But I didn’t realize that I was potentially giving up on the idea of having a family. Working 12-14 hours a day, under incredibly stress and physically demanding conditions was not a place for a woman trying to have a child, as many job in the city tend to be.

So I chose to pivot at the height of my career, turn down working on huge movies and tv shows, and create a new life that could give me the balance and opportunity of a family – I started my own business.

Present Day is a labour of love – an online shop and studio space in Toronto that offers beautiful gift boxes and gift baskets, with thoughtful, locally made products that are high quality and gorgeously packaged. I wanted to create an alternative to the classic, stuffy, cellophane-wrapped ‘gift basket’ out there by creating lovely little packaged boxes with the prettiest things. An added perk is that I’ve been able to connect with so many amazing people in the community!

Present Day supports small brands in Toronto & Canada and we offer ready-made gift sets for any occasion – for men, women and baby. You can also custom-make your own gifts by picking and choosing all the individual items that would create the perfect gift for your recipient so that each gift is thoughtful and personalized. Each gift is packaged in a chic black box with black & white ribbon.

 

 

 

 

 

Starting my own business was not the easiest jump (let’s not kid ourselves, it’s still quite hard) but it’s helped me grow and learn a lot, and I am now, finally, starting to have the time and focus to work on my family.

Sometimes you need to look deep at your ‘dreams’ and figure out what will truly make you happy. As women, it’s so hard to have it all… But I’m looking forward to the new future I can now build. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve have similar experiences!! Visit us at www.presentdaygifts.ca

– Written by Sophia Pierro, founder of Present Day.

Top 10 Superfoods For New Moms

Surprisingly, the nutrient and calorie requirements for a new mom are higher than during pregnancy.

That’s right: an additional 200 to 300 calories a day – along with extra water – makes for super-powered breast milk and a nourished body after growing and giving birth to another human.

But, thanks to sleep deprivation and the major lifestyle adjustment that comes with a new baby, many moms find it hard to find the time to plan meals and eat healthfully in those early weeks and months.

The foods below pack an extra nutrient punch, so add as many into your day as you are able. Your body will be healthier for it.

1. Eggs – eggs are fast to make and offer excellent protein, vitamin D (yolk) and choline. Hard boil six to eight at-a-time and store in the fridge, for a speedy snack or addition to a piece of fruit or handful of salad greens a.k.a lunch.
Meal Garden Recipe:  Superfood Scramble

2. Oatmeal – oats are an iron- and fibre-rich wholegrain tha are fast and easy to make and eat. You can use quick cook or steel cut, depending on how long you have to prepare them. And there are all kinds of oatmeal-based recipes you can make – like overnight oats and blender pancakes, which are speedy to prep and eat, and will leave you with leftovers for another day.
Meal Garden Recipe:  Blender Pancakes

3. Salmon – omega 3-rich salmon contains protein and DHA which is important for both you and baby. DHA nourishes the brain and nervous system as it continues to develop. DHA also improves memory (yes mommy brain), concentration and boosts IQ.
Meal Garden Recipe: Spice Rubbed Salmon With Mango Salsa

4. Spinach – and any other green leafy vegetable, actually. Greens are calcium, iron, folate, vitamin C, beta-carotene and manganese rich that touch on just about every need of a new mom. From boosting milk production to healing from a caesarian birth, the broad nutrient profile in spinach is a daily must. Eat as a salad, cook with it or add to your smoothie.
Meal Garden Recipe:  Sneaky Spinach Muffins

5. Blueberries – blueberries are rich in plant-based nutrients and antioxidants, which help to protect the cells in your – and your baby’s – body. They make a fast snack, beneficial topping for oatmeal, salad or yogurt – or blended in your morning smoothie.
Meal Garden Recipe:  Creamy Blueberry Smoothie

6. Almonds – almonds are a powerhouse of protein, calcium, vitamin E, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and fibre. As with salmon, you need a lot of omega 3 fats so a handful of almonds might just help you remember where you left your keys. Eat them ‘au naturel’ or as a nut butter with apple, banana or celery.
Meal Garden Recipe:  Shredded Kale & Brussels Sprout Salad with Lemon 

7. Sesame seeds – sesame seeds are an exceptional source of calcium, in an absorbable form. In fact, they’re a better source of calcium than from most dairy products. They’re high in fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese. Enjoy on salads, as a paste called tahini and in a dip like hummus.
Meal Garden Recipe:  Maple Tahini Freezer Cookies

8. Brown rice – iron, B vitamin and fibre-rich brown rice will keep you going far longer than white. Short grain is nuttier and long grain more like what most are used to. Eat warm or add in cold to a salad with beans or legumes to make a complete protein and nutritious meal.
Meal Garden Recipe: Mix ‘n Match Veggie Fried Rice.

9. Chia seeds – these little seeds give so much in an almost tasteless form. Including these in your smoothie, on a salad, mixed into yogurt or even in baking will give you a calcium, manganese, and phosphorus, fibre, and and omega-3 boost. The seeds can be eaten whole or ground and are a simple addition to just about any dish.
Meal Garden Recipe:  Chia Seed Pudding

10. Dates – dates are an excellent source of insoluble fibre, which aids in  digestion and to ease constipation. They’re also high in minerals like calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, magnesium and zinc. They help healing after birth and, with their high mineral content, ease anemia, boost energy, support good vision, and can aid in weight loss.
Meal Garden Recipe:  Homemade Granola Bars

Check out all 10 recipes on Meal Garden.  You’ll be prepared when you’re starving and don’t know what to eat – and can rest assured knowing the fuel you’re taking in is making for a healthier you.

Written by Lianne Phillipson,  Registered Nutritionist and bestselling author of Sprout Right – Nutrition from Tummy to Toddler.  Lianne is the founder of SproutRight.com, an engaging speaker, media regular and nutrition expert featured weekly on Toronto’s NewsTalk1010 radio. She consults with clients both in person and online and has her one of a kind New Eaters Club for new parents starting and progressing with solid food with their babies.

Introducing the ‘Healthy Eating for New Moms Bundle’ by Meal Garden!

Adjusting to life with a baby is a big transition. It’s easy to forget how important it is to make sure you’re also fuelling YOURSELF with healthy foods.

So when Meal Garden approached me about creating the Healthy Eating For New Moms Bundle, an all-in-one healthy eating package just for moms, I jumped at the chance.

Developed with the help of some of Canada’s top nutritionists, culinary experts – and regular moms like you! – this is an all-in-one tool that includes a treasure trove of healthy, mom-focused recipes, and everything you need to bring them to life. The best part? It’s free for a limited time.

What’s inside?

The Healthy Eating for New Moms Bundle features recipes (curated by yours truly), which you can browse and save in your ‘cookbook’. From there, you can plan your meals – and even automate your grocery list. You’ll know exactly why the recipes you’ve chosen are awesome fuel for you, thanks to comprehensive, easy-to-read, nutritional ratings for each and every recipe.

Our recipes and articles are organized into nine categories, to make it really easy to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Why do we love it?

1.It keeps everything in one, easy-to-use place. Forget bookmarking links, clogged Pinterest boards, and using multiple apps to keep track of your recipes. This tool is a one-stop shop.

2. You can add your own recipes… and it’ll crunch the nutritional info.

3. Scannable stats. You can browse photos, cooking times, and an easy-to-read health meter rating right on the thumbnail for each recipe. So you’ll know right away whether it’s worth clicking – or not – based on your needs, tastes, and goals.

4. The ability to customize. Don’t like an ingredient? Want to switch things up a bit? Simply copy an original recipe, tweak it to your tastes, and voila! You’ll see the updated nutritional information – and this new version of the recipe will forever be saved in your database.

5. The. Grocery. List. Once you’ve selected the recipes you want to make, Meal Garden creates a grocery list for you by section of the grocery store. You can easily remove items you already have and even drag and drop to create separate lists for the different stores your shop at. Then with a click of a button you can email the list to your partner so they can do the shopping for you.

Tell me you couldn’t use a little bit of this in your life? I thought so. Sign up and see for yourself.  Remember,  it’s FREE for a limited time!

Facebook Group & Contest

This isn’t about perfection – and Meal Garden is not a Pinterest board. This is about real life, sharing experiences, and making sure you feel awesome, healthy, supported, and inspired.

Once you register, you’ll receive an invitation to join our private Facebook group, Meal Planning Moms, where we’ll navigate this journey together. It’s a safe space to share tips, recipe successes (and failures!) as well as real reactions from your family.

Join before April 10th and get all of this PLUS you’ll automatically be entered to win a huge meal-planning prize!

If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact me.

See you in ‘the garden’!

Join Meal Garden by April 10 to win!

We’ve just launched the Healthy Eating for New Moms Bundle in collaboration with Meal Garden. It’s a revolutionary tool designed to make healthy eating and home cooking easier for new moms.

In one convenient online location, it includes a treasure trove of healthy, mom-focused recipes and everything you need to bring them to life. Read more about why we love Meal Garden – or join our Healthy Eating For New Moms Bundle (free, for a limited time!).

When you do, you’ll be automatically entered in our launch contest. One lucky winner will walk away with an awesome bundle of food-related prizes courtesy of some of our expert contributors. The prize is valued at over $300 and includes:

All you have to do is register by April 10 and you’ll automatically be entered. This journey is definitely more fun with friends, which is why we’ve created a private Facebook group called Meal Planning Moms for everyone who signs up .

So, if you know another mom who could benefit from this tool, please feel free to share the love (if they win, maybe they’ll invite you over for dinner!).