Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Not So Wordless Wednesday

Life has been insanely busy with the toddler being in her "terrific twos", me teaching, having students at the house with us for the summer, the farm, the freelance work, extra-curricular activities, committees...just to name a few things.

I had to bring the toddler to a meeting last week since I couldn't find childcare at the last minute. She was great, except for the constant wanting me to play with her and read her books. This, my friends, is why it's really not recommended to take little ones to your meetings. It's distracting and can sometimes prove to be unproductive. She was so good, but it really is a lot to ask of a 2.5 year old to sit and stay occupied for an adult meeting. Of course, she had toys and books to keep her busy with, but nothing is ever as good as having Mommy play too. *sigh*

Secret Mommy Confession:  After the meeting, I was almost in tears. I asked some of the other women there how on earth women survive?! We work all day at our jobs, work all evening and night at our home and take care of our families, we don't get much sleep, we don't get many breaks. How do women survive? Better yet, how do women not burn out or go nuts? Oh, I'm totally not joking.

Little One is simply adorable and I love her so  much. She's just into everything and she's so busy all the time! Sometimes, I wonder if having children earlier in life would have been easier? Then I think of all the things I know now and all the experience I have as *gasp* (dare I say it?) an "older mom". I just don't seem to have the energy I had when I was in my twenties. I'm 35 and Little One is just over 2.5 years old.

I find my patience wears thin really easily after a long day of teaching. I want to just soak up all my time with her and enjoy her at this age, but after racing home from teaching, there's supper to be made, work to do around the  house, and a whole slew of other things to do. It pains me to feel like I am not giving her all my time when I am at home.

I need to go to Zumba and exercise classes during the week because A) I need and love the exercise and B) That hour of working out refreshes me and gives me a break from the whining and acting out. Sadly, my little munchkin has become very whiny for her mommy and is very vocal about her wants and her dislikes. Though I know that working out is good for me, I feel really guilty (not always self-imposed) for taking a few nights a week away from my toddler.

Then I have friends who seem to be so "together" with the whole parenting thing. They don't complain, voice their frustrations, fall apart, or feel like crying sometimes. At least, they give that illusion. My close friends and I feel comfortable enough to talk about everything we are going through and how we really feel. The SuperMoms out there just make me feel like a completely awful mom for losing it sometimes.

I'm just so exhausted all the time.

Thankfully, despite the whole whiny, cranky, bossy attitude from Little One sometimes, on the whole, she is an awesome kid. She's so inquisitive, loving, sweet, smart, funny, and my everything. I just wish I could be more patient, not worry about cooking, getting housework done, and doing other things. I don't want her to remember me losing it or being stressed out at the state of our house all the time. When she gets older, I want her to remember that I read to her every night (book after book...after book!), sang with her, played outside with her, coloured with her, and took  her to cool places. I want her to remember all of these things. I really am making an effort to not be "that crabby mom" who is overly concerned with how immaculate the house is. I can't  help how much it bothers me that the house is suffering since I've gotten so busy with everything.

How on earth do some moms have it so "together" all the time? 

I hope Little One does know how much I love her and how much the time we spend together means to me. I  hope she always remembers the time we spend on the beach together.
Friday, June 24, 2011

The Great Canadian Blog Bash! Plus, a Giveaway!!!

Canada Day is fast approaching and what greater way to celebrate than by participating in The Great Canadian Blog Bash?
Follow fellow Canadian bloggers for this celebration and make sure to check out the hosts of this great party!  Mom vs. the Boys, Whispered Inspirations, Pampered Patty, Kat's Confessions, and Good Girl Gone Green :)

Oh, Canada!

As an ESL teacher (English as a Second Language teacher), I am in contact with people from around the world every day.  My job is mainly to help students improve their speaking, listening, reading, writing, and grammar skills, but I also help them learn about Canadian culture.  Basically, they become immersed in the culture and the language. What better way to learn a language than to just delve right into the culture?

This means that I need to expose my students to all things "Canadian".  Without being stereotypical or too cliche, we try to offer our visitors from other countries an experience to remember. What do we think all visitors to Canada should experience?

* Visiting the cabane a sucre (sugar shack) and seeing how maple syrup is made. There's nothing better than having a pancake breakfast with the works and slathering pure Canadian maple syrup all over everything!

* Visiting Vieux Montreal/ le Vieux Port (Old Montreal and the Old Port) in the summer. Take in the sights of this beautiful, magical, historic city! Listen to street musicians, sit at a patio restaurant and have a cool drink, or sample a Queue de Castor (Beaver Tail) pastry. There's so much to do in Montreal! Of course, having lived there for 23 years, I'm not biased at all!

* Eating real Poutine! Only in Quebec can you experience real poutine! They use a gravy known as "poutine sauce" and real cheese curds. Though this is definitely not your #1 health conscious choice, you can try it just for the experience. Quebec = poutine + beer + hockey!

* Also on the Montreal list are two Montreal traditions: smoked meat sandwiches at Schwartz's Hebrew Delicatessen and Montreal bagels. St. Viateur Bagel and Fairmount Bagel are my favourites! As a former Montrealer, I cannot eat bagels if they are not from Montreal. I know, I know. Total bagel snob!

* Spend some time in historic Quebec City.

* Toronto - Film Festival, Taste of the Danforth, visit Casa Loma, check out the Bata Shoe Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario...and of course, visit the CN Tower. There are tons of things to do in Toronto. These are just a few to begin with!

* Niagara Falls - No ESL student travels to Canada without visiting Niagara Falls!

* Go wine tasting and experience fine dining on Niagara on the Lake. While you're there, make sure to pick up some ice wine to take home with you!

* Appreciate the sights on the East Coast! Though the only Maritime province I've been to is New Brunswick, I have always wanted to visit Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island! Call me a geek, but I've always wanted to go to Anne's Land! Huge fan of Anne of Green Gables  here!

* Vancouver and Victoria are two of my favourite places in Canada. There are plenty of things to do and British Columbia is such a beautiful province!

* Of course, living on Manitoulin Island, I'd have to say that you need to visit "The Island"! Take a stroll on the boardwalk and soak up the scenery. The white sand beach and the turquoise water at Providence Bay will blow you away.  Hike up the Cup and Saucer hiking trails, check out the Bridal Veil Falls, treat yourself to something sweet at the Chocolate Works, appreciate the talent of the many artists on the Island by checking out the Perivale Art Gallery, catch a musical at the Burns' Wharf Theatre, go stargazing at Gordon's Park (and if you're lucky, you might even see the Northern Lights), go to the Farmer's Market and sample local fare, make sure to buy local produce from the Gypsy Family Farm, take a coffee break at Loco Beanz, and have a delicious and healthy dinner at the Garden's Gate Restaurant... These are only some of the many things you can do on beautiful Manitoulin Island!

The Giveaway!

In participating in The Great Canadian Blog Bash,  I am also hosting an amazing proudly Canadian giveaway! Many of you have heard (ummm...or read!) me rave about how fabulous Ultimately Chocolate 
Not only is Ultimately Chocolate a great Canadian business, but they are from the island I now call home. That's right! Made on beautiful Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada!
Ultimately Chocolate is giving one of my lucky blog readers a box of TOFFLES! What are TOFFLES, you ask? They're decadent and delectably smooth chocolate truffle, surrounded by a rich, dark chocolate toffee.

Simply leave me a comment in the comments section of this blog, telling me what you love best about Canada or what your favourite thing to do or place to visit in Canada is.
Please make sure you leave your e-mail address so I can contact you if you win. Also, please leave one comment per entry if you opt for extra chances to win!

If  you'd like extra chances to win:
- Follow me on Google Friend Connect.
- Follow me on Twitter @chancesmommy
- Tweet this post/giveaway
- Like us on Facebook

**Giveaway ends on July 1st, 2011 and is open to Canadian residents only.** 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Blogging Faux Pas

 Image found here via Google Images.
One of the things I have learned in my recent experience as a blogger, product reviewer, and giveaway host is that readers really do take the time to enter contests and giveaways.  Readers invest their own time to comment, tweet, post links on Facebook, tell their friends and family about all these amazing products, and promote these products and companies. They help grow small businesses, increase their fan base, and basically tout how wonderful these businesses are.

Barring postal strikes (Canada Post, please return services to the masses! I miss receiving my mail) and the occasional delay in getting prizes out to contest winners, I have had an amazing experience working with all the companies that have been so great in sponsoring contests and giveaways. I love all the companies I've worked with and believe in their products. I have been fortunate to have no complaints whatsoever...except for one recent incident.

Of course, I am not going to publicly name this business or say anything slanderous about anyone. That is not how I am and I don't believe in publicly dissing anyone. It's just that when so many people have taken the time to enter a contest and help promote one's business, one would think that the prize would be honoured.

The contest winner was announced, I got the winner and the sponsor in touch via e-mail and Facebook. A prize was to be shipped out and the winner was very happy and excited.  Weeks passed, and nada. Nothing. E-mail messages were left without replies, and the winner asked me if I could look into it. I followed up with the sponsor, and still no word. Finally, the sponsor said that she had been busy. Then she had e-mail issues. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and followed up, making sure things were still good with the winner's prize. Yes, all was good.

Weeks followed, and still no prize. Once again, the winner contacted the sponsor. The sponsor had lost the winner's mailing address and choices for her prize. She would send it as soon as possible.

A few more weeks and still nothing. The winner contacted the sponsor again. She asked me to follow up once more. Nothing. No acknowledgement of the messages we had sent. It came to a point where I felt uncomfortable and as if we were harassing or hounding the sponsor and it should not have to be that way.

The winner got fed up (ummm...that's a very mild way of putting it!) and sent a final message to the sponsor, stating that it was fine and that she no longer wanted the prize. I felt awful that the winner had given the time to enter the contest and had not received her prize. I even offered to send her some chocolate from the Island as a token of my appreciation for even entering the contest. I felt awful that she had to experience that whole ordeal.

Needless to say, both the winner and I have "unliked" (Ha! Shouldn't it be "disliked"?!?) the sponsor's page on Facebook and will never ever be making any purchases from this sponsor. Not only did the not honouring the prize part leave a bad taste in our mouths, but the customer service was horrible. Wait. There was no customer service!

On the flip side, I realize it is a lot of work to be a mompreneur and to run a small business. I understand that sponsoring giveaways requires one to spend money in order to build a fan base or increase sales. I know that many moms who run businesses have full time families and a zillion other things to do.

All I am saying is that if you approach someone to run a review and giveaway, please honour your word and send the winner of your contest his/her prize. They enter these giveaways in good faith. They invest their time and show interest in your products and services. These are people who are possibly future customers. Is this the way one treats their customers?

*Edited to add:  We have recently learned that the sponsor has had numerous complaints similar to ours by people who have made purchases from her. A) She hadn't replied to messages from buyers, B) Many people hadn't received their products (which they had paid for!), C) Many people have just said to forget it and send them their refunds, etc...
Friday, June 17, 2011

It's Been Five Years...

Happy Anniversary, Hubby! Here's to many more wonderful years together.
Thursday, June 16, 2011 Is Back!!!

Not too long ago, I wrote about how much we love  I was introduced to this fabulous Canadian company and really liked the quality of their products as well as their excellent customer service and quick delivery.
Remember this piece in particular? It's a photo of Little One in her tutu (I selected Frameless Mounting).
Needless to say, we are very pleased with how this photo turned out!

Now has Metal Photo Prints! I like the idea of metal canvases that float off the wall.
They use UV sensitive inks-that won’t fade. This means that they can be used indoors or out. They’d be amazing on a patio or in a loft space.

"To create the metal print, Posterjack prints directly on brushed aluminum, which produces a brilliant sheen that traditional printing on paper or canvas can't deliver. As an additional unique feature, any white in an image will show through as brushed metal, giving a 3D depth to the print."

I know I'm a bit late in telling you about this great new product, but it would be a fabulous Father's Day gift (or an "any other occasion" gift)!
Monday, June 13, 2011

Father's Day is Just Around the Corner!

Looking for the perfect cost-effective Father's Day gift? Then why not book a mini-mini session?! You will get thirty minutes of shooting time for $29 and 4 digital copies and a professional quality 8x10 of your choice.

If you're on Manitoulin Island for Father's Day weekend, Temara Brown Photography is offering photo sessions.

The mini-mini sessions are ideal for those on a budget, but who still want professional photographs that are not your regular cookie-cutter [insert name of big department store] photographs. At $29 for brilliant, one of a kind photographs, you can't go wrong!

Check out her other excellent photo options here.

Every group who orders a shoot will be entered in a draw to win their shoot for free!

Happiness is...

As we approached High Park, my heart began to race with excitement and anticipation. In the distance, I could see the big bouncy castles and hear the children's laughter. The park was filled with families and their NICU graduates. I wasn't sure what to expect with this being the first Mount Sinai Hospital NICU Graduates Picnic we were able to attend.
I felt overwhelmed with happiness. All these families who had spent long days, weeks, and even months in the NICU were all together in one place, sharing in the celebration of all the babies who were in the NICU. The appreciation and thankfulness I felt for the doctors, nurses, staff, volunteers, and other families cannot be expressed in words. There are no words to adequately describe how I feel.

Tears poured, as hugs were exchanged. "Thank you for being there and helping us get through some of the hardest times we've ever had to experience" and "I don't know what I would have done if  you weren't in the NICU with me" could be heard by many of the parents. We all shared like experiences. We all had special little miracles. Some were born just over a pound at birth and are now happy, healthy, busy toddlers.

To be honest, though one can never forget those early days in the NICU, as the years pass and Little One grows, it all seems so surreal that we went through all of the scary, rocky times in our baby's first months. Little One is two and a half years old now! The date on this photo is wrong. It should have been November 19, 2008.

Being able to see the people who spent time in the NICU with us when Little One was there just brought back so many memories. It was a celebration, a reunion, and just a very happy occasion.
Little One is a healthy child. Developmentally, she is just like any other toddler her age. She is just a regular kid, but who had a rocky start.

It was fantastic to see all the preemies who were in the NICU with Little One. I cannot believe how much they've all grown! They are all doing so well! No photos of the picnic or families and children who attended the picnic will be posted on here (due to privacy reasons).

Thank you to everyone involved in making the Preemie Graduates Picnic 2011 a very memorable one.
* Photos of Little One at the picnic courtesy of the talented :) Thank you!
Monday, June 06, 2011

Thank You, Applause Toys!


ApplauseToys is offering readers of my blog 15% off on their purchases. The offer is good until June 30, 2011. Code: Manitoulin15

Text "SMILE" for the Starlight Children's Foundation

“To feel free from machines, to take my worries and fears away, to be special for a
moment in time-that’s what Starlight means to me.”

Many Canadians are aware of the work that the Starlight Foundation does. For over 20 years, the Starlight Foundation has been dedicated to improving the quality of  life for children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses and life-altering injuries. Starlight's mission is to bring fun, joy, and giggles where they are needed the most.

What does the Starlight Foundation mean to you

The Starlight Children’s Foundation is holding a Tweet-A-Thon from June 6 -13 to kick off the Text “SMILE” fundraising campaign.

Starting June 6, Canadians can simply text the word “SMILE” on their cell phone to 20222 to donate $5 to Starlight. All proceeds raised will be used to fund Starlight programs, which bring smiles to seriously ill children and their families. Please text "SMILE" and help spread joy and create lasting memories. 

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Something Fabulous for Islanders!!!


I cannot tell you how many times people have asked me if I knew of any professional photographers on the Island.  People are always looking for photographers to take photos for weddings, anniversaries, engagements, newborn's first professional pics, and family portraits.

The Island is home to some very talented photographers. One of our favourites is Temara Brown Photography. We love Temara Brown Photography! Temara has a keen eye for detail and knows how to capture even the simplest, every day moments and make them something to remember. Each photo tells a story - From whimsical fairytale weddings to the precious moments with grandparents and grandchildren, Temara really knows how to make each photograph special. Her photographs are definitely works of art. I know this firsthand, as she did the photographs for my cousin's wedding last August.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.
To view more of her work, click here.

Temara is offering something very special for Manitoulin Islanders!

Portrait sessions for Friday and Saturday two weekends from now (June 17 and 18) are 55% off as a special for those who follow my blog! Mini sessions are also available for 50% off the normal price.

Portrait sessions can be indoor or in studio. They are more in depth, and are about 1.5-2 hours in length. This extra time allows for outfit changes, backdrop changes, and are recommend for outdoor photo sessions. The 55% off sale price is $125. Perfect for engagement shoots, outdoor family sessions or newborns.

Mini sessions are mainly in studio and are basically a shorter version of a portrait session. They last for about 30 minutes and are on sale for $60 at 50% off. Perfect for those who just wants some fun family photos!

Every group who orders a shoot will be entered in a draw to win their shoot for free!
Added bonus: Every session will receive *all* their best photos edited on a disc.

Prints, custom photobooks, and more are also available!

This deal is happening one weekend only so book now!
*The photographer still has a few weekends free this summer for those interested in having wedding photos done.

Temara Brown Photography is on Twitter and Facebook too!
Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Ice Cream (Melissa & Doug style)!

With the weather heating up, that means time for swimming, being outdoors, and having ICE CREAM!! We're fortunate to have some really good ice cream on the Island. Nothing beats lining up at the ice cream shop and choosing our favourite ice cream flavours to have scooped onto a cone (or in a cup for Little One).

Since Little One loves ice cream so much, I thought the Melissa & Doug Scoop & Stack Ice Cream play set would be ideal for her.  She's getting pretty good at all her Melissa & Doug wooden puzzles, and she's learning how things operate and go together. She's making all these connections and she gets so excited when she figures out how things work. The Scoop & Stack Ice Cream is great for her to "scoop", "stack", count, and just have fun. She loves pretend play!

The set comes with four scoops of all-time favourite ice cream flavours: vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, and mint chocolate chip, two ice cream scoopers (both magnetic and can really "scoop" the ice cream!), and two wooden ice cream cones.

This toy is fantastic for so many reasons. Little One spends hours serving ice cream to her neighbourhood  friends, to her stuffed animals, and to us! The kids take turns and share (thank goodness for TWO scoopers!).

Little One's vocabulary has taken a huge jump. She's saying things like "One scoop or two?", "Scoop ice cream onto cone", "Ice cream, please!", and "Want ice cream? Have it!" :)

 I'm tellin' ya...Hours of fun scooping ice cream! In between watching the cattle from our living room window, of course!

It's just really cute. She's entertained, she's happy, she's learning, and she's developing various developmental skills. Okay, it helps that Mommy loves Melissa & Doug too!

Oh. My. Goodness.

If you haven't visited this beautiful island I live on, you'll want to come visit us after checking this out! I promise that you won't be disappointed!

Head on over to my other blog to see what delectable treats await you there! :)

Yet Another Reason to Visit Manitoulin Island

Many tourists and locals alike just love Manitoulin Chocolate Works. What's not to love? A beautiful little shop in the quaint town of Kagawong, the breathtaking view of the water and a lovely walk by the Bridal Veil Falls? Oh! Of course...the chocolate!!!

A while ago, I spoke of the Chocolate Macaroons and Pecan Waves in my post, Let There Be Chocolate. I told you about the Belgian Chocolate Almond Cranberry Bark and S'mores Bark in It's All About the Chocolate.

I can write about one of my favourite spots on the Island (yes, Kagawong...and yes, the Chocolate Works!), but words cannot do them any justice. Take a look at this amazing video of this wonderful family-run business in a small rural town on beautiful Manitoulin Island!  Cheers to Robert Maxwell for putting together such a fabulous video!

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About the Blog Author

City girl moves to the country, falls in love, and marries a farmer. She tries to incorporate her city ways with her new country lifestyle and blogs to keep in touch with friends, family & students who live far, far away :) Can this city girl go country? Watch as she learns all sorts of exciting things about life on the farm and in a small rural community. *UPDATE* We are now parents! Our baby girl was born on Nov. 11, 2008 (at 28 weeks gestation- 12 weeks premature, but she's quite the trooper)!!!
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Life on Manitoulin: Just a bunch of ramblings from a city girl gone country!

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