The Samsung Family Hub refrigerator keeps my whole family organized

11 December 2018 | 0 Comments

Earlier this summer, I did a fun “kitchen tech” segment on CTV Your Morning. I showcased a bunch of helpful gadgets for the busiest room of the house, including a smart fridge from Samsung. This thing is the coolest. Seriously, watch the clip. After the segment, Samsung asked if I wanted to try the fridge in my own home to really experience it. Yes please!

We’ve been living with the Samsung Family Hub fridge for a couple months now, and it’s so great. The entire family is in love (yes, we’re in love with a refrigerator). Here are some of the features that are total lifesavers, especially now that the craziness of the holiday season is upon us.

The giant digital screen

The touch-screen display on the fridge is a digital version of all the old stuff we used to have, minus the magnets and clutter. Just look at that photo of our old fridge on the left. All of that stuff is now inside that gorgeous touchscreen on the new fridge on the right. And during the holidays, we love receiving special holiday e-cards and displaying photos of loved ones.

Family calendar

The Samsung Family Hub has different profiles for each member of the family, so everyone can see their calendars and to-do lists. This feature has saved my sanity from questions like, “Mom, when is my piano lesson?” or “Are you traveling next week? Can you do school pickup on Monday?”

Morning briefing

We’ve all gotten into the habit of receiving a “morning briefing” when going to the fridge to grab breakfast items. Every family member has their own briefing, customized for the info they want to receive. Clara, who is 7 years old, loves hearing her calendar and the weather, but doesn’t care much for the news. I like the food reminder of what items are going to expire in the fridge, so I know what I should eat for lunch before it goes off.

Smart home integration

The Family Hub fridge integrates with other smart home products, including our Philips Hue lights and our ecobee4 smart thermostat. We can adjust the temperature and control our lights just by asking the fridge. It kind of makes sense to have the fridge as the centre of our smart home ecosystem, since we spend so much time in the kitchen near the fridge already.

Entertainment

I like listening to CBC radio or BBC Scotland when I’m in the kitchen, and I can do so easily with the TuneIn app on the Samsung Family Hub fridge. This time of year, we listen to classic holiday music on Spotify and are locked in a heated debate over which tune is the ultimate Christmas song. I’m firmly in the “Last Christmas” by Wham! camp. Ian swears that “This Christmas” by Donny Hathaway is the best. Clara can’t decided between “Jingle Bell Rock” and Serena Ryder’s “Christmas Kisses.”

Shopping List and View Inside

All of those features are amazing… but hands down, my family’s favourite parts of the Samsung Family Hub fridge are the View Inside and Shopping List features. The Shopping List is shared, and we can add items to it when we’re standing in front of the fridge, and from our individual smartphones. It’s super handy during the holidays, when I have unusual items on my grocery list like baking chocolate.

But what about when you forget to put something on your Shopping List? That’s where the View Inside feature saves the day. The fridge has three cameras inside, so I can use the View Inside part of the Samsung Family Hub app on my smartphone to see what’s in the fridge, even when I’m not home. This is a total game-changer for my family. If we’re out of milk, heads are gonna roll. Ian and I used to anxiously text each other from the grocery store, wondering what we had and didn’t have. Now we can literally peek inside the fridge and see.

Join me for a live demo

Want to see all these features and more? Have a question about the Samsung Family Hub fridge? Join me on Instagram on Friday December 21 at 12pm Eastern. I’ll be doing an Instagram Live video, showing the features and answering your questions.

Disclosure: Samsung provided me with the Family Hub refrigerator. Opinions about the fridge are my own.

I don’t think I could live in a Tiny House… but I might want to vacation in one

24 November 2018 | 0 Comments

The Tiny House movement puzzles me. I understand the drive towards minimalism, but you can have less stuff anywhere. Why live in a super small dwelling? Not to mention how totally impractical it is for families, and the racial and class issues the Tiny House movement has surfaced.

But! If the idea of living simply and small in a remote setting appeals to you, even for a short amount of time, you can try out the lifestyle with a tiny vacation rental. There are a few in Ontario and Quebec that are gorgeous. This little cabin is only an hour outside Toronto, and comes with its own lake (although you have to go to the farmhouse on the property to use the bathroom).

Repère Boréal has four small dwellings to rent in stunning Charlevoix, Quebec. Two of their properties have full kitchens and bathrooms. The smaller two (including this one with a panoramic window that goes up the wall and into the ceiling – swoon!) don’t have water, so you can use the onsite reception centre for washrooms, showers and kitchen facilities. They also have a “spa zone” with an outdoor cold-water shower, sauna and hot tubs for guests to use.

Cabinscape also has four small off-the-grid dwellings you can rent, scattered north of Kingston and west of Ottawa in Southern Ontario. All of them are on lakes, rivers, or trailheads, and Penner Cabin is next to the entrance to Frontenac Provincial Park. The cabins have small kitchens, composting toilets, and indoor showers. In the winter you have to hike in, and the running water is turned off, so no showers (but water is provided for drinking and dishwashing). Cabinscape welcomes children and dogs.

Which one would you rent?

The free app that’s making my Instagram Stories 1000 times better

22 November 2018 | 0 Comments

 

I’ve had a whirlwind fall with a lot of travel and events this year. I’ve enjoyed sharing photos of my adventures on Instagram, particularly in Instagram Stories (and then saving the Stories as Highlights on my profile, so they don’t expire after 24 hours).

To make my Stories as compelling as possible, I use the Unfold app. It’s free (although there are paid add-ons), and available for iOS and Android. My favourite part is that I can use the app to draft a bunch of posts, so I can see the narrative unfold (get it?) as I build the story. Then I can share directly to Instagram from within the Unfold app. I’ve pasted some of the images from my recent trip to Amsterdam above. See how I could choose different layouts, and add text? that’s all in Unfold.

Do you use Unfold? Or have you tried other social media graphic design apps like Canva or Adobe Spark? What’s your favourite part?

 

5 tech gadgets to help make parenting young children easier

26 October 2018 | 0 Comments

In one of my favourite recent segments on CTV Your Morning, I highlighted 5 gadgets that can help make parenting young children easier. I love all of these devices! Watch the clip online here, and here’s more info on each product, below.

1. Toddlermonitor
Toddlermonitor is a toddler-friendly baby monitor. It hangs on a doorknob and alerts parents if their child leaves their bedroom. It senses the motion of the door, and sends an alert to the parents’ smartphone via Bluetooth. Toddlermonitor was created by two moms from Calgary who designed this product after one of their son’s escaped from his room and their home when he was only 2. They were using a video monitor at the time but it didn’t alert them. It can hang on any type of door and can be moved without installation, making it perfect for travel. Toddlermonitor keeps it’s charge for 7 – 10 days.

2. Thermo by Withings
Thermo is a remarkably accurate, easy-to-use smart thermometer. It can track the temperature readings of up to 8 users, it has color-coded fever indicators, and the batteries last up to 2 years. Sync it with the dedicated app on your smartphone, and you can track temperature readings and input related symptoms and medications. That’s a game changer for parents who can’t remember exactly how long it’s been since medication was given, or how a fever is progressing over time.

3. Groclock 
Groclock solves the problem of your child not knowing what time is appropriate for getting out of bed, especially when they can’t tell time! Parents set an appropriate time for when kids can get up (for both overnight sleeps and for daytime naps). The Groclock then uses fun images of the stars and sun to communicate when to go back to sleep and when it’s time to leave bed. It also has a digital clock, so older kids can learn to tell time along with the “stars to sun” countdown.

4. Playbrush 
Getting young children to brush their teeth can feel like pulling teeth. Playbrush turns teeth brushing time into playtime. Playbrush connects to a smartphone app featuring fun games. During each 2-minute adventure, the gaming apps encourage children to brush at the correct speed and equally within all quadrants of the mouth. Choose from the Playbrush Smart (which can be attached to any manual toothbrush), or the Playbrush Smart Sonic electric toothbrush. The Playbrush app comes with 4 free games and a brushing coach, and you can upgrade to the games subscription for even more brushing adventures. The subscription also allows parents to monitor your children’s brushing in the parents app.

5. Circle Home 
Circle makes you the master of your home’s WiFi and every device connected to the internet. It easily connects to your home’s WiFi network and doesn’t require you to install any software on the actual devices themselves. With Circle, you can set time limits for apps and web sites, finally getting online time in check. You can also set up age-appropriate filters that apply to all their devices. Set bed times for each family member, use off times to create unplugged moments during the week, even pause the internet with the tap of a finger.

Would you buy furniture online without trying it out first?

21 October 2018 | 0 Comments

Ian and I bought a sectional sofa and armchair at Sears when we first moved in together, over 13 years ago. They moved with us from our apartment to our house, and are still in our living room (pictured above). We live on that furniture. The sofa and chair have been covered in dog hair, baby spit-up, and more spills than I can count. And they’re starting to look really dated and shabby. I think it’s finally time to say goodbye and get a new sofa and chair.

We’ve gone to Ikea, CB2, Structube and all the other spots for (relatively) inexpensive, stylish furniture. So far nothing has caught our eye. I’m starting to browse online furniture shops, like Wayfair (including their style sister site, AllModern) and Article. I’m loving some of the pieces, like this sofa and this armchair.

But the thought of buying a sofa and chair without actually sitting on it first seems kind of crazy to me. Would you do it? Have you done it? Let me know!

 

A jaw-droppingly gorgeous chalet rental in Quebec

23 September 2018 | 0 Comments

Now that the weather is starting to get a little cooler, I’m dreaming of cozy cabins and chalets to rent this winter. This spot in Charlevoix, Quebec is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Wouldn’t you love to get a group together (the chalet sleeps 12) and watch the snow come down while sipping bubbly in that hot tub? And then pile on the big couch for a tasty meal followed by a movie? Bookmarked.

The totally oddball and wonderful show I just binge-watched on Prime

17 September 2018 | 0 Comments

The new show Forever just debuted on Amazon Prime and we binge-watched it this weekend. It’s from Alan Yang (Master of None) and Matt Hubbard (30 Rock, Parks and Recreation). The show is a drama / comedy, and if you’re a fan of Master of None, I think you’ll see a lot of similarities with Forever.

The show’s creators asked press to not mention anything about the plot twists, so I didn’t know much about the show when watching it. I just said to Ian on Saturday night, “this might be interesting, and it has great actors (Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen). Let’s try an episode or two and see how it goes.” We were hooked.

I won’t give anything away, because it really is easy to spoil the plot. You can watch the trailer for Forever online here, but I encourage you to just dive in, and let me know what you thought in the comments.

 

 

I was a model for a day

15 September 2018 | 0 Comments

Do you know Smithery? They’re an e-boutique specializing in flattering clothing for all body types. Figure out your body type (I’m an “O”) and then shop threads that will look amazing on YOU. What a great concept! I was so pleased to take part in their fall fashion shoot recently as a “Stylesmith real world model” with other phenomenal women entrepreneurs including: Kena Paranjape, founder of All You Are and co-founder of Brika; Shay Benedict, owner of Surfing Ninjas Clothing; Emily Arbour, owner of Cheerfully Made; and Kelsi, former pro athlete and influencer. Our photos were taken by Emily of Emily D Photography.

There was one outfit from our photo shoot (top photo, above) that I loved so much, I bought the whole look. It’s this elegantly casual sweater by Esqualo and the super comfy stretch skinny jeans by Up! Now if only the weather would turn colder so I can get cozy in my new duds.

You can shop the Smithery online, or visit their showrooms in Toronto and Whitby for a style session or sip and click. Details here.

Here’s something fun for you: a promo code for a free style session or “sip and click” at Smithery. That’s private styling in the no-pressure atmosphere of the Smithery studio complete with body shape consults, styling tricks, and bubbly. Use promo code STYLEMEFORFALL to claim the free session. Also, if you book your sesh before September 30 (the session can take place any time until November 30), you’ll be entered into a draw to win a $150 gift card to spend online or at your style session. Get on it!

Disclosure: I volunteered to participate in Smithery’s photo shoot because I like supporting women-owned local businesses. I was given a $200 gift card afterwards (which I spent on the jeans and sweater pictured above). 

A weekend in NYC with a 7-year old

25 August 2018 | 0 Comments

Last weekend, Clara (age 7) and I went to New York City on a special trip, just the two of us. I travel to NYC often for work, but it’s been a while since I was there for fun. We had the best time. Here are a few recommendations for NYC with kids:

Stay central. Midtown Manhattan isn’t my first choice neighbourhood in NYC, but it made sense to stay there so we’d have easy access to the things we wanted to do (visiting Central Park and seeing a musical were at the top of Clara’s must-do list). I trawled a bunch of hotel booking sites for a week before I found a good deal on the Hyatt Grand Central, which is right next to Grand Central Terminal. Perfect location for a home base.

Boats are fun for all ages. Clara really wanted to go to the Statue of Liberty, but I didn’t know you have to book far in advance to get tickets to the pedestal or the crown. So instead we booked a boat cruise that got us close to the Statue so she could see it, but we didn’t actually have to get off. I highly recommend Classic Harbour Line boat cruises. We did their Statue and Sights cruise aboard a gorgeous ’20s style yacht. Boats are so fun for exploring, and seeing the city from the water was exciting. Best part – it wasn’t packed with people so we had a lot of room to ourselves.

Take them somewhere secret. Clara and I had a special moment in Grand Central Terminal when I introduced her to The Whispering Gallery. I explained that it’s a secret, which made it very interesting to a 7-year old. There are no signs, so you have to be ‘in the know’ to know it’s there. Here’s a list of other NYC secret spots.

The Central Park Zoo is a gem. Unlike some zoos in other cities that go on and on for miles, the Central Park Zoo is perfectly compact. You can easily see it all in 1-2 hours. Don’t miss the sea lion feeding – it’s very entertaining. After the zoo it’s a quick walk to the Central Park Carousel, which just feels magical for kids of all ages. Splurge a extra $3 to ride the carousel yourself along with your kids. That way you can see their delighted faces up close.

See a show, and then meet the actors. Clara really wanted to see a musical, so I picked School of Rock for a few reasons. She had seen the movie and the Netflix TV show so she’s familiar with the plot, tickets weren’t insanely expensive or hard to obtain, and the show features a lot of child performers. I learned from taking Clara to Matilda in Toronto that it’s super special for kids to see other kids on stage. School of Rock was funny and we both loved it. After the show we went to the stage door and met some of the actors as they were leaving. Many of them autographed Clara’s playbill, and she thought it was just so cool. Especially saying hello to the kid performers. She was totally starstruck.

PS: See a few more photos from our weekend on my Instagram.

 

Do you subscribe to email newsletters?

9 August 2018 | 0 Comments

Do you subscribe to email newsletters? I’m not talking about promotional emails from companies (although those can be good too). I mean a daily or weekly newsletter with news, or thoughts from someone you like to hear from.

I get The Skimm for a quick news hit every morning (but I don’t always read it every day). I’ve also stared getting Pressed News for the same (morning news hit). In the afternoons I get Sarah Lacy’s Chairman Mom daily newsletter and Dave Pell’s NextDraft list of the top 10 compelling stories he’s found that day.

Two weekly newsletters I open each and every week: Sarah Stockdale’s feminist culture and comedy newsletter We Need to Talk About This and Jocelyn K. Glei’s weekly newsletter of her thoughts and links to articles and books she recommends.

Which ones do you read?