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The Answer To All Your Last Minute Holiday Shopping Needs

The idea of going into the final week before Christmas without one gift being purchased yet would cause most folks insane anxiety. Rightfully so, if you expect to be picking up all the gifts on your list from *gasp* the MALL! I have learned from years of unnecessary panicking that last minute mall shopping is not the way to go if you want to enjoy the holidays without getting high blood pressure by December 24th. My motto has simply become this…No mall. No lines. No stress. It’s really just that simple and it means I get to chill and actually enjoy the holidays.

 

There are a handful of online retailers that I rely on during this time of the year, but I swear, Best Buy is the move for last minute shoppers. Why? Their “Reserve + Pick-Up” service is the ultimate destination for all the tech-obsessed people on your list, even the youngest ones. It’s actually brilliant and so incredibly efficient. A couple of days ago I reserved some items online and seriously within 20 minutes, I had received a confirmation notifying me that they were not only set aside at the store but also ready to be picked up at the Best Buy location closest to my house.

I got a chance to test out the service earlier this week when I ordered a special little pre-holiday surprise for my little girl that was delivered to our home by a Best Buy Blue Shirt employee. I partnered with Best Buy to add an extra-special step to this already awesome service – even though this is a service they don’t offer, we had the opportunity to have the gift delivered to our home by a Best Buy Blue Shirt employee to capture the full-effect of the surprise. It was actually really cute. We cruised the website until she found something that made her squeal and giggle. Not surprisingly, it was the Spin Master Zoomer Playful Pup. A bit of a mature toy for her but the kid is obsessed with dogs and a toy robot dog that can roll over, bark and answer to commands is the coolest gift ever, so I could never say no.

Reserve + Pick-Up is available all the way until December 24th, so Best Buy has you covered down to the wire. Just find the items you want, click the “Reserve in Store” icon and choose a location nearest you for pickup. An email confirmation is sent shortly after notifying you that everything is good to go for pick-up and will be kept on hold for you to pick up within 24 hours.

Ok guys, its probably time to stop reading about how to shop stress free this season. Let’s get you actually shopping and crossing items of your gift giving list right now by heading to BestBuy.ca.

Moments That Matter With Aeroplan: Miami Edition

Hot and sunny Miami. Another stamp in Maxwell’s passport and a pretty sweet place for Réjean and I to spend our third anniversary. Every year around this time when the weather gets cold, the two of us moonlight about spending our winters away somewhere warm like premature Snowbirds. Being down south for the entire winter is still quite a stretch but escaping the cold for a beach rendezvous a couple times during the season is somewhat reasonable and is now actually realistic thanks to some new benefits for Aeroplan Members.

Aeroplan + So Sasha

Aeroplan + So Sasha

Aeroplan + So Sasha

South Beach may not seem like the typical family vacation destination, but turns out more and more young families are heading to South Florida over other warm weather spots. The short three-hour flight is definitely a plus for parents traveling with young children, For us, it also made sense because Réjean’s parents are there all winter and we figured it was a great opportunity for them to spend some extra time with Maxwell. We had SUCH an amazing time during our trip and seriously wish someone had suggested this to me before. If you’ve yet to travel with your little one, there honestly couldn’t be a better destination to get over first family trip anxiety.

There’s lots of new features available to Aeroplan Members now, that we finally got a chance to take advantage of during this last family trip. Réjean and I earn miles in a few different ways. Through online purchases, but mostly through booked airline travel and credit card charges. We have a TD Aeroplan Visa Card, but Réjean just recently acquired an American Express AeroplanPlus Gold Card and we just scored a ton of Aeroplan Miles on it (I will share how a bit later!). In the past, we’ve only used our miles to book flights but this time, we actually used it to book our hotel stay and rental car. or earn miles on so much more than just flights. It’s been a long time coming but it was worth the wait. The new Aeroplan online travel booking portal allows members to use their miles or cash to book hotels and car rentals cars. It can be accessed through the homepage by clicking on the “Book Travel” tab. There you will not only be able to book but you will also find great deals based on recent bookings from other Aeroplan Members as long as you’ve signed into your account. And the new site has more than 25,000 hotels to choose from.

A pretty sweet and generous welcome gift from the Loews Miami team

I did some research specifically on family friendly properties in South Beach, which is how I discovered Loews Miami, then double checked to see if it was one of the preferred properties available for booking on Aeroplan.com. Not only was it there but by booking through the portal, we were able to earn four miles for every dollar spent, which HELLO…we can use towards future travel bookings. So we planned on four days and three nights there before heading to Deerfield to see the in-laws and it was the best spot in SoBe for our little family. A full baby concierge that provided us with a real crib (not a pack-and-play), bath time essentials, a bottle warmer and get this – even a stroller because guess who left Maxie’s Bugaboo back in Toronto by accident? I’ll save you the drama behind how that happened but our lives were saved upon arrival by the Loews concierge, who got a stroller for us within seconds of checking in.

The rooms at Loews Miami may be on the smaller side but more importantly, it’s quiet. NO CRAZY DAY PARTIES!  Day drinking foam parties isn’t really ideal when you’re traveling with a little one. The property has seven insanely delish restaurants that are SO good and convenient, you don’t even really need to go anywhere else if you don’t want to. We had the most exceptional buffet breakfasts every single morning at Preston’s Market, that truly felt like the ultimate indulgence. So much so, it left us no choice but to make sure we exercised at least once a day.  The best french toast I think we’ve ever had was served and I’m pretty sure I ate my weight in smoked salmon and capers. Max loved the mini pancakes and fruit kebobs from Preston’s kiddie corner. A separate section of the restaurant dedicated to guests under 10 years old.

Maxie was a good sport and allowed us a couple dinners out so we enjoyed a night of oysters and cocktails at the Lure Bar, also connected to the hotel, and relished the fact that we only had a short walk back to the room so we didn’t have to worry about drinking. South Miami probably has more restaurants per capita than any other city, so we did check out a few other spots as well like Byblos, who also has a Toronto location that I love. Yardbird Southern Table & Bar was just down the street from the hotel and seemed to keep coming up every time I searched or asked for the best foodie spots in the area. We even went to the neighbouring Kimpton Surfcomber Hotel’s restaurant, The Social, for a relaxed late night meal with live music.

Aeroplan + So Sasha

The pool is the hub of the hotel and flooded with families with small children, so Maxie made some friends there. With the Loews being oceanfront we also got some good beach time in. It also backs onto the infamous South Beach boardwalk, which was a dream. We were able to take long walks together as a family and Réj and I were able to get some runs in.

Being able to rent a car seat from Avis for our rental was super convenient

Four days in SoBe was more than enough for us and the last two nights were spent with Maxie’s grandparents. We rented the Dodge Journey SUV from Avis and you will never guess how much it cost us. Free.99 folks because we were able to use Aeroplan Miles for the rental, which was a blessing. For convenience, we rented it from the airport, so we were able to drive ourselves into the city and use the car to get around locally to take Max to The Children’s Museum and to discover the city. We were even able to rent a carseat from Avis at an additional charge thank goodness, so we were able to travel lean and light without having to bring hers along with our luggage. This is actually the first time we have rented a vehicle on vacation and I am so glad we did. Deerfield Beach is a lot more spread out than Miami was, so it was critical to have a set of wheels to get around while we were there.

Miami Children's Museum - So Sasha

Miami Children's Museum

Miami Children's Museum

We’ve traveled quite a bit as a family now. Short trips, long trips, destinations with different time zones…we learn something new every single time we travel. This trip was no exception. So here are the key learning’s:

  • Always, always, always check Aeroplan’s portal before booking a hotel. If where you want to stay at is listed on the website, you will get 4 miles for every dollar spent on your hotel booking. It’s genius and trust me when those miles add up and you have enough to apply it to your future travel bookings, you’ll thank me.
  • Book a room with a separate living space or an extra bedroom. Ok, so I know this may not entirely be realistic for everyone. but having traveled with a baby in one room with us and having a separate space for her to sleep during naps and at night is a game changer. This trip was the first time since Maxwell was a newborn that we all shared the same room and it did affect our sleep quality and I am sure hers as well. Having a separate space for parents once the baby is asleep also allows you to have some adult time watching movies or chatting over a glass or two of wine.
  • Whether it’s on purpose or by accident (like me forgetting our Bugaboo), travel as lean as possible. When looking at hotel options, it’s always a good idea to check to see what they can provide or have on site for babies and toddlers such as; strollers, bath amenities, toys, bottle warmers and sterilizers, so you can avoid having to lug a ton of unncessary extra stuff.
  • Rent a car. Don’t limit yourself from exploring the city you are in because you aren’t mobile. Depending on what city you’re in, especially in the United States, Uber drivers won’t take you if your child is not in a car seat. Having your own set of wheels and renting a car seat can definitely makes it easier and more convenient to get around.
ALL PHOTOS FROM THIS POST WAS SHOT ON MY IPHONE XS

So what’s next for us…? Well, you know we can’t stay put in one place for very long. We are heading to another sunny destination in early January but you will have to wait and follow along to find out where. A place we’ve both been to before on our own but never together as a family and the home of Maxie’s favourite musical artist. Yes I know, she’s only 15 months but she is obsessed with reggae music. Booking our January trip in full on the new American Express AeroplanPlus Gold Card scored us a ton of new miles, so who knows, there may be more travel adventures happening early next year.

December is the perfect time to set your wanderlust goals for the new year. Now that there’s are even more ways to earn and redeem your miles as an Aeroplan Member,  you can quickly make your travel dreams a reality.

This post is in partnership with Aeroplan however all views and opinions are my own!

Huggies Holiday Giveaway for New Moms

It’s December so that means I’m in a festive mood. My perspective during the holidays has changed dramatically, and this year I am way more focused on giving than getting. Since I got pregnant and had Maxwell almost a year and a half ago, I gained a whole new demographic of followers than I was used to of moms and moms-to-be.  I have connected with so many of you and over the last 15 months you all have watched along as I figured out this thing called motherhood and supported me every single step of the way.

It’s now my turn to give back and give a little something to one lucky follower who is expecting or a new mama. I know many moms say the first month was a blur, but I remember every single detail of every single moment and I remember making the decision to choose Huggies as the diaper and wipes brand I was going to use for my baby like it was just yesterday. For you first time mamas, it’s kind of impossible to really know which diaper is going to be the best for your baby when you don’t even have a baby to test the diapers out on. So, I am going to give you a helping hand by gifting some of our favourite Huggies products that got us through the last year and a half to help make that diaper decision a bit easier and get you started.

Maxwell has worn Huggies Little Snugglers since the day she was born. When you welcome your baby into the world, you want them to have the best on their brand-new skin, and the Little Snugglers diaper is designed to emulate a hug and keep your newborn’s perfect skin clean and healthy. The Huggies Little Snugglers newborn diapers have an umbilical cord cut out that is the best thing ever to help baby belly buttons heal quickly,  and the Huggies diapers’ gentle absorb liner creates the most cushiony layer between your kiddos tush and the mess. I also have Maxwell’s nursery fully stocked with Huggies Natural Care Wipes and our diaper bags and my handbags always have a Clutch N’ Clean pack for messes on the go. It’s the brand’s simplest formula ever and is gentle on even the most delicate skin because it’s made with aloe and Vitamin E.

This is a special time, so I want to add in something sentimental for the occasion. When I was expecting I received tons of books for Max, so I am including her current favourite, The Hug Machine, to add to your bub’s collection, plus, a Hug Plan to help you prepare for baby’s arrival and Little Snugglers diapers and Natural Care Wipes...enough to get you started at least. For the mama, the gift of relaxation with a one hour prenatal massage at Spa My Blends Clarins at the Ritz Carlton in Toronto, plus a few other surprises because every mom needs a little pampering.

To be eligible and enter to win:

  1. Like and comment on my most recent Huggies post on Instagram (linked here)
  2. Tag friends who are expecting or new mamas for BONUS entries but be sure you tag each in a separate comment.
  3. You MUST live in the Greater Toronto Area

Contest closes Thursday, December 20th, at 9pm EST and the winner will be announced on my IG stories. In the meantime, to learn more about Huggies or to find a diaper and wipes to fit your baby’s needs visit www.huggies.com/en-ca/

This post is in partnership with Huggies Canada for however all opinions are my own

My Go-To Cold Weather Running Gear

Well winter has arrived, which means we can pretty much expect single digit temperatures for the next several months. If you’re anything like me, your runs and workouts don’t stop because of a little snow or cold weather, so the only way to feel comfortable and avoid skipping them is to have the right winter gear that can handle the elements. I have certainly worn my fair share of technical winter running clothes over the years in the worst elements imaginable  – rain, hail, sleet and tons of snow so I am pretty particular with the pieces that I wear. They must have breathable fabrics, allow me to move freely, keep me warm of course, plus also be wind and waterproof. That is pretty much a non-negotiable. A combination many brands can’t seem to execute successfully across the board.

Asics Canada + Sasha Exeter

Asics Canada + So Sasha

The  ASICS Lite-Show collection and you can find pieces from it on their website under “Cold Weather Running“. It’s all I’ve been running in over the last two months and so far…so freaking good. I’ve actually found myself wearing less layers than I usually do for this time of the year and have persuaded so many of my my friends to grab pieces from the collection too. I know so many of you also follow my homegirl Ana of BlueBirdKisses.com and she’s been raving about her pieces on her IG stories lately.

Asics Canada + Sasha Exeter

ASICS Canada + Sasha Exeter

ASICS Canada + Sasha Exeter

ASICS Canada + Sasha Exeter

ASICS Canada + Sasha Exeter

So yay, no more double layers of tights and four layers up top that used to make me feel like the abominable snowman moving as slow as a tortoise. Now on the bottom, it’s just the one pair of the Lite-Show winter tights.  They are extremely thick with an ultra warm lining that make them a little more stiff than regular running tights. Right now, I have three in rotation; two pairs of black (one 7/8 length and one full) and the deep blue. All black is usually my favourite for running and workouts, but for some reason I’m really into the blue. For my easy runs, I’ve only needed to wear one of my Thermopolis Plus LS long sleeves and my jacket but for faster runs or doing hills, where the jacket is just simply too warm for right now, I opt for all season long sleeve as a base layer with the Lite-Show Winter 1/2 Zip over top (also comes in Performance Black and Red Alerte in case you’re not into the Mid Grey/Ironclad colourway I’m wearing above). On the days that it’s colder, I sometimes wear the jacket until I’ve done a 2k warmup and then drop it back off at my concierge before back outside. 

ASICS Canada + So Sasha

ASICS Canada + Sasha Exeter
I am literally obsessed with these Dynaflyte 3 running shoes from the Lite-Show collection

But guys, it’s the Lite-Show jacket that’s really going to be the hero of the collection once the deep chill arrives. I literally have no idea how it’s only priced at $100 CDN. I swear, if it was a product from a competitor, you would 100% be sold in stores and online for over $350. And please don’t let the affordable price point fool you. It’s still one of the best winter outerwear pieces I’ve ever worn. It comes in black and the colour I’m wearing here is called Cordvan. It’s lightweight but still SO thermal and moisture wicking – the number one combination you need to be looking for when it comes to winter running gear! If you’re new to running in the cold, then my suggestion is to invest in the jacket, a thermal plus a regular long sleeve for layering. Those should be top priority but if you can, go the extra mile (no pun intended), and grab a pair of the Lite-Show tights too.

Accessories. Can’t forget those because they are obviously super important this time of year. I know a lot of you had questions about the gloves, ear warmers, hats I wear. You can find all the winter appropriate accessories you’ll need this season at the Toronto flagship location at 364 Queen St West but my Lite-Show headband and beanie you can find right now online. For my American friends though, you can shop all the winter accessories online on the US site. My Lite-Show gloves were great for the fall but as the temperature drops I have had to layer an extra pair overtop so I will probably be upgrading to a new thermal pair shortly to make sure my little fingies are warm during rain and wet snow. The socks will also get an upgrade too. I love the look of no-show socks but once December rolls around they won’t be very practical. I usually switch up to a single tab or quarter sock to protect the ankles more.

Y’all seem to love all the new training and running gear you’ve been seeing on IG and my stories so I will be sure to post and link the items here too as new collections drop.

SHOP ALL MY COLD WEATHER RUNNING PIECES

The One Diaper You Need From Newborn to Toddler

So much has changed in the last 14 months and there have been plenty of transitions. Clothing, sleep cycles and moving from pureed to big girl foods. I feel as though Maxwell went from crawling to full on running in the blink of an eye. Time is moving way too quickly I’m afraid and I am doing my best to savour every single second. There has been one thing that has remained constant since day one. Huggies Little Snugglers and Natural Care Wipes.

Making a decision on the right diaper for your baby is an interesting one because you make that choice usually long before your bundle of joy arrives. I did a lot of research online and turned to my friends who have babies to help me decide, because who better to turn to than your mama tribe, right? My mom also used Huggies with us growing up so I knew it was a brand I could trust.

Let’s face it, every choice you make for your child is an important one but I place diapers and wipes super high on the list simply because they will be in contact with your baby’s skin all day, every single day for years. If you’re an expectant mother, what makes Little Snugglers so amazing for newborns is the GentleAbsorb® Liner that’s made up of these teeny tiny soft pillows that provides a cushiony layer between your kiddo’s skin and the mess. I actually have memories from my childhood watching my mother fold down the top of the diaper when she was changing my brother in an effort to protect his healing belly button but today, Little Snugglers brilliantly integrated an umbilical cord cut out to help facilitate the healing. And trust me, it may not seem like a lot but it means one less thing for a new mom to think about. Our midwives were blown away at how well (and quick may I add) Maxwell’s belly button healed and I credit that to her diapers.

We love the wetness indicator. So helpful when we were new parents and today, it’s so useful when we’re traveling as a family. It remains yellow when the diaper is dry and turns blue when it becomes soiled.
Seems like just yesterday Maxie was in newborn Huggies Little Snugglers. I have kept one diaper from each stage from newborn to size four and look back at how small she used to be.

Over a year later and here we are. One super active baby with a giant personality, who gives me a run for my money every single day. She’s moving, like NON-STOP, so we really rely on her diaper’s pocketed waistband to keep messes trapped inside where they belong while she plays, dances and runs circles around this place. The wetness indicator strip gives me the heads up when it’s time for a diaper change. No need for the sniff test my mom used to do on us, which is the best when we are out and about or traveling. And not only are they functional, they are really darn cute too with adorable Disney and Winnie the Pooh designs.

So here’s the thing about me, I get really attached to products that that work well for me and my family. The brilliant thing about Huggies Little Snugglers is that they come in a wide range of sizes that has transitioned so well with Max from day one until now. There’s no reason to switch diapers (or brands) after every single growth stage. Instead, Huggies will be with our family for years to come.

To learn more about Huggies or to find a diaper and wipes to fit your baby’s needs, visit www.huggies.com/en-ca/

This post has been created in partnership with Huggies for monetary compensation and/or product. However all views and opinions are my own!

 

Money Mindfulness: A Renewed Way To Look At Your Finances

Stress. We all have it and there are different causes. Relationships, work and health are probably the first ones that come to mind but 30% of Canadians claim financial stress as one of their biggest worries. THIRTY PERCENT! Credit Education Week runs until November 16th and last week I attended a money mindfulness retreat here in Toronto put on by Capital One Canada to learn a bit more about the topic and how I can take techniques I use for my own mental health and pain related issues and apply it to finances.

Captial One Money Mindfulness Retreat

Captial One - Money Mindfulness Retreat

So what is it about finances that command so much negative energy over people? I have not been able to stop thinking about it since the event. Could it be because the topic of personal finances can be embarrassing, if you seem to not have your sh*t together? I would imagine most people would feel more comfortable not only speaking openly but actually doing something about their relationship and work-related stress. Whereas with financial related stress, I’m certain it just gets internalized. Combine that with procrastination in finding tools to proactively manage money, or worse, denial, and one can find themselves in a mountain of debt. According to a Capital One and Credit Canada Debt Solutions study, we worry about our finances every day for about an hour. Just to put that into perspective for you, that’s about the same amount of time we spend a day eating. So the question is, what are we going to do about it?

The goal of Credit Education Week is to help empower Canadians and give them the tools and knowledge to help mitigate financial stress. At the event last week, we got a chance to go through several activities to gain more insight on just how much financial stress impacts the daily lives of Canadians, which apparently ranks as the second largest day-to-day worry behind overall health. Followed by a series of mini workshops that included mindfulness, meditation and yoga practice with Joga House Founder, Jana Webb, that got me thinking about how I can approach my own money management in 2019. Never having student debt, multiple credit cards or poor spending habits, which I know makes me an anomaly, I am already ahead of the game I guess. However, there’s always room for improvement and I am down for anything that can help me reach my financial goals faster.

Captial One - Money Mindfulness Retreat

Photography by David Pike

I’ll admit it, mindfulness and money conventionally aren’t two things that you would think should go together but once we got into the activities and a did a few mindful practices, it all started to come together for me. For those who aren’t really familiar with what “mindfulness” is, it really is just the practice of awareness. A heightened awareness, or simply being cognizant of why and how you’re doing something. Taking a mindful approach with your money combined with meditation or yoga can significantly lower the stress and anxiety around money. While I can give credit to myself for being fiscally responsible in terms of avoiding debt, I do love to shop. I mean, who doesn’t? The bad part is that lately I’ve been treating it like a legit pastime. Leaving the house to browse and shop without a plan or agenda, leading me to make a slew of unnecessary purchases, when I should be creating a list and only buying what’s on there. Sounds like the basics but you’d be surprised how many make the same mistake. There were tons of other valuable information shared but here are a few highlights that definitely stood out to me during the retreat that you may find useful:

Mindful Money Monitoring

Be aware of the numbers when it comes to your financial statements. Understand that the money going out must be lower than the money coming in. Be wise when it comes to paying off your bills, specifically when it comes to car loans and credit cards with revolving credit balance. Making minimum payments still incurs interest! Last but not least, understand the importance of having a good credit score because it really does matter. It can be the difference between getting a home (or not). Want to improve your credit score? Credit Canada Debt Solutions has some useful tips on their site. It’s also beneficial to keep track of it and Credit Keeper can help you do that. It’s a useful online tool created by Capital One that gives you access to your TransUnion credit score – for FREE. It’s refreshed weekly, so you can check your score regularly.

Get Comfortable with Budgets

Nobody likes to hear the word budget. I used to think that word had a negative connotation but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. My coach used to always say, “If you fail to plan…you plan to fail!” and having a budget is essentially having a plan for success. I am embarrassed to say this but Réjean and I don’t budget plan together so that is one of our priorities for the new year. I discovered some helpful tips on how to create one and a link to a free budget worksheet on Credit Canada’s website that you can find here.

Goal Getter

It’s impossible not be successful when you set goals for yourself. Creating a budget for yourself, especially if it’s more on the strict side, can be easier to handle once you have an idea of the big picture. Set immediate, short and long term goals and you will probably find it easier to make scaling back on spending more manageable.

Getting your finances together can seem like a daunting task but it doesn’t need to be. Thanks to Capital One Canada and Credit Canada, there are some amazing resources out there to steer you in the right direction. With it being Credit Education Week (and 2019 right around the corner), there’s no better time than now to set some financial goals. To learn more about CEWC and to discover what events are taking place in your city head to www.cewc.ca.

This post is in partnership with Capital One however all views and opinions are my own

The Glow Up at Hillcrest

Shopping used to be my number one favourite pastime. That is, until Maxwell came into the picture. I know some mamas love passing the time there with their hub but the thought of fighting for one of two designated family parking spots, struggling to find somewhere to breastfeed or warm up a bottle and don’t get me started on changing diaper full of poo in a busy washroom with no privacy. Yeah, no thank you!

I had been hearing rumours about a mall mecca for mommies that promises to make the shopping experience with a baby on board not only manageable and actually convenient. I was intrigued. So much so, I was willing to compromise Max’s nap schedule to make the trek 35 minutes outside of the city to Richmond Hill to see this with my own eyes. Quite a few of you mamas that happen to live in the area have told me after seeing my IG stories that Hillcrest has been around for an eternity and had no idea about this major renovation they recently went through. Guys, the glow up is REAL! This project includes a refresh of both interior/exterior with a whole new north wing, tons of new retailers and yes some very much needed conveniences for the whole family, specifically mommy shoppers.

West Coast Kids - So Sasha
West Coast Kids has a gigantic section for baby accessories and the Bugaboo shop in shop is the perfect place to find your dream stroller. Love this updated version of the Buggaboo Bee.

West Coast Kids Hillcrest - So Sasha

Wondering if Hillcrest should be destination for your next family shopping haul? Here’s the lowdown on how it measures up based on our experience:

Location. If you live Newmarket, Markham, Thornhill or Richmond Hill, this is basically a stone’s throw away for you and I am a bit jealous of your proximity. For you downtown folk that consider anything north of Bloor St unchartered territory, if you’re are located close to one of the major highway arteries in the city, the drive to Hillcrest can be surprisingly easy as it’s a straight shot up the 404 north. Your best bet is to strategically plan to travel outside of high traffic times. I left the city around 10:20am and comfortably made it there at 11am. We left to head back to the city around 3pm (and yes we actually stayed that long) and missed most of the afternoon traffic. It isn’t located close to the highway exit and is about a 9-minute drive for the DVP still once you exit so in rush hour it could add on to your transit time.

Parking. SO. MUCH. FAMILY. PARKING. I was actually really impressed. Where you normally see anywhere from 1-4 spots allocated for family designated parking total. Hillcrest is setting the bar damn high with several…and I mean several at each of their main entrances.

Hillcrest - So Sasha

Hillcrest - So Sasha

Hillcrest - So Sasha

Shopping Experience/Retailers. Hillcrest doesn’t claim to be anything they are not so if you’re looking for solely high end shopping across the board, this is not the place for you. However, if you’re looking for a collection of retailers to appease the everyday shopping needs for everyone in your family, you will not be disappointed. They have the all the regular mall retailers everyone knows and loves; The Gap, H&M, Mendocino, Hudson’s Bay, SportChek, Aldo, Old Navy, Aritzia, Sephora and Indigo (opening here soon) but I think people will want to go for the stores they can’t find just anywhere like SportingLife, Miniso – a really cool Japanese specialty store that I’ve never seen before, Okaïdi, West Coast Kids and their newly opened HomeSense/Marshalls. I am always looking for decor items for the house and can never go wrong with that store. The HomeSense at Hillcrest is actually incredible. So is Marshalls. Kid you not, I spent over an hour in there picking up stuff for Max and other miscellaneous stuff that I have convinced Réjean we absolutely need. Do you remember Maxwell in this unicorn suit from my stories? I don’t know if it’s for Halloween or for everyday wear but she looked irresistible in it. If she wanted to wear just that every single day, I would totally let her.

HillcrestGlowUp - So Sasha

HillcrestGlowUp - So Sasha

HillcrestGlowUp - So Sasha

HillcrestGlowUp - So Sasha
French kiddie brand Okaïdi has a European vibe, great quality and amazing price points

I spent the rest of my time powering shopping. I passed through Artizia like a Tornado and copped a super cute skirt and classic tee that I plan to wear next week to an event with Maxwell. There was a quick stop in at Sephora to quickly stock up on some Tatcha products and I was even able to find some great pieces to create a couple fall looks for Réj at SportingLife before dedicating the rest of my time to all things baby.

HillcrestGlowUp - So Sasha
Just 1/4 of the West Coast Kids location at Hillcrest. It truly is your one-stop shop for all things baby and kids with the best collections and unique products

West Coast Kids

West Coast Kids - So Sasha

West Coast Kids Hillcrest - So Sasha

West Coast Kids Hillcrest - So Sasha

West Coast Kids - So Sasha
Love, Love, LOVE these books especially the ones specific to Toronto!

We also found a super cool store named Okaïdi. It’s a French brand that has recently landed here in Canada, with only a couple locations to date. The baby girl collection is quite adorable and super affordable so Maxie got to take home some new outerwear and dresses to take her through the season. The newborn and baby collections remind me of clothing that I found in boutiques when we were in Barcelona but the prices are more aligned with Zara Kids and H&M. But truthfully friends, the mall’s piéce de resistance is West Coast Kids. I think there is one other location, but it pales in comparison to the one you will find at Hillcrest. Hands down the best and largest collection of merchandise for kiddos from newborn to teens. Every square inch of the of the space has speciality items ranging from books and apparel inspired by our city of Toronto, super fun accessories, high end outerwear – Mackage parka’s for toddlers if you can believe, tees inspired by hip hop, the cutest footwear to keep your mini in style through all of Canada’s seasons, the coolest strollers and nursery items that will have you rethinking your decorating choices. I wanted everything in the store for Max. EVERYTHING. And tried to justify she needed it all too, plus a new nursery LOL. I did exercise some restraint and left with a couple of cute dresses, some new books for her reading collection and the YYZ sweatshirt you guys have seen her rocking on my stories from Canadian brand Posh & Cozy.

HillcrestGlowUp- So Sasha

West Coast KIds - So Sasha

Hillcrest - So Sasha

Hillcrest - So Sasha

West Coast Kids - So Sasha

Food. You will find the regular food court restos here and even a Panera Bread location, however it’s not actually connected to the mall. There are some tasty speciality spots like Uncle Tetsu’s for those who are obsessed with the Japanese cheesecakes that people line up for year round at the downtown location, Bake Code and Chatime (hello, my fave!) for the bubble tea aficionados. After all the cardio I did shopping for hours my last stop of the day was actually at Chatime for a Mango bubble tea and a matcha croissant – and yes both were they are insanely delish.

Hillcrest - So Sasha

Mommy/Family Amenities. The extra family designated parking spots are one thing but Hillcrest really knocked it out of park with some of the extra conveniences they thought of for families. The mall is actually all one level so it makes navigating with a stroller and young toddlers simple. Both men’s and women’s washrooms have baby change stations so the dad’s need not worry when they venture to this alone with the kids. For the mamas who are still breastfeeding, you’re going to love this…they have a nursing room so you can feed your bub quietly in private and wait for it, the Guest Experience Kiosk offers complimentary diaper kits plus baby bottle warming. It’s located a bit away from where the nursing room and washrooms, but it’s nice to not have to run around a food court asking for milk to be heated. I actually used the service when we were finished shopping so Max could have a bottle for the ride back home.

Hillcrest - So Sasha

HILLCREST FINAL ROUNDUP

Was it worth the drive to Hillcrest? Yes. Would I return to shop? 100%. I’m already planning our next visit and will probably do it with a few girlfriends and their kids. I am in need of a little refresh on our holiday décor so that is the perfect excuse to go back and the Homesense there is bound to have everything I need. Plus, there are loads of things I still want to get for Maxie at Okaïdi and West Coast Kids.

Intrigued? Head over to HillcrestMall.ca for all the details on the renovation, new store openings, promos, and upcoming events.

This post is in formal partnership with Hillcrest for either monetary compensation or product however all opinions are my own.

Let’s Make Flats Great Again

For the last few years I would wake up, look at my closet and would literally be late to wherever I have to go because I couldn’t decide what to wear. The funny thing is, I would stare at the options and continue to pick the same few items and repeat, repeat, repeat. I kid you not, only 20% of my closet had pieces I actually loved and used. I purged a ton this summer and still need to get rid of another garbage bag (or two) worth of items. My plan: To set aside a clothing budget each season and only buy the items I truly LOVE and not pieces that I will wear once and would be thrown in the back of my closet or tossed in our storage.

I have made a commitment to flats this fall. Well, Maxwell becoming mobile and running all over the place actually gave me no choice but to fully embrace them really. I figure, if I am going to wear flats, they better be pretty. I’ve had my eye on this Aquazurra’s for a minute and pulled the trigger. After buying my Gucci loafers, I still felt like I needed a pair of flats that could easily take a laid back look and make it look less casual, if you know what I mean. I did a quick poll during a trip to David’s Footwear a few weeks back when I went to check out the newly expanded flagship location and you guys were adamant about me getting these Mondaine Mules. Well SPOILER ALERT: I listened and got these but I also scooped up the Rene Caovilla open toe beauties ya’ll thought were over the top. But I digress… The new David’s store in Yorkville is now 6,000 sqft and they have added so many new contemporary brands, so good luck walking in there thinking you’re only coming out with one pair.

What I’m Wearing

Shoes: Aquazurra Mondaine Mules  //  Sweater: The Group by Babaton  //  Skirt: Artizia  //  Bag: Gucci  //  Hat: Old but found a similar one here // Bracelets: Vintage

I will be bearing my ankles in these Aquazurra’s for as long as possible. I love them so much, maybe until the snow arrives. This past weekend I wore this outfit not once but TWICE. With no shame at all LOL! The skirt and sweater I picked up on separate occasions from Babaton and Artizia stores respectively and are both available online. The sweater is the coziest and if it wasn’t covered in remnants of what the Maxwell and her cousins ate today, I would probably wear it again tomorrow.

FLARE Magazine ‘Fashion For All’ Campaign in Partnership With Joe Fresh

#BoPo. Yup, I just started a sentence with a hashtag and unless you’ve been living under a rock or have no imprint on social media, this term is not new to you. BoPo, short for “Body Positivity” is a topic that has been swirling around the industry for the last few years but really ramped up some speed in late 2016 with top models, actresses, and other industry insiders speaking up about the topic. An issue that has obviously long plagued the fashion world was finally being brought to light by some very brave souls willing to champion this fight and lead the way for others to openly speak out in hope for change. There’s been a lot of progress over the last year and a half and I have actually been super lucky to be apart of some incredible projects highlighting this topic.

I, like most women, have had body image issues over the years and if I can be honest here, still do from time to time. It’s been an interesting road postpartum getting back into shape after baby to say the least. As a mama to a little girl though, I want to help Maxwell feel good in her skin and be confident in who she is from a really early age.

Shop My Joe Fresh Look: Military Skirt – $34 // Turtle Neck – $19 // Block Heel Booties – $59

Fashion should be for every body – literally. Not exclusive to only those of a certain size, shape or colour. Last month I got a chance to be involved in a really cool project with Flare Magazine and Joe Fresh, which you guys know I have worked extensively with over the years. Their mission was to really show some of the leading faces (and it’s a pretty phenomenal line-up of amazing young women) and how we are redefining style for ourselves – wearing key pieces from Joe Fresh’s fall collection that reflect a bit of our own personal style. I am sure you already know or recognize some of the other faces and if not, this is a great opportunity to learn a bit more these women that each have a distinct voice, perspective and add something of value to the creative community.

Fashion For All - Flare Mag x Joe Fresh

Shot by Robert Caruso. Styled by Ingrie Williams (stylist) and Natasha Bruno (Stylist Assistant). Hair by Kristjan Hayden. Makeup by Claudine Balthazar. Nails by Rita Remark

 

I don’t want to spill all the tea here, so you’ll have to head to Flare.com to see the full interviews from each of us. Not only is it pretty damn cool but it’s also so refreshing to see all this diversity and representation in one campaign. You did good, Flare & Joe Fresh…you did good!

For more on the Fashion For All campaign head to Flare.com/fashion-for-all

Baby Skincare Routine: Eczema Edition

So here’s the low down for so those of you that had questions and concerns around infant eczema. Maxwell, just like most newborn babies, was born with perfect skin. A few weeks into life outside the womb she got the normal peeling skin most babies experience that I had seen before on other kids. When she was around three months old though I started to notice some changes to skin that looked like eczema. Let me just tell you, the amount of eczema I found on her probably didn’t warrant the complete breakdown and doctor’s appointment but after seeing my nephew suffering from painful, itching skin issues, I was adamant Max was not going to have the same fate.

The troubleshooting began almost immediately. Thankfully, the collection of eczema patches were mainly on her back, especially the area where the waistband of her diapers hit her skin and a tiny bit on her face around the eyes. But come on, it’s my kid and I don’t care if the skin irritation is minor, I didn’t want her to have any skin irritations at all. The doctor said we should monitor it and if it continues to worsen, we could always try a steroid cream. That to me, was not an option. So I did a skincare elimination diet. Stopped using all the  baby skincare products I had been using on her. Changed her laundry detergent and even replaced her formula. Living in a condo without the best air circulation and super dry heat probably wasn’t not helping our cause either. After not seeing much change, I decided to try out some A-Derma Exomega products that were passed along to me that I had heard were pretty amazing for extra dry or atopy prone skin. By this time it was winter and in an effort to not further dry out Maxie’s skin, I would only give her a full bath every other day. When I did,  I would add two capfuls of Exomega Control Soothing Bath to the water and started using the Emollient Cleansing Gel directly on her skin with a washcloth. I think applying a moisturizer to skin right away as soon as I took her out helped a lot. I would apply their Emollient Balm combined with some lavender oil as I was putting on her diaper. It has an extra rich texture and turned out to be just what her skin needed to keep it moisturized. We finally started to see some improvement after a month and to be honest, I couldn’t really telly you exactly when all the patchiness disappeared. They just seemed to fade away but I would say maybe two or three months tops. Seeing as though the first two products I tried worked so well and we were getting closer to spring, I swapped the Emollient Balm for the cream version. PRO TIP: We do a lot of swimming, Maxie really loves the water and I know the chlorine can wreak havoc on skin that’s prone to dryness, so after swims, I do try to still apply the emollient balm.

Photos by David A. Pike

Probably the best thing about these products are that their all natural and fragrance free which means they are completely safe to use on babies from day one but all the A-Derma products can also be used on kids and adults too. I am actually using the shower oil and the balm on myself. I will admit, that because the skin irritations we experienced early on has been completely cleared up, we do sometimes use other products during her bath time routine but the A-Derma products still remain as the core of Maxie’s skincare routine. You can find A-Derma products nationwide in Shoppers Drug Mart (who actually has the line on super sale right now), London Drugs, and Jean Coutu locations in addition to Amazon.ca.

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