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Yves Rocher Botanical Skincare Journey to France

May was a very busy but special month. After celebrating my last childless birthday on the 5th, I jetted across the pond to France for a week to get immersed in the world of Yves Rocher, a brand I have fallen quite fond of over the last year or so. I have been a long time fan of French skincare because seriously they seem to know a thing or two about good quality but I guess you can say my level of interest in this particular brand was extra high the moment I realized the amazing botanical science behind their products.

Sasha Exeter - Rimowa
Paris bound to Yves Rocher Headquarters. Luggage c/o Rimowa Toronto

The key Yves Rocher skincare necessities waiting for me at Hotel Adele & Jules to help my dehydrated skin bounce back after the long flight

My journey with Yves Rocher began quite differently than a lot of other brand experiences I have had to date and I mean that in the most refreshing way. Sure, our initial meeting last summer consisted of some brand education and why I would be a good fit as a partner, however there was absolutely no hard sell. I was simply encouraged to take my time getting to know their products, specifically their best sellers, over the course of a few months and that “We would go from there…”  Well to me, this meant one thing – Yves Rocher was so confident in their brand, that they knew I would be on board once they gave me the chance to get properly acquainted with their products. And they were 100% right! Offering extensive product lines across all skincare and beauty categories, I took my time initialling honing in on facial and body care and the results have been amazing because I am experiencing my best skin yet. But this you may have already known if you read my post on my Yves Rocher Botanical Skincare Routine in April.

A LITTLE HISTORY ABOUT YVES ROCHER

So there are several things that makes Yves Rocher very different than its competitors, which has made them immensely successful in France and throughout Europe since their launch 50 years ago. A pioneer in natural skincare and beauty, Mr. Yves Rocher founded the company with the belief that nature will be their guide in producing its products, which are made from plants and approximately 250 natural ingredients locally harvested. To this day, it has been the key to their success.

To have discovered the properties of plants is not our greatest achievement but to have made them available to all women is our greatest pride. As the only brand in the beauty industry to have chosen to control all the aspects of our activity, we are able to reduce our impact on the environment at every stage in the life cycle of our products”   – Yves Rocher

If you can imagine back in 1967, the idea of a man launching a skincare and beauty brand without the use of any chemicals, targeted to women and marketed using his name, sounded ludicrous and nobody believed it would work. However, Rocher did not let this stop him. In fact, it motivated him and pushed him and pushed him to get the wheels in motion.

The only way to ensure Yves Rocher’s vision was executed properly meant that from the very beginning he insisted on controlling every step of the production cycle to guarantee safety and quality, providing his clients with products free of chemicals, colorants, and parabens.

EXPERIENCING THE BRAND LIVE IN PARIS

My press trip to France began with a tour of the Yves Rocher Headquarters in Paris to see how the products are made in their state-of-the-art laboratories and to get a deep dive in the company’s rich and rooted history.

Yves Rocher France

Housed in one of the most modern buildings I saw in a city so full of rich and old architecture, there were several labs dispersed on one large floor responsible for each of the brand’s categories; skincare, cosmetics, body care, hair care, bath & shower and fragrances. It was refreshing to see it is run predominantly by young women. Somewhere within the building’s labyrinth was a small room dedicated the the brand’s olfactory family and fragrances. Bottles upon bottles of fragrance notes meticulously displayed in beautiful glass bottles and sleek refrigerators that housed samples of each scent the brand has made categorized per year. While learning about Yves Rocher’s past and present was vital, I was very intrigued to learn more about the direction of the where the brand is heading. As the originator of botanical beauty, how do they stay ahead of the curve in an industry where so many brands are vying for a piece of the “natural and organic beauty” pie, so to speak?

Sasha Exeter - Yves Rocher
Yves Rocher France Headquarters Olfactory (Fragrances) Room
Sasha Exeter - Yves Rocher
Christine Dalfault-Sara, Yves Rocher Communications Director (Directrice Communication)

I chatted extensively with Christine Delfaut, the brand’s Communications Director, to learn more about the brand’s exciting upcoming product releases for the rest of 2017/2018. While most of the innovations that were shared are still under embargo so I can’t share (sorry guys!) however Christine did allow me to take home their newly formulated, long lasting, ultra matte red lipstick to test out which won’t be coming out until much later in 2017. Having had issues finding the perfect “red” for years, I can say my hunt is now officially over. Without any of the harsh chemicals that usually dry out my lips, this deep red at first goes on with a slight satin finish but after a few seconds it becomes definitively matte and lasts all day.

Yves Rocher France

They have also just launched a range of concentrated shower gels that lasts for 40 showers (shown above front and center) in Mango & Coriander, Olive Petitgrain, and Bourbon Vanilla which is my personal fave. With 4x’s the amount of product, 50% less plastic and greenhouse gases than in their 400ml bottles these heavenly smelling shower gels cost only $8 – not to mention, no parabens or preservatives and with 97% of the ingredients having a natural origin. With every bottle purchased, the Yves Rocher Foundation plants one tree in the community. Just in time for summer, a newly formulated Solaire Peau Parfaite sunscreen without harmful chemicals, The Chic & Bohemian Collection with a cornflower based body wash, eau de toilette and perfumed hair mist that smells heavenly and more.

LOW COST, HIGH QUALITY: HOW DO THEY DO IT?

English (CAN) quality products usually come with a hefty price tag. Sure, at a certain price point you can expect to see brands use aesthetically beautiful packaging, usually employing the help of actresses and celebrity spokespeople to sell their products which can be found perfectly curated in department store kiosks and shop-in-shops. All these bells and whistles that go into the marketing of competitors products come with a high cost, which is ultimately absorbed by the end consumer – YOU!

Yves Rocher’s competitively priced product ranges are only possible because their products aren’t sold in luxury and contemporary department stores but rather in their own stand-alone retail shops and of course online, allowing them to offer prices significantly lower than other brands. However this could be the reason why the brand awareness isn’t as high in North America as it is in Europe. I am fascinated by this idea, so a visit to Yves Rocher’s concept store on Boulevard Haussmann was a no brainer.

Sasha Exeter - Yves Rocher

CONCEPT STORE VISIT

Nestled in what appeared to be a bustling and busy district, is a three-storey temple of beauty, where you can receive skin diagnosis at the ground level Botanical Beauty Bar, shop the brand’s extensive beauty line and range of honey, jams and sweet treats, indulge in cold pressed juices developed exclusively for Yves Rocher in their in-house juice bar, or receive personalized face and body treatments in one of the seven private cabins within the Beauty Spa.

Sasha Exeter - Yves Rocher

One of the private cabin’s inside the Yves Rocher concept store’s Beauty Spa

Being inside the Boul Haussmann location made me immediately calm and gave me a sense that I was amongst nature thanks to the green and ecological decor botanical concept walls created by Botanist and inventor Patrick Blanc. I promise you, the photos don’t do it any justice, its beauty is much more spectacular in person. I took my time going through the multi-floor flagship, with extra time spent checking out the products not yet available in Canada and cruising the beautifully merchandised fragrance section on the second floor where I was taken on an olfactory journey through the important notes that make up the company’s best selling fragrances – mine currently being the sensual and refined freshness of their  Neroli Eau de Parfum.  

Sasha Exeter - Yves Rocher

Yves Rocher Olfactory Wall of Fame. The brand works with some of the best in today’s fragrance industry to help create their signature scents

VISIT TO LA GACILLY

But my trip wouldn’t be complete without taking a trip to La Gacilly, in France’s Bretagne (pronounced Brittany for us Anglo folks) region which is happens to be the birth place of both Mr. Yves Rocher and his namesake heritage brand. A beautiful and quaint village just a three hour train ride from the Paris city centre made up of cobblestone streets, small stone houses, local boutiques and La Grée des Landes, the Yves Rocher Eco-Hotel Spa and Hotel that you may remember seeing on my Instagram and IG stories.

Centrally located in the town, is the childhood home of Rocher, fondly referred to as No. 2 Rue St.-Vincent, where in his early twenties, he turned the home’s attic into a make-shift manufacturing facility for their very first plant based product. A visionary of sorts and a man with thinking far beyond his years, Yves Rocher was the first to introduce the “mail-to-order” concept as a way to sell his products to customers all over France.

Monsieur Yves Rocher’s childhood home where the brand first launched

Below are some shots we captured from inside Rocher’s first home where he used the attic to produce his first product and also acted as the office where he fulfilled his mail-orders from customers…

As he watched the company grow exponentially, he began to conjure up the idea for La Grée des Landes, a truly Eco-friendly establishment built without causing any harm to the environment that feeds guests using only locally sourced products and ingredients from their land. Essentially creating a gastronomy experience of multi-course meals prepared by Gilles Le Gallès, Chef at the hotel’s restaurant, that would legit blow your mind. There was no doubting the freshness and quality of our meals. As we enjoyed breakfast in the mornings, we often saw the kitchen staff in the garden pulling out herbs and vegetables that were going to be used in the preparation of our lunch and dinner later that day. Not once did we look at a menu. Chef prearranged each meal based on what is in season and would make a good compliment to the ingredients grown on the grounds of the property.

Chef Gilles Le Gallès at La Grée des Landes

While many hotel properties believe integrating the word “spa” into their property name means they understand the concept of wellness, most really don’t have the faintest clue as to what that actually entails. Whereas this little slice of heaven, which made sure to include all four elements of nature to ensure a harmonious balance on their grounds, anticipates guests needs before they can even think of it and offers activities and services to help you find your optimal mental and physical wellness with yoga/meditation classes, hiking, underwater workouts (AQUATraining & AQUACycling) plus restorative and relaxation services offered in the hotel’s spa.

I have always used a variety of products from different brands on my skin and to be honest, I will probably continue doing so but Yves Rocher products currently make up the majority of my skincare regimen right now. Taking care of my skin has become a huge priority in my thirties and I’ve seen some dramatic improvements since I have started using Yves Rocher products. I fell in love with the new “Pure Calmille” line while in France and was lucky enough to bring it back home with me prior to its launch in Canada (available here in September 2017!).  After pre-cleaning with wipes, I have been using the Pure Calmille Cleansing Gel mixed with the Scrub to Mix Gommage exfoliant, the Pure Calmille 2 in 1 Cleanser & Toner and the Pure Calmille Moisturizing Cream. For body care, I have become OBSESSED with the Monoï de Tahiti products that literally smell like tropical paradise in a bottle – using the Lagoon Body Wash, Dry Body Oil and finishing off with the Eau des Vahinés Eau de Toilette.

Sasha Exeter - Yves Rocher Canada

Overall my trip to France has a success! I got a chance to really get to know the brand and even got to indulge in spa treatments using Yves Rocher professional products. The best part is that all the products I was introduced to are safe during pregnancy. With affordable price points and products for all different ages and skin types, Yves Rocher has successfully made their brand accessible to everyone.

To shop or learn more, visit YvesRocher.com

Advice for Expectant Mothers From Mom’s Who Get It

Whether you’ve planned your pregnancy or are completely surprised by the news you’re expecting, are you ever really and truly ready for the task of “Motherhood”? Réjean and I discussed having a baby before we began to trying to conceive and with my age slowly creeping higher and higher into the thirties bracket, there seemed to be no better time than the present to get the ball rolling on our baby making plans. Truthfully, conception happened much quicker than we anticipated and of course we were ecstatic but that feeling of excitement was quickly replaced with fear and sheer terror. If you know me, you would probably describe me as confident or even stoic and definitely ready for any challenge BUT with my impending role of Mother just around the corner now, I’m not going to lie, literally freaking out.

Photo by Jess Baumung for Huggies Canada

Funny enough, all the questions that I asked myself before getting pregnant I was able to answer confidently but now there is some self doubt creeping in all of the sudden and only seems to worsen the closer it gets to my August due date; “Can I REALLY handle this responsibility?”, “Do I make enough money to give this kid the life he/she deserves?Will I be a good enough?…because my own mother certainly set the bar hight” . That being said, I have gained some confidence from discovering the benefits of practicing skin-to-skin when Bean arrives after getting introduced to the Huggies Hug Planwhich I dished all about earlier this month – found here in case you missed it. Réj on the other hand is somehow the calmest I’ve ever seen him and he keeps reminding me that our mother’s, grandmother’s and women generations before them seemed to innately know things for example the importance of hugs without having access to scientific research.


My plan for sanity is to stay clear of the extensive books on expecting and planning to stick to a few trusted sites like Huggies.com while also turning to some incredible women I am lucky to know, who I look up to and each exemplify the type of mother I want to be for Baby Bean. I’ve turned to them for advice on everything from skin-to-skin knowledge, midwives vs doctors, breast feeding, to even helping me choose Huggies diapers and wipes for my babe (thanks to Shannae) and decided to share some of their best insights with some of you who are also nervous moms-to-be.

Trisha Enriquez – Founder of NoTummyMommy.com, Nutritionist, Pre-Natal Fitness Expert and Mommy to Harper

Trisha Enriquez has become infamous in the city for her adorable photos with 3 year old daughter Harper who shares her mom’s love for fitness, health and wellness. Her Instagram account motivates mommies near and far to find time in their day to move and stay active, while often wearing the cutest matching activewear. A multi-hypenate, Trish is the creator of NoTummyMommy.com, a certified nutritionist, pre/post natal fitness expert and also specializes in helping mama’s work on core rehab, pelvic floor health and diastasis recti (otherwise known as separation of the abdominal muscles during pregnancy).

One of the best suggestions I received after having a baby was to pay an expert to help sleep train my child. It was worth every damn penny and the entire family benefits!
 
Best advice during pregnancy? Get your hubby to up his perineal massage game! This could be a serious game changer in my opinion.”

Suzanne Cohon – President, ASC PR; Mommy to Parker

Suzanne Cohon - ASC Public Relations

A native New Yorker, Suzanne Cohon, who now calls Toronto home, is the fierce boss lady behind ASC PR. Mother to Parker, her 11 year old mini-me, Cohon also finds time to give back to the community as Chair of the Ronald McDonald House Opening Gala and as a member of the Board of Directors at the prestigious Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery just to name a few.

As a new mom, I always kept wishing for the moment for my daughter to crawl, walk, talk, go to school, sleep through the night, etc. I was constantly looking forward to how much I would enjoy her future self. I look backward and regret as I think I missed so much. So much was taking place right before my eyes however, I wasn’t looking. For any new mom or mom-to-be, my advice is this – enjoy every minute of everyday. These littles grow so quickly. If you don’t stop and focus, these precious moments will pass you by.”

 Shannae Ingleton Smith – National Advertising Sales Professional at Rogers Publishing; Mommy to Kensington Grey

Toronto transplant and Calgary, Alberta native, Shannae Ingleton Smith is new to motherhood, after giving birth to her daughter Kensington Grey back in December 2016, but what she is not new at is being successful in media sales and the publishing world, currently employed by Rogers Publishing & Media for Macleans magazine. Shannae is currently working on re-emerging herself into the digital space with a new site (launching soon) after taking a hiatus from the blogging world to focus on her corporate career.

Having my daughter has been a life-altering yet beautiful experience.  I’m still blown away by the fact that my husband and I created this tiny human being that is a miniature version of both of us but unique in her own way. I’ve learned many useful lessons about motherhood since having Kensie. The first of which, I learned from my mother early on. She told me to relax. Trust the ones you love with your baby. You can’t do everything and you can’t be with her every living, waking moment. Trust me, I tried and then sleep deprivation kicked in. Suppress your inner control freak and let the ones you love help out if they are willing and able.  This will allow you to recharge so that you can be the best version of yourself for your little bean, especially in those first few weeks.

Also, as a new mother, I’ve found using a diaper for your baby with a wetness indicator like Huggies  Little Snugglers, goes a long way. There will be times when your baby is crying and you’re not sure why so this feature can be a huge help when trying to figure out what your baby needs.

The last piece of advice that I’d give to moms is to not lose your mojo. Don’t be afraid to do all of the exciting and inspiring things that helped define you pre-baby. Becoming a mom is my greatest pride and joy, but being a mom isn’t the only thing that I am. Continuing to nurture my passions post partum was a non negotiable for me. Write that screenplay. Run that marathon. Start that blog. Wear the killer outfit. Keep being the badass, rule breaking, thought provoking, opinionated girl boss that you were pre-baby. Your mini me is watching and he or she will thank you later.”

Elle Daftarian – Entrepreneur, Small Business Owner and mommy to Sophia
Elle Daftarian started off her career in fashion business but then went on to tackle careers in event planning & design titles and is most well known for her upscale bakery Petite and Sweet (now closed) and her television show, Sugar Stars on the Food Network. Now, this petite beauty is transitioning into her next role that will be launching soon on ElleDaftarian.com.
My best advice…lead by example. Kids watch everything you do and they want to be just like you. Learn to love yourself before you can love them and make sure they know how much you value yourself. Lastly, once that baby comes out they become their own person. As a mother, you are there to support their journey, not tell them how to live it.”
Felecia Exeter – Former magazine editor and mommy to yours truly

Sasha Exeter - Huggies Mom Ambassador

For those who have followed my social channels, you have seen her face sprinkled in IG posts and appearing in some of my IG stories on weekends here and there because we are thick as thieves. My mom moved to Canada after marrying my father. If you can believe it, she only saw him a total of three times over the course of a couple of years due to their long distance relationship before he popped the question and moved her across the pond to Toronto. A bank employee at BNP (Banc Nationale de París) before going to Canada, she secured a job at Telemedia Publishing, at the time home to magazines like Canadian Living, TV Guide and more, as a secretary and worked her way up within the company eventually becoming an Editor. Being my hero and inspiration, proving that hard work pays off in both love and in your career.
Sasha, as you know I had virtually no additional support when I first had you. I was in my early twenties and thousands of miles away from my family and friends. Everything that I learned was from trial and error, I would say and pretty simple now that I think about it, however I do wish someone had told me these things when I was a new mum.
When the baby is sleeping, you should use that time to get your own shut eye, which you will really need; have a bath or just do something relaxing for yourself. Remember to set priorities. Your job as a mother should be very similar as your career job in a way. It is impossible to get everything done every single day. Do what’s crucial and important and everything else can wait. Last but not least, try and remain positive throughout the pregnancy. YOUR baby feels EVERYTHING!”
I may not be an official “Mommy” yet but I’ve learned so much about pregnancy throughout these last 28 weeks and still learning something new every single day. It has been the most humbling experience. The advice I have for other mother’s is to listen to you your body! If you’re a high functioning person like I am and used to pushing yourself, you will need to slow down and let the baby and your body guide you. When you’re hungry – eat. When you’re tired – rest. If you’re starting to feel stressed out and overwhelmed – find a way to relax and chill. And lastly, don’t underestimate the importance and benefits of hugging your baby before he/she arrives. Give your baby infinite love and good energy by hugging your belly. It’s a great way to interact and connect with your little one and when your further along in your pregnancy, it’s so fun to feel your baby react back with movements.

SHOP THE HUGGIES PRODUCTS I’VE BEEN STOCKING UP ON HERE:

 

Thank you to all these fabulous ladies for taking the time to share their thoughts and advice with me…trust me, I need every single bit. Have any amazing mommy-to-be tips you want to share with me prior to the Bean’s arrival? I would love to hear from you via Twitter @SashaExeter, where I can also share your advice with my social community.


This post was sponsored by Huggies® Canada, however all opinions and thoughts in this post belong to myself and the women who agreed to participate!

Bugaboo Bee5 Launch | Today’s Most Comfortable & Stylish Compact Stroller

The last several months have been a bit surreal but now things are starting to get real. Sleeping has become a bit more difficult at night. My belly has started to restrict my mobility and it’s now time to start thinking about getting those first few big items for the “bean” like a car seat, stroller and decorating the nursery. I would be lying if I said this wasn’t a bit overwhelming and if I’m feeling this way, I can only imagine what’s going on in poor Réjean’s mind right now. So…we’re taking baby steps (no pun intended) and beginning with our search for the perfect strollers.

The second I discovered I was pregnant I couldn’t help but start paying attention to the strollers that parents were pushing around the city. And by “paying attention”, I mean “obsessing”. Even stopping a more mother’s than I would like to admit, on their walks to ask them how they felt about their buggy choice. Call me crazy, but as a first time, slightly neurotic mom-to-be, I just want to make sure I make the best possible decision when it comes to a chariot for my child.

Sasha Exeter - Bugaboo Bee5 Toronto Launch

So yes, there’s a ton of stroller options on the market and it’s nice to know that you can really narrow the search down significantly by not only determining a budget but also thinking about your current lifestyle and/or the lifestyle you aspire to have once your little one arrives. I started the search very early on and knew that I wanted a stroller that can transition easily with my child from newborn to toddler. Well to be fair, I initially started the search when I was pregnant the first time last fall before my miscarriage and had identified Bugaboo as one of my top stroller options, so we were ahead of the game this time around when we confirmed the news we were expecting again. With our extremely active lives, plus our love for travel and endless adventures, we desperately need a stroller that can not only hold up against our crazy lifestyle, but look good while doing it also.

Sasha Exeter - Bugaboo Bee5 Toronto Launch

Sasha Exeter - Bugaboo Bee5 Toronto Launch

Sasha Exeter - Bugaboo Bee5 Toronto Launch

Sasha Exeter - Bugaboo Bee5 Toronto Launch

Sasha Exeter - Bugaboo Bee5 Toronto Launch

Sasha Exeter - Bugaboo Bee5 Toronto Launch

Sasha Exeter - Bugaboo Bee5 Toronto Launch

Sasha Exeter - Bugaboo Bee5 Toronto Launch

Sasha Exeter - Bugaboo Bee5 Toronto Launch

Sasha Exeter - Bugaboo Bee5 Toronto Launch

Sasha Exeter - Bugaboo Bee5 Toronto Launch

Bugaboo’s stroller lineup is legit impressive and trust me, this makes choosing one from the five current options not an easy task but from the looks of it, the bean may be lucky to have a couple set of wheels because I don’t think Réjean and I could survive without a running stroller as well. I believe what’s made the brand so popular amongst Mom’s and Dad’s alike is that there truly is a stroller for everyone. When it comes to personal style, everyone is unique in their own way when it comes to design preferences and aesthetics, so why should it be any different when it comes to your baby’s stroller right? What I love so much about Bugaboo is that the brand values the importance of individuality allowing you to “Show Your Style”  – meaning; whether your a “Fashionista”, “Dreamer”,  “Urbanite” or a “Health Nut” – like me, they’ve got you covered. Last week I got to kick off my partnership with the brand at the media launch of the new Bugaboo Bee⁵ at Planta with the most fab moms and moms-to-be in the city. It’s there where I got a deep dive on the most comfortable and stylish compact stroller currently on the market, while also getting pampered, noshing on the best vegan food, and customizing my very own Bugaboo embroidered bag.

Sasha Exeter - Bugaboo Bee5 Toronto Launch

I was so conditioned in the past to think of strollers as being heavy, clunky, difficult to maneuver, limiting and not at all stylish but the Bugaboo Bee⁵ will forever change the game for urban moms and dads like us. So yah, no embarrassing moments taking 20 minutes trying to open or close the stroller in a mall parking lot with a screaming baby on your hip or struggling to hop into an Uber or the subway during rush hour downtown. The super compact chassis has a one-hand, one-piece fold that makes things so ridiculously seamless, it’s going to make even me, clumsiest woman alive, look like a consummate pro on my first spin outside with the baby.

And while of course functionality is key, I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty damn amazing that the Bugaboo Bee⁵ is highly customizable, allowing me to mix and match with countless different colour options to help reflect my own personal style; from bold or minimal basics from the Core Collection, muted tones from the Premium Collection or the super adorable prints from the Signature Collection. My style is usually very minimal but I am loving the idea of treating the stroller as an accessory and having a pop of colour on the canopy. Now with all the basics covered on how this new and very much improved Bugaboo stroller is going to help lighten our load and enhance our new journey, in the upcoming weeks I will be moving on to the best part – choosing colour combos and accessories. So, stay tuned to find out how I showcase my #HealthNut stroller personality in our upcoming customized colour reveal and “buggy breakdown” soon!

For more information on the Bugaboo Bee⁵ and for some more stroller inspo head to Bugaboo.com and or follow the hashtags #BugabooBee5 and #BugabooStyle on your Instagram.

4 Things I Didn’t Expect During Pregnancy

Well, well, well…most of you that read my blog also follow me on social media so this will not be news to you but…we are expecting our first baby this summer. The official announcement was posted on my Instagram account exactly a month ago today and while most of you may have thought it was something I was itchy to share, it was quite the opposite. As this is not Rejean and I’s first pregnancy, we suffered a miscarriage last fall (ICYMI, you can read about it here) and were devastated. After the initial joy of discovering I was with child; panic, anxiety and fear immediately set in. I’m not so sure about Rej, but I was absolutely terrified history would repeat itself and I would end up with another non-viable pregnancy and I was unsure whether I could handle another disappointment . I knew even before taking the home test that I was pregnant but to be completely honest with you, I was in complete denial for the first two months until my naturopath confirmed that my HCG levels were soaring through the roof and that there was no mistaking the fact that there was a little bean inside me.

So what next…? After carrying for almost 12 weeks the last time around, I thought I had this first trimester thing figured out but apparently I knew nothing because EVERY SINGLE PREGNANCY IS DIFFERENT. While most women gloat about how amazing their pregnancy experience is, it is not all roses for everyone, trust me! The first four months for me were insanely difficult but thankfully I am starting to finally feel like a normal human being again with the occasional bout of nausea. We are safely in our second trimester and almost at the 20 week mark. I cannot believe how fast the time is going. As the anxiety starts to fade a bit day by day, it is replaced with more and more excitement…and can only hope that the rest of the pregnancy is smooth and stress free.

There’s so much shit that has thrown me for a loop during the first 18 weeks and because I am a control freak, I wish I could have anticipated them but that’s not real life. It’s impossible to foresee the pregnancy future and for one reason or another, a lot of women only stick to sharing the positive sides of their pregnancy. So on that note, I’ve decided to share some of the things I discovered on my own, that I wish SOMEBODY had told me.

DISRUPTED SLEEP CYCLES

Majority of women talk about suffering from severe exhaustion during their pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. I remember feeling like I was in a coma during my first pregnancy but this one has been a very different experience. Rather than wanting to sleep my days away, I was barely getting 3-4 hours of sleep a night during the first couple months. Pregnancy insomnia is definitely a thing and thankfully it’s not harmful to the baby however it can get rather annoying. I assumed that this issue would occur later into the pregnancy with the physical changes to my body making it more uncomfortable to sleep but these early onset sleep issues for me were caused by emotional changes, stress, anxiety and the need to urinate a few times a night.

I did figure out a few ways to help with getting more sleep in recent weeks because after this baby arrives, I don’t anticipate getting much sleep at all:

  1. Drink plenty of water during the day and minimize water intake after 7pm
  2. Eating to sleep works wonders. Eat a healthy dinner to avoid heart burn and just before bed have a late night snack, something high in protein to help keep blood sugar steady throughout the night
  3. Make your bed a comfortable cocoon to help induce your sleep once you climb between your sheets. Make sure to bolster or add a pillow underneath your feet, tuck a pillow between your knees and sleep on your side. Still struggling to get comfortable? Do not pass go or collect $200 – and purchase one of those full body pregnancy pillows. It will not disappoint – I swear by mine!
  4. Exercising during the day will give you the energy you need earlier on but help you feel tired later on so you can get rest at night
  5. When you’re carrying another human being your body temperature is elevated causing you to feel like you’re overheating at times. Feeling hot and sticky does not set the stage for a good night’s sleep. Consider adjusting the temperature in your home or closing a vent in your bedroom to create a cooler environment for sleep.

HAIR GROWTH/HAIR LOSS

Most pregnant women speak praises of hair growth during their pregnancy. Around week 20, it’s highly likely that your hair gets thicker, shinier and looks more healthy than normal, all credit to those lovely pregnant hormones – particularly estrogen. Not to mention the increased blood circulation and metabolism pumping mega nutrients to your hair and nails. Well turns out, everyone’s prenatal experience and every single pregnancy is quite different. I was thoroughly looking forward to the luscious locks of my dreams but I’ve ended up not having any hair gains at all and worse – suffering from prenatal hair loss. Sounds a bit weird I know and there may be several reasons why this occurred.

My natural hair back in August 2016. 

During my first pregnancy I experienced no change to my hair but last November, almost 30 days after my miscarriage, I started to notice a change to the texture of my hair, thickness and length. Initially nobody else seemed to notice the difference, not even my hairdresser who I see on a weekly basis. I am pretty sure at one point she thought I was absolutely nuts. By the end of December the changes were clearly noticeable and enough to not only make me worry but had me feeling a bit depressed. I know it sounds a bit shallow, but I took pride in my beautiful, natural hair that took what felt like a lifetime to grow to the length it was. I was almost certain that when I found out I was pregnant at the end of last year, my hair would start returning to it’s healthy or at least healthier state. Sadly, I have yet to see a difference, even with daily prenatal vitamins and folic acid supplements and it appears that I am still shedding a considerable amount of hair on a daily basis. After playing web detective, which I’m not normally an advocate of, I discovered that hair loss during pregnancy can occur for a variety of reasons; with hormonal changes being one of the top culprits. Whenever the body experiences a drastic hormonal change, your normal hair growth cycle can be halted or disorganized causing excessive hair shedding or what is called Telogen Effluvium. Usually caused by dramatic emotional experiences during pregnancy also explains the state of my locks after the emotional distress I experienced after my miscarriage. Nearly half way through this pregnancy, I am going to have to wait for the condition to correction itself and to see any improvements until at least six months postpartum. In the meantime, here’s what I am doing to help reduce the hair loss during this time:

  • Eat fruits and veggies that contain flavonoids and antioxidants that may add some protection to the hair follicles and encourage hair growth
  • Avoid unnecessary stress to the hair by staying away from tight ponytails, weaves, and braids
  • Use ultra hydrating shampoos and conditioners that contain biotin and silica
  • Avoid excessive heat from flatirons, curling irons and blow dryers. as much as possible

MIGRAINE PAIN

Migraine headaches are like the lottery when it comes to pregnancy. If you suffered from migraines prior to being pregnant chances are there’s a high probability that you will experience stronger ones during – especially early on. However, there are a few lucky ducks who claim that their migraines actually diminish during pregnancy. I unfortunately have not been the exception but rather the rule when it comes to prenatal migraines and spent several weeks hemmed up due to crippling head pain, which caused me to be sensitive to noise, smells, food and even exacerbated nausea and vomiting symptoms. What’s the culprit for this annoying head pain? If you’ve guessed good ‘ole pregnancy hormones, you guessed right! Sadly, there’s not much you can for the pain during a prenatal migraine episode but on the upside, these pain cycles won’t last forever. Most healthcare providers consider acetaminophen (regular strength Tylenol) to be the only safe over-the-counter pain relief option throughout pregnancy but I strongly urge you to consult your treating physician prior to taking any. I personally didn’t have much success with Tylenol and had to resort to a few other tactics to help me with manage the pain:

  • Meditation and mindfulness techniques
  • Exercise (prior to full blown migraine)
  • Cold compress to the forehead and neck
  • Regular massage therapy
  • Warm epsom salt baths
  • Stretching; both preventative and during an episode
  • Increase water intake

NOT ALL PRE-NATAL VITAMINS ARE CREATED EQUAL

This one sort of threw me for a loop and I think that it is one of my most surprising discoveries throughout during this time. Our mothers and grandmothers may not have been popping prenatal vitamins, or even know what they are for that matter, but our generation sure as hell has been made aware that it’s a critical part of having a healthy pregnancy and baby. During the first pregnancy, although planned, we were not aware that I should have been popping this magic pills prior to conniving and that the most important period for brain and neural tube development occurs within the first four weeks of pregnancy. With our lifestyles, nutritional habits and the state of our food being so different than it was in previous generations, it’s imperative that women get the right amount of essential vitamins and minerals during (and even before conception) to prevent neural tube defects and support your little one’s growth and development. I actually never stopped taking mine between the two pregnancies.

Seeing as though the health care industry has deemed these supplements so important for pregnant women, one would expect that there be a set standard amount of each vitamin and nutrient found in each pill. I found out about a month into my current pregnancy that this is in fact not the case and immediately made changes to my prenatal vitamin, choosing one with DHA (omega 3 docosahexaenoic acid that benefits vision and brain development) and also added an additional 1 mg of folic acid. Even though folic is already in my prenatal supplement, I wanted to add some more, just to be on the safe side. There is no harm with taking a bit extra folic acid because whatever the body doesn’t need, it will flush out in your urine. Here’s the basics that you should have in your prenatal vitamin:

  • 1 mg (1000 mcg) of folic acid (folate)
  • 400 IU (10 mcg) of vitamin D.
  • 200 to 300 mg of calcium
  • 75 mg of vitamin C.
  • 3 mg of B1 (thiamine)
  • 3 mg of B2 (riboflavin)
  • 20 mg of niacin.
  • 10 mcg of vitamin B12.
  • 10 mg of vitamin E.
  • 15 mg of zinc.
  • 20 mg of iron.
  • 150 mcg of iodine
  • 30 mg of biotin
  • 25 mg of magnesium
  • 150 mg of DHA

Pregnancy has turned out to be nothing but surprises so far and I’m sure this is just the beginning. Looking forward to sharing all the good, bad and the ugly with you all over the next several months until our little bean arrives.

Road Trip to PEC’s Drake Dev Fuelled By Costa Coffee at Shell

I’ve done my fair share of road trips over the years and often times prefer the journey behind the wheel rather than flying and spending unnecessary commute time sitting in airports, but having done so many, I have learned through trial and error that there are a few key elements that go into making a road trip not only bearable but fun – a comfy ride, the right company, good tunes (hello XM Satellite radio) and of course coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

In an effort to spend some much needed quality time together, the mister and I took take a day trip to Prince Edward County in partnership with Costa Coffee at Shell to explore the adorable town two hours outside of Toronto and to be amongst one of the first to have a Costa experience here in Canada. So here’s the honest to goodness truth, I quit drinking my daily perquisite of 4-5 cups of coffee a day a little over a year ago, which bummed out my boyfriend because his coffee obsession is next level but from time to time, I still treat myself to a good cuppa joe. Rejean on the other hand my friends, is well known for his coffee obsession and was the perfect partner in crime to taste test hot bevies from the UK coffee chain that has gained a devout following of coffee lovers since opening it’s first shop in 1971. We won’t be expecting stand-alone Costa Coffee shops, well not soon anyways, but instead the brand has installed innovative, state-of-the-art, self serve bars where you can get quality barista style coffee on-the-go at select Shell gas stations here in Canada. I know you’re probably thinking there is just no way coffee at a gas station can rival the premium roasts found in the city’s most loved coffee shops but this is exactly why I had my guy’s discerning coffee palette on hand for some taste testing. To be quite honest, the promise of keeping him caffeinated helped me get him out of bed at 5:30am on a Sunday morning!

The self-serve bar is a far cry from coffee stands in most gas stations with an easy to use, beautiful touchscreen display with more than 250 drink combinations that allows you to easily create any of your fave hot beverages you would normally order during your daily stop in at your local coffee shop like espressos, ristrettos, macchiatos, cortados, cappuccinos, americanos, chai and vanilla lattes. Not a coffee lover? No problem! Costa Express at Shell has you covered with non-caffeinated options like white and black teas and even flavoured hot chocolates. The best part – as you wait for your customized beverage to be created, mini surround sound speakers play jazz music and also mimic normal background sounds one might here in a cafe (i.e. baristas at work preparing drinks) to give you that coffee shop feel which we thought was a hilarious and very cute added touch.

So with both our Cadillac XT5 and our bodies fuelled up with americanos and vanilla lattes at Shell, we were ready to tackle the snow covered 401 eastbound to beautiful PEC. Last Sunday’s snow storm put a bit of a monkey wrench in some of the surprises I had up my sleeve for Rejean with so many of the stores and wineries closed down but we are Canadian so I wasn’t going to let the weather stop us from having some fun at the Drake Devonshire Inn on the Lake. PEC is a magical little place that I discovered a few years back and have made it a yearly tradition to make the trek down in the summer to spend time at beaching at Sandbanks Provincial Park but this was my first time being in the area during the winter season. After taking a look at the current activities the Drake Dev had going on, I was pleasantly surprised to see morning Vinyasa Yoga classes which was truly the catalyst for our ridiculously early departure from Toronto. With hour long vinyasa flows offered a couple days a week with instructor Sam Ravenda in the beautiful “Glass Box” space in addition to their newly offered Devonshire Detox Weekend Yoga Retreats, the Drake Dev is a prime spot for all you yoga lovers to get your zen on. We spent a lot of time walking the exterior of the property, which is lakeside, and during the winter is as close as you’re going to get to feeling like you are in a snow globe. It’s absolutely stunning (if you can brave the cold temps) but we cheated the cold by fire pit with piping hot Costa Coffee.

Known for their 13 kitchy guest rooms, the countryside retreat is equally known for their food and drinks. The hotel boasts five menus that focus on seasonal, crowd pleasing dishes and upscale comfort foods with insanely delicious brunch options, served all day on Sundays that include my favourite- apple compote and fresh creme buttermilk pancakes, chill-maple glazed friend chicken with pecan waffles and a breakfast burger. And oh the drinks…the wine list boasts whites and reds from some of the top vineyards across PEC, natch and cocktails that kept Rejean and our friend Jess content like infused bourbon and maple syrup, classic Manhattan’s and epic caesars.

Post brunch we lounged in the “living room” which houses the Drake Dev’s permanent and rotating art exhibits that are commissioned by both local and international artists that create work which visually reflects, interprets and enhances the Drake Dev experience. The exhibit’s current rotation on now is called “About Face” and will run until March 14th, 2017. It features pieces from artists shedding new light on the faces that surround them, in the forms of various portraiture; painting, photography, textile and sculpture. After the rest of our property tour, we headed back to the Glass Box for a several rounds of ping pong, cocktails (Mocktails only for this designated driver!) and many, many laughs before heading safely back to the city.

Photography by JessBaumung.com

Want to elevate your commute with quality Costa Coffee now available at Shell? Click here to find a Costa Coffee at Shell location near you!

Degree UltraClear Black + White: The Secret to Keeping Clothes Looking New

The most important thing I put on every morning may not be what you think it is. I’m sure most women claim it’s their favourite lipstick, a supportive bra or moisturizer but for me it’s my antiperspirant. I have experimented with deodorants for years, struggling with their lack of sweat protection and until discovering Degree’s Dry Spray Antiperspirants  just over a year ago when I got first got involved in their #BeTheMotion campaign. Engineered with Motionsense technology, it releases extra body odour protection the more you move (key on those long work days that end with a workout) and is formulated to provide 48 hour protection but didn’t really tackle the issue of those embarrassing and annoying white marks that too often get left behind on our favourite garments.

Degree Ultraclear Black + White Dry Spray Antiperspirant not only packs the power of coverage like it’s predecessor, but now also is designed to keep clothes looking new – so good riddance to nasty white marks on your go-to blacks and yellow stains on your favourite summer whites, all done with the subtle scent of rose, lily and fruit that lasts all day.

Photography by JessBaumung.com

Want to keep your blacks, black without your vibe being killed by white deodorant marks? Head to DegreeDeoderant.ca to learn more.

“Workin Mom’s” The Revolutionary Show You Should Be Watching Right Now

Like most other baby crazed women in their thirties, I’ve long fantasized about the joy of learning that I am expecting, the day I bring a healthy baby into this world and the phenomenal bonding experience with the little bundle of joy in the year after his or her birth. But what the hell happens after mat leave? Nobody ever talks blissfully about what it’s like to return to their old life before baby at the office. To be quite honest, when it comes to how I would handle my return to work, I have literally given it little to no thought at all. Until now!

Cast (L – R) Jenny (Jessalyn Wanlim), Anne (Dani Kind), Kate (Catherine Reitman), Frankie (June Rinaldi)

Well my friends, for those who are new mothers, soon-to-be mothers or dreaming of becoming mothers one day – you need to be carving some time out of your busy schedules on Tuesday night’s to watching Workin’ Moms. Hilarious, honest, refreshing and totally unfiltered, Workin’ Moms, which debuted on January 10th and incited a cult following almost instantaneously, has managed to pull people away from the Netflix vortex, back into cable television-sphere. Really, a huge feat in itself! I knew by very early on in the second episode that this series had me; hook, line and sinker when I laughed so hard snot literally came spewing out of my nose. In the scene Reitman’s character, a frustrated first time mum, has a mini meltdown trying to get her stroller into the back of her Lincoln MKX SUV screaming, “You have be work for NASA to get this shit folded down!” before launching the still erected pram into the trunk with the girth of an elite athlete. Kate’s lack of patience for the Mommy basics like strollers and breast pumps, telling other judging mom’s to ‘eat a bag of dicks’ and her willingness to fight to have it all in every aspect of her life is exactly how I see myself transitioning into a Workin’ Mom.

Nailed it. Watch a new episode of #WorkinMomsCBC tonight on @cbc, 9:30/10pmNT. #momlife #babygear #stroller

A video posted by Workin' Moms (@workinmoms) on

Created by the über talented Catherine Reitman, who is also an executive producer, writer, and plays the lead character Kate Foster, pulls up the curtain on taboo issues that are barely even discussed within the Mommy Community; postpartum depression, workplace insecurities resulting in not feeling like you can keep up or still have what it takes to get the job done, resentment, nanny stress and of course the identity crisis that apparently most women suffer post delivery but very rarely open up about. According to Reitman:

“I went back to work after six weeks. I was surrounded by very important people.  I had just realized I missed my first Mother’s Day. I kept going and was trying to laugh, but I don’t know what happened. I just started bawling. It was so awkward for everyone. But, at those moments, it’s real and it’s true pain.”

Each character’s storyline is based on real life events – art imitating her life if you will. Meticulously thought out and well played by Reitman, making the show’s four leading ladies just as relatable as the women we grew to know and love in Sex and the City and Girls:

The series follows the lives of Kate and her Mommy Group acquaintances as they desperately attempt to juggle parenthood, careers, sex, marriage, and PPD and trust me – the struggle is real! But after binge watching the first four episodes, I’m amazed at how Reitman has managed to keep shit real with just the right amount of comedic elements and touching moments which no doubt reassures new mom’s that they are not alone, even though it can seem so isolating. And although I can’t entirely relate to everything just yet, it’s super fun and entertaining to watch others navigate their way through their newly found Motherhood.

Workin’ Moms airs on CBC on Tuesday night’s at 9:30pm. Catch up on missed episodes here.

Travel Smarter with the CIBC Air Canada Conversion Visa Prepaid Card

While my travels outside North America have been far less than in previous years, I’ve had countless business travel south of the border for work projects this year. As you can probably imagine, I’ve had my fair share of nightmares on the road during business trips. Like having my credit card and/or debit card compromised while abroad, resulting in my financial institution having to shut them down for security reasons. Trust me, it is THE worst! And my struggles don’t end there unfortunately. Over the last year for some strange reason, my bank client card began having issues in most ATM machines outside the country. With my frequent travel to NYC for work projects, it had started to become quite an annoyance.

The last thing anyone wants to worry about while traveling is having issues accessing money. So, I’ve learned a few tricks and tips along the way helping turn me into a savvy traveler, but of course the learning never stops. I usually make sure to never leave the country without some cash in my destination’s currency but this starting to pose as an issue when the Canadian dollar continued to plummet. I mean, have you ever had leftovers of a foreign currency after a trip and tried to re-convert them to Canadian dollars? If not, DON’T!!!

cibc-air-canada-ac-conversion

Enter the new CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion VISA Card. I did some research on CIBC’s latest card offering a few weeks ago, desperate to discover anything that would help me in my future travels. I’ve dabbled with a prepaid credit card or two in the past, but this one is in it’s own league. Similar to other prepaid Visa card options, you load the card with funds and you can use it for transactions anywhere Visa is accepted. But one of the biggest things that sets the Conversion card apart from the rest is that you are able to load it with up to 10 currencies, and manage your funds through a dedicated app. Yes, that is not a typo – 10 different currencies, so naturally it is an appealing option when traveling or booking ahead and can also be used at restaurants, stores, for online purchases and even for withdrawing local currency from ATMs.

So what does this mean? 1) No more line-ups at banks and currency exchange centres, 2) No more fear that your bank card will not work in ATMs abroad (FINALLY) and 3) Allows you to avoid those crazy credit card fees, making this card one hell of a travel companion. And if that’s not enough, if you order your card before December 31st , you can receive 15% off select Air Canada flights.

CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion Card

I took the card out for its first test drive a couple weeks ago on my last trip to New York and was able to check my card balance, view current exchange rates, move funds between different currencies, reload more money to my card and view all of my NYC transactions right through the mobile app on my phone. All sounds great right? It did to me but that didn’t stop me from delving a bit deeper into things such as CIBC’s Air Canada’s Conversion card’s supported currencies, expiry policy, transaction limits and associated fees, so here’s the skinny:

Support Currencies:

  1. Canadian Dollars – CAD
  2. United States Dollars – USD
  3. Euros – EUR
  4. Great British Pounds (UK) – GBP
  5. Mexican Peso – MXN
  6. Hong Kong Dollars– HKD
  7. Australian Dollars – AUD
  8. Japanese Yen – JPY
  9. Turkish Lira – TRY
  10. Swiss Franc (Switzerland)– CHF

Expiry Policy:

Luckily, the funds on this card will never expire. However the card itself will expire on the last day of the month printed on the card. There’s no need to worry if the card expires with a balance on it though, all you need to do is call the number on the back of the card to get a replacement. *A replacement card will not be sent out automatically after it’s expired – it must be requested.

Transaction Limits:

Minimum load amount (single Transaction) $100 CAD equivalent
Maximum load amount (single Transaction) $3,000 CAD equivalent
Maximum balance $20,000 CAD equivalent
Daily (24-hour) maximum point of sale purchase limit $3,000 CAD equivalent
Daily (24-hour) maximum ATM withdrawal limit $2,000 CAD Equivalent

 Fees:

Are there upfront fees? No, it is free to activate your card and should you choose to ship it to your home via courier, you’re looking at about $15. While all ATM withdrawals are free within Canada – there will be fees charged by CIBC in other countries with a chance that non-CIBC ATM providers may charge additional fees. That being said, it’s in your best interest to stay away from ATM withdrawals abroad unless absolutely necessary.

CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion Photography by JessBaumung.com

Are you ready to start traveling smarter? Click here to learn more about the CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion Visa Prepaid Card.

Tech Talk: What You Need to Know About Apple TV 4G

I did a TV detox for almost a year. Not intentionally, but with Netflix, Shomi, Crave and other online streaming options allowing us to watch our fave programs on our laptops, what was once one of the most used things in my household ended up sitting on a console collecting considerable amount of dust. Well, a lot has changed around here since getting Apple TV. Since it’s launch in 2010, it’s design had really not evolved and it was still using an interface dating back to the iPod days, quite possibly the reason why the device has consistently been eclipsed by it’s prodigy siblings, the iPad and iPhone. If you’re one of those people who prefer to wait for a later generation of a product so a brand has time to get all the kinks out, then now would be the time to try out the best version to date of Apple TV.

The latest version has powerful hardware, a significantly redesigned remote and an operating system worthy of an Apple product in 2016. Plus, there’s a legit app store now, which turns the device into a killer platform for entertainment, workouts and gaming right in the comfort of your own living room.

Apple TV Fitness Apps

The ultra sleek new Siri remote not only looks attractive when placed on your coffee table or TV console, but it’s also super functional. Say goodbye to endless button pushing kids. With the smooth touch surface, selecting and navigating is made so much easier with swipe capabilities. In addition to the menu and play/pause buttons, which the remote had before, there is now a home button and volume controls. Plus, since it’s wireless you don’t even have to point it directly at the Apple TV console. Worried about having to add yet another remote to your collection? We’ve trained the intelligent Siri remote to adapt to work as our television remote control.

Apple TV Fitness AppsHere’s what you will receive with you Apple TV purchase. *Note HDMI cable is sold separately

Once you’ve set up your Apple TV, which can be done simply on the corresponding app on your iPhone, the well laid out home screen makes it easy to search iTunes for movies, shows and music, and search/download from the app store etc. There aren’t any third-party apps installed by default, which is kind of a good thing in my personal opinion. This means, only the apps you love and use frequently are displayed on the home screen. The only downfall so far to be honest, is not having access to some of the new and amazing third-party apps that have been developed for 2016 that are not available in Canada *welp*. I frothed at the mouth thinking of all the potential binge watching I could do on HBO, Showtime and HULU and the workouts on Beach Body On Demand but nope – no dice for us Canadian residents. However, there are still a handful of apps making Apple TV a worthwhile purchase even if you reside south of the border…and let’s start with some that will get/keep you in shape:

Apple TV fitness apps

Fitness Focused Apps

Think you have no time to get to the gym after work? Can’t get out of bed extra early to make it to that yoga class? Or better yet, need some inspiration for some active mobility stretches before you run? I’ve combed the app store and online to find fitness apps that ticked all the boxes; high quality videos of varying lengths and forms of exercise, affordable prices, an app perhaps with an iOS version that sends me push notifications to nudge me when I haven’t worked out. Even a corresponding Apple Watch app component that will tap into the watch’s sensors to track my heart rate and cals burned. This may be too much of an ask, but I remained hopeful. After spending some considerable time trolling and testing, I’ve realized there is a HUGE potential for health and fitness apps on this platform and has even got me thinking of someday creating my own third-party app. With the updated version of Apple TV, tvOS has made it much easier for third-party apps to be created, so I suspect we will see a lot more comprehensive fitness apps popping up in the near future. Although there are some great options out there, I still think the fitness focused apps haven’t reached their full potential yet. Here’s a few of the contenders that were able to meet some of my tough criteria…

Zova:

Apple TV Fitness AppsPhotography by JessBaumung.com

One of the first tvOS fitness apps created, Zova also comes highly recommended by the peeps at Apple. It offers a ton of free video content, which is awesome, and is even equipped with Apple Watch integration so you’re able to see your heart rate on the TV screen while you workout. However, you have to pay $10+ a month to unlock the premium version. Still cheap in comparison to most others though, but I would have liked to see at least one option in the app store that was available free to users. Furthermore, majority of the videos are much shorter than I would have liked to see – 15 mins or less and no instruction. There’s just a model demonstrating each move sans voiceover. On the plus side, Zova is great for those who want to be led through a quick ab workout, short flow sequence to start the day or pre run stretch routine.

Daily Burn:

Apple TV Fitness Apps

Daily Burn has been featured in Vanity Fair, the New York Times, Shape, Good Morning America and the Today Show because of the success of it’s subscribers and now I know why. With over 500 workouts in 20+ amazing programs from strength training, HIIT, weight training, yoga, dance and more – there is something for everyone. Plus, there is a new 30 minute Daily Burn 365 workout every single day at 9am EST that replays on demand for 24 hours, specifically designed for beginners. When you download the app on Apple TV, your eligible for a 30 day free trial – something that most apps should allow you to do so you can ensure you are getting what you’re promised prior to purchasing. Once your free month is up, the premium membership will run you $36.99/mth. Workouts average anywhere between 30-40 minutes making them great on their own but also works well when you add in a run or other cardio workout but the app does not sync with the Apple Watch to monitor calories burned and heart rate.

Grokker:

Apple TV fitness apps

This yoga focused app also provides users with nutritional plans and cooking videos for those who are looking for some food inspo. Grokker’s program ranges from one week to six weeks in length and the series are designed to save you time with over 70 goal oriented series to choose from. My suggestions, “Get Tight in 28“, “x5 Intensity“, “Daily Muscle Relief” and the “21 Day Relax Mindfulness Meditation“. Love that you can schedule workouts in the in-app calendar as a reminder of which series you should be doing next. Users can also easily track progress such as total minutes of exercise and calories burned to stay motivated. If you have an Apple Watch, you will be able to track your heart rate and active energy during both fitness and yoga workouts while also contributing to your Activity Rings. Free to download and use, but just like the rest of the more sophisticated fitness apps out there, you have to pay for the good stuff. A premium subscription enables you to download an unlimited number of premium videos per month and will cost you $14.99 or $119.99 monthly or annually respectively.

Cody:

Apple TV Fitness Apps

Cody is the priciest out of the bunch because you actually pay per plan, not by month – so if you’re looking for an affordable fitness app, this isn’t it! The cost depends mainly on which plan you pick but on average will cost you somewhere between $40-50 and there is no free trial option. Some may argue that it is in fact good value for money because the videos are super high quality plus Cody offers offline downloads so you can do your workouts on your iOS device while traveling. If you’re the type that likes a variety and prefers to switch things up each day, you may not love that the app forces you to stick within a program, however on the plus side, this is the best way to achieve results.

Honourable Mentions

I would be straight up lying if I told you this was my only use of my Apple TV at home. Let’s be honest here, there are a plethora of entertainment, news, music, food and television streaming apps to make you forget all about cable television. On heavy rotation at our place right now – Netflix, TED Talks, Shomi, CityTV, People Entertainment Weekly Network, The Scene, Kitchen Stories, Made to Measure (for all my fave fashion documentaries and movies), and RedBull TV.

Apple TV is available at Apple stores, Best Buy locations and online at Apple.com starting at $199.

Activia Women #InSync Series and Commercial

This year has been very emotional for me. The word “emotional” usually has a negative connotation to it, but in this particular instance, its all positive. A few months ago I was approached by Danone to be apart of an amazing campaign with Activia Yogurt. The very first thing that stood out about this potential partnership was that it did not appear to be a blatant product push. In fact, when I read the campaign overview I was surprised to see that the project was not product focused at all, but rather a chance for 9 Canadian women to be able to tell the country their story on how they live a balanced life.

Could this really be possible? Can a company actually want to focus on my personal story and journey, rather than promoting their existing products or a recent product launch? Well…turns out, yes they most certainly did and the timing couldn’t have been any more perfect. After the struggles I’ve had to endure, there has been many times where I wanted to give up and didn’t understand why I kept getting faced with so much adversity. However, 2016 has been my best year yet and I have finally started to reap the rewards of all the hard work I put into getting healthy and building a personal brand.

Activia Women InSync Series

I’ve fought my illness for a very long time, only becoming more successful with managing it’s ugly symptoms in recent years by learning to live in sync. Meaning, putting a system in place and developing a new lifestyle for myself that contained the right amount of exercise, activity, diet and meditation. Furthermore, also learning to create boundaries between my work and personal life. So goodbye to working until midnight and never having a day off.  Creating a more harmonious balance in my life not only helped facilitate my recovery, but it also allowed me to spend more time with my family, friends and to nurture the first serious relationship I had been involved in for what seemed like ages. Don’t get me wrong, this was no easy feat. This turn of events began almost five years ago and at this time, my full time job was to just get healthy. My weekdays were filled with medical appointments, meetings with my dietician, naturopath, acupuncturist, reiki specialist, chiropractor and RMT, oh and let me not forget my psychologist and the numerous Cognitive Behavioural Therapy classes I had to attend to help me deal mentally with everything going on. My illness isolated me and caused me to become anti-social, ultimately was the end of my engagement (which truth be told was a relationship that was flawed and toxic from the start) not to mention the tangible losses such as; my loss of income from not being able to work, my vehicle, and having to move back in with my parents as an adult. Trust me, it was a lot of loss all at once and looking back now, it’s not at all surprising why I was also suffering from depression and anxiety.

People always ask me how I found the strength to turn things around. To be honest, a lot from that time was a blur and I cannot really remember every single detail. I am athlete and competitive by nature so I think I just wasn’t going to go out without a fight. I knew truly deep down that up until that point, I had not done everything I could to rehabilitate myself, besides drowning my body in pharmaceutical meds prescribed by specialists and laying in bed watching my life pass me by – which was clearly not working. I mean, I didn’t think things could possibly get any worse, so I decided to attempt the alternative route with eastern medicine. This change of direction, in addition to my ridiculously supportive family, eliminating stress, changing my diet and consistent exercise was critical in getting me to where I am today.

As part of this multi-faceted campaign with Activia, I shot an individual commercial going a bit deeper into my personal story, which was shot earlier this summer in Montreal. When you live something day to day, it’s difficult to see how far you’ve come but being a part of this project has allowed me to reflect on everything that has happened and see my exponential growth. I cried uncontrollably the first three times I watched this video.  Almost not recognizing the person in it because just five years ago I was a young women on bed rest suffering from a debilitating illness not knowing what the future holds. My life has changed dramatically and through balance I’ve created, I feel strong, I am happy, I am creative, I feel limitless and I am finally in sync.

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There’s so much more to come in this campaign and I can barely contain my excitement, so stay tuned. In the meantime, click here to learn more about the other 8 women and their stories, search the hashtag #InSync on social media or follow Activia Canada on Instagram and Youtube.

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