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My Art & Sole Custom Shoemaking Experience with Buick

Cars to me is what clothes are to most people. A way to make a statement without having to say a word. This sentiment is also shared by the design team at Buick who has put a considerable amount of time to help reposition the brand and create a vehicle that represents the highest quality of Buick luxury to date. The new Enclave Avenir has single handedly changed the way the way the world, myself included, will view Buick going forward. I know some of your perceptions have already changed just from reading my blog posts and following along on my IG stories. This brand transition has been successful because Buick has been taking cues from other industries that have a high regard for craftsmanship. The design team has used interior design, fashion and beauty trends as their main source of inspiration with one simple goal in mind. To create a vehicle that would be an expression of a discerning, fashion forward and conscious consumer.

BuickStyle Art & Sole Academy Event - So Sasha

BuickStyle Art & Sole Academy Event - So Sasha

BuickStyle Art & Sole Academy Event - So Sasha

Buick Style Art & Sole Academy Event - So Sasha

To celebrate this new direction and their successes with the new premium Avenir trim line found on the Enclave and Lacrosse, I was treated to an intimate evening with the Buick team and some friends at the Art & Sole Academy; the first shoemaking school in Canada that offers workshops and classes in the art of custom shoemaking. I was chauffeured to the event in a white Enclave that has the same Avenir trim as my own and it was pretty nice actually to be able to to relax and enjoy the ridiculous amounts of legroom that’s available in the middle row. Learning the ins and outs of the shoemaking process from Art & Sole’s owner Jennifer Allison was amazing but what blew all of our minds was that we all got to design a custom pair of leather driving shoes for ourselves that night. Not just any old leather either may I add. We got to choose from the same leather options that are available in the 2018 Buick Enclaves. Now  that should say something about the quality materials used inside these vehicles. We each traced and measured our the bottom of our feet and instep and then went on to choose the base style, colour of leather, leather type, uppers, lace and trim details. So fun, yes, but the plethora of options made it pretty stressful, not going to lie. Then we went on to learn a basic stitching technique for leather fabrications from Jennifer. This was definitely not my strong suit but I will soon have a custom shoe to match the interior of my Buick and that’s pretty damn cool. Before heading home, we even had personalized keychains made by the lovely chap below with our initials on it.

BuickStyle Art & Sole Academy Event - So Sasha

BuickStyle Art & Sole Academy Event

 

Members of the GM and Buick design team were on hand and it is really inspiring to see a group of women behind this dynamic team. Over the past couple years, I have gotten to know Catherine Black, Buick Colour and Trim Design Manager who in my opinion has the coolest job ever. Black is in charge of developing concepts, colours and shapes that reflect Buick’s customer alongside the marketing, engineering, and manufacturing departments. She is also the face of the design team often called upon to brief media on some of the trends they have forecasted several years prior to vehicles hitting the auto show circuit. I actually got to chat extensively with her about the design details for the Enclave Avenir over a year ago during it’s reveal in NYC at NAIAS and she has this to say about about where the Buick teams are today,

The whole synergy and interaction between the designers, clay and digital sculptors, engineering and colour & trim is extraordinary. Together we are charged with evolving the brand and the portfolio with the timeless qualities we value most – beautiful, premium, comfortable, effortless and intelligent.”

BuickStyle Event - So Sasha
Photos by Pamela Lau for Buick Canada

My custom shoes, fingers crossed, should be arriving in the next few weeks and I can’t wait to show you guys what I designed. Even more excited  to own my very first driving shoe that will not only look great but be functional too. Want in on customizing your own pair of leather driving shoes from Buick? Starting May 15th, you can express your own personal style by customizing and designing your own, which is pretty major. They will be available in very limited quantities, but on the upside, they will be made available on www.artandsoleacademy.com/buickstyle for only $189, when trust me, they are probably worth a lot more. Head to Buick.ca to find more information on the Enclave Avenir and full portfolio of Buick’s 2018 vehicles.

This post was created in partnership with Buick Canada however all thoughts and opinions are my own

My Wellness Experience at Le Monastère des Augustines with Buick Canada

I have been going non-stop since I had Maxwell. I took two short weeks off but after that it was pretty much back to my regularly scheduled programming. Truthfully, I haven’t been feeling my best and my body has slowly been giving me signs that it’s time to slow down a bit. I’ve been craving some breathing room and a reset to figure out what my next steps were going to be to help find balance during this time of transition as a working new mom. The idea for my mindfulness getaway to Quebec City’s actually came while driving Max inside my new car. I had made the decision to upgrade to the 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir in January. The extra space and safety features were definitely a catalyst for the change but I also loved the fact it has it’s own ionizing clean air filter that eliminates dust, bacteria and pollen in a car I spend a lot of time driving my daughter around in. It is a genius idea. Then I started thinking, as blessed as I am to be able to have things like this to help enhance the quality of my family’s life, nothing will trump how my energy and well-being will affect them at the end of the day. After my short stay at Le Monastère des Augustines, I implemented five small but important things that have made significant changes in my daily life. More on this later, but first let me share with you what this magical place is all about.

Le Monastere de Augustines- So Sasha

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

So with that realization, I was on the hunt for a truly unique wellness experience and discovered a real gem about eight hours drive from Toronto. Le Monastère des Augustines is a little wellness haven found in the heart of Old Quebec (Quebec City). Occupying the restored wings of the former Hôtel-Dieu de Queébec monastery, one of Quebec’s most significant historic sites, the hotel is for those who are on or looking for a true path to holistic health. The property opened it’s doors back in 2015 after three years of rehabilitation and renovations that had to meet extremely strict historical guidelines and a carefully curated team of historians and architects spent an enormous amount of time researching every square inch of the the property; to ensure it was restored respectfully to the way it was 400 years ago. Inside you’ll find:

  • A boutique with teas, wellness products, books, healthy grab & go food options and meditation accessories.
  • A museum and archives with 1 linear km of documents and rare ancient books. It houses a permanent exhibition illustrating the social and spiritual involvement in the first hospital on the continent north of Mexico and the development of Quebec’s health system as we know it today. It also has the original pharmaceutical and medical objects, works of arts and artefacts that the sisters held on to for years and donated to the monastery. There are guided tours that recreate the experience of a 17th century cloister
  • The vault, located basically underground, is where many of the movement classes take place. It’s where I did my morning sessions and it has such great energy in there. Fun fact, this room was only a quarter of the height it is now. The original floor was removed and the ground was dug out to create this large space. The hallway leading toward the vault (found below) gives you an indication of how low the ceilings are in the original building.
  • A church where the nuns still congregate daily at 5pm for mass and to sing with the choir. Guests are welcome to meditate or practice yoga on there own outside of mass hours.
  • The spa where guests can receive personalized holistic and nutrition consultation services or indulge in facials, lymphatic drainage or their preferred choice of massage therapy in 30, 60 or 90 minute durations

Le Monastère des Augustines is also a non-profit organization. When you think of a wellness retreat, dollars signs is usually the first thing that pop into your head because let’s be honest, most are grossly overpriced. All funds and donations to the monastery are actually used to protect and enhance the heritage of the Augustinian Sisters, to help with Le Monastère’s mission to promote the wellbeing of individuals and society and to make it’s services affordable and accessible to as many people as possible.

Le Monastere de Augustines - Sasha Exeter

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

I feel somewhat inclined to clarify just in case it was not clear during my stay. If you’re for a luxurious getaway with Michelin star dining with a couple of cute yoga classes sprinkled in throughout your stay, this is not the place for you.  Taking inspiration from the Augustinian Sisters, who founded the monastery nearly four centuries ago, Le Monastère des Augustines, main goal is to take care of their guests mind, body and soul through meditation, food and a specific movement series. The design, programming, and food is all about simplicity and created with distinct purpose. The rooms are without clocks, TV or docking stations for iPhone/iPods to ensure that you have zero distractions in a space that should be reserved solely for sleep. However, they do have wifi throughout the property but they encourage guests to decompress and take a tech detox during their stay. The programming for the movement series, oddly not described in much detail on their website, are all scheduled before each meal and trust me there is good reasoning behind it. I promise, more on this later. As for the food; the restaurant’s approach is based on the principles of conscious nutrition using mostly organic, local and seasonal products.

The Accommodations

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

Guys, the room’s at the monastery are probably one of the coolest aspects of the hotel and are the perfect design juxtaposition between old and new. There’s a total  of 65 rooms split almost evenly between authentic rooms restored in the spirit of monasticism and contemporary rooms with modern design and amenities. After my hotel tour on IG stories, people seemed to be fascinated by the character and charm of the authentic rooms. The teeny tiny doorways are an indication of just how small the sisters of Augustine were back then and it’s just so cool to be able to see exact replica’s of what their rooms were like dating back to 1639. For reference check out Marie-Eve standing in front of an authentic suite and she is only 5’2″. The majority of the furniture in these rooms are original, historic pieces with the exception of the beds, mattresses and sink – and have all been manufactured right in Quebec, which is really cool. However, these rooms do not have their own bathrooms so guests must use communal washrooms and shower rooms during their stay.

Here’s a peek inside one of the monastery’s authentic rooms

After a quick poll on my stories, most said they loved the idea of the authentic rooms but were not thrilled about the shared washroom facilities. To be honest, the communal facilities are actually quite nice but there’s nothing like having your own with a bathroom with a deep tub for pre bedtime soaks. My contemporary room came with the just bare necessities but really well appointed. There were lavender beads in my closet giving my clothes the most beautiful scent during my stay. The wool Hudson’s Bay blankets at the bottom of the beds in this wing is a sweet added touch. And even though Le Monastère claims that luxury is not what they are about, their plush white bathrobes say otherwise.

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

The Daily Movement Program

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

Le Monastère is designed in a way to ensure that all ages and fitness levels are able to participate and benefit from what’s being offered. There are no high intensity workouts in sight and the programming is based on the practice of yoga, pilates and Qing Gong. You won’t find any difficult yoga flows or reformer machines. Each of the movement classes are primarily meditation based where breathing is the main focus with gentle movements from each practice incorporated into the 45 or 90 minute classes. Personally, not exactly what I am used to as I prefer something more challenging, however it forced me to slow down and focus on opening my body through my breathe. Turns out, I actually loved it and my body responded to it really well. I followed my midday practice one day with a massage and I was surprised my legs allowed me to walk back to my room. I was complete mush and so relaxed. The series is works well for those who are just getting into meditation, amazing for older guests who require more low-key activity and I even met one woman from the east coast that was there as part of her injury rehab program prescribed and suggested by her physician.

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

The classes are strategically scheduled at the exact same times each day before meals are served in the restaurant at 7am, noon and 5:30pm. Reason being, having food in the digestive system can interrupt with the rhythm of the body while going through these movements. While practicing yoga, pilates or Qing Gong (Tai Chi), the goal should be to have your energy be centralized towards the movement and poses, instead of going towards managing the process of digestion. Practicing on an empty stomach provides the chance to efficiently harvest the energy from the energy reserves of our body such as muscles, liver and body fat – encouraging the body to efficiently burn extra calories Not to mention, twists and turns with food in your stomach can also cause issues in the digestive tract.

The Food

Le Monastere de Augustines

“Le Restaurant” as it’s simply called is where I dined during my stay with the exception of one dinner I had off site at Chez Boulay because I was told by just about everyone I met there that I had to go. Chef Christophe Perny approach to creating the menu each day is fully aligned with Le Monastère’s holistic health principles. All meals are done buffet style with the exception of lunch and there are options for everything offering vegetarian, fish and meat dishes.

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

Done in complete silence, post yoga breakfast consists of homemade yogurts, chia seed pudding, fresh fruits, artisan breads, jams, tea and coffee. Fresh juices and smoothies are also available. The sisters ate all of their meals in silence . Doing things with a mindful intention was very important to them, even when it came to nourishing their bodies. Not talking also meant that they took their time while eating, chewed more and had better digestion. The hotel thought observing silence for all three seatings would be a bit too severe for guests so it is only mandatory for the first meal of the day. It sounds a bit dramatic but I must say, starting the day off with the awakening series followed by a quiet and nourishing breakfast, can be just the thing you need to change the trajectory of your entire day.

Lunch is hands down the best meal served in their resto and also the largest. It is a three course meal beginning with an elaborate salad bar with two soups to also choose from. Your choice of main (vegetarian, fish or meat option), ending with a guilt free dessert. The kitchen actually doesn’t contain any processed or refined sugars whatsoever. As I ploughed through my second course of lunch, our tour guide/Monastery PR Manager, Marie-Eve, shared with us the reasoning behind this decision. Eating a larger lunch, gives way to a lighter dinner that has been proven to help with digestion. This has also been linked to better sleep.

Dinner did not blow me away as much as the lunch but it met it’s purpose. Similar to the breakfast, it was buffet style with a full salad bar, soup options and mains to choose from for vegetarian, fish and meat eaters. This too was followed by dessert. The items were all of easily digestible foods and I must say, I slept so much better the first night we dined in the monastery restaurant than the following when I devoured a steak at Chez Boulay.

My Le Monastère de Augustines Take-Aways

I think a lot of people leave wellness retreats with grandiose ideas of making huge life changes when they return home and within a day they get swept right back into their old routine. While their intentions may be there, sometimes the changes are so dramatic, it’s just not feasible to see it through in the real world when you have work commitments, kids, family and friends pulling you in a million directions. So here’s what I’ve implemented since I have returned home:

Meditation. 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night. I had to be honest with myself, anything longer than that with Maxwell around, just won’t get done. I make it even easier for myself and do it right in the comfort of my bed. While 15 minutes doesn’t seem like a long time, believe it is torture for those who are used to going non-stop. This is my starting point but I am hoping to make it up to an hour by summer.

A Mindfull Approach. Slowly down. Taking my time. Being more mindful with everything I do. Taking the time to enjoy every bite of food I put into my mouth and concentrating while I chew. Taking in my surroundings during my runs and walks with Maxwell. Giving my daughter my undivided attention and not being distracted by the television, cell or laptop. I mean, there will always be times where I have to check my email, answer calls or respond to a text while Maxie is around but I am doing my best to keep some special time for just me and my girl.

Le Monastere de AugustinesSilence. As much as possible. When you live with a partner and a baby it is challenging to do this but I am no longer driving with music playing while I’m alone. I’ve chosen quiet over the radio unless I have a guest riding with me. On our way back from the monastery, Jess and I listened to the spa channel on my XM satellite radio

Le Monastere de Augustines
Photography by Jess Baumung and Le Monastère

Large(er) Lunches & Lighter Dinners. Not really a hard one to implement if I’m honest but I have trimmed down my dinner portions and now opt for heavier meats for lunch sticking with fish and veggies for dinner.

More Baths Before Bed. This requires no further elaboration. One of the reason we got our place is because of the bathtub in what is now Maxie’s bathroom. Bath time done right with low lighting and lavender scented epsom salts, always leads to a great night sleep.

For more information on Le Monastère des Augustines or to book your very own unique wellness experience in the heart of Quebec City, head to www.monastere.ca. 

This post was sponsored and in partnership with Buick Canada, however all views and opinions are my own!

Our Algonquin Road Trip Adventure with Buick

One very important and reoccurring discussion Réjean and I had when I was pregnant was around how we could maintain our lifestyle and continue to do the things we love like explore and travel as new parents. As much as we love our new role as mum and dad, we are still who we are as people and that shouldn’t stop just because we have a little one. With Maxwell more adjusted to traveling in the car, more specifically her car seat, we were finally ready to take on a short road trip last month. Now, Réjean being from a small town in eastern Canada, he loves being up north out of the city and has been begging me to go camping for as long as I can remember. As for me, I couldn’t be more of a city girl and my idea of camping is literally staying at a hotel without 5 star amenities. We truly couldn’t be more different in that sense but we promised each other we would take turns on choosing our family adventures and after a game of rock, paper, scissors; Réj won the right to choose the first one. And I am kinda glad he did because we had a ball and laughed our butts off the entire time.

So Algonquin bound we were with a newborn and probably way more camping equipment than we probably needed. I thought if I was going to try this camping thing out, I want to have everything on hand to make it a legit experience. But just let me be clear… instead of jumping into my camping experience two feet at a time, I decided it was best to just dip my proverbial big toe in first. With it nearing the end of November, a baby on board and me not knowing how I was going to handle the remote wilderness, it made sense to keep the trip short and sweet, LOL. I was pumped though. Not only was it our first family road trip. It was also the first time we did a long(ish) journey in our Buick Envision and I don’t feel like a vehicle really becomes part of you and your family until you’ve done a road trip in it.

The greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination. It’s the memories you make along the way with the ones you love!”

Buick Envision

Now just to show you how little I know about camping, I had assumed that you just sort of roll up to a campsite and basically set up wherever you like but apparently it’s not much different than booking a hotel stay. This I didn’t discover until the day before we were set to leave. Large Provincial parks and sites like Algonquin Park, you are usually required to either book online or via phone for a camp plot on your lake of choice (and yes, there are multiple lakes to choose from). Your choice is based on whether you would like electricity or not, access to showers, car access or if you are REALLY into the outdoors; a walk-in site. The latter is where you have to hike for miles to the interior to set up shop. Yup, no thanks…I prefer to be on the perimeter where I still have access to cell reception. I imagine that availability could be tough during the summer high season. After October, all of Algonquin’s parks are closed for the season, with the exception of Mew Lake, which can be used for both day and overnight camping. Lucky for us, not many people wanted to be out there in 11 degrees so we basically had the site to ourselves minus another couple and a gentleman who clearly looked like it was not their first time to the rodeo.

Whenever I venture far north into cottage country, I always fear that I will get lost somehow, but, this time getting there was the least of my worries. Our Buick Envision is equipped with OnStar and it was a great opportunity to test out the service and request turn-by-turn directions directly to the car at the touch of a button. Accessible via the infotainment system home menu or the small blue button located on the rear view mirror, OnStar is literally acts as a safety net, providing drivers with access to a live advisor who can provide assistance for just about anything, around the clock. In our case – directions to Algonquin’s Mew Lake, so we could worry less about missing a turn and just take in the beautiful scenery around us. The best part, seeing as though we skipped town on a workday, I was able to check emails and get some work done, while Réjean was behind the wheel thanks to OnStar’s 4G LTE wifi hotspot.

Buick Envision - So Sasha Buick Envision - So Sasha

So you’re probably wondering what does one pack for a day camping trip with a three month old baby right? We literally brought as much equipment as the car could fit, which turned out to be quite a lot of stuff. For a crossover SUV, the trunk has considerable cargo space. My friend and photographer Jess came along on the journey too and he had ample space in the backseat to relax and keep Maxie entertained on the drive. I am still amazed at how the Buick was able to design a mid-size crossover with the interior of a full-size SUV. The extra room in the backseat also came in handy as it was converted into a nursing and changing station for the baby throughout the day. I ran the car to keep it warm and toasty for her during these breaks.

I turned to MEC (basically a camping and outdoor MECCA) for all of the family’s needs from apparel, sleeping solutions and even cooking supplies. I know this sounds quite extra for a day trip but you just never know. Trying anything new with a baby can cause some anxiety so getting everything we needed under one roof made life so much easier. We bundled up in layers – sweaters and lightweight vests underneath our down Patagonia jackets that kept us surprisingly warm. We wore thermal tights as a base layer underneath wind breaking pants that were also waterproof in case of rain, which it did not thank God! Maxie was in this snowsuit the entire time, with the exception of on the drive to and from. I know some of you were worried about Max being out there in the cold but funny enough, she was the warmest out of the four of us the entire day.

Buick Envision Buick Envision - So Sasha Buick Envision Buick Envision - So Sasha

What We’re Wearing:

On Me: Women’s Patagonia Jacket  // Women’s Sandbagger Pants // Women’s Salomon Hiking Boots // Unisex MEC Glide XC Mitts // ClimaHeat Tights // Soft Wool Toque (sold out) similar here

On Réjean: Unisex MEC Glide XC Mitts // Men’s Osolo Backpacking Boots // Men’s Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket // MEC Cragalot Backpack

After obtaining our park permit and getting our plot assigned by the site attendant we decided it was best to start setting up the tent right away in case Maxie and I wanted to take a nap in there. One of the reasons why camping intimidated me so much in the past was because I always thought it would be such a chore to pitch a tent. I doubt I would have been able to do it without Réjean but it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. We used the MEC Cabin 4 Tent. It’s super spacious and has plenty of head room, so we didn’t have to crouch to get in and out, plus we were able to stand up to make changing our clothes easier. It sleeps four comfortably and has double doors allowing us to roll up one, so we could have a nice view of the lake. Our Mallard -5 Sleeping Bags were designed specifically for the weather conditions of November and were insulated with 650 duck down fill – #CozyAF!

Buick Envision - So Sasha Buick Envision - So Sasha Buick Envision - So Sasha Buick Envision Buick Envision - So Sasha Buick Envision

I know it must look like we nailed this trip but if you happened to be following along on my IG stories, you would know that there were a couple mishaps along the way. But hey, it made for some very entertaining moments to say the least. I definitely was not going to be eating tuna out of a can during my first camping trip so we prepped a large container of vegetables with olive oil and seasoning to go along with fish and steak we planned to grill at the site for lunch and dinner. I went up there smug and very impressed with myself remembering to scoop up a cooking grill when getting our MEC Camp Together Cooler but once we decided to get a fire going we realized with had no lighter, no gas tank or lighter fluid for the grill to get things going. Hands down the BIGGEST fail. Réjean literally had to purchase firewood, steal some flames from a neighbouring site and run back to our plot with burning firewood in his hands (as I followed and creepily documented it for Instagram stories of course!) A whole two hours later and we finally got a pit going enough to cook all our food.  The result. Slightly overcooked as it was hard to gauge cooking time over an open flame but having the meat and fish wrapped in foil paper somehow kept it moist. No word of a lie, it just as good as any BBQ steak I’ve ever had.

Buick Envision - So Sasha

These MEC Delux Camping Chairs were awesome. Comes with a built-in bottle opener, a cup holder that deploys when you need it and even comes with a pillow that can be adjusted to provide extra neck or back support

Very different from my type of adventure for sure but it was kind of nice being up there, away from the craziness of the city. Even the air smelled cleaner somehow. The campground actually prohibits music because sound travels so easily up there. Annoying at first because I had plans on using the car’s wifi to listen to the Spotify playlist I created specifically for the trip but in the end I was happy we couldn’t. It was just so peaceful and forced us to actually talk and connect – something that hasn’t been happening a lot lately due to our crazy busy schedules. Max was a total angel and made camping with a newborn easy for this mama bear. Clearly she won’t remember any of this but I am just so happy that we are able to do these things as a family and document it all so when she’s older she can look back at how much she did so early on in her life. My hope is that these experiences will set the foundation for a well rounded, well traveled little girl who will forever be curious, wanting to learn more about life.

Buick Envision
Photography by Jess Baumung

SHOP OUR FAVE CAMPING CLOTHING GEAR

Interested in learning more about our spacious crossover? Head over to www.Buick.ca for more information.
This post was created in partnership with Buick Canada. All opinions and views are my own.

Personalize Your Love & Holiday Wishes With Staples

We are in the fully swing of the holiday season, which still seems to blow my mind. I’m just not so sure where the time this year? You all know I got started on all my decorating and gift buying super early this year, so I had some extra time on my hands to do some things I never get a chance to do; like getting my hands into a little holiday baking. As the holiday season is a time to share love and best wishes with those around you, I decided that I also wanted to send out holiday cards for the first time ever. I guess having a baby and feeling a bit more domesticated will do that to you!

Here’s the honest truth…I am by no means super crafty and knew if I was going to tackle this whole holiday card idea, it needed to be simple and affordable or else it just wasn’t going to happen. For years Staples as been my one stop shop for all my home office needs and figured their dedicated print team would be the best place to go to help me get this done. Their state-of-the-art equipment and certified “Print Pros” guarantee that any personalized gift idea you can dream up (canvas prints, puzzles, paper invites, gift labels or even professional place settings – if calligraphy invite design isn’t your thing!), can come to life.

Photography by Elaine Fancy

For our holiday cards I decided to keep it simple and use a photo of Maxie. I felt this was a much better option as our friends and family are always insisting I send them photos of her and just never get around to doing it. You can always go to your nearest Staples location to meet with a certified Print Pro if you feel like you need in person assistance, but seriously you can easily create just what you need online from the comfort of your home like I did on StaplesPrint.ca. There’s a dedicated “Holiday Solutions” section that displays all their service offerings from photo gifts to labels. In under just 10 minutes I was able to find a card template that fits my aesthetic, choose card stock, upload the photo, create a personalized greeting and place the order. This is a perfect solution for some of your holiday needs if you’re looking to avoid malls and crazy long lines this month. To make sure your personalized items from Staples make it in time for Christmas, orders need to be placed by December 10th. Head on over to StaplesPrint.ca for more information and gift ideas!

My Indigo Holiday Gift Guide

The holiday season is right around the corner and I am getting in the spirit early this year seeing as though this will be our first Christmas as a family with baby Maxwell. Once a self-proclaimed last minute shopper, I have now become that woman who has her tree up at the beginning of November and has already started purchasing gifts for family and friends. Trust me, I barely recognize myself.

Indigo is by far one of my favourite stores for gift giving, especially during the holidays. It’s the obvious choice for gifts for the avid readers in your life but they are so much more than just books. They have become the perfect destination for decor, novelty gifts, clothes, electronics and even the cutest stuff for babies. And who wouldn’t love a place that’s a one-stop shop for the entire family. Here’s a sneak peek at what I will be gifting my loved ones this year from Indigo.

Indigo Holiday - Sasha Exeter

For the Littles

Over the last two years our little family has grown as we’ve welcomed three babies into our clan. Indigo was one of my go-to’s when I was designing Maxwell’s nursery and I place I often shop for adorable onesies, books and baby decor. For Maxie, I love  Indigo Baby’s Cabin Cozy Bath Robe and “Snow Cute” onesie. For my baby niece Liv, we found the perfect  Jamie Baby Knit Pom Pom Hat in black by Lizette Handmade.

Indigo Holiday - Sasha Exeter

Indigo Holiday - Sasha Exeter

For the Guys

I always find gift giving for guys more challenging but I still think I will knock it out the park with these items for the men in my life. When I can get Réjean out of running gear into streetwear, his style is simple and classic. Keeping accessories to a minimum, he prefers to just stick to a watch when he’s not busy training. The Fossil Q Gen Smartwatch couldn’t be more perfect for Réjean. It has a classic design but also has a built-in fitness tracker. On the go, he’s able to check text messages, email, social media notifications and much more. Every few years author Dan Brown blesses his fans with a new best selling novel. My dad, a huge fan of Dan Brown will be more than happy to find the newly released “Origin” under the tree. What do you get a guy who has four kids under the age of seven (2 step kids and 2 of his own)? Well that would be my sleep deprived brother who will probably enjoy having a glass of whiskey or two during the holiday season to take the edge off his busy household with these Teroforma Whiskey for Two set. And I can’t forget my little guy Leilan. My nephew has become a book lover at the early age of two, preferring to have one of us read to him than play with his toys. I love the idea of gifting him one of the books my mom used to read to me every holiday season as kid “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”, by everyone’s favourite childhood author Dr. Seuss.

Indigo Holiday - Sasha Exeter

Indigo Holiday - Sasha Exeter

For My Mom & Mother-In-Law

Gifts for my mom and MIL (mother-in-law) couldn’t be easier thanks to Indigo. For my mom, I’ve chosen this Quilted Weekender and the 25th anniversary edition of Diana: Her True Story – In Her Own Words by Andrew Norton. A nod to my mother’s English background and love of who Brits fondly referred to as “The People’s Princess”. Réjean’s mom loves easy to wear, cozy clothing and I can just see her hanging by the fire wearing Indigo’s Jules Shawl Collar Cardi this winter.

Indigo Holiday - Sasha Exeter

For my Girls

Rupi Kaur stole every woman’s heart with the 2015 release of Milk & Honey. Her poems of love and heartbreak are relatable to any female with a pulse and the fact she’s homegrown talent from Canada is the icing on the cake. I’ve scooped up a few copies of this new age classic for a few ladies in my life. For the best friend who always has my back and is so old fashioned she often forgets she has an Instagram account…the Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Camera is just what she needs to capture moments that don’t make it on the ‘Gram. Maxwell’s arrival into this world wouldn’t have been possible without our amazing Doula Leah Jackson, who we will turn to for postnatal support and care for the baby in lieu of a nanny. She’s a legit star in my eyes and couldn’t have thought of a more perfect gift for her than Indigo’s “You’re a Star” jewelry tray, which in my opinion is a multipurpose tray also great for change and other small items. Last not least, call me selfish…but I always add myself to my gift giving list because I deserve something fabulous too! Coffee table books are my fave and I love collecting ones on fashion and photographer. There is no way I am not adding Annie Leibovitz: Portraits 2005-2016 to my current collection.

Indigo Holiday - Sasha Exeter

Indigo Holiday - Sasha Exeter

Indigo Holiday - Sasha Exeter
Photography by Elaine Fancy

This post has been sponsored by Indigo as part of the Indigo Holiday Blogger Shop, however all thoughts and opinions are my own

For more gift ideas this holiday season check out Indigo’s Holiday Blogger Shop.

Welcome to the Family Buick Envision

Bringing a new life into the world can be both exciting and terrifying for new parents. Even though you may have months to prepare for the arrival, the unknown and the what-if’s to come can be unnerving. As one might imagine, I spent most of my pregnancy researching and acquiring all the baby products I felt we needed for Maxwell in her first few months of life and quickly realized at the end of the summer that I may need a new vehicle to match my new lifestyle as an “Urban Mum”.

2017 Buick Envision

2017 Buick Envision - Sasha Exeter

I have had my license for 20 years ( and you can stop trying to calculate my age right now!) and consider myself to be a great driver but let me tell you something, nothing scared me more than the thought of being behind the wheel of a car with a newborn baby. Most of my anxiety came from not trusting the other drivers out there. I literally became fixated on finding a car that came with as much safety technology as possible to protect us on the road. I also realized quite quickly that this new vehicle would have to be adequate in size to accommodate all the new (and mandatory) things I now needed every time I left the house. Not to mention, one with cool-air ventilated front seats to help me get me through the end of summer and fall because I’ve been a sweaty mess for months thanks to my hormones. And if I can be completely honest with you, I needed a car that also just looked pretty damn cool. The “Mum” title can immediately put you into a category of un-coolness, especially when it comes to vehicles. What I wanted was something sleek enough for my city events, roomy enough to handle long road trips plus all the extra crap that comes with having a baby, next level safety features and tech savvy to handle my work needs on-the-go because a traditional maternity leave doesn’t quite exist for me. That seems like a tall order I know, but the 2017 Buick Envision miraculously ticked all the boxes, making it the perfect addition to the family just before Maxwell’s arrival.

So many of you commented and private messaged me on social media about the Envision. Some of you surprised. Most of you intrigued. Just like the old adage, “you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover” the same can ring true about Buick’s latest fleet of vehicles. They are far from the Buick’s of the past but I know for many, it’s hard to call them a luxury brand since it occupies something of a middle ground between mainstream and high-end. Turns out, the Envision easily competes with other cross-overs in it’s class like the Lexus RX, Lincoln MKC, Audi Q5 and it’s natural rival the Acura RDX, providing more value for money in my personal opinion. Here’s what has me hooked on the 2017 Buick Envision during our first month with the vehicle so far – making it worth a look if you’re in the market for something new, safe and stylish as a new mom or mom-to-be.

Heavy on Safety and Tech Features

2017 Buick Envision - So Sasha

The Envision has more features than you could possibly imagine. I kid you not, even the base model at $35k has a rear camera, OnStar telematics, 4G WiFi hotspot, active noise cancellation, Apple Car Play/Android Auto, 4 USB jacks and an 8-inch LCD center stack, XM Satellite radio, just to name a few. With my newly acquired anxiety about vehicle and driving safety with my baby, it was a no brainer to go with the Premium II version, which comes in around $50K, that literally comes with every single alert and assist feature possible available on a vehicle in today’s market:

  • Forward Collision Alert (FCA) System to help avoid front-end crashes by alerting the driver with flashing alerts and a pulsing seat if you’re approaching a vehicle ahead too quickly.
  • Forward Automatic Braking designed to automatically engage the brake system if the car detects you may crash into a vehicle ahead of you.
  • Lane Keep Assist helps to avoid crashes due to unintentional lane shifting/departures and just like a guardian angel will assist by gently turning the steering wheel to keep you in your intended lane, if it detects your drifting towards another lane without using a turn signal in that direction.
  • Plus, surround vision cameras which gives you a 360 view around the vehicle and comes with the car’s Driver Confidence Package.

2017 Buick Envision - So Sasha

What has me hooked…

I will never stop singing my praises for wifi connectivity in Buick’s. I have raved about this feature many times driving media fleet vehicles from GM Canada but now that Maxie is here, I am able utilize our wifi access to play lullaby’s for the her via Spotify and YouTube. We’re currently obsessed with “Lullaby Renditions of Coldplay”. The front camera has come in pretty clutch too, and helping me navigate into tight parallel parking spots downtown that I would previously never attempt. Oh, and by simply pressing the blue On-Star button, I get access to a 24 hour operator who can do everything from suggest the best Italian restaurants within 10 kms, send turn by turn directions to the car if I am lost and even acts as emergency roadside assistance.

Size & Design

2017 Buick Envision - So Sasha

The SUV market has something for everything I believe in terms of size. For my current needs, I was looking for something compact but still roomy. I also preferred a more comfortable ride over sporty handling for obvious reasons. Nestled perfectly between the brand’s subcompact Encore and the larger three row Enclave is where I found the Envision. During my final weeks of pregnancy I was patting myself on the back for not choosing a full size SUV knowing I would have struggled climbing into the driver’s side. The Envision’s height made it easy for me to get in and out of the car, even a week past my due date. It also turned out to be the perfect height for my pup and little nephew to climb in on their own as well.

2017 Buick Envision

2017 Buick Envision Buick Style - So Sasha
Left rear bench is reclined back to reveal the option of additional space for back seat passengers

2017 Buick Envision - So Sasha

2017 Buick Envision
A hidden storage compartment makes it easy to store vehicle and personal items

A compact crossover it may be but rear seat passengers will find the extra few inches desirable in the back as the rear bench slides back and reclines to allow more leg room; a feature we will no doubt enjoy on upcoming road trips. As for the trunk space…quite impressive for a compact crossover. More than adequate for our little family now with 27 cubic feet available, although I have only tested out the space with our Bugaboo stroller chassis. The trunk easily converts to 57 cubic feet when one of the rear seats is folded down into a 60/40 split. I am sure over the coming months I will have plenty of opportunities to test out the different space configurations. To ensure I have optimal storage space back there for larger items like the stroller, there is a hidden compartment underneath the floor of the trunk perfect for storing personal items. It’s actually also a brilliant way to hide any valuables in the car that you wouldn’t want seen and potentially stolen. When it comes to small(er) SUV’s, it’s not uncommon to find small sunroofs…one of my pet peeves. A panoramic moonroof extends into the car’s rear cabin making the interior bright and airy even with my dark leather appointed interior.

2017 Buick Envision

2017 Buick Envision

What has me hooked…

While warm days with sunlight streaming through the windows and moonroof is great for most passengers, it’s not always the most ideal for teeny tiny babies confined to their car seats in the back. However, the size of the Envision’s moonroof allows me to close the moonroof cover half way to provide shade for Maxi in the rear but to still allow ample sunlight in the front cabin. My hidden storage compartment in the trunk is one of the best things since sliced bread. I have used these compartments in recent weeks for extra diapers, wipes and drop sheets for Maxie instead of stuffing more than necessary into her diaper bag. I have even left clothes, extra shoes to change into if my feet start getting sore on the road and even my laptop between meetings.

More Bang For Your Buck

I know this all sounds amazing but the question on everyone’s mind is always the pricing; and rightfully so. The base model starts in and around $35k with freight while there is four other trim line’s (Preferred, Essence, Premium and Premium II) ranging from $36-50K. With the base model coming in so strong with all it’s features, it’s actually a better choice and more bang for your buck over the Preferred trim line which only offers a dozen or so additional minor features . But if music, enhanced safety, and heated (front and rear)/ventilated seats are your thing, then the top two tier trim lines would definitely be for you.

2017 Buick Envision - Sasha Exeter
Photography by Elaine Fancy

We no doubt have tons of adventures ahead in the Envision and I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am to start creating our first family moments and share them with you guys. For more information on the all new Envision or other vehicles within the Buick line-up head to Buick.ca.

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.

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