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The Glow Up at Hillcrest

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

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

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

West Coast Kids Hillcrest - So Sasha

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

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

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

Hillcrest - So Sasha

Hillcrest - So Sasha

Hillcrest - So Sasha

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

HillcrestGlowUp - So Sasha

HillcrestGlowUp - So Sasha

HillcrestGlowUp - So Sasha

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

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

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

West Coast Kids

West Coast Kids - So Sasha

West Coast Kids Hillcrest - So Sasha

West Coast Kids Hillcrest - So Sasha

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

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

HillcrestGlowUp- So Sasha

West Coast KIds - So Sasha

Hillcrest - So Sasha

Hillcrest - So Sasha

West Coast Kids - So Sasha

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

Hillcrest - So Sasha

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

Hillcrest - So Sasha

HILLCREST FINAL ROUNDUP

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

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

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

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!

LOFT 2017 Winter Collection Media Preview

After almost 20 years in the retail game, LOFT has become known for their affordable head-to-toe looks and easy to wear separates, especially amongst women in the corporate world. In their earlier years, what I like to refer to as LOFT 1.0, the brand was more one dimensional and appealed to a more narrow demographic. However, over the last several years, the classic American brand and become more versatile in their product lines, producing more trendier pieces, allowing them to get on the radar of younger consumers.

A few weeks ago I got a chance to preview LOFT’s upcoming Winter 2017 collection before it hit stores in advance of my co-hosting gig at their press preview last Tuesday night at Lac Beauty, Toronto’s  premiere beauty and skincare boutique. What I found on the racks during my meeting was a little something for every woman.  The perfect skirt suit for the corporate go-getter. Bold prints and tons of stripes for the girl who is not afraid to stand out in a crowd. Statement sleeves on dresses, blouses and sweaters for the fashion forward chick and outerwear that even has me excited for cooler temperatures. It is clear this is no longer the LOFT we once knew. This is LOFT 2.0…cooler, younger, and more versatile than ever.

LOFT - Sasha Exeter

The lovely Erica Wark, stylist and on-air fashion expert of The Social TV and Your Morning, and I got to co-host an intimate evening of fashion and beauty for the city’s top editors. who got treated to a beauty service of their choice (eyebrow threading, manis, pedis and even eyelash lifting) and spent some one-on-one time with each of us to get a rundown of the collection. Guests were also treated to a portrait session by Ryan Emberley that was used to create personalized memes for everyone by the ladies behind @MyTherapistSays. The highly anticipated pieces will be hitting stores three times throughout the season with two drops in October and the final one mid November, so there will be plenty of options for the holiday season.

We kept the racks this time around more minimal than at previous previews with only the key and stand-out items selected. Erica and I both had a chance to to highlight our own favourite pieces from the collection on each floor of the multi-level space. With our own personal style being so different, we were the perfect dichotomy to represent what the line has to offer this season.

Stylist Talia Brown in LOFT’s most popular editor’s pick

My personal faves were not hard to identify on the racks. I loved the oatmeal coloured knits, sweaters with shoulder cut-outs, a jewelled jacquard dress pant that just screams “holiday season”, the navy suede shift skirt (paired with a chunky knit is just perfection), leather pants and seriously just about every single outwear piece in the collection. I actually own the navy military coat but have my eyes set on the fur collared army jacket and the blue fuzzy coat.

Photography by Ryan Emberley (RyanEmberley.com)

What I’m Wearing: Faux Leather Wrap Skirt c/o LOFT // Cutout Shoulder Sweater c/o LOFT

On Erica: Striped Wrap Skirt c/o LOFT // Striped Boyfriend Sweater c/o LOFT

 

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.

Lise Watier Perfexion Introduces Drone Technology into Skincare

Once we have passed our twenties, we usually start to take skincare a little more serious. Then something interesting happens once we have past the hump of our early thirties and have settled into that mid range of the next decade, like yours truly. A slight panic, if you will, wondering if there is something more we could have done earlier on to preserve our once youthful looking skin. If this sounds like you – you’re going to want to continue reading!

Lise Watier Perfection - So Sasha

Lise Watier Perfexion Anti Aging- Sasha Exeter

Earlier this spring while I was still pregnant, I discovered Canadian beauty brand Lise Watier was set to release a revolutionary line of anti-aging correctors that use cosmetic drones to target problem areas. Drone technology doesn’t sound like something that would be related to skincare in the least but I discovered that these “drones” in the Perfexion line are simply more of a vanguard delivery system for active ingredients. So basically, the products seek out your skin’s problem areas and then releases their active ingredients precisely where you need it; correcting your skin by reducing the appearance of wrinkles, pore size and wretched fine lines, while also bringing back your skin’s natural radiance that may seem to have faded over the years.

Lise Watier Perfexion Anti Aging

Within the new Perfexion line-up you’ll find the four products I’ve been trailing for the last two months. An Anti-Aging Serum Corrector (30ml), Anti-Aging Day Cream Corrector (50ml), Anti-Aging Night Cream Corrector (50ml), Anti-Aging Eye Cream Corrector (15ml). I have had a few skin issues over the last several years, which only worsened with my fluctuating hormones due to a miscarriage and another pregnancy. Not to mention, as I’ve graduated farther into my thirties, fine lines have slowly crept up around the corners of my eyes. Every year that goes by I’ve noticed my pores have gotten larger and my arch nemesis has been dark spots and hyper pigmentation.

So what are my thoughts on skincare’s latest topical technology? To be completely honest, I may not have seen much improvement with the eye cream (perhaps I wasn’t patient enough), but I quickly became obsessed with the serum, day and night cream corrector after using them for only two weeks. I would apply the powerful serum twice daily that contains caviar lime extract, a gentle AHA that improves cell renewal and sea buckthorn, a natural anti-oxidant that nourishes the skin, immediately after cleansing. I would then follow with either the day or night cream. Why the super fast results? Ingredients like Kakadu Plum Extract; the world’s richest source of Vitamin C said to boost your skin’s natural luminosity and p-Refinyl®; a lentil extract to tighten pores and refine skin texture, are the keys to a more even and smoother skin texture. I was skeptical at first but not only has my pore size reduced but the dark marks I’ve had for ages on my left cheek from picking blemishes has faded significantly over the last six weeks. A beauty blogger I am clearly not, or else I would have had sufficient “before and after” photo documentation to prove my claims, but believe me when I say I have become more confident with the way my skin looks sans makeup and concealer. Suffice to say, these products will remain as mainstays in my beauty regimen moving forward.

Lise Watier Perfexion Anti Aging - So Sasha

Lise Watier Perfexion - So Sasha
Photos by Elaine Fancy Photography

The Perfexion line is available now online and at Lise Watier counters across Canada

My Current Faves in One Look

I have blossomed out of nowhere it seems within the last 4-6 weeks. That mini baby bump I was rocking in the second trimester has long gone my friends and now it looks like I have swallowed a damn basketball. Truthfully, I don’t remember the last time I saw my feet. The fatigue is really setting in now. Partially because its exhausting lugging around all this extra weight and at night sleep is becoming non-existent, with aches and pains that wake me up periodically. I was just mentioning last week on IG that some times (like today!) I wish I could just stay in bed and sleep/eat my way to the finish line. But no such luck…I still have a few more weeks of work before I can take a much needed break before Bean comes.

So Sasha - Hatch Collection Harbour Dress

So Sasha - Hatch Collection Harbour Dress

On a more positive note, the best part about being in the third trimester during this time of the year is the clothes. I don’t know what the hell I would have done if this was December. The thought of having to get outwear two sizes larger than what I normally wear and being confined to tights, maternity jeans and sweaters for an entire season freaks me out. To say I’ve been enjoying wearing cute dresses, flowy maxi’s and off-the-shoulder anything, is an understatement. I wore this Hatch Collection Harbour Dress I scooped up a couple months ago from Ani & Wren last week to meetings and got so many compliments from both pregnant and non-pregnant women. It has been one of my favourite pieces this summer and it’s currently on sale, so here’s your last chance to grab yours before it’s sold out!

So Sasha - Hatch Collection Harbour Dress
Photos by Jess Baumung

Wearing:  Dress |  Sunglasses |  Bag


Shop My Fave Hatch Collection Pieces

 


 

Must-Have Baby Registry Essentials

The journey to baby is marked with several milestones that indicate you are getting closer to meeting the adorable little human being you have been cooking inside of you for nine months. As I have settled into my final trimester with just over a month to go until delivery day, it is time to start organizing Baby Bean’s nursery and getting the necessary things we will need to set us up for success in the first months of parenthood. Although prepping for a new baby is very exciting, there is just so much to do which can often make this process overwhelming for some, myself included! Just a few months ago I knew absolutely nothing about baby basics and now I feel I can almost hold my own with other mom’s on newborn necessities.

So Sasha - Huggies

So Sasha - Huggies

As a first time mom-to-be, I confidently tackled all the larger items for the baby that were an obvious “no brainer” – the crib, stroller, newborn onesies, nursery furniture etc. However, after speaking to friends with babies, it was clear I needed to create a Babies R’ Us Gift Registry, like ASAP, to help me get prepared with the smaller, everyday essentials that often times get overlooked during the third trimester madness. Here’s a fun fact for you…did you know that the average child goes through 5,000 diaper changes in a lifetime? I know, mind blowing right? It kind of makes you wonder how anyone would miss adding essentials like Huggies Diapers and Natural Care Wipes to their baby registry.

So Sasha - Huggies

With my time super limited these days I was really pretty stoked that setting up my registry turned out to be a quick and painless process. For newbie mom’s, there’s a special little section dedicated for us in mind called “Top Registry Items”  in case you get stuck or suddenly feel overwhelmed. It categorizes everything and seriously steered me in the right direction to creating a comprehensive list of outstanding items we still need to get.  I simply downloaded the new Babies R’ Us App on my iPhone so I can easily update it on the go but if you’re the type that needs a bit more hands-on attention, you can totally reserve an appointment with a Baby Registry Expert in-store, who can help guide you. Oh and the best part, when you register you’ll receive a free gift pack which includes coupons and samples to help start you and baby off on the right foot!

We are seriously blessed with amazing friends, family and brand partners who have been so supportive in helping us prepare for our little girl’s arrival. After securing most of the larger items so far, many of you have asked about the about the products I’ve put on my own registry, so I thought I would share some of my favourite “off-the-beaten-path” essentials that you may not have thought to add to yours, that can be found at Babies “R” Us stores or their online registry section. 

So Sasha - Huggies
Réjean and I have chosen Huggies Little Snugglers as our diaper of choice, which also happens to be the #1 choice in Canadian hospitals, and have already fully stocked up on newborn and size 1 packages.  They come with a pocketed waistband to help keep smelly messes inside the diaper where they belong and the newborn diapers even have an umbilical cord cut out perfectly shaped to help the belly button healing process.
So Sasha - Huggies
A diaper genie is all my friends keep raving about as a must-have and the Playtex Diaper Genie Elite has a double lock design and 7-layer bag helps keep odours from escaping into the nursery. On sale now for only $39.97
So Sasha - Babies "R" Us
Based on feedback from you mama’s out there, I learned that there are to be NO blankies in crib for safety reasons so Halo’s Sleep Sack Swaddle quickly got added to our registry thanks to your recommendations, to keep Bean warm and snug while she sleeps.
So Sasha - Huggies
Made in the France with natural rubbers and paint, Sophie the Giraffe is the go-to for teething babies worldwide after gaining popularity in Europe back in the 60’s. I have literally seen this item on every one of my friend’s baby registry’s over the years
So Sasha - Babies "R" Us
Breastfeeding in public can be nerving for most new mom’s so I love this breastfeeding scarf to cover us up during feeding while we are out and about.
So Sasha - Babies R Us Canada
“I have too many swaddle blankets!” – said no one ever. I have tons but just keep on collecting. Love the neutral prints and colours of these ones by Koala Baby.

Photography by Elaine Fancy Photography

 

Throughout this process I have also realized how expensive it is to get ready for baby so I will be giving away a $200 Babies “R” Us gift card to one lucky follower on Instagram. To enter, like, comment/and or tag someone you know on this Instagram post here. *Contest runs from July 13th to July 18th, 2017. The winner will be selected at random and contacted via Instagram DM on July 19th. Open to Canadian residents only, excluding Quebec.

ATTN: Mom’s and Moms-to-Be, July is BABY FEST at Babies “R” Us. That means, from now until July 20th, 2017 there are MEGA savings for all your newborn to toddler needs that you won’t want to miss out on both in-store and online. Get signed up for your baby registry today at www.BabiesRUs.ca

This post was sponsored by Huggies® Canada, however all opinions and reviews are our own!

Pregnancy & Parenthood: Thoughts From The Father-To-Be

Since my pregnancy journey began it has amazed me how much we hear about the woman’s perspective during this very special time. I mean, I guess it is quite understandable as it is us who carry this precious cargo around for 40 weeks, but what about the men? Although they may not be affected physically like we are, they still go through a roller coaster of emotion ranging from excitement, fear, anxiety and nervousness. They struggle to support their partners psychologically while trying to stay alive during our hormone induced meltdowns. And trust me, the latter is REAL because there were some points my hormones were so next level, I didn’t think the both of us were going to make it through this pregnancy alive. Kudos to you my love for surviving through the worst of it!

Sasha Exeter - Huggies Mom Ambassador

I’ve been getting a few comments from my male friends lately who happen to be father’s, asking if I have a man’s perspective on the pregnancy journey and it dawned on me that I have never really sat down and talked to Réjean about how he feels, selfishly being so consumed in my own prenatal struggles. With just over one month left until we welcome our little one, I decided it was time to chat to find out how he’s REALLY feeling about fatherhood, if he’s  freaked out about the gender of our baby (and for all those who have been wondering, yes we eventually did open the envelope from the ultrasound technician that contained the sex), his thoughts on delivering a baby in a hospital vs. home and what about his diapering skills? If you’ve seen his attempts to diaper a teddy bear on my IG stories, you know we have some work to do still in that area. Thankfully, HUGGIES® Little Snugglers are almost fool-proof for first time dad’s like Réjean. To make life easier, these Little Snugglers will allow him to quickly get Baby Bean into a clean diaper minus the potential hassle of putting it on backwards because the front and back is clearly labelled – how brilliant right?. Also, for those times of father/baby bonding alone, the wetness indicator line will let him know when the diaper to be changed, avoiding any unnecessary confusion.

Sasha Exeter - Huggies Mom Ambassador

Sasha: “So, this hasn’t been our first time to the rodeo of course but what was your first reaction coming home from work that day when I told you I had done a pregnancy test and we were expecting again? And I mean, I remember what your reaction was but I want to know how you were really feeling inside”

Réjean: “Ummm, oh crap! I’m pretty sure that was my initial thought inside my head but I obviously didn’t say that. I remember just feeling both scared and excited at the same time.”

Sasha: “To be honest though, I am still in shock how quickly we got pregnant again. Were you nervous that it happened so quickly after the miscarriage?”

Réjean: “Nope”

Sasha: “Uh what? Not at all? Like, really?”

Réjean: “Well, no because every time I look your way you seem to get pregnant so I knew if we wanted to again, it would happen”

Sasha: Giggles…”Noooo, not scared that it wouldn’t happen, just scared of what could happen, when we got pregnant again with the possibilities of another miscarriage being higher”

Réjean: “Well yah, I was a bit worried. Scared for you and your well-being.”

Sasha: “Ok, so what made you change your mind about having kids in the first place? I mean, when we first started dating you were not so stoked on the idea of being a father.”

Réjean: “…Because I found the right person”

Sasha: Laughs “Ok, you’re cute! But seriously…wait, are you for real? You’re making me blush”

Réjean: “Yeah”

Sasha: So let’s discuss the topic of gender. Obviously you knew what I wanted but we had battled for ages about whether we were going to find out what Bean was going to be. I know you felt that the birth of our child is already going to be overwhelming and raising our child would be full of surprises, so why not find out the gender now. Well… now we know it’s GIRL. Super surprising to me because I could have sworn we were having a boy for sure, but I legit couldn’t be happier <Screams> Omg, I can’t believe I’m going to have a mini-me but for some reason I get the feeling that a daughter scares you! LOL. What are your thoughts on being a daddy to a little girl?”

Sasha Exeter - Huggies Mom Ambassador
It’s a Girl! This week we’ve been busy putting together Bean’s larger items like her Bugaboo Camelon 3 Stroller

Réjean: I am excited about it but in some ways I think raising her will be a bit more of a challenge than raising a boy. I will definitely be more protective. There’s always going to be that side of me that wants to protect her whereas with a boy I would have been less stressed out, letting him just figuring his own stuff out along the way.”

Sasha: “What surprised you most during this pregnancy journey? What was really shocking or is there anything that made you think, why didn’t someone tell me this beforehand?

Réjean: “Well…I actually already kind of knew that there were other options for women outside of the hospital for child birth but I was impressed at how much care you were going to get throughout the pregnancy by us deciding to have a Midwife and Doula. With the level of anxiety you had in the first few months, it was really nice to have extra hands on deck, during the early stages and I don’t think there is anything better than you being able to deliver our baby in the comfort of our own home.  I am so glad that we decided to do extra research and pursue this route. I was also shocked to learn how important skin-to-skin is for a newborn.  I mean, I had no clue what a Hug Plan was before you told me but after hearing more about it, seems to make a lot of sense. If a baby feels the most secure in the womb, I could understand why it would love the warmth of being hugged and held close. It’s something that both you and I can have to connect with Bean too, which is cool plus so many physical and emotional benefits for her.

But other than that, no other surprises. As I guy, I’ve heard horror stories so I was expecting just about anything. I did keep hearing things about how crazy women can get during pregnancy due to the hormones so to me this didn’t seem as bad as people make it out to be. But I’m not sure if that’s because you’re more stronger than most women or that your just not making it out to be that hard, but for me, I dunno…I think that’s it.”

Sasha: “Ha…what about my weight gain? LOL”

Réjean: Coughs “Uh yeah, it’s actually about what I expected. But, it came quicker than I thought…”

Sasha: “Hehehehe…wait, what?”

Réjean: Not like in the beginning but I guess what I mean is that it was a big change pretty quickly in the third trimester. Your belly went from nothing to like SOMETHING…you know?”

Sasha: “I know right! I was looking at photos on Instagram from back in April and my bump was so cute and small. It truly was the pregnancy honeymoon stage. Now I feel and look a bit ridiculous.”

Sasha: “What would be one word to describe me during this pregnancy?”

Réjean: …. *silence*

Sasha: “Just one word. Anything that comes to mind. Are you afraid I’m going to get mad?”

Réjean: “Strong. I would say, strong!”

Sasha: “What about baby chores? Do you think we will be sharing these duties? Is there some things that you can think ‘I can’t do ________. I can do x,y & z but I just can’t do _________.’ i.e. perhaps you’re terrified to bathe her when she’s a newborn or something like that”

Sasha Exeter - Huggies Mom Ambassador

Rejean: “Everything you do I think I can manage to do. Well, I am a bit scared to clean her private parts but I guess I gotta do what I gotta do. LOL.”

Sasha: “You’ve been getting schooled a bit on Diapering 101 – some of the basics I’ve learned thankfully from the Huggies® team like making sure to keep all changing essentials close by, how to properly clean her bottom and creases using Huggies® Natural Care Wipes (our go-to wipe because they contain Vitamin E & Aloe making it perfect for her delicate skin), making sure to wipe from front to back, how to apply creams, powders, etc…but does the idea of changing diapers freak you out still?”

Sasha Exeter - Huggies Mom Ambassador

Réjean: “No. Well what do you mean will I be disgusted by what I see and the smells? I mean, as a Dad it’s going to take a bit of time getting used to cleaning my daughter’s private parts during diaper changes. It’s a bit weird but I think I would feel the same way about cleaning up my son too now that I think about it.”

Sasha: “From 1-10, how prepared do you feel for Bean’s arrival? I mean, not taking into account all the stuff we still have to get and set up (with 10 being most prepared)?”

Réjean: “I’d say 7. I just think I will figure out the rest along the way and of course the help of YouTube.”

Sasha: “What are you looking forward to about being a dad?”

Réjean: “Looking forward to bonding and spending time with her. Teaching her stuff like how to be a woman…”

Sasha: “Wait a minute, your going to teach our daughter how to be a woman? LOL”

Réjean: “No, I should say how to be a strong and independent individual that has self respect.”


This whole pregnancy experience has been humbling and has most definitely brought us closer together as a couple. We are in the midst of planning our home birth strategy with our amazing Doula Leah Jackson but we have already ironed out the details to our Hug Plan and Réj will be the Designated Alternative Hugger. No matter how much you prepare, we have discovered that you can’t anticipate everything, which is what makes the journey so interesting.  However, we can expect a few things for sure, like the fact we will be changing a million and one diapers over the next year and a half. Thank you Huggies® Canada for arming us with the necessary tools to kill it in the diaper changing game and Rejean’s New Father Starter Kit. This Lekebaby Diaper Backpack (shop a similar one below) could not be more perfect for him because it doesn’t look like a diaper bag at all and even packed with Bean’s stuff, it still will have room for his laptop and comes with stroller straps. To make sure he has everything he needs on his solo days out with the baby, our friends at Huggies graciously filled it with diapers, wipes, backup battery charger for his iPhone, Moleskin notepads, a change pad, men’s skincare products easy to carry on-the-go from Jack Black and even his favourite summer time treats from Häagen Dazs.

Sasha Exeter - Huggies Mom Ambassador
Photos by JessBaumung.com

SHOP SOME OF RÉJEAN’S FAVES HERE

 

This post was sponsored by Huggies® Canada, however all opinions and reviews are our own!

What’s In My Gym Bag Beauty Edition

The end of my pregnancy is just around the corner and I have managed to somehow not let Baby Bean get in the way of my regular workout schedule these last two trimesters. Squeezing training sessions in between meetings is just a small sacrifice I have to pay right now to ensure I’m strong for my labour and to help my body quickly recover back to pre-baby shape. If you’ve ever seen me running around the city with my gym bag in tow, you’ve probably wondered what the heck I am carrying in it as sometimes rivals the size of small carry-on luggage. I like to have extra bras and a pair of tights on hand as a back up just in case because my body is changing and growing week by week. Also, I can’t leave home without a few accessories that I like to incorporate into my workouts (skipping rope, gliders for body weight lunges, resistance bands, Apple watch and of course the prettiest water bottle to encourage me to hydrate. But most importantly, having to leave the gym to carry on a work day filled with meetings and photo shoots means I must have my bag packed with a few beauty and skincare essentials to keep me feeling and smelling fresh for the rest of the day.

So Sasha - Yves Rocher

So Sasha - Yves Rocher

So Sasha - Yves Rocher

So Sasha - Yves Rocher

So Sasha - Yves Rocher

So Sasha - Yves Rocher

In case you were wondering, yes I am still on my botanical beauty kick, still loving Yves Rocher products and that doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon. I’m doing whatever I can to use as many natural and organic products on my skin that’s proven to be good for both me and the Bean. I have a few go-to products I have become obsessed with slathering onto my body and hair post shower at Equinox.

Summer Collection Perfumed Hair Mist – There’s nothing more worse than sweaty, stinky hair post workout and not having the time to do something to it before leaving the gym. On low impact training days when my hair isn’t left soaking from sweat, I like spraying this new hair mist from Yves Rocher that smells like my favourite season of the year in a bottle.

So Sasha - Yves Rocher

Monoi De Tahiti Dry Body Oil – This is THE perfect product for moderate to dry skin and it works well all year round. The oil is moisturizing, even for the most driest of skin during the winter but it’s light enough to not feel heavy or clog your pores during the warmer months because it’s applied as a light misting spray. The entire Monoï de Tahiti line smells like a tropical paradise and is the perfect accompaniment to the Monoï Eau de Toilette; also one of my personal faves.

So Sasha - Yves Rocher

Riche Crème Beauty Elixir from 100% Botanical Origins – This gem (shown below) is actually intended for the fact but my pro tip is to use it on my elbows, knees, and the back of my heels – all the areas on my body that require a little extra ‘TLC’. I’ve recently nicknamed the oil as my “Unicorn Elixir” because this magical product packs a unique combination of 30 precious oils that can cure even the toughest and driest skin surfaces.

So Sasha - Yves Rocher

Eau de Vahinés Eau de Toilette – These days I will admit, I would much prefer to be heading to a beach escape instead of going to meetings but such is life. After applying my Monoi de Tahiti Dry Body Oil, I love spraying this Eau de Toilette on for it’s long lasting tropical scent that thankfully stays put all day long.

Bourbon Vanilla Scented Shower Gel – Throughout my pregnancy my skin has been extremely dry and by dry, I mean it’s as if the baby has sucked out every ounce of moisture I have in my body. I drink plenty of water but still love to have a hydrating body wash to help with the dryness. Since I have returned from Paris I’ve religiously kept my Bourbon Vanilla shower gel  in my bag. The new series of shower gels come in a compact size and have an  über concentrated formula that is not only preservative and paraben free, but its also pH balanced for the skin with enough to last 40 showers. Also, proving it’s bio friendly, surprisingly 97% of it’s ingredients come from a natural original and 50% less plastic is used in it’s bottles.

Relaxing Eau de Toilette (Orange Blossom Lavender Petitgrain Scent) – With the summer heat finally starting, I have been prolonging my post shower fresh feeling after the gym on super hot days by spritzing this heavenly smelling Relaxing Eau de Toilette. The soothing fragrance from the orange blossom, the aromatic notes from the lavender and the calming accents from the petitgrain essential oils help with relaxation. Once I discovered the relaxation benefits, I started to also spray a bit on myself right before bed. Unlike most Eau de Toilette’s, 96% of the ingredients in this one comes from a natural origin, and even the alcohol content has a botanical background.

So Sasha - Yves Rocher

Lipid Replenishing Lotion – I cannot leave the house without having a moisturizer for my hands. While my dry oil and botanical elixir is great for keeping my skin moisturized, throughout the day my hands need a little more attention. The oat extract in this lotion instantly softens the skin on my hands that have become a bit rough and calloused from lifting weights in the gym. Although the Lipid Replenishing Lotion is a body lotion, I always keep this one and a travel size in my purse because it works so well as a hand cream. It also gets bonus points for being mineral oil, paraben and colorant free.

So Sasha - Yves Rocher
Photography by Bettina Bogar for Yves Rocher

This post was sponsored by Yves Rocher Canada, however all opinions on the products in this post are my own

BabyBjörn Cradle of Comfort & Style

29 weeks and counting. I can honestly say that I feel like a duck – calm up top but paddling like heck under water. We are not even close to being properly prepared for this baby’s arrival. We are still in the midst of determining which products we absolutely need and which ones will just end up getting stashed away in our storage. Friends who have been down the motherhood path before have sworn about this product and that, which has just added to our ever growing list of baby must-haves. After some careful consideration on the topic of sleep once Baby Bean arrives, we decided that a bassinet would be a convenient solution. Why?

Our plan is to keep Baby Bean in our bedroom for the first four months at least, but we don’t necessarily have enough room for a crib in there. After hearing how difficult it can be to get things done around the house, or even shower for that matter, I also wanted an option that was portable and compact so that I can easily move it from room to room to keep a close eye on the baby. Plus, we live in a open concept condo. Although quite spacious at 1,250 sqft, it’s not laid out like a house which means most of our living space is in plain view of our guests. It’s kinda nice to not have to compromise our design aesthetic because we have a new addition to the family. Our BabyBjörn Cradle just came in this week and I am dying over how chic it is. It has a beautiful, sleek and minimal design, plus comes with the most adorable canopy attachment.

Sasha Exeter - BabyBjörn

If you’re expecting and thinking about a cradle, figuring out how you would use it should be the first step in narrowing down the right one for you. I investigated the many options that are out there and used the following pillars that lead me to choosing the BabyBjörn Cradle.

Sasha Exeter - BabyBjörn Canada

    1. Safety: The safest cradles are designed with mesh walls making sure there is adequate air flow for your bub.  When it comes to the mattress, most assume thicker is better for comfort but that shouldn’t be what you focus on. The bassinet mattress myst be less than an inch thick and firm to help reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). You should also pay close attention to the materials used. Your baby may not sleep for long periods of time but he/she will definitely be sleeping often. You want to make sure your cradle is made with clean, eco-healthy materials. The BabyBjörn Cradle actually ranks #1 in this category, certified by the renown Oeko-Tex Standard, Class 100.
    2. Size and Weight: Us condo dwellers are lucky we don’t have to worry about going up and down flights of stairs but we do have to consider more narrow hallways. Depending on where you live, you must consider the layout of your home in your cradle choice. The weight and size will matter if you want to relocate your baby while it sleeps and at a mere 13 lbs, I find this one super easy to maneuver.
    3. Cleaning: So yes, here’s where the baby will sleep for it’s first few months and I have no doubt there will be a few accidents and messes alone the way. I don’t know about you but I’m no treacly trying to add more cleaning chores to my to-list list, so having a removable lining for practical and simply clean-ups is key.
    4. Movement & Rocking: My mommy friends have all given high praises about cradle movement to help get babies to sleep. LOVE the innovative engineering of this one that creates a soothing vibration that responds to either your touch or baby’s movement.

 

Now that our cradle is here, we can move on to the rest of our daunting list of baby products to acquire. If you’re expecting this summer and interested in this bassinet, you will be happy to know that its available and discounted on Amazon until Sunday, June 4th, 2017. American friends, the cradle is on CRAZY sale – originally $349.95 but is now on sale for $279.00. Shop the cradle here and use the discount code 15OFFCRADLE and your total will be $257.03. Not to worry my fellow Canadians, you aren’t left out of the mix. Originally $461.00 CDN, the cradle can be shopped here for only $299.99.

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