Category: Family

Celebrating Family Around the Table with Hamilton Beach: Bread Maker

My favourite memories as a child and teenager were spent in the kitchen cooking with my Dad. I loved the holidays as we would prepare cannelloni, lasagna, veal and all types of desserts. I would spend half my time helping prepare the meals and the other half eating the ingredients (cannelloni stuffing is still my favourite – all of that delicious spinach and cheese goodness).

Good food and family were the two most important things we had growing up in our home. They were the centre of every happy, fun moment and especially around the holiday season. This is the gift I want to give my own kids – family and good food.

The one thing I always wished I learned how to do in my youth? Make bread.

There is nothing better then fresh, warm bread to accompany your meal (it is like a giant hug on a bad day). We always had a loaf of bread with every meal and I was always the first to volunteer to go pick one up at the bakery (I loved the smell and how the bag would just heat up). Not to mention, bread is the best way to clean up those dirty sauce pots over the holidays!

My only problem? I have been incapable of making bread from scratch – it doesn’t rise, it is still uncooked after it is finished cooking in the oven or it is rock solid. After many failed attempts, I gave up (my pride couldn’t handle the bad loaves and the teasing from the kids).

We were able to test out the Hamilton Beach Premium Dough and Bread maker leading up to the holiday season and I can honestly say that I am in love with this machine.

The Hamilton Beach Premium Dough and Bread maker is on the bigger size but it does tuck away perfectly in our pantry closet, although I tend to leave it on my counter as it fits right in the corner. It has a beautiful, sleek stainless steel design so it can match any kitchen decor and will fit in with your other appliances.

The bread maker looks intimidating at first but it is actually very simple to use. You adjust each setting with the turn of the dial (which for me was the hardest part to learn) – making changes for the type of bread, loaf size and the crust colour (light, medium or dark). Once you have added all of your ingredients, adjusted the settings – it does the rest for you. You can literally just step away and enjoy the smell of the bread rising, warming and baking.

The clean up? Surprisingly very simple. My husband teased me a bit thinking that the machine would be messy on the inside but I could clean the inside with a paper towel. There was no sticky dough left in the machine (similar to when you make the bread by hand) and the pan that contains the ingredients was simple to wash in the sink. Nothing stuck to any of the parts, except for a bit of dry crust on the mixer piece.

Hamilton Beach has a great selection of recipes on their website – we have been using the French bread and Italian Parmesan recipes. Both have become huge hits in our home and take roughly three to four hours to bake with roughly a five minute prep time. So no excuses for not being able to make fresh bread, you can whip those ingredients out and have them in the machine in five to ten minutes.

The bread always came out perfectly, despite being paranoid the whole time that it wouldn’t work. The first time we made the french bread we realized we didn’t like the recommended crust colour (it came out a bit harder, which I know french bread can be but my kids like their bread softer) so the next time we went for a medium and it was perfect. Be careful when you are removing the pan from the machine, it gets very hot! I burnt the edge of my finger on the fourth time, but everyone was so excited to snag a piece of bread that they didn’t notice I hurt myself (no worries, it didn’t even blister!).

The bread maker made it possible for us to enjoy delicious home made bread with minimal effort, mess and clean up. Every recipe came out exactly as expected and added that missing piece from my childhood.

Do you have a baker in the family? This would make a perfect gift for the holiday season for them. The machine is roughly $149 Canadian, you can find more details on their website here.

Make sure to follow Hamilton Beach on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date with the latest recipes and products!

Disclosure: I received the above mentioned product in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Raise Well Rounded, Independent Children with Helpful Books from Raincoast Books

Raincoast Books

There are many important life skills that as parents we need to teach our children – from money management to manners to cooking to grooming and the list goes on and on. It can actually be a bit overwhelming at times – this is a huge immense responsibility that we have and where do we start? How do we make some of these topics fun so that kids want to listen and learn. I think that this is the most important part – we don’t want to bore them so that they don’t listen or act out on purpose. So where do we start? The following three books are excellent ways to start getting your child interested in baking, cooking and being good citizens.

The Complete Baking Book for Young Chefs

The Complete Baking Book for Young Chefs is perfect for kids who want to bake for themselves, their friends, or their family.

In addition to the best, delicious recipes, chapters include how-to information, detailed technique guidance, step-by-step photos, and information on the science behind what makes your baked goods taste so great.

Tested for quality, taste, ease, availability of ingredients, each recipe will be suited perfectly for your emerging young baker. Photos and testimonials from kid test cooks will encourage young chefs that they truly are learning from the best.

This baking book is for the child who enjoys being in the kitchen and wants to continue to grow those skills. You will find recipes for beginners, moderate and more experienced bakers in this book and recipes ranging from muffins to breads to pizza to cookies to bars and desserts (yummy!). Each recipe is extremely easy to follow and clearly outlines the total time it will require to bake the item (very important) to a full list of ingredients and equipment required (nothing worse then having the wrong equipment on hand) and easy to follow step by step instructions. Each recipe includes beautiful large photographs that give you an idea of what the final product will look like along with a few funny notes and tidbits. Each recipe also has a testimonial from a child speaking to the taste of each item (which means the world to kids – they like to know what other kids felt too). I even learned a few new recipes – like an olive oil cake! I had never even heard of this one before and this was one of the first items we had to try, and it was well worth it.

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon and Chapters.

Connoisseur Kids

From Jennifer Scott -author of the New York Times bestselling Madame Chic series and founder of the Daily Connoisseur blog – comes a book on manners and being a good global citizen, Connoisseur Kids.

Parents and younger children work together to read about a wide range of topics including: communication, table manners, tidiness, thinking of others, grooming, and health. Activities, learning games, fill-in-the-blanks, letter-writing exercises, recipes, and some fun songs and rhymes help kids learn concepts and practice good behaviors. This is a timely guide for raising well-mannered, neat, and gracious children for parents, grandparents, and children of reading age.

A connoisseur is an expert judge in a specific field. This book aims to helps kids become experts in the art of living. Something that we can all appreciate and that some adults may need to work on refreshing their skills (I am huge on manners and almost always find it shocking when people forget to say simple things like excuse me, please and thank you). This book can be read together (parents and child), parent reads it alone to bring the ideas forward or if your child is old enough, let them enjoy the book all on their own.

This book has six chapters: Communication, Table Manners, Tidiness, Thinking of Others, Hygiene & Grooming and Health. Communication covers topics such as eye contact, posture and speaking clearly. Table manners covers topics such as setting the table, sitting at the table. Tidiness covers your child’s room and shared space. Thinking of Others covers topics such as sportmanship, pets, other people. Hygiene covers popular topics like hair, skin and teeth. Health covers important topics such as eating well, water intake and sweets.

Each topic has a clear explanation about what the topic is and the overall importance. It is written in a way that is easy for children of all ages to understand and relate to. We may have a general idea of why we should do or eat things but sometimes children may not understand this and need a little more guidance. I loved that each topic was then followed up with an activity, assignment, game or even a recipe. It really helps children put into practice what they have just learned (and to be honest most of us learn by doing not just by reading, especially younger children). This is an excellent resource for adults and children to help them learn how to be successful in life.

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon and Chapters.

The Munchy Munchy Cookbook for Kids

What makes good food taste good? A team of tastes and flavors of course! And that is what we find in The Munchy Munchy Cookbook for Kids.

Fun illustrations and characters bring the kitchen to life. Join Pierre Lamielle on a kitchen adventure as he introduces you to the Munchy Munchy Gang. They are a team of characters that are here to educate kids on the art of cooking and the range of flavors they will encounter. Learn how to make over 28 different recipes, including ketchup, pancakes, and other kid favorites with simple instructions and illustrations for every step of the way. Pierre’s characters make complex cooking theories, like balancing the five tastes, accessible to kids of all ages.

This is a fun book that kids will enjoy reading and putting into practice. The book is hard covered but with a spiral notebook feel on the inside (similar to the recipe books I was familiar with when I was a child). The book starts off with an excellent section on the dangers of the kitchen – from sharp objects to burns to germs. It explains, using a combination of pictures and words, what to watch out for, what can happen and how to handle each situation. We then dive into our characters, Sal, Pepper, Ragu, Ziti, Sage, Rose, Bean (my personal favourite being Ziti – the picky eater!). The recipes themselves are told almost in a comic strip style, which at times I felt it was a bit hard to follow but it suited the style and tone of the book. It is not just a recipe book but a story with fun characters that make it a lot more personal and full of great advice for young children (like keep a bag of the baked breakfast cookies in the freezer for mornings when you sleep in!). This is an adorable, unique book for young readers to learn the basics and grow their skills in the kitchen. This is for young readers and bakers that want to have a little bit of fun in the kitchen.

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon and Chapters.

The Giveaway!

Ready to prepare your child to tackle all those important life skills? Raincoast Books is giving away a prize package, that includes the above three books, with a total value of $90. This giveaway is open to residents of Canada (Excluding Quebec), 18 years of age and older. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I received the above mentioned books in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Family Dining at Paramount Fine Foods

We are an extremely busy family with two kids in competitive soccer, both working full time and owning my small business. It can be very hard to find the time to sit down and spend quality time with each other. But this is very important to us and also what makes those moments so special.

We recently visited Paramount Fine Foods in Mississauga – a treasure of a find tucked away on Crestlawn Drive. If you are not familiar with the restaurant, Paramount Fine Foods is the fastest growing Middle Eastern food chain in Canada with over 60 restaurants across the country. You can find all of their locations here.

This elegant restaurant (with exquisite attention to detail) offers something for everyone. You can enjoy incredible, mouth watering recipes in a warm and inviting environment. And the kids – they can enjoy the Kids playground once they are done eating or while you are waiting on your food order.

For our visit, we ordered Manakeesh and the mixed combo platter. This was my kids and my first time trying Middle Eastern cuisine, while my husband has had it several times. We were not disappointed at all. We loved the Manakeesh, we ordered it with just cheese and it hit the spot.

We could not get over how much food was on the mixed combo platter., everything looked and tasted divine. We loved how the platter offered enough of each of our favourites – chicken, beef, rice and fries! They also have a fantastic kids menu, which had chicken fingers for the picky eater in our family. He managed to eat a little bit of everything.

I loved that we could all dive right in and share the same dishes, it made the experience feel like we were at home. Our youngest even said Mom – this tastes like home cooking but better! Which at first, I gave him the stink eye thinking he was making fun of my cooking but he was trying to say the food tasted real and healthy. Which, as any parent of a picky eater knows, is a win- win.

Our kids get full fast (I wish I had this problem!) so it was incredibly helpful that Paramount Fine Foods had a closed in Kids Playground that he could use while he waited for Mom and Dad to finish up. He felt comfortable coming and going from the table to the playground, and never felt that he was disrupting others.

For all my parents looking for an amazing evening out at a restaurant that not only has great food but is also welcoming to children, Paramount Fine Foods is a great option for you on your next family night out!

Make sure to check out their website and follow them on Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date with events and new menu items.

Disclosure: We were hosted at Paramount Fine Foods to experience their location. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Building Memories, Confidence and Life Long Friendships with Girl Guides of Canada

Building Memories, Confidence and Life Long Friendships with Girl Guides of Canada

“Girl Guides of Canada-Guides du Canada enables girls to be confident, resourceful and courageous, and to make a difference in the world.” Girl Guides of Canada

The early years of childhood right up until the teen years can be difficult to navigate, both for children and parents. As a child, we want freedom to grow and learn, but we don’t always have the opportunity to experience the life lessons we need to grow and mature. As parents, we want to empower our children to be confident, to be leaders, to be brave and to always do the right thing. No tough job, right?

I remember my childhood vividly. I was always on the shy side. I liked to read my books (I am still a bookworm), I liked healthy competition and I enjoyed being with my friends once I was able to get over my shyness. I entered the world of Girl Guides as a Brownie at the age of seven and this began a journey for me that would last up until I moved away from home to attend university.

Building Memories, Confidence and Life Long Friendships with Girl Guides of Canada

I fell in love with the spirit of the Guiding community – you were a part of a group of girls that wanted you to succeed, wanted you to be active, have fun, laugh and be silly. I loved learning a variety of skills that I would never have had the opportunity to learn elsewhere, everything from sewing badges to changing light bulbs to starting a campfire to finances. I was such a competitive spirit and loved to earn as many badges as I possibly could. Girl Guides helped me to realize my potential and gave me the confidence I needed as a shy child to succeed.

Building Memories, Confidence and Life Long Friendships with Girl Guides of Canada

The friendships that I have gained over the years from Girl Guides have meant the world to me. In 1999, as a Pathfinder, I was able to participate in Canadian Mosaic ’99 in Alberta. This event drew Girl Guide members from around the world in a celebration of our history, our future and empowering young girls to thrive. It was an incredible week of canoeing, hiking, archery, talent shows and more – we even attended the Calgary Stampede. Even the freezing weather and rain could not hold us down. It was here that I made friends with some special ladies who I would continue to remain friends with even though continents separate us! When I had my first child, one of my friends who I had met from Australia sent a special Aussie package for our little one. When she had her first child, we sent her a special Canadian package for her precious little one. The friendships that I gained during my Guiding years have survived separation over different continents, growing our families and more. These friendships have meant the world to me.

Girl Guides of Canada provide young girls with a safe place to be who they want and are meant to be. They offer a wide range of opportunities for young girls to participate in the outdoors, arts, science, community service and personal growth. These experiences lay the framework for young girls to succeed and push to achieve their goals. It helps to motivate young girls to follow their passion and to never give up. I now have the opportunity to give back to other young girls by encouraging them to follow their own dreams. I have shared the badges that I have collected over the years and had sewn onto my Guiding poncho with new members of Guiding and have encouraged them to participate in local, national and international Guiding opportunities that open up a new world for them.

Building Memories, Confidence and Life Long Friendships with Girl Guides of Canada

Participating in your local Girl Guides of Canada group is simple – each branch starts up in September and wraps up in late spring. Girls participate in weekly meetings and how much they want to participate and lead is up to them. The meetings are friendly, welcoming and encourage participation from all members, no matter what skill level. Girls of any age can join, even girls as young as five years of age!

Were you a member of the Girl Guides of Canada? What was your best memory from your Guiding years?

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by the Girl Guides of Canada, Ontario Council. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Break Down Gender Stereotypes with Inspirational Content #StreamTeam


My parents raised me to know that I could do anything and be anything that I wanted to be. They encouraged me to play sports, get dirty and have fun. I was the kid who always came home from daycare and later school with cuts and bruises (and I still have some of the scars on my legs to prove it) and the one who wanted to be first to try everything. I had no fears and I felt safe to be myself, even through some of my crazier phases! My parents never stopped supporting me to be the best me.

Breaking Down Gender Stereotypes with Inspirational Content

It wasn’t until I was older that I started to realize that some people have different expectations for girls and young women. I loved the sciences and wanted to be a surgeon when I was in high school, which my parents fully encouraged me to follow. They reminded me that I could do anything that I wanted and that I should never let common gender stereotypes guide my decisions. While that wasn’t the field I found myself in, my parents supported me and encouraged me throughout my years at McMaster and when I became a parent myself.

Breaking Down Gender Stereotypes with Inspirational Content

When I had my boys, I wanted them to know the exact same security and confidence my parents gave me as a child and young adult. I wanted them to feel free to cry, to show emotion, run, play and dress however they wanted without fear. It was important to me that they see that Dads cook, clean and do laundry and Moms can cut the grass, go to work and can play just as hard on the soccer field as Dad can. That is what I grew up with and it is so important for children to see that there are no rules for boys and rules for girls. We are all strong individuals who need to be pushed to be the best version of us.

An important part of supporting our children is to monitor what they see on TV. While sometimes the content can be okay, other times the content can actually push the typical gender stereotypes we are trying to push away from. It has even been show that girls as young as six can be effected by the gender stereotypes they see on television and it can have lasting affects.

Breaking Down Gender Stereotypes with Inspirational Content

We want both boys and girls to see girls in strong leadership roles – this is not a role reserved solely for boys and girls should be encouraged to be a strong leader. More often than not, films and series aren’t showing enough of this. But if you look hard enough you can definitely find some pretty great content that will help your child understand they can be and do anything they want. If you are looking for great content for your children, check out these top three picks currently featured on Netflix:

  • A Series of Unfortunate Events
  • One Day at a Time
  • Home: Adventures with Tip and Oh

Breaking Down Gender Stereotypes with Inspirational Content

Spending quality time with your children teaching them that they can be and do whatever they put their mind to is one of the most important things you can for your child, whether you have a daughter or a son. They need to understand that there are no restrictions on what they can achieve if they put their mind to it. You can do it every day by sharing roles as parents, supporting your child in their decisions and ensuring they are watching content with you that inspires and encourages them to be their best.

How do you help break down gender stereotypes for your children?

Disclosure: I am a Netflix #StreamTeam member and receive perks with this affiliation. All opinions expressed are my own.

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