Reviews, promotions and giveaways

In May 2014, I wrote a post lamenting the fact that after six weeks of walking, exercising and conscious food choices, I had still failed to lose a single pound. Not too long after that, I started using My Fitness Pal to track not only exercise but food choices, and started making slow but steady progress. I did pretty well through the summer, losing nearly 10 steady pounds, and then my weight crept back up again over a long, cold and icy winter.

In April 2015, I was back on the bandwagon again and once again lamenting my lack of progress. Back to food and fitness tracking I went. Thanks to daily step goals, food tracking and power yoga, I dropped what I’d regained and by July was at my goal weight, a full five pounds less than I’d managed to go in 2014.

Here we are in March 2016 (see how I start paying attention a little earlier in the season each year?) and that darn winter creep has me up another five pounds. There’s no whiny lament this year, though. My weight is still equivalent to the lowest point in 2014, and I’m sure I can banish that pesky 5 lbs and get myself in my happiest range, which is anything under 170 lbs. I think the two things that kept me from completely regaining the weight I’d lost over the winter this year were regular power yoga (so good for strength!) and the fact that I’ve kept up parking the car in the driveway and walking the kilometer or so to pick up the boys after school all through the winter. I can count on one hand the number of times we capitulated to the weather, and I drove another handful of times when I was running late, but in general, we were diligent about getting in those daily walks.

I haven’t yet resorted to food tracking again, but I love tracking my daily steps. I’ve had a FitBit that I’ve used pretty regularly for the past three years, and I’ve seen steady improvement on my dedication to leading a less sedentary life. So when the nice folks at TomTom offered me a review unit of their new high-end fitness tracker, I was happy to try it out.

The TomTom Spark GPS Fitness Watch has all sorts of interesting features way beyond a simple step tracker (but it has that, too!) Most interesting, it stores up to 500 songs from your music library, so you can leave your phone at home and listen to your workout playlist via Bluetooth headphones. The TomTom Spark also has a continuous heart rate monitor, a sleep tracker, race mode and interval training mode, and multi-sport mode. It also has something I’ve wished all along my FitBit Flex had: a watch! The official description says:

TomTom Spark is the latest in the complete line of TomTom wearable fitness technologies. The 24/7 activity tracker continuously logs steps, active minutes, distance, calories burned and sleep duration. TomTom GPS tracking provides real-time information including time, distance, speed and pace. The built-in heart rate monitor accurately tracks heart rate, without the need for a chest strap. Multiple sports modes let users track their activity inside and out, across running, cycling, swimming, treadmill and gym workouts.

Pretty neat, right? I wore the TomTom Spark for about a week to try it out, and in general I really liked it. I wore both the FitBit and the Spark on the same wrist for a few days and found they were fairly agreeable about the number of steps taken, which is great. I’m always less concerned about the actual steps and more concerned about one day relative to the next.

TomTom

Here’s what I’ve noticed about the TomTom Spark so far. Out of the box, it’s quick to charge and super-easy to figure out. There’s a square button under the watch face, and you can push it left to see your steps, up to see your music, right to access multi-sport modes and timers, etc. Although it’s bulky and at least in the black model I received, a little industrial looking, the strap is SO MUCH easier to use than the FitBit one I’m always cursing. It was pretty much plug-and-play with the My Sports app, and it automatically scanned my computer to find music files so I was able to add my favourite iTunes playlists with two clicks. The GPS tracking is very entertaining, especially for someone who has a weird fascination with maps. I want to use it to draw pictures – except for maybe not so much the penises. Ahem.

In truth, I think the TomTom Spark has way more features than I will ever use. I have a few friends who are runners, and they would LOVE the timers and distance trackers. I think it’s pretty cool that it also has modes to track everything from swimming to cycling to the treadmill. All that to say, it is more my dedication to competitive sports that is lacking and certainly not the features on the Spark.

There were a few things that I did not love about the Spark, and they are personal peccadilloes based on what I’m already used to. If I were to trade in my FitBit, I would miss the small community of cheerleaders (and challengers) I have built up, and one of my favourite features on my FitBit is the little victory buzz it emits to randomly scare the crap out of me celebrate when I achieve my daily step goal. And the help section for the Spark is entirely comprised of YouTube videos. I know most people would love that, but I’ll happily wade through a 10,000 word help article before capitulating to a two minute video.

Do you use any fitness trackers? What features do you love and what features do you covet? And, have you drawn any cool pictures with your GPS?? I think that’s the feature that I’m going to play with this week!


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Do you have all your holiday shopping done? Still looking for the perfect gift, or maybe filling in a few last-minute gaps? You’ll find a little something for everyone at the Ottawa Originals Christmas Craft Show, and I’ve got three pair of tickets to give away – but you’d better be quick! This giveaway only runs through Thursday, with one winner being picked on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from all entries.

Ottawa Originals craft showThere will be over 200 artisans exhibiting their wares at the show, which runs today through December 20 at the EY Centre. I went on the weekend (thanks to complimentary tickets from the fine peeps at the Originals Ottawa show) and have to admit that I could have spent a LOT of money giving myself a very Merry Christmas indeed! These are a few of the fun things I saw.

Sounds great, right? What a great way to find unique and unusual gifts. To enter, just leave a comment on this blog post (not on Facebook) telling me your favourite Christmas gift ever – given or received.

Here’s the fine print:

  1. This is a giveaway for a pair of (that’s TWO) tickets to the Originals Ottawa Christmas Craft Show, which runs now through December 20, 2015 at the EY Centre.
  2. To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post (not on Facebook, must appear on danigirl.ca/blog) telling me your favourite gift ever given or received.
  3. Winners will be chosen at random from all comments posted. Each winner will receive TWO tickets. One winner will be chosen at 6 pm on each day, Tuesday December 15 through Thursday December 17.
  4. This giveaway is open only to residents of Canada, excluding residents of Quebec. (sorry!)
  5. This giveaway will run until 6 pm EST on Thursday December 17, 2015.
  6. If you win, you must be willing to share your name and contact information with the Originals Craft Show. Winners will pick up their tickets at the “will call” desk.

Thank you to the Originals Craft Show for providing tickets to give away and a set for me too. Good luck!


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When you have two shedding pets, three messy kids, and two adults with questionable attention spans for domestic activities, you get pretty excited at the idea of a simple tool to help stay on top of everyday tidying. That’s why I was more than a little excited when the fine folks at Hoover offered to send us a 360 Reach™ Bagless Stick Vacuum for review.

We need to sweep pretty much every day. For years, I’ve been using one of those semi-disposable stick vacuums but over the last few years I’ve been increasingly unhappy with mine. For one, I have to replace them about once a year and while they are cheap they are not inexpensive. For another, the battery never seems to hold a decent charge anymore. And finally, I did not love the chemical-laden disposable pads. So, I was already optimistic that the 360 Reach™ Bagless Stick Vacuum might solve some of those problems. In fact, it seems to have solved all of them and quite a few more.

Disclosure: not me, not my fashionably neutral house.Here’s the official schtick on this stick:

This 4-in-1 stick vacuum uses a Cyclonic Filtration system, creating powerful suction that can cut through any mess. The Vac+Dust Tools capture heavy dirt and debris, while the SWIPES™ micro-pads eliminate all traces of dust. Just snap on the Crevice Tool and extend your cleaning reach to swipe dust and debris from book shelves, curtain rods, ceilings, cupboards, and everything below. The Pivoting Extension Tool gives you precision and control when cleaning areas that are out of sight and reach. Likewise, the Powered Stair & Upholstery Tool adjusts to clean every part of the step, while the 27 foot cord allows you to move easily from room to room. With the detachable hand vac, hard jobs like cleaning the car interior are made easy! Powered with value, Dirt Devil’s 360 Reach™ Bagless Stick Vacuum includes a budget-friendly reusable Quick-Rinse Filter.

Ha, did you see that bit about cleaning the car interior? So maybe this will never happen again?

Beloved was the first to try it out. In fact, he had it out of the box and was vacuuming with it before I even got home from work. Can you tell which one of us is more domestic? He was impressed, but I reserved my opinion until I could try it out myself. Ahem, about a month later. Hey, he was doing such a great job, I didn’t want to take his toy away!

It’s a zippy little thing, WAY more powerful than the battery-powered one I’ve been using for years. In fact, one of my only quibbles when reading the description was that it was corded and not battery powered. However, with a 27 foot cord I can reach the entire main floor from one of two outlets and cord management was never a problem. (Talk to me sometime about how I feel about cord management for my electric lawnmower. THAT is a whole other issue.) And best of all, I never again have to find myself with 2/3 of the house swept and a battery losing its charge.

Photo 2015-09-25, 2 53 15 PM

It does a FANTASTIC job on everyday debris. It has strong enough suction that pet hair gets pulled in from a decent distance, and it was strong enough to pick up peanut shells, coffee grounds, and bits of dry cat food. It actually sucks up the dirt and pet hair instead of just pushing them around, and I love the idea of the washable, reusable mop head. I did find it a teeny bit on the heavy side, but not uncomfortably so.

image006It has several attachments, including an extension wand so you can use it for small spaces or as a normal stick vac. There’s a mop attachment for hard-floor dusting and vacuuming, a crevice tool, and a stair and upholstery attachment. There’s even an attachment to clean the ceiling fan. Are you supposed to clean the ceiling fans? (Aren’t they by design self-cleaning, flinging the dirt off every time you turn them on?) I had a field day bopping around the house cleaning off the top of picture frames, window blinds and other surfaces that might have possibly been examined last when we moved in.

What this isn’t is a replacement for a heavy duty vacuum for carpeting, but it is an excellent alternative to semi-disposable battery-powered sweeper sticks. I’m keeping mine in the hall closet where the boys can easily find it now that I’ve added vac-sweeping the house to their daily chores.

In sum, I liked Dirt Devil’s 360 Reach™ Bagless Stick Vacuum for quick everyday cleaning, and sweeping is about the ONLY domestic cleaning, besides dishes and bed making, that I’ll be convinced to do every day.

The Dirt Devil’s 360 Reach™ Bagless Stick Vacuum is good for:

  • people with hard surface floors
  • people who don’t rely on centrifugal force to keep their ceiling fans clean
  • people with steps
  • people with pets
  • people whose spouse kids swipe the crumbs from the table onto the floor when they think nobody is looking
  • people with several road trips worth of snack food ground into the upholstery of their car

The Dirt Devil’s 360 Reach™ Bagless Stick Vacuum is NOT good for:

  • people with wimpy wrist strength (it’s not toooooo heavy, just heavier than I was expecting)
  • people who hate the environment and prefer to keep using chemical laden disposable sweep pads
  • people who like crumbs stuck to their bare feet and dust yeti lurking under the bed
  • people with wall to wall shag carpeting (but seriously, what are you doing with shag carpeting in the kitchen anyway?)

This little vacuum is the perfect solution for our main floor, but our canister vac just this weekend beat its final bar. Any recommendations for a good canister or upright vacuum that will live in harmony with my new favourite cleaning tool?

Disclosure: I was offered a free Dirt Devil’s 360 Reach™ Bagless Stick Vacuum for review, possibly because the nice folks at Hoover realized I needed a domestic intervention of some sort. I genuinely like it, though!


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Did you know there was a National Chocolate Day? Did you further know that it’s celebrated today, on July 7?

Kinder National Chocolate Day

Not only is National Chocolate Day celebrated on July 7, but apparently it’s also celebrated on October 28, December 24 and on September 13 it’s INTERnational Chocolate Day. In other words, you’re gonna need a lot of Kinder Surprise Eggs!

Conveniently, our good friends at Kinder Canada will be hosting giveaways all summer long. Don’t forget to check in on the Kinder Canada Facebook page for your chance to win. They’ll also be introducing Free Family Fun Fridays, with ideas and inspiration on fun and free things families can do together. Free family fun and chocolate? How could I resist?

In celebration of free and families and chocolate, I’d like to share a coupon for a three pack of Kinder Surprise Eggs in an unofficial giveaway. If you’d like to win, just leave a comment below telling me your favourite way to eat chocolate. In a cake? Chocolate fondue? Triple chocolate cookies? Do you like it melty or hard and cold straight from the fridge? I’ll pick one random winner from all comments posted before noon on Friday July 10. You must leave a valid e-mail address and be willing to privately share your mailing address with me to win.

Have fun celebrating National Chocolate Day!

KinderBreakfast

DISCLOSURE: I’m a #KinderMom who is part of the KINDER® Canada influencer team. As part of my affiliation with KINDER® Canada, I am provided with special perks and products. I take responsibility for all opinions, puns and snack recommendations in this post.


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You won’t be surprised how thrilled I am to welcome our newest bloggy sponsor: Points East Coastal Drive in beautiful Prince Edward Island! You don’t have to go very far back in my archives to see how madly in love we fell with PEI, and working with Points East Coastal Drive seemed like a perfect partnership – and gives me another excuse to talk about how amazing PEI is all the livelong day.

When we were planning our summer trip to PEI last year, we didn’t know anything about the Island. However, a bit of research revealed that the eastern side of PEI was a little more rural, a little more laid-back, and with an old-fashioned charm. In fact, the cottage we chose near Murray Harbour was at pretty much the south-easternmost point of the Island, and we spent the vast majority of our blissful week exploring the villages and attractions along the Points East Coastal Drive.

All of our favourite spots were in the Points East Coastal Drive region. Panmure Island:

PEI revisited

Basin Head:

Souris and Basin Head PEI

Georgetown:

Adventures in PEI

St Peter’s Bay and PEI National Park at Greenwich:

Adventures in PEI

And of course, Souris:

At the Flavour Shack

We loved everything about this region – the red dirt roads cutting through rolling green fields, the breathtaking coastlines, the friendly and welcoming Islanders. And when we booked our 2015 summer vacation, we knew we wanted to stay in the Points East Coastal Drive region.

If you’re considering a summer getaway this year, I can’t say enough good things about the Points East Coastal Drive and the terrific resources they have to help plan your vacation. Need a place to stay? They have a list of accommodations as well as some package deals. If you’ve already booked your cottage but are looking to plan your adventure (this is my favourite part of vacation planning!) check out the day trips and discovery drives.

Or you could do what we did: choose a loose destination or direction, and follow the happy starfish signs along the road that map the Points East Coastal Drive to guide you to your next adventure!

Want more information? You can order a free Points East Coastal Drive Tour Map and the Prince Edward Island Visitor’s Guide from the Points East Coastal Drive site. And can I tell you that the printed map is the Best! Map! Ever! We love to explore and hate to take the same route twice, and this paper map was 1000x more useful than any app. In fact, crumpled and marked with coffee stains and sand and sunscreen though it was, it remains one of my favourite souvenirs from our trip last summer.

Hey, I just realized we’ll be arriving in PEI exactly three months from today. Time to get serious about our vacation obsessing planning! :)

So, who else is going to PEI this summer?


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You know I love Ottawa, and you know I love family fun, and you know I love to give stuff away to my awesome bloggy peeps. I really love it when all three of those things come together! How would you like to win a set of four tickets to see the HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS at the Canadian Tire Centre on April 12?

Harlem Globetrotters Ottawa giveaway

I know, right?! Amazing!

My boys are going to LOVE this show. I remember seeing the Globetrotters live when I was a kid back in London Ontario, and the fun of their show always stayed with me. Plus Simon has been patiently waiting all year for the time to come for tryouts for his school basketball team, which should be any week now. The timing couldn’t be better! (I have to say, I gave a little extra squee when I saw that one of the Globetrotters who will be visiting is the awesome Big Easy Lofton who also starred in the Amazing Race 15!)

Here’s the official description of the event: The world famous Harlem Globetrotters, featuring some of the greatest athletes and entertainers on the planet, will bring their unrivaled family show to Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre on Sunday, April 12, at 3 p.m. during the Harlem Globetrotters 2015 Washington Generals’ Revenge Tour.

The Globetrotters will face a great challenge this year, as the infamous Washington Generals are more determined than ever to match the franchise’s historic last victory over the Globetrotters nearly half a century ago. It has been five years since the Globetrotters and Generals have faced off, as the Generals have been searching far and wide for the best players to retool their roster and have been preparing for one thing, a victory over the Globetrotters.

With a star-studded roster featuring Big Easy Lofton, Ant Atkinson, Hi-Lite Bruton, Thunder Law, Bull Bullard, Firefly Fisher and Moose Weekes – plus female stars TNT Maddox, T-Time Brawner and Sweet J Ekworomadu* – the Globetrotters’ one-of-a-kind show is unrivaled in the world of family entertainment. With incredible ball handling wizardry, rim-rattling dunks, trick shots, hilarious comedy and unequaled fan interaction, this must-see event is guaranteed to entertain the whole family.

Harlem Globetrotters Ottawa giveaway

Are you ready? Here’s the fine print: this giveaway is for a set of four tickets to see the Harlem Globetrotters at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa on Sunday April 12 at 3 pm. The retail value of this prize is $260. In order to enter this giveaway, you must use the rafflecopter giveaway widget below to leave a comment on this blog post to earn one entry (mandatory), and you may earn additional entries (optional) by posting a tweet via the widget or by visiting my bloggy Facebook page (optional) and I would be grateful if you liked the page while you were there! This giveaway will run from Sunday March 29 through Sunday April 5. One winner will be chosen via rafflecopter’s random draw option and the winner will be contacted. Please ensure you leave a valid email address and that you are able to see the show on Sunday April 12.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tickets start as low as $16 for this one-of-a-kind show that continues to thrill fans of all ages. If you don’t want to take your chances with the giveaway and want to buy your tickets right away, I’m happy to be able to share a 25% discount promo code with you. Click here to buy your Globetrotters in Ottawa tickets and enter promo code MOMS. To purchase courtside or VIP seats, please visit www.CapitalTickets.ca, call 613-599-FANS (3267) or visit the Canadian Tire Centre box office.

Want a little preview?

Pffft. I can totally do that full-court no-looking one-hand over-the-shoulder nothing-but-net shot. How hard could it be? 😉

Good luck to everyone who enters, and thank you to the fine folks at the Canadian Tire Centre for making this giveaway possible!

Disclosure: We were offered a set of tickets to the show as compensation for this promotion. I take full responsibility for my admiration of the Globetrotters and any blatant lies about my athletic prowess. All multi-media courtesy of and copyright Harlem Globetrotters.


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Celebrating the Eggiest holiday of them all with Kinder Surprise

18 March 2015 Reviews, promotions and giveaways

It has been a long, late winter, hasn’t it? Relentless cold, snow still piled high – at least that’s what it’s been like in my end of Canada. Have faith, though, my bloggy friends, because spring is coming and Easter is a scant two and a half weeks away. And what says Easter treats better […]

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A dozen reasons Kinder eggs are better than chicken eggs — with bonus yolks, I mean jokes!

22 January 2015 Reviews, promotions and giveaways

Some blog posts are more fun to write than others, and I had WAY too much fun collaborating with Beloved and all three boys on this one. And then I had TWICE as much fun creating the visuals. (A dozen! Get it? Cuz they’re eggs? I slay me. Just wait, it gets better!) Let’s do […]

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School lunches made better with Rubbermaid LunchBlox

15 December 2014 Reviews, promotions and giveaways

The other day when I was talking about Rubbermaid’s Easy Find Lids containers and the unexpected benefits of learning to cook from real ingredients, one of the things I mentioned was leftovers. When the food tastes better, the leftovers taste better too. Somehow I’m thinking this should be less of a surprise to me than […]

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Conquering the out-of-control plastic food container cupboard

24 November 2014 Reviews, promotions and giveaways

One of my leitmotifs for this year has been learning how to cook. I continue to be surprised at my capacity to cook healthy and tasty food for my family – real food from scratch ingredients, instead of assembled meals from prepared foods. This has had all sorts of benefits. There’s the ones I expected, […]

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