Thursday, July 31, 2014


This is the story of the time an airline lost my luggage. Just last week actually. I was on my way to a business conference for bloggers called Blogher 14 in San Jose, California. It was only a four day trip. Sure I could have packed a roll on suitcase, but the kids had them both at camp. I opted to check my luggage as I usually do, because I hate lugging suitcases around on the airplane. I hate the drama that ensues often at the gate when some ticket agent declares that there are too many already on the plane so put them on the cart please and thank you and you won't see it again until you land. If you've ever been to a blogging conference then you know - you need clothes, and shoes and makeup and you need to sell yourself as a brand. Last year, in Chicago I had two entire large suitcases packed full of brand samples and professional outfits. Go big or go home when you go to Blogher.

I checked my suitcase and watched it get loaded onto American Airlines in Toronto, (Darling husband decorated it with my daughter's fluorescent duct tape so I would have no trouble identifying my suitcase) I flew 6 hours, switched planes late at night in Los Angeles and landed exhausted. But no suitcase ever emerged from the luggage carousel. Ditto for a family behind me and ditto for my seat mate, a young man meeting his girlfriend so they could go camping immediately that night (without clothing as it turned out). 

Wait, what seriously? I watched the thing get on the plane. I asked:"Will it follow me?" and was told it would. But apparently it didn't. At 11 p.m. California time, which is 2 a.m. back home, an American Airlines representative told me they didn't think my luggage left Toronto. I tried my best not to cry out of sheer exhaustion. I swore under my breath and texted my roommate all the while thinking - how could this happen? I sent a tweet off to the airline. "Fuming. @AmericanAir Lost my luggage before a business conference." What would I sleep in? What would I wear in the morning? Where is my makeup? I am not a no makeup fan girl. Christy @Imfreckles  offered to let me borrow some pyjamas. Grateful I chose a good roomie.

No makeup. No clothes. No clean bra or underpants? That night I fell asleep in borrowed pyjamas after using hand soap to clean my face. Morning arrived and still no luggage. A conference full of brands and meetings and parties where brands invite you privately to get to know more about their product and no clothes? Mortified. No cute little black and white dress my husband bought me for my birthday. No new shoes I bought to go with cute little dress. Our first session, a maternal health talk with some brands that are perfect for my blog and my audience, is scheduled for 2 p.m. I have nothing to wear but yesterday's sweaty airplane clothes. It's 11 a.m. The Fairmont sent a kit of toiletries to the room when I asked for a toothbrush, and I have never been happier to see a teeny tube of toothpaste. No sign of luggage, so I threw sweaty old clothing on, grabbed my purse and Christy and I walked to the nearest Walgreens and Ross store. Face cream, check, mascara, check, rouge, powder, eye shadow, check, check, check.

Two hours later, we returned, armed with $175 worth of makeup, two dresses and a top, a sleep shirt and some underwear, plus two pairs of shoes in neutral colours, in my size. Relieved, I am ready to take on the conference. Still disappointed but I am making the best of it. I tweet American Airlines a couple more times. They found my luggage, an agent said. I am cautiously hopeful based on the fact that their on line report identified my luggage as yellow when in fact it's reddish orange. 

By now, half a dozen friends messaged me on Facebook to commiserate and point out that's why they never check luggage when they travel. One blogger Helene said they had a string of lost luggage events 7 or 8 times. Clearly I have been sheltered. This was the first time my luggage ever went missing. It is my travel nightmare come true. Back at the Fairmont San Jose we swing by the front desk to see if anyone might have found my luggage. The service person advised: go ask the person in charge of luggage. 

Out front, I am asking said person if anyone dropped anything off for me when I spy the fluorescent pink duct tape on my scuffed up case. No phone call as promised by the airline, and heaven only knows how long it was there, but my suitcase arrived. It was lost, then found. Hallelujah. I made it to the 2 p.m. session with Christy with my game face on. 

(All was not lost. I returned some of the items I bought because I kept receipts. I didn't consider whether I have insurance coverage for lost luggage before I left home for the event. I would check that next time before I travel.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


My daughter Payton took this picture of me with Ainsley. It makes me happy because this was the day we were heading to see Katy Perry in Ottawa. It was our girl's week in Montreal and Ottawa, right before the kids went to camp. It was also a reminder that your arms are never empty when you are a mother. That is one of life's biggest blessings. 


Monday, July 28, 2014

best_contests

Last week I went to Blogher 10 in San Jose, California. It was a great chance for me to make some more connections and build some new relationships with brands and bloggers. It was a fun event and the host city San Jose was magnificent, friendly and beautiful. The Fairmont San Jose is a hotel I would recommend to anyone. The service was really fantastic in my opinion. I would go back to California in a heartbeat. In fact trips like these always strengthen my resolve to travel. (Even when silly things happen like airlines losing luggage. Yes, that was a first.)

Blogging events always come with new product samples and exciting topics to share with my readers. Because I know several of you are US based and several of you also couldn't make it to Blogher 10, I wanted to share some of the brands and the love from the event itself. I have about $25 worth of freebies in FPC (For Product Coupons) I would love to send to one of you. So follow the instructions below and I will share the Blogher love by mailing these directly to one lucky winner.

What can you win?
Total value roughly $25.00

(Thanks to Angel Soft, McDonald's and Sonic)

One Free Happy Meal of your choice at any participating McDonald's in the USA.

One Free Medium Slush from Sonic (America's Drive In) Value 

One Free Angel Soft Facial Tissue. 

One Free Angel Soft Bathroom Tissue. (Value up to $7.00)

Thanks for entering and for reading and stay tuned for several more giveaways coming this summer. For my Canadian readers, there will be another great giveaway soon and it will be open to all. These are US only coupons, and some are brands not available in Canada. That's why this one is only open to the US readers. Please don't enter if you can't use these by December 31st. I was provided several free for product coupons at Blogher. I was not paid to post this.




Saturday, July 26, 2014

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How Hard Water Can Affect Your Home and Health

While most people have some passing knowledge of the difference between hard and soft water, many homeowners may not realize just how many ways that hard water can affect the home. From lackluster soapsuds in the shower to reduced appliance efficiency and plumbing corrosion, the naturally occurring minerals in many home water supplies can easily cause unforeseen damage.

Measuring Water Hardness

Unadulterated, pure water is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless substance. However, thanks to a uniquely polarized molecular structure it is also the perfect universal solvent. This means that as water passes through earth and rock during the natural water cycle it tends to dissolve and absorb mineral material. Calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg) are the two most common minerals found in hard water, with higher mineral content corresponding to a greater level of hardness.

Water hardness is calculated on a grains per gallon (gpg) basis, ranging from slightly hard to very hard:

  • Soft: Less than 1.0 gpg
  • Slightly Hard: 1.0-3.5 gpg
  • Moderately Hard: 3.5-7.0 gpg
  • Hard: 7.0-10.5 gpg
  • Very Hard: Greater than 10.5 gpg

Recognizing the Signs of Hard Water in the Home

Spots of white residue around bathroom and kitchen fixtures or on shower doors are often a good indication of considerable water hardness. This same mineral film can also cause extra dryness or damage to skin and hair after bathing. Additionally, these same mineral deposits often build slowly in the unseen plumbing of the home, leading to poor water pressure and even corrosion.
Treating Hard Water in the Home

If you are interested in eliminating the negative effects of hard water without the use of salt or potassium then a salt freewater softener/conditioner is your answer. These systems are typically maintenance free and leave in all beneficial minerals. Traditionally, the most common method of softening household water involves the use of sodium treatments to displace calcium, magnesium, and other mineral elements using a water softener. In some cases, lime may also be used to raise the pH of the water supply, causing especially dense molecules to precipitate out of the water supply. This allows heavier mineral material to be periodically filtered out. However, while lime-based chemical precipitation can greatly reduce water hardness, it may not remove it completely.

Decreased Water Heater Efficiency

Hard water can also harm any appliances that rely on the home's water supply, leaving a rough mineral buildup that slows the flow of water and decreases overall efficiency. Household water heaters are especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of hard water. High temperatures within the heater cause a chemical reaction that produces a mineral precipitate or "scale" buildup. This dense, non-conductive barrier can quickly form an insulating layer that prevents the heating element from warming water efficiently. As a result, consumers using an exclusively hard water source may find that they have noticeably higher water-heating costs.

Hard Water, Detergents, and Soap Scum

High mineral content in household water can also affect the foaming and cleaning action of laundry soaps. Positively charged magnesium and calcium ions react easily with detergents, creating an undesirable "soap scum" residue, or curd, that can damage textiles and cause premature fading.

Modern Salt-Free Solutions

While sodium ion exchange can effectively soften your home's water supply, many individuals would prefer not to have the additional salt content in their water supply. The most recent water softener models will often use considerably less salt than older versions, but many modern manufacturers also offer salt-free water conditioner options.

 This is sponsored content for which I was compensated. My opinion is all my own. 




Friday, July 25, 2014



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If the flip flops fall off, they will most definitely plummet 600 feet to their demise in the Sierra Madre mountains. I find myself wondering: will they whirl like maple keys do, or dive straight down into a rocky canyon below? Together? Or one at a time? 

Flip flops were the first questionable choice we made this morning. I am excruciatingly hopeful that this two hour zip lining Canopy River adventure is not the second. 

Comfortable shoes, said the itinerary for this family adventure. But tween girl, soon to be teen girl, walked out the door of Casa Magna Marriott wearing these. I didn't pay attention. There comes a point where a tween flips a switch and is transformed into teenager. This metamorphosis has been occurring at times slowly for two years, and then rapidly erupting in bursts of hostile door slamming and wilful even defiant moments. Chronologically this transformation is less than two weeks away. At this point of the game I am not supervising shoe choices. Bigger battles and all of that.

I watch the flip flops jump off a tiny platform in the Sierra Madre mountains. I hear their owner  whooping with joy. I spy her curled up cute toes clutching tight to the foamy rubber beach shoes that are most definitely not meant for hiking, rappelling and zip lining. The rainforest closes around her and, her shoes.



My daughter Payton is zip lining through the mountains at Canopy River. Behind her - four bloggers, one photographer snapping photos all the way and two skilled tour guides. I am kicking myself metaphorically for not embracing this part of the trip and jumping into the unknown right behind her. My fear of heights wins this round. Luckily tween, soon to be teen had no fear of heights, or any other thing. I heart that about her.

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This morning we swam with dolphins and cooled off with sea lions at Dolphin Discovery, Puerto Vallarta, before hopping into an open air bus that travelled up the steep mountain. Along the way we spied Mexican pickup trucks parked at the side of the road, selling pineapples and coconuts off the flatbed of their trucks. We are passengers taking snapshots of tin roofed huts that are homes, villages that seem so tenuous a strong wind might collapse them. Roosters cluster in dry backyard plots, stray dogs and cats roam the mountainside. Ten minutes further up the mountains, we spy three or four families sitting on rocks and inner tubes immersed in the water, cooling off. 

A hot, bumpy ride later and the bus parks at top of a mountain. We see restaurant, exotic flowers and trees with hammocks strung in them. The boundless Mexican sky is threatening rain. Together, we  get suited up for two hours of zip lining down the Puerto Vallarta countryside. The tour guides go through their spiel about safety. Always remember to hold on to the black handles. Lean back. Helmet on, enjoy the ride. Twist the handle of what looks like a swing back and forth when you spy the platform and need to slow down. I am hoping she remembers the rules. She is still, after all, 12.

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Last year for Payton's 12th birthday we zip lined at a waterpark in Ohio. It was memorable and fun, but nothing at all like this. It was maybe 50 feet high in the air. Here Canopy River, a brilliant outdoor excursion business consists of 12 different zip lines. It is a family run business, built on a piece of land the family owned and intended to keep, so they constructed and adventure excursion business that mentors family members in and trains them young. The topography of the Puerto Vallarta canyon and hillside is stunning and exquisite. There are points here where the height is 709 feet. Payton leans back fearlessly and screamed happy slightly terrified shrieks as she cast off for the first leg of the zipline. There are twelve lines in total. Today the group does eight or nine.

The flip flops land attached to my daughter's feet safely in a clearing in the rainforest and they take their turn rappelling off the face of a really high rock. One by one the group takes turns following the instructions of tour guides. Cast on to the rope, push off the edge and lower down the rock slowly. Gloves on, flip flops still in tact, Payton says she was more concerned about rope burn than the height, or the shoes. At the bottom of the rock face, after landing on solid ground, an amazing feeling of accomplishment.

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"I felt proud because I felt like I had done a lot lot of hard work at this point," Payton told me later. "I was also feeling a bit exhausted."

In the middle of all of this amazing activity there is also a suspension bridge. Later Payton will say that was one of her favourite parts. "Riding a suspension bridge was a hoot, because I jumped up and down to freak some of the others out. The tour guides were jumping too." The only part that was frightening truly was when someone in the group joked that there were man eating monkeys in the forest. Someone else made noises and whooped and my girl's imagination got the best of her. Just for a short period of time. Then the appeal of a donkey ride down hill back to the top of Canopy River.

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I was having a great time and the tour guides were fantastic," she said.
"I didn't want to drop into the water and they helped."

At the end of the two hours I am shooting pictures on my iPhone when I finally spy the group walking a bit slower than they were at the start of the tour. My eyes start to tear up as I realize flip flops still on her feet, she made it through an adventure worthy of challenging any adult. My kids are in fact braver than me most days of the week, even in strange exotic locales. She asks me for money at end of the tour. We settle on a $10 US bill because the guides were that good with one of my most precious people in the world and because this will be an adventure she will remember for decades. Lately my tween talks inn text speak and sometimes funny new vernacular creeps into my one vocabulary. Last year it was Epic. Everything was Epic. Last year this tour would have passed the epic standards of a 12-year-old. This year the term is almost a suffix - Like a Boss. I finished my grading 'like a boss.' I ran like a boss. I nailed it like a boss. Today she zip lined like a boss at Canopy River, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in flip flops. 


My daughter and I were both guests in Puerto Vallarta in June.
You can read the rest of our posts about the trip, and the many amazing experiences we had.


 Snorkelling and Hiking tour in Yelapa. It was hosted by Puerto Vallarta Adventures. You can read the rest of my posts about Puerto Vallarta here:
Dolphin Discovery (my daughter's favourite part of the trip.) 
 
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