Drinking More Water – it’s all about baby steps!

20 May


This post is part of the YummyMummyClub.ca and the Nestlé Pure Life #RethinkYourDrink sponsored program. I received compensation as a thank you for my participation. This post reflects my personal opinion about the information provided by the sponsors.

Although my son is almost 2 years old now, I still consider myself to be a new mom….yes, that’s right I still feel “new” and I don’t think I’ll ever feel like the expert some people assume I am by now. Once my maternity leave ended, I joined the ranks of many others before me and found myself with two jobs  –  my day job and my all day/all night job as Mom of cutie pie Baby R. On top of still feeling “new,” my husband and I soon found our lives turning into a bit of a chaotic mess, involving a lot of scheduling, wrangling (I can’t believe how strong my son is!) and the sprint that is dinner/bath/bedtime every night.

In doing our best to take care of Baby R., we forgot about taking care of ourselves. Fast food and desserts washed down by wine and pop became the norm, all quick ways to treat ourselves either during the workday or after work and we both knew that these bad habits would catch up with us quickly. To top it all off, I found myself going back to my old bad habit of not drinking enough water. I know myself well enough to know that I wouldn’t be able to get rid of the bad stuff easily and that I would have to take baby steps to get healthier. Over the past few months, we’ve taken steps at home to reduce our fast food consumption and I’ve been trying to increase my water intake.

It was going okay but I knew I could do better, so Nestlé’s invitation to join their “Wellness Week Challenge” featuring Nestlé Pure Life Sparkling Water couldn’t have come at a better time. For 7 days, they challenged me to “rethink my drink”with one of their Nestlé Pure Life Sparkling products (each containing 0 calories and 0 sugar) in an effort to show everyone how easy it is to get more water into their diets. They sent me a beautiful tote bag with a few of their sparkling water products to get rolling, making it very easy for me to say yes (that’s right, that’s one less trip to the grocery store with a toddler, SCORE!).

I received three products in my kit – one bottle each of their Nestlé Pure Life Sparkling Original and Lemon flavours and a case of 12 cans of their Raspberry-Lime flavoured sparkling water. In the fridge at home and work they went….




For the next 7 days, I tried each of the beverages straight up and in my favourite, sparkling drink recipes (see below), replacing my lunch or dinner beverage with sparkling water. My favourite flavour overall was the lemon one,  I found the flavour to be clean and light enough that it wasn’t overpowering. While I was pregnant, I reduced the amount of sugary beverages I was consuming as I knew they would be terrible for Baby R., and for my health. The drink recipes below certainly came in handy for those days when I wanted to have something a little different. They were perfect for this challenge as they both dress up sparkling water quite nicely.

Sugarless Mock Mojito


One of my favourite non-alcoholic beverages….simple and delicious.

Makes 1 serving


1 lime

2 springs of mint (washed)

1 bottle of Nestlé Pure Life Sparkling Original, chilled

1 tall glass

Ice (if desired, I didn’t use any)

Cut the lime in half and squeeze the juice from one half into your glass. Tear the mint leaves from one sprig of mint and put them into the glass along with the lime juice. Use a spoon to mash the mint leaves into the lime juice.  Add some ice at this point if you would like some, and then top your drink off with some chilled Nestlé Pure Life Sparkling Original. Drop in the sprig of mint, garnish your glass with a slice of lime and enjoy!


Sugarless Nimbu Pani


Nimbu pani is a thirst quenching Indian drink that my family introduced me to on my last trip to India.

Makes 1 serving.


1 lime

1/8 teaspoon of kosher salt or rock salt (if you want a more pronounced salty taste, use ¼ teaspoon or more to taste)

1 bottle of Nestlé Pure Life Sparkling Lemon or Original, chilled

1 tall glass

Ice (if desired, I didn’t use any)

Pour the 1/8 teaspoon of salt in the glass. Cut the lime in half and the juice from half of a lime into the glass. Mix well. Add some ice at this point if you would like some. Top your drink off with some chilled Nestlé Pure Life Sparkling Original. Garnish your glass with a slice of lime and enjoy!


Taking the challenge forced me to drink more water and I’m so glad it did. Habit change is so much easier to achieve by setting smaller daily goals and adding one more glass of water a day was an easy change to make. I’ve now upped that amount and I’ve added 2 additional glasses of water per day and I find myself feeling less hungry and sluggish which is fantastic. Taking Nestlé’s challenge reminded me that healthy hydration is key to keeping my mind alert and body functioning at its best and it’s as simple as adding more water to my diet. As my son gets taller, faster and stronger I will need to be on my game even more than ever as I try to stop each and every impending disaster!

Nestlé Pure Life Sparkling is available in a variety of tasty formats and flavours including:

  • Recyclable 1L bottles in Lemon, Lime, Mandarin Orange, Black Cherry and Original.
  • 355 ml cans in three flavours – Lemon-Lime, Raspberry-Lime and Mango- Peach-Pineapple

If you end up taking the challenge, be sure to let me know and share your wisdom about sparkling water using hashtag #RethinkYourDrink – good luck!

Want the easiest challenge you’ll ever take and maybe win a trip in the process?

It’s time to Rethink Your Drink! Register online at Sparkling7DayChallenge.ca and pledge to switch out one of your regular drink choices for a Nestlé Pure Life Sparkling water once a day for seven days.

 Not only will you receive a coupon to save $3 off a case of Nestlé Pure Life Sparkling Water, six Canadians will have the chance to win a luxurious weekend away in Toronto.

It’s time to add some sparkle to your life. Register now.


Crustless Chai-Coconut Pie

23 Mar


Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Egg Farmers of Ontario. 

Spring is definitely in the air and Easter is right around the corner so it was great to receive an eggs-citing (see what I did there?!) lacto-ovo vegetarian friendly dessert recipe from Egg Farmers of Ontario. Their Crustless Chai-Coconut Pie is fairly easy to make and the unique flavour combination is sure to be a hit with the foodies at your Easter table.

What I loved about the Crustless Chai-Coconut Pie is that it is an easy dessert that’s suitable for a special event such as Easter, but it’s also simple enough for less formal occasions.

If you would like to learn more about Egg Farmers of Ontario, please visit getcracking.ca for a copy of this recipe and tons of other egg recipes that are sure to please you and your family.

Crustless Chai-Coconut Pie

An easy and aromatic dessert that’s suitable for any occasion. Dress it up topped with rum spiked whipped cream!

Serves: 6 to 8

Prep Time: 15 minutes   Cooking Time: 35 to 40 minutes


1⁄4 cup (50 mL) all-purpose flour

1 tsp (5 mL) ground cinnamon

1⁄2 tsp (2 mL) each ground ginger, cardamom and allspice

1⁄4 tsp (1 mL) ground cloves

1⁄4 tsp (1 mL) baking powder

1⁄4 cup (50 mL) butter, softened

1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract

3⁄4 cup (175 mL) light cream (5%)

1-1⁄2 cups (375 mL) sweetened shredded coconut

Whipped cream (optional)


Pre-heat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease a 9-inch (23 cm) glass pie plate.

In small bowl, combine flour, spices and baking powder. Set aside. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together butter and sugar until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until creamy and well blended. Stir in cream and flour mixture; mix well. Stir in coconut. Pour into prepared pie plate.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until set and golden brown.

Place on rack to cool. Serve at room temperature with whipped cream, if desired.

Tip: Use shredded or flaked coconut for this recipe.

Tip: Cover and refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 2 months.

Nutrients per serving (1/6 recipe): 360 calories, 17 g total fat, 181 mg sodium, 49 g carbohydrates, 2 g fibre, 6 g protein. Excellent source of vitamin B12. Good source of  folate and iron.

Stuffing Our Faces with St-Hubert’s Poutine Bites

21 Dec

Disclosure:  This post has been sponsored by Group St-Hubert, Retail Division and I’ve been compensated with product and pay. As always, I only write about what I actually like. I think you’ll like this product too!    

IMG_7307 (1)

Poutine is one of my favourite dishes, yes, that’s right I said poutine. You’re probably wondering why or how that could be since it has gravy in it…well, there are a few wonderful Canadian poutine hawkers who make delicious vegetarian gravy, including a food truck in the Toronto area. I consider myself to be a vegetarian poutine aficionado so I was thrilled to be invited to try a new product from St-Hubert, Poutine Bites. The taste of poutine, made at home and all in one bite? This I had to try.

I received two boxes of the product and I couldn’t wait to try them out. On my first attempt at baking the Poutine Bites I ended up overcooking them as I thought the longer I put them in, the crunchier they would be. Sadly, after over 10 minutes in the oven the Poutine Balls started to pop on me, oozing out their precious filling! It didn’t matter because they were still so tasty. My second attempt at baking them was far more successful as I left them in the oven for the recommended 8 minutes and they were perfect. Crunchy potato balls filled with oozing St-Hubert gravy, mozzarella and cheddar cheese, all in one bite. My parents were visiting, so my husband and I joined them in polishing off both boxes. I should note that the box looks small and so do the bites when you open up the packaging. What’s inside is flavourful and rich, so after just a few Poutine Bites I actually started to feel full. They are definitely easy to eat, I couldn’t stop after having just one : )


The folks at St-Hubert say that Poutine Bites are perfect for “Appy Hour” or Appetizer Hour. With a toddler at home, we haven’t been having many “soirees” in our house lately so our version of “Appy Hour” usually takes place right after work when we want a snack before dinner. Right now since it’s almost Christmas, snacks that keep us going while we wrap Christmas presents are key and these hit the spot. We aren’t big drinkers so the Poutine Bites were perfect with a glass of sparkling water or sparkling water plus juice for flavour.

Great job St-Hubert, looking forward to seeing what else you’ll come up with next!

Learn more about St-Hubert’s Poutine Bites here: http://bit.ly/1U1fNZn







Meals with My Munchkin: More-ning McWraps at McDonald’s

17 Nov



I was excited to learn that McDonald’s Canada came out with the Kale and Feta More-ning McWrap, a  breakfast wrap that sounded like a great option for my vegetarian diet. As I’ve mentioned on my blog before, it’s hard to find good vegetarian options at quick service restaurants, so I couldn’t wait to try it. Yes, even we vegetarians want the experience of hitting the drive thru for breakfast! Right now my go-to breakfast item at McDonald’s is an Egg McMuffin, minus the ham but with tomato added. I love it and it’s one of things I crave but it’s the only thing I get right now. The thought of a new veggie option was exciting.

As a vegetarian married to a meat-eater, I’ve found over the years there are only a few quick service restaurants we can visit that have good options for both of us. Knowing my dietary preferences and my husband’s, McDonald’s challenged us to try the new More-ning McWraps and share our thoughts. Since McDonald’s also came out with a Sausage and Hash Brown More-ning McWrap, it was a good opportunity to grab my husband and my son for a Sunday morning breakfast outing. Our order – the new wraps for my husband and I and a Hotcakes Happy Meal for my toddler.


We got our order and started to dig in…per the McDonald’s website, the Kale and Feta More-ning McWrap contains scrambled eggs, baby kale, sliced tomato and feta cheese, all wrapped up in a soft tortilla. The wrap has 21 grams of protein, which is terrific as I’m always looking for on-the-go vegetarian options with protein. I took my first bite and I was happy to see that the wrap was generously filled with the ingredients. As I got deeper into the wrap, I was happy with how the ingredients interacted with one another. The scrambled eggs were moist and the addition of feta cheese gave the wrap a bit of a bite against the fresh veggies. I would have liked to have a little bit of spice in it but that’s just who I am, I always want spicy food. Overall, I really enjoyed it and I would get it again.


While I was chowing down, my husband dug into the Sausage and Hash Brown  More-ning McWrap. This wrap contains scrambled eggs, breakfast sausage, a hash brown and a slice of cheddar cheese, all wrapped up in a soft tortilla. He took a few bites and he immediately said, “this is a whole McDonald’s breakfast in one bite! I like how the flavours are mixing together” – he actually liked it so much that he kept his head down and ate the whole thing without coming up for air. I was barely able to get a photo in. When he was done, he simply said, “Yeah, that was pretty good, I would get it again” – always a good sign : ) What’s great about both of these wraps is that McDonald’s is using ingredients from their other products and meals to create them, which I thought was really smart.

While we munched on our wraps, my son happily sat in his highchair with his cool McDonald’s bib, gobbled up his Hotcakes and ate the yogurt that came with his meal. I appreciate that every McDonald’s location has high chairs and bibs and that there are healthy options on the menu like yogurt and apple slices. Everyone was full and happy, especially my son who also enjoyed checking out the fish tank at our local restaurant : )


Thank you McDonald’s for creating another veggie option, hopefully there are more items to come! And that’s a “wrap” folks (pun intended).  Have you tried the new More-ning McWraps? If you have, please let me know what you thought of them!

Slow Cooker Cheesecake

22 Oct


Cheesecake is one of my favourite desserts in the whole world. A cold, smooth and creamy cheesecake with a tasty graham cracker crust…top that with chocolate, caramel, fruit…I’ll take it all. I enjoy baking my own cheesecake but it takes a lot of time to make it. Prep time, an hour in the oven, cooling time, you get the picture. I could buy one but where’s the fun in that!

I’ve been using my slow cooker a lot more lately, it’s great to be able to just “set it and forget it” especially since I can hide the slow cooker away from my toddler son. One of my new favourite recipes is a Slow Cooker Cheesecake recipe from Ricardo Cuisine. I love to try recipes where I can make my favourites in a new way and this recipe was a perfect example of that. The recipe was very easy to put together, it cooked fairly quickly and the portion sizes were perfect – two cheesecakes each for me and my husband! (Three for me if he only eats one, yeah!). It’s a great recipe and I hope you’ll give it a try. I’m planning on making it again very soon. Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Cheesecake

I’ve included the original recipe below and I’ve added my own notes throughout. The link to the original recipe on the Ricardo site is given here (this recipe was shared with permission): http://www.ricardocuisine.com/recipes/5562-slow-cooker-cheesecake-2-

Ingredients – Cheesecake


1 package 8 oz (250 g) cream cheese, softened

1/3 cup (75 ml) sugar (Note: Next time I’ll reduce the sugar a little, I found it a bit too sweet)

1 egg

1/4 cup (60 ml) 35% cream

1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract

Ingredients – Graham Crumble Topping

1/2 cup (125 ml) graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup (60 ml) all­ purpose flour

2 tablespoons (30 ml) brown sugar

1/4 cup (60 ml) unsalted butter, softened

Ingredients – Strawberry Topping

1 cup (250 ml) diced strawberries

1 tablespoon (15 ml) sugar



  1. Line the bottom of the slow cooker with a clean cloth (Note: I used a clean, folded dish cloth) to prevent the ramekins from vibrating.
  2. In a blender, purée all the ingredients until smooth. (Note: If you don’t have a blender handy, do what I did and use a hand mixer. Start off by beating the ingredients on low speed until combined and then switch to high speed to get a smooth texture). Divide the mixture among four 125 ml (1/2 cup) ramekins. Place the ramekins in the slow cooker (on top of the clean cloth) and pour hot water into the container halfway up the ramekins. (Note: I prepped a kettle of boiling water before I put the ingredients together. By the time everything was ready, the water was hot and at the right temperature).
  3. Cover and cook on low temperature for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes or until they are firm and slightly puffy. Remove the ramekins from the slow cooker and let cool. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or until completely chilled.

Graham Crumble Topping

  1. With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 180 °C (350 °F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and add the butter. Combine until the mixture is crumbly. With your fingers, drop the dough into small pieces on the baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown, stirring twice during baking. Let cool. (Note: I loved the crumble but found the quantity was too much for just 4 ramekins. Next time I will make half the amount).

Strawberry Topping

  1. Combine the strawberries and sugar. Let rest for 5 minutes.
  2. When ready to serve, top each ramekin with graham crumble and strawberries.

Overall, I LOVED the end result and I’ll definitely make it again. Per my notes, next time I would reduce the amount of sugar slightly (there was nothing wrong with the amount of sugar but it was a bit too sweet for me). I would also cut back on the quantity of crumble as I had quite a bit leftover. This makes for a great homemade dessert for a small group and can easily be done with ingredients you have on hand. If you don’t have strawberries at home, you can top the cheesecake with blueberries or any other fruit.









You could win a signed copy of Ricardo’s Slow Cooker Favourites cookbook, filled with more than 65 great slow cooker recipes, including vegetarian ones!

Earn entries by doing the following (you can enter using any or all of these methods):

Additional Info:

The contest begins on Thursday October 22, 2015 and will end on Thursday November 5, 2015 at 12 pm EST. The winner will be announced later that day.

You can enter via each method once per day until the end of the contest.

The contest is only open to Canadians with a Canadian shipping address. Ricardo will ship the cookbook directly to the winner’s home.

Good luck!

Mini Apple Cinnamon French Toasts

10 Sep


Disclosure: I was given samples of Ozery Pita Break’s Just Minis products to try along with some recipe ideas. I only share information about products I enjoy and this is one of them. I hope you’ll try them out too!  

Earlier this year I created a Fattoush Salad recipe using Ozery’s Pita Break’s Large Regular Pita so when they sent me a box with samples of their Just Minis pita products to try out I was excited to try them out.

My baby son is growing up so fast…he’s now a fast moving toddler which means that he can work up quite an appetite. Being a toddler also means that he wants to eat independently, so finding wholesome, great tasting foods that he can enjoy on his own means a lot to me. Bonus points if my husband and I can enjoy them too.  My son is obsessed with bread and one of his favourite ways to eat it is in French Toast. I used Ozery’s Pita Break’s Just Minis Apple Cinnamon flavour and they were delicious. My son was able to hold the mini pita in his little hands and just go for it….it’s always fun to watch him eat : ) He had them plain while my nephews (who are 6 and 13) enjoyed them after school with maple syrup. Overall, they were a hit, which I’ve learned is a big deal when it comes to kids!

Mini Apple Cinnamon French Toasts

Yield: 12 mini French toasts


  • 6 Apple Cinnamon Just Minis, split into halved rounds
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp milk (Note: I increased the amount of milk to a ½ cup as I wanted the pitas to soak up a lot of the mixture. You may want to use more.)
  • 1 tbsp butter, divided


  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Maple syrup


In a large shallow dish, lightly beat the eggs and milk together. In a small bowl, combine cinnamon, sugar, and nutmeg (if using). Immerse Apple Cinnamon Just Minis into milk and egg mixture. Turn to coat both sides. (Note: I let the pitas soak in the mixture for about 20 seconds).

Meanwhile, preheat large skillet with lid to medium-high heat, melt 1/2 tbsp butter. Place pita rounds into skillet, cover. Cook for 3 minutes or until golden. Turn, cover and cook 3 more minutes or until golden brown and slightly puffy. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon & sugar mixture (if using). Top with maple syrup (optional). Serve hot.

Note: I chose not to sprinkle the mini French toasts with the cinnamon/sugar mixture or add maple syrup for my son as I felt the apple cinnamon flavour was sweet enough for him (and for my husband and I). You may want to add the extras for older kids.

My husband and I have been trying to reduce the amount of bread we eat but these are a great solution for when we want to have a little for a snack or meal. What I love about Just Minis is that I can do a lot with them, especially since they freeze beautifully and can be ready quickly if I pop them in the toaster or toaster oven. They make a nice snack with some cheese and cut up carrots and celery for work or after school. We also top them with different spreads – baba ghanouj, peanut butter, jam, cream cheese etc., and we also serve them to our son with scrambled eggs.




To learn more about Ozery’s Pita Break, please visit:

Website: www.pitabreak.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ozerybakery.pitabreak

Twitter: @OzeryBakery or www.twitter.com/ozerybakery

CONTEST: Enter to win an Ozery’s Pita Break “Back To School” prize pack!

This prize is valued at over $75 and it includes:

  • A lunch bag
  • Tupperware
  • Reusable snack bags
  • A toaster
  • A few other goodies!

You can earn entries by doing the following:

  • Leave a comment below this blog post and tell me how you would enjoy Ozery Pita Break’s Just Minis. What would you make with them? How would you eat them?
  • Follow both me, Sandy Avvari-Nayani @savvari and Ozery’s Pita Break @OzeryBakery on Twitter. Then, retweet my tweet about this blog post/contest from my Twitter feed at twitter.com/savvari – the tweet will be pinned to the top of my Twitter feed.

Additional Info:

The contest begins on Thursday September 10, 2015 and will end on Thursday September 24, 2015 at 12 pm EST. The winner will be announced later that day.

You can enter via each method once per day until the end of the contest.

The contest is only open to Canadians with a Canadian shipping address. Ozery’s Pita Break will ship the prize package directly to the winner’s home.

Good luck!

Turning Frozen Fruit Into Healthy Desserts with Yonanas

1 Sep


Disclosure: I was given a Yonanas machine to try out and I thought it was pretty cool, so I thought I would tell you all about it. All opinions are my own.

I’m more than a little obsessed with kitchen appliances. If it does something new and different, I must have it, much to the dismay of my hubby who is trying to declutter our home while I clutter it up. One of the machines I’ve had my eyes on for some time is Yonanas, a frozen fruit dessert machine that lets you take any frozen fruit you have and turn it into a creamy, non-dairy soft serve dessert. I was already having high hopes for this machine…

The box arrived and I couldn’t wait to tear into it. The instructions were great and it was very easy to assemble, I had the machine up and running within minutes. I had some frozen banana and frozen blueberries that I wanted to try mixing first as this is one of my favourite fruit smoothie combinations. Per the instructions, I allowed the fruit to thaw for a few minutes before starting up the machine. I started with two frozen bananas and one cup of frozen blueberries. I read that banana needs to be placed into the machine first before adding any other fruit and sure enough, it was a good tip as the banana kicked things off and acted as a base. It was pretty amazing to see how quickly it turned my boring old fruit into a creamy looking frozen dessert. After tasting it, I was really happy….there was no added sugar and no additives, just the pure flavor of my own frozen fruit.





Since that first trial run, I mostly throw in whatever frozen fruit I have on hand along with frozen bananas, which we always have in the house. This machine is the perfect place to use up spotty bananas that are a bit past their prime to eat fresh. I find that I get the best texture when I use a mix of old and new bananas (ones that have been frozen recently) along with a few handfuls of my favourite fruits. If you’re not a fan of bananas, you can use any other frozen fruits that you have on hand, just remember to let them sit out and thaw for about 5 minutes for best results.

To me this is a great machine for families to have as it can please everyone…ice cream lovers, people who are lactose intolerant, vegans and anyone who wants to make their own healthy, frozen desserts. I’ve used it to introduce my son to different fruits and as an added bonus, the cold helps to relieve his teething discomfort. His favourite combo…mangoes and strawberries…yum! The possibilities are endless, I have only tried a handful of the recipes on the Yonanas site…there are still so many others I have to check out.

To learn more, visit http://yonanas.com/ for info about their products and tips and recipes for frozen fruit desserts made both with bananas and without them.

Here are a few of my favourite “no bananas” Yonanas recipes, taken from their website. Enjoy!


Strawberry Pineapple Sorbet

Ingredients: 1/2 cup frozen strawberries and 1/2 cup frozen pineapple

Directions: 1. Slightly thaw your frozen fruit prior to putting through your yonanas maker. 2. Insert 1/4 cup frozen strawberries. 3. Insert 1/4 cup frozen pineapple. 4. Alternate remaining ingredients


Peach and Cherry Sorbet

Ingredients: 1/2 cup frozen peach slices and 1/2 cup frozen pitted cherries

Directions: 1. Slightly thaw your frozen fruit prior to putting through your yonanas maker. 2. Insert 1/4 cup frozen peach slices. 3. Insert 1/4 cup frozen pitted cherries. 4. Alternate remaining ingredients

Mini Vacation – Chicago, Illinois

18 Jun


Disclosure: I received a media rate from the Renaissance Chicago Downtown hotel. 

My maternity leave was about to end and I needed to take a trip before I headed back to work…really badly. We were still too nervous to fly with a very active Baby R (yes, that’s first time parents for you), so a driving trip to the U.S. sounded like it would be the next best thing. The plan…head to Chicago to explore a bit and then visit friends in Indiana.

We were only in Chicago for a day and a half, so we needed to make the most of it with baby in tow. Traveling with baby is certainly different but with the right stroller (yay for our City Mini Baby Jogger) and a bit of advanced planning, it’s definitely doable. Add in a great hotel and you’re all set. Here’s the best of Part 1 of our trip – Chicago, Illinois!

The hotel:

The Renaissance Chicago Downtown was smack dab in the middle of the city and within walking distance of tons of restaurants and shops. We really couldn’t have asked for a better location. Add to that the fact that the hotel just completed $27 million dollar renovation of their lobby and guest rooms and we couldn’t wait to check it out.

I don’t know what the lobby looked like before their renovations but it looked amazing after the renovation. High ceilings, great art and a bar with an open kitchen came together to create a great vibe. The lobby was lively and people seemed to be happy and having a good time, which was nice to see. They have an espresso machine and pastries available for purchase in the lobby, so we grabbed a snack on our way upstairs.



When we got to our room, we were greeted with a tasty welcome surprise from the hotel (yum!) and we were happy to see that Baby R had his own little bed in the form of a stylish Pack ‘n Play with nice bed sheets in it. For those non-parents who are reading this, it’s a portable crib/containment device, I mean play area, that’s perfect for use when traveling. Baby R didn’t feel like hanging out in his Pack ‘n Play, so he made himself right at home on the king-sized bed while I wandered around the room. The room was a great size for us and even with the Pack ‘n Play in it, we still had quite a bit of space for the three of us and the assortment of luggage and other paraphernalia needed to keep a baby fed and happy.



The room had been updated in the hotel’s recent renovation project and it looked fresh and modern. My husband and I both thought the decor was cool and contemporary and the artwork had a great city vibe to it. The king-sized bed was very comfortable for the both of us and we had more than enough room for my son to sleep in between us when he got fussy that night (phew!). IMG_6108



The hotel has a full service spa, fitness center and a pool, which hopefully I’ll have a chance to check out on a future visit. Guests we met in the lobby told us the pool was terrific but sadly we just didn’t have the time to enjoy it. Definitely a great reason for us to come back again!

Overall, we enjoyed our visit and we look forward to staying at the Renaissance hotel again next time. We definitely needed more than one night in this city! Between dealing with traffic, baby’s feeding/sleep times and a general desire to otherwise take it easy, we didn’t make it to too many places on this visit. Note: I am leaving out an unfortunate experience with an Asian restaurant…sadly, not all food is perfect in Chicago! Here are a few of our favourite shops and restaurants from our short visit:

Eataly Chicago

If there’s an Eataly in the city I’m visiting, you’ll bet that I’ll head there. After talking my hubby’s ear off about Eataly New York (which he hasn’t been to yet), I knew I had to take him to the Chicago location. With two floors of food goodness, this store can’t be explained in words or photos, you’ll just have to check it out for yourself. We decided to have a late lunch there and enjoy their fresh pasta. Hubby had a pappardelle in a Bolognese sauce which he was swooning over and I had their spinach and ricotta ravioli in a lemon butter sauce with pistachios. The sauce was so delicious, I wanted to lick the plate. I took a photo of some chocolate chip cookies that looked incredible and I posted it to Facebook while I was in there. Several people then asked if they tasted as good as they looked but I didn’t buy one as I was trying to be “good”…but in the end, I caved in and I was so glad that I did, that cookie was one of the best I had ever had! I wish I had one right now actually…






Garrett Popcorn

Yes, I know what you might be thinking…popcorn? Why do I need to buy popcorn in Chicago? Garrett Popcorn is a hot spot in Chicago and it’s not just the tourists who are in line to buy from their shop, the locals go there too. The signature item is their Garrett Mix popcorn, a mix of their CaramelCrisp and their Cheesecorn popcorn flavours. It’s an interesting combination that is a bit of an acquired taste but once you try it, you’ll be addicted. My husband’s favourite flavour is the Cashew CaramelCrisp and I love their Almond CaramelCrisp. Both of these are specialty flavours, packed with whole nuts. They are absolutely delicious and we actually prefer them to the bestselling Garrett Mix (yup, we said it!). We were only in Chicago for a little over a day and we went to Garrett Popcorn twice….that’s how much we love it there : )





Eggy’s Diner

The breakfast places we wanted to go to all had HUGE lineups so I pulled out my trusty phone to see what our fends on Yelp had to say. Eggy’s Diner popped up and it was within walking distance so we decided to check it out. We were so glad we did! The restaurant had a funky, relaxed vibe and bonus points, they had a high chairs for Baby R!

We started off with some pancakes, because I always have to try the pancakes at a breakfast restaurant. The verdict….they were delish, so we knew we were in good hands. Next up, I had the Benedict Florentine, a toasted English muffin topped with sautéed spinach, two poached eggs and hollandaise sauce, complete with a side of breakfast potatoes. I threw some hot sauce on that bad boy and I was in my happy place. Hubby had the Corned Beef Hash and he too was in his happy place. Baby R enjoyed a lovely breakfast of milk and bits of pancakes, so he gives the place a thumbs up too : ) We will definitely have breakfast here again next time we visit! P.S. They have really cute mugs for sale with their logo on it. We bought one and we know you’ll want one too.







Once again Chicago, we only visited you for a short time! Hoping for a longer visit next time around. Until we meet again…. : )



Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel

1 West Wacker Drive

Chicago, Illinois 60601 USA


Eataly Chicago

The Shops at North Bridge

43 E Ohio St.

Chicago, Illinois 60611 USA


Garrett Popcorn Shops

26 W Randolph St.

Chicago, Illinois 60601 USA


Eggy’s Diner

333 E Benton Pl

Unit #103

Chicago, Illinois 60601, USA


How a Strauss WaterBar Can Grow With Your Family  

4 May

Disclosure: Baby R and I were recently invited by Strauss Water to join their team for an afternoon of fun at the BabyTime Show in Toronto. Again, I’ll say that I only write about products/services I actually believe in and have tried on my own. This is one of them!


I recently had the chance to join Strauss Water at the BabyTime Show in Toronto, to learn about how their Strauss WaterBars can help families to consume and enjoy purified water – chilled, boiling or room temp – all at the touch of a button.

I’ve written about this product before but the more I learn about it, the more I can see the benefits of having one in our home. Since we are in a period of transition at the moment, it doesn’t make sense for us to purchase one just yet but hopefully we will very soon. (Hubby if you’re reading this, I think I might want an orange WaterBar now).


At this event at the BabyTime Show, Strauss Water focused on how their WaterBars can support families as they grow. The key points I took away were:

  • Water is ready for formula mixing – already purified and can be set to the perfect temp. It’s a small thing but one of the most annoying things my husband and I have experienced about making formula is the need to constantly boil and cool water, so having a machine that removes these steps from the process would be so useful.
  • The WaterBar is great for breastfeeding moms who need to make sure they are hydrated all the time as they can dispense various temperatures of water at the press of a button. No need to wait too long for a hot drink anymore! Who has time when a little person wants cuddles (or is screaming at you LOL)?!?!
  • As my son grows up, so will my nephews and I know that they would love it if we had a Strauss WaterBar because kids (and adults) love to use machines to pour themselves a drink. There’s something that makes it a bit more special than turning on a tap and if that gets all of us to drink more water (myself included because I’m always dehydrated) then so be it!


To learn more about Strauss WaterBars, head to:

Website: http://www.strauss-water.ca

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StraussWaterCanada

Twitter: https://twitter.com/StraussWaterCA

Hashtag: #StraussWaterBar

Warming Up With Pastries at Starbucks

2 May

Disclosure: The lovely folks at Starbucks (where I pretty much live anyway) gave me a gift card to try La Boulange pastries and others that were introduced into their stores.

Note: Before I begin, I KNOW I’m more than a tad late on this, but hey, I’ve been soaking up the last few weeks of my maternity leave with Baby R (*sniff*)!


The team at Starbucks Canada recently offered to send me a gift card and asked if I would like to try the line of La Boulange warm pastries that they had released. The invite came at a bit of an odd time because my husband and I were trying to reduce the amount of sugar we were eating and we had told ourselves that we would cut out pastries and other treats from our diets. So what do you do when you get an invite like this one from one of your favourite coffee companies (hello Pike Place coffee on tap….yum!)….you strap your baby into his car seat, you make an exception and you head out to try things out anyway : )

So I’m a bit obsessed with pastries and I seek them out wherever I go in the world. I first visited a La Boulange shop when I visited San Francisco a few years ago and I loved their pastries (I ate there every day pretty much), so I was excited to see Starbucks Canada partnering with them to introduce a line of warm pastries to their stores.

My husband and I shared the Almond Croissant Blossom and the Single-Origin Chocolate Croissant. Hubby had his with an iced black tea lemonade and I had mine with their Pike’s Place coffee. Both pastries were tasty in my opinion but my husband and I both agreed that the Almond Croissant Blossom was the clear winner as it reminded us of a pastry we had tried when we were in Europe. It wasn’t too sweet, there was just the right amount of almond flavouring, the pastry was flaky and it went well with their coffee. It’s a nice addition to their pastry lineup and an item that isn’t easy to find in our area….actually I would say that it’s quite a challenge to find an almond pastry in anything but a specialty bakery.


The Single-Origin Chocolate Croissant was also good, hey, a girl needs some chocolate to get her day going sometimes : ) The pastry was decent but I wished that it had the light crunch that I associate with chocolate croissants a.k.a Pain Au Chocolat as it’s known in France. I think this might be due to having it warm, so I’ll have to try it at room temperature next time.


I also found out that they had updated some of their other items including their Banana Loaf. Their new Banana Loaf is moister, more pillowy and to me it has more of a true homemade banana bread taste than the older version. Warmed up, the new Banana Loaf is definitely one of my favourites. Another item I enjoyed warm is their Fruit and Oat Cookie, which a gentleman in line randomly told me that I “must have” a few months ago. He told me that he buys one 2-3 times a week, sometimes more!

Overall, I think the addition of warm pastry items and a revamp of some of their other baked goods was a good move for Starbucks Canada. Next up, I hope they can upgrade to a model where each store bakes at least some of their own pastries in-house. How lovely would it be to be greeted by the smell of fresh coffee AND baking when approaching a Starbucks location? Fingers crossed!

%d bloggers like this: