McCafe Compostable Pods - Review

McCafe Keurig Compatible K-Cups
Photo credit: Jaime Stephens
I have to confess that my day is not complete without a cup of coffee in the morning. I'm not a huge coffee drinker, and as a single parent to two girls, I'm the only one who drinks coffee in my house, so I'm happy to have a Keurig Coffeemaker. One thing that I'm not happy about is the added waste that having a Keurig brings to your kitchen. Yes, you can buy reusable filters for your favourite bean, but its nice to have the option to pop a K-Cup into your machine and enjoy a cup of coffee too.

I was given the opportunity to try out the McCafe Compostable Pods through the Sampler App. Huge score! One of the things that I was most excited about was the fact that these pods are compostable. Brew, and toss into your compost bucket and you're ready to go. Love it! Reading up on the pods I was able to learn that the lid, ring and the filter itself turn into nutrients for the soil. While still not as eco-friendly as using reusable filters that reduce the amount of manufacturing that goes into our products, they are definitely a huge step up from the plastic ones of old.

McCafe Compostable Pod.
Photo credit: Jaime Stephens
Now of course, if the coffee tastes like sludge no amount of compostable pods is going to save them. I am happy to report this Premium Roast has actually become my favourite brew. It isn't overly acidic, and has a nice smooth taste to it. The box comes with a foil inside which helps to keep the contents fresh, ensuring a perfect cup of coffee every time.

A huge thank you to the Sampler App for giving me the opportunity to find my new favourite brew, and thank you to the manufacturers for finding a more environmentally friendly option for my daily brew!

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Arts Cow - Boxing Day Sale

While the insanity of Boxing Day may be over and done with already, I was super excited to discover that Arts Cow still has their specials ongoing!

2 items for $4.99 USD each, shipped which is amazing. To see the items that are included in this promo click here. Code is BOXUP*. Expiry: January 11/2017. This promo includes 4x4, 8x8 and 9x7 photo books, tote bags, shirts, calendars and so much more. Regular price on the 8x8 photo book is $14.99 plus shipping, and so $4.99 shipped is definitely one of the best prices I've seen.

I am a huge fan of Artscow, especially of their photobooks and so I'm sure you can guess what I'll be spending these last couple of days working on before heading back to regular life on the 3rd! The photo books are hard covered, and are printed on high quality paper. I have photobooks that I made back in 2008 that still look as beautiful now as they did when I made them. I started making photobooks when I realized that with the move over to digital photos that I was simply taking photos, but never displaying them.

Photobooks is the perfect way for me to display my photos. I make them for the year, but I also make
them for gifts, or for commemoration. Last year we moved towns which involved the end of an era of dancing and so I made a photobook commemorating seven years of dancing for my girls. The photobooks include pictures of all of their groups over the years, plus their various solos for competition.

Photobooks aren't the only offering that Artscow has. I've ordered a photo shower curtain before which turned out amazing. My only concern with the shower curtain? I spend months freaking myself out as I walking into the bathroom only to be confronted with larger than life images of my children's smiling faces! The shower curtain itself was amazing, my choice of photos perhaps not so much! We also have throw pillow covers that feature pictures of the girls as babies which are adorable. I will admit that when we first got them there were quite a few arguments started by one or the other sitting on their sisters pillow face! Oh the joys of parenting!
Because the items are made in China it can take a little while for shipping, so if you need them by a certain date make sure that you order with lots of time to allow for delivery!

If you aren't currently an Artscow customer when you sign up for the first time (one time per household) you receive a whole whack of freebies, including prints, photobooks, you just pay shipping. I find that the shipping on the free items can be a little on the steep side though, so offers like this $4.99 shipped deal are the way to go.

Happy designing!

Travel in Canada

In November 2016, Prime Minster Justin Trudeau's Transport Minister, Marc Garneau, pledged to make changes to travel in Canada aimed at making is less expensive to travel within Canada. My family and I were "bit" by the travel bug years ago, and we have been busy making our way through our travel wish list, yet our travel destinations within Canada have remained unchecked. Newfoundland, Toronto and Montreal top our must see Canadian destinations, yet the cost of getting to these regions from our home on the West Coast of Canada is astronomical.

A quick search on Travelocity for flights from Vancouver to Toronto came in at $1666 return trip for the three of us on West Jet. Montreal will cost upwards of $2600. Flying into St. John's Newfoundland, $3506.28. These prices of course include airfare only, no hotel bookings, no food, and don't include the cost of checking baggage either! Air Canada Vacations gives me the option for flight and hotel in Toronto for $2566 for the three of us.

Beach Front Vacation - Puerto Vallarta - July 2014
Whereas my family of three can travel to Los Cabos in Mexico, stay at an all-inclusive beach front resort for $2737. All-inclusive in Cuba will run us $2786.

So for basically the same price as staying a week in Toronto with Hotel through Air Canada, or for the price of airfare to Montreal we could visit a tropical destination, meals included. Last year the three of us travelled to New York City for the price of $2700 for hotel and air on the absolutely amazing Cathay Pacific.

I checked into the potential of taking the train from Vancouver to Toronto and the price tag for train travel is $3500. For those of us who don't drive, travelling within our own country is costly, and out of reach for so many.

Coney Island Carousel, New Years Eve 2015 
As a single parent to two children with limited income, the decision to travel is one that takes a lot of commitment and dedication to make happen. I can't just decide to pick and go on a whim. We watch the prices of trips, and when they get down to a point that we can swing that's when we book. I face a lot of questions about why I choose to travel with my girls and the truth is that I see the value in exploring other areas, and other ways of life. As someone who studies people the value of travelling is undeniable. The memories that we have created on our travels is of the utmost importance to our family, and I simply cannot imagine it any other way.

Living in BC visits to Victoria and Vancouver are common occurrences, yet reaching farther from our home region remains elusive.

To Prime Minister Trudeau and his cabinet, I hope that you follow through on the promise to help bring the cost of air travel down in |Canada to make travel more accessible for the masses. There are so many beautiful, significant locations to visit with Canada that people are missing out on, and my heart feels sad knowing that so many Canadians miss out on the opportunity to visit these locations.

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

Spending a Year in the Life of the Gilmore Girls brings audiences back to Stars Hollow, nearly ten years after the CW show wrapped in 2007. A lot has changed, or has it?

The four episodes made me laugh, smile, grimace and cry throughout, touching on all of my emotions repeatedly. Returning characters were perfect, and the surprise appearance by Sookie (Melissa McCarthey) was amazing! There was so much publicity prior to the show airing that some sort of scandal had occurred that saw her left out of the show so it was a pleasant surprise to see it was just hype. Hooray for best friends being reunited. And hooray for finally getting married! Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Luke (Scott Patterson) I'm talking to you!

All these years later I still have no idea how Alexis Bledel (Rory) and Lauren Graham manage their mile a minute dialogue sessions!

While I could sit here and give a recap of the six hours of Netflix programming I won't. I wanted to throw my two cents into the debate over whether the surprise ending, and those now infamous last four words:
"Mom"
"Yes?"
"I'm pregnant."

And then wrap on the series. A collective gasp was heard across the internet at those four words. I predicted that those words were coming, and Rory's scene with her Dad, Christopher, set the scene perfectly. In my view, Rory wasn't looking for justification for her book, and why her life worked out the way it did with her Mom because it was always meant to be just the two of them.

This scene perfectly answers Rory's fears, and nervousness at becoming a single parent. Her father gives her the understanding that yes she can, and she will be a great mother, regardless of whether there is a father in the picture.

A simple google search will bring up many opinions on the way A Year in the Life ended. And while I understand the frustration that an unexpected pregnancy may be a cop out in the end, it isn't a death sentence for Rory, it won't put an end to her career. When I say career, I mean her writing career, not her journalism career as she has already pretty much closed the door there. Why should Rory's projection be any different than that of so many others in the world? I myself have changed my career path numerous times in my life, and so it really doesn't seem strange to me that she would follow a new pathway. Things happen in life, life sucks sometimes. You pick yourself, and start over. Rory starting over is a beautiful thing, and her baby will give her further purpose to dust herself off.

One thing that I wouldn't agree with would be if Rory keeps the pregnancy a secret from the father, but please understand this. Rory's pregnancy, while unplanned does not spell the end of her life. She will be just as successful in her life with a baby as she would be without.

Of course the question still remains, who is the father? Will we ever know? Will there be a second season? Because surely there is a lot of really hilarious material available to follow Rory through her pregnancy and the birth of her daughter (because we all know she'll have a girl!).

In the end the mini-series did exactly what it set out to do. It gave us a glimpse into the world of the Gilmore Girls, and something that I wish other shows would do (Roswell!!! Did they seriously just spend the rest of their lives driving around in the van saving lives, and doing good deeds?).

Were the four episodes perfect? There were some things that didn't quite make sense, and didn't fit within the confines of the characters that we remember, but we also need to remember that people do change in 10 years, and so maybe the changes aren't that far fetched. I took great pleasure in Emily's (Kelly Bishop) rapidly expanding household as her maid Berta's (Rose Abdoo) entire extended family moved in.

Its Back - Fuller House Season Two Preview

This post may contain spoilers! Continue at your own risk!

Logging onto my Netflix account I was surprised to see that Season 2 of Netflix's hit show Fuller House would go live today, December 9th. There wasn't nearly as much fan fare surrounding the release as there was for season 1, perhaps as viewers are still digesting Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, Fuller House Season 2 managed to stay under the radar.

2016 appears to be the year of the remake with fan favourite shows making their comebacks. Fuller House Season 1 premiered February 26, 2016, early December we saw Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, and now Season 2 of Fuller House is gracing our devices just in time for winter storm binge watching.

If you ask this 90s obsessed Mom (its true - you should see my playlist - Spice Girls anyone? You know you wanna!) the popularity of Girl Meets World in 2014 most definitely fueled this reboot rush.  The Boy Meets World cast made a triumphant return to the small screen, and we were reunited with Topanga, Cory and of course Shawn!

If the TV gods are listening ...psst... Roswell ...psst... Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Photo credit: Netflix.ca
Fuller House Season 2 comes back with a roar as we join our favourite dysfunctional, yet completely loveable family as they close out 2016. DJ (Cameron Bure) has finally made a decision on the big Steve (Scott Weinger) vs Matt (John Brotherton) cliffhanger from last season, though her heart is broken when she finds out the newly formed best friend union have moved on without her.

Stephanie's (Jodie Sweeten) storyline follows an unlikely union between her and Kimmy's younger brother, Jimmy (Adam Hagenbuch). The possibility of becoming the next Mrs. Gibler looms, but only if she can overcome her commitment issues. But seriously - they are so stinking cute together! A match made in heaven!

Kimmy's (Andrea Barber) storyline is vague to be honest, and doesn't appear to have a true arc to it. She is along for the ride, interjecting humour when needed. There could be so much more here, but the potential is squandered on cheap laughs.

There is of course the continued jabs at the missing Olson twins, Mary Kate and Ashley this time at Thanksgiving dinner with Uncle Jesse (John Stamos) looking right into the camera and calling their absense out.

As with all reboots making the rounds, cameos from original cast members reign supreme, and of course Danny, Becky, Jesse and Joey all return, and not just in human form.

The New Kids on the Block have a wildly awkward encounter with the she-wolf pack which could very well be the highlight of the entire season. While I was never really on the New Kids on the Block bandwagon, their presence in this episode was enjoyable, and the constant use of their song titles in their dialogue was bang on. 

Flashbacks to the past hold onto the nostalgia that the show is built upon. I have to admit that the first kiss montage had me laughing out loud, and the she-wolf pack continues to reign supreme as they adopt a new member, Kimmy's daughter Ramona. Please - someone make me an honorary member of the She-Wolf Pack (Arrooo).

While the returning cast members are a blast from the past, the truth is that it is the new cast members, Ramona (Soni Bringas), Jackson (Michael Campion), Max (Elias Harger), Matt and yes, even Fernando (Juan Pablo Di Pace) that breathe fresh air into the series and their storylines are what kept me watching.

While season 2 was enjoyable, the nostalgia factor is running out. Season 1 capitalized on the nostalgia of catching up with a piece of our childhood. Finding out where the Tanner family ended up after the show ended fueled interest in the project. That draw was the reason why so many flocked to Netflix to binge watch the full 13 episode season.

The writers have left the finale of season 2 wide open for a third season with the door not being fully closed on DJ and Steve, even though he's engaged to CJ, and DJ is with Matt (and can we just talk about how swoon worthy Matt is?). While the third season hasn't yet been picked up I hope that the writers dig in and find a way to keep the show going by forming a future for these characters instead of focusing on the past. Eventually the nostalgia will wear off, and the show will crumble and fall.

30 Days of Photos - dayNINE

Another day, another craft to showcase! This is the one time of the year that I feel such a draw to crafting, probably because as Christmas draws closer I have more time to sit down and spend crafting.

This one was created by Miss Malie, she painted a mason jar on the inside with a purple paint, and then filled the jar with indoor/outdoor solar lights. Using the sparkle setting this craft creates an amazingly effective decoration that is suitable for all year long. I love how it looks cosmic!

See you tomorrow for dayTEN!

30 Days of Photos - dayEIGHT!

I've always been jealous as we made our way around town seeing beautiful trees in the window, and so this year I made sure that we placed our tree in the front. I love this pencil tree from Michael's! Gorgeous, and it takes up so much less space, yet keeps with the festive feel!

Thank for stopping bye!

See you tomorrow for dayNINE!

30 Days of Photos - Day Seven

Continuing on with the Christmas/Winter Themed crafts, and thanks to the generosity of friends for providing us with a metric butt load of glass jars for our projects we present to you Christmas tree in a jar!

Really simple to do, and created with dollar store items, this wire tree is a repurposed tree ornament, the small wooden blocks were painted, and then tied with embroidery floss to make them look like colourful presents. A smidgen of salt in the jar it looks like a winter wonderland!

This craft is brought to you by the lovely Miss Malie who designed it, painted it, and put it together. The only thing this Optimistic Mama did was help tie the ribbons!

Yes, I totally did take the jar apart for this picture - the picture of the scene from the outside of the jar just wasn't it doing it justice.

Stay tuned as we create more magic in jars!

See you tomorrow for dayEIGHT!

30 Days of Photos - Day Six

A girl and her borrowed dog. We are a cat household - and so when we get the urge to hang out with a puppy we borrow one from our neighbour. These two girls are best neighbour buds - and enjoy spending their lazy afternoons together.

See you tomorrow for day seven!

30 Days of Photos - Day Five

And the snow continues! Why does it hate me so?

Loving this picture of the sun coming up behind Shq'apthut: A Gathering Place at Vancouver Island University.

See you tomorrow for Day Six!

30 Days of Photos - Day Four

Day four of photos! Winter has finally arrived on BC's West Coast, and man is it cold! Thankfully not too much snow on the ground yet, but it is definitely on its way. This Optimistic Mama will be hibernating inside the house until further notice. Please wake me up when Winter Ends!

Props to my "snow-model" Miss Malie!

See you tomorrow for Day Five!!!!


30 Days of Photos - Day Three

Welcome back for day three and a super fun craft project for kids!

This homemade snowflake window cling was made by using a colouring book stencil, a plastic sleeve and 3D paint from Michael's Craft Store. I love how it turned out, and the vibrant colours are perfect for sprucing up our windows with our very own creations!

See you tomorrow for Day 4!


30 Days of Photos- Day Two

Day two of the 30 Days of Photos brings you Twelfth Birthday Shenanigans! Hard to believe that I'm the mother of a 12 year old. Dear child, please don't be taller than me!


See you tomorrow for day three!

30 Days of Photos - Day One

Finishing off the year with a 30 Day Photo Challenge!

This has been a long year, a tedious semester and I'm looking forward to 2017!

Celebrating International Day of Persons With Disabilities on campus! What an amazing day! This was my second year helping out, Malie's first. It was a long day but so worth it!

See you tomorrow for day two!

Chronicles of the Worst Neighbour Ever

Somehow, of all the possible neighbours a girl could end up with I ended up with the neighbour from hell. The variety that pounds on their ceiling anytime you walk across the floor (OMG the audacity of us thinking we have the right to walk around our home right?).

Yesterday as I sat on the floor with my youngest working on homework, the neighbour from hell started pounding away on the ceiling. Surely there's holes all over the place by now! We were sitting. Just sitting. Not butt scooting around the living room. Not playing leap frog. Not playing the drums on the floor. We were sitting. Quietly working our way through math equations. Pounding on the ceiling was 100% uncalled for.

And even if she did have just cause to pound on the ceiling like a madwoman, she still has no right to disturb our family like that during the day. She knows that there's a family of 3 living up here. That should not be a surprise. We have the right to walk around the house. I'm a considerate neighbour. We keep the noise to a minimum, we observe times of the day, but she cannot expect a young family to be quiet as mice.

How terribly sad that her life is so lacking that she has nothing better to do than harrass us? I live in fear of her next outburst. Constantly worried about how much noise we're making. I have stress hives because of her!

When she's not pounding on the ceiling her tv is blaring so loudly its deafening. All hours of the day and night. I can't sleep at night because of the racket. Maybe I should pound on the floor to let her know how dismayed I am with the volume of her tv (haha). How can she even hear us over her tv anyway? I can barely hear myself think!

Don't even get me started on the dogs that she may or may not have. Why may she or may she not have dogs? No one has ever seen them! But boy oh boy do they bark! All day, and all night. They never leave the house. She never walks them. Never lets them out in the yard. If she does infact have dogs and not just repeatedly playing a recording they're obviously using the inside of her unit as their bathroom! Can you say yuck?

I have compiled a list of her grievances against me:

  • She didn't pay her tv and internet bill, and I wouldn't let her piggy back on mine
  • I caught her illegally entering my unit, taking food and had the locks changed to protect my family
  • She refused to pay her portion of the hydro bill and so the landlord started collecting it from her
  • We don't wear pillows strapped to our feet when we move around the house
  • I refuse to use compost bags as I believe they're bad for the environment. (How very first world of us to grow corn so we can turn it into bags to throw out our food in!)
  • I refused to be bullied into not sharing garbage day
  • I made friends with her enemy, who lives next door!
  • I do laundry at 6pm at night (the horror!)
  • The landlord didn't clean up the carport after he did renos on our place and that's my fault apparently
  • We have to walk past her bedroom window to get to the backyard which we have every right to do
And the list goes on!

Worst neighbour in the history be gone! I banish thee!

Tell me your worst neighbour stories!

The Secret World of Amazon Reviews

As a single mother to two gorgeous girls, its not always possible for us to have all of the nicest things, and still manage to pay for everything else. So when I was invited to do reviews on Amazon I was like "yeah! Totally!" and things were really good for a time. We were able to review some amazing products, at a fraction of the retail price and truth be told it can be really exciting. I've heard people review to Amazon reviewing as "Christmas in July". While exciting some issues have recently come to light, and Amazon has completely overhauled the review system on Amazon.com (and one can only guess that the changes will be rolled out across the board to other countries too).

One of the biggest issues that I've found with doing reviews on Amazon is that other reviewers tend to get really upset when other reviewers get cool things, and they don't. What happens then is a whole new world of bullying. Yes, I said bullying. Amazon bullies are a whole new breed (much like the Math Bully that Sammy mulled over in Dance Academy!).

You see, you have the opportunity to up vote and down vote reviews. Up votes increase the ranking of the reviewer, down votes are very, very bad, and your ranking can be completely destroyed. Other reviewers feel entitled to go and down vote others, in a bid to improve their own ranking. Some reviewers even have secondary accounts to do the down voting from so that their primary accounts don't get flagged. And even worse than that there are companies out there that you can pay to down vote your "competition". You can even pay those companies to up vote your own reviews. You also end up with companies who will pay to have reviews on their own products up voted to increase their ranking, and have competing products down voted. THIS IS INSANE!

As a result of all these issues, and recent poor publicity in regards to the free reviews, Amazon.com has forbidden any reviews being done on products that are received for free or discounted. Previous to that you were required to place a disclosure at the end of your review advising shoppers that you had gotten the item for free or discounted.

While I can understand the reasoning behind making the decision to change the structure, I also feel that it isn't entirely fair to punish the masses for the actions of a few. If Amazon wants to fix things they should take away the ability to downvote, and upvote. Base Amazon product ranking solely on the number of units purchased, not on the number of four and five star reviews, compared to one and two star reviews.

When I write Amazon reviews it is hard work. It can take hours a day to be an efficient reviewer. Why? Well first you need to find the products to review. Properly test the products, take photographs of the products and sit down and write out a well thought out review. This is why the vindictiveness of other reviewers really gets to me, and it really has to stop.

Is being an Amazon Reviewer kind of like having a part time job? Well in the hours required most definitely, and while there are some high value products out there on the market, I've written my fair share of reviews on screen protectors. You will not get rich, or make any money at all doing Amazon reviews!!!

There are consumers now who feel that product reviews for products received for free, or discounted shouldn't be allowed on Amazon, and that's a tough pill to swallow for many reviewers. When we put our heart and soul into reviews we fill many positions within the cycle. Product testers, quality control, and reviewer. The feedback that we provide goes right back to the company so that they can correct any issues with the products. We work hard, and its entirely unfair to assume that reviewers are just out to get all the free stuff (much like I'm out to get ALL THE POKEMON!). Its actually enjoyable, and exciting, and I look at myself as being more of a consumer advocate.

Is reviewing products any different on Amazon then lets say a blog? I don't think it is. I have never in all my years of reviewing on my blog (eight years!), or in the past four months on Amazon, ever misrepresented a product. If a product is great it will get a great rating, if it isn't great it will get a poor rating, and well if its simply mediocre it gets a mediocre ranking.

I think its time for everyone to put on their big girl, or big boy, panties and focus on uplifting each other instead of trying to bring each other down. In general as women, and as human beings we place our self worth in comparison to others. You shouldn't have to bring others down around you to feel better about yourself. And well, if you do, you might need to take a long hard look at your life and figure out why that is.

End of rant. Stepping off of my soap box. For now.

Simplifying Christmas Decorations - A Review

Hello friends! I am so excited right now that I'm literally dancing in my chair (yes, I realize that I am in truth very, very uncool). Why am I so happy? I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to review the Red and Blue Laser Light Projector by UP UPKJ. From the very first time I saw a laser light projector at Christmas I have coveted one, but it has never been in my budget and so my house has gone bare. I am a natural born disaster, and so me and ladders do not go hand and hand, and above and beyond that my Mom was always so critical of poorly designed/executed light displays, so I've been a little scared to try (sorry Mom!). Thanks to this projector I have a fool proof way to decorate my house, and simplify the holiday stress.

This projector comes complete with a remote control, stand and stake. With the remote control you can cycle through a tonne (okay maybe not an actual tonne!) of lighting choices, red lights, blue lights, or both red and blue, and select the speed that you want the lasers to cycle through at. The designs are fantastic and are whimsical. I found that the cord was actually really long, and if we had an outside outlet it would be sufficient in length. Unfortunately, we do not have and outlet outside so we have to use an extension cord to power our projector.

See the awesome and amazing video below to see the light show from this projector!

video
At the time of posting this Laser Light Projector retails for $107.99 which is a great deal if you ask me! Christmas lights are going to cost you at least that much! And then those same Christmas lights are going to require you to climb a ladder, and when you realize you forgot to grab the staple gun, climb back down the ladder, and then back up the ladder. After all that work, an entire afternoon you will step back to admire your handy work and realize that everything is lopsided! Or even worse, that you forgot to check to make sure the lights worked before putting them up, and discover that they're dead. In the end you'll go into your house, defeated, and pull up Amazon and order this projector, which you will then be able to install in your yard in less than a minute and be set. Why not save yourself all of the struggle and frustration in the first place?

Disclaimer
I did receive this Laser Light Projector at a reduced price (not for free!) in exchange for my honest, unbiased review. As always, rest assured, that all opinions expressed are my own and have not been influenced in any way!



Top VR Apps for Android with a Review

The exciting world of Virtual Reality has hit out household and we are absolutely loving it. I've been watching as Virtual Reality headsets became more and more popular, but was quite shocked by the prices when they first hit the market. Given the fact that I have limited resources I was super excited when given the opportunity to review Creaker's Virtual Reality 3D glasses from Amazon. The only downside? We only have one pair and my girls have been fighting over who gets to use them. Oh those girls!

What I really like about the Creaker Virtual Reality glasses is that the headset itself is built exceptionally well. The headset is simple to use, and I feel like my phone is well protected within. Setting up the headset for the first time is as easy as downloading your apps, and then placing your phone inside the door within the supports. When you clip the door closed you are set up and ready to go. Inside the unit is a soft foam that is designed to gently move your phone towards the lenses, protecting it from damage, and ensuring that you have the best viewing experience possible by positioning your phone properly.

When I first opened the box and saw the headset I was a little bit surprised at the size of the unit, and e headset is designed to fit many different sizes. My Samsung Galaxy S7 fit inside perfectly, and I was thankful that it comes with an additional piece that allows you to adjust the inside view to accommodate smaller phones as well, like my daughter's iPhone 5S. On the underside of the headset there are two sliding switches that allow you to adjust the view to fit your pupils. Super handy, especially when we are sharing the headset in our household.
to be 100% honest, I was a little concerned about how comfortable it would be to wear. When I pulled it out of the box and started inspecting it I was immediately impressed with how light it actually is, and my initial fears were alleviated. The reason the headset is so large (I can only assume) is that that because it does fit a large assortment of phone sizes.

One note (and yes you can laugh at my misfortune). I do not recommend doing the Virtual Reality Roller Coaster featured on this list before bedtime! Oh my goodness did it make me sick, and I wasn't able to settle down for bed for quite some time afterwards.

If there was to one adjustment that I would like to see with future headsets would be to have a trigger button located directly on the headset to allow you to play the games easier. You can of course buy a controller for the headset, and it wasn't the end of the world. The headset is still very functional, but would be more so with a trigger button.

You can buy your very own pair of Creaker VR Glasses through Amazon! As of the time of posting they are offered at $19.99 Canadian, and will ship for free with Amazon Prime. I think that this headset would make the perfect Christmas present, especially at the current price!!! Please note - that there are no affiliate links featured in this post!

I received the Creaker Virtual Reality 3D Glasses at a reduced price to help facilitate my honest and unbiased review. All opinions expressed are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

And without further ado, I present The Optimistic Beauty's list of our Favourite VR Apps from the Play Store!

1. VR Space Adventure (This is a Google Cardboard App - but works on all VR Headsets). I love the fact that this app is grounded in education and allows you to learn about the different planets in our solar system, and also to explore them "on the ground". Very, very cool! The Mom and the geek in me rate this as my number one pic!


2. VR Roller Coaster. This app features two different options, a day time ride and a night time ride. It could also be renamed "The Roller Coaster Ride That Made Jaime Sick" because it's just that amazingly lifelike!

3. |Crazy Swing VR. This is one of the first that I downloaded and tried and it was actually pretty great. I was surprised at just how real everything seemed, especially when the swing goes upside down!

4. Jurassic VR. Take a ride through the Jurassic riding on a dinosaur. You had me at dinosaur! You have two options, free riding and dino joyride. Free riding you explore on your own, while the dino joyride follows a preselected course.

5. Spaceout.VR. This app is a little different but it does offer more than just spacing out. I travelled to a library in Bogoto, Columbia which was pretty cool! I also really like the option to "Spaceout" where you can actually travel through space!

Bonus App!  VR Mac-Pan. If you're like me and grew up playing PacMan you'll love this game where you get to get to be PacMan and travel through the maze. There are only three levels, but it is a pretty neat trip down memory lane. This game isn't official PacMan but its still pretty neat and I like it. It didn't make my Top 5 list, but it was definitely close.




If You Were Me and Lived In... Elizabethan England - Book Review


Carole P Roman is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors, and not just for my girls either. I actually thoroughly enjoy reading her books on my own, but also as a family activity. The books bring history alive and really do provide kids with an eye opening journey through what life would have been like for them during various time periods. We have a small collection of these books now including If You Were Me and Live in ...Elizabethan England ...Ancient Greece ...Viking Europe and ...the Middle Ages (see my review of If You Were me and Lived in... the Middle Ages here)

This book is pretty spectacular in the amount of details that are given, and the attention to details. Through the journey that Roman takes you on you learn about how would have dressed in Elizabethan England, if you would have gone to school (called a Petty - thank you Carole for this tidbit of information), where you would have lived, what you would do for fun, and how you would pay for items.

Unlike history books this book brings the story in an accessible manner making these books appropriate for young readers, right up to adults. They are jam packed with details, and makes history exciting to the reader. |When you have the opportunity to envision yourself in the shoes of the narrator it really opens up your imagination on what life would have been like. With all of the modern conveniences that we have it can be nice to think back to what things must have been like before we eagerly awaited the release of the newest iPhone.

This book features artwork by Paula Tabor, and is quite a bit different than the artwork found in the other books by Roman that we have in our collection. This book features pictures that are much more realistic, and less whimsical versus the other books. The decision to use less whimsical artwork in this particular version actually lends itself very well to the Elizabethan Era.

If You Were Me and Live In...Elizabethan England features pictures of, and short bios of eight people from the time period that you really should know. I find the small additions to the book to be absolutely amazing, and when coupled with the glossary give readers just the right amount of information, and jumping off points for further exploration.

I received a copy of If You Were Me and Live In...Elizabethan England from the publisher to help facilitate my honest, and unbiased review. As always, all opinions expressed are my own, and have not been influenced in any way.

If You Were Me and Lived in...Middle Ages - Book Review

I'm so honored and excited to review If You Were Me and Lived...in the Middle Ages by Carole P. Roman for you today. This book is volume 6 in the If You Were Me series, an absolutely amazing series for young scholars.

What I love about this book is the glimpse that readers get at what life was like in the Middle Ages. The illustrations in this book are lovely, whimsical additions to the story and form a great jumping off point for discussion with your young ones. They compliment the story without being over bearing.

Young readers are gifted with the opportunity to learn about where they might live, the food that they might eat and the clothing they might wear (to mention a few) if they lived in the Middle Ages. The book doesn't shy away from new words, and features a glossary that gives definitions, and provides a pronunciation guide too. This is so valuable for young readers, and really makes this book compatible for many age groups. Both my eleven and ten year old daughters were enthralled with this book, especially my eleven year old who often daydreams about living in another time. This book encourages learning without making it seem like you're getting a history lesson.

I find that If You Were Me and Lived...In the
Middle Ages really takes into account the importance of developing reading comprehension and provides parents with many opportinities to engage in meaningful conversation with their children. Its a great introduction to history and and can help pave the way to further exploration.

This book is the perfect addition to your home library, as well as any classroom, with additional value for home schoolers. You can buy this book, as well as other books by Carole P. Roman through Amazon!

☆ I received a promotional copy of this book in order to facilitate my unbiased and honest review. As always this review is comprised of my honest experiences and has not been influenced in any way ☆

2-in-1 Ionic Hair Straightener Brush Review

Hello friends! I am so excited to be given the opportunity to review the 2 in 1 PTC Heating Ionic Hair Straightener Brush by Tec. Bean. Hair straightening brushes hit the market awhile back and every time a friend posted about them I was like, "I need to try that!" But I was worried that the brush wouldn't work as well as we needed it to. For those of you familiar with the Optimistic Beauty Family we are a family a girls. It can take us seemingly forever to get out the door in the morning (and let me tell you, it seems to take even longer when we're running late!). Anything that we can do to shave a couple of minutes off our time leaving the house is a great thing!

The results are in and we absolutely love this brush! It works surprisingly well, and I am 100% sold! I am not joking, or exaggerating at all when I say that we were absolutely shocked at the results we got as we were using the brush. Beyond my wildest expectations for sure!

One of the most interesting aspects of this hair straightening brush to me is that fact that it utilizes Ionic technology to help lock in moisture and reduce frizz. I have to completely honest that up until I received this straightener brush I had never even realized that ionic technology was a thing. The manufacturer recommends that after plugging the device in you push the button for ionic first, brush through your hair, and then after you've completed the process proceed to straightening your hair. I was thoroughly impressed with the defrizzing process, and think its absolutely the bees knees!

Included in the box are the straightening brush, instructions and a heat protecting glove. I found that the heat protecting glove wasn't necessary, though it is definitely nice to have, especially if you have younger children who will be using this product.


In side of the brush bristles are tiny little heating plates that do all the heavy lifting. I was absolutely amazed at how quickly I was able to straighten my hair, and my youngest daughter's hair. We both have naturally wavy hair, and this brush worked wonders for us. I was thoroughly impressed with the fact that my hair stays straight all day long, even with the humidity that plagues us in the summer months. With use of the Ionic function and then straightening my hair looks great, super shiny, and healthy which makes me jump for joy. I love doing my hair, but I find that finding the time to do it in the morning can be a struggle. This brush really does make my life so much easier.

My oldest daughter has lovely, unruly, and tough to tame hair (sorry Tala, but your hair has a mind of its own!). The brush while it did definitely straighten her hair, the process took much longer than it did with Malie and my hair, and the end result simply wasn't as straight as it would have been using a straightening iron. With all honesty though, it can take upwards of 20 minutes to have significant results with a straightening iron, and even then her hair tends to bounce back within a few hours anyway, so I'm not exactly surprised that her hair fought back so hard.

While Tala's hair didn't come out as straight as it would have with a straightening iron it did come out very smooth, very shiny, and did not look burnt like a straightener can tend to do to your hair. Also missing? Those little heat ridges that tend to pop up at the top of your head! With the quickness of the process I can't help but believe that this straightener brush is much better for your hair and the condition of it. Being able to straighten my hair in a couple minutes in the morning is a huge plus for this busy Mom.

The digital display on the brush is easy to read, and the brush itself is very user friendly. The brush has a top temperature of 230 degrees Celsius (446 degrees Fahrenheit), with the lowest temperature being 150 degrees Celcius (300 degrees Fahrenheit). The instruction guide gives you recommended temperatures for use on different types of hair, including bleached, dyed, or thick and super curly hair which is super helpful in ensuring that you aren't damaging your hair.

I am super impressed with this Hair Straightener Brush, and am so thankful to have had the opportunity to try it out! You can buy your very own on Amazon.ca. Don't forget that with Amazon Prime your order ships for free!

What is your favourite way to shave time off of your morning routine?



*I received this item at a reduced price/for free in order to facilitate my honest and unbiased review. All opinions expressed are my own, and have not been influenced in any way*



Where have all the good shows gone?

Pet Peeve. When network executives decide a show isn't well performing and subsequently cancel it, with no warning, and so the story line is left hanging. This drives me crazy. Recently I've noticed a trend in this happening, especially with shows on Netflix. Picture this, you get all cozy, find a show on Netflix, binge watch it, and it just ends. There's no closure. Its cruel and unusual punishment.

Case in point. The Returned. An A&E show based on the French version, Les Revenants. The story follows residents of a small town who died many years ago and have suddenly started reappearing, and catalogues the confusion and hurt that results from their return. The returned have not aged at all, and attempt to rejoin their lives, even though their loved ones have moved on without them. The main character Camille (played by India Ennega) is a twin, and it is fascinating to see her interaction with her twin sister who has since grown up. The Returned also features Rhys Ward who I consider to be one of the most underrated actors on the scene right now. He was genius as Atom in The 100, and did not fail to deliver in his role as Adam in The Returned. Plus he's a Canadian so that makes him even more awesome! Anyway, you get to episode 10 and something huge in the town is about to happen, something that will have major repercussions for the residents, and the show just ends. There isn't any more. Yes, you can watch Les Revenants on Netflix, subtitles necessary for those of us not fluent in French, but the story line arc is different, and wasn't as enthralling as that of the A&E version. As an added plus The Returned was filmed in Squamish, BC, so it was awesome to be able to see all the landmarks that are so familiar to me!

Terra Nova is another example of show ending suddenly. It was an amazing show, a science fiction/fantasy show where residents of the year 2149 travel through a portal to prehistoric earth in order to try and save man kind. The story line takes place is an alternate universe, complete with dinosaurs, and all of the dangers that come with that time period. While the residents of Terra Nova think that they are helping build a sustainable future, big bad oil has their hand in the mix and there is an ulterior motive, and the residents of Terra Nova need to fight for survival, and to preserve their new home. Unlike The Returned, Terra Nova did make it through the first season of the show, and we did end up with some closure, but we will never know what is in the badlands as executives decided that making the show was too expensive, and not justifiable with the ratings of the show.

Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23. Can we just take a minute to reflect on the comedic genius of James Van Der Beek who plays himself in this show?  Amazeballs! The show follows a naive small town girl, June, as she moves to New York City and her world collapses around her. In desperation she finds  roommate Chloe (the B---- in Apartment 23) and their two worlds collide. James Van Der Beek is Chloe's best friend, and his Dawson's Creek fame provides so much comedic material the show could have continued on much longer than it did. ABC simply decided not to air the final episodes of season 2, leaving far too many questions at the end of the season. Luckily the final episodes are available on Netflix (though the episodes are out of order in season two which makes for some confusion about the story lines).

Have any of your favourite shows been cancelled too soon? Please share!

Oh yes I did

I posted a picture of myself wearing a bathing suit on the internet, and immediately I sat here going, "did I seriously just post a picture of myself wearing a bathing suit on the internet?" And well yes I suppose I did, and I won't apologize for it.

I realize that my body shape doesn't fit within the societal definition of perfect. I am not a size 2. But the picture is amazing, and it fulfills the need that I posted it for. It isn't a political statement, or a form of protest against unfair beauty standards, it simply fit the post I was working on.  I needed a post from our trip to Puerto Vallarta and it just happened that we spent the majority of our time in bathing suits on the beach, or snorkeling, boat riding and swimming with dolphins (yes, we swam with dolphins, yes it was an amazing educational experience, and yes I realize many are against dolphins in captivity).
When I sat down to think about it, I had to wonder what I was really worried about. The picture was posted on my Facebook page previously and there was no negativity from my friends demanding that I take it down. There were no reports of anyone losing their eyesight, or needing counselling after viewing the picture. In fact the picture, as well as others from our trip, was well received.

Why would the opinions of random people on the internet who I've never even met matter so much? And in reality it doesn't. There will always be haters. I am a work in progress. I will always be a work in progress, and I'm okay with that.

We had a great trip to Puerto Vallarta, and our photographs commemorate the memories that we made as a family. Bathing suit or not the pictures are awesome and I'm tired of feeling ashamed of my body.

To all the haters out there, I'm not listening.

Travel Bucket List

Over the past two years my girls and I have had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places. The travel bug hit us on a trip to Puerto Vallarta and the desore to travel and see more of the world hasn't let up since. Whether we're travelling in Canada, the US, into Mexico or hopefully to another continent its a great way for us to make memories, and grow as people. Experiencing different ways of life changes you. After returning home you are not the same person that you were when you left.

While we have done some travelling there
On Broadway in New York
are just so many more places that we would like to visit. This post contains our bucket list of trips, and will be revised from time to time as bucket lists tend to do. As we travel destinations will be marked off our list, and as our horizons grow new destinations will be added.

I hope that this post can serve as inspiration to you! Both as a list of possible destinations, but more as proof that you can travel. Families, single parents, childless couples, and yes, even those of you who are unattached.

Visited:
Puerto Vallarta
Ixtapa
New York, NY
Vancouver, BC

Dream Destinations:

Roswell, New Mexico! - I know, I know. But we are awfully obsessed with aliens and visiting Roswell has been a dream for myself and Malie since well before the travel bug bit us.

Montréal, Quebec - definitely a trip to make once in our lifetimes...especially as I have a daughter in French Immersion!

Atlantic Canada - aside from having an Auntie who lives on the East Coast, I feel drawn to the archaeological and historical site of L'Anse Aux Meadows! The first viking settlement in Canada. What an amazing opportunity it would be to visit it.

Australia - a dream trip for all three of us. My girls dream of visiting the Sydney Opera House!

Mayan Riviera/Cancun - as an anthropology/archaeology student visitong the Mayan Riviera is a huge must go trip for me! Visiting the ruins and immersing in the culture would be the most amazing oportunity of my life

Los Cabos - I have a feeling that I was born on the wrong end of North America! Mexico is a location that I could visit over and over and feel more at home each time we go there

Japan - Cherry Blossom Festival. Need I say more?

Europe! - my dream would be to spend time traveling around Europe!  Plus my dance monster (I mean lovely girl) dreams of the Royal Ballet! How amazing would it be to spend the summer there while Tala attends the summer program at the Royal? So amazing!

You Guys Make My Heart Soar

Yes! One of those weepy, emotional posts.
Its hard to believe that its been 8 years, 885 posts, and today a milestone of views hit. While many others would celebrate at 100,000, 150,000 or the similar, today I celebrate 111,111!

As a blogger the road has been paved with many ups and downs. There have been amazing giveaways, posts outlining my pride as a parent to two amazing girls, and posts outlining the struggles that I face as a single parent, and as a human. We have travelled, we have celebrated, and we have lost.

One of my favourite posts in the past year outlined an unselfish deed by my then nine year old, Miss Malie. A post that quite to my surprise, and to her delight drew attention from her favourite artist, one Bif Naked.

Today I would like to say thank you for giving me a platform in which to have a voice, and share my view of the world. I look forward to many more stories shared, I have a list seemingly a mile long with ideas for posts.

If you have any suggestions for blog posts that you'd love to see please leave me a comment!!!

Top Picks - Musical Theatre Solo Songs for 12 and Under

Tala performing Broadway Baby
As the summer draws to an end the inevitable happens. Young dancers are drawn back to the studio, unless of course those dancers are like my oldest who never really left the studio for the summer.  With the return to the dance studio comes the onslaught of solo and duet choreography. Tala has already managed to finish choreo on a solo and a duet, and is starting choreo on two more solos this week (my poor pocketbook I know!).

Tala as Mary Poppins
Solos are a great way for the young dancer to build up their confidence and perfect their craft. Quite often with the one on one time with their teacher technique will progress rapidy, and as added bonus they have the opportunity to learn new tricks too!

Many studios like to leave song choice up to the dancer as they feel that the dancer needs to feel connected to their music to perform their best. Yet picking a song can be daunting task, especially for a Musical Theatre solo!

This list features my favourite musical theatre solos for kids under the age of 12! I've left out songs like My Favourite Things (Sound of Music) and Tomorrow (Annie) and instead added lesser used songs from the same show. I also focused on songs that give young performers a lot to work with as far as characterization.

1. Castle on a Cloud - Les Miserable
2. Shroeder's Song - You're a Good Man Charlie Brown
3. Naughty - Matilda
4. Maybe - Annie (this list wouldn't be complete without a song from Annie!)
5. Born to Entertain - Ruthless
6. Alone in the Universe - Suessical, the Musical
7. Higher - Allegiance
8. Les Poissons - The Little Mermaid
9. I Have Confidence - The Sound of Music
10. I'm the Greatest Star - Funny Girl

Hopefully these songs give you some danspiration!

Did I leave any of your favourite songs off the list?