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Minecraft Story Mode from Telltale Games #HGG2015 {giveaway}

Who doesn’t love Minecraft? Well, other than those of us older folks who just don’t seem to get it and can’t handle the graphics. The whole game hurts my eyes. But Boo, his friends, and pretty much every kid I know just love it. Well, the original game from Mojang has now been taken in a new direction by Telltale Games, in collaboration with Mojang and members of the Minecraft community.

Minecraft - Apps on Google Play

Sometime in October, Boo came to me all excited and told me he absolutely had to have “Minecraft Story Mode.” He had some money to spend, so I brought him to the game store and he went up to ask about it. Apparently we were 2 days early for its release. He was so bummed. The next day, coincidentally, I got an email asking if we’d like to review the game. Heck yeah! Mom of the Year, right here ??


Minecraft Story Mode is actually a series of five episodes that are being released sequentially. The style is true to Minecraft – blocks and pixels – but it is much easier for my old eyes and it looks great. But this version of the game is driven by a narrative, and a quest to save the world.

In Minecraft: Story Mode, playing as either a male or female hero named ‘Jesse,’ you’ll embark on a perilous adventure across the Overworld, through the Nether, to the End, and beyond. You and your friends revere the legendary Order of the Stone: Warrior, Redstone Engineer, Griefer, and Architect; slayers of the Ender Dragon. While at EnderCon in hopes of meeting Gabriel the Warrior, Jesse’s friends discover that something is wrong… something dreadful. Terror is unleashed, and you must set out on a quest to find The Order of the Stone if you are to save your world from oblivion.


The first choice you make in the game is whether you wish to play as a male or a female, with the gender-neutral name Jesse. From there on you will make a number of choices that will direct the action and determine what happens next. Boo ripped into this as soon as it arrived and played straight through episode 1. Happily Episode 2 had already been released, so he got that for the next day. His only complaint? He wished Episode 2 were longer, because he played through it so quickly. He has since gone back and begun the play through again, making different choices to see how things change.

This is a fun take on Minecraft, adding a narrative dimension while staying true to the core features of the Minecraft universe. Pick up the disc for a great gift for any young gamer on your list, or any Minecraft fan.



Minecraft Story Mode is available for digital download on PC (Steam, Telltale Store), Playstation Network, XBox Games Store, App Store, Google Play, etc. It is also available on disc for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3. The disc will contain Episode 1 and provide a code to access upcoming episodes as they are released. The game is rated ‘E10+’ (Everyone 10+) for Fantasy Violence and Mild Language by the ESRB.

A Giveaway

Telltale Games has provided me with a download code to offer one of my readers. This code is for Steam, an online game platform that you install on your computer. The code will allow you to download Minecraft Story Mode, including all upcoming episodes as they are released. Entries are via the widget below and will be accepted until 11:59pm EST, December 20. Giveaway is open to Canadian residents only. Best of luck!

HGG2012 – A Lush-ious Holiday

We can all use a little pampering now and then. Gorgeous, uplifting or calming fragrances. Soothing oils. Masses of scrumptious bubbles in a bath. Products to clean our bodies and cleanse our minds are always a great option for holiday gift giving. We know this is true for the gals on our lists (and for ourselves), but it is true for our kids as well. Anything that encourages them to get in that tub and spend some time with the soap is a good thing.

ONE Bank Ltd.

Enter Lush Cosmetics. I love walking into their retail stores. So many aromas tickling my senses and instantly bringing on a sense of both luxury and calm. I recently visited with Little Boo for the launch of a new product – FUN! I can best describe this as a cross between play-doh and soap, with great scents, no preservatives, and a biodegradable wrapper. FUN is a 4-in-1 product, combining soap, shampoo, bubble bath, and a modelling compound for bath time play.




Available in five different colours and scents, this all-purpose bath staple will keep your kids in the tub and enjoying themselves until they are squeaky clean and smell incredible. I have been tearing off a chunk of one or two colours for Little Boo and letting him mold his creations, then suds himself up for a top to toe cleaning. He thinks FUN really is fun. FUN retails for just $6.95 for a 250g tube, and 2.5% of all sales are contributed to the FUNd, a LUSH initiative which supports charities in Fukushima, Japan that create safe places for children to play outside after the 2011 tsunami, earthquake, and nuclear disaster. This would be a great stocking stuffer for kids of all ages, and a gift that gives twice!



Of course, Lush has many other items specially designed for holiday giving and receiving.


The Captain Bubblebeard Reusable Bubble Bar ($9.95) is reminiscent of Santa’s own mustache, and is a cute way to add skin-softening bubbles to your tub. There’s some snowflake sparkle in there too.


The Ickle Baby Bot ($3.95) is designed to relax and ease your wee one to sleep, and would appeal to any young boy on your list. Robots are always a hit.




Lush also offers a wide array of gift sets, from the $11.95 Secret Santa for those office exchanges, to the Wonderful Christmastime at $199.95 for your sweetie, so there’s a gift option for all budgets and needs. You can visit to find a store near you, or to shop online (my favourite!)

A Giveaway

Now, just for you, Lush is offering one of my dear readers a special treat of their own for the holidays. I mean, I guess you could gift it but I’m pretty sure I’d keep it for myself if I won. We busy women can always use some pampering. Lush has provided one of their special gift collections, a Christmas Candy Box, which will be going out to a lucky Raising My Boys reader in Canada. This prize includes one Rock Star Soap, a 3.3 oz Snow Fairy Shower Gel, Candy Mountain Bubble Bar, Butterball Bath Bomb, and a Bubble Gum Lip Scrub. Prize retails for $39.95.

Entry is via the Rafflecopter widget below. Giveaway is open to Canadian residents only, and entries will be accepted until 12:00 midnight EDT, Nov. 30.

Walmart Canada Lends Moms a Helping Hand #PGMom

When I was pregnant with Little Boo, I did a lot of reading. A lot. I read pregnancy and baby books given to me by friends, and ones I came across at Chapters that looked good, pamphlets from my doctor’s office, everything. (My favourite pregnancy book, by the way, which I’ve recommended to many friends since, was Ann Douglas’s The Mother of All Pregnancy Books. She writes with honesty, clarity, and the wisdom of many, many real mom interviewees – accessible and sensible.)

My baby “bump” at 33 weeks

So many of the books I read recommended developing a birth plan, a description of how I wanted my labour and delivery to proceed. This is a great idea, as the process of developing your plan will involve a lot of learning about how this whole pregnancy thing ends up, and the options available to you. And, if you have a plan, you won’t be left scrambling at the 11th hour when the delivery team start asking you questions. But whatever you do, don’t get too attached to every specific of your birth plan. Labour and delivery can throw a lot of surprises at you and flexibility may be required.

About Us

My birth plan was pretty simple. I knew I wanted a hospital birth with an OB/GYN. I was absolutely having an epidural. And I wanted to nurse as soon as possible. I also held out hope I’d get one of the birthing suites with a bathtub and planned to labour in there as long as possible. I couldn’t wait to hold my baby and bond with him and have my husband take an excessive number of pictures of us together.

As it turned out, I got the epidural, hospital birth and OB/GYN. But that was about it. My water broke early; I didn’t go into labour; they had to induce; baby was in distress; and we were rushed into the OR for and urgent C-Section. I physically couldn’t hold my baby, and couldn’t try to nurse until about 4 hours later. Meanwhile, he’d been fed with formula from a cup because his blood sugar was dangerously low. And my precious little 5 pound boy was whisked away to the NICU for what turned out to be 15 days.

Needless to say, this was not an ideal birth experience, and I don’t have any of those special mommy and baby pictures from the moments right after he arrived. But, at the end of the day, none of that really matters. What does matter is that we did bring our baby into the world, he got the care he needed, and he’s now a healthy and active 7 year-old. My birth plan went out the window, but at least having worked on it I knew a whole lot more about what to expect and what the various outcomes might be. And I was ready to answer tough questions at the hospital about how to proceed.

I skipped out on taking a prenatal class, mostly because of timing issues with a busy work schedule, but lots of parents-to-be find these classes really helpful in addition to whatever reading they may do. In August, Walmart Canada and P&G began sponsoring a series of prenatal programs in hospitals and community centres across the country, providing soon-to-be parents in those programs with special gift packs. The reusable Walmart shopping bags include a package of Pampers Swaddlers, the number one choice of Canadian parents for newborns*, a sample of Pampers wipes and an educational pamphlet. This program will reach 55,000 new moms from coast to coast, providing helpful tips on everything from how to secure a car seat to birth plans. Again, knowledge is power, and I think it’s so important to gather up all the information you can to prepare you for all the decisions you’ll have to make, not just about labour and delivery, but about being a parent in general.

A Giveaway

One of my lucky readers will win a prenatal pack (approx. $65 value) courtesy of Pampers and Walmart Canada, including a $50 Walmart gift card, Pampers Swaddlers Newborn, sample of Pampers wipes, educational pamphlet courtesy of Pampers & Walmart Canada, and a reusable shopping bag. Entries are via the Rafflecopter widget below and will be accepted until 12:00 midnight EDT, October 27. Giveaway is open to Canadian residents only. Best of luck!

* Based on the sales of the Swaddlers New Baby specialized hospital diaper.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I am a P&Gmom. As part of my affiliation with this group I receive products and special access to P&G events and opportunities. The opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own. By entering this contest you are accepting that, if you win, your contact information will be shared with a P&G PR and shipping agency for the purpose of mailing your prize. Please allow 4-6 weeks from the contest closure date to receive your prize. This giveaway may appear on other blogs as part of the #PGmom program. However, to be fair, you can only win once per giveaway. If your name is chosen more than once, another winner will be selected. All winners must be from within Canada excluding Quebec.

A Pawsitively Warm Winter for Your Feline Friend!

I’m amazed to see how much our dog loves the snow. The first flakes start to fall and she just wants to run outside and romp around and catch the snowflakes on her tongue. I think she’s a weirdo. She only starts to complain when it gets too deep for her short beagle legs. I shovelled a path for her to run on after the storm we had last week, and she’s all about the backyard once again.

27 Best Winter Quotes - Short Sayings and Quotes About Winter

Me and the cat, we’re much happier snuggling indoors in front of a roaring fire. PJ Tricky is not a fan of the snow and cold. He takes after me and pretty much refuses to go outside until he sees green grass again, So, we’re hibernating together and enjoying lots of cuddles. Plus, he’s pretty big, so he keeps me nice and warm when he jumps up on my lap.

Our pets really are family members, and it’s important that we look after them and keep them feeling happy and comfortable in our homes. I know I become a lot more sedentary this time of year, so I get a lot more bonding time with PJ as we watch movies or read or whatever.

According to the Ontario SPCA, nearly one-fifth of adopted cats were returned to shelters in Ontario in 2013, post-holiday. The top three reasons included cats conflicting with other pets in the home, allergic reactions, or facing behavioural problems, including litter box issues. Taking the time to make an informed adoption choice, and then taking the time to help your new friend adjust to life with their new family can make all the difference.

Treat their tummies: Make sure your cats maintain a healthy and balanced diet. This may require consulting your veterinarian. Just like humans, cats have different nutritional needs depending on their age and health. Otherwise, stick to quality food and fresh, clean water. Despite popular belief, milk shouldn’t be their main source of hydration and may actually cause stomach discomfort.

Set the stage: Just like we want to curl up during the cold winter, so do our cats! That’s why it’s important to make sure your cats are comfortable. Cats are naturally very clean so an untidy litter box won’t do. Try Arm & Hammer™ Clump & Seal™ Complete Odour Sealing Cat Litter, the only litter that forms a tight seal around their mess and destroys it with unique odour eliminators and Arm & Hammer™ Baking Soda. Also, place litter boxes far from food areas and use the North and South,
East and West rule. Putting food and litter at opposite ends of your home encourages proper practices.



Toy with trinkets: Cats are incredibly curious about their surroundings. They’ll pounce on anything that moves, rolls or sways. Pair a scratching post with a ball of string, a feather teaser stick, or even a stuffed mouse – any of these will do the trick! Just be sure the items you bring are safe for your cat and cannot be swallowed or easily torn apart.

Cozy up with your furry little feline this winter and enjoy a lasting companionship!

For more tips and information on taking care of your pets, visit

Disclosure: I am a member of the Church & Dwight Ambassador Program, and as such receive special perks, products, and other compensation for my participation. All opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own.

School Memories #OKSchoolMem


I think I’m supposed to have hated high school, right? Everybody seems to. After all, the teen years can be pretty unforgiving and hormone-filled. But the reality is – I loved high school. I did well in school and had a solid social life, though I wasn’t one of the “popular kids.” But, most importantly I think, I was lucky enough to be enrolled in a school that had excellent programming to match with my interests.

Coronavirus Pandemic Complicates College Plans For High School ...

I may have always been a bit of a drama queen, and our school had a really strong drama program, with excellent teachers coming from professional theatre backgrounds. Actually, many of my friends from Drama Club have gone on to solid careers in theatre, film and television, in front of and behind the scenes. Drama Club, and the various productions we wrote and performed, was a major factor in my positive high school experience. It gave me a place to share a passion with like-minded kids, and a chance to explore where I was coming from and where I was going.I fit in there, and my creativity was nurtured. This school activity formed the basis of my social group, my safe space, where I was both accepted and engaged.


On top of that, our school was quite open to supporting new student initiatives. During high school I was involved in an outside youth group that sought to raise awareness and educate other youth around global issues of peace and disarmament (it was still the era of the Cold War, after all). We were anything but radical, but we did bring in speakers to my school and others. My school not only provided space and time for the speakers to come there, they also recognised the skills that my friends and I were developing through running these events, and doing our own speaking. My school allowed us curriculum time to visit other locations and handle logistics of these tours (so long as our school work didn’t suffer). The activities were personally fulfilling and a superb learning experience.

The key to my positive high school experience, and to my amazing memories, was attending a school that was a great fit for me. Academically, the school was strong for sure. But, especially in the rather delicate years of high school, finding a school that also offered the extra-curriculars to keep me engaged was key. Don’t forget to research these offerings, and the school’s overall philosophy around extra- and co-curricular activities when you are looking to find the best school fit for your child.

I’m participating in the Our Kids Private School Expo Blog Hop. Yesterday’s School Memories post can be found at Funny Things Are Everywhere. Tomorrow, the fun is happening at Playground Confidential.

What You Should Not Put In The Microwave

The microwave saves us from many situations when we don’t know what to cook fast or when we come tired at home after a long day at work. The food at the microwave oven is fast and helps us to win precious time with the ones we love. However, don’t confuse the microwave oven with the stove, as you can’t prepare everything at the microwave.

No matter how much you love some foods and technology, don’t cook everything with the microwave. Here are some things that you can never cook with the microwave.

Eggs in shell put in the oven is a guaranteed disaster, as it will explode before being cooked and you will need a long time to clean it: walls, the door and the rotating support.

Chicken liver can be a disastrous failure if you try the microwave. At high temperatures, the chicken liver becomes sticky and might also explode. Instead of cooked liver, you will have to clean the oven and it is not a pleasant thing to do.

Don’t think about melting butter or fats inside the microwave. The melted solution will get out of the recipient and it might even leak out of the oven. Moreover, it is believed that melted butter in the microwave can also be toxic.

Popcorn is one of the most popular things to do with the microwave, but you will need to take some cautions also. Make sure to find the right temperature: if it is too big, the corn might burn and you will not be able to eat it. If the temperature or power is too low, you will have a lot of uncooked corn in the bag and you might even break your teeth.

Don’t try to warm liquids in porcelain vases with golden ornaments. If you try to heat your coffee into such a cup, you will assist to a real spectacle of fire and artifices in the oven, or even break it completely! It seems like you can put a metallic pan inside without worries, but any gold or silver part of a cup will create those sparkles.

Real disasters with the microwave

Some other foods could transform your microwave cooking experience in a disaster.

  1. Don’t heat food in plastic recipients – unless the recipient has the label ‘microwave safe’. These recipients are resistant at high temperatures, and it does not contain harmful substances that would be released through melting. However, the majority of plastic recipients would melt and mix with the food, making it toxic and unhealthy. If you are not sure about the recipient, move the food into a safer one made of glass or ceramic. Melted plastic cannot be removed from the oven, and you will eventually have to replace it.
  2. Don’t heat baby milk bottles in the oven. Such recipients might remain cold on the outside, while the inside is really hot. Always test the temperature of the milk on your skin before giving the milk to your child.

This is called unequal heating and it is a common problem with all the microwave ovens.

A Couple of Kind Words Go A Long Way


I’m coming down with a head cold and not really feeling like myself. Kinda down. Definitely tired. Dragged out.

But yesterday a few things happened that really gave me a lift.


The lovely woman at the cafeteria cash at work complimented me on the colour of my top. Not only did she love the colour, but she said it looked good on me.

Then a colleague I haven’t seen in a few weeks complimented me on my hair – she loved both my new curls and my colour. That was so sweet, especially since my colour is natural (though sun-kissed).

one kind word can change someone's entire day, motivational quote ...

And, it wasn’t just physical appearance things. A colleague in another department had requested a meeting to pick my brain, and she said some really nice things about the way I run the social media for my department. She complimented me on my authentic and consistent voice and the way I engage my audience there. That meant so much!

But this post is not about tooting my own horn. I mean it to be about how these fairly random kind words really turned my day around. Whether or not I believe the kind words or want you to, the fact is that receiving compliments and positive feedback means the world. Hearing these nice things cheered me up and made me feel like someone cared. These sweet words gave me a new perspective when I was feeling crappy and down.

Don’t forget to share kind words with others. People generally aren’t very good at seeing the best in themselves. Sometimes they just really need someone else to point it out.

Christmas Cards (or, “My Damn Carpal Tunnel”)

Do you send Christmas cards each year? I do. I may be a little crazy by some standards, but I love giving and receiving actual cards. And I love the little notes and school pictures and family letters that often come with them. Even in this age of Facebook, there are family and friends from whom I just don’t hear enough, and I treasure this annual chance to catch up on each others’ lives.


Mom always sent cards. I remember her painstakingly writing out the addresses and little notes. And I remember that postage for Christmas cards was 15cents, while regular letters were 17 or 20 or something. A discount on Christmas postage! That was truly a different time.

Poinsettia flower Christmas cards - Woodland Trust Shop | Woodland ...


To make my cards a little easier, I typed in a set of “Christmas labels” a few years back. I can update the file each year if people move, or as I add new recipients. But all of the needed addresses are in one place and ready to go with a click of the print button and a couple sheets of Avery labels.


I also have a special storage box where I keep leftover cards, stamps, and pretty stickers. This way I don’t “misplace” them in the chaos that is my home.


Christmas stamps are a must. The envelopes don’t look right without them. I got burned about 4 years ago, when I waited til the first week of December to get stamps, and then had to go to 4 or 5 postal outlets before I could find festive ones. Now I stock up as soon as the stamps are released, then pop them in my storage box. (Thank heavens for permanent rate stamps!)


And of course there is our family letter. Yes it’s a form letter. But it’s an efficient and functional way to share our year with everyone. I still sign each card with a short personal note as well. I hope people like the update. I know I love getting these form letters from others!


Tonight I sit next to my stack of 40+ cards, stamped, addressed, sealed and ready to go. My wrist is hurting from the writing, and my mouth tastes like envelope glue, but I’m happy. I have two or three left to write. But I finally ran out of cards. My stash is empty, so I’ll hit the stores tomorrow and stock up again.

Hey Canada! A Trip Across Our Nation #HeyCanada

Just in time for Canada Day I am happy to be taking part in this fun blog tour, to tell all of you about this new book from Tundra Books. Hey Canada! is the story of a grandmother who takes her two grandchildren (cousins) and a mischievous pet hamster on a trip across our country, from coast to coast to coast. This is their opportunity to discover just how big and diverse and interesting Canada is.


Written by Vivien Bowers, and illustrated by Milan Pavlovic, the book utilizes poetry, prose, images, tweets, and comic strips to introduce us to Canada’s history and points of interest. Each chapter is its own province and includes a map, the provincial flower, bird, and capital. A large map of Canada and depictions of all provincial and territorial flags are included as well.

Canada - Wikipedia


Hey Canada! brings us from St. John`s, NL, across to Victoria, BC, and up through the Canadian north, with stops in all three territories. Each chapter gives a wealth of information and insights. There are even pronunciation guides for some more difficult words, or names in other languages than English. Little Boo enjoyed following along with “Find It” lists in each chapter, looking through all the pictures to find everything listed. It was a great game for him.


I think both Little Boo and I learned things from this book. I would have liked some more details on my home province, Newfoundland and Labrador, but that is probably only because it’s where I’m from and there are so many other events and sites I’d love to share with the rest of the country. You may find the same thing when you read the chapter for your neck of the woods, but this is not supposed to be an exhaustive reference guide. It is in fact a great introduction and an easily accessible non-fiction work for kids. There is even an index at the back so your kids can go back and check out specifics, like icebergs, Ogopogo, or Kensington Market, at a later date.

We enjoyed Hey Canada! as bed time reading – one or two chapters each night. The highest praise I can offer? Little Boo specifically requested it each night and let me know what province or territory we were to visit next. Clearly he loved it!

Health Information Goes Digital #digitalhealth

We were sitting at
the dinner table on a Friday evening. (It’s always on a Friday evening, isn’t
it?) Boo suddenly started scratching all over his torso. “What’s
wrong?” I ask. “I’m just really itchy, Mommy,” as he pulls up
his shirt and reveals a crazy red, raised rash. Holy cow! No fever, so I
suspected it was a generic viral rash, but sent a pic to my friend the
paediatric nurse, just in case. She agreed with me, but recommended getting it
checked out the next day anyway. And when a nurse tells you to see the doctor,
you go!



A great thing about
our family doctor is she’s part of a family health group with after-hours
clinics, so we always have someone we can see. The doctor that day confirmed
viral rash and suggested oatmeal baths and a pain medication. But the best part
(aside from knowing there was nothing serious going on) was that he was able to
type in all his notes on the visit and send them electronically to our own
doctor. Boom! Just like that she had them and could attach them to Boo’s
electronic file at her office. I was comforted knowing she had all the
information in an easily accessible way, making follow up and ongoing
monitoring that much easier.

WHO guideline recommendations on digital health


Being a techie gal
myself I appreciate the focus her office has on digital records and
communications. I can check out her current schedule on the office’s website,
send her an email, or book an appointment online. I even get appointment
reminders by email. And if I’m visiting her but have a question about Boo’s
health, or when he’s due for a vaccination or whatever, she just pulls up his
record on her computer and searches the answer. No need to have someone go
looking for a paper file that she then has to sort through to find what she
needs. It is so quick and convenient.


Across the country
more and more health care professionals are turning to electronic records and
secure digital sharing of patient data. Canada Health Infoway has launched a
public education campaign, BetterHealth Together,
designed to introduce us to this growing trend in health care. As digital
storage and access to health records expands, there may be some concerns about
security and personal privacy, and this campaign hopes to familiarise the
public with the safeguards in place and to educate on the benefits of digital
health records.



Does your doctor
receive lab results electronically? Mine does, and it means a quick, efficient
and secure delivery of my information, resulting in quick answers for me and
speedy treatment if necessary. Her office also provides printed lab
requisitions and prescriptions – so much easier and more complete than the old
hand-written notes. Plus, since the sheets print from the system, you are
assured that your file contains the exact same data.


If you are booking
medical appointments online, using a mobile app to log information on your and
your family’s health conditions, or if your doctor maintains electronic instead
of paper patient records, you are a part of the digital health movement. Do you
have a personal story on how these technologies are playing a role in your
health care? Canada Health Infoway encourages you to join them on Facebook and share your story, while
learning more about digital health in Canada. You can also find them on Twitter
at @Infoway.




Disclosure: This post was brought to you by Canada Health Infoway, however
the images and opinions are my own. For more information please visit