REVIEW: BILLY BEEZ at Walden Galleria

Huge storms made us change our plans on our 11th anniversary this week. We were headed to the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, but seeing as how we couldn’t see a few feet in front of us, we made the mature choice to stop our driving and get off the highway. The girls were the ones who immediately okayed the switch because the rain was freaking them out too. We didn’t know about the Toronto flooding until later that day, but we drove through some huge puddles and flooded streets ourselves on our way to the mall.

Billy Beez is located upstairs by the food court. We never had much time in Niagara so it was never an option, but this was a something from nothing day and we knew we wanted our special day to be about the kids. After all, the culmination of our eleven years was the happiness that is our three little girls.

Since it was feeling like 30C upon wake up, the girls were in sandals and Adidas slides. We got socks and were excited to check out this playplace.

The cost is pricey, but worth the value and if we had something like this at our mall, you can be sure we would have a pass. Kids were about $16 with toddlers being $14. Adults were $4 for the first adult and $6 for the second. A 10 play pass is $130. They let us purchase a Family Pack for 4 at $40 and add the one adult. The price is Play All Day with re-entry so they scan you in and out. We left for lunch and came back.

This indoor venue is HUGE and with the greatest slides. Their structure interconnects with so many parts you can essentially travel from one end to the other of Billy Beez without touching the ground. They have amazing slides that you can go in with multiple people at the same time (side by side) including the Rainbow Slide and the Lava Slide. Their single person tube slides are SUPER fast and scary even for me! My toddler couldn’t do it alone so despite the rule (one slider at a time), my eldest had to hold her on her lap. Seriously, thrill seekers, you need to check this out

The toddler area was a bit small and I didn’t see the Beez reinforce rules. I’m sure the large plastic-coated foam shapes weren’t supposed to be sat on while kids went down the slide, but those parents probably should’ve said something. I was imagining the worst: kids flipping over the shape and twisting their necks. I couldn’t watch.

Their workers were quite friendly and eager to help. A parent pointed out to me a big wet spot that I nearly stepped in so I covered it with paper towel. My husband said that it could be pee and not water because he knew I would probably want to wipe it up. I grabbed a Bee and she quickly handled the situation with a smile.

One thing lacking was the snack area. Their cold section of the display was empty and not stocked with fruit cups and sandwiches as I imagined. They only had pizza to serve that day and some drinks. Perhaps their location to the food court is why they knew people would be fine if they didn’t provide a lot of food options. My husband just wanted a coffee.

We spent two hours playing there and honestly, if I had a book, the girls would’ve hung out all day. For a rainy day event, this was wonderful!


REVIEW: Shopkins Live!



“Shopkins, Shopkins!”  Catchy! That’s the extent of what I know of the popular theme song from the well-known toy and show so I wasn’t sure how much I would be entertained by their live act.  A 90-minute live production and I have to say I was excited through most of it because who doesn’t like it when small toys talk and enlarge to 100X their normal size?  A real-life Lippy Lips and Strawberry Kiss? YES, please. All the Shoppies were on-hand in colourful wigs and tulle skirts including Bubbleisha, Peppa-Mint, Rainbow Kate, Polli Polish, and Cocolette.

     Shopkins Live had a simple to follow storyline which was appropriate and kept the audience entertained. Based on the popular Moose Toys’ product that came out several years ago, this collectible doesn’t seem to have lost its hold on the young girl demographic.  Most of the audience were 4 to 10-year-old girls with many moms and some dads thrown into the mix.   Middle A (daughter #2) came with me in her Delish Donut t-shirt and she loved it.

     The Shopkins were getting ready for the Fashion and Food Fair organized by Shady Diva, a Hat Shopkin.  She made it very clear that there was a special guest coming and it was super-duper important that Jessicake meet and take care of her.  However, Jessicake had so many things to do (namely decorating her booth because she wanted to win a prize) that she assigned the task to Kooky Cookie, who has a bad habit of falling asleep.  Several misunderstandings later, the special guest was found and returned to the fair just in time! Another storyline was the one of Slick Breadstick (the funniest character in the show to me) and his desire to find a dance partner.  All the Shoppies rejected him (“I have to go” excuses abundant), but he kept tossing out his cheesy one-liners. Turns out, the special guest was the ultimate dance partner for Slick Breadstick!

     Presented by Koba Entertainment, this musical is full of fun and original songs and choreography.   I love that the eyeballs of the characters actually move! The dancing popcorn was very entertaining and the placement of the large food pieces on visible platforms was brilliant.  This would be a great introduction to live entertainment for young children.  It made the everyday Shopkins even more fun because they could talk and we heard only what we imagined them sounding like.  It was definitely a fun show and we had a blast!


Editor’s Pick: Halls Kids Vitamin C Pops and Cough and Sore Throat Pops


    It’s that time of year!  Back to school and germs are running rampant!  I take note of every cough or sneeze in the classroom only because it reminds me to chew on some Vitamin C’s during the day that are sitting on my desk. However, at school, my girls don’t have access to it other than during snack time in the form of a clementine.  Hence, they get a treat after school and build up their immune at the same time with the new Halls Vitamin C Pops.

     I’m not a big candy person and the girls are limited to their sweet treats so when I said they could have a lollipop out of the blue, they were ecstatic!  When they tried these, they couldn’t believe how great they looked AND tasted.  Scientists say that it is too late to pop Vitamin C when you are ALREADY sick so the best thing to do is to have a good immune system to begin with.  Can I convince the girls to suck on a lollipop a few times a week?  I’m pretty sure I can.  🙂  Now the only worry is that they’ll be all too happy to get sick because they know I have the Cough and Sore Throat Pops in the cupboard.

      Wishing everyone a happy first week back.  Stay healthy!

Funky Monkey Photography: Spring is in Session

We were honoured to be asked by Funky Monkey to be models for their spring session.   As you know, we LOVED all the shots of our girls and our family during their Christmas promotion.  With many new backgrounds (I am so in love with the arrow background) and colours to choose from, it was hard to decide.  Luckily, James is a pro and he had it all in check.

Now besides all the amazing lighting and props that are always there, I first have to mention this.  Our two eldest daughters are generally shy girls (we left Baby C out of this session because I wanted James to have girls who could take fast direction).  It takes them a while to warm up to people and I’m including close friends and family.  Only seeing James for the second time, he had them in giggles and totally at ease.  Maybe it was the ease of the shoot or the fact they remembered his famous line, “Bingo bongo!”  It could’ve been the fact that he opened the session with a cool swing and they realized, “Hey, this is gonna be awesome!”  Whatever it was, I was in awe that he could make those two so comfortable.  They were into the photos, brought their great smiles, and tried whatever poses he suggested.  It was a fun time for all.

Like the Christmas shoot, the studio is always updating their stock and this time it was another enormous selection of backdrops and floor drops.  They had brick backgrounds, flowers, fields, patterns, you name it and it was there (he has a cool storage nook for his backdrops under the stairs too – excellent use of space.).  My favourite was the weathered wood floor drop and the matching background.  The cool thing about floor drops I learned was that they can be made of many materials and this one felt like felt.  They also come in vinyl, linen, canvas, and plastic.  The combinations are endless and really sets the tone and look of the photos.

The shoot took slightly over an hour, but time flew by with the enormous amount of choices we had.  If your little one is ready for some commemorative pictures (the only problem will be selecting your favourites) or you are finally ready for a set of family photos, think of Funky Monkey and the whole experience!  If you want a fun photographer and organized partner who helps with bookings and answers all questions fast, give them a shout.  Trust me, you will have a great time!

Contact them now by calling or texting: 416.997.0814.






*This post was ready to go soon after the November shoot, but I wanted to wait for the photographer to get his website up and ready before promoting how awesome he is.  The husband and wife team have spring props coming in the next couple of weeks so book an Easter session while you can!

It’s been a few years since our last family photo shoot (we weren’t a family of five then) so when the opportunity popped up on Facebook, I knew it had to be.   Being in Markham and just ten minutes away, I knew that was just another sign that it was time.  It was the best hunch ever!

We arranged an evening appointment last fall and headed out to meet with the photographer and his wife.  Jenn and I had been in Facebook contact from the start and she is AMAZING at responding to questions and concerns quickly. For myself, instant replies are important and Jenn is all over her messages so that was already a step in the right direction.  She also warned us about their two big dogs and was happy to put them in the backyard when I said that my little girls wouldn’t be too thrilled.  They like dogs, but not ones bigger than themselves.  Jenn was happy to accommodate.

James was still setting up when we arrived so we headed downstairs first.  They had just come back from a cottage photoshoot (yes, they will travel).  There were so many amazing props! As Christmas is our favourite holiday, Hip Teacher Dada and I couldn’t help but oooh and ahh over their collection.  Since acquiring pieces from various Winners (some as far as Hamilton) and garage sales, James was excited to show off his stash during the shoot.  I’m sure we didn’t even get through half their holiday props, but it was Baby C’s bedtime.

James was very easy going and gave us directions for poses. Mostly, he spent his time coaxing Baby C into giving him some smiles to work with. It’s hard for her to just smile (she doesn’t even do it for us when she’s not in the mood and this was just an hour before bedtime) especially since she was in new environment and with a complete stranger.  Big H and Middle A are quite comfortable in front of the camera so that part was easy.  James was patient and broke out all the knick-knacks for C including the sled and fluffy snowballs.


His backdrops are amazing. We only used two, but there are about ten holiday backdrops including forest, holiday lights, snow, wooden door, etc.  James has tons of props including a sleigh, mailboxes, giant ornaments, and fake snowballs.  His instructions were easy to follow and the kids complied quickly.  They also have new backdrops for Valentine’s Day and Easter if that should interest you.

We were thrilled at the results.  Frankly, we were surprised that Baby C looked at the camera and even gave some smiles.  We weren’t sure how she was doing as the evening went on.  I highly recommend a photoshoot with James for you and your family.  Jenn is a dream to work with and the turn around time took just a week.  The edited pictures are amazing (please let me know what you think) and I am eager to use them all over our home.

To be honest, kids grow up way too fast these days.  If you are able to get family portraits for Christmas (or any occasion), do it. It’s memories that will last forever and you can’t beat the experience.  I’m so happy these pictures turned out the way they did.  It’ll be Christmas all year long in our household.

Check out or contact them on Facebook.  SMILE!

EATS REVIEW: Good Catch Boil House

       Had the opportunity to try Good Catch Boil House during their soft opening in early February.  One word: mmm.  Is that a word or more a concept?  Either way, it was delicious and I can’t wait to head back for more.  We decided to forego the Louisiana-style hot boil just because it we weren’t in the mood, but opted for everything fried and salty instead.  Ha ha.  Can you tell it was a dinner with teachers and report card season was FINALLY over?  We needed a little pick me up and this was certainly it.

       We had our eyes set on the lobster nachos, but the waitress said the chef hadn’t perfected the “cheese melt” on it yet so he didn’t want to serve it to us.  Perhaps our puppy dog eyes (and drool) convinced her to ask him again.  Out it came and was it ever yummy (warning, must share with a group of 5 or you’ll never finish it)!   Lots of fresh toppings, chunks of lobster, and ooey gooey cheese.  A friend found it a bit dry, but I used an insane amount of salsa so I was good.


            We also ordered the oyster sliders to share and they were probably my favourite dish along with their Cajun fries.  The buns had the right touch of sweetness and the oysters from the Pacific were perfectly tender with the right amount of bite.  More fried goodness came in the form of the soft shell crab and torpedo shrimp.  Everything was just awesome and the service was top notch.

            The restaurant actually was inspired by Louisiana yet also calls itself a sports bar.  It is very bright, with high ceilings and feels spacious.  They had a variety of tables and high bar seating areas.  Our booth felt a bit tight due to our huge winter coats so perhaps that is the only physical improvement I can think of.  (I found the Popeye statue at the front a bit odd too, to be honest.)

              Feeling for seafood and sports?  Give it a try at 179 Enterprise Blvd Unit M-109, Markham, ON.


Free books, authors, and signings, oh my!  Yesterday, we attended the annual Word on the Street.   It was their second year at Harbourfront.   We had a good sunny day to enjoy and though there was a strong breeze off the lake, the walking and heavy load of books we lugged around kept us warm.

There were numerous white tents with as many amazing vendors as you could imagine ranging from Random House to Penguin to Scholastic.   We met several authors including Paul Colvello, author of Toronto ABC.  I couldn’t resist especially when he wrote a personal dedication to each of the girls on a sticky word bubble note (he kindly obliged when I asked for a horse picture for Charlotte).   Then we met Lana Button, author of Willow’s Whispers.  Middle A said she remembered that book from  last year.   I Googled it to see what it was all about and the main idea was perfect. It’s about a little girl who speaks  too softly (I’m always reminding the girls to speak up when talking to their teachers or people we meet).

After some pictures (Lana Button tweeted a pic with the girls), we walked through all the aisles looking for more goodies. We loaded up on $3 books as well as freebies.  There were some privileges to being teachers.   I spoke to some other authors and am very interested in their stories.  Can’t wait to see if I can work out a review or giveaway soon.  Will keep you posted.

Moving along, we discovered the Cooks and Books tent.   How lucky to have caught Prairie Girl’s founder, Jean Blacklock, giving a talk about her business and inside tips on baking.   We stuck around long enough to get a sample and boy, was it worth it.   I also approached the Toronto Star’s Karon Liu just to say hi and mention that I liked his work.   Imagine going to all these awesome events daily and writing about them?   What a dream!

After a couple more hours of book buying and chatting, it was time to head home.    The girls were excited to show Baby C what they got and what we picked out for her.   I’m so happy this festival was a hit and Hip Teacher Dad loved it as much as I did.  (He did pick up a Toronto VS Everybody t-shirt during the day.  It wasn’t a book, but people will read the shirt so that’s a literacy connection, right? )

We were thrilled the weather cooperated as a rainy day would’ve literally drowned out the festival.   Hope to make this an annual tradition for my little bookworms and I.    I’m really glad they love to read as much as I do.  I just wish there were more hours in the day so I could read for leisure instead of for work.

Did you attend the WOTS festival?   Any good recommendations?

GIVEAWAY and PRODUCT REVIEW: Ayesha Curry & Freshly Picked Collaboration

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If you know us, you know we love our fresh kicks and basketball.  What’s a better combo than Freshly Picked soft sole moccasins designed by Ayesha Curry (Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry’s wife)?  Seriously, there is none.  THIS is my dream post and giveaway.

Baby C reviewed the Fan Favourite for us (yes, Steph Curry is a fave and his dad, Dell Curry, was a former Toronto Raptor) and she was in love with them from the get-go.  Her eyes seriously lit up when she saw her new shoes and not just because she’s our kid.  The soft pebbled leather molded her little feet perfectly and off she went.  Vroom vroom!  Not sure if she just turned into a baller at that moment, but our hopes went from 0 – 60 in ten seconds flat.  Is it possible that these were magical moccasins?  LOL.   From running around the house to dashing all over the park, she was in heaven.  She walked cautiously around a furniture store and loved tickling the fringe on the sides of the shoes.  The bright colours just brightened up our day!

These adorable designs were inspired by Curry’s daughters, Riley and Ryan, who surely epitomize the concept of sweet and sassy.  (C’mon, we’ve all seen Riley on post-game conferences.)  Like all moms, Curry wanted to find something just right for her little girls.  When she couldn’t, she took the next step (pun intended) and created a shoe line for her daughters.

The shoes are $60 US and come in three yummy colours: Pink Lemonade and Mint Chip (Curry’s love of cooking) and Fan Favourite (no doubt, her favourite team).

The start of the new NBA season is just around the corner.  I think it’s time you picked up a pair, but you could also win one here!


To enter, here are a few simple rules:

  1. Follow and Share Hip Teacher Mama on Facebook.
  2. Follow Freshly Picked on Facebook.
  3. You must not have won a giveaway in the past 60 days.
  4. To enter, please email me at where the subject heading is: FRESHLY PICKED.  You are allowed ONE entry.  Please include your name and mailing address.
  5. The winner will be selected at random and notified by email.  The soft sole moccasin (colour and size) will be selected then by the winner on the Freshly Picked website.

Contest is open from August 15 to August 26, 2016.  Good luck!  It’s time your little ones got their game shoes on.


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Davey the Deer is the first book in the Healthy Mind Series created by Rosaleigh Neal, French Immersion teacher, and Dr. Grace Vitale, a Registered Psychologist.  Both work in the Catholic school system in Ontario.  They created this children’s series because it was important to bring mental health to the forefront in the school system.  These books hope to spread awareness about mental health and to promote ongoing discussion in the schools, family, and community.  It is important that we recognize the signs of depression especially in today’s youth.  Students should be encouraged to talk to their parents so that help can be provided.  Professionals are there to listen, but without the initial exposure, parents may not be aware how depression reveals itself (especially in a young child).

Davey the Deer shows a deer getting ready for his everyday routine and going to school.  He isn’t too hungry, he doesn’t feel like laughing with his family, and he doesn’t care that he didn’t study for his test that day.  He is going through the motions and he’s just not happy.  On his walk to school, he meets up with a  good friend, but even that doesn’t seem to help his mood.  There was no positive feeling in Davey that day.  He was just feeling down.  Unfortunately, this was not the first time that he felt that way.  Everything he used to care about just didn’t really matter much anymore.

After his test, Davey wanted to go home to sleep.  He asked his teacher to call his mom.  He had been doing quite a bit of sleeping lately.  Finally, he asked his mom, “Why do I feel sad some days?”  His mom knew it was time to talk to their doctor.  After seeking her help, Dr. Winston suggested that another professional may be what Davey needed.  As the days go by, Davey begins to get back a little bit of his old self – he starts to  care about his friend’s feelings and he has an appetite again.   The story doesn’t end with a perfect fairytale ending, but that is realism at its best.  Depression isn’t an instant fix.  It does take time and a strong network of family, friends, and professionals, for improvement.  I’m glad this book is out there.  Davey the Deer is a good gateway to mental health discussion.  (My girls, 5 and 7, each read the book on their own and we had a talk about depression and moods after.  They both enjoyed reading the book and look forward to the next one in the series.)

For more information on the Healthy Minds Series, please visit their Facebook page.


It’s been a few years since I’ve worked on my blog so why not start fresh with a brand new host and domain name?  Welcome back to previous followers and a big HELLO to the new ones!  I’ve left behind and moved onto something (hopefully) bigger and better!

This blog will continue to focus on parenthood, family, and education.  In my previous blog, I focused on life as a new mommy.  I shared my experiences and gave my opinions (through the eyes of a new mom and teacher) about toys, foods, products, and events.  This time around, I will focus on the aspect of parenthood as a whole and incorporate more ideas involving my husband, whom I jokingly refer to as Hip Teacher Dada.  He is a teacher as well and as a father of three girls, I’m sure his concerns may be a bit different than my own.

Please join us as we explore the life of teaching, learning, and fun as a family of five.