Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Making the Grade: 5 Test Taking Survival Tips

We are approaching the end of another school year. (Yay!) Boo has a countdown going, and I'm dreaming of easy mornings and not making school lunches. But before we get to the end of the year, many of our kids will be facing final exams and cumulative tests, to ensure they've actually retained the information they've been taught. And that can lead to a lot of stress and anxiety.

When I was in school, I didn't experience as much test anxiety as some of my friends, but I was decidedly a lot less than calm. I didn't review each day's notes each night, but I did start studying a couple of days before each exam, and I took notes as I studied. I found that helped things stick. Of course, you would still find me sitting (or pacing) outside the exam room, cramming final bits of information in. I couldn't stop looking at my books until I actually had to leave them and enter the room - just in case I'd catch something I had missed.

I am really glad those days are over. 

Boo hasn't yet gotten to the stage where tests are super stressful, but he will. And I wonder how he'll handle it. Especially with multiple choice tests. He is a very rigid, black & white thinker, and very detail oriented. I can see him looking at the answers and deciding, because of the wording, that at least two are correct, when that wasn't actually the intent. I predict a lot of frustration on his part! Something to work on.

If you or your kids experience anxiety or stress around test-taking, have a look at these 5 test taking survival tips from Dr. Sanam Hafeez. Dr. Hafeez is an NYC-based licensed clinical neuropsychologist, a teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services. 

1. Study a bit at a time instead of cramming. One of the first steps in feeling confident in test taking is really knowing the material. “Anxiety of any form comes from fear of the future. In this case, it’s fear of not being prepared for the exam. There’s a fear of failure. Allow ample time to fully process the material and at your pace. Understand how you or your child best interprets the information. Some people need to visualize concepts and internalize them so they are relatable,” explains Dr. Hafeez who specializes in evaluating college students with disabilities and advocates for accommodations in college and workplace standardized tests.

2. Make it fun! Dr. Hafeez recommends getting creative and doing whatever it takes for the material to resonate with you. Inventing stories that include the concepts you are learning may help. Playing trivia games with a study group and creating an upbeat, fun learning atmosphere is a great way to remember key points more easily. “Some students make up rap songs, another might draw a picture or diagram, others associate concepts to colors. The key is really understanding what makes a concept stick in your mind. Most people really learn when they process the material, applying it to themselves,” she explains.

3. Do some mental interval training. Use an alarm and go through material for 30 minutes. Then when the alarm goes off, review the material and write out which key points will most likely be a test question. “This helps the mind focus on the end goal which is being able to anticipate and answer test questions correctly. It helps people to learn in chunks and really retain information that is necessary, causing them to focus and drill down to what’s really important,” says Dr. Hafeez.

4. Get physical. “You want to remain focused with blood flowing. Studying while lying down or hunching over a desk for hours on end will cause sluggishness, drowsiness, boredom and impairs retention,” cautions Dr. Hafeez. A learning technique that works for many is to study while standing. Get a dry erase board or easel with paper. Read aloud then at the end of each page write down possible test questions with answers on the board. Snap a picture of the board and make a slideshow of all the possible test questions you can review again later.

5. Eat well and rest well. It is common for people to be so nervous before an exam that they tense up and lose their appetite. They may even lie awake going through all they learned in their minds. To prevent this be sure to have healthy snacks and drinks within reach. Opt for water or iced green tea and avoid soda. Processed high carb, high fat foods, and sugary high caffeinated drinks will give you a boost at first but then you’ll feel filled up and lethargic. Chopped apples and peanut butter, soups, and veggies with hummus are easy on the stomach and are brain boosting foods.

“If unable to sleep, lay down, breathe and listen to music, read or watch something unrelated to the exam. You want to wind down your mind and rid any anxious thoughts that may lead to insomnia. Ending the study time an hour or two before bed will give the mind time to switch off from studies and settle down for sleep,” recommends Dr. Hafeez.

“The key to making the grade is to really listen to yourself and get to understand how you or your child learns. Once that is identified, information is absorbed easily and fits like a puzzle piece in the mind,” encourages Dr. Hafeez.

About the Doctor:
Dr. Sanam Hafeez PsyD is a NYC based licensed clinical neuropsychologist, teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C. a neuropsychological, developmental and educational center in Manhattan and Queens. 

Dr. Hafeez masterfully applies her years of experience connecting psychological implications to address some of today’s common issues such as body image, social media addiction, relationships, workplace stress, parenting and psychopathology (bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, etc.). In addition, Dr. Hafeez works with individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), learning disabilities, attention and memory problems, and abuse. Dr. Hafeez often shares her credible expertise to various news outlets in New York City and frequently appears on CNN and Dr.Oz.

Connect with her via twitter @comprehendMind or www.comprehendthemind.com 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Tide Has the Cleaning Power You Need to Clean Up From Your Long Weekend

Who's excited for the long weekend? The unofficial start of summer, the Victoria Day Weekend, is almost here, and I know a ton of people getting ready to open their cottages or trailers, or packing up their tents for some much needed time away. There's something very special about getting out of the city, out of our routine, and enjoying a few days of R&R, especially if there's a body of water involved. I have many fond memories of family camping trips when I was a child. We had a series of truck campers or camper trailers over the years, and we'd pack up and head out to Terra Nova, or to a friend's cabin, pretty much every chance we could get. And getting out on my grandfather's speedboat was a huge thrill!

You see, I have always loved the water. I think this was Victoria Day Weekend in 1972.
My bestie is opening her trailer this weekend, and I am so tempted to grab my new kayak and join her. I still may, but I'll be spending most of my long weekend getting down and dirty in my garden. May 24th is not only the first big camping weekend, but also the first big planting weekend. In most parts of Canada this is considered the "safe" date to start putting out delicate plants, and I have a ton ready to go in, plus a vegetable bed that needs to be prepared for my tomatoes and eggplants. I'll be up to my eyes in ground-in soil and grass stains before it's all over. And I'll be so happy :)

Our long weekend camping trips these days involve a tent and cooler.
Still dreaming of cottage ownership.
There are a few important pieces that I think everyone heading out of town this weekend will be packing. Things like towels and swimsuits (for the brave - the Ontario lakes at least are still pretty chilly), sweaters or hoodies for around the campfire at night, marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers for s'mores. We always bring a couple of decks of cards and a good book for each of us as well. The weekend away is about taking it easy.

Of course, traipsing around in the woods, sitting around campfires, maybe even fishing - these all can get pretty messy. While I love a good campfire, I hate how my hair and clothes smell the next day. And damp towels tossed in a bag to bring on the long car ride home can get pretty stinky. There's a lot of clean-up to be done after the fun has been had. Much like the ground-in dirt that will be covering me after my gardening weekend. You need to use a quality detergent to rescue your precious fabrics and get them prepared for the next time out.

I think you all know by now that I depend on Tide for my laundry needs. It's been my go-to for almost 20 years now, and I've seen so many innovations in their products over that time. My favourite has been the introduction of the Tide Pods (in many different varieties now). They are incredibly convenient and quick to toss in the laundry machine ahead of your clothes. Plus, if you are lucky enough to have laundry facilities at your cottage, they are super light and perfect for travel. Just toss a few in a baggie and you're ready to go.

Have you tried the Tide PODS Plus Febreze Laundry Detergent yet?  This version is a 4-in-1 laundry product that cleans, brightens fabrics, fights stains and freshens each load. One pod, toss it in, does all that. Any product that can eliminate steps in a process wins points with me. Saving even a minute here and there adds up. I find these do a great job of getting my clothes looking their best, and smelling really nice too. (But not overpowered scent, don't worry.) Tide can handle any stain you throw at it.

With Victoria Day and the coming summer long weekends in mind, Tide is providing these tips for cleaning and caring for your cottage essentials, and I'm happy to share them with you. Whether you're freshening up your sleeping bags or cottage linens that have been stored away all winter, or dealing with the smell of campfire and the body oils that have premeated your favourite leggings, Tide's got you covered.

Cottage Laundry Care Guide, from Tide


Packing leggings for a weekend getaway is a no-brainer. Comfortable to wear during long car rides up to the cottage, and easy to store in a suitcase, they are the perfect item for lounging around during a long weekend. See below for the best ways to keep them clean and looking their best!
  • Read the care label. This label has garment-specific information on how to care for your favorite pair of leggings. Wash in cold water to help with color protection. Also make sure to check the label for drying instructions. The stretchy materials in leggings can start to break down when exposed to high levels of heat. To avoid this, air-dry them.
  • Be aware of fabrics that can be dirt-magnets. Most leggings, especially those designed for athletic wear, contain synthetic fibres, which are dirt and odour magnets and can make your leggings more prone to getting stinky. To get rid of odours after wearing them, wash them in Tide PODS Plus Febreze Odor Defense, along with Tide Odor Rescue with Febreze Odor Defense laundry booster to remove body soils and odours from deep inside the fibres.


The struggle can be real when it comes to eliminating lingering odours like the smoky smell left on your favourite sweatshirt after roasting marshmallows on a campfire.
  • Use a high quality laundry detergent. Tide PODS plus Febreze Odor Defense eliminates odours, like “campfire smell”. Use along with Tide Odor Rescue with Febreze Odor Defense laundry booster to help eliminate odours at the fibre level.
  • Add in-wash scent boosters. Downy Fresh Protect helps give an extra boost of fresh scent out of the wash and storage. The motion-activated fresheners also help neutralize bad odours and give a fresh scent as you move through your day.


Some extra care is required when it comes to your coveted summer swimsuit look. Below are tips to ensure you look stunning in your suit - whether two pieces or one!
  • Read the care label. High spandex and polyester blends are ideal swimwear options because they hold their shape and can withstand warm temperatures. If you spend more time in the pool than out, look for a chlorine-resistant fabric, which can help prevent fading.
  • Limit sun exposure. It's better for your skin and your suit. If you do plan on sunbathing, do so before you go swimming, as wet bathing suits often suffer more sun damage than dry ones.
  • Minimize wear and tear. Sitting on the side of a pool or leaning up against a wood fence is a surefire way to rough up the fabric on your swimsuit. Instead, place a towel where you want to sit. When you're done swimming and need to change clothes, avoid the urge to wrap your wet suit in a towel, which can lead to musty, hard-to-eliminate odours. Simply rinse it in cold water to remove chlorine or salts from ocean water and let it air dry in a shady place until you can launder it properly.
  • Wash swimsuits by hand. While it's convenient to just throw your clothes into the washing machine after a day at the beach, pool or lake, hand washing your bathing suit will extend its life while removing chlorine, salt, sunscreen, and any natural oils on the fabric. (First check care labels to be sure it isn't dry clean only.) Wash the suit in a laundry detergent shown to help protect colors from the chlorine in wash water which can further fade the colors in your swimsuit, such as Tide HE Turbo Clean ColorGuard Liquid Laundry Detergent, then let it air-dry on an indoor-rack for a full 24 hours to give the suit adequate time to regain its shape.
Important Note: For anyone in a rush, don't be tempted to toss your suit in the dryer to speed things up! The heat could damage the suit's elasticity.


After a fun day at the beach or on the lake, most people throw their towels in a pile, but you should avoid that. This can cause them to smell musty!
  • Allow towels to air dry until you are ready to wash them. Wash beach towels in warm water with Tide PODS with Febreze Odor Defense and Downy Fresh Protect for a deep down clean that will remove any odours and provide an amazing fresh scent that will last 24 hours or up to 12 weeks in storage.

Follow these tips and you'll keep these cottage and camping essentials looking (and smelling) their best! Happy May 2-4!

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Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Tide. All opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

WW - Fireworks w/linky

While at Disney, we caught one of the final showings of the Magic Kingdom's Wishes Nighttime Spectacular. The last show was, I believe, May 11, and it has now been replaced by a new fireworks display - Happily Ever After. I can't wait to check that out on our next visit!


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