Maclean's Magazine

The Good Shopper Blog

"Canadian pride may not rest on our sleeves, but it resides deeply in our hearts."

Steve Miller


Winter Driving...Are you prepared?

By / Par: Tina Chicki - Langham, Saskatchewan

Category / Catégorie: Tips and tricks

Driving in the Canadian winters can be such a challenge as most of us know. Whether it's ice or snow or freezing rain, road conditions can be very unpredictable. We need to be prepared in these conditions. Today, I will share a few of my tips for driving safely in the Canadian winters. 

First off, winter tires are a must have for safe winter driving (in Quebec, this is now the law). These tires have a deeper tread and are best on snow and ice. Goodyear still manufactures most of its winter tires in Canada. The deeper treading allows for the tire to clear the snow from it as it rotates. They also remain more flexible in colder temperatures as compared to an all-season tire. For maximum control on snowy and slippery conditions, it is recommended that you install four winter tires, even on a front-wheel drive vehicle.

There are ways to drive safer in the winter too. Ensure that you watch your speed and adjust your speed according to road conditions.  Slow down in really icy or snowy situations. Keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. Transport Canada has lots of excellent information about winter driving.

Many of us don't even think about the weather conditions outside when we go out to our heated garage and get in a warm car to go out. Before heading out on a long trip, it is advisable to check the weather conditions and road conditions. The Weather Network has a great page that breaks down this information by province and then you can further take it to you city. This way, you can be prepared before going out.

Also, make sure to call ahead before traveling. This way, someone will know to watch for you and ensure you arrive when scheduled.

A great new product made in Canada was just launched a few weeks ago: Dad's Wiper Covers. Slip them over your wipers to protect your wiper blades from freezing to your windshield. Simple and efficient!


There are a few must-haves that you should have in your car in case of an emergency. I call this my winter survival kit. This kit should contain:

  • A cell phone and change for a payphone if the cell phone cannot be used;
  • A first aid kit;
  • A flashlight with batteries;
  • A candle with a small tin can to keep it in and waterproof matches;
  • A couple of granola or energy bars to snack on;
  • A blanket;
  • An ice scraper (check out Mallory Industries' line of scrapers and snowbrushes made in Canada);
  • A shovel (Garant has a great Telescopic Emergency Shovel Snowbrush);
  • Warning lights or road flares;
  • Booster cables;
  • Tow rope.

Of course, you should also carry along a snowsuit, winter boots, a warm hat, scarf and mittens.

If you do get stranded out in the winter, if you have a membership with CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) you can call their number to get roadside assistance. They will send a tow truck to help you regardless if it is a boost that you need or if you have a flat tire or need a tow.

One needs to be prepared for anything when driving in winter conditions. Please make sure you are well prepared and DRIVE SAFE!

Image sources: Flickr-Creative Commons, CAA



By / Par: Wendy T. Gibson

Category / Catégorie: Growing up in Canada

It's been going on for awhile, now,  but I still have to laugh when I see the stores putting out their Hallowe'en candy and August. Why? Because they don't stop at candies and costumes anymore!  Now you can also find pet dog and cat costumes, personal fog machines,  inflatable, life-size cemetaries, complete with amusing headstones,  motion-sensitive haunted house sound effects, Hallowe'en lights to drape on the eavestroughs and in the trees, 8 foot tall headless horsemen and their ghostly steeds...Hallowe'en just seems to get more and more popular and elaborate every year!

                            Original Caramels

In Peterborough, Ontario, folks start decking their porches and trees with 'spider webs' and 'crime scene tape' in the last week of September! They have leaf bags that look like pumpkins on their lawns and paper lunch bag ghosts hanging from branches, the moment they rip the page from their calendars for the new month!

                               Haunted Gingerbread House

People seem to like Hallowe'en for the same reason that they enjoy movies such as the Twilight series and TV shows like True Blood and Ghost Whisperer. They are all about supernatural creatures like Vampires and Werewolves, being terribly scared and, oddly enough, everlasting love. It's both romantic and Freudian!


                          Hallowe'en Cookie Kit

You don't have to be a kid to enjoy Hallowe'en anymore! I've decided to have fun with it ... why pass up an opportunity to celebrate something AND to make things? Besides, how can I resist a haunted gingerbread house that I can decorate myself!? I LOVE this! It is such a clever idea and would be so much fun to make with some kids or artsy pals! You could make an awesome haunted village! The cookie kit is also irresistable and I want to make a bunch of them and give them to some special friends! Fun!

                            La Caterina + Vampire

Last year, my husband and I dressed up as La Caterina and a Vampire! We joined friends in their backyard, toasted marshmallows over the bonfire and enjoyed the Full Moon.Then we walked home in the lovely Autumn night, to eat more candy! Perhaps this year, I can persuade him to put up a Hallowe'en tree and hang our Hallowe'en stockings by the cauldron!


                          Hallowe'en Kisses 

How do you celebrate Hallowe'en?

:: images courtesy of Buy Canadian First members.


Safe trip, Santa!

By / Par: Wendy T. Gibson

Category / Catégorie: Tips and tricks

It's Christmas Eve and the sun is shining on the snow! It's a picture perfect day for driving and many of us will be doing just that sometime before the weekend is over. There are lots of drivers on the road doing their last minute shopping. Stress levels are getting higher as the final countdown begins and only one more sleep remains until the Big Day. Thank goodness that the road conditions will be the least of our worries.

Earlier this month, Winter snow shut down highways 401 and 402, stranding hundreds of motorists in Northern Ontario. Severe weather warnings were in effect all across Canada and we know, as Canadians, that we have several more months of such weather to come. 


                  Princess Auto Car Safety Kit

Sometimes, when listening to yet another news report of ice and snow and car crashes, I wish that all drivers had to be tested in snowy, icey conditions before being approved to drive. Every winter, the first snowfall brings all sorts of crazy accidents that could have been avoided with a little common sense.

Be prepared this winter! Make sure that your brakes are in perfect condition and all your fluids are topped off. Windshield fluid, and lots of it,  is a must have! Set aside some time to buy a prepared safety kit or to put together one for yourself to keep in the trunk of the car. A car road safety kit is a great gift  to give a new car owner, or anyone who doesn't have one, for Christmas!


                  Princess Auto Roadside Emergency Kit

What should your kit contain? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Shovel
  2. Sand, salt or kitty litter
  3. Traction mats
  4. Rope
  5. Cloth or roll of paper towels
  6. Warning light or road flares
  7. Flashlight, batteries
  8. Axe or hatchet
  9. Booster cables
  10. Ice scraper and brush
  11. Matches and a candle
  12. De-icer
  13. Blanket
  14. Extra gloves, hats, scarves
  15. Bottled water and granola bars

Another thing, *shaking finger* please dress appropriately for the weather when you go out in the car, even if just driving to the convenience store. Don't wear your pyjamas and slippers, I beg you! I see this all the time! Dressing like this in the winter is nutty! What if you have a flat tire or get rear-ended? Remember Murphy's Law!


                  The Safest Way to Travel ?

If you have to drive this Christmas, take it easy. Leave early. Slow down. Keep your distance and know what is going on ahead of you. Keep your cool and don't lose your temper! And do I have to say don't drink and drive? Please! Don't drink and drive! 

Have yourself a safe and merry Christmas!

Will you be travelling this Christmas?

Tags / Balises: Christmas, Emergency, Gifts, Holidays, Kits, Winter

Member Spotlight: Jeux Bloco Inc. (Blocotoys)

By / Par: Wendy T. Gibson

Category / Catégorie: Shopping guides

Once again, I've found another great Canadian company that just may solve some of your gift giving dilemmas this year! Award-winning Bloco Toys is a family owned and operated company, located in Montreal,  that invents, designs and manufactures high quality original construction toys under the Bloco™ trademark. I had no idea how many home grown toy making companies there are in Canada! Bloco Toys is committed to providing highly original, high quality and really entertaining toys, that demonstrate their Canadian craftmanship and innovation.


These toys combine all the pleasure of building blocks with the solving satisfaction of a puzzle. Constructed of brightly coloured foam and plastic, the toys are functional, educational and fun!

My husband was a building block maniac when he was a child! He would spend hours building fantasy houses and spaceports, putting blocks together in various ways, trying different designs, totally focussed on what he was doing. He remembers his little grey blocks with much fond nostalgia! Some of them are still around! As a parent, having toys like this for your children to play with, seems like a perfectly win-win situation! My husband turned out really well!


Bloco's  excellent, fully bilingual website is full of information about the products and the company, including explanations of their many awards. These Bloco™ construction toys are manufactured from a one of a kind patented concept, useing high density, uniquely shaped foam, with specialized plastic connectors. Pieces link together and rotate at any angle. You can create flat models like snakes or stack the pieces to create fantastic 3D creatures like dragons and lions. Your child can follow the design or make a creature from his imagination! Like any good building toy, sets can be combined!

You can find these great, Canadian made toys online and in Canada and the States, at Chapters-Indigo stores and Barnes and Noble, among others. 

Is this the type of toy you would give as a gift?


:: images courtesy of Bloco Toys.

Toys made in Canada


Lee Valley & veritas

By / Par: Wendy T. Gibson

Category / Catégorie: Shopping guides

Lee Valley & Veritas is a family-owned, Canadian business that has been serving users of woodworking and gardening tools since 1978. Their remarkable reputation is built on customer satisfaction, integrity and the fact that they treat customers like friends! Plus, their catalogues are truly inspiring and delightful!

The approach of Autumn is a great time to turn to Lee V alley. My husband and I think of them for the garden, the backyard, the kitchen and for general and specialized tools, books and innovations, especially things we can't locate anywhere else! For birthdays and gift-giving holidays, now is the time to turn to Lee Valley to find the perfect something for either the person who has everything, or for the person who will appreciate something completely out of the ordinary!



 Although we love receiving their catalogues in the mail, it is incredibly convenient that they now offer online versions of their woodworking, gardening, hardware and gift catalogs! The gifts can be explored by Category, Recipients or Price. I love the list of Recipients: Gardener, Woodworker, Chef, Children, Bookworm, Adventurous and Homeowner. On just the first page of Adventurous, I was tempted by the beautifully designed Plumb Bob with Case, the clever yet aesthetically pleasing Ant Moat and the rather ingenious Pop Bottle Tarp Clip. The Arts and Crafts section had me longing for the Michelangelo Paint Can Holder (seriously) and the Microwaveable Flower Presses!



Take a moment to browse their fascinating lines. Their Gift Catalogue alone will have you daydreaming of the amazed smiles and tears of joy on the faces of your unsuspecting loved ones.  

Approximately a third of Lee Valley's total sales volume are in products that they themselves have designed. Most of these are Veritas® brand products, made by Veritas Tools Inc., the manufacturing arm of Lee Valley. 

I've discovered that a number of customers are earning royalties on products that they have designed and that Lee Valley now manufactures! Obviously, they are very open to feedback and suggestions from their customers!

What are you most tempted by at Lee Valley? 

Images courtesy of Buy Canadian First and Lee Valley.


January -Time to Get Gardening!

By / Par: Wendy T. Gibson

Category / Catégorie: Growing up in Canada

Many people like to escape the Canadian winter, but I don't. I embrace the four seasons and the contrasts that they provide. Would you love Summer as much if you hadn't been through Winter? For gardeners, busy from thaw to frost, January is a delightful downtime, a break in their busy routine. What could be nicer on a January morning then snuggling up on the couch, hot chocolate in hand, pad of paper ready and seed catalogues spread around?
For years there have been two catalogues that come in January to my mailbox: Lee Valley and Richters Herbs. Lee Valley has everything I need to make my gardening easier and more efficient, while Richters Herbs has everything I want to put in my garden! I genuinely adore these Canadian companies. They are both generous with their information, radiate pride in what they do and excel in superiour customer service.


Both are not far from where I live...just under two hours make both destinations perfect day trips with the DH. Believe me, there are plenty of things at both places that he can enjoy too! Along with cool gardening equipment and tools, Lee Valley also carries hardware, books, toys and supplies for woodworkers, artists and crafters. You will get absolutely absorbed in any of their catalogues online , but don't forgo the joy of getting one in the mail either! They are beautifully photographed and the product descriptions are wonderful. Lee Valley is a family-owned business based in Ottawa and serving Canadian woodworkers, gardeners and crafters since 1978.



Richters Herbs, another fabulous family-owned business around since 1969, specializes in, need I say it? Not just any herbs either. EVERY herb is more like it! Like Lee Valley, Richters' catalogue, online and off, is gorgeous and an education in itself. The pictures only hint, though, at the reality of the plants. If you can, you must go to their green houses, for these are plants that must be inhaled and caressed to be fully appreciated! You can also find the most extraordinary vegetables there. They even have a great shop where you can indulge in all sorts of awesome herb paraphenalia. They also have free workshops from Spring until Autumn.


So do not bemoan the climate, my frozen friends. You know you can't beat it but you can use it to your own advantage! It won't be that long before the groundhog sticks his nose out of his burrow for a sniff at the air. You will be ready for it with your garden plans drawn up, your wish lists alphabetized and your gardening gloves hanging at your belt! Think of it! Before you know it, you will be exchanging your snow shovel for a garden spade! And I know just where you can buy one!

Image sources: Lee Valley, Richters Herbs


Home canning and preserves the Made-In-Canada way!

By / Par: Tina Chicki - Langham, Saskatchewan

Category / Catégorie: Eating and drinking Canadian

As I look out my window this morning, I see a few leaves starting to turn a lovely golden orange colour.  Summer is dwindling and fall is rapidly approaching.  School has started and my garden is yielding wonderful bounties.  I do admit I start to get a bit sad when I know that winter will be here before long.  But like many other people, I do prepare my family for winter by freezing a few vegetables and fruit harvested and I even make some of my own jams, jellies and relishes.  When tomatoes are plentiful, I even manage to make some of my own salsa.

Nothing tastes better to me than homemade.  I admit, I am spoiled, my mother had a very large garden when we were growing up.  We were spoiled with homemade jams and other goodies.  Now I am happy that I can make some of the things mom and grandma made for my children.  My oldest started school this fall and she is very happy to have some of mommy's strawberry or raspberry jam on toast. My husband loves my homemade salsa, especially when I make it a little spicy.

I use my own fruits and vegetables when I can but also buy locally what I can't produce myself. I also try to buy Canadian grown fruits like peaches and cherries.  

I am so pleased to blog about a  Canadian company that have all the necessary tools for making your own canned goods. This company is called Bernardin and I use their products all of the time in home canning.

Bernardin has all products for home canning ranging from Mason jars (made in Canada) and lids, home canning accessories, recipe books and food products.  I use their pectin for my own jams and jellies and really like how they turn out. I discovered this past year that Bernardin makes a No-Sugar needed pectin which works with artificial sweetners or fruit juices. I will be trying this in the future as we all are trying to cut down on sugars in our diets. 

For those that are afraid of using a canner, they also offer Freezer Jam pectin.  Nothing is easier than making freezer jams and you certainly can't beat the taste either.


There is also a recipe section on the Bernardin website for use with their products. I have used these recipes and they do turn out well.  There are lots of interesting and delicious recipes.  There is even a recipe for a Tomato-Peach salsa that was featured on the television show CanadaAM.

Bernardin products can be found in your local grocery stores and you can even purchase their products online.

Why not try your hand at making your own jam or jelly?  Do you have a favorite recipe?  Feel free to share with us your comments!

Image source: Bernardin, Tina Farthing

Grassroots proudly supports Canadian-made, eco-friendly products
Maclean's Magazine