Tips & Tricks

Attention Shoppers Drug Mart: Simple solution to Optimum Points theft

Recently there has been a series of Shoppers Drug Mart Optimum Points thefts that were a result of several factors, including people giving out their Optimum account numbers without knowing that is almost enough for their accounts to be hacked into. Although the reasons behind the thefts can be attributed to poor judgment on the customer’s side, I believe  there’s a major loophole in the Optimum points system that attracted so many scammers. So I decided to investigate the root of the problem:

Why are Shoppers Optimum points so easy to steal?

First, I analyzed the online login system, which can be found here.

As a Computer Engineer with more than 8 years of experience in developing (programming) websites, I figured I’d be able to understand the backend and the logical problem behind the system. However, I quickly learned that it doesn’t require backend analysis, or in fact much computer knowledge at all, to see the huge loopholes and problems in the system.

At login, after inputting your Shoppers Optimum Card number, you have 3 options to log in:

  • Date of Birth OR
  • Postal Code OR
  • Password

The very simple combination of Shoppers Optimum Card number and postal code are two things that are relatively easy to get.

Another potential weakness in the system: the Shoppers Optimum Card number is not really a secret.  Although Shoppers Drug Mart is finally starring-out the Optimum number on receipts, it didn’t do that in the recent past. And unlike credit cards, I never personally felt or treated my Shoppers Optimum Point Card number as a secret. I think many people share the same feeling, and have operated the same way.

Furthermore, customers don’t feel secure entering their date of birth on the website. Unfortunately, it’s just a very poorly designed website system.

And a weak system leaves the door open for scamming and social engineering, the art of manipulating people into performing actions or divulging confidential information.

One Shoppers customer recently provided a nice illustration of what’s at stake and how easy it is to become the victim of Optimum Point theft on the Shoppers Facebook Fanpage:

I have many different cards in my wallet and I really do appreciate the Optimum Points program. However even though I have not given out my card number to anyone, I am very aware that the simple act of leaving my Optimum card on the counter or losing my wallet means that the points could be gone in the blink of an eye. No identification whatsoever is required to use the card and just a postal code is sufficient to access my account. For those whose cards have 350,000 points on them it is like carrying close to $1,000 cash in your wallet. Not something most of us would do….
All Shoppers Drug Mart developers needed to do to prevent this situation was require what almost every system in the world has right now: an email address and password to log into the Optimum system. And for recovery of a lost Shoppers Optimum login password, an email would simply be sent to the customer’s email address on file. I’m really not proposing anything unusual or out of the ordinary here. I’m suggesting that Shoppers use a system that has been tested and is known to work properly. Facebook, Twitter, Google Services, Best Buy—and many others—all  use this type of login mechanism.
Shoppers Drug Mart, your developers created a system that is vulnerable to social engineering and scams. If not corrected, it will continue to result in a lot of angry customers and you will spend a lot of money on customer support trying to fix problems and catch scammers. I humbly suggest doing yourself and your customers a favour: hire a good web development team and fix the Shoppers Optimum login interface to prevent further problems.

Recipe Schmecipe: Baked Potato Wedges

The humble, yet delicious, potato is extremely versatile and this recipe, a healthier version of a French fry, makes for a good side dish and a great snack.


First off preheat your oven to 400°F/204°C and peel approximately 3lbs of Russet potatoes (note white potatoes are on sale at No Frills this week at $3.47 for 20lbs), or if you like them with the skins on, then just give them a good scrub. Slice them into wedges, roughly equal in size.


In a mortar and pestle (or any other device of your choosing) crush 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds


And 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds. You just want the seeds to release their aroma and although you can use coriander and cumin powder, I prefer using the whole seeds.


Mix the potato wedges with olive oil, garlic cloves, crushed cumin, crushed coriander, salt and pepper. Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, while turning them once at the half-way mark.


Serve with a refreshing yogurt-coriander dip (recipe coming soon) and enjoy the golden brown deliciousness, with a crispy crust, soft, fluffy insides and roasted garlicky goodness. If you’re feeling guilty, at least you’ll feel better with the knowledge that they are much better than deep fried French fries.

Here is the recipe card:

Baked Potato Wedges

3lbs Russet Potatoes

3-4 tbsp Olive Oil

I tsp Cumin Seeds

1 tsp Coriander Seeds

1 tsp Salt

¼ tsp Pepper

5-6 Garlic Cloves (whole or sliced)

1. Preheat your oven to 400°F.

2. Peel potatoes (or give them a good scrub if you’re leaving the skins on) and cut into wedges.

3. Crush cumin and coriander seeds with a mortar and pestle.

4. Mix potatoes with olive oil, garlic cloves, crushed cumin, crushed coriander, salt and pepper.

5. Place the potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper.

6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, turning them once at the half-way mark.

Recipe Schmecipe: Lazy Man’s Raspberry Pinwheels

This recipe oozes laziness mostly because it is dead simple to make and only uses two ingredients (seriously!).  It’s great for those times when you’re bogged down in work or just not feeling up to spending more time in the kitchen than necessary. More importantly, it costs literally next to nothing!


Pillsbury Pie Crust (purchased for $1 after sale and coupon).


and Smucker’s Raspberry spread (almost $2 after sale and coupon).


So, first things first, let’s unroll the crust (yeah, the menial labour, I know!)


And spread two heaping tablespoons of the raspberry filling, making sure to leave an inch gap on all sides so the filling doesn’t ooze out.


Roll it up into a log shape and cut it into half-inch slices. One crust should yield about 12 pinwheels.


Place it onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and feel free to top with coarse sugar for more texture. I also sprinkled some with shredded coconut, but choose whatever topping floats your boat. Finally, place the tray into a preheated oven (350°F/180°C ) for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.


Et, voila! A dessert that looks and tastes like you spend quite a while making it.

Baby Food Tips, Tricks & Myths


Lately I feel like I’m being bombarded with ads for the Baby Bullet. So I thought I’d  bust some myths and share some of my tips and tricks for making homemade baby food.

  • You don’t need the Magic/Baby Bullet. While my friends who use it say it does the job but it isn’t as necessary as manufacturer would like you to believe. The commercial over exaggerates the tools and work required. I started off with just a potato masher and upgraded to a cheap blender from the Goodwill.
  • Start as soon as possible. My suggestion is to do your fruit and veggies while you’re pregnant because they can be frozen 6-8 months. Meats (including poultry and fish) can be frozen for 10 weeks and purees made with milk 4-6 weeks. Baby food in the fridge regardless of the type only lasts 2-3 days.
  • You don’t need to start with cereal. Studies have shown that starting your baby on meats or legumes is just fine. The key is to make sure they are getting iron which can be found in both. My sons love bean puree and flaked tuna.
  • Don’t give your baby vegetables that contain nitrates before 6 months. That includes spinach, cabbage, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, rhubarb, radishes and to a lesser degree squash and carrots. Discard the cooking water and use purees containing these veggies as soon as possible (especially spinach).
  • Your baby does not need juice …ever. While it is true their tummies can tolerate it at 6 months the acid and sugar will wear away their tiny teeth. Even if they don’t have teeth poked through yet decay can start while they are in their gums. Some may argue juice is a good cure for a constipated baby but water, stewed prunes, and bean puree work the same. All of the vitamins and health benefits can be found in the purees or fresh fruit as the case maybe.
  • Don’t give up. Your baby is used getting all their nutrition it liquid form with only one flavour and texture. It will take them some getting used to. In fact it can take up to 10 tries for a baby to decide if they like a food. If you’re still faced with a picky eater be creative, think with all five senses. Tastes isn’t the only factor. My first son wouldn’t eat anything runny (aside from his bottle), so I would thicken up his purees with bean paste. Plus that added protein and iron.

Always make sure to consult your baby’s doctor before introducing anything new to your baby’s diet. For more tips on preparing specific fruits, veggies and other foods consult a dietician, doctor or other moms.

Puma Warehouse Sale, This Weekend!: Toronto & GTA

This sale is usually a good one for anyone who lives in the Toronto/GTA area! If you don’t “need” anything, I suggest that you go on the last day to take advantage of the slashed prices. 🙂 Here are the details…

Thursday, October 6th – Monday, October 10th (VIP Day)
Thursday Oct: noon – 9pm
Friday Oct: 9am – 9pm
Saturday Oct: 10am – 6pm
Sunday: 10am – 6pm
Monday: 10am – 6pm

International Centre – Hall 4 (<– lotsa free parking!!!)
6900 Airport Rd.

Click here for 10% off ticket on VIP Day, but keep in mind that they usually have 10% off if you purchase 10+ items!

So if turkey, apple/pumpkin pie, or family isn’t your thing, pop by the sale!

Canadians Are Not The Best Tippers Anymore


We’ve slipped! Apparently were not the biggest tippers anymore.  According to an independent study the USA is now number 1.  Number 10 was Germany.

I generally leave a decent sized tip, more for great service less for mediocre service.  In fact as I’ve been getting up in the years  I have started to leave less and less for undesirable service.  In my experience it seems that the new generation of service workers have come to “expect” their 15% regardless of service.  I’m not cool with that anymore. Why should I leave a good tip when the service was horrible, and sometimes down right rude.  I have worked as a server before, so I’m not expecting any miracles, but there is a certain level of service I know can be met with little effort.  Basically I now leave anywhere from 0-30%.

What do you leave as a tip for servers/bartenders?  Is there any other service you regularly tip on? Valet, dry cleaning, hotel stays, hair, etc? Do you calculate how much to leave exactly or do you guess?

Let’s SAVE At The Ex!

Depending on how you look at it, un/fortunately, the opening of The Ex marks the end of the Summer. It’s an unfortunate sign to me because it means that Old Man Winter, and all his nasty baggage, is just ’round the corner! 🙁

Following an annual family tradition of visiting The Ex, my sisters, nephew, and I decided to revisit that childhood memory. I was blown away at how different AND expensive everything has become. For some reason, I remember The Ex being a relatively inexpensive way to spend the day, but man was I wrong!

(General Admission is $16 which doesn’t sound bad, but since they wouldn’t honour my mom’s corporate rate, I wasn’t able to purchase tickets for $11. Already, this got my day off on the wrong foot! The run ’round that I was given by the staff also left a bad taste in my mouth.)

After spending the entire day there, here are some ways to try and save some money if you plan to visit The Ex:

1. Corporate Rate. If you or anyone in your family qualifies for a Corporate Rate, find out exactly the number of people who will be attending and purchase the tickets ONLINE. As I discovered the hard way, they do not sell discounted tickets at the event. If you are unable to pin down exact numbers, buy an extra ticket – you can always sell it to a stranger in-line.  Tickets are non-refundable.

2.  Bring Cash. I didn’t have time to stop at the bank and didn’t think it would be a problem to use debit or credit card, after all I was in the city. However, aside from the main box office, I did not see any debit machines at the concession stands. The warehouse “stores” may accept these forms of payment, but not where food is purchased and definitely not for the midway games. If you have no cash, there are a bunch of umarked ATM machines, but I avoid those at all costs!

3. Pack Some Food. Unlike more theme parks, e.g. Wild Water Kingdom, the staff at The Ex do not have a “No outside food” policy.  Actually, no one even inspected my purse.  So take advantage of this and pack some snacks or even sandwiches!

4. Bring your water bottle. My sister pointed out these handy-dandy water fountains set-up specifically to fill your water bottle! (They weren’t as rampant as the unmarked ATMs, but I did notice a couple on my rounds.) Since I brought my water bobble with me, this was really handy – not to mention saving me from shelling out upwards of $3 for a bottle of water. 🙂

5. Share, share, share at The Food Building. There is no doubt, at least in my eyes, that The Food Building is still the #1 draw at The Ex! Neither the Krispy Kreme Doughnut Burger nor the Fried Cola/Butter/Koolaid, etc. interests me, but what I do like is seeing all the variety of food that’s under one roof…the infamous, Food Building!

We didn’t pre-plan things, but my sisters and I split 1 meal for lunch! We thought that it would be a good way to try more than one thing. Aside from the 99¢ Spaghetti, most of the concession items appeared to be 2-3 portions…easily!

6. Don’t play the midway games or go on any of the rides. I realise that this tip may seem “extreme” to some of you, but this is how my mom, as the sole breadwinner, was able to take us to places like The Ex. The first time we were old enough to speak, we may have asked if we could play a game or go on the rides, but after saying “No” the first time, we never asked in subsequent years.  At $20/22 tickets, at an average of 4-6 tickets/ride, they aren’t cheap! And if you have more than one child, it’s even more expensive.

This option may not be for everyone, but if you’re really strapped for cash, it’s definitely an option! If you and your spouse can afford to, but all means, buy the ride tickets, play the midway games. However, there are other ways to have fun at The Ex without spending additional cash, e.g. Petting Zoo, The Farm, live music, people watching, just walking around, etc.

7. Skip The Ex and head to the park! Despite thinking that it’s overrated and overpriced, I still had a good time bonding with my family. However, if money is a real concern which I can totally sympathise with, especially for multi-children families, skip The Ex entirely as it does add up.

I’m sure that your family can bond by doing something less costly like a picnic at the park/beach or a day downtown or at Niagara Falls. Shopping for school supplies and clothing may not constitute as a “bonding activity”, but your money is probably better spent doing that if you had to decide between The Ex Vs. A Necessity.

If you’re set on visiting The Ex, consider going after 5pm on Monday – Thursday as admission is only $5.  And on a rare occasion, sometimes there’s a “Free Admission” day too.

Free App: Reactine Allergy Forecast for iPhone Canada

I’m not sure how accurate it is, but if you suffer from allergies and want to know whether or not there’s a chance of sneezing and wheezing in your forecast, you can download the Reactine Allergy Forecast for your iPhone…for free!

This App will give provide the pollen levels for your city, 3-day allergy forecast, allergy alerts set to go off when symtoms will be at their peak, etc.

Click here to download your free app!

Summer Colds. They are the worst!



Ugh, the dreaded summer cold is in full swing right now.  I have talked to many people across the country dealing with this pesky bug. 

I too  am afflicted by possibly the worst cold I have had in years.  It is such a bad bug that has knocked the crap out of me that I am close to classifying it as the flu. 

Anyone else dealing with this dreadful bug  that wants to join my pity party? Any home remedies? Mr. Neo Cirtran has even let me down.

*Heh this isn’t a deal but it is potentially a freebie. If you want my cold bug for free simply pm me for my address and I will give the bug to you for free! No money down!*

Christmas In July: Frugal Christmas Present Craft



I absolutely love these types of crafts. Theres nothing better then working on something like this on a rainy or too humid to go outside day.  Even better is the kids can help out too (minus the glue gun).  These are low cost presents to make, especially if you dig through your supplies and pull out odds and ends.

You will need:

*Glass Blocks (sold at Home Depot, Rona etc for around $6.) 

*Glass or Diamond Drill Bit

*Strands of Christmas lights (25 or 50 per strand whatever colour sequence you have on hand)

*Wire Ribbon

*Decorations if desired (ie ornaments, fake cedar pieces, fake snow etc)

*Fabric Glue or Hot Glue

 Drill 1” hole in back or bottom of glass block. Clean the inside of any debris. Carefully put lights into glass block, leaving enough cord and plug outside the hole.. (Use untwisted coat hanger to help position lights inside)   Cut 2 ribbons to create frame of present and glue each at top to secure. Make top bow with 6-7 loops on each side, add decoration etc as you prefer.

 Voila! You are done!  These make great hostess, teacher, etc presents.


*Different versions for weddings, baby showers etc.

*Make them with the blocks upright and lying down

*Use tissue paper to decorate the glass.

*Paint the glass in sheer colours

*Use Fabric paint to write words or sayings on the present

Be creative. Possibilites galore!

11 Ways To Beat The Heat!

According to the Weather Network, it’s going to feel like 48C in Toronto today. Probably even hotter if you’re stuffed like sardines, in the subway, and someone’s literally breathing down your neck!

(For everyone else not located in Southern-Ontario, count your blessings. 🙂 )

To cope with this heatwave, here are some ways to beat the heat!:
1. Stay Hydrated. If you’re into bottled water, load up that fridge! If you’re heading out, don’t forget the water;

2. Stay in the Shade. I just saw a news story about how the beach was going to get busier this week with the heatwave. I don’t know about you, but lying exposed, on sand, which feels as hot as asphalt, doesn’t cool me off!

Ideally, stay indoors where there is air-conditioning. Think mall, library, recreation centre, grocery store…near the freezers, etc.;

3. Avoid Strenuous Activity. Not only will it be hot, but it will also be humid. And many people, in this kind of humidity, often find it difficult to breathe. So overexertion is not recommended;

4. Draw The Blinds. Sun adds heat, so even with the AC on, it’ll feel hot;

5. Don’t Turn On The Lights…if it’s not necessary. If you need the lights, use a light source with an energy efficient bulb that doesn’t produce as much heat;

6. Unplug That Digital Cable Box. Also make sure that there isn’t anything on top of it. Last week, it literally felt as though someone turned up the heat in my room. As I was trying to go to sleep, there was a loud humming coming from my cable box, so I got up, and unplugged it et voila! The room instantly felt cooler;

7. Use A Ceiling Fan. If, like me the AC doesn’t seem to quite reach the room you’re in, which has a ceiling fan, turn it on to help circulate the air! Just make sure you turn it off when you leave the room to save electricity;

8. Wear Light-weight, Looser Clothing. This is no time for spandex or polyester, people! I’m talking about natural fibres like linen and thin cottons that drift away from the body.

Gosh, do I feel sorry for people who have to wear uniforms or suits;

9. Take A Cold Shower! After you step out, skip the blow dryer. Semi-wet hair will keep you cooler for longer;

10. Go Easy On The Makeup. Ladies, when it’s this hot out, you’ll want to adjust your makeup routine. Instead of full coverage foundation, try a tinted moisturiser.

I’m a big fan of Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Moisturizer SPF 15. You may lightly dust some sheer powder over your moisturiser to avoid getting shiny, and;

11. Head To The Basement. If you’re fortunate enough to live in a house with a decent basement, sans creepy crawlies, consider camping out with the family ’til the heatwave’s over. Remember, heat rises, so it’ll be folds cooler down in the “dungeon”.

Now the part that I’m bad with is planning activities to do when it’s hot out.

What kinds of things do you like to do to beat the heat?

Hot out? Please leave pets at home.

This photo is quite provocative, but I think it sends a clear message that a car, during the Summer, is no place for your pet!

According to my local Animal Services, the police is the proper agency to report pets that are left unattended in hot cars. Animal Services don’t have the authority to gain access into vehicles. Animal Services will only show up if the pet is in distress.

Would you leave your baby, alone in your car while you shopped? So this Summer, especially since it’s going to be a particularly hot one, please leave your pets at home!

Kids bored today? Make your own playdoh!


I remember my mom making this for me as a child.  I’ve posted the cook and no cook method.  Generally the cooking method yields better results.  Cream of tartar is optional but makes the playdoh more elastic like.

Cook Method
3 cups flour
1.5 cups salt
6 tsp. cream of tarter
3 tbsp. oil
3 cups water

Put all ingredients into a large pot. Stir constantly over medium heat until a dough ball forms when pulling away from the sides. Knead dough 1-2 minutes until the texture matches playdoh. Store in a reusable plastic container. Will last about 3 months.

Non Cook method

1/4 cup salt
1 cup flour
1/4 cup water

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl then add water. Knead and squeeze the dough to make a clay like texture. You may need to add more water. Note, this playdoh will not last long.

For both recipes above you can add food colouring, and even scented oil if you wish. I would make sure your child does NOT put the playdoh in his/her mouth if you decide to use scented oils.

Our Very Own Smart Canucks Member “Koala” Won A $10,000 Makeover. *Free Contest Giveaway From Skin Vitality!*


Recently our long time and well loved cuddly member “Koala” won a huge makeover contest.  Below is her experience, first hand.

Mid January I received a phone call that changed my life. I found out I was one of  5 winners of the Skin Vitality $10,000 10 Years Younger Contest!  That was the first conversation of many that changed how I feel, and how I look.  I literally won a  gift of youth that most women only dream of. Entry was only a recent photo and story as to why I deserved a makeover and judges made the decision (based on the info submitted).
How do I feel now that my makeover is complete?  Fantastic, honoured, and still fuzzy. Maybe it was all the champagne last night (haha) Honestly, I feel fantastic inside and out. Willy (my husband)  went to every appointment with me and documented the entire journey. I am so proud of myself, and I know Willy is proud of me. We really make quite the team.I am still pinching myself to make sure that it is me, and this really happened. 
Skin Vitality provided the most amazing treatments which included:  Photofacial,  Botox,  Soft Lip,  Skin Tightening,  Fraxel,  and  Chemical Peels. Minimized are the wrinkles and any of my broken capilliaries and discolourations!! Included in my treatments were hair, teeth, wardrobe, cosmetics, and photo shoots. I was treated to not one, but two days with David Clemmer from Style By Jury!  He provided fun, humorous, but constructive criticism providing tips how I should dress, and what I can wear.  I finally realize I can wear belts, and fitted garments and look fashionable, comfortable, and if I don’t mind saying so myself,  pretty darn hot!!  Hey, it’s not every day you get a man to dress you. I highly recommend it.
Read about the entire journey over at my blog. You will find more pictures and more about my story.
Now!!! Who wants to win some SWAG?
These are the same goodie bags that were handed out at my reveal.

The bags consist of Vivier Cream Body Scrub, Eyelash curler, Lip Balm with SPF 15, and a Hair Bandana. ($80 value approx.)
I am giving away 2 of these swag bags on Smart Canucks and if you want to increase your chances in winning, go to Picture Ontario , and CNAF Autism Blog to enter. In total, there are 6 of these swag bags available to be won.
Entry is simple. Just comment once below. Go to the gallery and have a look around.  Please refrain from “I want to win” or “would love to win” comments.  I (Deb) would love the hear what you think.


* One entry per household i.e. you may only leave 1 comment on the blog. If you want to discuss anything or share your thoughts please include it in that 1 comment.
*Age of majority only
*Canada only no purchase is ness to enter, odds of winning are dependant on number of entries received.
*You may only win a max of 2 contests throughout the whole giveaways event to give others a chance to win
*Contest ends on July 1st 2011 at 11:59 (est) and the winner willl be announced July 2nd 2011.
* You must use a valid email so I can contact you with details on how to claim your prize. Persons who enter with an alias(fake) email will forfeit their prize and a new winner will be drawn. * Skill testing question required*

Smart Canucks Canada Member Of The Month: Watergirl73


First things first, I’d like to apologize for slacking on this. In May I announced Watergirl73 as the member of the month but between my vacation and kidney issues, May passed. I’d like to officially Congratulate Watergirl73  once again.  I am still accepting sumbissions so please do revisit this blog and send me your nomination.

Heres a bit of background on Watergirl73

In 2009 watergirl and her husband purchased their new home with only an air mattress and the clothes on their backs. It seemed like the house would not be a home for a long time….

“One day while surfing Kijiji I came across an ad about coupons and answered it. Then I met up with a great girl that had ahuge binder in tow who told me aboout Sc! The more Ilearned about couponing the more time I spent looking for great deals on kijiji and SC. This is how I managed to furnish my entire home and a stockpile of everyday items!”

Watergirl73 has contributed to our forum genuinely. Her motto is “It’s not how much money you make; it’s how you spend it.”

Here is her thread on how she furnished her home with Kijiji

Congratulations once again Watergirl73!

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