Archive | November, 2013

T’is the Season

20 Nov


It seems that Christmas isn’t just in the air it is in our faces now – in the paper, on the TV, in magazines and a topic of conversation.  I absolutely love Christmas.  The biggest problem with Christmas that I have is that I sometimes can’t find gifts for others that meet up to my expectations.  As in – when I give someone a bracelet I want it to be most fabulous bracelet they’ve seen in years.  Sometimes Christmas arrives before I can find that special something and therefore I am left scurrying around trying to find something.  If that is my biggest problem…

I love to shop and find cool things, so I thought I would share with you a few of my favorite stores/sites/things.  My father loves Lee Valley – I call it his porn.  When he gets the catalogue he looks at it as closely and intensely as other men would look at Hustler.  Total side story here: a few weeks ago I was at Atlantic News with Millie (the afore mentioned dog).  She loves going there because they give her treats.  I love going there because they have the best selection of magazines.  On this visit a handsome, tall, older well dressed man came into the shop. He came over and gave Millie a big pet saying that he too has a Westie.  After giving Millie a pet it seems he had intentions of petting something else – he trotted over to the section that is more “private”.  He grabbed 3 different porn magazines and made his way out of the shop.  Anyhow, back to Lee Valley…

1. One of my favorite things I have bought from LeeValley is a kitchen calculator.  You didn’t expect that did you?  Sounds boring and nerdy but it isn’t!  I use the internet a lot for recipes and the sites have mixed measurements.  This calculator converts imperial to metric, temperatures from Fahrenheit to Celsius AND get ready – grams to cups/tbsps.  I love it.  Best $18 I have spent in a long time.

2. I love red lipstick, glosses, high pigment colors, however, I can’t seem to keep the stuff on my lips.  I know I talk a lot but it is as if I eat it or my lips absorb it into my head.  I have discovered a pretty cool product called No Bleeding Lips.  You can have it too – Shoppers is now carrying it. .  I also have a new favorite lip gloss/stain – Estee Lauder High Intensity Lip Lacquer  It stays on, has a great color, not sticky but shiny and will run you $26.

3. Last year I bought myself a great pair of boots.  One day when leaving my office I dropped one of the boots.  I was probably carrying the dog, purse, lunch bag, boots, and gym clothes in one haul  rather than making two trips.  Anyhow, one of the random weirdo’s who used to hang outside of our office must have taken the boot off the steps and did I don’t know what with it.  I was so mad at myself.  So I had to buy a new pair this year.  Urrrggghhh. Seeing as I am as hard on my shoes as Georges St. Pierre is on his opponents I decided to spend some coin and get boots that I won’t be able to ruin easily.   They are definitely a splurge, but they fit so well and I won’t wear them out. 

4.  If you haven’t yet discovered Etsy your life is about to change.  I have ordered so many amazing things on this website.  The items are either handmade or vintage.  Be warning it is a RABBIT HOLE – you will find yourself spending hours and hours looking. You can literally find anything for anyone who is on your list and the benefit is that the gift will be unique and it comes direct from the artist.  As well, you only pay postage rates not the usual flat shipping rates.

5. Anthropologie.  I love it.  I can’t say enough about this store.  The best dishes, candles, décor and some of their clothes are great too.

4. I can’t not mention Chapters.  Who doesn’t love books? If they don’t they need to learn to appreciate them. Also, they have really ramped up their gifting and they always have sales online. Their candles rank up there with Anthropologie. You only need to purchase $25 to get free shipping.
Now for the guy in your life. Maurice is super hard to buy for so I’ve had to do some heavy thinking in order to get him something he a) doesn’t already have b) will make use of. Here are a few ideas.

1. Sports cufflinks. Maurice is a sports lover and he often wears shirts which require cufflinks. You can choose the sport and even the team. The link is way too long – go to and search for sports cufflinks.

2. Beer club – for his birthday I got him a beer club. Every month he gets a case of mixed beer with information about each brand. Some of the beers have 14% alcohol content. We get ours through Premiere Wine and Spirits (we also do their wine club – 2 rare reds per month) – I save on the shipping by picking it up at the store every month. The beer club runs around $50 a month and the wine club around $45.

3. – you can find any style of art. You can download your own pictures and do super cool things to them. I did a picture of Millie in pop art form and it was adorable.

4. I love “experience gifts” – look into local classes you can give as a gift. Depending on the interest of the recipient you can find some pretty cool classes.

There you have it a few ideas to subtlety tell someone who is buying for you to get you and some ideas to gain respect from the man you are buying for.


Good Things Are Happening!

19 Nov

Once upon a time I had a boss named Wayne (no idea if he reads this or not) and he always said “Good things are happening”!  He was extraordinarily positive, had boundless energy and forced us to do push up competitions in our office.  He was a pretty rare guy.  I read the paper daily and most days I feel much worse when I finish it than when I started.  Recently I wrote a letter to the editor daring them to report on “the good things happening” in our province.  On that particular day the best part of the read was the obituaries; at least they told stories of love and the positive things people did with their lives.  Why do we need to hear about losers like Rob Ford, Kim Kardashian and Mike Duffey over and over again?

In an effort to focus on the positive I want to share with you a story which recently has impacted me.  I volunteer as a Doula. What is a Doula you say?  Directly translated it means I am a servant to a labored woman!  Basically I act as a support person to pregnant women who are in need of extra support.  The program I volunteer through aims to support: low income families, single mothers and new comers to Canada.  After returning from Africa in October I felt very impacted by my stay in Tanzania.   Shortly after returning I received our monthly list of mothers needing support.  On the list was a woman from Rwanda looking for support during the birth of her first baby.  I immediately contacted our coordinator and said I would be most interested in helping her.  We got all the paperwork done and shortly after I met “Sweet Marie” who has full of baby (due in only a few weeks) and her kind husband Tele.  Over the course of the next few weeks I learned so much about them; their journey coming to Canada, their culture, the distinct differences between life in Canada and Rwanda, and of course their excitement for the birth of their baby. They have no family living here.  It made me reflect on what it would be like for myself (or most anyone I know) to have their first baby – there would be showers, visitors, food offered and lots of general support.  All they really have is each other.  When visiting them I realized they were in need of many items for their baby.  I decided to post on Facebook  a request for anyone having baby items to spare to pass them over to me so that I could give them to this growing family.  What happened next amazed me.  I received (and still am receiving) so many items that I filled my car from top to bottom – Millie (my dog) had to sit on top of 3 boxes of diapers when I delivered the first load to them tonight.  When I showed up at their door Marie’s mouth literally dropped as if she saw a ghost and she started to cry.  I felt like Oprah when she would give viewers some crazy gift.  This wasn’t anything crazy it was basic baby stuff, but to her it was as if I showed up with a million dollar cheque.  

Last Monday the baby arrived after 4 (yes 4) days of labor.  I was able to support them throughout this as it was very much out of Tele’s comfort zone (men do not attend births in their country and he felt very nervous to be alone during the process).  Little baby Lina made her way into the world and my goodness is she ever beautiful. After losing 4 nights sleep and spending a week in the hospital due to a few minor complications I was concerned about her going home to be alone all day while her husband goes to work. A friend informed me of an amazing program at the IWK called EPS (Extra Parental Support) so I called and had them set up a visit from a volunteer once a week for 3 hours.  Basically this volunteer will do anything Marie wants – care for the baby if she wants to take a nap, do laundry, visit, etc.  Yesterday they came for the first time and she told me it was wonderful. 

The purpose of this post is to hopefully inspire you to “make good things happen”. Honestly, it is way easier to make good thing happen than to make shitty things happen.  We are so connected now that the click of a computer key gives you access to thousands of eyes.  My father says that Facebook is “the most blatant display of insecurity he has ever seen” – for the most part I agree with him, but when used right it can “make good things happen”.  

Through this process I have been: educated on another culture, made 3 new friends, further appreciate the amazing health care we have in Canada and made some “good things happen” with the help of many others.


An ode to my father…

2 Nov

Guess what, my Dad apparently got online and read my blog. Mom told me that he actually thought it was funny – I can’t believe it. He isn’t one to flow over with compliments. I mean you really have to work for it. I guess in some ways you never need to question where you stand with him – he will usually tell you straight up how he feels. My mother is not a chef by school training but she is a chef by life training. I have heard Dad yell out at the end of a meal “Janice, that was some powerful stuff” and I have also heard him say “Janice, you have done a lot better.” A few months back Dad told me my lasagna was perhaps the best he has ever had. That was a big deal. In thinking about Dad and a few funny stories come to mind:

1. Many years ago my mother had a pair of floral leggings which my father detested – he still hates leggings. One day we came home from running errands to find Dad standing in the kitchen wearing the leggings while making bread. I remember laughing out loud at the site. Mom said “Leonel, what are you doing?” Dad replied “How do they look?” Mom replied “Terrible.” He replied “Well they don’t look any better on you.” I don’t think I saw the leggings again.
2. One year we were getting ready to go on vacation when Dad out of the blue announced he needed to get his hair cut before leaving. My mother would have been organizing, cooking, packing, planning so this would have been a huge annoyance. In fact I have heard my mother say the “F word” twice in my entire life and one of the times was during the planning of this trip. We drove into town and dropped Dad at the barber shop before leaving. My father returned with his hair completely shaved off. As in shiny bald head shaved off. He normally had something like Einstein hair, so the shave was rather shocking. Rumors of cancer quickly flew around our town. Not sure why he took this notion, but it made for an interesting start to our vacation.
3. He often uses the car keys to clean his ears. It looks like he is trying to start his head instead of the car.
4. A few years ago he thought he needed a change before retiring so he decided to move to Calgary to work. We now call him the 2 week cowboy – that is how long he lasted.
5. For the grade ten semi-formal I made a hair appointment in town to get an “up do”. After waiting an extra hour for my appointment the stylist just bombed my hair. I am very particular about style so this was a big deal for me. I walked out of the salon totally emotional. Guess who was there to pick me up? Dad. I got in the car and in a grade 10 girl way started to cry and said “I hate my hair! She ruined it! I don’t want to go to the dance!” Now most fathers would say “Oh honey you are beautiful, what can I do for you?” Not my Dad. He said “Emilie, why don’t you get out of the car and get back in when you grow up.” Talk about feeling like an idiot because it is true.

For most of my early life I was often thinking “why does Dad do that?” As in he didn’t behave like most people I knew. We recycled years before others people did. He had all kinds of side gigs – he made yogurt for the health food store in town, sold milk to various families in the area and he sharpened blades for local businesses. He used the pockets from the back of his jeans to cover up holes in the knees. He had crazy hair. Most every single time someone came to our house and a geographic location was mentioned he would pull out his magnifying glass and world atlas. At some point I stopped trying to understand him and instead I just accept that he is different from anyone I know. In fact the older I get the more I absolutely appreciate his individualism in a world where most people are vanilla ice cream.

So Dad in case you read this – I think you are weird, but I also think you are cool.