1) My Anne et Valetin glasses

I got these in early summer from the always-amazing Karim at Smith and Wight – I didn’t even try anything else on, when I met with him, he just said “ah! I have something in the back for you” and came back with these from Anne et Valentin. I love them. It’s been over six months and not a single week has gone by that I haven’t been complimented on them.

Image

(obviously not a photos from Smith & Wight)

 

2) My marimekko lightweight wool scarf        

I bought this in Boston this summer. I think a big part of the reason that I love this piece is that marimekko is a design house that has re-emerged, but was huge in the 60s and 70s and many of the fabrics and accessory pieces were in the house when I was little. The scarf’s incredibly versatile colour palette (red, black, grey and navy) means it’s simple to incorporate with my wardrobe of basics. 

ImageImage

 

(I can’t find it on-line, but it’s the pattern on the left, and I’m wearing the scarf on the right)

 

3) My Soia & Kyo winter coat

Finally, I moved away from the black/neutral safe zone of winter coats this winter. I wear winter coats for five months of the year – I may as well start having fun. I fell in love with this Soia & Kyo wool coat with a tulip hem. Thanks to an excellent sale at The Bay, it now brightens up those cold, dark days and makes me feel a little better about winter.

Image

 

NB: In an effort to blog more, I’m just going to write about lists of three things. Topics to vary. This was the first. Hopefully not the last.

Advertisements

Last night, I made a dinner that I was really proud to serve. I don’t consider myself a cook of any great skill, but every so often I impress myself. So, with a bit of help from Jamie Oliver, a tip from the staff at Culina Muttart and a random recipe I found on the internet, I produced this:

Seared scallops with a maple chili glaze served over blanched asparagus and a spinach/mushroom/wine sausage risotto.

Pretty good, right?

Growing up as a sort of “christian for the sake of cultural literacy,” I had never heard of giving anything up for Lent. I suppose it was my husband, who grew up very Catholic, who explained it to me while we were dating.

I think we tried it that first year we dated. He gave up fast food and I gave up chocolate. Another year, I think I gave up meat. One year I vowed 8 glasses of water every day.

See a theme?

I’ve come to adopt Lent as my very own 6 week bootcamp. Now stripped of any religious significance for me, it’s just a really nice time frame to focus on my health and fitness for almost exclusively vain reasons. It’s perfect. Six weeks and a half weeks, Sundays off. Plus you finish just as you emerge from oversized sweaters and puffy coats. Sacrifice for vain and selfish reasons. Heathen Lent.

Plus, if you say “oh, I’ve given up chocolate/meat/chips/candy/pop/booze for Lent” no one questions it. That’s weird, right? Somehow making a dietary gesture to a guy who supposedly spent 40 days in the desert is a perfectly legitimate excuse for not eating Ruffles all-dressed chips.

In any case, it starts tomorrow. In addition to giving up chips and chocolate, I’ve also got an aggressive little workout schedule planned. Come April, I’m totally going to be hot for Jesus.

Five years ago, I started a craft project with my elder son. We decided to make valentines for the kids in his preschool class. At the time, I thought it was a great way to work on his fine motor skills, something to do in the cold February evenings and there was a nice lesson in there about spending time making nice things for other people.

At the time, there were a grand total of ten kids in his class.

Fast forward to this year, where that same boy is now in a class of 23 and his younger brother wants in on the fun for his preschool class. So we made our annual trek to Michael’s to purchase an obscene amount of pink hearts, glitter, ribbon, feathers, stickers, etc.

For the past two weekends (and the week in between) we’ve been working assembly-style on the FOUR DOZEN valentines that needed to be created. We finished this afternoon and they look great. The boys are so proud and excited to take them to school next week.

I don’t know how many more years I have of my boys being psyched about making glittery pink valentines, but I hope I have a few.

 

 

AKA: why mall trick-or-treating sucks

I’m a firm believer in having my kids trick-or-treat in the streets where we live. For me, Halloween night is more about being an active part of my neighbourhood than it is about candy. (Except Rockets – I love those!) For those of you still unsure where to spend the evening with your little princesses and superheroes, I offer up seven reasons why I think Halloween should be given the community building recognition it deserves.

1)   Meet your extended neighbours

Halloween is one of the only times in the year that it’s normal to knock on the door of an unknown person, have that person happily open the door, have a bit of a conversation and leave with everyone feeling good about it. Take advantage of Halloween to get to know the faces of the people who live nearby.

2)   Teach your kids that people are good

Kids have been taught “stranger danger,” but the truth is that most people are good people – they’re not child molestors who slip razors in Coffee Crisps. You might not know the person who lives two streets over, but that doesn’t mean they’re dangerous or bad or should be avoided. Halloween is the perfect time to make that point.

3)   Meet other parents

For parents of young children walking around the neighbourhood with their little trick-or-treaters, it’s a chance to meet other parents doing the same thing. It’s another chance to talk to your neighbours, share a laugh and help to turn a bunch of people who live in the same geographic location into a community.

4)   People like handing out candy

For lots of people, seeing kids come by in their costumes and handing out candy is the best part of Halloween. They carve their pumpkins and keep their houselights on hoping for a good turnout. It’s disappointing to go through all that effort if only a dozen kids show up. Keep not showing up and eventually people won’t make the effort, leading to dud neighbourhoods, leading to more kids going to the mall, and so on…

5)   Malls are not a community

Shopping centres host trick-or-treating events because it gets a prime demographic through the doors to spend a couple hours window-shopping. They’re billed as “safe” alternatives, giving the false impression that neighbourhood trick-or-treating somehow isn’t safe (see #2). But retail stores are not your neighbours and the people handing out candy are being paid to do so. Taking your kids to the mall instead of exploring your neighbourhood sends your kids the message that commercial entities are preferred (more trusted?) than people down your street.

6)   Better candy haul

Mall trick-or-treating is overcrowded, candy supplies run out early and to handle the mall crowds, stores often hand out single, small pieces of inexpensive candy. Lame. Neighbourhood trick-or-treating still offers the chance of the house that hands out FULL SIZE chocolate bars.

(off topic: The Switch Witch? Ew.)

 7)   Adjusting costumes for the weather is a Canadian tradition

The end of October is unpredictable. Sometimes the weather is positively lovely and poses no threat to costumes. But I do remember those bitterly cold Halloweens where costumes had to work around snowsuits and mittens. Some people claim that going to the mall means that kids get to show off their costumes they way they were intended. I’d argue that trick-or-treating in the cold is one of the iconic things about being Canadian and we should embrace it rather than hide from it.

Let me know what you think. Have I overlooked some reason why malls are a preferred choice over a neighbourhood? Does anyone have any fond, rosy childhood memories of that treat you got from your local Body Shop cashier? Or share your favourite neighbourhood trick-or-treating story.

See you in the streets!

I’ve been thinking a lot about Autism Speaks lately and why it rubs me the wrong way. There are a lot of logical reasons I don’t like the organization – questions around their finances, the lack of autistic individuals involved in the organization and how they eclipse fundraising efforts of local charities who provide much needed services to autistic individuals and their families in Edmonton and Alberta.

But ultimately, it comes down to the fact that I don’t like what Autism Speaks tells the world about my son and my family. And I don’t like what Autism Speaks tells my son about himself.

My son is autistic. He is high functioning, though language delays prevent an Asperger’s diagnosis. He’s come a long way from where he was at age three, where we couldn’t seem to connect with him and 90% of his day was made up of routines. For his vast improvement, we have the combined efforts of Alberta Health Services and the Edmonton Public School Board’s Early Education program to thank. Despite what you may think, these two huge organizations worked seamlessly together to provide my son with incredible OT, PT, SLP and child psychology/psychiatry services.

Thanks to all of this, he now attends a regular school with part time help from a TA, has made friends and is a welcome part of the school community.

To be honest, I have no concerns about my son’s academic abilities. What worries me are his social skills and how he’ll navigate the emotional minefield of adolescence.

Lacking a crystal ball, I’ve spent a lot time on-line reading about the challenges autistic teenagers face. And you know what? There’s a whole culture of self-described “auties” who like the fact that they’re autistic. Yes, they wish there were some aspects of their lives that were easier, but overall, they like being quirky and focus on their strengths and abilities – they have no desire to not be autistic. They like themselves, they value themselves and are just waiting for everyone else to catch up and realize how awesome they are too.

This is what I want for my son – I want him to be proud of the person he is – all of himself, which includes his autism.  I don’t want him to feel like he needs to be “cured” and I don’t want him to feel like he’s got a sickness or a disorder. He doesn’t “suffer from autism” and he doesn’t need anyone’s pity – maybe just some understanding.

Another thing about those self-loving autistics? They HATE Autism Speaks. They hate that the organization portrays them as broken and suffering – that who they are is a tragedy. They hate that Autism Speaks blames them for their parents’ marital problems or for being a financial burden. They hate that Autism Speaks spends so much of its resources trying to find a cure for what they find unique and valuable about themselves.

I don’t know if my son will end up with that level of self-awareness about his autism. But I hope he does and I hope that he ends up liking the person he is and being proud of what he contributes to the world. Isn’t that what every parent hopes for their child?

Because of that wish, I choose to not support an organization that I believe fundamentally works against it. I’m siding with the kind of autistic people I hope my son will be.

____________________________________________________________

Disclaimer: I understand that every autistic person is different and other parents of autistic children may have a different opinion than mine. For many parents, Autism Speaks does indeed speak for them and they want to support their message and research by participating in the charity walk.

However, I would also encourage those families and their supporters to keep their autism charity dollars in their community and donate to local organizations as well. It’s these organizations that help families get needed treatment and services for their children and help improve the lives of autistic people and their families in the here and now.

Two local Edmonton organizations to consider:

Autism Society of Edmonton Area

Children’s Autism Services of Edmonton

When you have a bad customer experience, how many chances do you give?

For me, it depends partially on demand and price. I drink a lot of Starbucks lattes, and the Terwillegar location closest to my house has notoriously bad service, but I keep HOPING it will get better, so I occasionally give it another chance to prove to me why I shouldn’t drive further to Century Park to get stellar service. The price is low enough, the location convenient enough and I buy them often enough to give a few chances.

But what about a higher ticket item that you purchase less frequently? If you need to buy a good quality suit or a killer pair of shoes and come across a bad salesperson at a store, what would it take you to go back? Would it depend on the store’s selection? A great sale? Would it take a few years? What about a recommendation from a friend to give it another try?

Finally, what about those significant purchases that happen a few times in your life? If you get initial bad service, there’s almost no reason to ever go back, right?

At the beginning of the year, I started looking for a quality dining room table that would last multiple decades. After much fruitless searching, I had a good experience with a saleslady at Urbane by Cottswood. She then came to my house to take measurements and see the space… and then I never heard from her again.

That’s bad service – I should write her and the store off, right? Well I didn’t. I thought Cottswood should be given a second chance despite leaving me hanging for months.

So I called back to find out that the saleslady (and her files) was no longer part of the organization. The staff seemed embarrassed by my poor experience, were apologetic and the manager herself came back out to my house to re-measure and re-discuss what I was looking for. A few days later she sent a proposed table and layout, and because it all looked good, I asked for a price.

She sent me the price and noted that it was on sale.

Now dear readers, does it seem unreasonable that after several months of my files being lost that they may have perhaps offered me a few percentage points off? All I expected was a gesture – something to acknowledge that my customer experience had not been up to snuff.

I wrote back and basically said as much – but the response came back with no gesture – I would get the same price as someone who came off the street who hadn’t given the company a second chance after receiving poor service.

So tell me, am I out of line here? Would you expect a company who’s mission is to “exceed customer’s [sic] expectations thereby cultivating long term relationships” to give a little when their acknowledged internal issues caused bad customer service?

I would. And so I’m starting my search for a dining room table over again.

I try to be a good mum. I think I’m possibly above average in the mothering department, but I’m not an extraordinary mum. I try to make sure they eat well, get enough sleep and stay active. I listen to their stories, try to answer all their questions, read to them, kiss them and tell them I love them.

But by far, the very best thing I have ever done for my kids is choose a great man to be their dad.

From the first moment we suspected I was pregnant, he has risen to the challenge and embraced the role with gleeful delight – nothing brings him quite as much joy, makes him laugh quite as hard as those two boys of ours.

But it’s not just that he loves being a dad, it’s that he’s exceptionally good at it.  He doesn’t just play the role of secondary parent or only do the “fun” parenting – he is wholly involved in their lives. He considers their well being in every decision. He knows how each kid prefers their eggs prepared, he knows which t-shirt is the favourite and which flavour of toothpaste is verboten. He knows the names of our older son’s classmates and how to get our younger son to eat broccoli. He volunteers for fieldtrips, leaves work early for school performances and holds wrestling matches in the family room. He’s the one they call for when a nightmare wakes them up at night.

There was a time when I wished I had a daughter, but the more I thought about it, the happier I am that we have two boys. I think the world needs more amazing fathers and I’m hopeful that my boys will learn from the best. I hope my boys grow up to be the kind of man, the kind of father that my husband is. I hope my kids are equally amazing to their kids one day.

Happy Father’s Day.

June has been proclaimed “Next Gen Month” in Edmonton. As I look at the various organizations under that umbrella, I often find myself asking “where are the women?” or more specifically “where are the women like me?”

From my (probably biased) perspective, those who are most involved fall into three categories:

  • single men
  • single women
  • married men with supportive wives (with or without children)

It got me thinking – where are all the women with young families? If the ultimate goal of those organizations is to make Edmonton a more vibrant, livable city for my generation and the next, where are the voices of the women working to make the city better while trying to balance challenging careers and kids.  Certainly I’m not the only one who’s TOTALLY FINE with drive-through banks as part of a denser city?

As a marketer, I understand the power of mothers – we make most of the consumer decisions in the household and therefore hold a lot of power. Many many many organizations want to hear what moms have to say. But does anyone care what those same women have to say outside of their roles as moms and household managers?

Am I splitting hairs here? Perhaps.

But I know there are women like me out there. I work with them, I work for them, and they’re in my book club and my twitter feed. A while ago, one of them whom I greatly admire told me (in her kind and supportive, yet no nonsense way) that if I wanted that voice heard, perhaps I should stop bitching and start talking (I paraphrase).

It took me a while, but I finally took her advice, and I’ve decided to run for a position on the Board of Directors of a local industry organization.

I’m hoping to find plenty of women with young families (and super supportive husbands) who are already out there, being part of the conversation. I know that since I’ve been thinking about this issue, I’ve found more and more of them and it makes me happy. I hope I’m joining a chorus.

Earlier this year, my parents and husband suggested that it was a good time to take the kids for their first visit to Disneyland. The timing seemed good – both boys were tall enough to go on most of the rides, we all needed some warm weather and sunshine and my older son’s birthday was coming up.

But I initially resisted the idea of going on only a few weeks’ notice. I wanted to push it off until the fall so I had more time to plan. I had done a case study on Disney in the past, and the thing that stuck with me was the fact that a Disney vacation was something that people planned well in advance and there was a lot of advice to be had out there about how to maximize the experience. I knew that there were guidebooks and software programs and chat rooms and iPhone apps all dedicated to planning out a Disney vacation with military precision. The thought of having to do that level of planning in such a short amount of time made me feel a bit panicked.

And then, when I Googled “lazy parents’ guide to Disneyland” and got exactly ZERO hits, I knew I was screwed.

Everyone thought I was being ridiculous, and in some way, I knew I was too, but I couldn’t figure out why I was so resistant.

Until it finally dawned on me that I was putting myself under far too much pressure to give my kids THE MOST PERFECT DISNEY EXPERIENCE. Like this was my only shot at getting it right, and if I fell short on any single part of the trip, I would ruin their childhood.

Okay, simmer down there, crazy lady.

The truth is, if I told my kids we were taking a special trip to one of the bridges in the river valley, they’d be excited. We could take a plane ride to anywhere and it would blow their minds.  This didn’t need to be our one and only Disney trip, we didn’t have to reach some mythical level of perfection, we just wanted to have a few days of fun.

So with some much appreciated help from my parents, the trip was planned and all I had to do was make sure I could get the time off work. I did end up getting a guidebook at the last minute that helped explain some of the finer details, but by the time I started reading it, I was already on the plane.

The truth is, the reason there’s no “Lazy Parents’ Guide to Disneyland” is that the whole experience is so easy. Get up, get dressed, go on rides, eat when you’re hungry, be prepared to stand in line sometimes, head back to the hotel when you’re tired. Done.

If you asked me, I could give you half a dozen tips to make the most out of a trip to Disneyland, but I realized that “getting the most out of it” wasn’t the point. It was about spending time as a family, creating memories, having a blast.

And on those points, I’d say it was perfect.