Mark Burnett, Roma Downey and Me

So, on Monday we were back into mom mode. One paediatrician appointment, two play-dates, bathing the dog (now that she sleeps on my bed,this is essential!)

Plus a bath with epsom salts because after all of that skiing and badminton, I could barely move! It's good because if every day were like yesterday, well, it would be hard to keep grounded.

Because yesterday was all about this:

Yup, Mark Burnett was announcing that I'm going to be a new judge on The Voice.

Not really. That job is apparently going to Melinda Estabrooks, based on her epic VHS audition tape.

Crossroads invited me to a lunch and meet and greet with Mark Burnett (yes, that Mark Burnett) and Roma Downey (yes, that Roma Downey), who are promoting their upcoming television mini-series, The Bible, which premieres on History on March 3, 2013. I think it's pretty amazing that someone with Burnett's track record has turned his attention to bringing the Bible - from Genesis to Revelation - to the small screen.

First of all, can I say how pretty Crossroad Communication's event room is?

The food was good too. Going to check out The Grinning Gourmand for my next shindig. They had me at the candied bacon! (I know, I was invited to help promote an important tv series, not stuff my face with candied bacon. But still, candied bacon!!)

But back to the main event:

I got to see about an hour from the 10-hour series and I was pretty impressed. I'm not always the biggest fan of anything with a "Christian" label as it often seems to be a euphemism for "not really good enough to be mainstream." It should, of course, be the opposite: Our Utmost for His Highest. So it thrills me when people of faith put the same degree of excellence into their projects as we expect from Hollywood.

And The Bible, from what I saw, does not disappoint. The budget is big: $20 million big. The score, which I believe can make or break a production, is by Hans Zimmer. Yes, that Hans Zimmer of The Lion King, Gladiator, The Dark Knight and Inception. Gladiator has one of my favourite scores of all time. In fact, Gladiator is one of my favourite movies of all time and this series has a very Gladiator-like feel. The special effects were done by the same graphics people who worked on Ridley Scott's amazing film. I saw clips from the Noah's Ark scene and the parting of the Red Sea. Impressive (or as Burnett would say, EPIC!)

Some of the scenes we saw were very intense. The movie does not sanitize the brutality of the ancient world. As Mark Burnett put it, "this is not a donkeys and sandals version of the Bible." And that's important, not simply because it might encourage the guys to switch it on in their man caves, but because it highlights how miraculous it was that the message of love and foregiveness triumphed over a world that was anything but. And it gives us hope that love and forgiveness can once again triumph. We will never be too broken - as a people, as a planet - for God to bring about our redemption.

The set is gorgeous. It was all shot on location in Morocco. Roma and Mark (because, you know, we're all on a first-name basis now) talked about the making of the movie. Morocco has a huge film industry because of the number of movies shot in the area and their local crew is one of the best in the world. They also discussed some of the logistics of shooting, such as employing a "snake man" to clear the set of serpents each day. That's dedication.

It's not just a "gee-wow!" special effects piece. It's very much character-driven. And the characters are not archetypes: they are flawed, filled-out, flesh and bone people. As Burnett pointed out, "there is only one perfect character."

I was not familiar with any of the actors (except for Downey who plays Mother Mary at the time of the crucifixion), which is a good thing. When you know too much about an actor, it can be distracting. Ashton Kutcher as Jesus! I don't think so... Instead, Jesus is played by a Portuguese television actor, Diogo Morgado. He's a good choice. He has a kind face, yet looks strong. If I have one criticism it's that everyone's teeth look pretty straight and white. In university, I did a double major in English and Classics and I have to tell you, they did not do a lot of Zoom whitening in ancient Rome. But that's a small criticism for such am ambitious project.

The one thing I did not get a handle on is the theological bent of the film. Mary Magdalene features prominently as one of the disciples. So I liked that. And Downey commented on how even though there are 33,000 Christian denominations, with many, many differences, she hoped that this would be a unifying film. As she so elegantly said, "It's a great big feast and everyone's invited to the table." Amen to that.

I was very impressed with Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. Not impressed because they are celebrities per se (when I covered media accounts for the bank a million years ago, I met lots of famous people and once you've felt Mark Wahlberg's abs at a party, nothing else tends to wow...) but impressed because of all the career opportunities these two must have, they have chosen to spend three and a half years bringing The Bible to the screen. They believe that everything they have experienced in life (including their marriage) has been leading them to this project. They are not looking to succeed because they need the money or the ego boost (I'm guessing that the royalties from Survivor, The Apprentice, and The Voice are paying the rent and getting them the very best table at Swiss Chalet.) They want this to succeed because they want people to know our history and because they want people to know Christ. They want a new audience to be exposed to the greatest story ever told.

So set your PVRs for Sunday, March 3 (it's OK, Downton wraps Feb 17!) Or better yet, grab your pals and throw a Bible party on Sunday nights. If this series could be discussed over the water cooler (or Facebook) as much as Downton has been, that would be an amazing, amazing thing.

January Wrap

Alrighty, so we are experiencing bizarro weather here. Yesterday was like balmy spring and today is back to freezing. Weird. Oh well, it is allowing me to model my coat collection.

So, January wrap up. I went the entire month without wearing jeans. Yay me! I did learn that I am fundamentally lazy and a creature of habit so I basically substituted cords and cashmere knit dresses for jeans. But at least my "uniform" was a bit more fashion forward. I will continue to wear jeans but only with a jacket - a look which works better in spring or fall since the whole coat thing tends to interfere.

Budgeting. I have to wait a couple of days for the actuals to roll in, but I think I did fairly well. My Quicken budget is showing lots of green (underspend) and the red bars (overspend) tend to be one-time items (I won't have to buy badminton rackets for the entire family for a while, I figure.) The one area where I'm always running over is groceries. For a little family, we seem to eat a lot of expensive food. Part of that is the age of my kids: I encourage them to serve themselves healthy snacks from the fridge or pantry and single serve items make that work best.

It's not the most enviro or wallet friendly approach but right now it works. So there is room for improvement for this line item but for now I think I will have to bump up the budget for groceries and bump something else down (perhaps clothes (sulk!) since I've discovered a whole new wardrobe.)

I've been relaxing for 20 minutes a day and I've been doing my hair (got to show off the ombre). And I've embraced the spackle. Not just lipgloss but eyeliner, blush and mascara. Did you know Yves St Laurent Shocking mascara smells like flowers? How awesome is that!

Working out was not a resolution, but I've been sticking to my program very well. I've bumped up my weights so by summer I'll be good.

Oh, and I've sworn off ketchup chips. I may have substituted the sweet potato fries, aioli and a glass of Pinot for the red devils but, hey, a girl has to start somewhere.

Off to a busy day. I have to do some drawing (drawing!) for an upcoming project and I might try to make something out of this dupioni silk I scored at Fabricland for $10 a metre! Pillow covers or a skirt. Decisions, decisions.

Stay warm, people.

Until tomorrow,

Weekend Warrior

First of all, I wanted to say Brava to Leslie Morgan Steiner for her TED talk. I started reading her during my mommy blogger days and I have huge respect for her courage in sharing her story.

So the weekend was filled to the brim with activities. First, I joined some girlfriends for a comedy night with Fraser Young, Steve Dylan and Graham Chittenden. The comics knew the audience and let's just say I will never look at a dog or a bingo dauber the same way again. Hilarious!

Saturday was skiing. Sunny and new snow. Who could ask for anything more? Then, off to a vision board party. I figured it was just an excuse to drink a lot of wine but we actually made a visual representation of the goals we want to accomplish over the next year. My pal who threw the party was thoughtful enough to purchase a copy of February's Vanity Fair with the title "One million men say Jennifer Lawrence is the world’s most desirable woman." Well, you know that was going to be cut out and pasted on. At first I was not sure what else to add. But slowly, I became inspired. I might like to work in something involving design. I want to sell my book. I'd like to go back to Paris. I want to be able to do lots of push ups. And yes, that's Matthew Crawley there. I mean, a girl has to dream, right? Fun night and here's the final product:

Sunday, I was up with the birds and hit IDS 2013.

I met the lovely Brandie Weikle, who is digital director of House and Home. We have a bunch of people in common and have connected online but it's always so lovely to meet up in real life. The show was spectacular - which means I blew through 90% of it in 15 minutes and then spent the next hour and a half focused on six booths.

First up was the most gorgeous desk I've ever seen. I'm obsessed with little writing desks and I'm obsessed with lacquerware. And voila! The Bento Box Escritoire.

A perfect marriage of the two. And the designer? Douglas Coupland for SwitzerCultCreative. Well, knock me over with a feather. I was all, the writer? And then I wanted it even more. Another lady admiring the desk wants it too and we decided we might have to arm wrestle for the first one when it is finally available for sale via Joan Eiley. So now I'll have to ask the trainer guy at the gym to build up my arm-wrestling muscles because this puppy is a must!

There was this rug awesomeness from W Studio.

From Evelyne Prelonge comes this gorgeous cotton faux-fur scrumptiousness:

And of course, La Cornue. My kingdom for one of the brass ones!

Then, I was obsessed - OBSESSED - with Reznick Carpet's Modallian Collection. I spent a lot of time chatting with uber-talented textile artist Robyn Waffle. These carpets are unbelievably gorgeous and it would be almost - almost - sinful to put these works of art underfoot. I seriously want one.

And, of course, I could not not find some pillows I wanted to take home (but didn't!) I adored these pretty Fendi ones from John Paul & Co.

Oh, and I got a new deck from Farrow and Ball. Love their new colour Pelt, even if it makes me blush to write it (I just know I'm going to get some inappropriate google searches when I check my site stats this week.) Anyways, it's a lovely purple and is making me rethink redoing my front door in Brinjal, which had been the original plan.

Anyhow, I was also happy to discover that there are not one but two Farrow and Ball dealers in Oakville. In your eye, Rosedale!

I also met the good people from Cocoon. More Oakville style goodness. I also need to check out Abacus. They had some gorgeous pieces and most of it is made in Canada. Love that.

So then I rushed back home and got into my whites in time for my first game of badminton. How fun is that sport! And the aesthetics of it: the green court, the white clothes, the birds with real feathers. Fun crowd too. Everyone is all pleasant and smiling and then smash that bird like they are trying to put out an eye and then everyone has a glass of wine. My kind of people!

And then I dashed home for an evening of Downton. Pass the hankies!

And so to bed...

Until next time,

Nesting Hackney Style

One of the passages of scripture that gave me much comfort is Psalm 84:3:
Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young--a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God.
The image of even the sparrow being blessed with a nest to raise her young has stuck with me and is why house and home has become so important to me over the past little while.

Or at least, I'd like to think there was some spiritual grounding for my sudden desire to add a bunch of fun throw pillows into the mix.

I had lots of nice pillows but they were getting old and a bit worn. I kept the feather inserts but replaced my yellow raw silk covers with a pair of electric pink House of Hackney beauties from Elli Mae Designs. And I replaced the plain black velvet covers with one leopard velvet beauty from Arianna Belle and one that is still on its way.

I'm playing around with where they should go - the leopard can go anywhere as it's pretty neutral (yes, in my world, leopard is a neutral...) The hot pink numbers are taking more trial and error.

(Ok, primo example of Reversal-of-Fortune Chic is insisting on filling a 150 square foot dining room with a large sprayed-silver oak dining room/kitchen table, 4 ghost chairs, a china cabinet, a piano, and an ornate carved striped-velvet chair. I used to have my Christmas tree in there too. Yikes!)

It's funny, this is the first house I've owned that I'm so interested in styling since I lived in an old Victorian house in the city. Maybe it's because I once again have a funny old house with lots of character, or maybe it's just where my head is right now. At any rate, I'm having fun. I sort of feel like me again. Marian Keyes wrote a lovely cookbook called Saved by Cake that talked about how baking helped her get over an episode with depression. I think I'll have to write my own survival story one day - 'Saved by Pillows' makes a good working title, no?

Downtrodden Abbey

OK, so first off, I'm watching old episodes of Kell on Earth. Love Kelly Cutrone. A friend introduced me to her years ago when I borrowed, If You Have to Cry, Go Outside. One of my favourite quotes is:
you can’t truly be happy if you’ve never known pain. You can’t truly feel joy if you’ve never felt heartbreak. You can’t really know what its like to be filled unless you’ve been empty. And here’s the other thing: sometimes in life seasons don’t come in order instead of fall, winter, spring, summer, we get three winters in a row. But that doesn’t mean spring won’t come eventually.

I know, pretty great, huh? Particularly for those of us on their third winter.

I'm also reading Max Lucado's Cure for the Common Life. Really good stuff about finding God's purpose for your life. In my mind, Lucado and Cutrone are a great team, but I can't ever see them sharing a book tour.

In other news, I'm adoring Facebook. I never get worked up about what they are doing as a company so it's a fun space to kick around ideas. I wrote about my realization that my current design style seems to be Reversal-of-Fortune Chic. One of my former work colleagues (a glamour-puss who was schooled in Paris and has probably been wearing Hermes since she was 15) asked if I was referring to economic circumstance or the movie. Oh how I wish it were the latter!

Seriously, look at that headboard!

No, I was more referring to my desire to style my home like Downton Abbey on a Buckwild budget. It's something I imagine would appeal to the Dowager Countess who moved from fabulicious Highclere:

to something that looks more like my house (OK, I'd die to live in this house too, but it was a move down the real estate chain for her:)

In spite of the more modest abode, she's always bringing her A game. Look at the silver and the curtains!

I know I've written about it before but I still cannot believe that I paid $10 for this gorgeous antique, brass-claw-footed, three-tier piecrust table. To me, that's Reversal-of-Fortune Chic. Top that sucker with a couple of silver birds (I'd wanted sterling silver pheasants for ever but lacked the $4,500 so when I saw these resin copies at Springridge Farm, I snapped them up), and add a blue and white bowl in which to toss your keys and sunglasses and voila:

It's cheaper than the ubiquitous Lack side table.

Now, there is nothing wrong with the Lack. But it is named honestly. I need a whole lot more eye candy in my home.

Reversal-of-Fortune Chic is the buying the best quality stuff one can so that it will last through the ebb and flow of finances. (When they say "this too shall pass", they are referring to the good times too. I don't know anyone over 50 who has not experienced at least one major set-back in life and it's nice to have comfortable surroundings when it hits.) Eight-way hand tied sofas last in a way that glue and stapled sofas never will (better to buy great stuff used and have it reupholstered) and there is nothing worse than flinging oneself down on the sofa for a good cry, only to have it collapse! I also like the classics. If one is constantly changing all of her stuff to suit the trends and she experiences a sudden reversal of fortune, she might get stuck with peach leather overstuffed sofas and harem pants for a decade or so. Ghastly! Far better to be ride out the recession (global or personal) with a black cashmere wrap dress and a tailored tuxedo sofa until circumstances improve, no? I am partial to distressed leather sofas that grow better with age, big silver butler trays that develop a lovely patina, cashmere blankets that grow softer over time. I love old oil paintings, persian rugs, blue and white ware, dark wood, nailhead detailing, iron beds, leopard print, crocodile embossed-leather (my kingdom for a Torlys recycled leather floor in Modena brown!), drab floral linens, holiday tartan, summer wicker and chinoiserie. It could be 1912 or 2013. You can pay a fortune to buy replicas from Ralph Lauren or Hickory Chair, or simply hit the consignment stores and flea markets. People are fighting to the death for mid-century modern stuff but generally leave the older pieces alone.

Who knows, maybe this will all lead to a new career. Lucado, in Cure for the Common Life, writes: "When God gives an assignment, he also gives the skill. Study your skills, then, to reveal your assignment." Maybe my ability to source Dowtonesque furniture on the cheap is part of my assignment. Perhaps other people rebuilding their lives after hardship want to be surrounded by beauty, too. Perhaps they want to get rid of the old pieces and start anew. As Cutrone writes, "sometimes you need to let go of everything you're clinging to and start over, whether because you've outgrown it or because it's not working anymore, or because it was wrong for you in the first place.” After death, debt, divorce or disaster, furniture, jobs, are friendships are subject to change. It's a scary time, but also sort of exciting and perhaps I can help people navigate that change.

Until tomorrow,


Monday musings

So, last week was crazy busy. Busier than I'd like, but isn't that always the way? The weekend was dominated by skiing and a sleepover. My daughter's miniature room is proving to be popular. Her 1920's vanity with the zillion little drawers for nail-polish is a hit. The gang only emerged to make cake pops and play a quick game of twister.

My son is working on his british accent. Pip Pip Cheerio and all that. Adorable! I think it's wearing the mandatory whites for his badminton lessons that's inspired him. Because I swear I'm not letting him watch Downton.

I managed to score a couple of bargains for the house at HomeSense (you never know what you'll find when looking for bargain dog accessories - I'll have to give that place a second chance!)

Look at this handsome fellow - he was marked down to $20! He's one hair short of tacky and guards my beloved coffee table books. Now I can be all, "Step away from the Tim Walker, or I'll unleash the poodle!"

I've had butterflies on the brain for a while:

First, I wanted Daphne Guinness's Damien Hirst Butterfly painting:

Yes, I know, never going to happen in this lifetime. The closest I'll get to her life is my two-tone hair.

And then I saw this gorgeous Parisian bathroom designed by Jean Louis Deniot from last month's Architectural Digest (the entire apartment is so stunning you'll gnash your teeth with jealousy:)

Gorgeous, yes? The lady of the house popped over to Deyrolle to source some butterflies. Stunning! But what are the chances I will find myself in Paris in the next few weeks. Exactement!

So, can you imagine my excitement when I found this beauty. Fellow Oakvillians, this was a bargoon at the original price of $69. In Rosy Rosedale, you'd pay a at least $300 for something like this. And with all of those delicious red markdown stickers, I could get this picture and a good cup of coffee for one of those plastic $20 bills.

Fantastique! Right now I have it parked in the hallway, but I'd like to layer it in with one of my galleries of paintings. I love that whole Victorian curiousity cabinet vibe so I'm sure I'll be playing with the look.

Speaking of which, I'm looking forward to doing something with this House of Hackney goodness:

Stay tuned...

Groceries, zebras, and roses

I try to grocery shop as little as possible. I prefer the shop-every-day approach, getting a little of this or little of that. But that's not the most efficient use of time or money, and sometimes I simply have to stock up on goldfish crackers. So I hit the grocery store.

I find grocery stores depressing. The carts, the lighting, all of those aisles of boxed packaged goods, and the weird looking cuts of meat. So the temptation is to cheer things up by loading up on magazines, flowers, and nail polish. I find it can be a real budget buster. So today, I stayed focused. I did buy flowers because they were on my list and the local supermarket has fair trade roses and they had some pretty white hydrangeas at a good price. (I need to source a good local flower market, like the ones in Toronto at Ave and Dav.)

But I stayed on list, which is good. Really good, because otherwise how will I possible save up for these Scalamandre dishes in this month's Architectural Digest?

To have the same pattern in dishes as in the wallpaper in The Royal Tenenbaums -- how good would that be?

Super fun!

Well I'd best get back to more mundane things before school gets out.

What's up on Wednesday?

So, I've had a pretty incredible week.

After a waaaay too late night, I headed to a great luncheon featuring interior designer, Jacqueline Glass. I had the pleasure of sitting beside Jackie at the lunch and what a pleasure. And of course, she was dressed in emerald green, Pantone's 2013 colour of the year. Fun!

She talked about career paths and design trends and it was just what I needed. And did I mention that lunch was scallops with roasted squash, mushroom and spinach wellington? And some kind of awesome chocolate/berry thing for dessert? My workout is clearly going to suffer in this town, but yummo!

I wore my skinny black pants from Ann Taylor, my Smythe jacket (I did my MBA with one half of Smythe and figure I should support my fellow alumnus) and a burgundy silk top. I also pulled out my BR leopard bag and my Taryn Rose booties (love Taryn Rose - the only comfortable heel on the market, I think.)

January 16 Outfit via Polyvore (Banana Republic, Oasis, Smythe, Taryn Rose, Ann Taylor)

I have a couple of exciting things coming up for me in January including hanging out with some of my favourite people at Crossroads and an awesomely fun meet and greet I'll write about soon (I love it when super-famous people share their faith walk.) On that topic, have y'all bought your tix for the Lead with Love conference in Feb? Chocolate, shopping, Kevin Leman and more! Run to the phone, girls, run to the phone.

No time to write, of course (see - just when I say I'll write every day, some new cool thing comes up that takes my attention - I plan, God laughs!). Busy ramping up with this new project. After so many years at home, it's weird to be back in this space. As I was telling a woman before the lunch, I used to have clients fly me around because of my intelligence and business acumen and now I get confused at Sobeys! Oh well, I assume those skills come back. It's like riding a bike, right? (Speaking of which, did I show off my awesome new Yakkay bike helmet yet? This way, I can cycle safely on my pretty robin's egg blue bike without people pitching rotten tomatoes at me for looking like I think Lance Armstrong is cool.)

Totally have to get one of those doggy bike baskets.

Serena is not so sure...

Until later...

Project: Perfect Weekend

A few weeks ago, I decided that in order to inject more joy into my life I needed to do more of what I love to do. Only it's been so long since I've thought about what I like to do, that I was at a bit of a loss. So I decided to take a little trip down memory lane and think about what stood out in my mind as my best days. These were not those impossible-to-replicate days - a child's first steps, somebody's awesome wedding - but regular days that stood out. I thought about what I did and who I was with - and I decided to start to do more of that.

I like semi-structured free time. I like to have a few things planned with friends. And then I just like to have some time to wander. So that's what I did. And I'm a J on the Myers-Briggs Type indicator, which means I have trouble doing this when I have lots of errands to do. So I planned accordingly.

Friday night, I was downtown, so I met an old friend at Mercatto on Bay. I had the goat's cheese ravioli (with mushrooms, arugula, padano and - wait for it - truffle oil.) Delish. Truffle oil makes the world a better place. And I had a glass of the verdicchio. Yum! My friend is a very involved within the Christian community and she is just such a lovely example of what the body of Christ is all about. Plus she's tons of fun. She's been so encouraging of my faith walk and it was a lovely few hours

I'd originally planned to go skiing on Saturday but, thanks to global warming, I'd decided that in-town plans were  in order since I'm not a fan of slush. A loudly snoring french bulldog in my room meant that I got up early and hit the gym. I had a good workout and it was all guys there at that hour so there was no pressure to look perfect (let's face it - most guys are just happy there is a woman in the place!) I then came home and cleaned the house which - I'm happy to say - takes only an hour. There is something to be said for a small footprint! So by Saturday at 11am, I'd done all the chore stuff for the weekend and had the day ahead of me. Such luxury!

So I headed to Petits et Jolis on Kerr.

Earlier in the week, I was running an errand when I saw this sign in their window:

Hold the phone! I'd been meaning to go into the store every since I'd moved here and so I hit the brakes and parked my car. I had no time to really look but I grabbed a couple of obvious pieces and resolved to go back when I had more time. Saturday, I had that kind of time and man oh man. Trop belle! I wanted everything. The lovely proprietress, Tamara Wright, is clearing room for new (vintage) stock and everything is going for a song.

I picked up a pair of replica Staffordshire dogs for my mantle (for $47 for the pair), an newly re-upholstered fireplace bench in leopard print ($97), and a cute oil painting ($32) to distract attention from the world's ugliest fireplace.

I then made my rounds of the other antique and vintage stores in town but could not find anything that touched my bargains from P et J. So I went home to decorate.

I started with this:

Ya, I know. Like the surround. Hate everything else. I hate TVs above fireplaces but it was there when I bought the house and it's the best place for it. Eventually I'll replace the tile and hearth with black marble and put in a gas insert (something like this Valor:

But, for now my beige-tiled, non-working fireplace (the soot stains indicate that this sucker should not be lit as it's not drawing properly) is just an eyesore.

But then I got to work with my new finds and some existing pieces:

Et voila!

I moved two of my Ghost chairs in front of the fireplace with silk cushions on them. I placed the new fireplace blench in between, topped with the The Big Book of Chic (how much do I love Miles Redd!!) I hung some paintings around the TV to distract attention away from the ugly. I stacked my beloved coffee tables on the hearth. And my gorgeous little pot dogs are on the mantle.

Much better, until I have a chance to Hackney-fy the place.

With the fireplace prettified, I ran out to meet a friend for AYCE sushi and a showing of Silver Linings Playbook (and I thought Bradley Cooper was just eye candy - who knew he could act!)

I rounded off the weekend with brunch with yet another pal at School in Liberty Village. Who can say no to coffee, good conversation and Belgian waffles with Maple Butter & Sugar Cured Bacon?

And, of course, I took lots of walks with the French Bulldog because apparently it's spring in January.

Perfect weekend. As Andrew Walhol (apparently) said, "They say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself." Indeed. As Cooper's character learned in SLP, you need "a strategy" to get through hard times. These little planned happinesses are my strategy to change things for the better.

Take care until tomorrow, kids...

Thursday update

So, I have a new little project that I'm working on. It's scary. I'm wracked with self-doubt and my learning curve is steep. But it's something new and it's nice to spend my day talking to adults.

To help manage my nerves, I went to the club first thing this morning to put my new fitness program to work. It's quick and simple (simple, not being the same as easy, of course.) I must say I feel so much better after I work out, even if I am surrounded by people who look, you know, perfect.

The clothing thing is going well. I put my jeans away so I can't grab them out of habit. It's nice to rotate the wardrobe a bit. My one bias is avoiding things that have to be dry-cleaned. I have lots of pretty things I'm avoiding because the care is too great. Lazy, huh? But when your world is kids and dogs, perhaps simply staying out of sweats and jeans is progress.

And the makeup thing is going well thanks to the cute birthday schwag I got from Sephora!

Got the hair done. It's dark at the top and brighter blonde at the ends. Like this:

I kind of love it although I'm not sure the ombre thing has caught on in Pleasantville. I suspect people just think I have really bad roots. Oh well. I did it for me after all. Plus, the maintenance is more budget friendly than allover truck-stop blonde.

The dog has figured out a way to get out of her crate. She already conned her way out of there at night (she's now in my room in her tuffet) but now she has made it perfectly clear she will have none of it even in the day. She's either with me in the car, or sitting on the sofa like Marie Antoinette. Such a diva! Good thing she's so adorable... She has a twin at the schoolyard  and today they were wearing their Canada Pooch jackets.

Can you imagine two of these?

If you are a parent at the school and your child comes home saying that everyone has a french bulldog, well, I'm sorry. But in fairness, I had to deal with that when it came to those minky sweatshirts from Triple Flip that everybody wears. So now we're even.

My kids have started their after school activities and they loved it! This is shocking as I'd half expected a week of moaning. I guess this means that they are growing up and prefer hanging out with kids their age to sitting around with boring old mom. So while they had their lesson, I was able to have a glass of wine (wine!) and chat with some of the parents. So civilized! I must say I am enjoying this age. The kids are physically independent, but still not old enough to start getting into mischief. I'm going to enjoy every one of these days.

So, of course, just as everything is starting to fall into place, the teachers are striking tomorrow and it's an unplanned day at home. Oh well, it wouldn't be life if there weren't some curveballs. But every time it starts to get me down, I now think of Cousin Violet saying, "Don't be defeatist, dear, it's very middle class."

Well, we can't have that.

Until tomorrow...

Book Review: Grace for the Good Girl

A few months ago, the women on 100 Huntley Street's Full Circle interviewed Emily P. Freeman about her book, Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-hard Life.  I considered not watching this particular interview. Frankly, the Good Girl label made me bristle.

You see, I'm a former Good Girl. As a young adult, I got good grades, I volunteered with special needs children, and I never smoked or snuck out the window at night. I was Amanda Bynes in Easy A with the judgemental attitude to boot.  But then life got more complicated and my halo lost a lot of its sheen. Nowadays, when I can find my halo amidst all the baggage, I can see that it is really quite tarnished and has a great big divorce-sized dent. But the Good Girl remains. Sometimes she confronts me in the mirror, twirling her purity pearls around one finger and wagging the other finger in my face making a tsking noise.

I watched the interview in spite of myself. Perhaps it was a God moment. Perhaps I was just procrastinating from doing something else. The author proved to be a Good Girl indeed. She's a mother of three and minister's wife who writes for Hallmark and signs for the deaf. Yup. Oh, and she's charming and soft-spoken. But instead of feeling pushed away, I felt myself drawn in by the interview. I immediately went out to buy the book.

Freeman is a talented writer. She has a background in theology and adeptly weaves scripture - and sound interpretation - into the text. Hers a personal story but never descends into mawkishness. She comes across as self-aware and shows an objectivity when it comes to her own life that one does not always find in memoir.

Freeman is the daughter of an alcoholic and, like many young women who comes from less-than-perfect backgrounds, she learned that life was simpler when she did not create many waves: "I was good because I was afraid of boys, afraid of hell, and afraid of getting into trouble." She embraced Jesus at an early age, but secretly believed that she had to perform well to impress God: "My personal truth was I have to be perfect. And when I'm not, I have to pay." So she studied hard and got good grades, went to church, and didn't rebel. She took pride in her Good Girl status. "I put all my confidence in the things that were awesome about myself and tried to hide the things that weren't. If Jesus fit in there somewhere, well then that was nice. But if he didn't, I was doing okay on my own anyway."

But she wasn't OK on her own. Being a Good Girl is exhausting. Pleasing people, trying to earn God's favour, and managing one's image can start to feel like a full-time job. Freeman writes about how she was always putting on masks: Ideal Wife, Perfect Mother, Best Friend. Masks are heavy when they are on. And when they are ripped away - which is sort of what happened to me - it can feel as though there is nothing left. That's the trouble with relying on self instead of relying on God's Grace. When you trip and your performance is no longer perfect, you don't know where to turn. As a Good Girl, you are not used to asking for help from anyone, not even God.

Self-reliance is the sin of the Good Girl and it is as harmful as any of the other sins that separate one from God. But it's harder to give up than, say, promiscuity or gossip, because it is almost always praised ("Such Good grades!" "Such a good job!) by the same people -- parents, teachers and ministers -- who warn against other transgressions. It's no wonder that at times in her life, Freeman has been jealous of her more rebellious peers.
Growing up in the church, I heard a lot of testimonies from people who went from bad to Jesus. Their lives consisted of one bad decision after another, which is what made their story so powerful. From alcohol, drugs, sex, and cigarettes, their rebellion would lead to a dramatic climax. Jesus showed up and their lives looked completely different. There was no denying that God got the credit. As a girl who accepted Jesus at a young age, I couldn't relate. Im fact, I admit to sometimes wishing I had a few years of rebellion under my belt. Then my story would be interesting and dramatic too.

At times, Freeman worried that she might be overlooked by God:
I know that God is big enough to redeem the unruly, the rejected, and the addict. I know about the God who reaches way down into the pit  and the One whose love stretches to the heavens. But I fear he misses the details. What about the girl in the middle? I fear I fall through the cracks because my story draws no attention.

The feeling that others, especially those who are leading lives of obvious sin, might be attracting more attention from God builds resentment in the Good Girl who so closely links performance with reward. Freeman writes about the story of the Prodigal Son, admitting that there have been periods in her life where she has identified with the older brother who finds it wildly unfair that his father throws a party for his brother, who has only returned to the family home after he has squandered his inheritance on riotous living. The party, he feels, should have been for him - the son who did everything right -  and he refuses to come into the house to celebrate:

Good girls think there should be consequences for the actions of the prodigal, not a party. There should be a husband and a happy ending for the girl who has saved herself for marriage, not the one who was promiscuous ever since high school yet still landed the nice guy and just celebrated her fifth anniversary with a trip to Palm Springs....There should be reward for those who do good and punishment for those who don't. So we get angry. But good girls aren't supposed to be angry, so we convince ourselves we don't really care and it doesn't really matter.

But of course, as Freeman observes, the point of the story is that we all receive our Father's love: Good Girls and Bad: "Jesus didn't die so I'd feel a kinship with the prodigal, and he certainly didn't die so I could feel a kinship with the older brother. That older son had a deep misunderstanding about his father's acceptance of him. He worked hard to try to get something he already had."

What he had, of course, was Grace. He had God's love: always given, never earned. Although Freeman has been a practicing Christian since she was a little girl, it took her years before she realized that God meant Grace for the Good Girl too:
I understood at an early age about the first rescue. Jesus came to save sinners. He came for the lost, the broken, the hurt, and the lonely. He came to heal sick people and to raise dead people and to die for the sins of everyone. Never once did I consider he also came to save me from myself.

The purpose of the book is to show that there is Grace for the Good Girl too. She realized that she needed saving from her Good Girl self: from the striving and the burden of trying to do everything on her own.
I think of the effort and the work. And then the shame. I think of the worry that keeps me up at night and the fear that perhaps I've not done enough. I think of the way I compare myself and the pain that comes when I grasp for worth and security from my husband or my job or my children. Jesus came to save me from myself. He came to save me from self-effort. He didn't just die for my sin to give me forgiveness; he rose again to give me life.

Rather than feeling resentful that she is extended no more favour than those who are a little more casual in upholding the laws of God, she came to see the laws for what they are: "The law was designed to expose our heart condition, to make us see our guilt. It was never meant to make us righteous." She believes that the reason the laws are so stringent, and so hard to keep that even the best of the Good Girls will stumble at times is to highlight that we are not meant to do things on our own and to bring us closer to God:
The law was given to lead the unbeliever to her Savior, not for the believer to try to keep it....Without the standard, we would never be aware of our desperate need. Law in the life of the believer will do the same thing it is designed to do in the life of a non-believer: lead her to the end of her own resources.

Good Girls fear that if they are not perfect, they will not be loved. Fear drives the relentless need to perform. But as Freeman points out in her interview, "God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7) She urges the Good Girl to stop trying so hard, to put her faith in Christ, and to lay the heavy yoke of self-reliance at the feet of the Father who never required her to don it in the first place.

Freeman has a new book coming out in September titled, Graceful: Letting Go of Your Try-Hard Life. I'm pre-ordering it now.

Skinny fat, a dog wedding and more

So I had my fitness assessment at the gym this morning. And just as I suspected, I'm skinny fat. I'm small but have zero muscle.  The only thing I'm good at are crunches because after having two children in 2 years, I started doing those puppies to keep the muffin top under control. But I've lost so much fitness since last year at this time. Ugh! Personal disaster will do that for you. But on the positive side, I have a program in place for me now, have a gorgeous place to work out that overlooks the lake, and have met a friend of a friend who seems like a potential future pal. So it's all good.

Yesterday, I had the energy to host a playdate with two extra kids. I made chocolate chip cookies and hooked up the Wii and in my world, where I'm being easier on myself and realize that even baby steps in the right direction should be celebrated, that makes me a rock star. My daughter and her pal are such Emmas and have already decided that her West Highland Terrier should marry our French Bulldog. They think the wedding will be awesome. Once everyone has been spayed/neutered, I could totally get into this. I'd love to do a Kate Moss theme:


Photo Credit: West Highland White Terrier - Guia Pet & Cia / Kate Moss Wedding photos:

US Vogue, September 2011 / French Bulldog (mine!)

So the clothing thing is going well. Yesterday saw burgundy corduroy leggings and a long grey sweater. Today is a knit dress and tights. And I'm sporting necklaces and headbands. Today I think I'll switch purses. Hold me back people, before I do something crazy like wear two accessories at once!

The budgeting thing is going well too. I'd overspent on clothes, but then I got a cheque for some clothes I'd consigned before I moved and so that saved my bacon! I spend a lot more on food than I'd thought, but less in other areas, so I'll retweak that. And today my therapist thought it would be ok for me to take an indefinite break because I've done so well, so that frees up some cash. Yahoo! Of course, now I'm tempted to buy that painting I saw in the consignment store. Darn those wants!

On the therapy front, graduating was a huge deal. I was so afraid that I might slide into a depression after everything that happened. I think that once you've had an episode (PPD after both kids), you always fear a recurrence. I dropped a few rungs down the ladder, but I did not slide into the pit. My therapist recommended that as a graduation exercise, I document the things I did to keep me afloat during one of the most difficult periods of my life.

1. Surrounded myself with the positive. It's why I called this blog Dwell on these Things. Focus on the lovely, the pure, the gracious, the things of good report. It's not shallow to focus on the beauty of the world. It's life-saving.

2. Shed the negative. I always see how I feel after hanging around certain people. If I feel better, I cultivate the relationship. If I feel worse, I end it. Without apology. Life's too short for sensitive people to hang around with jerks.

3. Dress up. As Elizabeth Wurtzel wrote, there is magic in a fresh coat of lipstick. The difference is, I don't do it for others, I do it for me.

4. Talk and write the way I want to feel. If I talk about how awful I feel, guess what? I'll feel awful! If I try to see the positive, I do.

5. Pat myself on the back for baby steps. I got locked into "I used to" thinking. I used to do this. I used to do that. What's wrong with me. Now, I'm all, "I baked muffins, so I'm totally Nigella."

6. Push to do what I need to do, then take a nap. Early December, I was busy with unpacking, so over the holidays, I was a deliberate slacker. Even God rested for a day.

Gotta skedaddle and go get the kidlets!

Wintery weekend

Had a good weekend. It was my birthday weekend so that was fun. I used to hate birthdays. My birthday comes so close to Christmas that lots of people are still away, good restaurants - if open - have a skeleton staff, and everyone is broke. Good times! But this year, I was kind of looking forward to it as it marked a new chapter. New year, new age, new house, new life.

I got spoiled with lots of soft sweaters (including a gorgeous cranberry Alpaca one - yum!). And a new pair of shoes: black quilted leather heels with patent leather toes. Delicious!

I had a a pal over to see the new place. I was in a cooking mood so I made fusilli with shrimp and homemade pesto. Yummy! I also made kale chips and baked blueberry spelt muffins since I was feeling all Gwyneth.

So, Saturday was the kids' first ski lesson of the season. I love skiing. Love! I hate organizing everyone to go skiing. Hate! There is just so much stuff to schlep and everyone skis at a different level so it makes it tricky to manage things on the hill outside of lessons. I dread it every year and it is one of the few activities where being a single parent puts you at a real disadvantage. This year I arranged for a locker at the ski hill to cut back on the amount of stuff we have to carry back and forth to the car so I thought that it would solve most of my problems. Well, of course not! It's a new hill so we planned to do a practice run before the lessons started as my kids were nervous about the chair lift. The lift was no problem, but the run was steeper than we thought. My son got unnerved by the hill height and would only ski in a snowplow, holding onto my waist while I snowplowed straight down the hill. People, do you know what that does to your thigh muscles? Nothing good. I got him to the bottom of hill to discover we were on the opposite side of the hill from the ski school. Gah! Asked directions and we were sent to an even steeper hill equally far from the ski school. We skied that, got sent up the chair lift and were told that an even steeper run was the only way back. At this point, the lessons had started and we were stuck on the hill. We all sat down in utter defeat. Luckily the ski patrol came by with a snowmobile, Hurrah! Unfortunately, there was not enough room to take the three of us  down the hill and neither my son nor daughter wanted to be without me. Another ski patroller arrived and we agreed that I'd escort the snowmobile most of the way back to the base and another ski patroller would escort my daughter down the hill since we were worried she might not be able to keep up with us. Anyways, we all made it down in one piece. We were late for the lessons but the ski school people agreed that we'd had enough practice for the day. So we went home, stayed in our long underwear for the balance of the day and watched DIY and HGTV. The kids agreed it was the most fun ever. I needed vodka via IV. So, Saturday, I did not dress up at all. Oh well.

Sunday, I dressed up. It's church and I am not the type of person to show up to the house of God in yoga pants (OK, that sounds a little judgemental I realize, but it's how I feel.) I wore an Anne Klein alligator-print embossed leather skirt in a deep espresso colour that I got at an 80% off sale in the summer.  I paired it with a navy sweater and I wore a camel-coloured wool coat (I live October to March in a coat that looks like a sleeping bag since I am always freezing, but for church, lunches downtown or work stuff, I wear pretty coats.)

January 6 outfit

Banana Republic cable knit sweater / J.Crew coat /

I'm liking this let's-enjoy-what-I-already-own thing. It helps me stay out of the stores and keep to my budget.

I've been pretty focused on how I spend my money. I've been reading an awesome book by Sarah Ban-Breathnach (remember Simple Abundance?) Well, it turns out that she and a rogue ex squandered most of her Oprah money and she is in the position so many of us find ourselves in: rebuilding our financial house. The book is called Peace and Plenty, and I'll do a full review of it once I'm finished. Ban-Breathnach takes quotes from a number of women's magazines that were dispensing financial advice during the great depression. One of the quotes I loved was from a 1928 copy of Modern Priscilla:
The word budget seems to frighten some people. They think of it as a beast which will devour, or as a tool by which the homemakers arbitrarily, almost automatically, cut themselves off from the possibility of ever obtaining the things they want. On the contrary, it does, if well made and well used, prevent careless expenditure for things outside the scheme of life. It prevents us from wandering thoughtlessly into debt. It insures the purchase of many things which, however desirable, would have been counted among impossibilities or extravagances, if the careful survey demanded in making the budget had not shown them to be possible.

Budgeting is what makes dreams possible. I love that idea! So, of course, the trick is figuring out our dreams: what we want and where our priorities sit. A pal of mine is having a visioning board party at the end of the month, so perhaps that will help me clarify things a bit.

I do know that one of my budgetary line items will be flowers, especially in the winter when we are so starved for colour. I found these gorgeous fair trade roses at Sobey's for $9.99. The cashier said that they will last about 10 days. So, $1 per day! Gorgeous and worth every penny!

Well, that's it for today. Hope y'all had a terrific Monday!

Life lessons from age 41

Yup, I'm 41. What a year it has been.

I woke up to some lovely gifts from my kidlets.

My daughter clearly knows how much I love plaid! She also used part of her Claire's gift certificate to buy me a beautiful mother/daughter necklace. If any of you have a 9 year old girl, you'll know what a big deal it is to receive something from Claire's!

I immediately put on my half of the necklace with today's outfit:

Jan 4 outfit

Photo Credit: J Crew Frenchie Sweater (sold out), Bvlgari Leather Bracelet (sold out) via Polyvore[/caption]

OK, so birthdays - especially those so close to New Year's Day - always trigger some introspection. So, life lessons from age 40:

1. Don't ignore that little voice in your head. Not sure if it's intuition or God or what, but it's never wrong.

2. You need to be the hero of your own story. As Anna Quindlen wrote: "I read and walked for miles at night along the beach, writing bad blank verse and searching endlessly for someone wonderful who would step out of the darkness and change my life. It never crossed my mind that that person could be me."

3. It's always darkest before the dawn.

4. It's OK to ask for help.

5. Prayer works.

6. People will surprise you. In bad ways and good.

7. To paraphrase Anne Lamott, never compare your inside to other people's outside: you have no idea what they are facing behind closed doors.

8. God can redeem anything. Absolutely anything.

As a birthday gift from me to me, I have signed up for the Crossroads Lead with Love Women's Conference in February  (they had me at shopping and  chocolate fondue!) Besides, one of my favourite people, Melinda Estabrooks, is championing this event.

I'm going to spend my birthday weekend hanging out en famille, skiing (the parents are going to be bulldog sitting for the day), and eating good food (I've planned some healthy meals and need to do a Whole Foods run.) I hope y'all have a lovely weekend too!

Planners, workouts and ombre hair

OK, so first off, I was thrilled to discover that I was not the only one to be planning my life old-school. Apparently Sloane Crosley uses a paper-based planner too. Hers is a gorgeous scarlet Louis Vuitton which makes me thankful that the closest LV store is now a half-hour drive away. Otherwise, the budget might have been blown by January 3. But I quite love my Filofax too. It's stuffed with  my calendar, all my contacts (which I also have in my phone), bible verses I like (Isaiah 41:10 and Psalm 23), pictures of my kids, and everything you'd normally carry in a wallet. It makes me feel grounded and in control of my life in a way that I never felt when my details were entrusted to the "cloud."

The "do nothing for 20 minutes" resolution is going well (see, don't I make y'all feel good compared to people who made difficult resolutions) Sometimes I lie on the sofa and watch Coronation Street since that's 20 minutes when I buzz through the commercials. In fact, I suspect that by January 15 or so, I'll need to make a resolution to do 20 minutes of something per day!

The no jeans thing is going well. Yesterday, when my kids were dropped off by their dad, they asked me if I was going out as my makeup and outfit were out of character for a typical day. That was a big sign that I've been schlumping around for too long. So even thought today felt like a Roots Sweatpants kind of day, I put on chocolate leggings, and a long chocolate belted sweater. I put on a necklace I've not worn in forever. The hair is in a ponytail because I'm two weeks past when I ought to have been at the hairdresser and so it's all bad hair days now. Oh well, red lipstick will make up for that.

I signed up at a new gym. Next week I have one of those consultations with the fitness head. Oh, I just know they are going to bring out the fat callipers. The horror! I've had a home gym for the past several years so the last time I subjected myself to this horror was pre-kids. Then I was diagnosed as "invisibly obese." That means I am skin, bone, and fat. So even though I'm a small size, I have zero muscle. I have done nothing work-out wise for 6 months and know this is going to be the diagnosis. Oh well. It's time I get back into a routine with cardio and weights. I want to get my ski legs back and the only way to do that is to hit the gym and build muscle. Also, this is a town where women seem to live in yoga pants and I'm thinking they take their fitness seriously. So maybe I'll connect with some potential local pals.

I've also signed up to get my hair done next week. This is what I'm thinking:

Is it age appropriate? I'll be 41 tomorrow. I figure I have to get all the crazy out of my system in the next 9 years.

Until tomorrow...

Loving Leopard

OK, so today's fashion choice was a black sweater dress (Banana Republic - you'll be seeing a theme here. IMHO it's the nicest mass produced clothing on the market), black leggings, and a skinny leopard print belt (also BR).

It's a bit like this:
Jan 2 Outfit
(Photo Credit: Banana Republic via Polyvore (sadly, this is not really me))

I've been obsessed with leopard-print lately. Obsessed. Perhaps I'm slowly morphing into Edith Prickley.

I promise you, I never wear more than one piece at a time (My J Crew iphone cover doesn't count!) so I think I'm safe. But still. It's so delish!

I'd love something in my new house made from Scalamandre silk velvet in Leopardo like these pillows:

Yum! Loving everything but the price tag.

And check out this gorgeous settee:

In the words of Rachel Zoe, I die. Afternoon tea would become an edgy affair with this bad boy in the room. Given the price of the fabric, I'm guessing I'd have to choose between this settee and my car, however. Good thing I can walk to public transit!

Because woman cannot live by fabric alone, I need to find some inspirational reading for 2013. Last year, I read the Bible in its entirety. I plan to read the New Testament again this year but the OT is, for me, a once-every-five-years affair (except Isaiah. Love Isaiah!) so that frees up time for other inspirational reading. Suggestions? I also like to have a fiction book on the go at all times. I've read everything the completely awesome Marian Keyes has written and need another fiction author like her. I like funny, but I need something that tackles slightly weightier issues than finding a man or the perfect pair of shoes.

Well that's all for today. I'm developing a really unhealthy addiction to Cobs cinnamon bread. Toasted with margarine: oh baby! At $4.50 a loaf, it's going to end up gobbling up a not insignificant portion of my food budget. Good thing the kids love it too! I'm going to toast up some more,  pour myself a cuppa, and watch Property Brothers with the kids (finally a show we all enjoy!)

Happy New Year!

The kids stayed up until midnight. The dog and I dozed on and off as Ryan Seacrest did his thing. Jenny McCarthy was hard to watch. We are the same age and, yowza, I hope I have slightly more self-awareness. Oh well.

Resolutions: I made a few. One is that 2013 is the start of a new chapter. No looking back.

Another one is that I'm going to start using and enjoying the things I own. I keep buying more clothes because I always have nothing to wear. In reality, I have lots of things to wear but I don't wear them because I'm afraid of ruining my "good sweaters" in the wash or I don't want salt on my "good shoes". It's so silly: what am I saving this stuff for? Also, I'm lazy. I have all sorts of cute accessories but it's easier just to throw on the same uniform of jeans, tank and sweater every day. I put on a watch but I'm too lazy to even change my earrings. I'm going to try to not wear jeans for the entire month of January and wear some form of accessory. This, along with a tartan headband, was today's pick (note, this is the very attractive and young Banana Republic Model, not me!)

Jan 1 Outfit

Photo credit: Banana Republic featuring cashmere cable sweater, skinny cord

I'm going to do my hair and not just scrunch it in a knot while it's still half-wet. I might try a new colour. I love the ombre thing. And lipgloss: I resolve to apply lipgloss throughout the day instead of just a quick swipe first thing in the morning. It sounds silly but these small kindnesses to one's self are important.

I made an austerity budget last night. And I'm going to stick to it. Today I spent not one sou. Now, I realize all the stores were closed so it's not like this was particularly challenging, but still, it's nice to start with success.

I also want to relax for 20 totally non-productive minutes each day. Today, I grabbed a chance to read through the February issue of Veranda while the kids were engrossed in Rudolph's Shiny New Year on TV. Have you seen the piece titled, Fine Strokes? Oh kittens! What a gorgeous apartment filled with art by Degas, Bonnard, Vuillard, and Morisot. I alternated between wanting to lick the pages of the magazine and weep with envy. Gorgeous! The nice thing about coveting a multi-million dollar art collection is that there is very little chance it will lead you on a spending spree. If, on the other hand, you covet the latest Ikea hack on Pinterest, there is a very good chance you will find yourself in your car driving to Burlington with your Visa card and Allen key in hand...

Oh, and finally, I'm going to lay off the ketchup chips. I decided this at about 11:00pm when I was having trouble scrubbing the red dye off my fingers. Disgraceful!

I hope y'all had a Happy New Year and that 2013 is a banner year for everyone.

Christmas Traditions: The Nutcracker Ballet

Every year, I take my daughter to see the Nutcracker. (I took my youngest son once, but he loudly complained that there was too much dancing...