Thursday, May 19, 2016

Because I'm 42...

Because I'm 42, when I read this article yesterday titled 13 F*cks You Stop Giving When You're a Grown Woman it really resonated with me. Especially numbers 1 and 8. We spend our 20's figuring out who we are and trying to fit in and caring a LOT about what other people think. In our 30's we care a little less, but we're still likely trying to keep up with the Jones's and navigating this ocean of life, figuring out what's important.  But in our 40's, we just don't give a F*ck about a lot of things anymore. And this is a good thing.  A VERY good thing.  {Pardon my language, mom, mother-in-law, and anyone else who might be offended!}

Because I'm 42, I belong to this really cool Facebook group for women of a certain age where we can talk about and share anything and everything - as long as it's not about mommy or kid stuff. It's empowering and uplifting and sometimes just what you need to know you're not the only one going through [insert weird body thing or emotional thing or life thing here].

Because I'm 42 I feel great about where I am in my "career" - that I work part time, from home, during school hours and when it works for ME. Not when it works for a huge corporation. I'm thankful every day for the opportunities that have been given to me by some amazing friends and colleagues.

Because I'm 42, I dyed my hair pink. Yes, you read that right. I've wanted to try it for a while and now that {see all points above}, I went for it. When I recently told a sister of mine (who shall not be named... although I only have one - hahaha) that I was considering this, her response was, "You're 42, you're too old to do that". Pshaw, Bea!, I say (she'll get that reference for sure). Au contraire! Because I'm 42, NOW IS THE TIME to live on the edge, to try new things, to GO FOR IT!  So I did, and I love it!


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Maple Lodge Farms puts Families First!

As a busy mom, I'm always looking for healthy and quick protein options for my family and myself. I try to stay away from processed foods, but I'm no SuperMom and sometimes convenience trumps all. Wraps, sandwiches on croissants and "kebabs" with deli meat and cheese are staples in my son's lunch box.  I've always been leery of "lunch meats" (just ask my poor Mom... I don't know how she packed my lunch all those years...) so when Maple Lodge Farms invited Oliver and I to their Family First Creations event in Toronto to try the new Naturally from the Farm deli slices, we were on board right away! 

Maple Lodge Farms was started by the May family in what is now Brampton, Ontario way back in the 1830's. The company is family owned and operated and they really seem to value family and putting families first. This is apparent in their ads as well as from what I've learned about their business culture after spending time with some of the employees at the event. They sure knew how to make my family feel welcome, that's for sure! 

Speaking of the event, we had a great time! Families were invited to a friendly competition to see who could build the most creative, yet tasty, sandwich using the new Naturally from the Farm deli slices. Hosted by Erica Ehm of the Yummy Mummy Club, there was a definite spark of healthy competition in the air once we were given the go-ahead. 

The ever fabulous, Erica Ehm
I passed the reigns over to Oliver and let him decide what would go into our creation. He carefully built his sandwich and being the day before Mother's Day, gave it the name, "The Mother's Day Special". Made with me in mind, it included Gummi Bears, pickles, olives, one ketchup chip, hot peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, oven roasted chicken slices and some blue food colouring for good measure.  I'm a lucky lady... ;).   The new Naturally from the Farm products that we used are different than typical deli meats in that they have all natural ingredients (i.e., nothing I can't pronounce), are gluten free (big win for me!), and are 100% chicken breast.  

We plated our sandwich and submitted it for judging. Oliver wanted to be sure we could bring it home, though, so that I could eat it on Mother's Day. Again... lucky me... ;)

While he worked away, I sampled the deli slices that we had to choose from - Oven Roasted Chicken, as mentioned above, Jalapeno and Black Garlic and Peppercorn. I liked them all but I think the Jalapeno is my favourite. It's not super hot but it has a nice kick and flavour to it.  I have since been using them in my daily lunch salads and they are a nice protein addition! My only recommendation is to make thinner slices. They are quite thick and the texture is a bit off. The tastes is right on, though! 

We didn't win the competition, but we sure did have a good time. With kid- and adult-sized aprons, chicken hats, the company mascot hanging out, a BBQ for everyone after and a goodie bag to take home, it was a great way to spend a Saturday. 

Mmm...Mother's Day breakfast! And YES, I ate it :)

Full disclosure: I was compensated to attend this event, however, opinions are my own. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Book Review: Kay's Lucky Coin Variety by Ann Y.K. Choi

When Simon and Schuster Canada asked if I’d like to read and review an advance copy of Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. When they mentioned that it was about a girl growing up in the 80’s, I was interested right away and I knew I’d like this book. (I just dated myself a little there, didn’t I?). 

Here’s the description from the Publisher:

A bittersweet coming-of-age debut novel set in the Korean community in Toronto in the 1980s. 

This haunting coming-of-age story, told through the eyes of a rebellious young girl, vividly captures the struggles of families caught between two cultures in the 1980s. Family secrets, a lost sister, forbidden loves, domestic assaults—Mary discovers as she grows up that life is much more complicated than she had ever imagined. Her secret passion for her English teacher is filled with problems and with the arrival of a promising Korean suitor, Joon-Ho, events escalate in ways that she could never have imagined, catching the entire family in a web of deceit and violence. 

A unique and imaginative debut novel, Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety evocatively portrays the life of a young Korean Canadian girl who will not give up on her dreams or her family. 

Joon-Ho’s perspective on who she wanted to be and how she wanted to be regarded was not something I had ever considered before. She wants so desperately to be thought of as Canadian and “normal” but struggles with her Korean traditions and family expectations. It was difficult enough as a “regular Canadian" teenager trying to navigate life and figure out who I was, but adding this extra layer of inner conflict was very eye-opening to me. So many times in my adult life I have considered what other friends may have been going through when we were teens (family struggles, divorce, ethnic differences), but I was oblivious to it all. This story really shed some light on this topic. 

I also was drawn to all the 80’s references in the book - Cyndi Lauper, Tiger Beat magazine, the fashion - it was so nostalgic and I loved it. I was brought back to those days when I thought life was so complicated and my biggest dilemma was how much hairspray would hold my bangs up for the entire day…. 

Although I did find it to be a fast read, the subject matter is not light in any way. Family conflict, teen mental health issues, forbidden romance and sudden death are all party of the story line and are addressed with honesty and frankness.  

Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety would be enjoyed by anyone that enjoys Young Adult (YA) or general fiction novels, and especially by those who grew up in the 80’s like I did.  

Thursday, October 01, 2015

I'm Pulling My Hair Out. Literally.

Have you ever wondered why my hair looks like it does? And I don't mean blonde (Garnier Nutrisse, number 98, if you must know), or straight (flat iron turned WAY up every day). I mean, why do I have uneven hair in some places and why do I wear a strategically placed hair clip most of the time?

Well, there's this thing that I do. It has a name and it's pretty weird. It's called Trichotillomania and it is classified as a Body Focused Repetitive Behaviour (BFRB).

There, I said it. It's out and I can't take it back. This post is definitely the hardest I've ever written; even harder than when my Dad died and I wrote my heart out. That was easy, the words just flowed. I've been contemplating “coming out” with this post for a long time – years even. I have just been so afraid of what people's reactions might be and the questions I might be asked. I have no answers. 

So why fess up now? October 1st-7th is BFRB awareness week and I thought it was time to come clean and to maybe inspire anyone else who is suffering with this to talk about it.  Heck, even some VERY well known celebs have been diagnosed with trichotillomania (I'm looking at you, JT. I KNEW we were soulmates...).

I remember when my Trich (as they call it...) started. It was in university and I began by seeking out hairs with split ends. It progressed from there. It comes and goes and I do it more when I am stressed. I have gone through periods where I have had bald spots underneath my hair and I have had periods where I don't pull anything out for months and months. Right now it's probably the worst it's ever been and I'm so embarrassed by it. I've had a pretty stressful year with big changes and my hair pulling is directly related to the stress level in my life.

So why don't I stop, you ask? I wish I knew. It's not as simple as just stopping cold turkey. Why do people bite their nails, smoke cigarettes, or partake in other “bad habits”? The human brain is a complex machine and there really is no explanation for why I do this and why I can't stop. Trust me, my immediate family (who are the ONLY ones that know about this) nag and nag and nag and nag me to stop, but it doesn't work. Most of the time I'm not even aware that I'm doing it.

To all of those I've lied to about my hair when you've asked, I'm sorry. No, it wasn't from my flat iron or because I've coloured it too many times. This is why. You have no idea how difficult it has been for me to cover this up and most of all to find a hairdresser that understands. I hope that the wonderful Susana never stops cutting hair because I may just become Lady Godiva if she does. She gets it, she doesn't judge me AND she's a freakin' miracle worker when it comes to my hair.

So there you have it. I'm flawed in many ways, and this is a big one. We all are, I suppose. 

I'd like to ask that you please don't talk to me about this or ask any questions, just show your support by understanding my flaw and knowing how difficult this was for me. Thank you :)  

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Book Review and Giveaway: The Perfect Summer Read: The Blue by Lucy Clarke

~The Giveaway is now closed~

Back in 2013 I was introduced to Lucy Clarke and her first novel, Swimming at Night, by the Bookalicious Book Club. Since then, I've been her biggest fan. Well, at the very least, her biggest Canadian fan. Not only is Clarke's writing impeccable, but from the chat the book club had with her, her replies to readers and posts on social media, she just seems so down to earth and lovely! I hope she doesn't think I'm nuts because I do follow her closely on social media and often comment. Altough, after I read Lucy's literary love letter to author, Maggie O'Farrell, I felt much better about my own author crush ;).

I've been thinking a lot about what I love so much about Lucy Clarke's books (three in total, all from publisher, Simon & Schuster Canada – Swimming at Night, A Single Breath, and now, The Blue) and I've narrowed it down to a few things.

First, her characters are very real. They are people you might know or encounter in your own life. They are “normal”, likable and I become attached to them as I read. With each of her novels, I haven't wanted the stories to end because I want – no, NEED – to know what happens next in their lives. That's how real the characters become to me.

The second aspect of Lucy Clarke's writing that draws me in is how her stories are so raw with emotion. I truly feel what the characters are going through; I am in the moment with them. All of her books have taken me on an emotional ride, but in a good way. I became invested in each of the novels and went through myriad emotions as the stories unfolded.

Last, but most certainly not least, I love how Clarke is able to transport you to exotic locales through her words. She paints vivid pictures of the surroundings her characters find themselves in and the settings come alive on the pages. As I read, I can picture the beaches, feel the sand between my toes, see the bright colour of the water, taste the salt air, and feel the breeze blowing against my skin. Reading her novels is like taking a trip around the world as Clarke has clearly done her research and writes about places she's been and knows.

All of the above encapsulates what I loved about The Blue – the characters, the emotion, the setting - a feast for the senses. The Blue is about best friends, Lana and Kitty, both of whom decide to leave home for different reasons, in search of freedom and adventure. While traveling in the Philippines, they meet the crew of a yacht, all of whom have a story or secret. Lana and Kitty are invited to join the crew and the tale unfolds from there.

Here's part of the description from publisher, Simon & Schuster Canada:

Lana and her best friend Kitty leave home looking for freedom—and that’s exactly what they find when they are invited onto The Blue, a fifty-foot yacht making its way from the Philippines to New Zealand. The crew is made up of a group of young travellers bitten by wanderlust, and it doesn’t take long for Lana and Kitty’s dream of sea-bound romance to turn into reality.

Both women fall under the hypnotic spell of The Blue, spending their days exploring remote islands and their rum-filled nights relaxing on deck beneath the stars. But when one of their friends disappears overboard after an argument with another crewmember, the dark secrets that brought each of them aboard start to unravel.

This novel is a well-balanced dose of adventure, romance, betrayal and mystery. It kept me guessing and I actually said, 'WHAT?” and “Ohmygod!”, aloud a few times as the mysteries were revealed. I read this book while at a cottage and it was the perfect beach and summer read. Although, The Blue, and all of Lucy Clarke's books, make the perfect anytime read.

Do these books sound like something you'd like to read? You're in luck! Simon & Schuster Canada is going to give one of my readers a copy of each of Lucy Clarke's books! That's right, ALL THREE of her fabulous books! All you have to do is tell me in a comment which book you are most anxious to read – Swimming at Night, A Single Breath or The Blue. Remember to include your email address so that I can contact you if you win!  GOOD LUCK!


Contest closes at midnight on Friday, August 14th. The draw will be made on Saturday, August 15th using and the winner will be notified by email. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to the email to claim the prize or another winner will be drawn. The odds of winning depend on the number of entries. The winner will be required to answer a skill-testing question to claim their prize. This contest is open to residents of Canada only.