Mama’s Going Back to School, Too!

Exactly one week until my kids go back to school.  Can I get an “Amen!” sisters?!

We all know that Back to School is a period more welcomed by burnt-out parents than by kids, but this year, my kids aren’t the only ones going back into a classroom.  I have signed myself up for a drawing class at a local art school.  The class is called …. I Wish I Could Draw.  So, perhaps, I’m not so much going back to school as starting all over again from Kindergarten.

I am one of those people who could happily take classes for the rest of her life.  Education is wasted on the young, and I regret so much not taking the Intro to Art History course in my undergrad years.  Lascaux to Rothko, it covered it all.  The textbook weighed five pounds.  My roommate took the class, and, honestly, at the time, it was not something that appealed.  But now, now that the same roommate has taught me how to really enjoy how to walk through a gallery, now that I have a much stronger frame of reference for all of those historical movements, now that I have a vocabulary for techniques and media, I am full of regret.

At least I have learned to love looking at art.  It is such a treat to go to a gallery and soak up all of the work on the walls.  I come away from craft fairs and art shows with a buzz from all of the creativity, and I think, “I wish I could draw.”

“I wish I could draw” is something I’ve thought and heard myself say so often that it feels slightly surreal to think I am finally doing something about it.  I do not expect to emerge as an artist ready for her own art shows, but I am so excited to begin learning.  I’m also excited to sit down with my kids at the museum and open my own sketch book with a little less self-consciousness, a little less trepidation, a little more abandon.

11013508_10155906177000014_4492586136768938922_n

from a store front in London, where we spent part of the summer

DIY Gallery Wall and Jewelry Display

While I am not much of a DIYer, I am all about creating a living space that reflects my family and the people and things that we love. Have you heard of man-caves? Well, in this house of 5, I am the sole female. The lone wolf. A man-cave we don’t need but a mom-cave? Yes. That I do need!

My office is a small room in our basement that houses my favourite treasures, mostly books among a few knick-knacks and a beloved chandelier. I have slowly added to the room over the years, taking advice from Nate Berkus to only add things that I love and “tell my story”.

This one wall remained a blank space for years, but I finally decided to take wedding photos of my parents, in-laws, grandparents and grandparent in-laws (is that a term?) and create a gallery wall. The first step was deciding on frames that would fit nicely on the wall in a cluster of six. I am what some may call a traditionalist, and others may call boring, so black frames won out.

I then visited Blacks with the original photos, a few more than 60 years old, and spent some time with one of their photo technicians. They helped me to digitally restore and resize the photos. Their expertise proved invaluable and regardless of how tech savvy you may be, ask them for input. No need to DIY it all.

I would like to preface this by saying that a gallery wall is a lot harder to hang than it looks. First off, it involves math. A lot of it. And measuring. A lot of it. I can hold my own when it comes to math, but I wanted to limit the number of holes made in the wall. Needless to say the adage “measure twice, cut once” was running through my mind while I wielded my hammer.

My thorough research suggested that I tape off the gallery before actually hammering in the nails, and this worked out well for me. I was able to rearrange the photos and modify the spacing to my liking without puncturing the wall. Overall, I am happy with my handiwork (one is slightly off, but I can obsessed about that another day) but more so, this DIY project fills my space with people I love, and tells quite the story.

IMG_5534

 

IMG_5535

 

IMG_5538

 

IMG_5542

 

Next up on my DIY project list was to arranging my collection of costume jewelry.

My pretty necklaces and chunky bracelets were stored away in boxes and drawers, not allowing for admiration or ready-to-wear. My favourite style blogger and interior designer, Erin Gates, provided inspiration with this picture from her recent best seller.

464f83577aff7bcd9a6de4a2ce341e62

This is a photo from Erin’s Pinterest board, showcasing elements of her master bedroom.

Here’s my take. Thank you, Erin for showing us that it’s okay to have fun with our girly accessories!

 

I sourced a collection of inexpensive display vessels from Home Sense.  The trays were less than $30, the cake stand was $6.99, the butter dish $6.99 and the small vase $3.99.  The mug was from my kitchen.

I sourced a collection of inexpensive display vessels from Home Sense. The trays were less than $30, the cake stand was $6.99, the butter dish $6.99 and the small vase $3.99. The mug was from my kitchen.

IMG_5527

IMG_5531

IMG_5529

I have two of these guys flanking the display.  My husband thinks it's weird but the boys like looking at them.  My youngest calls them "the treasure men".  I like that.

I have two of these guys flanking the display. My youngest calls them “the treasure men”.  I like that.

Building a Wardrobe by guest blogger, Iva Grebesic

boyfriends and blazers 1

Our guest today is Iva Grebesic of the popular fashion blog, Falling in Style. If Iva looks familiar it’s because you’ve probably seen her on Steven and Chris or Cityline sharing the latest and greatest in functional fashion for every day life. In addition to being a contributor Yorkdale Style Council, Fashion Magazine Style Panel and Brazen Woman, she is a mom to 4 busy children. Follow Iva on Instagram where she shows that women of any age can be fashionable.

__________________________________________________________

Thank you for that wonderful introduction. When building any wardrobe it is an investment – in time and money. That investment needs to work for us and in today’s busy world work for multiple occasions. I am a firm believer that we all need some key pieces in all our closets and today I’ll tell you what mine are. The one thing I want everyone to remember is that basics are a starting point to build upon. When buying anything think of FIT, everything in our closets should fit properly. If it doesn’t, no matter what a great deal it was or how little we paid, it won’t look good on us and we won’t wear it. A deal is only a deal if we wear the clothes.

Even when selecting the basic items in our wardrobe everything should be a reflection of who we are, clothing is just a way of expressing ourselves. Life is too short to be wearing bad outfits. To me that means no woman’s personality is defined by an oversized t-shirt and yoga pants.

  1. Dark Denim Jeans – Every woman should own one pair of great jeans. They should be a dark wash because you can dress them down or wear them out for a fun night. When it comes to cut everyone is different, I prefer a boot cut or skinny. Another great option is a trouser jean which, like the name suggests, is cut like a great pair of classic trousers. If you want to get out of your comfort zone try a pair of boyfriend jeans.
  2. A Classic Blazer – I own way too many blazers (I’m going to say between 15 or 20) but you only need one, just don’t tell my husband. I would recommend a navy blue one or black. A neutral blazer can be work with jeans, pants, skirts and dresses. It takes a casual outfit to the next level and makes you look pulled together.
  3. Little Black Dress or LBD – before I go further I am going to say it doesn’t have to be black but a dark neutral colour, navy blue, dark grey or a rich brown are all great options. I recently bought the perfect LBD from Pink Tartan. If you are finding it hard to find the perfect dress I would recommend Dress Mavens (dressmavens.com) a perfect bespoke option.
  4. Dress Pants – you can also call them trousers or slacks. The style you pick is based on your body type but one good pair should launch a thousand looks. Pair them with blouses, sweaters, cardigans or even t-shirts. The possibilities are endless. My favourite colour? It has to be a classic pair in navy blue.
  5. Pencil Skirt – I find a pencil skirt universally flattering, no matter what your shape there is one out there for you. If you are not in a corporate environment I say ditch the black or navy blue and try a fun colour or pattern. You already have a LBD and a pair of dark neutral slacks so have some fun!
  6. Classic Pumps – colour options when building your wardrobe may seem limited but will offer investment pieces that will last years. So for pumps, pointy toe or almond toe heels in black or nude will offer versatility.

Once you have the basics add jewelry, pretty tops with graphics and pretty details and enjoy. Never take yourself too seriously, you’ll miss all the fun.

Pink Tartan LBD 1

 

Chico's Add On 3

 

pastels 3

My First Clothing Swap – So Much Fun!

020When a friend recently downsized to a smaller home, she suggested to a few friends that we do a clothing swap.  I replied with a quick “yes” even though I’d never participated in one before.  I didn’t really know what to expect or (a bit worryingly) whether I’d have much to offer to the swap, but it sounded like a good excuse reason to get together so I was in.

The morning arrived.  Just four of us showed up in the end.  Somehow even though we’d never done this before, we seemed to bring similar sized bins of clothing.  We decided to meet in my shop (I have a shop! will tell more soon), in a large room that served as a collective changeroom, complete with gigantic mirror.

Before we could lay out our clothing on the table, one woman dived into her bin and pulled out a beautiful pair of beaded sandals.  They claimed to be a 7, but were much too big for her.  Two sets of feet later and the sandals had found a new home.  Our toes were in the water; time to jump in!

Three of us were similar enough in size, and we tolerated the other one whose clothing tags bore numbers like 2 or 0.  0!  But even she got a few things… the pieces that had become way too tight for the rest of us seemed to hang on her just so.

We brought the clothes out, suggested them for someone, picked up something else, passed something on, nodded approvingly when a good swap was made.  There were no rules or order really; it just seemed to work out.  Especially nice was being able to part with those particular pieces, sometimes quite treasured, knowing the good homes they were headed to.

In the end, we all had armfuls of new-to-us clothing, with the rest destined for the local thrift store.

I don’t even know what to say about all this, except that it was So. Much. Fun.

How often do you get together with friends and play dress up?  I didn’t even do this as a kid.  Maybe some of you manage it, especially if you like shopping with company.  I don’t though, and being a bit more serious-minded than is may be helpful sometimes, finding a morning to strip off clothes and put more on with three girlfriends doing exactly the same thing was just plain good fun.

I felt so light and happy after our gathering, and of course this was so little due to the (amazing new) digs in my bin.  And it wasn’t just me; everyone chimed in to comment on the pleasure of the swap.  I got the feeling it was almost a needed good time.  We each carry our loads – this friend was in tears over some trouble with her child, that friend’s husband just had another stroke – and we weren’t even really talking!  Our clothing swap experiment may have been, even briefly, just a really effective antidote to our very real, everyday cares.  I know I couldn’t have spent my morning in any better way.

Plus you should see my new camel coat.

[We just winged our clothing swap and it worked out beautifully, probably because it was small and among friends.  For more specifics on how to organize one – which I’d so recommend! – there are some good articles out there.   For Torontonians, there’s Swap Don’t Shop!, which hosts regular clothing swaps in the city.  Next up for us might be a jewellery swap!] 

Ladies, do you think you know your vagina? Think again!

photo (51)As a teenage girl, I would cringe if my mom talked about periods when my dad was within earshot. Clearly much has changed because as a grown woman, when I learned about the annual Kegels and Cocktails event hosted by fitness expert Samantha Montpetit-Huynh, certified Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist Julia Di Paolo and Kim Vopni, The Fitness Doula, I had to buy tickets. And drag along two of my close girlfriends who can yap about vaginas with the best of them.

When we arrived we were greeted by a cheerful woman at the door who was eager to make us feel welcome, “Let me get you some punch! With alcohol or without?” She sped away and I surveyed the crowded room noting several pregnant bellies and more than a few teeny infants. Our perky hostess returned seconds later balancing three fruity, pink punches expertly. “Here, have some pussy punch!”

And with those words, the night began.

To be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had interviewed Samantha for an article I wrote last year for Viva Magazine and loved her energy. Immediately we bonded over our mutual hatred of “bump watches” and “post-baby body” stories that dominate the tabloid newsstands and breed unrealistic body expectations. I figured anything she was involved with, was something that I wanted to learn more about.

Boy, did I learn.

I walked into the event thinking, what are they going to tell me that I don’t already know? I do my kegels! I have three kids! I (and everyone on the 7th floor of Mount Sinai Hospital, and that stunned gift shop employee) know my vagina.

You know how Oprah talks about having an Ah-Ha! moment? Well, I had an Oh-Shit! moment.

Certified Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist Julia Di Paolo captivated everyone’s attention when she stood at the podium and made an impassioned plea for women to make pelvic wellness part of their overall healthcare. Di Paolo explained the importance of a well-functioning pelvic floor. She likens the pelvic floor muscles to a trampoline. A trampoline is taut and firm but it has flex, and will give but it will always return to its original form. Well-functioning pelvic floor muscles act the same. They have just the right amount of give (not too much or too little) and they retain their elasticity. If the muscles slacken too much and sag, they can’t effectively do their job, and internal organs like the uterus, rectum and bladder can shift and fall.

Then she dropped the bombs.

50% of women who’ve had children will have some prolapse. (Hagen & Stark, 2011)

Women who’ve had one vaginal delivery are at 4 times the risk of developing a prolapse and the risk increases 8.4 times with two or more vaginal deliveries. (Mantal et al. 1997)

But I don’t think I have a prolapse. Actually, I’m sure that I am fine; I generally have very good luck. I think this as I squiggle in my chair and straighten my posture acutely aware of my vagina.

Di Paolo clicks the mouse and the slide changes. There is audible murmuring from the room of women and my girlfriend who’s seated beside me lets out a deflated sigh.

Symptoms of a prolapse:

  • Feeling pelvic pressure
  • Feeling uncomfortable within the pelvic cavity
  • Rectal pressure
  • Constipation
  • Feeling like your insides are falling out
  • Incontinence or retention of urine
  • Tampons do not stay in place
  • Some women are asymptomatic

Oh-Shit!

Di Paolo has made it her mission to empower women before, during and after pregnancy about the importance of a healthy pelvic floor. She maintains there are many ways to help prevent or reduce the severity of prolapse.

What to do?

  • Learn to do kegels the right way (Note: I was doing them wrong and judging by the collective gasp in the room, I wasn’t the only one)
  • Modify your workout routine since many popular exercises can actually exacerbate pelvic floor weakness and prolapse
  • Stay hydrated
  • Stop being so sedentary, get out and walk more!
  • If you’re thinking of getting pregnant or are pregnant, see a pelvic floor physiotherapist before you give birth!

Most importantly book an appointment with a pelvic floor physiotherapist and learn about your body. Don’t assume that the damage is done or that you have to live with discomfort. Di Paolo says with treatment most of the time patients are able to restore their prolapse by one degree and learn how to prevent further damage.  Bottom line: be informed, be proactive so that you are not dealing with issues years down the road.

To find a registered pelvic floor physiotherapist in Ontario click here. To contact Julia Di Paolo or a member of her team of Pelvic Floor Physiotherapists, visit her Women’s and Pelvic Health clinic PhysioExcellence located in Toronto, Ontario.

Ladies, It’s Time To Ditch Those Granny Panties!

boyshortIt’s August and even though the weather here in Toronto hasn’t exactly been summery these past few weeks, it’s definitely warmer than the wintery polar vortex that swept the northeast only a few months ago.

The month of July at 4Mothers was all about learning, but for the month of August we’re turning up the heat, and embracing steamy summer nights!

Let’s start off with an underwear refresh. It’s time to ditch those granny panties and discover some beautiful options that are made for real women by real women. I did it (you can read about it here) and you can do it too. Your partner will thank us.

Knix Wear

Joanna Griffiths is the founder and hands-on visionary behind these high-tech knickers.  Joanna learned about the realities of real women’s bodies, specifically the challenges many women face post-pregnancy, from talking with her mother, a doctor.  When Joanna became aware that one third of women will experience some bladder leakage at some point in their lifetime, she set out to revolutionize women’s underwear.  Not believing that a little bit of leakage should condemn a woman to wearing ugly panties to accommodate bulky drugstore pads, Joanna built-up a team of expert professionals to make her dream of creating seamless undergarments for women that don’t roll, have built-in leak resistance, have anti-odor and moisture wicking technology, all while still being beautiful and flattering to all bodies.  Sound like a tall order?  Well, Joanna succeeded with Knix Wear and now women can feel sexy and confident. Nude boyshort

Knix Wear is available in a variety of colours, styles (bikini, boy short, thong and high rise) and fabrics, from athletic to lacy. Sizes from XS-XXL.  Priced from $22-$38.  Sign-up for their newsletter and get $10 off your first purchase! 

Highrise

Mayana Genevière

I don’t think that I have ever met someone as passionate about women’s undergarments as Nadine, founder of Mayana Genevière.

After giving birth to her daughter, Nadine found herself disappointed with the selection of nursing bras: the one item a woman should never skimp on!  Everything she came across was either frumpy or hyper sexualized. She took it upon herself to create something not only beautiful but functional.  She designed the first of its kind, metal clasp-free nursing bra and when her friends caught a glimpse of it, they encouraged her to design a line of feminine undergarments, including shape wear, that are to be worn throughout the entire journey of womanhood. Gallery3_Empress420x420-May16-300x300

Her Canadian designs are well constructed with attention to detail such an adjustable hook & eye that allows you to choose your desired level of compression and every garment is made of the highest quality fabrics including organic cotton gussets. Nadine maintains that a woman’s undergarments should never roll or shift and it won’t happen so long as they are well made and fitted properly. “You’ll always look fabulous when you dress the body you have!” says Nadine and she’s made it her mission to celebrate women’s bodies and at the same time instill acceptance and confidence in her clients. To further her dream of developing a socially conscious brand, Nadine established Maternal Goddess, an organization dedicated to the education and awareness of postnatal maternal health.

Mayana-Geneviere-Opulence-collection1

A portion of every purchase from Mayana Genevière is contributed to this incredible platform that supports new mothers.

The brand will be available in the Fall at 7 boutiques in the Toronto area. Check the website for details in the coming weeks.

Bras are available in a variety of styles, including nursing from 32B to 42D.  Control panties available in sizes S-XXL.

Mayana-Geneviere-Opulence-Collection-Gallery-2-8001-300x300

Both Knix Wear and Mayana Genevière are both committed to using real women as models. Can we get a hallelujah? The last time I checked not every woman was a size flawless XS!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images courtesy of Knix Wear and Mayana Genevière.

 

A Perfumed Evening

scentI hosted my neighbourhood book club this month, and my choice was Chandler Burr’s The Perfect Scent.  It’s a wonderful account of his year following a perfumer and a celebrity as they create new fragrances: Claude Ellena, who makes Un Jardin sur le Nil, his first as the in-house perfumer for Hermes, and Sarah Jessica Parker, who embarks on her first fragrance for Coty, Lovely.

We often do food and drink that’s linked to the book in some way, so I got rose Turkish Delight, Chowder’s violet candies, lavender jelly for the cheese board, and I made a cardamom and ginger dressing for the cantaloupe and a rosewater-flavoured yogurt for the strawberries.  Yum!  For drinks, I had spiced rum punch and Elderflower pear cider and Elderflower liqueur.  All highly recommended!

As part of the evening, I got samples of the perfumes Burr discusses in the book, and I asked everyone to bring their favourite perfume: a smell and tell component to the evening.  We had a tour through all the samples, and it was striking how polarized opinion could be on some of the perfumes.  My favourite perfume, Dzing! by l’Artisan Parfumeur, makes me deliriously happy because it smells like hay and animals and, yes, a bit like manure.  Two other women who smelled it smelled, wait for it, electrical fire!!  One of them had had an electrical fire recently and said it smelled exactly like it.  Obviously not a happy connection.  We rounded out the night by discussing the book and told stories about our fragrance memories and about how we came to love our favourites.

imagesUB2XEPSXWe all had our memories of heavy perfumes we left behind with our youth, like Rive Gauche, Poison, Anais Anais, Obsession and Ralph Lauren.  Do you remember those?   We all had memories of women in our lives who are inseparable from their fragrances.  For me, it’s my mother and Youth Dew.  Inseparable.

My fascination with all things perfume truly began about five years ago when I discovered that there exists a perfume called In the Library, made by Christopher Brosius for CB I Hate Perfume.  It turned out that the only woman in Toronto to carry his perfumes was right around the corner.  Sadly, I really did not like the smell of In the Library, but two of the notes in it, Tobacco and Old Leather, were available as individual scents.  I bought them on the spot, and gave them to my husband to wear.  They are simply scrumptious, and it gives me a profound sense of calm and pleasure to smell those scents on him.  I have since bought about six of his perfumes, each with its own wonderful story and unfolding pleasures.

His In the Library started me on a quest to find other perfume that smelled like books.  I’d get very strange looks when I asked about it, but one store owner who really knew his stuff said, “Nothing like books, but what about hay?  Some people think this one smells like paper.”  And he introduced me to my beloved Dzing!  His store has since disappeared, so my favourite scent remains elusive.  All the better to make you yearn, my dear.

What perfumes have you forever left behind?  What are your current favourites?

Socking Stuffers & More: For Her, Him and the Boys

Need some holiday gift-giving inspiration?  Here’s a round-up of some of my favourites.

For Her

images-1

Come to Bed Red nail laquer

images-2

EOS Pomegranate Raspberry Lip Balm

imgres

Compact Mirror from Indigo

images-3

Downton Abbey Series 1-3

imgres

Personalized locket, holds two-three pictures, from Undine

images-2

Gimme Brow by Benefit

imgres-1

Hanky Panky 

imgres-2

Nutella: The 30 Best Recipes

il_570xN.533161750_fua4

Funny Sticky Notes

imgres-4

Adult-size Onesie

handcream

Handcream

For Him

imgres

Where Chef’s Eat

il_570xN.420622667_bu3x

Thumbprint Cufflinks

images

Slang Flashcards

imgres-1

Anything from The Garlic Box

imgres-2

Anything with the Hudson’s Bay stripes

imgres-3

Men’s work week socks

For The Boys

imgres-4Desktop Hockey

imgres-5

The Olympics are coming up!  Paint your own Babushka dolls.

imgres-6Scrabble Magnet Set

imgres-7

Storm Troopers USB 

il_570xN.372442864_q9u9

Crayon Roll

images-1

Support your favourite team with Fan Bands

imgres-9

Make some music and build your own ukulele.

imagesZAS5333U

Dragon Hands Temporary Tattoos

untitled

Lego Erasers

Thank you, Coffee

1236509_10153254818090014_233808600_nDear Morning Cup Cups of Coffee,

Thank you for being a predictably good thing.  You really have never let me down.

People say I should give you up, Coffee.  They say I should quit you.  I don’t ever want to quit you.

Unlike my other addictions (buying more books, pens, sticky notes and lipsticks than I will ever use; eating too much chocolate; marathon movie watching late into the night), you come with no baggage.  No guilt.  You are pure enjoyment.  You are the engine of my days.  You have gone with me through so many books, so many pages written and read, so many hours of quality time with friends and with myself.  You are the liquid love that My Beloved and I make and pour for each other on weekend mornings.  You are a delicious indulgence after dinner when a long night calls.

Thank you, Coffee, for filling my house with the smell of comfort, for fueling my days and nights, for keeping me happy at home and for taking me out and about with friends.

Love, for now and always,

Nathalie