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! 

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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.

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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.

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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

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Come to Bed Red nail laquer

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EOS Pomegranate Raspberry Lip Balm

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Compact Mirror from Indigo

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Downton Abbey Series 1-3

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Personalized locket, holds two-three pictures, from Undine

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Gimme Brow by Benefit

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Hanky Panky 

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Nutella: The 30 Best Recipes

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Funny Sticky Notes

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Adult-size Onesie

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Handcream

For Him

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Where Chef’s Eat

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Thumbprint Cufflinks

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Slang Flashcards

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Anything from The Garlic Box

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Anything with the Hudson’s Bay stripes

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Men’s work week socks

For The Boys

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

imgres-6Scrabble Magnet Set

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Storm Troopers USB 

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Crayon Roll

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Support your favourite team with Fan Bands

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Make some music and build your own ukulele.

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Dragon Hands Temporary Tattoos

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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

Book Review: Unbridled: a memoir by Barbara McNally

imgresA copy of Unbridled was sent to 4Mothers a few months back.  The jacket synopsis intrigued me but between the daily chaos of life and a pile of delicious books waiting to be devoured on my night table, Unbridled sat unread.

When packing for my mom conference in Miami, I opted to leave behind the meaty read that I had just started in favour of something lighter and easy to entertain while sunning on the beach.  Unbridled seemed like the perfect choice: betrayal, divorce, sexual awakening, feminist liberation . . .and it’s just over 200 pages.  Perfect for the lazy days ahead.

Barbara McNally was raised with a strict Baptist upbringing and spent her youth engaged in church activities and living a demure life according to her parents’ religious views.  As a young co-ed she met the man of her mother’s dreams and blinded by other people’s expectations she lost herself in a seemingly perfect marriage.  Many years pass and Barbara is unable to squelch her feelings of restlessness and seeks salvation in the arms of another man.

After her divorce Barbara finds herself truly alone for the first time in her life.  No longer under the rule of her father or husband, she is forced to create a life of her own.   Inspired by the memory of her ebullient, free-spirited, Vaudevillian grandmother, Barbara sets off on a wistful journey of self-discovery where she returns to her ancestral roots in Ireland and later to a hedonistic retreat in Jamaica.  In both countries she opens herself to experiences that profoundly change her idea of self.  Finally she is able to shed the expectations of others, push aside the notion of perfection and embrace life’s lessons in the most poignant situations.

Barbara awakened her passion and is now dedicated to empowering women and encouraging others to forge their own life path and create their own destiny.

McNally’s writing is rich with vivid descriptions making the Irish countryside and sun-soaked Jamaica come alive off the page.   Her writing is at times heart-breakingly honest as she bares herself entirely, exposing her nastiness, fragility and ambiguity at the risk of offending her readers but her transparency is genuine and engaged this reader’s encouragement.  Nonetheless there are moments, albeit few, where I wished the author had not been so cursory in describing seemingly intense events, in particular when she learns her father’s rectitude is nothing but a sham.

Unbridled has a familiar tone and message to Eat, Pray, Love  by Elizabeth Gilbert but Barbara McNally’s journey is filled with less navel-gazing and searching for love than her struggle to connect with and liberate herself.  As someone in a fulfilling relationship who has never been divorced, I was skeptical as to whether Barbara’s memoir would keep my attention but the message of her tome is universal: live life fearlessly, embrace experiences as they come and re-connect with your roots to better understand your present.  Husband or no husband, kids or no kids this is a book about being a woman and nurturing the beauty that lies within.

10 Things I Miss About Life Before Kids (Or Maybe Nine)

10.  My breasts.  Victoria Secret would never have come knocking, but I liked them.

9.  Jumping on trampolines.  Okay, I never did that much of this, but I miss taking for granted that my internal machinery could handle this.  I tried joining my son on a trampoline after having two kids, and it was not. a. good. idea.

8.  Saying “Sure, I’d love to go for a drink after work.”  The unbridled freedom of it.

7.  Actually drinking said drink.  I’m on a self-imposed abstinence from alcohol while pregnant and nursing, which means I have been bone dry for five years.  Want to come over and watch me crawl under the table after my first two post-children glasses of wine?

6.  The invisible protective layer that Nathalie once commented about.  The one that made it possible to listen to the news and country songs with a dry eye.

5.  Sleep, and being the boss over my sleep, even if I got too little.  Almost too obvious to mention, but too mammoth not to.

4.  Not being a primary role model to anyone.  Related:  being able to swear without essentially offering a “how to” tutorial to little ears.

3.  Seeing half an hour as 30 minutes, rather than as a significant opportunity.

2.  Looking at random children, without feeling somehow invested in each one.

1.  Not so very much, if I am honest.  Life before kids wasn’t such a cakewalk as I recall, it just had other challenges.  And being a mother (provided I am not on my knees begging for mercy) is the best gig in town.

10 Things We Miss About Life Before Kids

Self-explanatory, isn’t it, that title?  This theme has been peppering the blogosphere lately, and we thought we’d join the online party.

At 4Mothers, we write pretty much all the time about our kids.  This week, we thought we’d write about ourselves before our kids (although perversely, how we can’t even do this without the whole discussion being  informed by our post-children selves…).

What do you miss about your fancy-free non-parent self?  Tell us this week as you hear us tell you.

4Mothers is also delighted to announce that this month’s guest writer is Corinne Simonyi, a Toronto mother of two young children.  Corinne has years of experience writing for many of Toronto’s foremost publications including Neighbour From Hell! that was published in 2Life magazine.

Common Scents

PHOTO-402-GROUP-WEBI once watched a design show in which the host commented to the designer that the front door handle she was suggesting was shockingly expensive.  The designer replied unapologetically, “It’s something you will touch everyday.  This is where to spend the money.”

I’ve never forgotten that: it’s something you will touch every day.  It seems such remarkably simple advice about luxury.

On my recent trip to New York, I took myself off for an afternoon of the height of luxury: a visit to Christopher Brosius’s I Hate Perfume Gallery.  His perfumes have become an obsession of mine, and I could not wait to experience all of his fragrances.

I discovered  C B I Hate Perfume when, quite by chance, I found myself in the only store in Toronto that stocks his perfumes.  He makes a fragrance called In the Library, and I was beside myself with excitement to try it on.  The smell of a library, bottled?  Bring it on!  As it turned out, I did not like it, or it did not like me, but two of the scents that make up this amazing idea are Smoky Tobacco and Old Leather, sold individually.  Those I fell in love with, and I wore Smoky Tobacco and Old Leather while reading Sherlock Holmes and felt myself transported.  It was winter, and curling up with a classic mystery and the smell redolent of a gentleman’s library were absolutely the most luxurious experience for my harried pre-Christmas soul.   I would have similar experiences with Grass in summer (the smell of a freshly-mowed lawn–you wouldn’t think it would work on the skin, but it does, oh it does!), and Burning Leaves in fall.

I came home from New York with a fragrance for spring: Black March, which smells of soaked earth, rain, wet twigs, and the hint of something floral.  It’s nothing short of magic how this man has captured the world in a bottle of perfume, and then made it something wearable, and I revel in his wizardry.  Almost as wonderful as the fragrances are the stories behind them.  (Follow the links to the perfumes and read about what goes into bottling a memory.  Greenbriar is a biography of his grandfather in perfume.  Stunning.)

These are my daily, seasonal luxuries:  common scents from the world outside that I can bring inside and onto me and that have an unfailing ability to lift my spirits.  Every day.