Easy DIY Hand-Painted Glasses

 

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I am not much of a DIYer.  Instead I prefer to think of myself as a COOPTer.  Celebrator Of Other People’s Talents.  I am under no delusions that I can do everything well enough to meet my exceedingly high expectations, so I graciously turn to experts and pay them for their talents.  I only try what I know I can execute but retile my bathroom floor? Sew Halloween costumes? Hook my own rug?  No.  Not for me.

Since the theme of this week is DIY activities with kids, I have quite craftily I think, repurposed a previous post.  Here’s one attempt at a DIY that turned out nicely.  And fetched $140 for the boys’ school at silent auction.

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My boys’ school hosts a silent auction every two years to raise funds for the school’s various programs.  This year they asked that each class contribute a collaborative piece of art to be auctioned off.

I like this idea because it involves the children in working towards a common goal, which ultimately benefits them.

I volunteered to head up the project in my eldest’s grade 2 class.  I scoured Pinterest for age appropriate ideas and finally decided on these hand-painted tumblers and I followed the instructions outlined by Savvy Sugar.

It was a good choice.  The project was easy to manage, required few supplies and was completely child-driven.  I didn’t want the project to require adult participation.  I wanted the students to feel a sense of accomplishment working together, creating something beautiful, and contributing to the school’s silent auction without the micro-managing help from an adult.

Gathering the materials was easy:

The hardware store for quality, sturdy glass tumblers ($10.00 for a package of 4)

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The craft store for enamel acrylic paint in the primary colours plus white ($20.00 for four bottles of paint)

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A Styrofoam plate for mixing colours (recycled from my veggie drawer)

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Two cookie sheets lined with parchment paper

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Cotton swabs (1 package from the dollar store)

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Before we got started, I reviewed with the students all of the instructions, outlining why it’s a good idea to read through the step-by-steps before starting any project.

Since we would be mixing the colours to create unique blends, I had the students refresh my memory of what colours are created by mixing the primary colours.

After breaking into groups of two (and two groups of three), the students discussed with their partner what colours they planned to dot their tumbler.  It’s recommended not to use more than 4 colours, or else the colours start to muddle together and lose their vibrancy.

Step 1:

Mix your colours.  It’s a nice idea to decide on a palate but not necessary.  What I enjoyed was listening to the partners decide what colours they wanted to paint the tumblers and the reason for it.  The best answer I overheard was, “let’s make it look like a sunrise!”

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Step 2:

Lightly dab a cotton swab into the paint and then dab the glass tumbler.  One dab goes a long way – about 5-7 dots.  It’s important that the dots are not too goopy or else the texture of the glass feels funny, not to mention caring for the glass is more challenging when the surface is raised.

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Step 3:

Continue dabbing until satisfied, about halfway to 2/3 way up the glass.  There’s a fraction lesson here!

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Step 4:

Allow the glasses to dry upside down on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  After about 1 hour the glasses are ready for the oven.

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Step 5:

Yes, I said oven.  I know, I was worried too!  Place the glasses into a cold oven.  Turn the oven on to 350 degrees.  After 30 minutes turn off the heat and allow the glasses to stay in the heated oven for 1 hour.

Step 6:

Once the hour is up, your glasses are ready for use.  Be careful when washing – use warm water and soap, hand-wash and air dry.

The finished product turned out pretty fantastic!  Bookmark this idea if you’re looking for an easy to do homemade gift.  I think grandparents would love these!

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* Take it a step further: try hand-dotting a glass platter or glass plates.  The possibilities are endless!

 

 

 

Joust About An Unbelievable Good Time!

imgres-2Why is being a tourist in your own city something that never tops the “list of things to do”?  Just last week I read Amy from Joey and the Owl is moving from New York City to the suburbs, and in her farewell post to NYC she commented how few tourist attractions in the city she’d actually been to.  It made me pause to reflect on the many incredible sites and attractions that Toronto has to offer, practically on my doorstep.  I do make an effort to visit the museums and art galleries, and I have a theatre subscription to both Mirvish Productions and The Young People Theatre, but there are so many places I’ve left undiscovered.

Like, Medieval Times.

Last week Carol and I, along with our families, ten of us in total, trekked through the congested streets of downtown Toronto in frigid arctic temperatures to arrive at the Exhibition Place, home to Medieval Times.

Top 5 Reasons You Should Visit Medieval Times

  1. Betcha Didn’t Know That!

While Medieval Times is simply a fun way to spend time together as a family, it’s also educational, and arguably much more enjoyable than just reading about the Dark Ages.  Servers are aptly referred to as serfs or wenches.  There are no french fries or burgers, only fare that would be typical of a gluttonous medieval feast.  The castle is dark and the lighting used is minimal to replicate the primitive castles of the era, but as Carol’s young son pointed out me, luckily this castle has heat.

  1. Is It Real?

Where you sit at Medieval Times matters, unlike a traditional theatre.  Each seating area represents a knight, and it’s your duty as the king’s guests to cheer on your knight to victory as he risks life and limb in this tournament of heraldry.

Luckily for us, we were seated in the front row and had a clear view of all the action.  Seating is based on first come, first serve unless you’ve chosen to enhance your experience and for a fee.  Carol and I spent some time surveying the various levels and with all seating areas, the view is clear and the knights do make a considerable effort to engage the crowd regardless of position.

Our six boys were sitting at the edge of the seats for the entire spectacle.  Wearing their crowns, and waving their black and white flag they cheered for our knight, who impressively captured their attention, Carol’s heart (until her son stole her intended flower), and several rounds of the tournament.  imgres

It was during the car ride home that my boys peppered us with questions, namely, “was it real?”.  I love that they are young enough to be swept away by the magic of theatre and make believe.  I think it added to the overall awe of performance and how much we enjoyed it.  I explained to the boys it’s just like a play with actors who practice, and many behind the stage hands that make the experience come to life.  An interactive show like this is a good introduction to live theatre if you have a child who isn’t likely to sit through a lengthy play with minimal action.

  1. A Feast Not Only For The Eyes!

I imagine that one doesn’t go to Medieval Times solely for the food, but it’s worth noting that while the fare isn’t going to top any “best of” lists, it’s tasty enough and was a hit with the kids.  Garlic bread and a tomato bisque were followed by a half roasted chicken with spare ribs and a potato wedge – all served warm and eaten without utensils.  My boys rejoiced!  I have to point out that while the food may not be winning any awards the service does.  Guests’ dietary restrictions are readily accommodated, like our nut allergies.  The vegetarian dish, 3-bean stew with fire roasted tomato and brown rice, was served to 2 of our party and while they ate with spoons, they seemed to enjoy it just the same.  Be sure to ask for a take-out container to take home your left overs!

Halal meals are available upon request.

  1.  It’s Joust About Unbelievable!

The jousting tournament was actually quite riveting and within minutes, Carol and I found ourselves cheering alongside our boys.  The jousting lances splinter when they’re clashed and the swords spark with each cross, eliciting lots of excited squeals.  On select days in April your child can experience Knight Training where they can learn first-hand how treacherous life as knight can be and how dangerous the weapons truly are.  All Knights-in-Training will be knighted by King Carltos in a special ceremony.  Reserve your space here.

  1.  Because It’s Fun!

Let’s put aside all the lessons in history and theatre for a moment, and dwell on perhaps the most surprising for me.  Medieval Times is fun!  It’s really fun!  How liberating it was to not only allow but encourage my rowdy group of boys to scream, cheer and boo!

And because I am a mom, and this is something that all moms want to know, I will share that the restrooms were plenty and clean.  And because I am a mom, and this is something that all moms want to know, there are several gifts and treasures to be purchased before, during and after the show – plan accordingly.

Be sure to visit the Medieval Times website for discount codes, birthday specials, and a complete overview of the show with information about medieval life and times.

Little Lords and Ladies Medieval Reading List 

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Medieval Jousts and Tournaments by John Green

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Medieval Castle Sticker Picture by A.G. Smith

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Knights and Castles by Rachel Firth

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Sticker Dressing Knights by Helen Davis

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You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Medieval Knight by Fiona Macdonald

Disclaimer:  Thank you to Medieval Times for hosting all 10 of us!  We had a wonderful time and will be back!  Readers, please note that while we received our tickets complimentary, the views expressed in this blog post are our own.

Toronto Fashion Find: Coats by Mary Ellen for the Perfect Custom Coat

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This gallery contains 5 photos.

Years ago Carol once said to me, “You vote with your dollars”. It’s something that stuck. I live in Toronto, a close walk to two major streets that are lined with shops, restaurants and general services. Even if it means … Continue reading

Building a Wardrobe by guest blogger, Iva Grebesic

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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.

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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.

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Potted Potter: A Great Dose of Fun

posterOur posts for January are about health, and if laughter is the best medicine, you can get yourself a great dose of fun by going along to see Potted Potter.  You will have to hurry, though; the show is in its last week for its run in Toronto.

Beth-Anne, Carol and I took our boys to see the show in December, and I have to tell you that it was one of the highlights of my lead-up to Christmas.  “Attend” is my word of the year for 2015, but of course, I had had the word in mind for a while before writing about it for the blog.  Writing this blog has brought us many wonderful things, including friendships for which I am eternally grateful, but another thing I’m grateful for is Opportunity.  We are invited to interesting events and occasions, and I will be honest and tell you that I weigh each and every invitation very carefully.  It takes a lot to get me out of my routine and my happy place (pajamas, bed, book).  When the opportunity came to see Potted Potter smack dab in the middle of the chaos that characterizes the weeks in mid-December, I thought long and hard about accepting; I think we all did.  Like you, we all had a lot on our plates, but I wanted to get an early start on my word of the year, and I chose to attend.

I’m so glad I did.  It was such a gift to witness not only my nine year old’s belly laughs, but Carol’s and Beth-Anne’s too!  We all had a hoot, and you really do not have to be a Harry Potter expert to enjoy the show.

The premise of the show is that two actors act out all seven books in the Harry Potter series in 70 minutes.  It’s a fast-paced physical comedy that brings into play humour both broad and subtle.  There’s a straight man and a funny man, there is a wild and wacky frenzy as the two attempt to act out as many of the major roles as possible.  Unexpected costumes, props and choreography add much to the fun.  There are jokes pitched high and low, and the actors appeared to improvise references to everything from Frozen to Toronto’s Gay Pride Parade and disastrous Mayor Ford.  The jokes come at you a mile a minute, and while the kids are still laughing at the ones pitched to them, the adults are laughing at the subsequent allusions pitched to them.  There is even audience participation, as members of the audience are invited to participate in a Quidditch game, while two kids get invited up onto the stage.

Before the show, you can order a butter beer from the bar (the recipe is secret, but they will alert you to possible allergens).  The lobby and the sidewalk outside the Panasonic Theatre are quite small, and it felt very crowded very quickly, so you’d be well advised to arrive and take your seats early.   It’s just steps from the subway, so getting there and home was a breeze for those of us on the TTC.  Parking was not easy to find, so, again, arrive early to give yourself wiggle room.

I had one very special night with Middlest, and we went out for dinner after the show, just the two of us, and it felt like just the right way to kick off the winter holiday.  It would also be a great way to kick off the new year.  Here’s to attending!

Potted Potter is at the Panasonic Theater, 651 Yonge Street.  It runs until January 11, 2015.

You can get tickets here.

Gifts for Her

Here’s what we are crushing on and hoping to see under the tree!

From Nathalie

I’m all about books and one of a kind crafts.  And anything with images of houses.  Especially these.  Made by Stoneware Studio.  Again, all I did was enter “houses” into the search box at Etsy.  It’s a playground out there, I tell you.

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If there is a woman on your list who loves her nails done right and likes a little sass with her spa, check out this new line of nail polishes from Trust Fund Beauty.  With shades like What’s a Budget?, this package has humour and good looks.  This is Kiss Kiss Darling.  Perfect for the holidays.

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I think manicured nails look wonderful wrapped around a tumbler of scotch, and I don’t think that the guys should get all the booze.  I’ve grown to love a really peaty scotch.  (Check out this website that tells you how to pronounce the names of various types of scotch.  So funny.)

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I also don’t think that the guys and the kids should get all the gadgets.

Beth-Anne and I had a tour of the new Blacks store at Yonge and Eglinton today, and we got a demonstration of this super-fun printer.  The Fuji Instax Printer ($199) allows up to eight people to wirelessly send photos to print, and out pops a little photo that develops in front of your eyes.  So much fun for a party, shower, or family gathering.

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After meeting Avery Swartz from Camp Tech, who helped us with some issues with our blog, I’m feeling a lot more empowered to experiment, play and learn with and about my devices.  The folks at Staples very kindly sent us this Samsung Galaxy Tab.  I am very excited to have gadget of my own!  I have big plans for this baby.  I do all of my blog posts at my desk and from my computer, because my phone is way, way, way too small for my aging eyes the vast scope of my creativity.  This should help a lot!

 

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From Beth-Anne:

I never seem to have enough totes and this sequin and linen maple leaf design from Indigo appeals to my Canadian spirit.  Indigo, $49.50.

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I love this mug so, so, so much because reading is sexy! Maybe someone ought to pass the message along to some of today’s pop-starlets that booties are out and bookmarks are in! Indigo, $10.00.

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I have been following Carrie Synder’s blog for years and loved her critically acclaimed book The Juliet Stories so when Girl Runner came out, I was anxious to get my hands on a copy.   Nominated for awards and praised by her fans this book is the perfect read on a snow-stormy day.  Need more convincing?  Read Nathalie’s review here.  Indigo, $19.76.

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Warm fire, hot cuppa tea, a good read . . .all you need is to have toasty tootsies and these  Faux-Fur Slouch Booties are available in a variety of colours and textures.  Indigo, $34.50.

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Not everyone is a fluffy slipper kinda gal, so if you prefer a more glam look, these Ruby & Ed velvet bow ballerina slippers in dusty plum do the trick.  Town Shoes, Ron White and Shop Vincent, $70.

Coffee table books can add an element of decor to your home, but if they are not absolutely enchanting, what’s the point?  Vogue and The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute: Parties, Exhibitions, People is full of glamorous celebrities, trendy fashionistas, stylemakers and icons.  Eye candy and inspiration! Indigo, $37.95.

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Personalized stamps appeal to anyone who loves stationery and/or organizing.  For the baker, the book collector and the monogrammed obsessed these personalized stamps go far beyond the standard return address stamp.  Available in a variety of styles, colours and fonts.  Pretty In Ink, pricing varies.

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Canadian jewelry designer Jenny Bird has caught my eye.  Her designs are reminiscent of ancient times and reference powerful goddesses and rulers, and a departure from the dainty pieces and glittery statement necklaces that dominate the boutiques.  Wear a Jenny Bird and feel bold, feminine and graceful. Jenny Bird, a variety of styles and prices.

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Bill Baker, the creator of Consonant , truly cares about what we’re putting on our skin.  His passion and commitment to creating safe and effective skin care is evident in his un-ending desire to learn more and improve upon his award winning formulas.  Start the new year off right and remember Consonant’s philosophy: what goes on your body, goes in your body.  Consonant’s Healthy Skin Detox For Face, $99.00. 

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The Mophie, a mobile battery pack to extend the daily life of your smart phone is the ideal gift for the social media junkie.  Available in a variety of colours but it’s this champagne colour that has made my wish list.  Mophie, Prices vary.

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A great gift for the cottager or the city dweller.  These hand-made vintage style map prints on pillows with 100% down-filled inserts are available with maps of Muskoka, Prince Edward County, Georgian Bay, Toronto and more.  County Cupboard $69.99.

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Don’t forget to stuff her stocking with all sorts of baubles and treasures.  Be sure to add Make Up Forever Artist liner.  The colour palate covers the range from basic black to deep plum.  Sephora, $24

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And this all-natural, organic Simply Natural Lip balm available from their website for $5.

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Gifts for Him

From stocking stuffers to big ticket items, here are some fabulous gift ideas for the men on your list.

From Nathalie:

One word: cufflinks.  My beloved loves to wear the cufflinks that “the kids” give him every year.  Each boy chooses a theme from the year: hockey, soccer, Lego, camping, maps, a special trip, bike chain links, a symbol of their name….  The possibilities are really endless.  Etsy and The One of a Kind are my go-to sources.  These are a favourite:

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Personalized gifts.  Last year, we gave my father-in-law and my four brothers-in-law a puzzle made from a photograph of the family cottage.  Each family got a different image, but the theme was the same: this is a place that brings us together and holds special memories.  Some of us got engaged there, some of us got married there, all of us have loved being there.

Booze.  You can be literal or figurative with this.  It does not have to be hackneyed.  Wondermade makes handmade marshmallows in Bourbon and Guinness flavours.

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Check out these awesome Canadian coasters made from upcycled beer bottles.  $42  Rebeer by Artech Studios.  (Do you see the joke??  It’s Canadian.)  They make all kinds of fun things out of recycled beer, wine and booze bottles.  Meeting Jennifer Wanless-Craig and Terry Craig was a highlight of attending the OOAK show.  Fun people, fun gifts.

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From Beth-Anne:

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For any hockey lover Gordie Howe’s autobiography Mr. Hockey is sure to be a hit.  Indigo, $19.00

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Make fitness a priority in the new year with the Fit Bit that counts your steps and tracks your calories.  My favourite feature is the sleep tracker . . . or in my case the “lack-of-sleep” tracker.  Available in a variety of colours including this gun metal at Indigo, $99.95.

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Barware is always a fun gift because it’s something you rarely buy for yourself.  These Woodland Animal lowball glasses (set of 4) are available at Indigo for $38.  If the Canadiana theme isn’t your guy’s thing, the On the Rock Glass and Ice Ball gift set, for $39.50, is a more classic option.

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Or to heck with the glassware and go straight for this flask for $25.00 (Indigo) with a quote by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald.

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Wine may be more your guy’s thing, and the Corkcicle, an artificial icicle is inserted into the bottle to help keep the temperature just right.  Indigo, $25.00.

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The curse words may not be everyone’s taste but the final dishes in this book don’t disappoint!  Indigo, $18.77.

Cufflinks are a fail safe gift but these are anything but hoo-hum.  Handmade of vintage watch movements the Time In Fantasy Longines Steampunk Cufflinks are eye-catching, whimsical and at $98.12 the right price!  Etsy.

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How about these one-of-a-kind numbered bicycle prints from Etsy’s Bicycle Paintings, now also offered at Frank & Oak… perfect for the cyclist in the house.

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For the guy who hits the gym after work, the Cote and Ciel Isar Rucksack Twin Touch is the perfect bag.  The asymmetrical design includes a padded external document compartment and two internal pouches.  Available at these boutiques across Canada for $272: Etoffes, Montreal; J2 Fashion, Burnaby; Lev Boutique, Calgary; UN Luggage, Winnipeg; Nomad, Toronto; Zane, Toronto.

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From Carol

Almost every man is on the hunt for the perfect shave, and Toronto’s Crown Shaving Co. has stepped in to help by creating a line of quality personal grooming products targeted specifically to the men in our life.  Its distinctively masculine (okay, black) packaging calls out to “vagabonds, gentlemen and ruffians”.  You’ll also feel great knowing that these products are made with natural and botanical ingredients, and are free of alcohol, artificial colours and fragrances, sulfites and parabens.  Available at Little House in the City.

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For your favourite handyman, Leatherman multi-purpose tools are pretty much perfect.  There are many versions to choose from, which can accommodate a wide range of budgets.  They invite so much possibility, I kind of want one.

leathermanFor the explorers and adventurers out there, both of body or spirit,  The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition by Caroline Alexander is pretty much a sure thing.  With this kind of real life drama, how could this book not be destined to amaze and awaken the imagination?  I’m gifting it to my husband.

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Gifts that Give Back

This week, we will be posting gift ideas that we have collected over the past few months.  In a month with the theme of minimalism, these posts are decidedly maximalist, but they should help minimize your work as you search for great gift ideas.  Today, it’s gifts that give back.  In the days ahead we will have posts with ideas for gifts for teachers, mentors and coaches, gifts for the kids, gifts for him, and gifts for her.

The three of us celebrate a secular Christmas, but we have picked gifts that should fit into many traditions and gift-giving opportunities.

This month, 4mothers1blog became an Indigo affiliate, so if your shopping list includes gifts from Indigo, please consider getting to their website through ours.  If you navigate to their site from here, we will receive a portion of the value of your purchase.  Just click through from the Indigo logo on the right side of the page.

Our first collection of ideas is gifts that give back: gifts with a charitable side.

From Beth-Anne:

LiveFashionable is one of my favourite on-line retailers.  They are committed to helping African women start their own small business cooperatives and they partner with manufacturers that employ women and practice fair-wage compensation.  My Selam scarf is on high rotation!  (Tizita bracelet, $34 and the ABLEscarf, $48.)

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FEED is an organization dedicated to fighting hunger and eliminating malnutrition throughout the world.  These organic cotton and burlap totes, if filled with food, would feed a school aged child for one year.  (FEED tote, $80)

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Consonant, an award winning all natural skincare company, has developed the Today Body Bar for Causemetics.  $4 from each Today Body Bar is donated to the Canadian Breast Cancer Support Fund that provides financial assistance to breast cancer patients to help ease their financial burden.  At $12 this is the perfect stocking stuffer! (Consonant Today Body Bar, $12)

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Approximately 287,000 women die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth complications each year.  Founded by model, film-maker and activist, Christy Turlington, Every Mother Counts is dedicated to reducing that number through education, and providing transportation and supplies.  Several boutique shops and big-name retailers have partnered with Every Mother Counts and contribute donations based on products sold.  For example, these Citizens of Humanity maternity jeans, A Pea In the Pod collection are on sale for $159.00.  Citizens of Humanity will donate $25 and A Pea In The Pod will donate $15 to Every Mother Counts!  Visit their on-line shop for a complete list of retailers and products.

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Two Penny Blue is the place to buy fashionable accessories and luxury blazers and jackets in a variety of punchy colours or reliable classics.  For every jacket purchased, Two Penny Blue will donate a school uniform to a girl in need in Africa – opening the door to her education.  And we all know the powers of education!  (Blazers range $325-$399)

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Oliberté became the world’s first Fair Trade Certified™ footwear manufacturing factory in 2013.  Based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia the company believes in creating fair jobs and workers’ rights.  In addition to building a company based entirely in Africa (from materials to labor),  Oliberté donates 1% of its proceeds to non-profits dedicated to sustainability and the environment.  For a complete list of 1% For The Planet businesses click here.  Shoes from Oliberté range from $50-$160 and gear is priced from $25 -$300.

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From Nathalie:

I met Rafik Riad, the managing director of Salt, at the Distillery District in the summer, and I knew right away that I wanted to spread the word about his company.  Salt sells earth-friendly, hand-crafted and fair-trade gifts at all price points that are made by artisans in impoverished communities.  They work from the ground up, helping to train artisans, and to ensure that they receive a fair payment for their craft.

I lived in Egypt when I was in high school, and when I saw the Sahara Leather Bag ($150), I was immediately taken back to the homes and the markets I visited there.  The bag is made from fabric quilted in the traditional tent-makers’ style, and you can see this kind of quilting on awnings in markets and on throw pillows and blankets in people’s homes, including my own!  It’s beautiful and bold and makes a great statement.

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Far and Wide Collective partners with artisans in post-conflict and emerging economies to bring to an international market unique and high quality gifts.  I love that the website includes information about the artisans and their trade.  This sage green silk scarf ($60), for example, was made in Afghanistan by silk weaver Saleh Mohammad, who learned his trade while living as a refugee in Pakistan during the civil war.  Beginning at $20, there are lots of gifts here for teachers, hostesses and BFFs.

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Indigo is the Canadian merchandiser for Angela & Roi vegan bags.  The bags are not only animal-friendly, they are wallet-friendly and charitable, too.  Priced from $75-$150, each bag is linked to a different charity, and a portion of the sales goes to that cause.

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From Carol

Sayula‘s lovely agave bath mitts, soap pouches, wash cloths, and root brushes make perfect feel-good stocking stuffers.  The Mexican-Canadian company goes the extra miles for environmental and social responsibility, creating bath and kitchen products from regional plants that don’t require much water or any pesticides.  Sayula also works directly with rural communities to provide stable income and fair prices.  Available in Toronto at Little House in the City (Carol’s shop).

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The Fair Trade Jewellery Co. in Toronto is the destination for ethical jewellery, including nickel-free gold, platinum and Canadian (from Ontario’s Victor mine) and Australian diamonds.  FTJC is also known for its custom designs – the perfect place to shine with an easy mind and heart this holiday.

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Holiday Hair: Keep It Minimal

I met Jason Lee, celebrity hairstylist and owner of Salonière (and oh ya, he’s danced with Madonna!), back in July when the air was humid, hair was frizzy and nary a thought of the holidays was in anyone’s consciousness.  Unless of course you were like me, and soaking in holiday preview week in architectural lofts decked out as cozy winter wonderlands.

Lured by the offer of a hair fix-up, I ended up in Jason’s chair.  Within minutes my hair had beachy waves that put Gisele’s to shame.  As Jason worked away we chatted about what looks would be hot for holiday parties.

Jason, aware that most women are running on all-cylinders, said that this year hair should be minimal.  Sleek.  Sophisticated.  Easy to do.

He had me at easy to do.

Jason has shared his three go-to holiday hair picks with us today, along with some tips on how to flawlessly achieve these looks.

Tight and Right Bun

Melissa Gorga would be a fan of this look.  It’s a severe look that really highlights your face so spend an extra few minutes grooming those brows and perfecting your smoky eye.

How To:  Pull your hair back into a centre parted low ponytail.  Anchor that ponytail with either a bungee elastic (which has hooks on either end), or an elastic that won’t tear your hair.  Then, tease the ponytail and smoothen it out for added volume.  Finally wrap the pony into a cool bun and anchor with bobbi pins or hair pins.

Jason’s Pro Tip:  A trick that celebrity hairstylists use to create a slick look for the root area when shooting for magazines and red carpets is to simply use conditioner!!  Apply a little conditioner to the centre parted area and you will instantly have a slick super fashionable style.

 

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I’m No Soccer Mom

The neighbours will do a double take.  Where’s the messy pony?  The nest of tangles?  The hat hiding the bedhead?  Make way for Ms. Sassy pants!  This look screams chic and confident, but be careful to execute correctly or else the neighbours will be wondering if you’ve neglected to wash for your hair for a month.

How To:  Jennifer Lopez just wore this sultry look at the AMA’s last week. The style is done on clean blown out straight hair and then combed back with a little coconut oil!  Just remember that a little goes a long way and don’t forget to warm the coconut oil in your hands before before applying to the hair.  Comb the coconut oil through the hair allowing for the mid length and ends to still look dry.

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Here’s lookin’ at you, Rita Hayworth:

In contrast to the first two looks, the swooping waves are undeniably feminine.  A little bit retro, a lot a bit glam, but still simple and minimal these tresses are a statement.  Admittedly, this one is not so easy and requires a few tools. Warm up that barrel curling iron!

How To:  The most important step here is setting the hair first.  Jason suggests using a 1 1/4″ curling iron to curl the hair away from the face and then anchor the hair with clips.  Heating up hair and then letting it cool down holds the hairstyle much longer which is why we set the hair.  Once you’ve allowed the curls to sit for 5-10 minutes, then take out the clips and brush the hair out completely.  Jason uses a Mason Pearson brush for this step and then uses just his hands to place the waves into a 40’s Old Hollywood wave, hairspraying as he goes.

 

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Visit Salonière at 2470A Yonge St. in Toronto and follow his Instagram for hair-spiration.

 

 

Bedtime Stories Are My Abiding Delight

I am a big believer in making time, and lots of it, for books before bed.  My family was even interviewed about it once by Andrea Gordon at the Toronto Star.

Four years later, and the boys are bigger and, significantly, they play a lot more hockey.  All three boys play competitive hockey, and we make 10-12 trips to the rink a week.  This is a good thing, mostly, and I’m a little bit proud and a lot relieved to be raising kids who are so eager to be fit and healthy and active.  (Not my DNA.)  However, hockey eats into time for all kinds of things: playdates, family dinners, unstructured time, and, yes, bedtime stories.

Time is never found, it’s made, and I make time for bedtime reading whenever it’s remotely possible, which is still usually four times a week of an hour of reading aloud before bed.  I am a stickler for bedtimes, because some of us are quite cranky if we don’t get a full night’s sleep, even if some of us are in our forties.  But if I can squeeze in a chapter before Youngest’s bedtime, I will always go the extra mile to do so.  I’m now reading aloud to Youngest and Middlest, and it’s all Harry Potter all the time.  After Youngest pops off to bed, Middlest reads by himself, sometimes curled up with me and my book, and sometimes for up to two hours before it’s time for his lights out.  (Definitely my DNA.)  It’s a magical time.  I am so profoundly grateful for it.

endgameEldest does not read with predictable regularity any more, though, and that saddens me.  He is at the rink most often, and he comes home late.  He will occasionally get immersed in a series, but it’s not a dependable thing.  I recently heard an interview that impressed me so much, I went out and bought the book for him.  (Seriously, go listen to this interview: James Frey being interviewed by a boy named Joshua for The Guardian.  It’s not often I am more impressed by the interviewer than the interviewee, but this kid is sharp.)  Anyway, I learned from this interview that James Frey’s new YA novel The Calling, the first in the Endgame trilogy, has a puzzle built into it, and the first person to solve the puzzle has a chance to win $500,000 of James Frey’s own dollars, currently sitting in a vault in Las Vegas in gold bars.  “This will get his attention,” I thought.  I’m glad to say that while it did get his attention, and while he did find my enthusiasm about the interview infectious, he did not make a huge effort to read the book quickly to solve the puzzle to win the gold.

Reading should be its own reward, and I’m glad that money was not sufficient enticement.  I have a quiet faith that one day, when there is somewhat less hockey (and soccer and basketball and swimming) on his schedule, Eldest will make his way back to daily and lengthy engagements with a book.  Reading is my abiding delight, and I do so want them to have that kind of pleasure in their daily lives.