The Making of a Man

Today on the blog we have a special post – a very personal story told by a brave man. It is a story that everyone should read regardless of your relationship status. The author  has requested that he remain anonymous in order that  family members be protected. It is not important who wrote it but rather what was written and so bravely shared with us here today…

Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error

~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was 2007, the day after Fathers Day. I woke up relieved. My girlfriend and I had broken up. A huge weight had been lifted off me. A burden had been removed – one that I had been too weak to push away…

I sat down at my computer and logged on to Facebook. The first message I received was from my fiancé telling me the wedding was off. She was done with my cheating ass.

You see, my girlfriend had written my fiancé and told her everything. That for 3 years I was two people. I had two women and two lives.

I was devastated, I had nothing to say. I had done it.

I could blame people, which once again would have been the easy way out. Who to blame?

My Fiancé?  Sure we had drifted apart. Sure I was unhappy, but stepping out of our 10 plus year relationship was not the answer.

The other woman? Sure. But she was single and had adored me for years. Almost like a school yard crush. I’m not giving her a pass, but really I was the one who opened the door and allowed her into my relationship.

My friends?  Peer pressure? They had told me not to do it. They warned me. They tried to guide me away, but at some point they accepted my situation. They knew I wasn’t going to listen.

It was all on me.

I remember people telling me “that you didn’t kill anyone” or “we are only human”. It was true and yes we are only human.  For me, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about the hurt I caused. I think for 3 years it felt like a movie where everyone was a character.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that my situation was very real and my “me” actions had effect a lot of people.

My life or should I say lives had been turned upside down. My fiancé moved out. My girlfriend and I connected after everything settled down, but there was too much damage and too many bad memories.

I was alone and found myself in a dark place. I needed to recover. I needed to get help.

I went to therapy. I wanted to change. I hated who I had become over the last 3 years.  The stink of being a Cheater was so strong. I had heard all the lines and at some point in my life, I’m pretty sure I had said them before too “Once a cheater, always a cheater”; “A leopard never loses its spots.” …on and on.

I knew deep down that this was not me. I hated myself. I didn’t feel worthy. I certainly didn’t feel like a man. My family offered me great support. My friends stood beside me. I was still small, weak and felt alone.

My therapy was huge. I knew what I had done wrong and I knew where I needed to change. I just needed an ear that wouldn’t judge, but that could confirm what I already knew.

One of the first things I learned in therapy was if you talked ill of your significant other, about the things that frustrated you in your relationship, you were opening the door for “outsiders”. It was an invitation for that person, if they wanted what someone else has, to try and take.

Somewhere in the relationship I stopped trying. At that point I should have left. I wasn’t committed. I wasn’t a man, but a scared boy – afraid of being alone.

We had disconnected. That was one thing I would share in all this.

Relationships are always a work in progress, because like anything else we require growth and movement.

For the next 5 months I dated. I tried my hand at online dating.  I was meeting a lot of great women but I couldn’t get into it. Mental I wasn’t ready to move on. Inside I felt like I didn’t deserve to be happy – at least not yet…

January 2008, I connected with an old friend, Maria, (the story of how we meet up really is a good one, but that is for another time). We haven’t seen each other since our first year of university – 1989. She was coming out of a 10 plus year marriage and had 2 kids…and of course we know my situation.

We talked and decide to go out together one weekend. Now I wasn’t sure if it was a date or just old friends catching up. We had a blast that night. We got back to my place. Hugged and talked about doing it again. We really weren’t sure how we felt about each other. It was one night.

Like high school kids we stayed up talking when got she home. We both agreed our night was a success and we wanted to move our relationship forward. We didn’t live in the same city, so we emailed, talked on the phone for 2 weeks. She was easy-going and we could talk forever. Really she was looking for a way to fill her “every other weekend” off from her little ones.

Over the next 6 months Maria would always ask me what happen in my previous relationship. She couldn’t understand why my ex would leave me. I was such a good guy – caring, gentle and respectful. I wanted to come clean so many times. I had this struggle inside me. I knew letting her know my dark secret could change our relationship. How she looked at me. Not telling her though would leave me with that guilt.

In July of that year, Maria and I had been dating 6 months. I had met her family and she met mine. Her two daughters and I were hitting it off. Then one day on my way to work I saw my ex’s mom walking down the street. I don’t know what happen but it triggered something.

I cried the rest of the way to work

Mentally I hadn’t moved on. I had instead just tried to avoid the situation. After that moment I went into a state of depression.

One day I called Maria and told her we had to talk. I felt it was time she knew the real reason I didn’t get married. She left work and we drove to Niagara on the lake. I told her everything from my past – every dirty secret. I was scared because I didn’t know what her reaction would be. Deep down I though she will never trust me.

It was amazing how it felt to get it off my chest. She said she was going to take some time to process it. It wasn’t long before she said people make mistakes. I believe in you and love you.

I felt good. I still decide to go back to therapy… not sure why.I guess it was a safe place and to get some “outside the bubble” assurance.

I sent my ex an email. I needed to apologize. I know you are saying “Why now? Why after almost a year?” I think it was for closure. I wanted her to know that I was truly sorry and glad that she had met someone. Even though I had said sorry a million times after the breakup, saying it now had more meaning to me. I wanted her to know that a day didn’t go by where I didn’t feel horrible for my actions.

She wrote me back. I was scared to open the email. I really didn’t know how she would respond after almost a year. She was shocked to hear from me. She said she forgave me. Hated what I had done to her but she didn’t hate me.

A burden that had haunted me had been removed. I could finally move on. To this day my ex and I are friends.

Oct of 2010. Maria and I found ourselves down at City Hall getting married.  It was one of the happiest days of my life. It was a big step for me, one that I was glad to embrace. December that same year our son arrived – the greatest day of my life. January of this year we closed on our first home together.

I love my wife. She took the time to let me grow but also pushed me to go after what I truly wanted – a family. I believe in fate. Since Maria and I have been together things have fallen into place for us.

My “WE” Section:

I always say “We own happiness”.

We respect each other, and we trust each other.

We don’t go to bed angry.

We embrace each other passion and loves.

We love to hear the other speak.

We can appreciate the beauty of others without being jealous because we know what we have.

We don’t allow for disconnect. Even if it’s just the two of us playing a word game on our Blackberrys, we always stay as “one.”

We never forget our bedroom 😉

Relationships are always a work in progress. I’ve learned to never take anything for granted. Every moment should be captured! Every second of life embraced.

My wife would be the first to tell you she is not perfect. I would be the first to tell you she is perfect for me and that’s all that matters.


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It’s the first day of school… Two minute mug muffin recipes – breakfast is served!

Well, the last weekend of summer is upon us and the kids are heading back to school.  We moms love and hate that first day back – love getting back to a schedule and having a little more time to get things done during the day, but hate the return to early mornings, rushed breakfasts and packing lunches.

During the last few years there have been a number of quick “microwave mug cake” recipes floating around recipe sites and on pinterest, but I’ve suddenly noticed a number of healthy mug muffin recipes as well.  Even Dr Oz jumped on the mug muffin bandwagon when he shared a recipe by Jorge Cruise on his television show (click here for link).  I decided to try out a few of these easy mug muffin recipes for myself with the help of my kids, who helped make and taste-test all of them to see if they might fit into our busy morning routine.

Directions for mug muffins

The directions for all of the recipes below are basically the same except for a slight difference in ingredients.  Here are the 4 step directions for making a 2 minute mug muffin!

Perfect for kids to make their own!

– whisk egg in the mug with a fork

– add dry ingredients and mix

– microwave for 60-90 seconds (watch to make sure the muffin doesn’t overflow)

– tip muffin out onto a plate and let cool slightly if serving to kids

– enjoy!


Jorge’s Skinny Muffin (shared on the Dr Oz show) – link here

Ingredients (makes 1 serving)

1/4 cup ground flax

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp coconut oil

1 egg

1 packet stevia (I substituted 2 tsp agave nectar)

This muffin turned out very light and airy due to the baking powder, and not as dense as I expected with just the flax and egg mixture.  My daughter enjoyed the flavour as is, but my son felt it needed some fruit or nut butter to make it yummier.  I would certainly eat this muffin, but not sure my kids would on a daily basis.

Berrylicious Microwave Minute Muffin in a Mug – link here

Ingredients (1 muffin)

1 egg

1/4 cup of dry oats

1 tsp of stevia (I substituted 2 tsp agave nectar)

handful of blueberries or fruit of your choice

(this recipe is also very similar to one shared by Maija Moments for the – link here)

This muffin was tastier than the previous one, and the fruit cooking in the microwave made it smell delicious!  The texture of the muffin was quite dense though, and so the kids didn’t love it for that reason.

Cinnamon Muffin in a Mug – link here


1 tbsp flour (I used spelt flour, but whole wheat would be good too)
1 tbsp ground flax meal
1 tbsp quick oats
2 tbsp chopped walnuts
½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1 tbsp honey (I used agave nectar)
2 tbsp vanilla yogurt (I used strawberry; I also think greek yogurt would work well)
Optional: add fruit, such as raisins or a few pieces of chopped apples or dried apricots (I added a few blueberries)

This was one of my favourite muffins in terms of both taste and texture.  It was the only one that my son really liked and said he would eat regularly.  If you read the original recipe  the author discusses in detail why this recipe works so well and why other recipes are not as nice.  Basically adding the flour and baking powder lightens the texture, and the yogurt adds moisture.  She also discusses ways to adjust the recipe to suit your own taste with ingredient substitutions.

Chocolate Banana Mug Muffins (makes 2 servings) – link here


1 ripe banana
1-2 tbs. nut butter
1 egg, beaten
2 tbs. cocoa or carob powder
1-2 tsp. honey

Based on previous experience with the other recipes, I made a few modifications to this recipe, so see my version below…

Anita’s Peanut Butter Banana Mug Muffin (1 serving)


1/2 ripe banana, mashed in the mug

1 egg, beaten

1 tbps natural peanut butter (or other nut butter)

2 tbsp oatmeal

1 tbsp spelt flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp agave nectar

The texture and taste of this muffin was very good, and it was one of my favourite recipes.  To make it nut free, you could substitute pea butter, soy butter or sun butter for the peanut butter.

So, will we be using these recipes Tuesday morning??  The last two recipes that I tried have a few more ingredients than the first ones, but I think overall the taste and texture were much better.  To make preparation easier in the morning,  you could measure the dry ingredients into a container the night before and have everything ready to go.  All of these recipes are also easy enough for kids to make on their own (except maybe for the microwaving part), which means one less thing for mom to do during the busy morning rush!


All photos by Anita Woo

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Play-Date? Be Prepared: The 411 on the 911

I am the type of parent who tries to be conscious of many things and when another person’s child is in my care, I try to cover all my bases. My OCD tendencies lend themselves well to this task. I do all the regular things one would do to ensure the safety of the child left in my charge. I ask for a booster seat if required – heck I even had an extra seat in my car at all times when my daughter was still using one just in case an emergency arose and I had to take another child home from school.

If providing a meal or snack for another child, I ask if the child has any dietary restrictions. If a child has a food allergy and carries an epi pen I ask if the child knows how to administer it so I know if I need to step in (and yes I do know how to use one). After I had my own child I updated my Emergency First Aid training (which I am now realizing has long expired) with a course on infant CPR and resuscitation.

I will sunscreen the kids before they go out and make sure they wear hats…typical parent stuff. I will even prepare a sign-out sheet for my daughter’s birthday parties complete with names, addresses, parent contact info and medical conditions. But one thing I never really thought much about is asking for an OHIP number.

I have often provided an OHIP number to camps and to relatives taking my daughter overnight especially if they are travelling with her. I must admit though that I have never thought to ask another parent for their child’s OHIP number when taking them for the day…that is before one Thursday in July…

This particular day I found myself in the position of having to take someone else’s child to Emergency. The child, who lives in another city, was attending a camp close to my residence and I was listed as the emergency contact. When I got to the camp it was clear that this child required medical attention. After a quick phone consultation with my family doctor we were on our way to the hospital.

Now I know this child’s mother and had all her contact information so I was not worried about being able to get a hold of her to inform her of the child’s situation and get her OHIP number. If by chance I couldn’t get in touch with her Mom, I knew that the hospital could get the number from the Ministry of Health as long as I could provide them with the child’s full name. No problem right?…WRONG.

The Ministry of Health states: ”In an emergency, hospitals will treat you without seeing your card first. But you will have to show your card later if you want the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) to pay your hospital bills.”

Typically hospital staff will contact the Ministry of Health to get your OHIP number if you do not have your card with you provided you give them your full name. Great, but still there are problems with this:

  1. What if you do not know the child’s full name? For instance, you know the Mother’s last name but did not realize that child carries a different last name. Another instance would be not knowing the child’s full first name and /or middle name. I actually have a good friend whose children go by shortened versions of their names. Is Chris short for Christopher or Christian? Other good friends address their children by their middle names rather than their first names. I suspect that many of the parents who might host my friend’s children for a play-date would not actually know these childrens’ full names.
  2. Even if you have the child’s full name, what if the Hospital cannot get through to the Ministry of Health? How will they get the OHIP number? What happens then?

This second situation is where I found myself that day in July. I had contacted the child’s Mother who unfortunately did not have her child’s card on hand. She had to go home to get the card and call me back. In the meantime, the hospital was trying to get through to the Ministry of Health to obtain the number. After waiting in the Emergency waiting room for what seemed like far too long, especially for the symptoms this child had, I inquired about the delay. At that point I was told by the triage staff that despite several attempts, they had not been able to get through to the Ministry of Health to get the OHIP number yet. The child could not be looked at without a chart and that they couldn’t put a chart through for the child without an OHIP number. I was told that my only other option would be to agree to pay the bill myself which would be at least $375.00.

I was shocked. This scenario had never occurred to me. It never occurred to me that the phones would be tied up at the Ministry and that they would have trouble getting through…Yes they actually call, not go to some database to get it…

It never occurred to me that this would hold up treatment or that I might be required to pay this bill…I was just about to agree to pay it to move things along when they finally got through to the Ministry of Health. They got the number and the chart was put through.

An important thing to note is that while Ontario residents do have the right to emergency treatment without their OHIP card, I was not informed of my options – the option to provide the number later to ensure that OHIP would pay the bill. Some people if presented with the option I was, of having to foot a several hundred dollar bill, would not pick that option without knowing they could provide the card later to get OHIP to pay the bill. They would instead opt for waiting for the call to the Ministry to go through…and ultimately possibly delaying treatment. Let’s not forget also in the event that you do not have the child’s full name, agreeing to foot the bill is your only option as they will not be able to obtain an OHIP number without the full name.

Lessons learned:

  • Get the OHIP number if a child is in your care.

You never know when accidents can happen or a child suddenly becomes acutely ill and a trip to Emergency is required.

  • Do not hesitate to inquire when you have questions.

You must know your rights and be prepared to advocate on your own behalf or for those under your care. Hospital staff work hard and try to do their jobs as best they can, but sometimes things fall through the cracks. Triage personnel may themselves not be completely aware of all the rules and regulations and treatment might be delayed if you are not fully informed of your options.

Update: The young child was assessed, treated and recovered quickly from her ailment. As for me, I learned two valuable lessons and will be better prepared the next time another child is in my care … that includes signing up to renew my Emergency First Aid Training.

Photos by Lyndsay Jenkinson

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Food Fight! … Chicken Style!

Today we welcome back a guest who is well-known to our readers for her posts which compare and contrast various libations. On this day, however, this contributor tackles another type of taste test…back by popular demand, Noelle Jenkinson…

In the summer that marks the Bi-Centennial of the War of 1812, a battle is waging on either side of the Canada/US Border … Chicken Style!

In the US, an entire food-fight has erupted over Chick-fil-A president, Dan Cathy’s, stand on same sex marriage.   I won’t dip my toes into that fryer, though, ‘cause that’d be whole other blog.  Suffice it to say, methinks that chicken wishes he hadn’t crossed that particular road.

The more savoury battle, pun intended, is the one north of the border in Toronto hipster neighbourhood, Leslieville.  It’s the battle of fried chicken and we’ve got two great contenders:  neighbourhood incumbent, Chick-N-Joy and young upstart, Paulette’s Original Donuts and Chicken. A little history on our two contenders:  Chick-N-Joy is a family owned business that’s been in Leslieville since 1977. Paulette’s, the latest venture of the Delica Kitchen, fired up its deep fryer this past spring.

Now, I’m no aficionado, but I do love fried chicken.  Not even childhood memories of a family-wide episode of food poisoning, at the hands of The Colonel, have dampened my taste for fried chicken.  So when I do occasionally give in to that craving, I want it to be worth it!   My partner and I decided to make an evening of it and invited friends and fellow food-lovers, Donna and Maria, to join in our taste-test.  Donna and Maria brought Paulette’s and we provided the Chick-N-Joy.  Oh, and in case you were wondering, we paired the meal with a lovely Proseco.

The unveiling brings about our first discussion and comparison:  price.  For approximately $23 (tax incl.) at Paulette’s, you get 4 pieces of fried chicken, a small dipping sauce, and two donuts (we had a mojito donut and a banana coconut donut).  For almost the same price at Chick-N-Joy, you get 10 pieces of chicken and a medium salad.  Another observation: Paulette’s, er, pieces are significantly smaller than Chick-N-Joy’s.  Chick-N-Joy uses only fresh (never frozen) chicken, but I’ve been told that Paulette’s uses only organic chicken, so perhaps that accounts for some of the difference in price.

Now, not to be shallow, but I have to talk about looks.  Paulette’s is a good lookin’ plate of chicken!  Because it’s Korean style fried chicken with a tempura batter, the skin is beautifully light and crispy looking.  Chick-N-Joy is more of a traditional southern fried chicken.  It may not be as pretty, but it’s still a fine plate of chicken.  Besides, we’re getting to the best part …. THE TASTE!

Paulette’s Chicken

Paulette’s has a really light crispy crunch to the batter, but we all agreed that the chicken was on the bland side.  We tried the dipping sauce, a Garam Masala sauce that didn’t bring anything to this particular party.  Chick-N-Joy, on the other hand, is a really flavourful chicken.  While it is a traditional southern fried chicken, it isn’t that buttermilk soaked, have-to-bite-through-a-half-inch-of-greasy-batter-to-get-to-the-chicken kind of skin.  Chick-N-Joy is hand floured and is pressure-cooked.  We all agreed that the chicken was also fresh-tasting and incredibly moist.  No dipping sauce required here.


A final bit of tasting … Paulette’s donuts. The coconut banana was a true cake donut:  dense and moist.  However, the banana flavour must have skipped class that day, because it was nowhere to be found. We were split on the Mojito donut.  Two of us loved the vibrant lime flavour in the glaze and the other two felt it the glaze was very artificial tasting.  That said, not a crumb remained from either donut.

Paulette’s Mojito Donut

The final score:  Paulette’s gains points on looks and crunch, but Chick-N-Joy wins the battle on price and all-important taste … and it really is … a matter of taste.  But you don’t have to take our word for it.  Kids, if you want to try this yourself, grab a couple of friends, some good beer or a lovely proseco and, of course some chicken.  Everyone loves a food fight!

Photos by Noelle Jenkinson

To learn more about Noelle see our Guest Chicks page.

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Canada’s Diamond in the Wilderness – Lake Louise

Lake Louise, Canada’s Diamond in the Wilderness

During our trip west last month, I visited Lake Louise for a few days with my family.  Lake Louise is located in Banff National Park, and is referred to as “Canada’s Diamond in the Wilderness” as well as the “Hiking Capital of Canada”.  On both counts it certainly lives up to both of these descriptions… and then some.  The miraculous beauty of the mountains is breath-taking, and while I tried to capture some of this with my camera I’m afraid that my photos pale in comparison to the real thing.  Lake Louise owes its vibrant colour to fine rock particles called rock flour, created by the shifting of the Victoria Glacier. These particles are suspended in the glacier water and reflect the bright turquoise colour (from

While we were in Lake Louise we spent a great deal of our time hiking.  Depending on your level of fitness and the amount of time that you have to spend, there are a variety of hikes to choose from.  Here are a few photos that I captured while we hiked in and around Lake Louise.

Big Beehive from Mirror Lake, a short hike from Lake Louise

Lake Agnes, still full of ice in July

Steps up (and down) from Lake Agnes

The rocky side of the mountain

Big Beehive

Chateau Lake Louise

Snow-capped mountains

Great place for climbing

Ground squirrel enjoying a snack

Streams feeding the lake

Far side of the lake

Chateau Lake Louise from the far side of the lake

Low water levels reveal sandy areas

With luck and conservation efforts, I hope that Lake Louise will remain the diamond that it is today for our children to visit with their families in the future!

All photos by Anita Woo.

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True Patriot Love – Show Your Colours

It’s summertime in Canada. For many Canadians summer means going to the cottage, camping, and road trips. Summer is casual and relaxing. The outdoors beckon us to come and play as the warm weather and longer days bring the promise of adventure and fun. Reading books by the lake, picnics and any kind of outdoor fun you can imagine… except maybe for the next 2 weeks…that is if you’re a fan of the Olympics. You might find the TV is on a bit more as you tune in to cheer on our country.

The Hudson’s Bay Co. has some great patriotic housewares to help you entertain during the Olympics, or anytime during the summer.

I am a big fan of the Olympics and of course you know I tuned in last Friday to watch the opening ceremonies live from London. I love to watch the countries enter the stadium – the athletes so proud walking in their parade uniforms, showing their colours. Some countries such as Cameroon, Djibouti and Oman wore vibrant and elaborately patterned, traditional clothing of their country. Many countries wore semi-formal wear in their national colours. Others were more casual. Much to my dismay Canada falls into the latter group.

I have to say I was disappointed in the outfits chosen for the opening ceremonies. Windbreakers? …and who chose those khaki pants? I don’t recall khaki being an official national colour. It’s not even in the Official National Tartan, which was used for the men’s ties and on the placards of the women’s’ blouses. It looked like they picked the jackets and at the last minute remembered they needed pants, then threw in the khakis – as if the pants were an afterthought. I found the overall look to be not only unpolished but unfinished.

Now I am a girl who loves to dress, and dress well, so of course I was dismayed when I saw the Canadians’ parade outfits. Note though that this does not mean I think they should have worn traditional suits or classic blazers and dress pants. That look is overdone and outdated.

Just a few of the jacket options available…

I am ok with casual. Croatia’s outfits were casual but they managed to stick the landing where Canada stumbled. What I would have liked to have seen would be something more fun, however, nothing too off-the-wall. The Czech Republic attempt at fun style, mixing blazers with shorts and blue wellies, was a misstep for sure. Perhaps a sharp tailored jacket of some sort with pants (for the men) and either skirts or capris (for the women) made in the National Tartan would have garnered higher marks.  A hat would have been nice too, but not just any hat. In my opinion, Kyrgystan would earn the gold medal for worst hat  this year, were there such an Olympic category. We have often worn hats in the opening ceremonies and they’ve been a hit. Who can forget the high scores for the Roots-designed, wool felt hats worn in the 1998 Nagano Olympics? Those reverse caps not only got high ranking for style they spawned a trend in hats for the coming years.

Great accessories from the line…

Many have questioned the choice of The Hudson’s Bay Company to design the line again for 2012, saying the line was boring and too safe. Personally I think they are wrong. Who better to design it than HBC? It is not only Canada’s oldest department store (founded in 1670), but also North America’s longest continually running company. In addition, HBC put a lot of thought into the design. The jackets in the opening ceremony, along with hoodies and t-shirts in the line, bear a Canada wordmark  in red and white across the chest that was inspired by the popular colour blocked designs from the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games.

Some of the looks from the line…

Let’s not forget the men’s plaid ties and the plaid trim on the women’s blouses worn in the opening ceremonies. This plaid detail for both genders was done in the National Tartan. Who knew we even had a tartan?

The Maple Leaf Tartan

Yes the National Tartan, aka The Maple Leaf Tartan, design in 1964 to commemorate the new Canadian flag, has four colours which represent the colours of the maple leaf as it changes through the seasons—green in the spring, gold in the early autumn, red at the first frost, and brown after falling… Note it says brown NOT khaki!…but I digress… It is clear that HBC took the colours from the National Tartan and used them in the wide offering of apparel in the line. Even if you’re not a fan of red and white you will find plenty of colour options to suit you.

According to Suzanne Timmins, senior vice president and fashion director of the Hudson’s Bay Company, “…The official Olympic 2012 collection is inspired by the Canadian spirit and adventurer in each of us.”  Well if depicting spirit means relaxed athletic wear with a touch of summertime camp style, they nailed it. The line is very Canadiana by design. From green bucket hats to summer toques, crested t-shirts to long sleeved waffle weave tops and even a patch detailed denim jacket, HBC has captured a relaxed Canadian style. Although I have to admit I find the offering of red mittens, quilted-lined Kenora dinner jackets and wool cardigans embellished with Canadian icons a bit odd in July when we have been breaking temperature records with heat waves week after week. Perhaps it is this sort of thing that keeps that Canadian image of “The Great White North” alive and well!

Winter-wear in July…only in Canada. Just fuelling the myth that we have snow year-round.

While the opening ceremonies outfits left me well cold – yes even in July – I have to say that I applaud HBC in the design of the 2012 Olympic clothing line. The line is very wearable and of course that is good for both sales and patriotism. I know that I will gladly wear my patch detailed jean jacket and show my support for our Canadian Olympic team. I can wear it on cool summer nights and pair it up with the long sleeved waffle top on cooler days. Should I find myself still wearing it when the first frost hits I’m sure I can find some appropriate mittens to keep my hands warm…

My daughter’s take on the Olympic line…her favs: Red Crested T-shirt and the Patched Detailed Jean Jacket. The tartan skirt was her idea – looks great!

Photos by Lyndsay Jenkinson

All clothing and accessories (except the tartan skirt and green cap) are available at The Hudson’s Bay Company.

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Notes From The Cellar…

Today we welcome another rooster into the hen-house, friend and wine lover Jim Hueston. We first met Jim in a drinking establishment some 23 years ago. We shared several glasses of wine with Jim back in the day and are pleased to say that Jim’s taste for wine has continued to grow and develop. It is with great pleasure we welcome Jim and his enthusiasm for wine to our blog…

I love wine.  I love the way it tastes and the way it can make food taste better.  I love the magic that happens when you blend good food, good friends and good wine.  I love the social lubricant properties of wine that allow the conversation to flow a little easier and the laughter to be a little louder.

I am a wine enthusiast.  I am not a connoisseur or a sommelier or a wine professional of any sort, just someone who enjoys exploring all aspects of wine and food.  My education has come from personal experience, lots of mistakes and a few great revelations.

I liken my enjoyment of wine to that of a car enthusiast.  Car guys (or gals) like to talk about their cars, their friend’s cars, cars they would like to drive and cars they will never drive.  They compare horsepower and top speed, cornering capability, stopping power and other metrics.  If they like you, they may even let you drive their car.

I like to talk about wine.  Although I’m not very good at it, I like to try to pick out specific aromas and flavors and compare color and texture.  I like to imagine what food the wine might go well with and find out what other’s think of the same wine.  Sometimes I’ll recall with friends great bottles we have had in the past, and compare to the wine we are drinking now.  I like taking friends down to the wine cellar and picking a bottle out for dinner that night.  If I really like you I’ll let you pick (almost) any bottle you want.

Photo by Jim Hueston - wine cellar

I say almost because I have acquired a few special bottles along the way.  I have a nice bottle of French Boudreaux that my brother gave me to commemorate the birth of my daughter.  We are going to drink it with her on her 18th birthday, in seven more years.

Similarly, I have a bottle of wine from the northern Rhone to commemorate my son’s birth.  We will drink it with him when he turns 18, which will be in 2025.

I also have a Jeroboam, a 3 liter bottle, of Spanish Cabernet Sauvignon set aside for my 60th birthday.  I have another 12 years to go before we have that party.  I’ll need a few friends to help empty that double magnum.

Other than those few bottles, you can pick pretty much anything.  You might notice that there is no special bottle yet for my wife.  She tolerates my wine habit and gets to drink almost whatever she wants whenever we go out.  If she likes something I will buy a few bottles and put it in the cellar, but she is more a wine consumer than a wine enthusiast.  The most frustrating part of our relationship is that my wife has a better palate than I do.  She can pick out subtle flavors and identify them, where I struggle sometime to articulate more than “wow, that’s good, I really like it”

Photo by Jim Hueston

Most wine drank in North America is cellared for approximately 40 minutes.  That’s the average time it takes to go from the liquor store to the glass.  Consequently, most wine sold in North America meant to be consumed within 2 years of hitting the store shelves.  It may improve a little with time, but probably not.

A real wine cellar is dark, cool and humid.  A temperature around 13 C and humidity between 50 and 75% will help your special bottles reach their peak.

One aspect of wine I don’t like is the points system used by various magazines and critics.  I don’t like them because they are a technical evaluation of just the wine.  When I drink wine I usually have food with it.  I also drink it in some environment, be it on the beach, in a fancy restaurant, around a camp fire or at the dinner table at home and I’ll most likely be with friends or acquaintances.

Photo by Jim Hueston

All those factors come into play when you enjoy a bottle of wine and the points don’t capture any of those dimensions.

I started my serious informal education of wine about 8 years ago.  My wife and I got together with 3 other couples who were interested in learning about wine.  We meet once a quarter.  The host couple picks a theme for the evening and the other couples bring wine that meets the theme and food to match.  We each take turns introducing our wines and why we think they go well with the food.

In eight years we have learned a lot.  Here’s a sample:

The third bottle is always awesome.  This means that your ability to discern the subtleties of wine diminishes as you drink.  Serve your good stuff first and drink cheaper as the night goes on.

Price and a great experience don’t always go hand in hand.  Some of the folks in our group are very busy people.  Inevitably they would do little to prepare for a wine tasting night and out of guilt, buy a very expensive bottle that met the theme.  At the end of the night the expensive bottle would often rated least liked of the bunch.

This seems counterintuitive, but expensive wine is often crafted to require time in the bottle before drinking.  Some great French Chateau’s first growth wine needs 10 to 20 years in the cellar to reach maturity.  We were sometimes buying good wine but drinking it far too early.

Bacon, Chocolate and Merlot are an amazing pairing!!  This accidental discovery happened during a Merlot tasting later in the evening when everyone was feeling uninhibited to unusual combinations.  I’ll definitely serve this at a party sometime; I can’t wait to see the reactions on the faces of our guests.

If you’re interested in wine, the best way to learn is to try something different.  Find some like-minded friends and see what you can discover.  Ignore your tried and true favorite and try something new like Moscato d’ Asti on a hot summer day or dry sparkling wine with potato chips,.  Invite friends over and figure out your favorite wine with pizza or hot dogs & hamburgers on the BBQ.

Every once in a while you should also treat yourself right and live like a rock  star.  Try something a little higher in the price range, just to see if it’s any different from what you’re used to.  Ask for help in a good wine store.  Give them your price range, tell them about the occasion and ask for a recommendation.  You might find your new favorite wine.



Photos by Jim Hueston

To learn more about Jim see our Guest Chicks page.

Posted in Food & Drink, those3chicks, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Travelling in Vancouver, with kids!

Vancouver waterfront

A few weeks ago our family finally made a much anticipated trip out west, flying into Vancouver and then driving back east to Calgary.  Our first few days were spent exploring downtown Vancouver and the waterfront, which was easily accessible from our hotel.  Here is a little glimpse of what we did while we were there.

Canada Place, West Promenade

Our visit began with a walk to Canada Place on the waterfront.  We spent some time exploring The Canadian Trail, an interactive exhibit designed to take you on a journey across Canada by highlighting unique cities and aspects of Canada’s provinces and territories.

The Canadian Trail

We took a walk along the seawall, stopping to check out the Olympic Cauldron and the Seaplane Terminal along the way.

“The Drop” sculpture, outside Vancouver Convention Centre

Waterfront near Vancouver Convention Centre

Seaplane terminal

Olympic Cauldron

We continued our walk along the seawall past Coal Harbour, until we reached Stanley Park.

Seawall, Vancouver waterfront

Once we reached Stanley Park we visited the Vancouver Aquarium.  There were lots of amazing things to see, but what fascinated me most were the jellies!

Jellies, Vancouver Aquarium

We wrapped up the day with a walk over to English Bay where we had a fabulous dinner with wonderful friends, and then finished the night watching the sunset at the beach.

We faced our second day in Vancouver with more typical weather – rain!  A short skytrain ride took us to Vancouver’s Science World, where we spent the morning having fun indoors where it was dry.

In the afternoon we braved the elements (umbrellas in hand) and walked to Granville Island.  After a coffee break to warm up, we checked out some of the cute little artsy shops as well as the indoor market and enjoyed a wonderful dinner with a great view of the water.

Granville Island waterfront

Our final day in Vancouver was Canada Day!   After a great brunch downtown, we headed up to Grouse Mountain.

There are 2 ways to the top of the mountain – the first is to hike.  Called the Grouse Grind, here is a little information about the trail.

Trail Facts
Length: 2.9 kilometres (1.8 miles)
Elevation Gain: 853 metres (2,800 feet)
Base: 274 metres above sea level (900 feet)
Summit: 1,127 metres (3,700 feet)
Total Stairs: 2,830
Statistics: Annually, over 100,000 people hike the trail.
Average Time: On average it takes up to an hour and a half to complete the hike. For novice hikers, two hours is recommended.

The second way up the mountain is via the skyride, an aerial tramway system which runs every 15 minutes.  Unfortunately due to the foggy conditions that day, our view from the skyride was not as spectacular as it can be on a clear day and so I wasn’t able to capture pics of Vancouver from the sky.

Once you are at the top of the mountain, there are some activities to keep you busy.  We saw owls and eagles and bears, oh my!  as well as an outstanding lumberjack show that was the highlight of the trip.

Did I mention it was foggy? And cold?

Owls, eagles, bears….

Guy up a 60 ft pole. Did a whole performance up there, crazy!

Fantastic lumberjack show, loved every second of it! Photos by V. Woo

We wrapped up the day by dropping in on the Canada Day festivities on the waterfront. There was a parade, activities for the kids, live musical performances, the Olympic Cauldron was lit for the occasion, as well as a huge fireworks show at the end of the night.

When the torches are lit, they give off a lot of heat!

Canada Day, Vancouver waterfront. Photos by V. Woo

Evening photos of the waterfront

I hope that you enjoyed visiting Vancouver with me, and stay tuned for details on the rest of our trip in a future post!

All photos by Anita Woo except as noted.

Posted in Anita Woo, Just Plain Fun, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Going to Camp? We’ve Got You Covered…

The final school bell has rung and the kids have sprinted out the doors, running headfirst into summer vacation. It’s time for family fun, trips, and for some, going to camp. Whether you are sending a child to camp or planning a camping trip, or even roughing it at the cottage, there is one thing which is guaranteed – you are going to get dirty.

Sure she’s cute and clean now…

Let’s face it – you’re out in the wilderness enjoying nature and there will be dirt involved. Yes you can swim and shower, but you’re not really going to get all that grime scrubbed off before you go to sleep – especially off the kids… and particularily if they have landed into a sink-hole while out walking with their Aunt…by I digress….

Laundry after the sink-hole…

So, unless you like the idea of washing your bulky sleeping bags after every camping trip, I offer this solution to you – Sleeping Bag Liners! Yes, you heard me correctly and I am here to tell you how to make them. Now I must confess I had never heard of these liners until my good friend, Laura, shared this idea with me. These liners are light weight and are also great to use on humid nights when a sleeping bag is too hot, but you would still like some light coverage.

Here’s what you need:

  1. A flat, cotton, top sheet. If you are making a liner for a small child’s sleeping bag you may use a twin sheet. Use a double sheet for larger campers.
  2. A sewing machine or someone who is willing to sew this for you.


Take the sheet and fold it in half and sew one end closed. Next you must sew up the side of the liner. I recommend only partially sewing the side closed. From the sewn bottom end, sew up one third to half of the length of the liner. If you wish, you may sew the entire side closed. This is a personal choice. Make sure you finish your seam on the side by sewing back and forth across the end of the seam – this will strengthen the seam and help to prevent it opening or ripping after several uses.

Looking for her way out or in of the sleeping bag...

Now here’s a twist…

Why stop there with your liner? Think about personalizing it especially if you have a child going away on a sleep-over or overnight camp. You could take family photos and using iron-on transfer paper, decorate your liner with these photos. Your child might find the familiar faces reassuring or comforting as they settle into dreamland. Another idea would be to type up a prayer, nighttime lullaby or song you share with your child every night. Print this up on transfer paper and iron onto the liner. Tell your child that when he/she reads it before they go to sleep, you will be saying it out loud at the same time at home. They might even hear your voice in their minds as they read it. If you don’t have a particular phrase, prayer or song you sing with to your child each night then why not write them a love note. For tips on using iron-on transfers click here .

For campers big and small this DIY is a simple and guaranteed to keep you cool. In addition it will reduce the amount of laundry you have to tackle when you get home. Once you’ve tried these light cotton liners you’ll never go back to camping without them. Sweet dreams.

Posted in DIY, Lyndsay Jenkinson, those3chicks, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment