March 2013

Okay, peeps, we need to talk about jeans. I was going to play this one straight for comedy, but like all things that are truly funny, this cuts a little too close to the bone for me to leave my insecurities completely, ahem, behind.

I’ve been perturbed by the term “mom jeans” from just about the first time I heard it. (Another variation of this post is filled with righteous indignation, which is an excellent alternative to comedy when the truth cuts too close to the bone and you are not blessed with a sense of humour.) But seriously, why exactly do we imply high-waisted, unflattering and poorly fitting jeans are “mom” jeans? Are moms by default more slovenly and worthy of scorn? It has been many years since I went to work with baby shit smeared from my wrist to my bicep, but somehow just by being the bearer of children my choice of denim should be disrespected?

So I could get all righteous about the term “mom jeans” but truth be told, getting worked up about anything related to fashion would be completely hypocritical of me. It’s one of the major reasons I’m so relieved to have a passel of boys and no girls to worry about. I don’t really follow trends, I forget to wear makeup most days, and if I wear anything but comfortable shoes my knees ache all the way to my hips. I don’t do fashion, I do smart-casual-meets-comfortable. Jeans are my go-to staple from work to weekends. I stray occasionally into the fancy world of dress pants and even (gasp!) skirts, but the predominant fabric swathing my legs is denim.

In particular, I live in GAP jeans. I discovered the Long and Lean style about three years ago, and snap them up when they go on sale. The sticker price is around $65, but I usually only pay about half of that. Including the deep indigo wash and the midnight black ones, I think I’m up to about five pairs in my closet. I thought I was being fashion-forward. I mean, it’s the GAP, right? They’re a cool label, no?

Apparently not when it comes to mom jeans. Apparently, GAP and Old Navy are ‘gateway’ mom-jeans.

Huh.

I found that post through a friend’s Facebook page. At first I was filled with righteous rage. When are we going to get over this stupid “mom jeans” term was my first thought. Then as I was reading, I was justifying and rationalizing in my head. “Oh, this writer is American. It’s probably different there. I’m sure the fits and labels are all different.” And there, down near the bottom of the post, are my beloved Long and Lean jeans. the ones that make my legs look like they’re about 11 feet long. Or so I thought. Until I got to the bit where she said Long and Lean are “the only pair that qualified beyond Gateway and straight into Mom Jeans.”

I’m feeling very conflicted now. I’m 43 years old for god’s sake, I’m way too old and comfortable with myself to get my denim worked into a twist over this. What do I care how my jeans look, beyond the fact that I try to leave the house without too much breakfast and dog hair smudged on them? I’ve borne three babies on these hips, they’ve earned a little extra padding. And it’s not like I’m trying to impress anyone with my caboose anymore – that horse is waaaaaaay out of the barn. So why the hell should I care what some cheeky blogger things about how my ass looks?

See all that righteousness? Methinks she doth protest too much. Apparently I do care, because my idle brain keeps coming back to pick at the idea like a festering scab. Maybe my ass is not as cool as I thought it was, wrapped in middle class friendly but not boutique-level denim? Maybe I need to drag Beloved to the Rideau Centre and have him trail around behind me taking pictures of my keister in Lucky Jeans and American Eagle and oh my god I’m so uncool I don’t even know what the cool stores might be! Good Christ, I’m 43 and I NEVER LEFT HIGH SCHOOL. Or perhaps more acutely, high school never left me.

In 1982, the thing I wanted more than anything in the universe was a pair of Road Runner jeans. We weren’t exactly poor but we weren’t exactly wealthy, either, and they were a little more costly than the Zellers house brand jeans I had been wearing. I remember how amazed I was when my mom actually bought me a pair. To my great dismay, I was just as unpopular in Road Runner jeans as I had been without them. It only took about 25 more years for me to really start to understand that what’s in my head is way more important than whatever label is on my jeans.

But my head keeps thinking about my ass, and wondering if maybe I’m at an age where I deserve a little help in the fit department. Clearly I’m conflicted, bloggy peeps. What say ye, oh wise and wonderful friends? There’s lots of food for thought here – mom jeans, societal expectations of women of a certain age, and my obvious inability to get my head out of my back pocket. Care to riff on any of those themes?

And, ppsssstt – where can a shallow girl of a certain age and fuller-than-waifish shape get a pair of jeans that are comfortable, flattering and on sale?


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Do you remember the first toy you bought for your child? Aside from the bright teether toys and cuddly stuffies designed for newborns, the first actual toy I bought for Tristan was the Fisher-Price Brilliant Basics Rock-a-stack. That toy lasted through three drooling, teething, throwing, banging boys and still looked practically good as new (once I wiped it down!) the day I dropped it in the toy donation box at St Vincent de Paul. Did you know the Rock-a-stack was introduced in 1960? I’m sure I had one as a child, did you? When I think of classic toys, it’s exactly the kind of thing that comes to mind!

Popular toys come and go (from hula hoops to Cabbage Patch Kids to Tickle Me Elmo, there’s a craze every few years) but the classics never go out of style. That’s why Fisher-Price is highlighting the best of the best with the new “Fisher-Price Favourites” microsite. They’re featuring the toys and gear that families turn to year after year and generation after generation. What Makes a Fisher-Price Favourite?

  • Year after year, these toys have been favourites of moms, not just in Canada but around the world.
  • They have been tried, tested and loved by generations of kids.
  • They encourage child development and support children in achieving important milestones.

Of course the Brilliant Basics Rock-a-stack is on the list. Can you guess what other toys made the cut? Here they are:

  1. Brilliant Basics Rock a Stack
  2. Laugh & Learn Love to Play Puppy
  3. Laugh & Learn Say Please Tea Set
  4. Laugh & Learn Click ‘n Learn Remote
  5. Brilliant Basics Stroll-Along Walker
  6. Little People Wheelies Stand ‘ n Play Rampway
  7. Little People Animal Sounds Farm

So here’s another thing I like about Fisher-Price – they know that while we love their classic toys, it’s also important to keep incorporating new favourites into their line-ups. They didn’t have Bubble Guppies when I was a kid, but it is Lucas’s absolute favourite television show, and I knew he would LOVE a Bubble Guppies Rock & Roll Stage playset. This is a fun little playset with easy-to-assemble parts. It comes with a rolling Molly figure and a few accessories. You can roll Molly down the ramp and watch her spin into place on the stage. Very cute, especially if you have a Bubble Guppies fan in the house! (It’s become a bit of an inside joke crossed with an ear worm around our house. Nobody can ask “What time is it?” without someone in the family replying “It’s time for lunch!” If you have a Bubble Guppies fan in the house, you’ll get it.)

Also new this month, we had the chance to check out the DC Superfriends Wheelies Race n Chase Batcave. I thought Lucas would go crazy when he saw the Bubble Guppies set, but it was this one that had him begging me to open the box and put it together for him. This is another fun gravity-friendly playset along the lines of the much larger Wheelies Loops n Swoops set we reviewed last year. (Sometimes, smaller is good! This one is much easier to pull out and tuck away!)

Lucas loves the ramp action, and you can set it up so Batman and the Joker chase each other or race down the ramps, and there are “boulders” you can set in motion as well. Helpful for developing fine motor skills, and for figuring out “what happens when I…”, these sets are perfect for older toddlers right through to kids in the 5-6 year range. I think these Wheelies playsets are terrific, and clearly so does Lucas. Did I mention the elevator that brings the Wheelies (with the help of a little hand, of course) back up to the top of the playset so they can set off down the ramps again? This one arrived the same day as the new puppy (captured snoozing in the background in the photo below) and I’m pretty sure Lucas was more pleased with the playset than with the puppy! How’s that for an endorsement?

And now here’s a special treat for you. From March 29 through April 30, exclusively at ToysRUs.ca use the code FISHERPRICE20 and save 20% on your Fisher-Price favourites!

Do you have a favourite Fisher-Price toy, from your own childhood or one you love on your kids’ behalf?

Disclosure: I am part of the Fisher-Price Play Ambassador program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.


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You can hardly blame me. (Almost) an entire week of puppy pictures? For one thing, she’s already grown since we got her, and I’m glad I’ll have more than the two or three photos I have of Katie’s entire first year. Also, cute puppy is the low-hanging fruit of the daily photo world. Finally, the kids are breathing huge sighs of relief that I finally found someone else to follow around the house with my camera.

I think this is where they get the expression “puppy dog eyes” (sorry about the watermark in this one – sometimes I’m too lazy to go back and adjust them when they fall in a poor spot like this):

Bella again!

Mixing it up with a take on the “from where I stand” meme, with puppy shenanigans:

#fromwhereistand - puppy shenanigans

Maybe a little bit of B&W?

Bella in b&w

This was her first on-leash walk, which went pretty well. Things pretty much went downhill from here. She’s finally gotten acclimatized to playing outside in the yard, but she hates going for walks (which is unfortunate, since it’s one of the things I was most wanting out of a dog.) It’s come down to me carrying her down the street a ways, and allowing her to pull me back to the house in a desperate scramble. I’m hoping with practice and warmer temperatures (and puppy class next week) the walking-on-leash thing will improve. It also didn’t help that I was carrying her down the driveway Thursday morning before work and hit a patch of ice, launching both of us into the air before we crashed collectively to the pavement. Where exactly is spring?

Bella's first walksies

Speaking of spring, and the non-arrival thereof, here’s the only non-puppy shot of the week – dawn on the first day of spring in the backyard. Lookit those tulips and that green grass – the very picture of spring, don’t you think?

Dawn on the first day of spring

Remember I said I was taking an online photo course with Harry Nowell? The topic this month is taking photos without looking through the viewfinder. I was trying to take low-angle photos of Bella playing in the living room, but she ran towards me to jump on me every time I hunched down, so I pre-focused the camera and put it on the floor, and just reached over and pushed the shutter a few times. The ones of her playing didn’t turn out but I love this one of her sitting and watching me! (Note to self, clean floors before next photo session.)

Bella in the living room

Last but not least, you can see how Willie is adapting to life with Bella:

Willie and Bella

Funny to see the tables turned on Willie, and to see Bella pestering him the way he used to pester Katie. 🙂


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On a Sunday morning already off to a rocky start by virtue of it starting at 5:15 am, and further compromised by the need to stand barefoot outside on the frozen patio bricks in nothing but a nightgown trying to encourage a suddenly willfull puppy to pee on the outside instead of the inside of the house, you can imagine my elevated level of dismay when I poured fresh water in to the coffee maker only to have it promptly pour back out of the coffee maker and all over the countertop and the floor.

Assuming it was some sort of fluke or gravitational flux or that perhaps I had just missed the reservoir entirely, I doggedly went through the motions of trying to force water into the coffee maker three more times before giving up. Water was definitely egressing from the coffee maker from parts that never previously leaked. And that’s how I ended up at the Manotick Tim’s drive-through before six on a Sunday morning, wearing boots but no socks and mismatched flannel pants with my nightgown under my coat. Don’t judge me, I needed BOTH of the XLs I ordered.

63:365 Please play again

In the way that only the highest magnitudes of crises can do, all potential plans for Sunday were scrapped in favour of acquiring a new coffee maker. While waiting the necessary aeons for the big box stores in Barrhaven to open, I surfed the web to read reviews, compare prices and hunt for sales. Did you know the highest-end coffee maker at Best Buy retails for a stunning $2100? That’s more than I paid for my camera. Seriously, that is stupid-expensive – for that much, it better come with a Barista named Cody who serves my daily coffee in his ripped jeans and a white t-shirt. […]

What? Oh sorry, are you still here? Got distracted by something for a minute there… ahem.

Anyway, long story shorter (but sadly for both of us, not by much) I started out at Bed, Bath and Beyond because I had a coupon. In my life, it’s always about the coupon. But they had only a few models, one or two bargain basement cheapies and several more progressing from $100 up to “are you kidding me?” They had one higher-end one I liked, and I knew my mom had picked up the same one. I was nervous, though, about the re-usable filter. We’re on a septic system and I am absurdly paranoid about coffee grounds going down the drain and somehow blocking up the holes in the pipes in the septic drainage bed. (Reason #297 you should never read the Internet – septic system paranoia.) Standing in Bed Bath and Beyond trying to google whether I could use paper filters, I found out they had the same model at Costco for about $50 less. AND that I could use paper filters for it.

Hmmm. $50 savings versus Costco on a Sunday morning. At what price sanity? Ah, what the hell, Beloved has the kids, I can just nip in and out. (Are you laughing? Yeah. My ability to delude myself astonishes me.) So I get to Costco and it’s a madhouse. Like Christmas-bananas. And when I finally give up searching for this elusive deal and find a clerk to help me (no small feat in itself) I hear those dreaded words: web-only deal. So I go back to the two or three models they actually have and start googling them and realize that the one they have in stock sells for $130 at Canadian Tire but is on sale here for $70 AND I have my annual rebate cheque thingee and I’m in Scottish-Dutch heaven with the good dealiness of it all. Totally worth my sanity and the hour of my time it takes to buy one coffee maker and a container of guacamole. (I never go to Costco without buying guacamole. It’s why I have a membership. I’m not one of those people who spends $400 every time I go, but I never leave without buying my guac.)

So I’m driving home and thinking that I’m going to unpack it right away because by now it’s lunch time and I’ve been up for seven hours and had only two XL cups of coffee and that’s clearly not going to get me through the rest of the day and I really need another cup of coffee now so let’s take this baby for a test drive. And I plunk it down on the counter, slide it against the wall and grab the cord – which only reaches half way to the socket. I pull and jiggle and tug and still have only about 30 cm of cord. WTF? So I check the instructions, which helpfully tell me that my machine is equipped with a short safety cord, and is not recommended for use with an extension cord. Seriously? That’s a feature?

And so it went back in the box and I went back in the car and drove to Canadian Tire, where I stood scowling and muttering at the row of coffee makers, now willfully refusing to pay full price after having been denied my most excellent deal. I refuse to consider the higher-end machines, but after a lifetime of coffee machine buying, I know the $20 model will probably only last a year and I do not want to be spending any more time in the coffee maker aisle in the foreseeable future. I briefly consider the Black and Decker that is on sale, but when I read the reviews I remember our last two B&D carafes which poured more coffee on to the counter than in to the mugs. I pace agitatedly up and down the aisle a few more times, thinking of the 20% off coupon I still have in my pocket for Bed, Bath and Beyond across the street, and finally give up and end up back where I started three and a half hours before.

Rankled that I now seem doomed to spend $100 (minus 20%) on a coffee maker, far more than I have ever previously spend on one, I narrow down my selections to three choices, now rating models first based on cord length and second on price and throwing pretty much every other feature to the fates. I do one last set of googling and find the reviews on the one I am about to buy are terrible, with more than half the reviewers giving the model one star and the main complaint being leakage. Um, isn’t that how I ended up here in the first place? The Krups model beside it gets moderately good reviews and I find out that Future Shop next door is selling it for $85 instead of $100. I haul it up to the cashier and am pleasantly surprised when she says yes, they will pricematch if I can show them the online price. Thrilled that my $100 coffee maker will only cost me $68, which still seems pricey but perhaps necessary for a life-giving source of coffee, I triumphantly whip out my 20% off coupon and am crushed when she looks at it and says “Oh no, sorry, we can give you the price match or the coupon, not both.” Too tired and weak from the hunt to put up a fuss, I hand over my debit card. Whatever. Take whatever you need, just please let me be done shopping for coffee makers now.

By the time I get home (again) it is midafternoon. I am a little too excited when I am able to plug in the machine, and run a quick cycle of water through before actually brewing a pot. Finally, nine hours (and four stores and three coffee makers) later, I have a pot of coffee.

Some things are worth waiting for!

So tell me, do you read online reviews when you’re shopping? There are some products (like coffee makers!) where I give them lots of credence, but for movies and camera equipment, I find the reviews annoy me more than they help. How much credence do you give online reviews in your decision-making process?


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You’d never know it to look outside, but it’s time to start gearing up for another season of porch portraits! Dear snow, please get off my photo studio!!

Now that I’ve been doing this for a few years, I’ve been meaning to write a series of blog posts with answers to common questions I get from my portrait clients. By far, the most common question is “what should we wear” but that usually comes wrapped in a larger curiousity about just how the whole porch portrait session will work. (On location sessions aren’t really all that different, to be honest, aside from being a little longer and with more shots taken.) I’ll address the what-to-wear question in another post.

When you arrive, I’ll greet you and the kids. I find that the faster I can make friends with the kids and get them interested in me, the camera and the session, the more smoothly things will run. Depending on the season, the day, the weather, and what you want, we’ll choose a spot on the porch or in the yard to get started pretty much right away. The first few pictures are mostly just to get both you and me warmed up, although it’s funny how often we get a keeper or two right away. I have a handful of favourite props we can use to pose the family, like my lovely white rocking chair:

G girls

Or the funky old-skool red wagon:

Kids on a wagon

Or the kiddie-sized white wicker furniture:

S Family 1

We can take a few shots on the porch:

Porch Portraits with energetic Everitt and his parents

Or if the weather is fine we can play on the grass:

Porch portraits - cousins!

Don’t worry about getting your kids to pose. I’ll work with them to make a mix of posed shots and candid shots of them interacting and at play. When the parents aren’t stressed about the kids behaving, the kids relax and we can get some fun shots of them at play. Really, don’t stress about the behaviour thing. I have three kids and I spend a LOT of time cajoling them with my camera! 😉 I’ve learned that trying to get a three-year-old to pose is a futile battle that I’m often doomed to lose – but that doesn’t mean we won’t get some fun pictures along the way!

Sneak Peek F family

242:365 Look what I found!

Pulling the wagon

In addition to the porch, we’ve got a big back yard with a tire swing and a tree that looks like it was designed as a photo backdrop – complete with swinging rope!

212:365 Dreaming

framed!

The porch sessions usually last about 30 minutes, although I don’t book sessions back to back, so it’s okay if we go a little bit more slowly. I’ll take a lot of pictures, and unless you ask otherwise, I aim for a good mix of candid and posed shots. I have a set of ideas, poses and props that I find work in many different situations, but I try to adapt each session to the family or individuals I’m photographing. If you want a particular shot (maybe barefoot kids in the grass, or a shot of your son up on dad’s shoulders, or one of the family holding hands walking away from the camera) just let me know and we’ll work with it. If you’ve been building a Pinterest board of favourite family-style portrait shots, send it over before the session and I’ll take a look!

Another thing to consider is what you might want to do with the photos. Are you thinking of a big canvas for over the fireplace? A set of six 10x14s in black and white? Shots for your own annual Blurb.com book? A dress-up shot because you hated the shots you got from a wedding you attended as guests? These are just a few of the requests I had last year. If you have something special in mind, let me know and I’ll work toward that. Or maybe you don’t want anything big, just an updated 8X10 of the kids because they don’t look anything like they did last year. We can do that, too!

Peekaboo kids

Once we’re done the session, I’ll spend a few hours reviewing, selecting, editing and polishing a gallery of the very best pictures for you to review. I like to have this done as soon as possible – it rarely takes me as long as a week. I’ll send you a link to your private, password-protected gallery and you can review the photos online. Feel free to send the link to Grandma, Aunt Jane and your BFF if you can’t quite decide which one you like. These photos will be watermarked and numbered and not for download or sharing. You simply give me a call or send me an e-mail and tell me which photos you like and we go from there.

If you choose to order prints, canvases or other products, I’ll place the order within a few days and you’ll have them in your hands in a couple of weeks at most. If you choose digital files, I’ve got a great new system for digital downloads and online sharing. It’s practically instant, so no more waiting for delivery of troublesome DVDs or USB keys! But if you prefer a USB key, I can do that, too, for a small fee. You’re the customer — I will try my best to make this a terrific experience for you and your family.

Do you have any questions? I’m happy to answer them via the comment box or by e-mail, so please don’t hesitate to ask if there is something you’d like to know.

Now we just need to get all that snow out of my studio…. 😉


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The more I learn about photography, the more I realize how much more I have to learn. I like to take at least one or two workshops each year, sometimes to firm up skills where I have some comfort, and some to stretch me where I think I need extra work.

You might remember last summer I was talking about a photo workshop I attended about using off-camera flash for portrait photography. The instructor was Blair Gable and the workshop was held at Ottawa Studio Works, the studio of Ottawa photographer and instructor Harry Nowell. (Harry was also the mastermind behind the Why I love Ottawa/Gatineau photo contest.) It was one of the most useful and most interesting photo workshops I’ve yet attended. (And yet, I am still stubbornly resistant to using my flash — but that is another blog post entirely.)

Harry’s studio offers a lot of neat workshops aimed at a range of photography enthusiasts from the beginner through the pro, but one I’ve been eyeballing for a few months now is his online photo program. When Harry recently offered me a three-month complimentary pass to test-drive the program in exchange for sharing the information with all of you, I was happy to say yes.

There’s a couple of things I really like about the idea of an online photo workshop. The first is that it’s online — that means no scrambling (or just plain remembering) to attend a weekly classroom session. (This also means that anyone with an internet connection can sign up – you don’t have to be local to Ottawa.) The second thing I like is someone telling me what to shoot, both to alleviate some of my creative winter funk and to push my boundaries a bit. Third and perhaps most of all, what I’ve really been craving recently is feedback and constructive criticism, and Harry offers that on a monthly basis with each assignment.

Here are the program details from Harry’s site:

What’s the online program all about? Think of it as a new photo class every month with:
• a video lesson
• course notes
• weekly email check-in with tips, encouragement and news
• ongoing group support through a private Facebook group for Members only
• and a compreshensive video critique of member’s photos at the end of the month.

We focus on creating a fun and positive environment while encouraging you to step out of your creative comfort zone. You’ll get direct feedback from instructor, Harry Nowell, as well as have the opportunity to interact with other students in the program. All you need is access to a computer and a desire to learn.

What’s included:

Access to monthly video & lesson
Monthly challenge
Weekly Ideas and instruction
Downloadable notes
Ongoing tips and tales
Member interaction through a private Facebook group

Pretty neat, eh? Right now, Harry’s even got a deal going on where you can sign up for a six month membership for only $125 instead of the usual $180 – but the deal is only on until the end of March.

I’ve just been reviewing my first lesson, and the assignment is shooting a candid portrait — without looking through the viewfinder. Straight out of the gate and it’s something I’ve never done before. I think this is going to be a lot of fun! Stay tuned and I’ll show you what, erm, develops!

***photography puns FTW!!***


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This week in pictures: March Break and the arrival of Bella

17 March 2013 Photo of the Day

If you’ve got a great new camera, it only makes sense to find something cute to take pictures of, right? And since I utterly lack adorable and patient photo subjects (not really), you can understand why I rushed out and got us a puppy, right? Cuz this week was all about two things: March Break […]

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A note about the blog, compensation and sponsored posts

16 March 2013 Editorial asides

There have been a spate of complaints on some of my sponsored posts over the last few months. I’m not quite sure why people are complaining (mine may be one of the least monetized blogs I know!) or whether it’s several people or one person with several aliases who are posting the complaints. I’ve tried […]

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Ciao Bella!

15 March 2013 Life, the Universe and Everything

Say hello to Bella, the newest member of our family: Lookit that face! OMG I am dying from the cuteness! Bella is an 11 week old shepherd mix pup. She came home to live with us late Wednesday evening, and has managed to both turn our lives upside down and completely endear herself to the […]

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Fisher Price’s Million Moments of Joy: OVERbalanced

13 March 2013 Reviews, promotions and giveaways

Eleven years ago today I was a brand new mother to a week old baby. I felt like my universe had been turned inside out! Despite the books, the websites, the magazines and the endless hours of research I’d done, nothing prepared me for the shock of those first few weeks at home with my […]

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