The Four Viral Videos I Just Can’t Stop Watching

The Four Viral Videos I Just Can't Stop Watching

The Four Viral Videos I Just Can’t Stop Watching-Apple, Westjet, Pantene Philippines, Coca Cola LifeThe Four

 

Some of my favourite video content over this holiday season has been from brands. Sure, yes, I know that they’re marketing and selling and making these videos hoping they’ll go viral and and that we’ll spread their message for them and buy lots of stuff. But, I can’t help but be touched by the effort they and their advertising and marketing and teams of people who get inside our heads have made to understand what we’re thinking about. To make us feel. To think. To spread joy and happiness.

 

These videos are so good that they don’t even make me care that the company is trying to sell me something. They just make me happy.

 

The first one is from WestJet. You’ve probably all see it already, but why not watch it again?

 

The Title: Westjet Miracle-Real-Time Giving

 

The message: elves are spreading happiness everywhere.

 

The dream: that there is a Santa, and when you tell a video screen at the airport your heart’s desire, it will be waiting for you at the other end of your flight. (Come on-you’ve all wished on a star for your dreams to come true, or hoped that a package of amazingness will just show up on your doorstep…).

 

Next, Apple.

 

The Title: Apple Holiday Ad-Misunderstood

 

The Message: Teenagers are AWESOME  and that we shouldn’t underestimate them.

 

The Dream: Family-time, love, making memories at the holidays. That all of our teenagers are as amazing as that boy. That we’ll remember not to misunderstand our teenagers and to give them a chance to be who they are and to share what’s so special about them in their own special ways.

 

Pantene Phillipines #ShineStrong campaign shoots us right into the ‘get thinking’ zone.

 

The Title: PantenePhillipines-Labels Against Women

 

The Message: You can’t deny it anymore-women and men are perceived differently in the boardroom. And that’s gotta change. Now.

 

The Dream: That when our daughters are tough and strong they won’t be called bitches.

 

And finally, Coca Cola (South American Style)

 

The Title: Coca Cola Life- Parenthood (it’s in spanish, I’m not really sure)

 

The Message: Parenting is both tough and rewarding.

 

The Dream: Oh, this is reality. You covet a baby, you have a baby, it’s hell for a while, and then you just can’t wait to do it again.

 

 

Did I miss any?

What Jews Do at Christmas Time

What Jews Do on Christmas

photo: istockphoto.com

 

Have you ever wondered what us Jews do at Christmas time? While you’re spending all your dollars on presents, wrapping them for hours, moving tiny elves around to get your kids to behave, untangling blinking lights, dressing up as Santa, attending Christmas pageants, watching Christmas TV specials, cranking the Christmas tunes, and getting shickered (that’s yiddish for drunk) on Egg Nog (disgusting) and pieces of broken Christmas cookies (no calories in pieces), do you ever wonder what WE’RE doing?

 

Well, I’ll tell you. We are not spending all of our dollars on presents, wrapping them for hours, moving tiny elves around to get our kids to behave (we use good old guilt instead) untangling blinking lights, dressing up as Santa, attending Christmas pageants, or getting drunk on egg nog. (Christmas TV specials and tunes and broken cookies to be addressed below.)

 

So what ARE we doing to keep busy between November 1 (the day after Halloween) and December 25th (obviously, Christmas Day)?

 

  • We’re secretly singing along to all the Christmas music, even though we’re as sick of it as you are.

 

bieber xmas gif

 

 

  • We’re eating Chinese food on Christmas Eve (although there seems to be a lot more options these days, we’re sticking with chop suey and chicken balls. You don’t mess with tradition.)

 

Thanks to the Jewish People from Chinese Restaurants Everywhere

  • We’re watching Charlie Brown’s Christmas because you don’t have to celebrate to love that holiday special more than anything in the whole world.

 

Charlie Brown Christmas

 

  • We’re watching Elf over and over and over. We’re also watching Christmas Vacation, White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, and all the other Christmas movies ever made.

 

Elf

 

christmas classics

 

  • We’re taking advantage of the holiday promotions and sales to buy all kinds of things for ourselves on discount.

 

source: letsrollforums.com

source: letsrollforums.com

 

  • We’re going to movies on Christmas Day, and we’re showing up 5 minutes before the show starts, knowing we don’t have to line-up.

 

empty movie theatre

 

 

  • We’re chuckling at the frenzied last minute shopping. Sometimes we go to the gas station to watch the men look for ‘just the right thing’ at 6:01 on Christmas eve.

 

Last minute gifts

 

 

  • We’re driving around enjoying the lack of traffic.

 

no traffic on christmas

 

  • We’re wearing reindeer headbands and santa hats, ironically, of course.

 

santa hat reindeer antlers

 

  • We’re being jealous of your pretty trees and all of your presents, but still glad that we don’t have to deal with all that detritus nor clean it up afterwards.

 

Mrs. Browns Christmas Tree

 

  • We’re not decorating our houses with thousands of lights, but we do really want that 20 foot blow up Santa on our front lawns.

 

house with xmas lights

 

  • We’re enjoying all of the holiday treats, chocolates, cookies and parties, because, hey, why not.

 

drunk at xmas party

 

 

  • We’re loving the two-week break we get from life, and the week leading up to it when it seems everyone is already mentally on vacation.

 

Source: Teen.com

Source: Teen.com

 

  • We’re wishing we had Christmas dinner replete with tacky sweaters, family strife, too much food, and cranky children (no, we’re not. We have that at Rosh Hashana, Passover, and pretty much every Friday night. Well, not the sweaters, but everything else.)

 

tacky christmas sweaters

photo source: thedailygreen.com

 

  • We’re happily participating in the the workplace Secret Santa knowing that it’s the only gift we’re getting.

 

Source: Cafepress.com

Source: Cafepress.com

  • We’re confused how underpants and socks are a good stocking present.

 

christmas stocking

 

  • We’re wondering how all the parents get their kids to believe in the improbability of Santa Claus, and where we can get some of that.

 

there is no santa

 

  • We’re spending hours explaining to our young children why they can be as naughty or nice as they want, and Santa is STILL not going to come down the chimney.

 

santa-he-sees-you-when-youre-sleeping-christmas-humor

 

MOST OF ALL, We’re loving the spirit of generosity and giving that seems to pervade everything, everywhere. It’s so jolly. AND SO, We’re wishing you all a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!

 

HO, HO, HO. Send candy canes.

 

What to Say if Someone Wishes You a Merry Christmas

What to Say if Someone Wishes You a Merry Christmas

 

 

Gift Giving that Gives Back #GivingTuesday

Four Holiday Gift Ideas that Give Back.png

Four Holiday Gift Ideas that Give Back.

 

Even though I don’t celebrate Christmas, I live in a world that does. And what I have noticed is that there is a lot of focus on buying and getting and shopping and getting. And not a whole lot of focus on giving. It happens at Hanukah too, trust me. When my kids were young they would spend all day staring at their piles of presents (8 gifts for 8 days x 3 kids. You do the math. Because I’m not going to.)

 

When my youngest was about 8, we stopped doing the giant piles of gifts. The kids really didn’t need or want all that stuff, and  even though I am a unrepentant consumer, the conspicious consumption and gifting-for-the-sake-of-gifting was starting to get to me. This year, in fact, when I asked them what they wanted for Hanukah, the answer was, from all three, “Nothing. I don’t need anything.”

 

Sigh. Redeeming. Inspiring. But, not helpful. I bought them books.

 

While I love giving (and receiving gifts), I also like to share what I have with others, and to pass this important skill on to my kids. No matter what I may think I’m lacking in my privileged life, there is always someone who has less. And someone who has less than them. And so on, and so forth. I think we often times see the greatest kindnesses from those we may perceive as having the least. And so, what they give, whether it’s a kindness, a smile, a toy made from their own hand, or a spoon of soup from their bowl, seems to have a lot of meaning.

 

There are many ways we can teach kids the value and love of giving. Of course, I think that the best way to teach is to model it by giving back as a family, and by being generous of heart, even in the smallest ways, every single day. Luckily there are lots of great resources and books, like this video from Unicef Canada to help children gain an appreciation for spreading happiness (I say gain an appreciation because I don’t believe that you can force a love of giving back. It must be inspired from somewhere inside.)

 

 

To help you out with finding ways to give and receive at the same time, I’ve compiled four giving back gift suggestions.

 

Unicef Canada Survival Gifts.

 

These are great gifts that truly give back, and are perfect for those you want to recognize, like teachers, trainers, neighbors, or even your babysitter..  I’m told some of the most popular choices are Plumpy Nuts, bed bts, water purification tablets, and blankets for babies.

 

Plan Canada  and Gifts of Hope

 

A Gift of Hope from Plan Canada can be an excellent way to engage children at a young age.  It presents a unique opportunity for them to learn, talk about and support important global issues.  With a number of new gifts available this year, including Typhoon Haiyan relief, Plan Canada’s Gifts of Hope provide access to food, education, safe pregnancies or a family income.  Gifts can be purchased over the phone at 1-800-387-1418 or online .  Recipients will receive an electronic or hard copy greeting card letting them know about their personal gift and a tax receipt is issued to the giver.

 

Free the Children ABC Education Rafiki Friend Chains

 

Education is an essential building block. It creates the foundation for a stable global community. When children are educated, entire communities attain the knowledge and tools to break the cycle of poverty, for themselves and for future generations. That’s exactly what the ABC Education Rafiki Friend Chain aims to do. Every unique, handmade $10 ABC Education Rafiki Friend Chain sold equips a child for school for one year, empowers a Maasai mama who earns a fair wage to send her children to school and helps you, the consumer, make a socially conscious fashion statement. Proceeds from the ABC Education Rafiki support the gift of education in Free The Children communities.

 

Kiva Cards 

Empower someone around the world with a $25 loan. The giver buys the loan, the receiver chooses who will receive the gift of a loan for the business. The perfect holiday gifts are Kiva Cards. They introduce your friends and family to Kiva, giving them the opportunity to choose borrowers to support. When their loans are repaid, they can use those funds again and again to make even more loans on Kiva. It’s truly the gift that keeps on giving! (My sister gave this to my son for one of his birthdays and it was an absolutely amazing experience for him choosing the recipient of his loan, and then watching him donate his repayment back to Kiva at the end.)

 

I would love to hear some other organizations that you share your joy with. How do you give back? Do you purchase gifts like these that keep on giving?

 

 

 

Favorite Holiday Reads: Penguin Canada

FAVORITE holiday reads Penguin Canada.jpg

FAVORITE holiday reads Penguin Canada.jpg

 

For a lot of people (like me), books are the ultimate gift.  That’s why this year I’m featuring some of the best books to give and get from some of my favorite publishers. I’ve asked them to pick out some of their favorites for all of you, and they’ve been very generous and are providing copies of all of their picks for me to give away!

 

Over the next week or so, I will feature a gift pack (or two) from each publisher. So, enjoy, happy reading, and if you win, don’t keep the whole prize for yourself. The best part of books is sharing them with others, after all! Go visit Random House of Canada and Simon and Schuster‘s choices too!

 

Penguin Books Canada has had some incredible releases over the past year. It was really hard to choose which books I wanted to share with you.  I finally settled on three fiction titles and four non-fiction.  You can enter to win one of these two books packs from Penguin Canada below.

 

FICTION 

 

 

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini, the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, has written a new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations.

In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most.

Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page.

 

The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison

Jodi and Todd are at a bad place in their marriage. Much is at stake, including the affluent life they lead in their beautiful waterfront condo in Chicago, as she, the killer, and he, the victim, rush haplessly toward the main event. He is a committed cheater. She lives and breathes denial. He exists in dual worlds. She likes to settle scores. He decides to play for keeps. She has nothing left to lose. Told in alternating voices, The Silent Wife is about a marriage in the throes of dissolution, a couple headed for catastrophe, concessions that can’t be made, and promises that won’t be kept. Expertly plotted and reminiscent of Gone Girl and These Things Hidden, The Silent Wife ensnares the reader from page one and does not let go.

 

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

A visceral portrait of life at a crossroads, The Orenda opens with a brutal massacre and the kidnapping of the young Iroquois Snow Falls, a spirited girl with a special gift. Her captor, Bird, is an elder and one of the Huron Nation’s great warriors and statesmen. It has been years since the murder of his family and yet they are never far from his mind. In Snow Falls, Bird recognizes the ghost of his lost daughter and sees the girl possesses powerful magic that will be useful to him on the troubled road ahead. Bird’s people have battled the Iroquois for as long as he can remember, but both tribes now face a new, more dangerous threat from afar.

 

Christophe, a charismatic Jesuit missionary, has found his calling amongst the Huron and devotes himself to learning and understanding their customs and language in order to lead them to Christ. An emissary from distant lands, he brings much more than his faith to the new world.

 

As these three souls dance each other through intricately woven acts of duplicity, small battles erupt into bigger wars and a nation emerges from worlds in flux.

 

NON-FICTION

 

 

Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton

Twitter seems like a perfect start-up success story. In barely six years, a small group of young, ambitious programmers in Silicon Valley built an $11.5 billion business out of the ashes of a failed podcasting company. Today Twitter boasts more than 200 million active users and has affected business, politics, media, and other fields in innumerable ways.

 

Now Nick Bilton of the New York Times takes readers behind the scenes with a narrative that shows what happened inside Twitter as it grew at exponential speeds. This is a tale of betrayed friendships and high-stakes power struggles as the four founders—Biz Stone, Evan Williams, Jack Dorsey, and Noah Glass—went from everyday engineers to wealthy celebrities, featured on magazine covers, Oprah, The Daily Show, and Time’s list of the world’s most influential people.

 

In My Shoes by Tamara Mellon

When Tamara Mellon’s father lent her the seed money to start a high-end shoe company, he cautioned her: Don’t let the accountants run your business.” Little did he know. Over the next fifteen years, the struggle between financial” and creative” would become one of the central themes as Mellon’s business savvy, creative eye, and flair for design built Jimmy Choo into a premier name in the competitive fashion industry.

 

The Novel Cure: An A-Z of Literary Remedies by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elkerkin

Are you weary in Brain and Body? Do you desire a Positive Cure for your Pessimism? Do you require Brontë to re-boot your Broken Heart? Do you despair of your Nose? Can Fielding open your Flood Gates? Or Pynchon purge your Paranoia? May we administer Austen to curb your Arrogance? Hemingway for your Headache? An injection of du Maurier for your low Self-Esteem? Are you Shy, Single, Stressed or Sixty? Are your Vital Statistics in need of some Spark? May we massage you with Murakami? Ease your pain with Wolf or Wodehouse? Do you require the Very Book to lessen your Loneliness? May we revive your Spirit with a Literary Tonic?
This is a medical handbook, with a difference. Whether you have a stubbed toe or a severe case of the blues, within these pages you’ll find a cure in the form of a novel – or a combination of novels – to help ease your pain.

 

WHICH ARE YOU HOPING TO READ? WHO WOULD YOU GIVE ONE OF THESE AMAZING BOOKS TO? ENTER TO WIN EITHER THE FICTION GIFT PACK OR THE NON-FICTION GIFT PACK.

photo credit: via photopin

 

The Top Secret, Number One Tip for Family Road Trips

Top Tips for Road Tripping with Kids of all ages

Top Tips for Road Tripping with Kids of all ages

 

Since my brother moved to the US, my family has become a team of road warriors. He lives anywhere from 11-14 hours away (depending on how much traffic and construction is happening in Gary, Indiana).  Last winter, we drove 26 hours (each way, not combined) to Florida. That was far.  Since I’m a proactive mother (read: avoider of conflict), I developed a strategy for travelling with children. It is time proven and ensures they do not fight. This tool was created  after our first disastrous trip where we took off, unprepared, on our first long trip without blankets, pillows or other essential ingredients for happy travels. That first adventure was horrible, rife with crying, whining, boredom and general discomfort.

 

And that was just my husband.

 

Are you ready? Here is is.

 

My valuable tool is called a Road Trip Basket.

 

A Road Trip Basket contains everything your child or teen needs to be happy for an extended period of time.

 

Don’t live in a dreamworld. Even if you have teenagers they’re like babies in grownup clothing.  Maybe he’s taller than you. Maybe she outgrew your bras two years ago. Still. Children. Still capable of making every minute of that 24-hours cooped up in what will very quickly feel like a bicycle built for two, a living nightmare.

 

How many times can you sing ’99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall’ without actually cracking open that bottle of duty-free vodka you bought for your brother’s mother-in-law. 

 

You need the Road Trip Basket more than you know. Or care to admit. Because no matter how good of a parent you are, there is no way you can, or should want to, entertain a teenager for hours on end.

 

This Life-Saving Basket contains:

 

Food. Who cares if it’s healthy. Actually, chewy things like caramels will  keep their mouths busy for longer . Take them to the store and have them choose their own treats. I always did one savoury (like a giant bag of chips) and one sweet (17 lbs of sour gummy worms? Who cares what they’re eating if they’re quiet…)

Drink. They will have to pee anyways, so they may as well be hydrated. Avoid energy drinks. Trust me. Gatorade, Powerade, water, juices. At least a litre’s worth.

Activities. Books, music, laptop, movies, games without pieces, a tablet, a deck of cards. Whatever tickles that particular child’s fancy.

Accessories. A pillow and small, lightweight blanket (one per child. Do not expect them to share, even if it’s a bench seat.)

Extra socks.  Kids like to take their shoes off (and so do moms), but the floor of the car may be wet if travelling in winter. Wet feet = whiny people.

 

Key Points for road-tripping with teens (or really kids of any age):

 

  • One basket per child to be placed next to them or at their feet for easy access. If they have to ask you to pass them stuff, then you’re defeating the purpose.
  • Items are to be chosen by the kid. Whatever they want. This is not the time to urge them to eat more fibre. Sweets keep them busy. They can always brush their teeth later.
  • Do not encourage sharing. This is not a time for community-building. But, don’t be surprised if you look back and see some gummy worms making their way around the back two rows.
  • If you have space, do not put two kids next to each other. We have three kids and a seven-seater car. There’s always one seat between peoples, which makes poking, jabbing, and otherwise being annoying, difficult.
  • If you’re using a built-in video screen, make a schedule for movie choices. You won’t be sorry. My kids watch on their own individual screens with earphones now, but we did have a built-in one before, and this strategy was invaluable.
  • Keep a cooler handy with fruit, cheese, pepperoni sticks, more cold drinks, and other healthy items. They will get sick of their junk and will ask for real food. Right after you’ve stopped for a little leg stretcher. Also, do you see a trend in my food choices? Easy-to-eat items with no fork or napkin required.
  • Don’t bring anything with little pieces that can drop on the floor and need to be found RIGHT NOW, or that can be used as weapons.
  • The car radio belongs to the grownups. Kids use earphones. You will have plenty of time to sing family Karaoke on the vacation.

 

Even if you’re not sure if the basket will work with your kids, you should be willing to give it a try. The alternative (bored, hungry, squabbling kids) is too horrible to imagine. Of course, you can totally put wine and prozac in your basket. And then, you won’t care what’s going on behind you.

Our Romantic Mini-Break At Viamede Resort.

Relaxing in the Viamede Resort's Boathouse Pub

Relaxing in the Viamede Resort’s Boathouse Pub

 

I walked into Viamede Resort in the Kawarthas on a spring afternoon that thought it was winter. If it wasn’t for the strange flurries of snow and the absence of Patrick Swayze, I could have been stepping right into the movie Dirty Dancing.

 

I was in old-school heaven. The kind that’s privately owned and managed hand-on. That’s back-to-basics luxury with an actual wooden phone booth and orchestrated with cloth napkins and heavenly locally driven food. That’s welcoming and warm, and glad you’re there. That doesn’t require great weather to have an incredible time. That kind of heaven.

 

Rewind a few weeks to when I was asked if I’d like to visit Viamede, a four-season (well, really three-ish, dingy March/April excluded) resort about 2 1/2 hours from Toronto.

 

Umm…Hells Yeah. My last vacation did not go well, and I was ready for another one.

 

Did I want to bring my kids? Three teenagers on my romantic mini-break in the country?  No way. They were staying home to watch the dogs, and the husband and I were riding off into the sunset. Or, as it turned out back in time to where comfort is paramount, food is delicious, and smiles are totally free.

 

Viamede is a little gem of a resort NorthEast of Toronto.  Quieter, less crowded, easier to get to, less expensive, and definitely less pretentious than the Muskokas, the Kawarthas, which are just North of Peterborough, Ontario are synonymous (in my mind anyways) with Kawarthas Dairy Ice Cream. And now, with the excellent service and beautiful surroundings of Viamede.

 

I asked Ben Samann, the General Manager of the resort, why he thinks his resort is so special. His response reflected the love and care that you can see in every facet of his organization, from the incredible staff to the spectacular food and stunning grounds.

 

As to less tangible awesomeness, I love Viamede because it truly is a special place. We have 170 acres and 2000 feet of waterfront, for a maximum of 150 guests. We have more space than we know what to do with, which has led to projects like the farm, disc-golf course, and collaboration with a local survival school. As to our food, you experienced it yourself -  we have a fantastic team that really love making good food. 

 

Viamede Resort in the Kawarthas

Viamede Resort in the Kawarthas

 

Ben has been with the resort for a few years, and has made it his project to create the premiere destination in the province. From cosmetic updates to physical plant and new buildings, he has made significant improvements. He’s also brought in a whole new team of staff, many from Toronto, to create a superior guest experience and offer new services and recreation options.

 

Although we were at Viamede just as the lake was melting, and couldn’t really take advantage of any of the amazing activities that are offered, we could still see the attention to detail and and beauty of the location, from the expansive waterfront area to the rustic walking paths and  the stunning 1872 church (what a locale for a wedding.)

Since I’m pretty lazy laid-back, I had no problem with allowing the real stars of our show to shine: the relaxing atmosphere of our immaculate suite and the incredible food.

 

Viamede Resort-Accommodations

Viamede Resort-Accommodations

 

You KNOW that I lit that fire. I’m a woman of many talents. That was the most activity I did in 48 hours.

 

The food. Viamede boasts three restaurants-the Boathouse Pub, the 1885 dining room, and the Inn at Mount Julian (which offers a world-class tasting menu). I definitely ate my weight over the weekend, as well as experiencing a few food-gasms. I was almost tempted to go for a long walk to work off the food, but then it was time for the next meal.

 

Viamede Resort: The Food

Viamede Resort: The Food

 

One of our wait staff told us about the farm that Ben has started on the property, so I asked him about it. I wanted to know if they were planning on growing their own food. No, Ben told me, the real purpose of the farm is to connect guests with where their food comes from.

 

Well, the farm is a budding project that was started 2 summers ago with ducks and pigs. The pigs are a heritage Tamworth breed, and we are actually now getting back the piglets from one of the sows we raised in 2011.  Oddly enough, we produce very few vegetables, although we will be planting more this year. We don’t really produce enough to substantially affect the menu, so we order much of our produce from local farmers. 

 

We do a few hog roasts each year, and those come from our own hogs. Duck eggs get used in our home made pasta (and my personal omelettes at home, honestly). The turkeys are served at Thanksgiving and Christmas parties. Quail eggs will be a new thing this year, and we will see how many we can produce. During the day, all of our birds get free roam of the property, and every day at 3:30, we have a farm tour where the guests get to help herd the animals back into their pens. The friendly pigs usually come out to say hi, and often get kitchen scraps hand-fed to them. 

 

Viamide is truly a place for all seasons, and has activities to please everyone, whether your goal is to get a great workout snowshoeing, relax and recharge, stuff your face, or try your luck at stand-up paddle boarding, hydro biking, or yes, even pig farming.

 

We had a fantastic time with Ben and his staff. We relaxed, we ate, we hung out and just spent time as a couple. I have to tell you that we can’t wait to go back to Viamede to enjoy the Spa, waterfront, and other amenities. And, we might even bring the kiddos with us. There’s definitely enough happening to keep the teenagers busy and out of our hair. Worse comes to worst, we can send them to feed the pigs.

 

Note:  I was GENEROUSLY provided a weekend at Viamede for the purposes of this review. All opinons are my own, and I’m still full, to tell you the truth. And maybe a bit drunk. Their bar staff does a generous pour.

 

Chicky’s Great Reads for Moms: Random House of Canada

Chicky's Great Reads for Moms from Random House of Canada

Chicky’s Great Reads for Moms: Random House of Canada

Day 2 of Great reads for Moms (You can see Day 1 here) is brought to you by Random House of Canada. There’s something for everyone on this list: Inspiration, Instigation, romance, and (sorta) reincarnation. I’ve read two of these novels, and I can tell you they’ll get Mom thinking (about lots of different things *wink*).

 

Now, go buy your Mom a great book (or if you’re a Mom, go get yourself one).  Because, it’s time to relax and start the pages turning (or swiping, be that as it may.)

 

Check out these amazing picks from some of our other publishing friends: Simon and Schuster Canada; Harper Collins Canada; Penguin Canada

The Spark by Kristine Barnett

 

The Spark by Kristine Barnett

The Spark by Kristine Barnett

 

The extraordinary memoir of a mother’s love, commitment and nurturing, which allowed her son, originally diagnosed with severe autism, to flourish into a universally recognized genius–and how any parent can help their child find their spark.

 

S.E.C.R.E.T by L. Marie Adeline

 

S.E.C.R.E.T. by L. Marie Adeline

S.E.C.R.E.T. by L. Marie Adeline

 

Cassie Robichaud’s life is filled with regret and loneliness after the death of her husband. She waits tables at the rundown Café Rose in New Orleans, and every night she heads home to her solitary one-bedroom apartment. But when she discovers a notebook left behind by a mysterious woman at the café, Cassie’s world is forever changed.

 

Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella

 

Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella

Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella

 

Lottie just knows that her boyfriend is going to propose during lunch at one of London’s fanciest restaurants. But when his big question involves a trip abroad, not a trip down the aisle, she’s completely crushed. So when Ben, an old flame, calls her out of the blue and reminds Lottie of their pact to get married if they were both still single at thirty, she jumps at the chance. No formal dates—just a quick march to the altar and a honeymoon on Ikonos, the sun-drenched Greek island where they first met years ago.

 

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

 

life after life by Kate Atkinson

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

 

What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.

 

Ten Reasons You Should Take Down Your Christmas Decorations

house with a lot of crazy christmas lights

10 Reasons to Take Down Your Christmas Lights

 

Dropping my cleaning lady off the other day… (Yes, I have a cleaning lady. I don’t do housework. Are you disdainful of my obvious laziness or jealous that I’ve found a way out of practicing the art of housewifery.). Anyways, dropping my Charwoman (I like that, don’t you? Sounds so retro) off at home the other day, I noticed that the house across the street from hers still had their Christmas lights up. Full out-dangling icicles, lights around the trees, even wreaths on the garages and front doors. Since I’m Jewish, I don’t really understand (I blame the Jewishness because what else can one blame when looking at ugly grey icicle-shaped wires in March. And also, this is exactly why we don’t decorate our houses, because then you have to take it all down. Life needs to be simple).

 

I decided that short of marching right up to their door and gently suggesting (while holding some kind of very effective weapon), that they take out a ladder and take that shizzle down, the only thing I could do about this sorry state of affairs was to a) tell the whole internet about their disgrace; b) list the reason why they should box up the Christmas detritus until next year.

 

Choice A was tempting, but Choice B covered both (the first, unlettered option was my favourite, but I’m a peaceful passive-aggressive and I didn’t know where to get a weapon in a hurry).

 

10 Reasons you should take down your Christmas decorations.

  1. Christmas is over
  2. New Year’s Eve is over
  3. Valentine’s Day is over
  4. Family Day is over
  5. St. Patrick’s Day is coming, and shamrocks and other greenery would give your house a nice spring-like appearance
  6. Spring is next week
  7. Even the snow men have called it in
  8. Easter decorations make a lovely accent to any home
  9. Summer is coming
  10. Your neighbours all hate you for bringing down their property values and are secretly planning to take your decorations down in the dead of night, replacing them with giant banners of you and your hairstyle from the 80s
(See, you can easily exchange the Christmas strands for lovely green shamrocks)
house decorated for st patrick's day

See, you can easily exchange the Christmas lights for pretty shamrock strands

 

Or, even garland a tree with a few Easter eggs…

 

tree decorated for easter

Replace those Christmas lights with a few Easter eggs!!
(photo: globalawareness.com)

photo credit: Puzzler4879 via photopin cc

photo credit: cindy47452 via photopin cc

That One Time When We Took a Vacation (Part 1)

That One Time When We Took a Vacation

That One Time When We Went on A Road Trip

 

I’m about to share a tale that will make you feel really good about your life. So take out your tiny violins, and get ready to hear What Happened on my long-awaited winter vacation.

 

Forebodingly, or maybe mistakenedly, I gave the trip the hashtag #GriswaldFamilyVacation (yes, I know I spelled Griswold wrong.)

 

Have you heard the expression Man Plans and God Laughs?

 

We’ve planned a trip of some sort or another for several years, but then always found ourselves in cancellation mode when the deposits were due. Once again,with our trip to Israel, we booked, even put deposits down, and then found ourselves wriggling out of the arrangements. I did promise the children a vacation, so we planned an extravaganza which included a 2-day fun-filled drive to Florida, a week long Carnival cruise, 5 days in Ft. Lauderdale with friends, then another exciting, scenic 2-day drive through the American South and upwards.

 

This trip was going to be FANTASTIC, I assured the kids, after booking us on a cruise that many of their friends were also going on. I kept feeling in the back of my mind, though, that something would go wrong. I’m usually a positive person, but I just had a bit of a twitch.

 

There was that, what do you call it…Vacation Doom Indicator (VDI):

 

Ummm…Mom…You booked us on the wrong ship. Everyone is going on the Breeze. And we’re going on the Dream.

 

Oops.

 

It’s ok honey(s). You’ll make new friends on the ship. (They didn’t. Imagine 2 teenage boys walking into a room full of other teenagers and saying, Hey, you look my age. Want to play?)

 

Before we left, I got my car checked out to make sure everything was in working order. I made sure to bring my ziploc full of necessary medical supplies such as bandaids, Advil, Gravol and Benadryl. To make the package smaller, I took out my giant tub of prescription cortisone cream (because why would I need that.) We managed to pack everything into the car. Including my best friend and her tiny dog. Five people in my 6-seat Ford Flex wasn’t enough, I had to fill every seat.

 

We bought 5 duffels on wheels (on sale for $160!), and told the kids that if it didn’t fit in the bag, it wasn’t coming.  I’m an over-packer (thankfully, you’ll see why), and was pleasantly surprised to find how much I could you squeeze into one of those duffels (like 5 pairs of high heels, a pair of converse, many sandals, and almost all of my clothes). The 18-year old girl was similarly gratified, although, to tell you the truth, her things are kind of scanty and squish up really well.

 

We set off on a cool wintry morning at the break of dawn. My bestie & I, relegated to the back seat, were quite happy to mold ourselves in between the bags, content with our Tim Hortons and her tiny dog. We had an iPad, Kindle, Kobo, and data plans so we could Facebook each other from what can’t even be considered the next seat. This drive to Florida was going to be an adventure, we agreed. A real Thelma and Louise time (without Brad Pitt or headscarves, and plus my husband and three children.) One unparallelled in the annals of vacations, in fact, even though the teenagers wouldn’t let us sing, we couldn’t actually move our legs, and the man wouldn’t let us drive (which was fine since there was no way anyone else–well maybe the 13 year old–could, or was willing, to pretzel themselves into that 3rd row. Thank you yoga.)

 

The first day was fun. We giggled, we tried not to snack until we remembered we had black licorice mix, we used our feminine wiles to suggest that it ‘might be time for a pee break.’ We kept the doggie from crawling through the car and trying to sit on the driver’s lap (since he had threatened to hang her out the window if she made it up there).

 

After hours in the car, 10 to be exact, in Kentucky, it was time to call it a night…A Red Roof Inn Kinda night.  And that’s when the REAL fun began…

 

To be continued….

 

 

photo credit: x-ray delta one via photopin cc

Giveaway: Lunch and Vineyard Tour in Ontario Wine Country

Picnic in the Chateau des Charmes winery courtesy of Wine country Ontario

12 Days of Wine Country from Wine Country Ontario

 

I was asked by Wine Country Ontario to share my favorite Wine Country gift as part of their 12 Days of Wine Country.  I’m pretty sure it’s because according to Klout I’m influential about wine (and bacon. Which is not really accurate as I’m jewish and know next to nothing about bacon other than it doesn’t really qualify as pork). So, it was either Klout or someone has been snooping my recycling again. Regardless, I am rather fond of wine, and especially Wine Country Ontario (because it’s close and they have free samples.)

 

My task was a very easy one, as one of the nicest days I’ve ever had was at Chateau des Charmes Winery in Niagara, Ontario.

 

My sister and I searched high and low for something special to do for our mother’s 65th birthday. Finally, we decided on a play at the Shaw Festival, and, with the logistical help of Michelle Bosc of Chateau des Charmes, a winery tour, tasting, and beautiful picnic lunch in the vineyard.

 

picnic in the vineyard at chateau des charmes, niagara ontario

Wine Country Ontario- Picnic in the Vineyard, Chateau des Charmes

 

The setting was beyond beautiful. And so was the food.

 

chateau des charmes picnic lunch

Chateau des Charmes, Picnic in the Vineyard, Wine Country Ontario

 

It was also pretty amazing to tour the winery and learn about wine-making. A lot goes on before you pop that cork (or cap. Which is much better. Easier access.)

 

I’m so thrilled to offer all of you the opportunity to have your own beautiful day at Chateau des Charmes. This gift is valued at $110 (Cdn):

 

Rekindle a romance or spark a new one (or take your mother) with this private picnic for two. Your gourmet picnic basket is freshly prepared by local favourite The Pie Plate and includes a choice of fresh sandwich, a side salad, a decadent sweet treat, a bottle of water, and of course a bottle of Château des Charmes wine (white or red) to enjoy at your leisure as you take in the incredible scenery . But that’s not all! To conclude your romantic rendezvous you will be taken on a private tour of the winery. Your vineyard table awaits!

 

To win your own Wine Country Ontario gift, please tell me who you would take to Chateau des Charmes for a picnic.

 

For additional entries do these tiny tasks, making sure you let me know:

1. Tweet and / or Facebook the contest

2. Become a Be Nice or Leave blog follower by subscribing in the box to the right

3. Join my Facebook community

 

Contest runs from Sunday, December 9 at 8pm to Friday, December 14 at 4:00 pm. Winner will be chosen by random drawing.

 

Disclosure: I was not sponsored to love Chateau des Charmes Winery, however, Wine Country Ontario is providing you with this special gift as part of their 12 Days of Wine Country. To learn more, please join them on Facebook or have a look at their website, Wine Country Ontario.

 

And..the winner…drumroll please… is Vickie Cheung aka @kiki_bff. Congratulations and thanks for entering everyone!! (winner was chosen by Random.org.)