A present just for you!

Updated to add: Congratulations to number 14, Brittany (Mommy Words!) You won the goat, yay!

When I received an email with "This holiday season, give the gift of a goat or manure" in the subject line, I was intrigued. And since I was all out of unique gift ideas, I kept reading. Oxfam American has offered to give one of my readers the gift of a goat this holiday season!

Oxfam America, part of Oxfam International, is a relief and development organization that helps alleviate hunger, povery and injustice in more than 90 countries. Oxfam creates partnerships and rather than providing short-term aid, works with local communities to create lasting solutions to poverty by helping people address the root cause themselves.

There are many ways you can help Oxfam this holiday season. I was blown away when I clicked through the list of gifts you can give. For instance, you can buy a pair of sheep for $90, a cow for $75, a water purifer for $35 or a vegetable garden for $30. A school meal program for one child is only $25. You can also buy books, blankets, art supplies, medical kits, and so much more.

Once you buy your gift, a card is mailed to whomever you want the gift to be from, and the gift goes to where it is needed the most.

During the holidays, I like to do as much as I can to help others, from organizing events at work supporting the Children's Aid Society, to donating old snowsuits to the snowsuit fund. This year, I'm also giving gifts from Oxfam America Unwrapped to several people on my shopping list. There is nothing more satisfying that giving someone a gift that will do so much good somewhere else in the world.

I am excited to be working with Oxfam America this holiday season.

If you would like to win a goat from Oxfam America, just leave me a comment telling me how you try to spread cheer and goodwill during the holidays.

If you win the goat, you will receive a card from Oxfam notifying you that a goat was donated in your name. You can also choose to give away the goat to someone else, too. I normally post all my giveaways on my review blog, but a goat is a pretty big deal!

I'll pick a winner randomly on December 3rd.

Good Luck!


30 Days of Truth: Day 8

It's time for another writing prompt. Who has been a bad influence in my life?

Day 8, 30 Days of Truth: Someone who made your life hell

Throughout my life, there have been people who have treated me badly. I've gotten into hurtful fights with friends but no fight was ever big enough that it didn't get resolved with tears and hugs.

There were a few rough patches in elementary school, some bullying in middle school, but mostly smooth sailing in high school and University, excepet for some heartbreak and anxiety. Overall though—those were the days and those days have a totally awesome soundtrack.

So then. The only person I can think of who has made my life hell is... me.

Mostly unintentionally, but still—I'm the only person responsible for my actions, so I have no one to blame except myself when things go wrong. It is easy to put the blame on other people when things don't go your way, but the truth is, we hold the power—to change, to forgive, to grow and to do the things we need to do.

I'm the reason I didn't get straight A's in school, because despite my parents sternly telling me to study more, I had other ideas.

I'm the reason I recently had to pay over $1500 to fix my car, because I was distracted as I pulled out of my parking garage at work, damaging the front-end of my car.

I'm the reason I still have lose those extra five pounds, because I wasn't careful enough about what I was eating and I have not been going to the gym regularly.

I'm the reason I worry about my health because I don't go to the doctor when I should.

I'm the reason I have a tough time disciplining my boys, because I didn't say no when I should have.

I'm the reason I'm not a better cook, because I don't spend enough time in the kitchen.

However, even despite all of this, I forgive myself. And I believe that tomorrow is another day!

And if you want to know the truth, the real person who has made my life hell has been this little gold dude right here:

He taunts me with his glittery shine, makes me think that no purchase is too big, lures me into the stores, and makes me leave only when my arms can't hold any more bags. When he's in my hands, I feel free and loved and I don't see dollar signs because he's a card after all. Only later, when I check the mail, does my world come crushing down as I notice the damage I have done. That he has caused me.

Still. Despite all this, despite the fact that he puts me through hell, I forgive him and we make-up and we do it all over again. Making up is the best part, you know.

I guess it is just a love-hate relationship that I can't get out of.


Wanting, lusting, needing

When I was 18 years old, on a summer vacation in Greece, I saw the purse of my dreams in one of my favourite stores.

I fell in love instantly. Yes, I'm a firm believer in love at first sight and in falling in love. Have you ever lusted after something, have you ever had a desire for something so fierce it is all you can think about? I have.

At that moment in time, this purse became my obsession. It was a little too expensive for me to be able to afford, and my money parents were nowhere to be found.

When I was 18, I didn't have a big collection of designer purses but my love affair with handbags began that summer.

This purse was perfect. It was small, too—like a clutch. It was black patent leather. And it had the most perfect bamboo handle. Timeless, classic, beautiful. I remember the fine details to this day.

Suddenly, my aunt appeared.

"Do you like that purse, Loukia?" she asked.

"Oh, yes, I love this purse. It's the most perfect purse I have ever seen. I need this purse so badly.... sigh..." I said to her.

I kept going on and on about this purse because I knew that in one week, when we would be heading back to Canada, she would 'surprise' my sister and I with presents, as was the tradition every year.

"Good to know how much you love this purse," she said, with a knowing smile on her face.

After our conversation, I was convinced that the purse would be coming back to Canada with me. I smiled at my purse, blew it a kiss, and walked out of the store with only a new pair of shoes in my hands.

Later, as I lay suntanning on the beach and enjoying the beautiful sea, feeling the hot sun on my skin, I started planning my outfits around the purse. My vacation was perfect.

Fast forward to our last day in Greece.

We were sad and emotional as we started packing to head back home, but there was still something to look forward to.

My aunt started walking towards me, gift bag in hand.

Looking me in the eyes, she said: "Here you go Loukia. Something extra special for you!"

I was speechless as I took the bag from her hands. I was careful to remove the tissue paper, and then... I saw it.

A white purse with beaded tassles. With a long over the shoulder strap.

"Um. Oh. Thank you." I managed to utter under my breath, while wiping away the tears from my eyes.

I quickly did some math and figured there was no way I was going to make it back to the store in time to exchange the purse for my beloved black patent leather clutch with bamboo handle.

I put the purse in my suitcase, and cursed at my mother who told me to leave my favourite Chanel perfume behind for my aunt, since she loved it so much.

17 years later, I still think about that purse. I use 'the purse' in almost any argument I am in about purchasing something you truly desire. I'm not talking about just another black sweater, but that one item that sticks out for you, that your heart flutters instantly for, that your palms get sweaty for.

You know when you walk into a store and see something you NEED? A gorgeous pair of Louboutin heels, a new Fendi bag, a beautiful dress...

Yesterday I was shopping at Holt Renfrew with my mom and my sister, and I saw the most beautiful blue dress I had ever laid my eyes on. (Along with almost every single dress from BCBG.)

It was $400. A little expensive for a blue dress. Not exactly the same as a LBD, and plus, I don't have that many events to go to where I can wear the dress in the next few months. However, sometimes purchases shouldn't need to be justfied. This dress needed to be mine.

I begged my mom for it for Christmas, but she had other ideas. I decided rather than my boys get me my Tiffany key that I also covet, I would rather open a box and see this blue dress inside—instead of a blue box, a blue dress! And I swear to God, I'll wear it all the time.

Life is too short to not cave in to what we desire sometimes. We're here for a good time, not a long time, right?

(I still don't have the dress in my possession, but I swear—the dress will be mine!)


The people who live in my head

(I'm guest posting over at Scary Mommy's blog today, and I'm talking all about the proposed Happy Meal ban. There has been some great comments and discussion going on, and I'd love to hear from you, too!)

I saw this awesome idea for a blog post over here, and here and here.

Presenting: The People Who Live In My Head

Charlotte Flax from Mermaids lives in my head. I love everything about Winona Ryder and her character in Mermaids reminds me of me. She's a bit confused, she struggles to be a good girl, and she suffers from some serious guilt issues. Didn't we all think we were going to get pregnant from kissing when we were 14?

Cher Horowitz from Clueless lives in my head. Why does Cher live in my head? Because she's me. She's sweet and nice and also spoiled and superficial. I'm totally clueless when it comes to some all things. I'm an airhead with good intentions. I'm a terrible driver, I spent hours in the mall spending way too much money, and I am used to getting what I want. I've been told I'm a little manipulative, but in a good way.

Elle Woods lives in my head. I loved Legally Blonde. This movie, along with Clueless, make me very happy. Friends and acquaintances used to compare me to Elle Woods, and it always made me smile, because, duh. I'm a smart girl. I didn't gradulate magna cum laude in Univerisity but I did graduate with two degrees that I'm very proud of. Although law is not my forte, I can talk my way out of almost any problem I'm in, which is always to my benefit. (Like talking my way out of a speeding ticket, and getting free gas and taxi rides!)

I'm also the girl who would accidentally show up to a party dressed like this:

When I set my mind to something, it usually happens, because I'm annoyingly determined. If there is a job I want, I go after it in a fierce way and usually get it. (Hope I just didn't jinx myself!) Also, I love the colour pink and everything designer, so we're two peas in a pod, Elle and I.

This might come to a surprise to you, but Eric Cartman also lives in my head.

He totally suffers from OCD, and so do I. Like when he has to finish an entire song before he can do anything else? Yup, me. It used to be American Pie—and I couldn't get off the chair lift when I was skiing with my friends until I sang the the entire song. The pressure! Eric is rude and sarcastic and spoiled and a little rude. ME ME ME! Also, I spend a good part of every day singing various songs from South Park. He's always in my head!

Holly Golightly also lives in my head.

Because even if I sometimes feel confident and sure of myself, even when I'm feeling most sophisticated, I am also very vulnerable and neurotic. Of course, Tiffany & Co. is my happy place, too. I adore Audrey Hepburn.

George Carlin also lives in my head.

I have thought absolutely everything he's had the guts to say out loud. He is a brilliant stand-up comedian, and I was fortunate enough to see him live several years ago.

Some of my favourite things that have come out of his mouth are:

I don’t have pet peeves — I have major psychotic fucking hatreds!

Religion has convinced people that there’s an invisible man… living in the sky, who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn’t want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer and burn and scream until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you and he needs money.

Ever notice that anyone going slower than you is an idiot, but anyone going faster is a maniac?

I'm going to stop here before this turns into the George Carlin lovefest hour. The things this man has said are all golden.

Who else do you think lives in my head? And who lives in YOUR head?


Blog funk

Do you ever get into a blog funk? I do.

I sometimes get in a funk on Twitter, too, but Sharon figured out that happens when I haven't been to the hair salon in a few days. It's amazing what a good blow-dry can do to a woman! My confidence gets restored, and the world loves me again. Maybe it's all in my head, though? Anyway.

Getting into a blog funk is harder to get out of. Hearing people talk about finding your 'people' makes me question who my online tribe really is. I'm pretty sure I know who my people are, but sometimes it makes you wonder.

Other times, I have so much I want to say—so much I want to write down—that I don't even know where to begin. I start writing, and walk away. Later, I come back, start a new post, and walk away again. "No one will read this post." Delete. "This post is so silly, and only people who know me in real life will understand." Delete. "This post is going nowhere." Delete.

Then I just give up and watch Gossip Girl and imagine living in the Upper East Side with Blaire and Serena and then I look down and I'm wearing my lulu's and eating Apple Jacks and that depresses me even more so I start watching the news and then... oh, forget it...

Being in a blog funk isn't fun. It happens to all bloggers. I received some good advice on Twitter from Tanis last night, though. JUST WRITE. And so, that's what I choose to do. Someone else suggested "Write a lot of junk and edit it into submission." Which is what I tend to do, too. Especially since her voice has been in my head since BlissDom. She said wait it out. And that's okay, too.

Another reason I get into a blog funk is because I am censored on my blog. I am always thinking of my audience, and who will be reading what I have to say. With that in my mind, I can't write to my heart's content and I can't write about all the issues and thoughts I have, as much as I want to.

Everything I write is one hundred percent authentic and true, though. It's just not all I want to to be writing about. There is so much more I have to say!

Sometimes I get disappointed in the lack of comments. I know it's not about the comments—but you'd be lying if you said you don't love to receive them. Comments on blog posts are better than sex Christmas presents. Maybe not Christmas presents that come in a little blue box, but almost. Also, commenting about how much you liked a blog post on Twitter is not the same thing.

Just moments ago, I had a vision. I figured out how to take my blog from here to there—to Dooce level. All I have to do is start vlogging certain parts of my life. And voila. No more blog funk, right?

I'm sure that if I made public how I do certain things, my blog would reach monumental levels of success, and I could quit my day job and move to Florida. And stare at palm trees all day and have a solid year-round tan, one that doesn't cause me panic attacks and a near-death experience.

Here are some examples of the vlog posts I'd share with the world:

1. Me, ironing a shirt. Cue the horror music, because my God, I suck at ironing. I don't do it often, but when I do, clothes end up looking worse than they did when they came out of the dryer. How is it humanly possible to iron a man's shirt and make it look good? It's not. And to see me try is very comical. Especially when I start sweating and cursing under my breath. I guess it would help if I used my ironing board, and not like, a chair. The bonus feature of this video would include watching me fold a fitted sheet.

2. Me, in the kitchen. I am a wonderful, loving mother. I keep a clean house. I cannot cook well. Or bake. I burn myself, I burn the food, my kitchen ends up looking disastrous, and then I call for pizza delivery, defeated. Seeing a video of me take a homemade pizza out of the oven wearing only one oven mitt would probably go viral. Especially the part where I threw the pizza pan and pizza across the room.

3. Me, making carrot cake. I recently baked 2 carrot cakes, but not together because that didn't make sense to me. Rather then double all the ingredients together, I had to make 2 cakes. One at a time. So as not to confuse my fragile mind. You see, measuring = math and Loukia + math + kitchen = FAIL.

4. Me, driving. I could put a video camera in my car and show you how often I crash into concrete posts in parking lots. I'd be a great nominee for Canada's Worst Driver. And I'd provide you with countless hours of entertainment and laughter. The man who fixes my car? He was invited to my wedding. Let's just say we are very close friends.

5. Me, grocery shopping with my boys. The tantrums, the tears, the yelling, and the junk food consumption... and that's just me. My boys? In the grocery store after six p.m.? Gong show, straight up.

So. What do you think? Did I just come up with the million dollar blog idea or what?

No? Back to the drawing board it is...

My view on the Amazon controversy

If you haven't heard about the Amazon controversy that took place yesterday, I don't think we can be friends anymore.

Seriously, it was hard to be online and not be sucked into the discussion about whether Amazon should ban a book called The Pe*ophilia's Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child Lover's Code of Conduct.

My initial reaction was one of complete disgust that a book like this even exists. The fact that Amazon was allowing this self-published book to be sold online made me furious.

I believe in free speech. I believe that people should be allowed to write about what they want to write about. I believe that book stores should carry Mein Kampf, because that is a part of our history. I don't think Lolita should be pulled off the shelves either.

But. I don't think a book that is called A Child Lover's Code of Conduct should exist. I don't think that anything that could potentially harm a child should be made readily available for every pervert to get his hands on. When it comes to something like this, something so illegal and something so morally wrong, then I think we have the right and the power to say no. At this point, and in this instance, censor away.

Here is what is known: the author of the book has feelings for children, although (allegedly) he's never acted on them. In his book, he talks about ways to make pe*ophilia situations safer, he talks about establishing rules, and he talks about what to do if these adults get 'caught'. Oh, and that they should be handed lighter sentences if caught.

Excuse me? Oh, and it gets better. He says that if you're disease free, you don't have to use condoms. He talk about what level of kissing and touching is legal and how far you can go without getting arrested.

How far you can go.

Did no one at Amazon read this book before they saw the flashing dollar signs before their eyes?

Amazon didn't get back to any of the major news stations yesterday, but they did release this statement:

"Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable. Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions."

They don't censor books, unless they promote criminal acts. Excsuse me, but pe*ophilia is a criminal act, damn it.

And here's my favourite part: Amazon has a blanket ban on porn. As if porn is a terrible thing!

As a mother, I stand firmly behind my view on this topic. The book should be taken off of Amazon.com. Imagine one child is sexually abused because of this book? Even just one child? It is our job to help prevent horrible things from happening to children. It is our job to protect our children in any way possible. This is not about the freedom of speech. This is about the protection of our children. And sometimes, it is okay to say no. That is the beauty of free speech.

Have you written a post about this topic, too? Let me know - I'd love to read what you have to say.


Time is very strange.

Sometimes, it passes too quickly, like the blink of an eye, and you can barely recall how the moments went by.

Other times, it passes too slowly, moving at a dreadfully tedious pace—where every second feels like an eternity, and the clock staring back at you from across the room seems to have stopped working, but you can still hear the constant ticking.

Of course, time passes quickly when you're having a great time, when things are just right, and when you don't want to the night to end.

Other times, like when your child is sick and you're up worrying all night, time slows down and all you want is for it to hurry up, so you can see the sun rise again.

Yesterday, my son brought home a book from school, filled with all the work he has done so far this year. I sat down, reading with him, in awe of all he's learned. Seeing his little letters and words, written as best as a little five year old can write, brought tears to my eyes. As he sat there explaining to me the work he's done I couldn't believe how fast time had gone by.

Where is my little baby boy—the baby I only yesterday brought home from the hospital, too scared to close my eyes for one second, in fear that I would miss something? Where did the days go, when he was a baby who could be rocked to sleep in my arms?

Later, I watched him playing with his little brother, who is now almost three years old. Again, I was blown away by how big he had gotten, and just listening to them talking to eachother, playing, fighting, giggling—made me emotional. I want to freeze time, so I can take it all in and not miss a thing. I want to remember these days and never forget.

I have to remind myself to slow down and take in all that is happening now. Be in the present. "Enjoy every second—they grow up too quickly!" was written on almost every card I received at my baby shower. And it's so true. Time passes too quickly, sometimes.


Pure bliss, poutine goodness, and maple sweetness

It has taken me a while to write my BlissDomCanada post because there is so much going on in my head it's hard to make sense of it all.

Also, the pressure to be a better writer and to suck less has been causing me major stress! Just kidding. Sort of. In all honesty, though, after hearing the fabulous talent speak at BlissDom Canada, I have come back wanting to be a better writer and I am also ready to take on the challenges that have been scaring me. I'm a tiny bit more brave now. Baby steps, right?

Warning—this post uses words like 'awesome', 'so much fun' and 'good times', so if that makes you roll your eyes... um... sorry? (And surely you're used to me by now?)

It didn't take me a long time to write about my experience at BlogHer, which tells me I enjoyed BlissDom more—that says a hell of a lot because I had the time of my life at BlogHer. Are you following me? I liked BlissDom more. It was awesome.

Coming home from conferences like these—BlogHer being my first—there is a lot to take in. I have been blogging for four years now. Blogging has taught me so much. I love it. I love it because I love to write, because I love to read, and because it's my way of being creative. I'm not artistic like my talented mother. This is my thing. My best friends don't get it. But I do.

Blogging has allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone and to meet people I otherwise never would have considered being friends with. Blogging has opened my eyes to so much good. Blogging has made me a better person—more compassionate, more understanding, more caring.

I love the people I have met, the connections. the friendships. It is real. The people I know are talented, beautiful, smart and funny. The blogging community, it's great. Sometimes there is negativity, but most of the time, it's wonderful. It's weird, but people I have just met are people I feel I can trust more than certain people I've known my whole life.

BlissDom Canada was like an intimate weekend with close friends where after a day on the slopes, you gather in your ski lodge with the fire place on, sharing stories, laughter and a few too many drinks. It was a slumber party of good times, amazing discussions, and tears. (BlogHer was more like The Amazing Race!)

I am happy to have hung out with so many amazing womenmany whom I have met before, like Sam, and many whom I just met. Everyone was fabulous.

I loved meeting Bon, Tanis, Katie, Schmutzie, and Karen for the first time—these women are talented and incredibly nice in person.

I enjoyed the sessions I attended—about becoming a content creating 'ninja', about work/life balance, about monetizing your blog and about blogging for social action, community and empowerment. I loved listening to well-spoken friends.

Of course, the parties were incredibly fun, too. Mabel's threw one very blissful party where we enjoyed fabulous drinks mixed by the Cocktail Deeva herself, a photo shoot by my favourite photographer, Cherie-Lynn and a mini make-over. (Not to mention those awesome noodles! Yum!)

After the Roots party, Adam, Casey and I enjoyed some poutine, which was very filling, and then it was off to the Speakeasy party... a very cosy and intimate way to spend part of Thursday night.

The Friday night costume and karaoke party was even more fun that I expected—I think it's safe to say we ALL had a blast.

It was a perfect way to end the very first and very awesome Canadian BlissDom. It really was pure Bliss, from start to finish. I only wish I had taken more pictures!

There was also talk about us finding our 'one word' - I'm still struggling to find mine. Do you have your word? What is it?

Catherine, Allison, Barbara and Paula did a wonderful job organzing and putting together the first BlissDom Canada. Well done, ladies! We are all so thankful. I can't wait for next year.


It's the most wonderful time of the year!

It's finally November! Which means a few things:

1. Red cups are back at Starbucks, baby!

2. I will book my winter vacation to Florida this week because I'm really already so over winter and...

3. I can now finally start talking about CHRISTMAS!

Oh, I know. It's ONLY the beginning of November... but still! The holidays are upon us! Fa-la-la-la-la! It's begining to look a lot like Christmas and all that jazz. Really, it is. There is SNOW and frost and it's cold. So the only think that's going to keep me sane during these cold months is the upcoming holiday season. I'm hopeful this will be a VERY good November.

Here are some festive things to look forward too—the good, the bad, and the... pour me another whiskey, please.

1. Wrapping presents! Despite all the little paper cuts you'll get that will hurt every time you wash your hands, it's worth it. Because... the pretty paper! The bows! The sparkly!

2. Parking lot drama! Trying to find a spot to park on December 23rd as you madly try to finish the shopping you so proudly started on November 1st, only to realize you haven't bought anything for your spouse. Fighting with other drivers, getting your hair wet, sweating from the anxiety, and hitting other cars in the parking garage? SO MUCH FUN!

3. After too much wine the night before, opening all the new presents Santa left your perfectly well-behaved children will be a huge challenge. Word from the wise—have your coffee first, and keep the Bailey's close. Opening all the toys your children received is very, very hard. The packaging! Those little twist-tie things! Pure and utter torture. I will be crying with you as you try to get that truck out of that damned box. I will also be cursing the people who packaged these toys!

4. Writing dozens of Christmas cards—not because you're checking your mailbox frantically every day to make sure your fireplace mantle is filled with Christmas cheer from friends before your holiday party, but because you truly want to be writing dozens of cards while watching Glee. That hand cramp? It'll go away... eventually! Psst - there is a return address label on my envelope for a reason! MAIL OUT YOUR CARDS ON TIME!

5. The holiday weight gain. My personal favourite. No matter what you say, you can't get through a fun holiday season without packing on a few pounds. THANKFULLY sweaters cover it all up. And the mass panic to lose weight for the summer or for that winter vacation down south won't kick in until about late January, anyway.

6. Going into serious debt. Why is it that I'm always most in debt the months leading up to the holiday season? I need a budget that I'm not going to stick to. Just so I can say I tried.

7. Shopping. Good times! Seriously, I LOVE to shop for other people. What's on your list this year? Let me know and maybe I'll surprise you!

What are you looking forward to this holiday season—and dreading?
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