Friday, December 30, 2011

2011: A Year In Review

This year we were rolling in the deep and moving it like Jagger. Britney got engaged, Jessica got pregnant, and the biggest wedding of the year took place in England. The world fell in love with Pippa, (sorry, Kate!) and everyone cheered when news broke about Osama, even those of us who thought UFO's had landed on earth, because what else could the breaking news so late at night be? As usual, all major news stories broke on Twitter first.

2011 was the year the world was supposed to end, with Rapture and dead birds and all, and yet, somehow, we survived. Take that, Kirk Cameron!

People occupied Wall Street and a brilliant man who forever changed technology passed away, leaving us all to mourn on our iPhone's, in sadness while shaking our heads at the five people left on Earth who are still using Blackberry's.

2011 was a year filled with good news stories and awful, heartbreaking news.

This past year was also one that was filled with amazing opportunities that I'm so thankful for. It was the year my oldest son started grade one, and the year my baby started pre-school. I tend to share less about my children's lives on my blog, and more in my personal journals, but I'll never stop writing about my boys. My boys keep me laughing all day long and fill my heart with so much love, it hurts. We took a road trip to Maine and made new awesome holiday memories, and soaked up as much fun as we could this year as a family, but that's another year-end post for another time.

For now, here are my top blog posts of 2011:

2011 began with some new beginnings.

And some fear, too when I felt a lump and had my first mammogram.

As usual, we spent some time (never enough) in south Florida, where I got over my SAD for a week, at least.

I told you all about the things that annoy me.

And how hard it is to find balance.

I was ecstatic to be in the Top Ten to be the new co-host for Daytime Ottawa, and I had blast being Kelly Ripa for a day.

And I was truly honoured to be featured in The Ottawa Citizen as one of the city's top six fashion bloggers, and one of three fashion bloggers with Ottawa Magazine.

I wrote about what to expect when you become a mom, and how Bambi caused me life-long trauma.

I reminisced about Old School Blogging and the days that have passed.

I shared with you all where I'm from, one of my favourite posts of the year.
(Maybe even ever?)

I wrote about my Five Things.

I became Yummy Mummy Club's shopping blogger, which fell into place perfectly, because well... I love to shop, and I love to write about my love of shopping.

I popped some Ativan and went to San Diego for BlogHer'11.

I attended the Toronto International Film Festival and interviewed Heather Graham. She was gorgeous, and even though her acting wasn't that great in The Flying Machine, it was an awesome experience.

I was flown to New York City for the day for the Tommee Tippee launch, which tops my list of things I didn't think I'd be doing in 2011. A day trip to NYC with some awesome bloggers, complete with lunch in Saks with Marinka and Ali? Pretty awesome.

I admitted my problem with being dependently wealthy, and interviewed Gail Vaz-Oxlade over the phone, later meeting here at BlissDom Canada.

I turned (gulp) 35, and was lucky to have the chance to review the two-floor Presidential suite at the Marriott in Yorkville for my birthday weekend , complete with champagne, balloons, a yummy cake, plenty of shopping, and dinner with my closest friends. It was the best review I've done, and my boys still talk about the two-floor hotel room they ran around in for two days.

I hosted an event for Yellow Pages at the Pantages Hotel in Toronto, too. A trip to Toronto complete with yummy martinis and a room full of fabulous people was another highlight of my year.

Of course, what's a year gone by in the blogging world without some really, really embarrassing pictures being posted for the entire world to see?

I think my jazz hands ends 2011 with a bang, don't you?

Here's to a fantastic, healthy, happy, and successful 2012, everyone!

I hope we can all kick it old school blogging style in the new year (at least, I hope to) and spend more time reading and commenting on the blogs we love. All I want in 2012 is more time to spend with the people I love, and more time to do the things I love doing. Health and happiness, too! And no more snow.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Friday, December 23, 2011

All I want for Christmas...

Happy Christmas Eve Eve Day!

I'm hoping this year, no 9-1-1 calls to the fire department will be needed.



I have given up on baking, the presents are wrapped, and I've stocked up on wine. I think I'm ready! How about you?

I'm excited for tomorrow night, because Christmas Eve has always been the most magical night of all for me. It's the night my family celebrates the most, more than Christmas Day.

I have amazing childhood memories of Christmas Eve. We would sit around the tree, eating and eating (and eating), waiting patiently for 11 p.m. so we could head off to church for midnight mass. (Of course, no Greek household on Christmas Eve is complete without some family fighting, usually about a soccer game or something political, but that's just part of the festive season, right?) We'd return home shortly after midnight, and sit down to a huge Greek feast. More eating, of course, followed by opening all the presents.



The traditions continue with my children now, and we will celebrate tomorrow night at my parent's house, with our entire family. The list of food my grandmother and mother are preparing for tomorrow night's celebration is lengthy, and tasty. I will do my best to enjoy it all and worry about diets and and calorie counting on January 1st. Christmas Day we'll spend with the inlaw's, as is our tradition, too, and have a second huge celebration including more gifts and presents with our extended family.



All I want for Christmas (besides a villa in Monaco and a trip to Capri) is to just relax and enjoy every second with my little boys, and my family. To me, that's what Christmas is all about. Also, making sure my wine glass if always full of wine. Or champagne. Or Bailey's.



Cheers!



I want to wish YOU ALL a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukkah, and Happy Holidays... eat, drink, and be merry!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cookie trauma: The drama in the kitchen

Christmas is a week away, so it comes as no surprise that every other picture I'm seeing on Instragram is of someone's fabulous cookies that they just baked.

Dozens of beautiful cookies, perfectly frosted with homemade icing and dazzling sprinkes. I'm also reading Facebook status after Facebook status of: "Baked six dozen gingerbread men cookies today for my cookie exchange, and a chocolate layer cake, and then I cooked a seven course dinner for my family while polishing my silver and did two back-to-back Body Pump classes!" Okay, maybe not that extreme, but you know what I mean. There are some serious bakers out there, yo.

For some bizarre reason, I get the urge to bake every weekend. I start out all excited, and use Twitter as my Google, asking questions to people I know are excellent in the kitchen.

"What IS buttermilk? Is it, like, cream?"
"What is a pound of butter? 4 sticks?"
"Is parchment paper the same as wax paper?"
"Is it okay if I forgot to use only the white of the eggs? How the hell am I supposed to get out only the white of the eggs, anyway?"

"1/4 teaspoon is pretty much 1/2 teaspoon, right?"
"I forgot the sprinkes on the cookies I just baked. Can I just add them now?"

And so on, and so on. Week after week, I try to bake, and week after week, I am completely unsatisfied with the time I wasted in my kitchen, trying to do something I am miserable at. And then! I have to clean up my kitchen! Some people are just not meant to bake. I am one of those people. I would rather shove my face in snow than bake. I would rather clean bathrooms all day. I would rather anything else, really.

Last year, I stressed about baking and came to terms with the fact that I wasn't going to be making any Martha Stewart type cookies for the holidays. I was going to stick to good old-fashioned sugar cookies, and I was going to be okay with that.

This year, even sugar cookies took a turn for the worst. Also, related: I always confuse sugar cookies and shortbread cookies, and still don't know which ones I prefer.

I work full-time during the week, so I spend all my time with my boys on the weekends just being in the moment. I bake mostly so my children can remember their mother and the smell of baked goods in the kitchen when they're older, but truth be told, the excitement to help me bake lasts a total of three minutes for my boys, and then they're off doing something a lot more exciting. I also usually end up yelling at them for spilling all the flour or having icing sugar fights, and that's when I want to give up. But I never do. I will finish every project I start, even though I am not enjoying myself.

Cookies you'll never see baked by me:


Not ever:


Cookies I baked today:


They're pretty bad, right?

I forgot to add the sprinkles to the first batch of cookies I baked. In a desperate attempt to save them, I added the sprinkles after I took them out of the oven. That didn't work, as you can see. I got brave with the second batch, and made icing sugar for the cookies (or whatever it's called) and the icing sugar looked awful. How people get it looking so perfect, I'll never understand. After all that hard work - we're talking hours here - I gave up, and spent the next hour cleaning my kitchen, cursing myself under my breath.

Two hours later my three year old wandered into the kitchen and accidentally dropped all the cookies to the floor, breaking them all. This ended my awful day of baking with a bang.

It was the bang, the awakening, that I needed. I am done. Done with baking. If anyone needs nice Christmas cookie cutters, they're yours.

I have accepted that I am not meant to spend this much time in the kitchen. I am not going to attempt to bake cookies for Christmas again. And this makes me very, very happy. Sure, I'll still cook, since I have a family to feed, and yes, there are quite a few meals I'm great at making. (Even though I have set off the fire alarm too many times to count.) I am also great at making carrot cake and cream cheese icing, so a few times a year, I'll bake the one thing I'm good at. Other than that? No more.

Next year, I'll just stick to the things I'm good at during the holidays: decorating the house, shopping for the people I love, and wrapping presents. I did work as a professional gift wrapper when I was in unveristy, you know!

Now, I can sit back and enjoy the amazing Greek baked goods my grandmother just dropped off, with no pressure on me.

It feels good, to accept to the truth.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The gift of gold

I'm happy to report that most of my Christmas shopping is complete. Of course, there are several people on my list I haven't shopped for yet, but I'm strange and I love waiting for the last minute to shop. I like being a mall in the middle of the afternoon on December 24th. Call me crazy, but it's something I love to do.

Every year I give my children typical presents I know they'll love—things they've asked for, from LEGO to books to DVD's. We also donate to CHEO and give several new items to children who are with the Children's Aid Society, as well as drop off toys for the Toy Mountain, because the best part about the holiday season is giving, especially to those less fortunate than us.

Something else I love doing for my children every year is getting them something extra special. A gift that won't lose value over time and a gift they'll cherish for years to come.

My six year old is into collecting special coins and gold bars. He absolutely loves visiting the Royal Canadian Mint—and I do, too. Taking a tour of the Mint is educational, and a lot of fun. The Mint was built in 1908, and currently produces hand-crafted collector and commermorative coins, gold bullion coins, medals and medallions. The Vancouver 2010 Olympic medals were made in this facility, too—these medals were so neat to see up close! The Mint's gold refining and advanced engineering operations are also located right here in Ottawa.

This Christmas, I wanted to surprise my son with a special gold coin. I knew he would love
the new Fine Gold Cougar Coin as soon as I saw it on the Mint's website.



I asked the @CanadianMint on Twitter if they had any of these gold coins left in their store and within minutes, I received an email from them, telling me how much they love my blog and how they'd love to work with me on a review and giveaway with this goild coin. Isnt' that amazing?

I was so excited, and I know my big boy will be thrilled on Christmas Day to see this shiny new gold coin to add to his collection.


Let me just pause here for a moment to say how in love I am with Twitter. The power of Twitter never ceases to amaze me.

The Mint is so amazing they are also giving one of my readers the exact same gold coin. You're in luck because these gold coins are so popular that they're not even beeing shipped out until mid-December.

This special collector's gold coin is struck in 99.99% pure gold and is a collectible keepsake.

Perhaps there is another child out there who also loves collecting coins or gold? This would be the perfect gift for that child—or adult! It's the gift that will be cherished forever, and it will never lose its value.

To win this gold coin, please leave me a comment below telling me what special gifts you like to give your children for the holidays or for special occassions. Do you have certain traditions, too?

I'll pick a winner randomly on December 13th.

Good Luck!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dare to try


Thanks to L'Oreal for sponsoring my post about my favorite beauty looks, tips and tricks! Check out Makeup.com for beauty advice from the experts.

I love make-up. Let me rephrase that: I love make-up. There are two types of stores I could spend countless numbers of hours in: a book store, and a make-up store. Sephora after-hours? Yes, please! Or, any make-up counter, on earth? I'm so there. I have so many tubes of lip gloss I have lost count. You could say I'm a little obsessed.


Some people keep buying new shoes, but me? I buy new make-up every chance I can. Make-up is always the right size, always brightens my look, and doesn't damange my bank account in a bad way.

I wear the same eye shadow, eye liner, lip gloss and blush almost every day and I've gotten so good at applying my own make-up I can practically do it in the dark without looking like a clown. But for evenings and special events, I love to try new looks. And now that the holidays are here, I love anything that sparkles! I also love the look of a dramatic, smokey eye.

I recently tried Bobbi Brown's new holiday line, and I fell in love. They have a variety of colours to choose from, and will look amazing on all skin tones, depending on the look you're trying to achieve.


With the right tools, you can make your eyes pop. Even without the help of a professional make-up artist! An eyelash curler and some mascara, and the fact that I've only slept 4 hours the night before is not so evident anymore. I always wear my Maybelline The Falsies Volume Express Flared mascara. I swear, this is the best mascara you'll ever own. It does wonders to your eyes, and you'll almost never look tired again! If I'm doing up my eyes, I always make sure my lips aren't too bright. I love a light pink lip gloss—one with extra shine!

This holiday season, I dare you to walk up to your favorite make-up counter, and ask them to doll you up, holiday style. You will love how glamorous you look, I promise. And? With your make-up looking so good, you won't need to stress about what to wear!

I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective. Click here to learn more about Makeup.com or become a Facebook fan by clicking here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Holiday giveaway time! (Part two)

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... well, not quite yet. There is still no snow. There was, for a couple of days, but it melted with our warm temperatures. However, this lack of snow doesn't make me feel any less festive. (Which makes me wonder... maybe Christmas in Florida wouldn't be so bad, after all?)

After a fabulous giveaway with one of my favourite toy stores, Tag Along Toys, it's time for my second holiday giveaway!

This time, with Mastermind Toys.

Mastermind Toys has been selling toys for children for over 26 years, and with 13 years selling online, they know a thing or two about what the hottest toys of the season are! I lost track of time when I was looking through their online store, because there are so many items to choose from. Mastermind Toys also has 11 stores in and around Toronto, so if you prefer shopping in-store rather than online, you can do that, too.

Two of their most popular items this holiday season?

The SmartLab Weird and Wacky Contraptions Lab and the SmartLab Glow In The Dark Lab. And guess what? I am giving BOTH away to one of my readers!

The SmartLab Weird and Wacky Contraptions Lab is over 2 feet tall and has 60 mix-and-match pieces so your children can build an unlimited amount of contraptions. This is a popular toy with kids, because they can create and build their own course and test them using the easy velcro-like system. Doesn't it look fun?

The SmartLab Glow in the Dark Lab is also a huge hit, especially with kids who love everything science. (My six year old would love this!) You can make science experiments that glow, ooze, and bounce while using all sorts of lab tools and potions. You can even create a lava lamp, glowing slime, glow balls and more.
Mastermind Toys also helped make Christmas shopping easier for me by sending me a Dora and Diego cook book my three year old will love, and the LEGO Sort and Store Head! My six year old is going to love dumping container after container of LEGO into this cool sorter, and I'm just thrilled that his LEGO will finally be stored in one place, and not in boxes all over the house!


With so many amazing products, you can get all your online holiday shopping done at Mastermind Toys. They even gift wrap for you! You're welcome.

To win these two products, please leave me a comment telling me what your children are asking for this Christmas!

I'll pick a winner randomly on December 4th.

Good Luck, and stay tuned for next week's giveaway with Mrs. Tiggy Winkles!

Oh, and I'm also giving away a Balance Bike on my Yummy Mummy Club shoppng blog! This bike is a must for kids under 5 yeras old, and an awesome gift for your little one. You should totally go enter!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Old school pictures

If I could go back in time to give younger me some advice, it would be something like this:

"It gets so much better. You'll get braces. And your hair will be awesome one day."

Followed by: "What are you thinking?"

I came across pictures in my mom's closet where I was looking for Christmas presents last week. It was sort of like opening pandora's box. Well, maybe not that bad, but almost.





I have mostly happy memories of my childhood, mixed with a very awkward stage that a lot of us went through. Those God-awful middle school years.


I'm convinced this had everything to do with bad hair, pre-waxed eyebrows, shoulder pads, and acid-washed, high-waisted jeans that were always too short.

And awful purple Bonne Bell lip gloss.

I was the queen of bad hair. Having naturally curly hair can be a blessing and a curse, depending on if you know what to do with it. I did not. Clearly, my parents didn't know how to deal with it, either, so when I was 9 years old, they thought it would be cool to cut all my hair off. This resulted in me having hair nightmares, because short hair on me? Is the biggest DON'T ever. Oh, but my hair grew back. Chi-chi-chi-chia... And once again, it was... well... big hair. And sort out of control.


My past is filled with memories of summers in Greece, where I'd play with Patapouf and Bibi-Bo, drink Nou-nou chocolate milk and orange Fanta, and eat Dracula Fingers chips while reading trashy romance novels.

The summer I was almost 13 was the summer of Debbie Gibson and Tiffany playing on repeat on my yellow Sony walkman on a beautiful island in Greece. I had a favourite white skirt and navy blue top with shoulder pads. Shoulder pads! I loved that outfit. Right down to the white penny loafers. (Really, Loukia?)


I posed a lot, back in the day. Like leaning up against a wall type posing. Not sure what look I was going for here. This was the summer I was 14, when I was in England. I had bad hair but good taste in books. I read Wuthering Heights that summer, thinking there was no better place to read it than the place it was written. And I wore really short shorts. God, I loved those shorts.


I was all about desert boots and duckies, Tretorns and push-down socks, Esprit and Benetton. I kept journals where I wrote bad poetry, that I still have today. Most of what I wrote is cringe-worthy, of course. A blog post in itself, if I'm ever looking for something to write about. I had Hilroy notebooks turned into scrapbooks filled with pictures of celebrities, and collections of BOP magazines. I tried hard to perfect the Alyssa Milano circa Who's The Boss? pouf. It never worked on me, but my best friends, blessed with straight hair, had the best pouf's ever.

I used to be a dancer, and took the obligatory recital pictures, year after year. This picture shows me in my least favourite costume, ever. Again, this picture is majorly cringe-worthy. I am the reason the term "jazz hands" exists today.


While in high school I finally figured out how to handle my unruly curls (hint: don't brush them!) and fell in love with fashion. I got rid of my braces and I won "best dressed" my graduating year which isn't something to be that proud of, but still. I had come a long way from just a few years before!

In university I was too busy studying to even remember what I wore, but college years were all about pleather tops that exposed way too much skin, and... why do I look like a bobble head? A few months after this picture was taken I landed my internship at CBS TV in D.C, and got my style sense back. When I wasn't at the TV station I was in Georgetown, shopping and maxing out my credit card. Some things never change, I guess.


I think pictures stopped being embarrassing after college.

Since then I've learned a thing or two: pleather is always a no, especially red pleather snakeskin pants, find a good hair stylist, and remember that confidence comes from within. It's not about the size of pants you wear or where your clothes are from. The pictures I get the most compliments on are the ones where I'm smiling my biggest, most sincere smiles. Usually it's when I'm thinking about my children.


So there you have it. My most embarrassing pictures, ever, exposed on my blog. It's totally a blogging rite of passage, isn't it?

Please tell me... do have pictures from back in the day that make you cringe? That make you shake your head and wonder what you were thinking? That make you laugh out loud? Or is it just me?

Monday, November 21, 2011

I'm in a giving mood...


It's official. I'm feeling festive. Despite the lack of snow and the unseasonably warm weather, I am so excited that the holidays are almost here. Seriously. Only one month left! It seems we went from trick-or-treating to deck-the-halls in no time at all. I start feeling a little festive the day I see the red cups at Starbucks. They make me so excited... and anxious!

The panic is slowly setting in. The calendar is filling up quickly with holiday parties and events, Christmas lists are being made, shopping is about to get started, baking will soon commence, (God help me) and presents will need to get wrapped. (My area of expertise!)

Well, I'm here to offer you some relief, at least in the shopping department. I'm like Santa's little helper, red hat and all.

Every week until mid-December, I'll be having a holiday giveaway with some of my favorite stores, just for you... just for your children!

Last year, I was fortunate enough to work with Tag Along Toys on a fantastic holiday giveaway, where I gave away a Corolle doll and a Playmobil set.

I'm excited to be working with Tag Along Toys again this holiday season!

This year, I brought my boys with me to help pick out some items for the giveaway.


Tag Along Toys is an amazing toy store in Ottawa's west end, owned by a mom who is also a registered early childhood educator. That came as no surprise to me, as Patti welcomed my boys in to her store with open arms, selecting items that were perfect for them. Kids in a candy store? This was even better! They did not want to leave, and were running around the store happily pointing out all the toys they thought would make great presents, for themselves, and for others.

Tag Along Toys has been around for over 10 years and is also known as "Aladdin's Cave for Kids." There is something here for all the children on your shopping list, from babies to teens. One stop shop? Indeed. Books, educational toys, Playmobil, play kitchens, and items by Djeco, Schleich, Plany Toys, Kiss Naturals and more fill the shelves. Thre is a huge selection of bath toys, puzzles and construction vehicles. Needless to say, my boys were in heaven! You can also place special orders, and get your purchases gift wrapped.

Tag Along Toys offers discounts to teachers and educators everyday, and they have Grandparents Day on the last Thursday of every month where all purchases are 20% off. Isn't that amazing?

This holiday season, I'm excited to be giving away a very awesome Pirates Mosaic Craft Set. My six year old has the Dragon Mosaic Set, and he loves it. It's a wonderful craft and it's not messy at all. You can create 4 different scenes and the end result is just awesome. If your children are crafty at all, this is perfect for them.
I also have a fabulous Kiss Naturals giveaway that will keep your little ones busy for hours on end. Kiss Naturals are fun all-natural do it yourself kits, and I have not one, not two, but three kits to give away: the lip balm kit, the soap kit, and the bath fizzies kit. These kits make great gifts for Christmas or birthday parties. Also? Kiss Naturals is a Canadian company.




To win these awesome gifts, just leave me comment below telling me what you love the most about the holidays.

Bonus entry number 1: Follow @TagAlongToys on Twitter.

Bonus entry number 2: Become a fan of
Loulou's Views on Facebook, and follow @MrsLoulou on Twitter.

I'll pick a winner randomly on November 27, 2011.

Good Luck!

Also, I'd love for you to follow my shopping blog over at Yummy Mummy Club! I'll be offering tips on holiday shopping and what the hottest items for the season are. I just had an awesome giveaway with Old Navy, too, and someone won a new winter coat!

The holidays are all about giving, right?

Stay tuned for more great giveaways with Balance Bikes, Mrs. Tiggy Winkles and MasterMind Toys!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Little white lies

"SANTA! OH MY GOD! SANTA'S COMING! I KNOW HIM! I KNOW HIM!" Buddy the Elf

"Mommy, does Santa ever die?" my six year old was full of questions on our drive home tonight.

Yes, the best conversations always happen when I'm driving with my boys. I ask my children about their day, who they played with, what they learned, if they ate all their lunch, and so on. Conversations, back-and-forth, between my boys and I. Moments I cherish. Until the hard questions are asked. And I'm um, sometimes left wondering what to say.

"No, sweetie... Santa doesn't die," I reply, accepting the fact that I'm lying to my own child.

"Well, how come? Why doesn't he die?" the questions I don't want to answer have finally arrived. My baby is at that age. Six years old, and he's already figured out I'm the magical tooth fairy that leaves him money and a personal letter with every lost tooth. He's wise beyond his years, and he's figured out that Santa is not real. But I can't just give in like that. I have to try to keep the magic alive, don't I?

"Well, he's magical!" I say, because really, I don't know, I'm talking about a make-believe old dude who delivers presents to every good girl and boy on earth in one night on a flying sled with flying reindeer, one with a shiny red nose. Perhaps he's figured out the space-time continuum and is smarter than all of us? Oh, wait... he isn't real.

Truth is, I don't think I ever really believed in Santa, because the house I lived in as a young child didn't have a fireplace.

(Note to self: Remember to write a post about the time in grade six I stuck a car lighter on my nose to see if it would hurt, and what I was called for the rest of the year.)

"Well, I don't believe that Santa is real," my six year old said to me. "He's not real. He is just made up."

Gulp...

"Nooo!" says my little dude, my three year old. "Santa is real and he makes his toys in the factory!"

"That's right, little D! He does!"

And then, I change the subject as quickly as I can because I feel guilty that I'm lying to my baby boy, and I feel guilty that I'm not insisting that Santa is real to my oldest son. I think my six year old still sort of maybe believes in Santa, but I can't be certain.

As a mom, I sometimes feel guilty when I am knowingly lying to my children, even though I know it's not going to damage them later in life.

"There is no more chocolate in this house. Yes, I'm serious!"
"You realize that Santa is watching, right? You better behave!"
"If you don't stop complaining, I will return that toy I just bought you!"
"See the police station over there? You have two minutes to stop fighting or else..."
"If you swallow your gum, it'll stay in your stomach for seven years!"

The Santa lie, though? I have a really hard time with that one. Because I actually feel bad that I'm making my children believe in something that is completely untrue.

And yes, I have seen Elf a hundred times, and I love it. And it almost makes me believe... but not quite. (And if you're real, Santa? I want keys to a condo in South Florida. Thanks!)

For now, though, at least this year, for my six year old? There will be a gift from Santa for him, under our Christmas tree, like every other year, right next to his brother's.

After all... Christmas is kind of magical, isn't it? And I guess this is one little white lie I'll try to keep up until I can't anymore.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The best idea ever

Parenthood is messy. I realized this the day I was peed on when I was changing my baby's diaper days after I had given birth. I'm reminded of the messiness when I clean vomit from the car or from my bed. Children can be messy.

Two days ago, I found my three year old in the bath-tub, covered in an entire bottle of Zincofax, mixed together with an entire bottle of Johnson's baby lotion. It took a long time to get him clean, and his skin is still softer than it was the day he was born.

Yup. Parenthood is messy. But messes? I can handle. Something I can't handle, though? Something that makes me break out into a cold sweat, gasping for air?

Public bathrooms. See, I suffer from Mysophobia. The fear of germs. (I have a lot of other fears, too.)

Of course, because I have this fear, my children will always, always have to go the bathroom when we're in the mall, at a restaurant, in the grocery store, or on a road trip. Gone are the days when I could walk into Banana Republic to change my baby's diaper in the change room without anyone knowing, because well, my boys aren't in diapers anymore. (I used to breastfeed in change rooms, too, in case you wanted to know.)

You might think I'm crazy to have such a fear, but when my children have to go-go? They do it without their clothes on.

So picture me, hyper-paranoid mom, dealing with my children sitting on a toilet seat, with their clothes off, sometimes using their little hands to position themselves on the seat better. I stand, biting my nails nervously as the toilet paper I used to cover the toilet seat falls into the toilet. I tell them to hurry up, because there is only so much I can take, and we wash our hands, leaving as quicky as possible, as I rummage through my purse for my Purell. Those nights? They stay in the bath an extra, extra long time.

Although there is not much I can do to avoid these types of situations, there is something I do to avoid nervous breakdowns when my boys have to pee.

Instead of watching my children come into contact with a germ infested public toilet seat, I carry a plastic cup or an empty water bottle with me. So when my boys have to do their business? I calmly walk them into the bathroom, and they pee into the bottle or cup. I flush the liquid down the toilet, dispose of the cup or bottle, wash our hands, and we are on our way. This has come in handy so many times. With a three year old, there are a lot of emergency stops made while driving, and now, my little dude doesn't even have to get out of the car when he has to go sometimes.

I just have to add here that since my six year can reach the toilet seat in most establishments, he doesn't pee in a cup. My three year old does, in some public bathrooms if the toilet seat is too high. Or if the bathroom is really, really gross. And? I'm totally fine with this.

Anything that makes my life as a mom easier? I totally support.

Am I a genius or what?

Monday, November 7, 2011

New York City on a whim...

Last Thursday, I was in a taxi at 4:30 a.m., on my way to the airport.

I was heading to New York City—one of my most favourite cities ever— for a Tommee Tippee event, for the day. Nothing can get me out of bed with a smile at 4:30 a.m., unless of course, it's to spend the day in NYC.

Also on the agenda: lunch with Marinka and Ali in Saks Fifth Avenue, on the 8th floor.

The shoe floor.

Seriously. It was an awesome day.

New York City with fabulous people, attending an event about a great baby company, and lunching with some of my favourite people on the shoe floor of Saks... sigh. All in a day's work.

My taxi driver was nice enough to have a coffee waiting for me in the car, however, being the paranoid person I am, I wasn't sure I should drink it. What if his intentions were to poison me, and months later an innocent jogger were to discover my body in some random forest? After some back-and-forth conversation, which is always so.much.fun at 4:30 a.m., I decided to drink the coffee. The first sip woke me up enough to remind me that I forgot my Ativan, and I never fly without Ativan when I'm flying without my children. So I stopped drinking the coffee, in order to remain in a sleep-like state, much like how it feels to be on Ativan.

The thing is, I hate flying.

No matter how often I get on a plane, I am never relaxed. At least when my children are with me, I'm too busy keeping them occupied I don't have time to think about the plane falling out of the sky. Because really, no matter how many times it's explained to me, it doesn't make sense that an incredibly heavy piece of metal can stay in the sky without falling, and on top of that, somehow land where it is supposed to land. And turbulence being "nothing to worry about" is something I don't really believe. When the plane "falls" a bit in the sky? It's scary. The only thing I do on the plane is eat, so I can have energy to tread water for hours until I'm rescued, should the plane fall into a body of water.

Despite my fear of flying, every flight I take is worth it, New York City being no exception. Being flown to New York City for a blogging related event was the coolest thing ever, and a great experience.

I loved:

Sitting beside Reeva on the flight from Toronto to New York City—she kept me calm, and talking to her for the hour made me forget I had no drugs to calm me down!

Being called Britney Spears by a crazy dude. Really, really loudly, downtown in New York City.

Seeing Jessica again.

Learning about a fabulous baby company and wishing I was pregnant for the third time.

Tearing up during the The Day You Were Born video demonstration.

Imagining I lived in the apartment in downtown NYC that the event took place in. It was the coolest apartment ever, and the decor was amazing.

Enjoying the balcony of this apartment on an unseasonably warm and sunny day.


Testing out sippy cups with Ali.


Meeting Marinka for lunch in Saks. Even though we were running late—forgive us, Marinka!

Saks Fifth Avenue fries.

Comparing hair trauma stories with Ali as Marinka looked at us as like we were crazy.

Getting hooked on Hanky Panky's. (Thanks, Ali!)

Discovering the world of American Girl dolls. (I'm lucky I only have boys. If I had a daughter I'd be in serious trouble!)

Taking a picture of Rockerfeller Center for my three year old, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York obsessed son.


Laughter, great conversations, and some retail therapy, all under $100.

It really was a surreal day that re-confirmed to me how much I love everything about blogging, my blogging community, and the incredible opportunties I get to be a part of.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Top five scariest movies ever

It's after midnight on Halloween Eve and here I sit, watching another episode of Criminal Minds, looking at pictures of The Grudge on the internet. (Later, I'll be wondering why I have a hard time falling asleep...)

I'm easily spooked. I mean, everything scares me. Not just spiders and insects. Not just jumping out of a plane or running out of coffee. My fears and worries? They're never-ending, and they consume me all day long.

Scary things have happened to me in real life, like almost getting kidnapped in D.C., having a strange man play with my hair on the subway in Queens, New York at 5 a.m after a night out, accidentally going down a black diamond ski hill, and having a gun pulled on me in the middle of winter. (That's a story for another blog post!)

However, there is something that frightens me even more than all those things.

Scary movies.

Certain scary movies stay with me long after I've left the theatre. There are scary movies that I can watch that don't spook me much after viewing, like Friday the 13th, Scream, or Halloween. Other movies, though? Haunt me, years later.

Here are the top five spookiest movies ever:

The Shining



What do you get when you combine Stanley Kubrick and Stephen King? One hell of a scary movie. Whenever I walk down a long hallway in a hotel, trying to get to my room late at night, I think about certain scenes from The Shining. Jack Nicholson was amazing in this movie, and The Shining was one of the only Stephen King novels that did well on the big screen, right after Stand By Me. The movie haunts me to this day. Kids are usually not creepy looking, but this movie made me terribly afraid of kids. Twins, in particular.

The Grudge


This movie is hands down the scariest movie I have ever had the displeasure of seeing. I don't know what possessed me to see this movie in the theatre in the first place, but having seen it only once, I am still completely freaked out. I don't do well watching movies having to do with the supernatural or the paranormal. The drive home from the movies that night was an especially scary drive home. I kept looking in my rear-view mirrow to see if that creepy little boy would be staring back at me. This movie changed the way I do things at home. I can't open a closet until the lights are on and I can't leave any doors open at night, because I'm scared I'm going to see that freaky little face. I hate this movie and the images that are forever etched in my mind.

The Ring
My best friend literally slid out of her seat in fear during this movie and make a sound I didn't know humans were capable of. That's how scary The Ring was. It is very haunting film, filled with creepy images. The story is about a journalist investigating a videotape that apparently kills its viewers seven days after they watch it. Of course, the fear of watching The Ring was that we would only have seven days left to live, too. (Okay, I didn't really believe this, but when those seven days were over, I celebrated!)

The Blair Witch Project


Before Facebook and Twitter existed, a little film called The Blair Witch Project was created. In 1994, three college students went into the woods in Maryland to do a film project about the "Blair Witch" incidents. They were never seen again, and the film was "footage" from their equipment that was found a year later in the woods. The movie documents their adventures leading up to their final minutes. I think we all knew it wasn't really real, yet, I've never left a theatre that was so silent before. The last few minutes of this film are incredibly frightening, and confirmed to me what I already knew: I'm never, ever going camping in the woods!

Paranormal Activity



There are scary movies about haunted houses, and there's Paranormal Activity. I never wanted to see this movie, because I knew if I did, I'd become even more paranoid than I already am. One night, though, it was on TV and I could not look away. That was a big mistake because now I can't even be on the main level of my house with the lights off. If I need water, I'll drink from the bathroom sink, something I'd never think about doing before this movie came along and screwed up my mind. Paranormal Activity is so scary, (I get chills just typing that) I can't imagine seeing the other two. However, a part of me does want to see Paranormal Activity 3 to see just how bad it could be. Apparently, the last 15 minutes will, and I quote, "screw you up for the rest of your life."

What about you?

What movie scares you silly? What movie do you swear you'll never see again? Was there a movie you saw that changed the way you now do things, because it's scared you so much?

Oh, and Happy Halloween. Or whatever you're supposed to say on this spooky day!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Inspiration


On Saturday, I was featured in The Ottawa Citizen newspaper, online and in print. The article was called Ottawa's Fashion Bloggers Extraordinaire: Meet six from the sisterhood of the travelling iPhones. One of the questions asked who my inspiration was. That was an easy answer—hands down, the person who I find most inspiring is my mother.

My mom had a passion in life. Her passion was to be an artist. Although she grew up in a rather strict Greek household, in which education was the most important thing of all, (and the arts not highly valued as a 'real' career choice) she never gave up her dream to pursue her passion. She would hide her drawings in the middle of her school notebooks, so her father wouldn't see. Although she never went to school for art, she was born with talent, and a desire to paint.


Every day people give up steady pay-cheques to chase their dream. My mom did this when she was 30, when my sister and I were both young. She quit a secure job working for Ottawa's Doctor Keon, and jumped into her art career full force, with determination and a positive attitude. Her best friend who later died from breast cancer pushed her to chase her dream, telling her how talented she was.

In the days before social media and the internet, my mom literally walked into a prestigious art gallery with paintings in her arms. As she was showing the gallery owner, someone walked in and said: "I'll take it!" and right there, my mom was accepted into her first gallery.


Her career took off. She is represented in fine art galleries throughout Canada, and in the Koyman Galleries here in Ottawa. Her paintings brighten the halls in the maternity ward of the Civic Campus of the Ottawa Hospital as well as the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. Princess Diana, former PM Jean Chretien, Julio Iglesias, Roger Moore, Mila Mulroney, and Nana Mouskari are collectors of her art, and she's been awarded a Governor General Women of Distinction Award for Women in the Arts. She's been featured in The Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa At Home Magazine, Odyssey Magazine, Magazine D'Art, and more. She's worked with United Nations on art campaigns, with Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto, and has been the face of UNICEF holiday cards since 1993. She's also working with the Children's Wish Foundation on a series of holiday cards this year, raising funds where they're needed most.


She recently illustrated a children's book that has sold in book stores like Chapters, and it's a dream of ours to write and illustrate a children's book together one day soon.


My mom also inspired my sister to start painting, and my sister is busy selling her children's art work, too. I guess we're an artistic family of sorts. Complete with craziness. (You should see how loud we are around the dinner table!)

The best part of her success story is the fact that she's been able to help many people through her art. I've read the letters she's received about how people of all ages relate to her work, how they feel comforted by the children depicted in the paintings, and how certain pieces bring back memories of childhood. Most touching of all, though, are the stories having to do with children.



It's personal stories that really touch my heart—like finding out a couple donated over a dozen paintings to the children's hospital after their child had passed away. Or the story about a man who, after losing his home to a fire, asked my mom to create a painting of his old house, so the family would always remember it. Every day, there are stories that make the fact that my mom followed her dream so worthwhile.

This weekend, here at Ottawa's Koyman Gallery, Rideau Centre location, my mom is having an art show with her latest pieces. She'll be in attendance, as will I, since I am her number one fan.

I'd love to see you there, too. The show takes place on Saturday, October 29 and on Sunday, October 30th, from 12 to 4.

If you can't make it to her Ottawa show, she's having a show in Toronto at Artworld of Sherway in the Sherway Gardens mall, on December 3rd, from 12 to 5.

Sometimes, chasing after your dream is worth it, and my mom inspires me to do the same with my writing.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Five things

During the opening keynote that Catherine Connors so fabulously delivered at BlissDom Canada, she talked about her "five things". It got everyone thinking about what their "five things" were. The one I had most trouble with was "five things people don't know about me", since as a narcissistic blogger I tend to talk about myself—a lot. Not only that, but I've been blogging for almost five years, so it's hard to come up with new things that people do not already know about me. I worry, I love to shop, I multi-task, I love my children, I interned at some fabulous places, and I was almost kidnapped... yeah, yeah, Loukia, tell us something we don't already know!

Well, here you go:

Five things you don't know about me:

1. I have a bad case of FOMO. (Fear Of Missing Out.) I hate saying no because saying no means I'm going to miss out on something. Like when I left BlissDom Canada on Saturday at 6 p.m. only to find out that Jordan Knight was at the costume party? Yeah, I was missing out.

2. I have to wear my socks inside out, because I hate the way the inside of socks feel on my feet. (Like, little athletic socks. Hate them.) I also like to sleep with socks on sometimes.

3. I am a great swimmer and will win almost any race, against anyone, man or woman. Probably not against Michael Phelps, though. I could swim in the ocean (or pool) all day long.

4. I read Wuthering Heights when I was 14 years old because I was in England that summer and I figured there was no better place to read it. I loved it.

5. I spent six weeks watering fake plants when I was a high school co-op student at an interior design firm. One day, my boss told me the plants were not real and I was totally mortified.

Five things I am knowledgeable about:

1. I know how to shop, and I'm fun to shop with. Unless you're on a budget, then perhaps you should stay home. Shopping gives me a high. I love being in department stores like Saks and I often daydream about being locked in one of those stores for the night. I'd try on clothes until security escorted me away. I could also spend countless hours in a book store.

2. I know that Dazed and Confused is one of the best movies ever, and I could recite the entire movie to you, and sing along to the soundtrack, perfectly. (I also know that Dirty Dancing and Scarface should not be remade. I know the new movies will both suck.)

3. Dante's Inferno. I read this book during my first year Engilsh Literature class in university and the circles of hell scared. me. to. death. (Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud, Treachery...) I sometimes ask myself "What circle of hell did I enter today?" if I do something wrong. I found Dante's Inferno to be a really interesting topic of discussion when I was in school.

4. I know how to talk my way out of a ticket. "Are you sure it was me speeding?" "I'm late to pick up my kids and I'm freaking out!" "I'm SO sorry... I'll never do it again!' "I wasn't *technically* texting and driving, because it was a red light. Oh... that's a rule too? My bad!" (Yes, I'm Cher from Clueless.)

5. I'm knowledgeable about Greece, and the history of Greece. Being of Greek descent and having spent almost all of my childhood summers in Greece, I know a thing or two about one of the most beautiful countries on earth. And I'm not talking about where the best beaches are, what the hottest night club in Athens is, or where you can find the most delicious souvlaki. Although I know all that, too.

Five things I know nothing about:

1. Fiscal responsibility. I see the 'bills' in the mail, and I leave them for the elves to take care of. Or, you know, my husband. I don't know how to save money for myself, and I don't like to look at price tags. I round down, rather than up. If something is $99, in my head it's like, just a bit over 50 dollars.

2. Related, I know nothing about math and didn't take a class having to do with numbers after grade 10. I barely passed my second year stats course in university, and I only took it because it was required. My nose gets itchy and my eyes start to sting (for real) every time there is math in front of me. I'd rather plug my ears and say "I can't hear you!" rather than have an adult conversation about money, mortage, interest rates, balance, and the importance of saving.

3. I know nothing about what it is like to not worry. I have been a worrier my entire life, and it's only gotten worst since I've become a mother. I often wonder what it feels like to not think 'worst-case' scenario about everything in life. And I'm not really a pessimist; I'm more of a neurotic-devastation-ist.

4. I know nothing about football, except it looks really fun in the movies. I'm Canadian, so that's my excuse. I know a thing or two about hockey and soccer, so there's that.

5. I know nothing about space exploration and how we've managed to put people in space, and have them come back a) alive and b) not completey freaked out that they left Earth's atmosphere. "Oh, look, there's the Earth!" (That's where I'd have a heart attack.) I have also seen "space food" and um, no thank you.

Five things I believe:

1. I believe if you really want something to happen in your life, you can make it happen. I'm a firm believer in never giving up on your dreams, desires, and aspirations. Sure, luck plays a part, but talent and believing in yourself can make amazing things happen. Even if you have to be annoying to get what you want. Every job I've been offered has been a result of me going after it with fierce determination.

2. I believe that living near the ocean is like free therapy. The sound of the waves, and being able to just sit on the beach breathing in the ocean air makes me content and happy. Vacations are very necessary.

3. I believe that no one is meant to live in minus 30 degrees celsius weather. Freezing is an awful feeling. Having to wear layers of clothes and scraping ice off the car every morning for months on end is just wrong. I believe winter is the most unpleasant season.

4. I believe that there is nothing as amazing, incredible, and frightening as being a mother. Every emotion is magnified, times a hundred. There is no love like the love you have for you children, and there is no fear as great as the fear you will forever be prisoner of once you become a mother.

5. I believe the only time I will stop worrying will be when I am dead.

I absolutely loved writing this blog post. It wasn't easy, and it got me thinking, quite a bit. What about you? What don't I know about you? What do you believe? What are you knowledgeabout about? I'd love to hear your thoughts, too!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Blissed to the max


I have so many things to think about every time I come home from a blogging conference. The things I am thinking about are never about what I wore, how my hair was, or what purchases I brought back with me. Heck, in New York City during BlogHer 2010 I never even once went shopping.

That should tell you something, right there. For a girl who talks about shopping as much as I do, clearly there are other things that make me happy, make me feel fulfilled and purposeful, excited and determined. There is something (not including my children, of course) that leaves me feeling full of BLISS, and inspired.


(I know, Tanis, but it's true!)

BlissDom Canada.

Man, do I ever feel motivated to become a better blogger and writer every time my BlissDom Canada weekend is over. I'm still on a conference high a few days later.

Now, as someone who has been blogging for (almost) five years, I'm not really looking for ways to drastically improve my blog, since I've already been here a while. However, there are always lessons to take from the sessions I attend. Even the ones that talk about "Taking Your Craft To The Next Level", right, Angella? Being reminded how important grammar is, learning how to properly pitch a story to a magazine, nodding in agreement when we're reminded that personal blog posts are the most touching, and laughing through a panel moderated by the amazing Julie Cole, with Cocktail Deeva, Gail Vaz Oxlade and Patty Sullivan on the panel, talking (and never swearing, goodness no) about branding are some of the things I'll remember, but that's not even the best part.

The best part is the connections and reunions with the friends I've already made, have met before, or are just meeting for the first time. It's the moments that happen between sessions, after the parties, and late into the night. It's the ritual I share with someone at every conference, it's the wind blowing up a skirt as we talk (and talk, and talk) outside in the chilly night, it's the how-many-Oreo's-can-I-fit-in-my-mouth-in-30-seconds that I found myself trying to do in a hotel room with lots of other girls, feeling 14 again, that make BlissDom Canada so much fun.







Sure, it's also about learning and networking, and meeting brands that want to work with bloggers, (if that's what you want to do) but most importantly, for me, is the sense of belonging to the community I am proud to be a part of. Honestly. How many incredibly talented, smart, funny, gorgeous women did I just get to spend a few days with? A heck of a lot, that's how many.

I went out for dinner with bloggers I consider to be inspiring, and that was one of my favourite parts of the conference this year. Sure, I left before getting the chance to meet Jordan Knight (that's right, Jordan from NKOTB joined the annual costume party, that's how cool BlissDom Canada is!) but *I* had dinner with Catherine, Bon, Terra, Angella, Elan and Aidan. So there's that.


Last year I overused the word "awesome". This year, I'm overusing "love".


I loved the launch party at CBC headquarters. That was the perfect way to kick off the weekend.





I loved spending more time with Ali, even if we didn't make it to Yorkville (I'll be back!) and I loved how quickly the train ride to Toronto was, thanks to great conversations with Kelli, Candace, Krista and Maria. I loved seeing Stephanie again, and all the Mom Central Canada ladies, and I loved hanging out with Caitlin again at the Mabel Bliss party. I also loved seeing Alison again and catching up, even though it's never enough time .




I loved sneaking off with Casey to get some new pictures taken (she took the picture I have at the top of this post!) because well, she's amazing, sweet, and super talented. I couldn't not smile, you know?




I loved hugging each and every one of you, and I loved re-connecting with the YMC crew on Thursday night.



I guess it's safe to say that I loved BlissDom Canada 2011. It was all that and more. Like, poutine-beavertail-maple-cookies-covered in maple syrup good, yo!


See you all next year... I can't wait for more memories to be made.

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