Thursday, August 30, 2012

When in Doubt, Pull it Out!

No peeps.

This is not a post about birth control.

I mean, honestly! I have 3 little boys.

Do you really think I am the best person to teach you about that subject? You do? is my current method...because I am really tired these days.

In a word: abstinence. Works wonders.

Not too good for your marriage...and I don't really recommend it as a long-term solution because sex is a very important part of any marriage...but I must get on with the actual topic of discussion here.

Yes...I digress.

Now....get your minds out of the gutter! Frick!

And get your minds out of that intuitive decorating mind-set that makes many of you want to take your furniture and push it all right up against the walls!

We can do better than this!

Yes. This post is about home decor. Again.

I was recently talking to the father of one of the new players on my oldest son's hockey team at the head coach's annual team BBQ. He asked me what I did for a living and I shared with him that at the moment, I stay at home with my boys and do some writing and blogging.

I went on to tell him that I write a lot about parenting, motherhood, wellness and home decor amongst other things. Somewhere in there, I told him I was certified as a Home Stager.

He told me that I should pay his home a visit as he and his wife have a few rooms in their house that they have no idea what to do with. They are not really sure what the purpose of these rooms should be and while there is some furniture in them, they just kinda sit there, unused. The rooms have an awkward shape and they have no idea where to start with furniture placement.

The first question I asked him is if they had their furniture shoved up against the walls.

All I can say is "wow".
(Please note...this is NOT that hockey parent's room. If it were, I would not embarrass him by publishing it on my blog. 'Cause this is purdy bad peeps!)

He told me they did.

And I figured this would be his answer.

Because it is counter-intuitive - especially when you are not a decor-junkie like I am - to try and maximize any space in your house.

But what good is that when you don't use the room(s)?

Especially in large and/or awkwardly shaped rooms, bringing the furniture away from the walls actually  tends to make a room feel larger. And guess what? It makes the rooms much more functional and cozy.

And by cozy, I mean comfortable - not small (like real-estate agents tend to use the term!).

Let's say you have a room with some funky-ass, angled walls that make defining the shape of the room next to impossible. You see a lot of these types of rooms in newer homes...especially located in the front of the house.

What to do....what to do!????!?

I think you have more pressing issues than furniture placement dude...but hey...I don't discriminate!

Never fear...I am here!

And I don't claim to be a trained interior designer who has all the answers. If I were, I would probably be too busy decorating million-dollar homes instead of sitting here writing on my blog about furniture placement.

But I have learned a few things on my home decor magazine fetish journey. I mean, I don't just peruse these magazines. I don't just read them. I study them dudes! Like foodies devour cookbooks and The Food Network, I do them same with decorating publications and HGTV.

Guilty as charged.
I have a little home decor magazine problem.

And if you are someone who even occasionally looks at a decorating magazine you will know that more often than not, massive homes are showcased. Homes that the average person can't even begin to afford much less decorate. And they have been decorated by very expensive and highly trained interior designers.

Well fine.

Sometimes this pisses me off. It actually used to piss me off way more than it does now.

That's because I have honed my skills. I have trained my eye. I have learned to take what I see and what I read and apply the design and decor principles to my own living quarters. Even though my own spaces could probably fit quite nicely into many of these homes' garages.

So take all of that for what it is worth.

Anyhoo - back to that awkward room.

When in doubt...pull it out!

Even scarier than no birth control?
This scary looking room!

But first...let's figure out what you want that room to be.

Let's make things simple and say you want to make that funky front space a sitting room.

And so you can get a visual, let's say that room is an octagon. Yeah...a frickin' eight-walled space.

Now...imagine a few chairs pushed up against two of those walls, a sofa pushed up into the corner as far as it will go between two of those walls, a fireplace on another and a little coffee table floating in the middle of the room. Or up against the sofa so that people sitting in the chairs can't put their drink down without taking a stroll. Sound cozy and comfortable? Sound functional?

Didn't think so. make things easier, let's bring in a square area rug and dump it on the floor in the centre of the octagon with one of the straight edges parallel to the hearth of the fireplace.  Like an island in a pond (or a stream as Dolly and Kenny would sing), it is just kinda floating there.

Ken and Barbie...errr...I mean...Dolly.

Look walls!

Good...awesome start peeps!

You get a gold star!

Then...pull out that sofa so that the back legs are off the rug and the front legs are on the rug, parallel to one of the other sides of the floating island.

And depending on the size of your this room and your personal taste, take those two chairs away from the walls - you can do it! -  and either place them together, directly across for the sofa (either on a angle or not...whatever makes your boat float - yes we are still going with the island in a pond theme here!) or put them across from each other on either side of the sofa.

You following me?

I actually meant are you understanding me...but you are not following me on Twitter...why the frick not!!???
Click here and do it dude! 

Now sit down in one of the chairs and take a break (after you go follow me on Twitter that is) because there is only so much furniture moving one can do at one time! Have a coffee. Better yet...have a glass of vino.

Can't think of a reason!

I'll wait.



Let's continue, shall we?

Now...take that coffee table and put it back where it the middle of the room. There difference now, is that it is accessible from all of seats in the space! Notice how you can now put that second glass of wine I know you are now drinking on the table without getting off your ass?

Much more comfortable and functional...yes?

Oh and look! Since it is much more fun to drink wine with others, you can now invite a few friends over and they can sit and drink and use the coffee table and not have to yell (or walk) across the room so that you can hear them! How awesome is that!?!?


Because a sitting room is for sitting. That is why they call it a sitting room dudes!

Apparently I am a superhero junkie as well.

If you wanted a workout, I would be helping you decorate a home gym. And that my friends, is for another blog post!

Now I could go on to explain how to jazz up your walls and your coffee table and accessorize with lamps and plants and throw pillows and throws and foot stools and all of the rest of that fun stuff I love...but I won't. Well...not here anyways.

One can only do so much in one blog post peeps.

Instead, I will show you a few photos of rooms that have this "pulled out from the walls" set-up so that you have some visual cues to work from. An image is worth a thousand words after all, and this blog post is getting long!

See how this room becomes a cozy sitting area when anchored by an area rug?
The space around the furniture serves as thruways. The fireplace becomes a true focal point.

Here, the large window has breathing space and a "hallway" is created behind the sofa for easy access to the shelves.

Here, the TV is the focal point. Extra seating and occasional / side tables can be added depending on the size, shape and function of the room.

Here is an example of a very large, awkwardly shaped room. Area rugs are used to define and anchor different seating areas within the one large space.

So there you have it.

Now...go enjoy your new, cozy room.

And remember...don't drink and drive.

Or drink and decorate.



Monday, August 27, 2012

Fall Cleaning, Clearing and Cleansing

Some people really get into the spring cleaning thing.

Like these fine people who don't exist.

Or like these fine people who seem a little more realistic.

I, myself, tend to get that need to nest, to clear and to get organized in the fall.

Not this kind of fall.

Yeah...this one.

I guess it all started with September being the beginning of the school year...with all of those fresh, unmarked notebooks, brand new binders, sharp pencils and a nice, clean locker.

Oh...mental note...gotta take the boys shopping!

And lest we forget the new clothes, shoes and backpack!

It was a time for new beginnings...and I think I have always kind of associated September with the chance for a new start.

My birthday is on September 17th...and this year will mark my big 4-0 (did I just admit that!?!??), so I suppose I am really getting into it for that reason as well.

This is a cake!
I want it!

I am looking to go back to work...and so that is part of it as well.

I am looking for positive change get out of a few get my mojo back!

I started by doing a few simple things for myself.

I got a mani and pedi.

Ahhhh...much better.

Then I decided to try dying and waxing my eyebrows and dying my eyelashes for shits and giggles. (I don't think I will dye my brows again. They look too dark for the lashes are cool.)

Brows - too dark, right?

My natural lashes are very long...but rather for those (many) days when I don't wear eye make-up, the darker lash shade adds a little something to my (usually) tired peepers.

And don't mind my hair. Trust me. It is on my list!

Then I tackled my closet.

Not my closet...but pretty close!

That was both depressing and cleansing at the same time.

Depressing because so many of my clothes don't fit me properly at the moment and cleansing because I got rid of crap I don't wear anymore and I organized what was left.

I also now have a better idea of what I have, what I need and how much room I have (or don't have as the case is!)

My new, clean closet.
OK, I lie.
But it looks much better than before.

And also, now I get to go to The Goodwill to donate a bunch of stuff.

And shop!

Next on the agenda?

I think I will tackle my writing desk.

Since getting my little MacBook Pro, I rarely sit at my desk to write anymore, so it has become a dumping ground (yes it closes up!) for random papers, magazines, shit I don't want to lose and other "important" paraphernalia.

Basically, it is a giant junk drawer disguised as a desk.

Then...who knows?

Maybe a bath.

With bubbles.

And wine.



Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Live, Laugh, Love...Liz

"The more difficulties one has to encounter, within and without, the more significant and the higher in inspiration his (or her) life will be."
 - Horace Bushnell

Breast cancer sucks.

And it seems like every time I turn around someone else is getting diagnosed.

Friends of mine - like Clare and Rachel both fought battles.

And recently, another friend got the shocking news.

Liz Muscat, a friend, mother of 3, wife, professional and a myriad of other roles had no idea what was about to hit her.

Beautiful Liz with her handsome hubby Joe.

That's how it usually happens.

I met Liz through my husband many years ago. She is the wife of his high school friend Joe. Nothing was amiss she thought. She was a seemingly healthy, vibrant, beautiful, strong and lovely woman,

She is still all of these things except the first.

Liz has breast cancer.

I don't see her very often. We are all busy running around with our children as we all do. I generally see Liz at big events like weddings and such.

One thing I can say about Liz is that any time I have managed to bump into her she has always greeted me with a great, big smile and a hug.

Her positivity is catching.

And the amazing and inspiring thing about her is that it still is.

In fact, I have never seen her so positive and/or inspiring as she has been since her shocking diagnosis.

Like with many friends, Liz and I keep up with each others' comings and goings through Facebook. She has told me that she reads my blog from time to time and I enjoy reading her status updates and seeing pictures of her beautiful family.

She has been keeping her friends up to date on her current battle on Facebook on a daily basis. She always refers to what she is going through as her "journey".

It is simply amazing to me how someone can be hit with such a blow and yet continue to embrace the cards they have been dealt with such strength, determination, optimism and grace.

But that is how you beat this shit.

That is how it has to go.

You have to keep on keeping on.

And yet again, here is this woman that I know - someone who needs all the support and inspiration and positivity that she can get - giving ME just these things.

Giving me grace.

That's right.

Every, single day, Liz manages to put positive messages and energy out into the universe and it gives ME strength.

That is why I know she is going to beat this thing.

What you put out into the universe is often what you get back. At the very least, it gives you better odds.

Now don't get me wrong. There have been many people who have fought and fought and fought and have been nothing but inspirational - and still, the cancer spread. My friend Clare - who I wrote about here - is one of those amazing women. She still inspires me to this day and always will.

I just think it is interesting how other peoples' struggles in life can bring such perspective into the lives of others.

I don't think they will ever realize how impactful they are.

Liz is the personification of strong.
I thank her for reminding me of the above.

So to sweet Liz, who has so far gone though surgery and her first round of chemotherapy with bravery and an attitude that is contagious, I say "YOU GO GIRL!"

I know some people go through incredibly difficult situations in life and come out of them at the other side with a completely different view on what life is all about.

I look forward to hearing what Liz has to say about it all.

And I know I will.

I will be hearing about it from her for many, many years to come.

Because that is Liz.

She embraces life and everything in me is telling me that life will embrace her back.

I pulled this right off Liz's Facebook wall.
That's Liz for ya!

Love ya girlfriend!

And to all my other gals out there...remember:



PS: Please don't hesitate to leave words of encouragement, prayer and love for Liz below.  Let's keep her positivity flowing!

PSS: Also...on Sunday, September 30, 2012, Mississauga's CIBC Run for the Cure will take place and "Liz's Pink Stilettos" is a team that Liz's sister Joanna has organized to support Liz. 

To donate and/or for more information please click here.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

WellX Articles #22 & #23 - On Holding On to Myself & Business Communications

Happy weekend all!

As I always do, I will begin by pointing you in the direction of my first twenty-one articles published by Wellx here.

Today I am going to share with you two new articles that were published over the past few weeks. 

Hard to believe over 20 of my pieces have been published by WellnessX over the past year!


Why, thank you Sponge Bob Square Pants!

The first one here is from a personal blog series I started a while back. It is about my struggles to hold on the the person that I am...given my many roles in life such as mother, wife, la la la. 

The next piece showcases a bit of my professional side given I am on the job hunt!

I am so happy to continue to work with WellnessX and share my thoughts with you and wellness professionals around the world.

Thanks as always to Mel and Brad and everyone at WellnessX for continuing to share my work and for their on-going support and great work with the wellness community!



Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Extreme Makeover: Parenting Edition

Am I planning a major parenting makeover?

No, I am not.

Perhaps I am planning a makeover for myself...yes...I need to eat better, move more, be kinder to myself, la la la.

What I wanted to discuss today is extreme parenting in general.

Remember Extreme Makeover? Kinda scary.
And yet, she does look pretty good!
I do like the home version better though!

Now I will start by saying - as I always do - that to each their own. As long as parents are not hurting their children or anyone else, there are many different parenting styles out there and depending on the family - there are many styles that work well. They are not all for me...but that does not mean I don't have full respect for many of the choices other people make.

Someone recently told me that they look at parenting the same way as they look at religion. "Whatever works for you." This really resonated with me. If you are a Mormon, for example, great! Again, not for me...but if that works for you, then grand.

I am going to share my opinion of one...and you can take it or leave it. I expect there will be people on both sides...and that is fine. How I choose to raise my boys is my choice...not yours...and I don't expect you all to agree.

Personally, I don't believe in extremes.

I don't think we always have to stay on target.
Too much pressure. Too extreme.

I am turned off by them. In my opinion, extremists - be them feminists, religious leaders, athletes, whatever...I just don't think swaying too far to one side and holding on for dear life is healthy.

I find it closed-minded.

This does not look very fun to me.

I think in any situation, there needs to be wiggle room to explore different options; ones that may not fit into the mould laid out by whatever philosophy you subscribe to.

I especially feel this way when it comes to parenting.

Let's take food and nutrition as an example here.

I, like many a parent, believe that feeding my children balanced meals full of nutrition and goodness is very important. So does my husband. We feel it is important for ourselves as well...but as parents, we understand that we need to install proper eating habits in our boys and we do our best to do that.

A picture of healthy food. For your pleasure.

But we don't go to extremes.

What I mean here, is that very little is forbidden.

Ahhhhh...the forbidden fruit. Funny - this came from a Scientology site.
Interesting! This is all coming together...

We do not insist that our children not eat refined sugar or packaged food or McDonald's.

We do insist that they do not eat these things the majority of the time...but nothing in our home is 100% off limits. (OK, perhaps alcohol...but that is a little different.)

I do know some parents who do not let their children eat certain things. They subscribe to a pretty rigid view on healthy eating and go to great lengths to make sure every last item that goes into their kids' systems is of the utmost quality. And hey...I am not here to judge. I just don't agree with it.

In my humble, little opinion, the more you restrict children, the more they will want to rebel at some point. Forbidden fruit is very tempting...much more so than stuff they have tried before.

My older boys understand that fast food is crap. But they eat it sometimes. We all do. We talk to them about what we are eating. They know it is a "treat" but also know that really it is not a "treat" for their bodies.

Every time I want a picture about your body being a temple I get someone doing yoga.

Now, they tend to order salads instead of fries. They would rather have a home-cooked meal rather than fast food. Give them a choice between a hamburger and fries from Wendy's or chicken, pasta with Nonna's sauce made from tomatoes from her garden and a salad made from other pickings from the same place and they will go for the good stuff.

Nothing is better than a salad straight from Nonna's backyard!

Because they know the difference. They know the difference in taste. The know the difference in terms of what is better for them nutritionally. They get that if they want to be strong and healthy, they need to eat the good stuff.

And they understand that if they want to be athletes...and they are...but if they want to go further with their hockey and what have you...they need to eat like athletes. And they know that Sidney Crosby probably does not have a bacon-double-cheeseburger before a game.

I didn't get this by eating crap eh!?
But I do eat Dempster's bread cause they pay me tons of money!

Same goes for things like religion.

While my children are Catholic, I am not - and I don't believe in some of the strict rules or dogma or whatever you want to call it that comes with much of organized religions...Catholic or otherwise.

I don't want my kids to "fear God". I want them to love God. I want them to understand that just because the bible says something, it is not the end-all and be-all.

The bottom line is that I am raising my boys to learn to be able to think for themselves.

Plant the seeds...and give your children food for thought.

Sure, as parents we need to plant the seeds. But they our kids will grow and so will their minds. I want them to be able to look at all the options available to them and make their own, educated, thoughtful decisions. Not because "I said so" or "the bible told me so" or la la la.

Hmmmmm. Now what do I think about this?

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts on all of this. Please comment below and let's get a discussion going!

Now all of this being said...maybe I should start giving my boys beer now?

Just kidding peeps. Relax-a-mundo!