Hipster Hood

Moving Day

Moving Day

You’ll recall the old real estate adage – when looking for property to buy its all about location, location, location.  What are the factors that determine whether a location is good?  Proximity to public transport, walkability perhaps the potential of increase in property value in the foreseeable future.  When looking at property for the investment potential – ie; how much will it appreciate over the next several years – you need not look at the long term mass transit plans or city development strategy.  Just look for the hipsters.  Hipsters mean you are on the cusp of being the next hot neighborhood in town.  I give you THE prime example – Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  This should be your real estate strategy.

All you followers of The Rock and Roll Mom know we just moved into a new house.  We moved a little closer to the heart of Vancouver’s eastside – more affectionately known as East Van.  A rapidly gentrifying part of the city, its a colourful area filled with an eclectic mix of old and new houses and lots of people on the same game plan as us (ie: professionals with young kids).  More importantly, I think we have stumbled upon a little Hipster hotspot.  Could we be on to something here?  I’m not sure but here are some of the signs that your neighborhood might be moving into Hipster territory:

1. Your neighbor likes to play banjo/ mandolin/ harp on the front porch.

2. Your other new neighbor has an experimental art project synth band that rehearses daily at 4pm.

3. The local coffee shop only plays vinyl and the decor theme is Crow.

4. Part 2 of the local coffee shop – you can bet that those are ethical crop beans and that the coffee is brewed in those fancy single serving glass carafe-y thingys.

5. Gluten free everything, everywhere.

6. Vintage store is picked clean of anything worth buying or anything plaid.

7. Tacos tacos tacos.

8. Most of the local girls where their hair in big donut buns on the top of their heads.  The donut hair buns are not to be confused with the maple bacon gluten free donuts available at the aforementioned coffee shop.

9. The local drug store always seems to have a surplus of shaving cream, razors etc.

10. More and more neighbors are dressing in skinny jeans, hats and ironic (but is it then unironic??) t-shirts.

All of these signs are excellent news for the neighborhood.  It means you’re about to get more and more great restaurants that serve organic vegan thin crust Neopolitan pizza.  It also means that you are bound to get several Urban Outfitters inspired shops where you can buy kitschy patio lights, and the aforementioned ironic/ unironic t-shirts.  Once you’re overun with the retail haunts of Hipster-hood, you are well on your way to increased property values.  Congratulations!  The question then becomes, will you sell or start a neighborhood bluegrass band?

 

 

 

You Say It’s Your Birthday

Shorty #1 Turns 7

Shorty #1 Turns 7

Shorty #2 is about to turn 3.  For the past 2 months she has asked me every day “Is today my birthday?” and every day I get to let her down.  The good news is that its soon, next week and we’ve planned the party for this weekend so she’ll actually get to celebrate the big day as more of a season with a few events along the way.

The Birthday Party has grown into a big deal these days.  The scale is in some ways bigger than my wedding.  The venue, the catering, the entertainment, the party favors.  It adds up.  And for the love of God, make sure that venue is safe and inviting and hasn’t been used by anyone else in the class yet.  For the catering – make it healthy, organic and something kids will actually eat.  The entertainment should be fun and appealing but not too commercial please.  And finally for the ubiquitous loot bag – it better be environmentally friendly.

Gone are the days of the McDonald’s party room where many of my own birthdays were held (and truth be told where I hosted plenty as a fifteen year old employee).  The cheap 5 cent plastic baggie full of candy will no longer fly.  Kids these days turn up their noses at such pedestrian pastimes as Pin the Tail on the Donkey – which I’m quite sure is in no way a politically correct activity as this could be considered animal abuse.

No, the birthday party is now festooned with costumed princesses singing “Let it Go” to a room full of toddlers dressed in their finest princess regalia.  Bouncy castles and cupcakes, full catering for the parents.  These things are a big deal.  Mom the party planner has taken on a whole new meaning.

What do we do?  Is this an every year (x 2 kids) event?  How do we manage expectations as these things get bigger and bigger?  What do we do for a birthday gift when we’ve already dropped a wallet-full on hosting the party of the (or THIS) year?  We’ve been smart enough to plan some vacations around birthdays so we can skip a year here and there – but what do we do when we are forced to GASP, celebrate at home?  Break the bank every 12 months?  We need to nip this in the bud.  But how?

I am as much to blame.  I LOVE to see the wonder in my daughters’ eyes when they are surprised by the different aspects of the event.  I want the kids to have fun and remember their 3rd (4th, 5th, 6th, 7th) birthday fondly.  I know, I know.  How does each year stand out in their memory?  Hell, how does it stand out in my memory?  Was it #1’s 3rd birthday when we did the music class?  Or was that her 4th?  Was it her 2nd when we catered for an army and the flu ran through the guestlist and we only had 5 people show up?

This year, I’m trying to dial it back.  Less is more.  Perhaps we can wean them (and us parents) off the gala event of the year mentality?

Its Beginning to Look a lot Like…

The Christmas decorations in the hotel on my last trip kept reminding me of my shortcomings as a gift giver...

The Christmas decorations in the hotel on my last trip kept reminding me of my shortcomings as a gift giver…

Yes, yes it is.  The most wonderful time of the year.  Unless you’re someone’s mom.  Then its a little less wonderful and whole lot more manic.

I was organized this year.  With all the time on the road, I buckled down one free Saturday and did all the Christmas shopping in one shot.  Ordered the out of town gifts online so they shipped directly.  Sorted out the Shorties.  Organized.  Awesome.  Now we’re a week away from the big day and I’m starting to second guess.  Its like when you make a record and it takes 6 months for the label to release it, you start to worry.  Will it be ok?  Will they like it?  Is it enough?  So now I’m in that manic panic of running around from store to store coming out empty handed.  I know I shouldn’t worry.  Three weeks ago I was on top of the world, doing the Rocky run around the house, fists pumping; “I’m done!!!”  What happened between then and now that I am second guessing every gift I bought.  Seriously?  What’s my problem?

Aside from my own psychotic need to please people and make everyone’s holiday perfect, I’m also now deep in the throes of the hostess gift.  Stocking the right amount of gifts to give to those kind enough to invite all 4 of us over for some holiday cheer.  When you have toddlers, the hostess gift better be good to make up for the pomegranate juice spilled on the white carpet or Shorty #1 single handedly tearing off the fireplace door (this actually happened…).  Maybe a gift certificate for a maid service?  Or a free post-holiday/ visit by us carpet cleaning?  These are good ideas for next year.

I know I shouldn’t be so hard on myself and to be honest, this year I’ve taken a bit of a chill pill.  There’s no lights on the outside of the house and save for the stockings being hung by the chimney with care, the inside Christmas decor is kept to a minimum.  Maybe I’ll even live up to my annual vow to “not go overboard this year.”  So if you’re on my list, I apologize in advance if you hate it or if you think I cheaped out.  Its all about the presence, not the presents – right?

Happy holidays.  xoxo

The Most Awful Time of the Year

Shorty #1 selects some Coachella inspired headgear for her first day back to school.

Shorty #1 selects some Coachella inspired headgear for her first day back to school.

Labor Day.  Ugh.  What a crummy holiday.  A holiday that celebrates labor should have better name.  Labor and Holiday – bit of an oxymoron, isn’t it?  Holiday Day would be so much better.

My disdain for Labor Day is really more about the meaning of this date on the calendar; end of summer, back to school, no more white pants (and I just got a great pair of white CoH jeans on sale!).  I hate holidays that signal the end of something like New Years Eve or even Sunday Evenings.  Yes yes yes, I hear all you positive, glass is half full, lemonade drinkers out there.  These endings all herald in a new beginning – a new week, a new grade a new year, an opportunity for a fresh start.  Sure, this is true but sometimes we aren’t ready for things to end.

I spent my Labor Day tidying out closets and bedrooms, writing names in labels and packing school bags to get everyone ready to go back to the daily routine of school days.  The sleepy whining, lunch packing and frantic nagging all working towards a crescendo as the clock ticks faster and faster to 9am.  I envy those Moms arriving at the school well before the bell rings, calm and peaceful.  Have they given their kids a Xanax as they woke up and lead them in a drug induced stupor to the classroom door?  I’m sure they haven’t but c’mon, what’s the secret?  I’m usually speed walking through the halls, hair wet and a conference call waiting, all the while encouraging (read: speaking firmly… ok, yelling) Shorty #1 to speed it up.

This is always the most amazing thing to me each morning.  Why is it always such a surprise that we need to eat breakfast, put on shoes (really!) and remember school bags before we head out the door?  Like we don’t need to do these things EVERY morning.  Like the routine is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT every day?  Really?  No seriously, really?

As Labor Day heralds in the new school year with all the promise of a bright future, with young shining faces eager to embrace learning, this Mother secretly cries for the lost summer and morning routines that included cartoons in bed!

Why Oh Why Do I Love Paris…

Slight detour to Paris

Only slightly detoured en route to Paris

I just got back from a week on the road.  Not so bad when the road is a whirlwind trip to Paris!  It had a bit of a rocky start as the French Air Traffic Controllers decided to strike while I was en route.  Good news however, as I did finally make it with only a slight detour via Brussels (very charming – made a mental note to return!)

I love Paris.  Who doesn’t?  Its EXACTLY as you would expect.  Charming little streets and bustling boulevards.  Shopping, eating, culture, pain au chocolat – what’s not to aimer?

So here’s where I (very narcissistically) share my favorite places in Paris.  Hope you don’t mind?

I have been lucky enough to travel to Paris a handful of times, always on business.  So my experiences there are more related to eating, fast shopping and sleeping.

SLEEP

The Hôtel de Sers

Located in the 8th, around the corner from the legendary George V, The Hotel de Sers is a great little boutique property.  The rooms are petit (as are all in Paris) but I was lucky enough to have one facing the inner courtyard which offered a little peace in Central Paris.  The bed was comfy and the bath shower combo functioned well (save for the lack of a shower door which meant for some sopping up).  The decor was edgy but not annoying although we did take pity on the sole goldfish swimming in each flower vase in the lobby.

Just off Av George V, the hotel was a very quick walk to the shopping on the Champs Élysées to the left and the Seine/ Eiffel Tower to the right.

The restaurant was good and accommodating of my weird food issues and the hotel staff in general were fantastic.  Especially the Concierge staff who happily made reservations and tracked us down to help with deliveries.

EAT

L’As du Fallafel

A trip into the Marais is not complete without a falafel and this is arguably the best I’ve ever had.  A friend brought me here and shared the tip of dining in rather than waiting in the long line at the take-out window.  The falafel costs a few euros more when dining in – but its worth it.

Like burritos found in The Mission in San Francisco – there is nothing different about these falafels save for the freshest of ingredients.  Delicious roasted eggplant and crispy cabbage perfectly accent the delicately fried falafels.  Yum!  Plus at €8.00, its a pretty cheap meal.

Le Stella

On our last visit to Le Stella we discovered that its much better in the colder months when the raw seafood bar is set up in place of the sidewalk patio.  The selection of oysters and chilled prawns, langoustins and lobster was incredible.

Le Stella is located in the 16th on Av Victor-Hugo and seems to be a local for the neighborhood.  We were charmed by families enjoying Sunday dinner with the kids fast asleep at the table.

Our recent summer visit lead us to a delicious and fresh gazpacho and some beautifully grilled sole.  Oh yeah and the Sancerre was amazing!

Au Pied de Cochon & La Poule Au Pot  

In the music business, late night eating is the way it goes so its always good to have a couple of late/ all night places in your back pocket.  Both Au Pied Au Cochon and La Poule Au Pot are located in Les Halles and are reasonably good options in a city with surprisingly few late night dining options.  Both offer tuxedoed waiters serving delicious country bread, cheese and other typical French fare.  Au Pied Au Cochon was definitely the better of the two although they were out of the house specialty last time we were there… thank God!

Guy Savoy

Bread cart, cheese cart, dessert cart.  Foodie heaven.  Enough said.

SHOP

Shopping in Paris is amazing.  I have had such little free time while there to actually properly shop (ouch, my diamond shoes are pinching).  But I have dabbled.

Pharmacie

Located everywhere – just look for the green cross.  Any Pharmacie you come across is full of treasures.  French skincare lines are amazing.  Even the inexpensive drugstore brands rival what you’ll find in the department stores.  Embryolisse is the best!  Its a favorite of make-up artists on both sides of the pond and very inexpensive even when paying in euros.  I use their Crème Anti-Àge 1èr Rides (anti-aging cream) and it is amazing.  I also really like the Avene sunscreen line.  Its easy on the skin and smells great.

Galeries Lafayette

With its incredible domed Belle Epoque ceiling, this forerunner of the department store carries anything and everything including!  Its like a shopping cathedral!  The Longchamp boutique here has stanchions to manage the throngs of tourists picking up their trademark shoppers in every shade (I have two and I LOVE them).

Lanvin

The beautiful flagship at 22 Rue du Faubourg St Honoré is the original boutique opened by Jeanne Lanvin in 1889 (when Coco Chanel was a mere 6 years old!)  Mme Lanvin started her life in couture as a milliner and made dresses for her daughter.  As demand grew, Lanvin became one of the premiere fashion houses in Paris.  A luxury brand for sure, but definitely worth a visit to see Lanvin and the other fashion houses along the Rue du Faubourg St Honoré.

La Tour Eiffel

Paris is an incredible place.   The first time you see the Eiffel Tower all lit up at night, sparkling like diamonds will take your breath away.  I can’t wait to go back.  À la prochaine!

It Ain’t Easy Being Green

vectorstock_224829Why the hell does it cost so much to be green?

We try to be green.  We recycle, we compost, we try to use less water.  Its an on-going process as we learn more about what we are doing wrong and trying to correct this behaviour.  After reading about the chemicals in cleaning products and cosmetics, I switched everything in the house over to more environmentally sound cleansers, shampoos etc.  Learning more about the potential dangers in GMO products we are working towards eating more organic products.

When I was first pregnant with Shorty #1, I started to become paranoid about all the environmental dangers that faced the poor little bean before she was even born.  It was easy to become panicked about the microwave or the toilet bowl cleaner, not to mention the food we were eating.  That’s when we started a more conscious attempt at eating organic/ free-range/ grass-fed/ hormone-free/ non-GMO.  We very quickly learned that this proposition is NOT cheap.

Enter Whole Foods aka Whole Paycheque.  This place is a license to print money as it plays on our conscience to try and reverse the damage done.  Seriously, I know I can buy the non-organic peaches for $1 less (or more) a pound across the street but do I really want to inflict one of the dirty dozen products on my kids.  I feel like I’ll be called out on child abuse!  But when you walk out of that place $200 poorer and only 2 bags of groceries to show for it – ouch! vectorstock_1098832

What was the small business solution to a big problem is now the big business bad guy.  So we look for alternatives – Mom & Pops, Co-Ops, Farmer’s Market.  All good options.  But do not replace convenience.  Instead you are schlepping across town to the Co-Op to pick-up the produce, the local butcher for the grain fed meet, then to the big box for toilet paper and the regular grocery store for peanut butter.  So now the weekly groceries kill a Saturday and have a carbon footprint the size of the Amazon rainforest.

We won’t give up however.  We’ll keep striving to be greener.  Maybe we could convert our electricity at home so its generated by a treadmill.  Then we would save the planet, money and have the kids run it so they’ll sleep through the night… Just kidding.

Fashionista in Training

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This is Shorty #1.  She is a Fashionista in Training.  As a baby I always liked to dress her like a mini-hipster.  Skinny jeans, converse, t-shirts and hoodies.  She rocked the look very well and happily.  Until one day, she found a dress in her closet and put it on.  From that day forward she dressed herself,  “Mom, I need to wear something beeeeeyooteeeful.”  My little hipster became a true girlie-girl!

Who was I to intervene?  I like that Shorty #1 is self-styled.  Who cares if her version of matching is to wear all stripes (striped dress, striped leggings, striped socks, striped hat).  The fact that the stripes are all varying non-matching colours doesn’t bother her in the least.

Now shopping for her is tricky.  I can’t buy any pants at all – she won’t wear them.  She has a couple pairs of leggings she’ll wear to gymnastics or when riding her bike – but they are always accessorized with a skirt over top.  The dresses need to have a very specific look – as a rule they should twirl well.  Its summer camp season now and she wouldn’t be caught dead in shorts and a t-shirt, not a chance.  Always a dress or skirt and if its the latter the top better be interesting – sparkly or something!

Speaking of accessories, they are not lost on her.  She loves hair bands – ESPECIALLY bows.  Can’t get enough of them.  Every morning we play the hairstyle game:  “Mom, I need a pony.  No a braid.  No two braids.  No, wait – a braid AND a pony.”   Sure!  Why not??

Lately, she’s taken to giving me fashion advice:

#1: “You’re wearing that?”

Me: “Sure, why not?”

#1: “You would look better in a dress.”

She and I went shopping recently to check out the annual Holt Renfrew sale.  (She brought her rolling backpack full of Barbies just in case we needed them.)  In the shoe department we disagreed slightly on what I should try on.  I found these:

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She didn’t really like them very much.  So she went and found me these Miu Mius:

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Disclaimer: In no way did I coach Miss Thing in taking these photos.  Her facial expressions are entirely her own.  As is her styling – Note: satin bow, poplin dress and pull-y backpack full of Barbies.

I’m cool with Shorty #1 expressing her creativity this way.  How can I not be?  She’s kicking my ass with fashion sense!

Come on Vogue…

The Cannes Red Carpet - that's my back.

The Cannes Red Carpet – that’s my back.

I’m really lucky.  In my line of work I get to attend some great events.  Fancy do’s with beautiful people and spare no expense excess.  It can be a lot of fun – but I always face the same problem (get ready – this is one of those problems that falls in the “My diamond shoes are too tight” category).  I never know what to wear.

The Red Carpet at the Cannes Film Festival.  The black-tie Kennedy Centre Honors.  Fancy cocktail party outside the Louvre in Paris.  Really, what do I care.  The paparazzi aren’t photographing me.  But nevertheless, I’m a woman and I care about fashion and how I look.  So how on earth do I handle caviar styles with a mac and cheese budget?   All these events are populated by well-heeled attendees who are particularly well-heeled in their Christian Laboutins and couture.  I on the other hand will be wearing something from the Spring 2000 line of The Gap (Black Magic strikes again?) and accessories courtesy of Joe Fresh.

For the record, I always buy my accessories at the local Superstore with the Joe Fresh capsule shop.  Here’s how it goes:

“I love that necklace.”

“Oh this old thing.  I picked it up while buying avocados and diapers.”

Classy, right?  Super fancy.  But its actually ok.  I would love a beautiful couture dress, don’t get me wrong.  But the reality is, I don’t live in the champagne and caviar world.  I just visit it occasionally.

However, on my last business trip to Paris I was given a treat – a beautiful dress from Lanvin.  I couldn’t believe the generosity and was truly touched by the gesture.  This dress is a beaut!  A pretty colour with the perfect drape.  Perhaps I could get used to a little high fashion in my wardrobe after all.

A selfie of the new dress...

A selfie of the new dress…

A little something from Lanvin

A little something from Lanvin

 

I’ve Got a Crush on You

I have a crush.  I admit it.  A complete and total, school-girl like infatuation.  I can’t stop thinking about it, I can’t stop dreaming about it, I can’t stop lusting…

I am in love with a jacket.

Not just ANY jacket.  A blazer to be precise.  A Smythe blazer.  Its SO bad ass!  Its black and cut in all the right places.  The peaked collar gives a little polish while the cut-outs and padded shoulders give it just the right amount of edge.

Either of these Smythe beauties will do fine.

Either of these Smythe beauties will do fine.

I want it… and I can’t have it.

I’m cheap.  I like a sale (remember Black Magic Woman?).  The Smythes are beautiful but ringing in around $600, I just can’t do it.  Childcare bills, swimming lessons, summer camp are all taking precedence over me being united with the object of my obsession.

I love you, you beautiful work of tailoring.  Maybe someday we will be together.

Barbie Needs a Job

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When Shorty #1 was born, I vowed we would be those parents that supplied their kids with only good toys.  You know…

1. Toys that educate

2. Toys that are ethically made

3. Toys that are environmentally friendly

4. Toys that are gender neutral

You get the idea.

Fast forward 6 years and you’ll see how impossible it was to stick with the plan.  In that time Toys R Us crept into the picture, as did hand me down toys, as did Disney.   The Polly Pockets invaded and now we’re swimming in a sea of tiny little rubber dresses (for what I guess are little Polly Pocket fetishes).

What could we do?  Sheltering our kids from the reality of the corporate machine that monetizes and markets every TV show and movie franchise with the toys that go with them is an uphill battle.  Especially when they start preschool.  Shorty #1 loves it all.  Who are we tell her not to – all we can do is try and educate her.

So as we discuss the merits of children’s toys, let us jump with both feet into the dialogue about Barbies, shall we?  While I do agree with the argument regarding Barbie propagating unrealistic body images for little girls, I for one played with Barbies growing up and never seemed to notice her shape.  What I did notice was her imaging.

Warning: here’s where I climb up on my soapbox.

I will only contribute to the Barbie franchise IF said Barbie has an actual profession.  Please note that the world’s oldest profession does not count!

Yes, I am sick and tired of Barbies dressed like prostitutes playing role model to our little girls.  If I’m forking over cash for a Barbie she has to have a real job.  Chef Barbie, Teacher Barbie, Dentist Barbie, Computer Programmer Barbie – all of these are ok.  Hell, even Malibu Barbie is a pro-surfer.  I can accept that.  I want to see Lawyer Barbie in an Armani suit or better yet Supreme Court Justice Barbie in robes – that would be amazing.  Nuclear physicist Barbie perhaps or even Entrepreneur Barbie complete with tech conference badge and elevator pitch in hand.

Having a profession is really the tip of the iceberg. Barbie needs to be dressed for the job.  Tell me, why does poor Barbie always have to have her feet positioned in a 180 degree angle to fit into heels?  Really, don’t you think Chef Barbie would be better off with a pair of sensible Crocs?  She could slip on some foie gras in those heels and break her tiny little neck.  Or Dog-Walker Barbie – heels for that job – as if.  Imagine if you will Barbie careening down the street with 5 dogs pulling her along in those shoes.  Wait til they get to the dog park – she’ll be on her ass in no time.

Don’t even get me started on the short skirts and plunging necklines.  I don’t think that a real Dentist wears a micro-mini when seeing back to back patients.  Are you listening Mattel?  Oh and if you are listening, perhaps you could add a few extra millimetres to her waistline while you’re at it?