My Vancouver

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I remember the sunny July day in 1998 when I arrived in Vancouver for what I thought was a two year commitment.  Transferred out of our Toronto office, I planned to give the West Coast a try for a few years.  Fifteen years later -Vancouver is home.

Like almost everyone else in this town, I wasn’t born here.  A city full of transplants, Vancouver is a fishing village.  The city itself plays host to a mere 600,000 odd citizens (it’s the surrounding communities and suburbs that push us up over the 2.5 million mark) all settled into just 115 square kilometres.  All the action circles out from the downtown core playing host to the surrounding area so the city seems so much busier and populated than it actually is.  Truth is, after living here for so long you realize what a small little world it is and I love it.

I love that I can do my job here – far away from the entertainment industry centres.  Sure, I have to travel more – but when I’m home I’m not obligated to all sorts of business functions etc.

I love that Vancouver has grown out of the awkward teenage phase it was in when I arrived in 1998.  Like Justin Bieber, the city was still resting on it’s own version of “Baby” – Expo 86.  Pimply faced and waiting for its voice to change Vancouver starting to come into its own.  Now its the sophisticated Adele of cities.  Like “Rolling in the Deep” Vancouver welcomed the 2010 Winter Olympics and literally conquered the world stage.

We cheered from the sidelines for the athletes, sure.  But we cheered the loudest for our city.  It was a shaky start, we worried if we could handle all the attention.  The weather was just as apprehensive.  The warmest, driest season in recent memory made the mountains more of a hiker’s paradise rather than a skiier’s dream.  News channels covered us with great relish.  “They have to helicopter in snow to cover the slopes!”

Day 1 was simply tragic as the luge track took a life and the Opening Ceremonies took a sombre tone.

But then something happened.  The sun came out and shone on our fair city.  The temperatures rose and the people came out in droves.  We became obsessed with the games, with the spotlight and we liked it.  We liked to show off our fair climate in mid-February.  Our beautiful mountains and glistening ocean.  The people of Vancouver became true hosts and rose to the occasion.  It was a magical experience.

Since then Vancouver is a changed place.  Out of its adolescence, Vancouver is a sexy and sophisticated twenty-something ready to accept its place among the old guard of cool places – Rio, Sydney, Cape Town.  Vancouver was rubbing shoulders with these cities and could maybe even give them a run for their money.

And it ain’t over yet, I can’t wait to see what happens when she’s a confident thirty-something!

My favorite Vancouver places:

EAT

Tavola

Hands down my favorite restaurant in Vancouver.  Located on the far west end of Robson St in a residential area, Tavola is nestled into a cozy neighborhood thats literally steps away from the action.  Close enough to feel the energy but far enough to not have it overwhelm.  This casual yet cool place serves some of the best food I have EVER eaten.  Delicious, gooey Burrata cheese (flown in from the Napa Valley) paired with fresh daily antipasto.  Homemade pasta fresh sheet that changes regularly (don’t worry – the incredibly simple yet wholly scrumptious Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe remains on the menu daily).  Not to mention the crispy brick chicken, rib steak for a crowd and the desserts made in house, Tavola is Italian comfort at its best.  A great wine list covers all the bases!  The service is second to none.

Heirloom

Typically west coast, Vancouver boasts its share of vegetarian fare and most of it excellent.  But Heirloom is on a whole other level.  Located at the corner of 12th and Granville in one of the cities few heritage buildings, Heirloom creates a light, airy space with a whitewash and high ceilings.  A great spot for brunch, the menu offers options for all variations of restrictive diets – vegetarian, vegan, raw, gluten free.  I myself literally giggled like a school girl while digging into the raw, gluten free, vegan pecan brownie with avocado frosting.  Holy smokes!

Nuba

This small chain of very sexy Lebanese restaurants across the city offers a feast for the senses.  Delicious platters filled with falafel and creamy hummus, crispy salads and crunchy fried cauliflower all satisfy!

East is East

For organic Afghan/ Indian delicacies and an ambience that won’t quit, East is East on South Main is a favorite.  We love their roti wraps (and had to institute a moratorium as we were visiting the easy access take-out window at least once a week).

The Teahouse in Stanley Park

If you’re looking for a room with a view, The Teahouse is second to none.  A fantastic perch above English Bay, nestled into Stanley Park offers a 180 degree view of the ships waiting to enter the Harbor and the perfect vantage point for a west coast sunset.  The food is good and the kids menu is a godsend!

NIGHTLIFE

Truth is, since we had the Shorties our nightlife is a little limited – but we do have our favorite places to hang out when we can organize a babysitter.

The Commodore Ballroom

One of the premier ballroom level concert venues in North America, The Commodore has been lovingly restored to its original glory and hosts some of the best touring artists coming through town.  The dance floor is still sprung (rumor has it with old tires and horsehair) so find a spot in the middle during a sell out show and take a ride!

Guilt & Co.

Located in the heart of Gastown, this downstairs bar is a great place for a martini.  Live music from local artists entertains and the unisex bathroom offers a one-way window out to the club so you can spy on your friends.  Haha!

The Electric Owl

I’ve spent a lot of time in grungy nightclubs watching bands.  The Electric Owl on Main is a the exact opposite.  Most bars consider sightlines to the stage as merely an afterthought – here sightlines are paramount as the room is perfectly arranged widthwise for maximum viewing (and listening).

The Keefer Hotel

If its simply cocktails you’re after, then this is the place.  Set in the fringes of Chinatown, the Keefer Hotel offers a great patio and a drinks menu that will blow your mind.  The inventive recipes and vintage glassware are super fun!

SHOP

For many, shopping in Vancouver is fantastic.  Robson Street is the perfect High Street model, flashing wares from all the top fashion chains (Zara, BCBG, Banana Republic).  But I really prefer the charm of the small independent boutiques that are found along South Main and Gastown.  4th Ave in Kits and South Granville are also a great destinations.

THINGS TO DO

Sunny Summer Day

Head to any one of the beaches around English Bay and soak up some rays.

Rainy Day

Vancouver Aquarium or Science World are great places to visit when the weather is the pits (like most of the time).  All ages will appreciate the great galleries at both!  Or head to the spa – I love Miraj Hammam on a cold, rainy day where you can escape to the warm sauna and get a massage.  Skoah is a Vancouver based operation that gives great facials!

Winter Day

GO SKIING.  Get up to one of the local mountains (we prefer Cypress) and play in the snow.  The Alpine and Nordic options on all 3 local mountains offer activities for everyone (Downhill & Cross Country Skiing, Snowshoeing at all levels, Tobogganing and Tubing).

WHERE TO STAY

I don’t usually stay in hotels when I’m at home.  But here are a few that I hear are pretty good:

The Fairmont Pacific Rim

Located across from the new Convention Centre and just blocks from Robson, the brand new Pacific Rim is a glittering addition to the Vancouver skyline.  The room decor is very cool and functional and the outdoor pool with cabanas and fireplaces looks pretty bad ass.  The lobby bar offers a great scene and good cocktails.

The Wedgewood

One of the original boutique hotels in the city, the Wedgewood also has one of the best bars in the city.  Bacchus Lounge is a great place for a date or a quiet drink.  The rooms are charming and the location just off the Robson strip can’t be beat.

Vancouver is a hell of a town.  You should check it out!

Airplane Sleep

I’m a total chump.  Couldn’t help myself.  I caved like chocolate macaron in the hands of 5 year old.  I just became one of those people that I secretly mock and chastise.  I bought a neck pillow at the airport.  You know – the really soft, squishy kind that takes up loads of space in your carry-on and looks completely stupid when you wear it.

Well that's $20 I'm never getting back...

Well that’s $20 I’m never getting back…

I was heading to the gate before a 9 hour night flight in an economy seat knowing that on the other end I was going straight to work – sleeping on the plane was going to be necessary and I was willing to do anything to help facilitate that.  The truth is, $20 on a plushy pillow is not going to help for shit.  I was in for a crappy night’s sleep no matter what.

People carry these ridiculous pillows, take pills, wear eye masks and ear plugs all in an effort to sleep on the red-eye but that’s kinda why they call it the RED EYE.  Its never going to be restful until you’re settled in that little pod up in business class safely away from the plebs in coach battling out for armrests and recline space.  The reality is that in that confined economy seat you are at the mercy of those around you.  The seat grabber behind you, old recliner in front, the snorer beside you.  Not to mention the sweet lady on the other side who has now rested her head on your shoulder and is out cold.  All the way to New York.  (Yes, this happened to me.  And NO I didn’t say anything.  I’m Canadian.  I just screamed in my head WAKE UP!!!!!)  Nothing helps you escape those factors so you can fall into a peaceful slumber.  Not to mention the physical constraints of stretching out or finding enough recline in the seat so you don’t do the old head bob forward.  No.  The fact is you’re lucky if you get any sleep at all.

I wedge myself into the seat with knees up trying to find some sort of fetal position of comfort.  In the meantime, my neck is wrenched, my tailbone bruised from the armrests and I’ve taken a drink cart to the back of the head.  Ahh airplane sleep, you elusive mistress.  The statement “Don’t worry, you can sleep on the plane” is an outright lie and everyone knows it.  Instead I guess I’ll just catch up on all the TV and movies I’ve missed.

 

Flying Frequently?

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I’m on airplanes.  A lot.  The experience of jet travel has slowly declined since its inception.  The days of the glamorous jetliner where guests dressed in their finest and were seated in the lap of luxury are now long long gone – unless of course you can fork over the cash to upgrade into business class (or better).  For the majority, the experience is nothing better than a flying Greyhound bus – perhaps worse as you’re often trapped in your miniscule seat for hours and hours with no chance for escape at the next stop.

From the start, the whole concept of flying is completely backwards from any other consumer experience we face today.  Think about it – in what other industry do you pay hundreds, often thousands of dollars to submit to a strip search and then be held hostage behind guards until you board the plane.  Not to mention if you’re delayed – to be kept completely in the dark with misinformation or worse lack of information with little to no regard for your comfort or schedule.  Imagine if this happened when you went shopping for a big screen TV?  God forbid if you become frustrated or angry at the lack of regard for your needs after spending all that money, then you can be branded difficult and then denied to take the trip at all?  I mean come on.

In the airline business, the customer is no longer a customer.  You’re merely someone who paid a lot of money to 9 times out of 10 be treated like shit.  And we still submit to this every single day.

On a recent trip out of New York, I arrived at the airport ahead of a flight to Nashville only to find out that not only had my flight been cancelled, but that the airline had graciously booked me on another flight just 36 hours later.  No consideration, compensation or EVEN accommodation was made for the inconvenience.   All day I checked online to make sure the flight was on time and only learned of the cancellation when I tried to check in.  It turns out the flight was cancelled due to Air Traffic Conditions.  The airport was too busy to accommodate all of the flights it had confirmed for the day.  Right.  Ok.

As a result of the cancellation, I had to pay to get myself back to Manhattan, lose a deposit on the Nashville hotel and pay for another night in my NY hotel.  Since my trip to Nashville was only for one night, it meant that entire leg of my trip was now off and I was forced to re-route home.  When the dust settled, the airline had the nerve to charge me a change fee and refused to refund for the leg of the trip out of Nashville that I couldn’t take due to their cancellation.

When (and if) you get on board the plane, the fun doesn’t stop.  Why on earth are they making the seats smaller and closer together?  I mean, I get the concept of cramming more bodies on that metal tube so the airline can make more money, but really?  I worry that the likelihood of deep vein thrombosis increases exponentially everytime the person sitting in front of me, reclines their seat.  Dude, I am quite sure that the extra 3 inches of space you gained in front of your nose must make you so much more comfortable.  The last time I flew a new “tourist class” airline, I had a rather intimate relationship with the seat back in front of me, it was that close.

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Should we talk about the food?  Like why?  Why try and be fancy when that really stopped the day they replaced the silverware with plastic.  At this point, can we just simplify things?  Nice fresh sandwiches.  Cheese and crackers.  Fruit that’s not served with some kind of strange dip.  Keep it simple if it can’t be fancy.  Simple and good would be just fine.

And Wifi.  Really, I would pay for wifi on an airplane EVERY TIME I FLY.  Did you hear that?  PAY REAL MONEY.  Its not hard to do, some airlines are on the case with this.  For those of you airlines that haven’t jumped on this bandwagon yet – WHY THE HELL NOT?  I know lots of people that would very happily pay for wifi on a flight.  Lets just do it, ok?

The real question here is why does the airline industry seem to not get these things.  Why have the basics of customer needs fallen so far by the wayside?  And why do we as the consumers continue to allow the bad service and crummy experiences to happen over and over again?  Why?   What can we do about this as an unhappy consumer?  Go with the competition who are no better? Write a letter.  HA!  What good does that do?  Oh, here’s a voucher for $50 for future travel with the offending airline.

I guess as long as we want to travel as much as we do, the experience will continue to, for the most part, completely suck.  At this point we are so used to the dramas of air travel as commonplace that a good flight, with good experience is something to get excited about.  So for now, I guess we celebrate the good days when they happen and commiserate together the commonplace occurrence of yet another travel day horror story.

The Guilty Mama

I’m on the road.  Again.  Writing today from the very glamorous Newark Liberty Airport.  I’m on a week long, two-city trip.  Its day 1 and I’m feeling some relief as the guilt shopping is complete… already!  Wahoo.

You see, the business traveling mama must relieve her guilt in being away from her brood by returning with a vast array of gifts.  The gifts are used as rewards for good behaviour with Dad, to help soften the blow for the next inevitable journey and/ or because they have become expected.

It sucks that this Mama needs to be away from home for stretches of time, so its become a habit that I bring home souvenirs from my travels.  Sometimes its Legos, sometimes its books, sometimes a Barbie (I actually found Flight Attendant Barbie in an airport somewhere, which was great because of my rule that Barbies should always have a job.)  Since the great purge and move, I’ve been reluctant to buy the Shorties more STUFF, but I do like to surprise them with something.

Enter the NBC Experience Store.  Lately my trips have taken me to NYC with meetings clustered in and around Rockefeller Centre.  With 5 minutes to spare on a crazy day, the candy department at the NBC Experience Store saved my ass!  GIANT CANDY NECKLACES were the saving grace.  The Shorties loved them and they were cheap.  I think I need to invest in this company and order these by the case load.  They are a great novelty, sort of consumable and keep everyone happy.  Until of course, my trip is to anywhere but NYC and I come home empty handed.

I submit the aforementioned Giant Candy Necklaces as evidence of my guilt.

I submit the aforementioned Giant Candy Necklaces as evidence of my guilt.

Its tough.  I would like the Shorties to feel connected to my travel in that they know where I am going and where I have been.  We could load up on those “My Mom Went to (INSERT RANDOM CITY NAME) and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt” things.  Or maybe they could start collecting spoons?  WTF, are they 80?  No, they’re kids and they don’t want crappy t-shirts and I’m not wasting money on lame souvenirs from the airport gift shop.

So Giant Candy Necklaces it is.

Eat to the Beat

I’m getting ready to head back on the road again this weekend and all I can think about is the great food I get to eat along the way.  Not the kind on the airplane or in the airport – but that I get to go back to some of the cities where I experienced some of the greatest meals of MY LIFE.  By now, you know I’m super bossy and know-it-all-y so it’s 100% in my nature to tell you that you should eat there too.

Geezus I love to eat!

Geezus I love to eat!

10. Bogner’s – Penticton, BC – BC wine country is slowly coming into its own and the foodies are following.  Chef Darin Paterson takes the concept of the 100 mile diet to a whole new level.  In addition to his kitchen garden surrounding the restaurant’s patio, Paterson pulls local produce from his own farm just 5 minutes out of town.  The fact that my kid had a “little accident” on the patio may sway me from returning next time, but fresh garden salsa might drag me back regardless.

9.  Patria – Toronto – True Spanish tapas in the heart of Toronto.  Loud, boisterous and super sexy.  Start with the Iberico ham.  A tough find on this side of the pond.  The paella is amazing.

8. Guy Savoy – Paris – Michelin mania.  Guy Savoy is a dining experience.  I’m usually not a fan of the pretentious Michelin presentation but man is his food good.  I’ve raved about Guy Savoy before.  Dessert comes on a cart – a motherf&*king cart FULL of desserts.  The first time I went there I ate 13 different desserts (lavender marshmallows, earl grey ice cream, macarons, strawberry tart, rice pudding – UNREAL).

7. Milos – New York – Fresh seafood in midtown Manhattan.  Big energy, delicious fresh food – great combo.  Don’t miss the Milos Special – lightly battered and fried zucchini and eggplant.  Yum.  That dish always tastes like MORE.

6. Alex Sushi – Oslo – Coming from Vancouver, the Sushi capitol of the world (outside Japan of course), I am always hesitant to eat sushi in other cities.  But Alex Sushi in Oslo nailed it.  The Tempura Salad was a revelation.  Plus the minimalist Scandinavian decor is very hip and happening.

5. A Travessa – Lisbon – Set down a narrow cobbled street with families grilling sardines and lanterns and streamers crisscrossing overhead, you enter an arched doorway to a sliding glass door that is about as odd as monkey’s wedding.  Down the stairs to a cavernous, candlelit room and into the rustic (is this the Portuguese version of Shabby Chic?) courtyard to dine under the stars.  The building was a former convent founded in the 17th century!  The complimentary appetizers (scrambled eggs with mushrooms, olives) and country style bread whet the palette along with cold white port served as an apperitif.  I had the Toro steak – the owner belittled me for ordering it medium.  “Its organic blood” he said!  It was magical!

4. Osteria Morini – New York – I’m not sure if this meal was so memorable because it was at the end of a super crazy press day or it was close enough to Christmas that it felt extra festive, but I loved this restaurant.  Its small and cozy by NYC standards and the fare is rustic Italian which is hands down my fave.  New York has arguably the best Italian food outside of Italy to be sure, but there was something extra special and authentic about the experience at Osteria Morini.  The weathered wood tables overflowing with mouthwatering cured meats and cheeses, the meatballs, the light and airy Lambrusco wine.  Call way ahead to make a reservation and if you can get a table TAKE IT!

3. Hutong – Hong Kong – Another great meal at the end of a super long, crazy press day.  I am pretty sure the food was as good as I remember.  Located on the 28th floor of One Peking Place in Tsim Sha Tsui neighborhood of Kowloon, overlooking Victoria Harbour.  The decor a sort of Disney-ified version of old Hong Kong about as authentic as you can get in a brand new skyscraper.  The Szechuan cuisine was just spicy enough!  Delish.

2. La Petite Maison – London, UK – On a recent stay in London we were there for just two nights and had dinner here both evenings.  ITS THAT GOOD!  Incredible South of France inspired food in the heart of Mayfair.  The only problem is deciding what to eat.  The menu has so many great and delicious options.  The grilled veal chop (sorry, I know) was amazing and they serve the best french fries I have ever eaten.  (French fries are my kryptonite, so trust me on this one).

1. Tavola – Vancouver, BC – I know, I know, it seems a little contrived to pick a place in my own home town as #1, but I seriously love Tavola so much.  Back to rustic Italian, done really well.  A super simple menu and fresh sheet keeps the experience familiar but never stale.  The service is amazing with casual waitstaff often sitting at the table to explain the intricacies of the menu and winelist.  The Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe is the simplest pasta dish (fresh handmade noodles cooked in a delicate sauce comprised of just olive oil, parmesan and pepper) is worth every calorie.  The brick chicken is light and lemony and if you’re lucky to be there when Meyer Lemons are in season, you must try the Lemon Positano for dessert.  The menu is set up for sharing so this place is best visited with a crowd so you can taste a little of everything.

Holy Shit!

So, you may recall that we are deep into Potty Training time with Shorty #2.  We were on a roll, it was going great.  Until tonight.  Tonight we suffered… a set back.  A small set back.  Ok, it was more like one small setback and another, well, much larger set back.

You can picture it.  A lovely long weekend getaway.  A nice dinner in a sweet local restaurant.  Dappled sunshine reflecting off the crystal, jazz playing in the background, a nice wine ordered.  #2 fresh from a nap, a swim and a bath ready to face the evening as she had many times before.  The only difference this time is that she was diaperless.  All was going swimmingly until #2 had a little accident.  #2 had a #2.  No harm, no foul.  We swept her up into the restaurant loo for a quick clean up and wardrobe change and no one was the wiser.

The dinner carried on.  Lovely, delicious, delightful.  Everyone laughing and enjoying.  Our girls befriended the other little girls at the next table and they had fun playing tag on the patio and through the gardens.  All fine until #2 came running over to me with a look of horror in her eyes.  “Mama, I gotta poo.”  “Hold it!” I cried.  But it was too late.  Way too late.

This wasn’t just a poop accident.  This was like a “Night of the Living Dead” sort of explosion.  Poop everywhere.  J scooped her up to rush her into the bathroom, poop dropping everywhere.  I was like the “Cleaner” from Pulp Fiction – trying to erase all the evidence, the poop that had dropped out of #2’s skirt all over the patio floor, before any of the other diners had noticed.

cleaner

Yeah, they noticed.  By the time we all returned to the table with the now-fresh-as-a-daisy-thanks-to-the-WHOLE-pack-of-Huggies-wipes Shorty #2, all eyes were on us.  I tried to smile and keep up a brave face, but as the aforementioned kids from the other table were herded back to the side of their “single-child” parents with their judgy eyes pointed in our direction, I could hear the disdain in their eye-rolls;  “I would never let my kid poop in such a fine restaurant!” and “That will NEVER happen to me.”  I’m here to prove that this was one of those days where what I wanted, preferred or felt was the cool or OK was NOT in the cards.  I had no control in this situation and neither will you Judgy Judgersons!  It  was time to make a quick exit.  You just try and keep up a brave face in moments such as these.  “Yes, my kid just SHAT on your patio and we’ll have another bottle of that pinot noir.”   Needless to say, we tipped VERY well and hightailed it out of there.

Maybe next time we’ll just get a sitter…

Road Wardrobe

Overpacking... again.

Overpacking… again.

I spend a lot of time on the road.  Airplanes, hotels.  I am admittedly an overpacker but I am also a pro at laundering clothes in hotel sinks.  Clothes on the road can be tough – how to look presentable and be comfortable is always the challenge.  I thought I might share some of my favorite tips on what to pack.

Disclaimer:  all of these items I either bought myself or covet.  No one has paid me to tell you that I like/ love them.

1. JEANS – In my opinion, THE best jeans for traveling are AG‘s Jegging.  They are real jeans with a button and a fly and pockets that work (read: they have structure) but they are SUPER stretchy and feel like pj’s when you’re wearing them.  I have 3 pairs and always travel with at least 2 of them.  On long trips, these are the only clothing items I send to the hotel laundry.  I’m not the kind of girl that will wear yoga pants in public, so these are a great alternative on the long haul (and even short haul) flights.

2. BLAZER – I love a good blazer and have a few that travel with me a lot.  They give you a polished look and with a pair of jeans offer an ideal blend of casual chic.  On a recent trip to London, I picked up a little black blazer with a faux leather collar at Zara.  (why are Zara’s in Europe SO much better than here in North America?)  This jacket has literally traveled around the world with me.  I’ve definitely recouped the £100 odd it cost me and I love it!  I am also a mega fan of the super luxe Smythe jackets (as you’ve heard me lust for these before).  The cut and fit mixed with some incredibly fun fabrics makes Smythe a great investment and a unique wardrobe piece.  PS – Buy Canadian.

3. SCARVES – LOVE a good scarf.  Have a pile of them and always travel with at least 2 or 3.  They give some variation on outfits, cover up spilled soup and keep you warm on the plane.

4. SWEATER – I have a black v-neck cashmere sweater that I love to travel in.  Its cozy and comfortable and usually looks pretty good.  I picked it up at a very exclusive boutique called Costco.  Seriously.  I am also partial to a good, drapey cardigan because why wouldn’t I be.

5. BOOTIES – Ankle boots are good for the road.  They pack small (hello Frye Motorcycle Boots, I’m looking at you and your 5lbs per boot), go with everything and can roll in warm or cold climates.  Mine are from Steve Madden, relatively cheap and cheerful and get the job done.  The ones I really would love are these from Rag & Bone.

6. SNEAKERS – Of course you need sneakers.  Non-white, super-comfy.  Preferably they are stylish enough for the tooling around, but sensible enough for the gym.  Or they’re Converse Chuck Taylors because they are just freaking awesome.

7. BLACK DRESS – Every girl on the road needs a great black dress.  Mine is called Black Magic.  You may recall my love letter to this favorite and perennial wardrobe item.  A great black dress can work for dinner out or as a pool cover-up.  Just make sure its in an easy to travel fabric.

8. BLACK ANYTHING – Working in the entertainment business, black is standard issue.  When following an artist on the red carpet or standing in the wings on stage, black is a must.  My job is to blend into the background and black does the trick.  PLUS, it goes with everything (except maybe brown) and it doesn’t show the dirt.  Black is ALWAYS the new black.

9. TOTE BAG – When on airplanes a lot, you need a big purse.  The Longchamp Shopper is a perfect example of the ideal travel bag that holds everything – iPad, ziploc, spare t-shirt and a laptop.  Plus it folds up small, so you can pack it away if you don’t need it.

And here’s what not to bring on the road:

1. ANYTHING THAT WRINKLES – as if you’ll have time to iron with 18 hr days.

2. EXPENSIVE SUITCASE – go mid-range on the suitcase.  Spend enough that it won’t fall apart on the first use but not so much that the nicks and dents will make you cry.

3. HATS – because, why would you unless you’re Johnny Depp.

So there you have it.  Another bossy R&R Mom post, telling you what to do.

 

 

 

All the News That’s Fit to… Wait. What?

Don’t get weird, but I’m about to pull out the soapbox.  Are you ready for it?

What the hell is happening to the news?  I know this is not a new complaint as the past few weeks have been a perfect example of the stupidity that the 24 hour news cycle breeds. CNN has been on a loop about this lost plane, positing theories from terrorism to aliens as explanations to the unexplainable.  Oscillating blame from the pilots to real bad guys to simple mechanical failure.  No one really knows what happened, so lets create hours and hours of television and let everyone just guess.  Who cares if they contradict one another or even themselves.  Just keep guessing – that’s what news has become.

When was it that journalism got so sloppy?  Gone are the days of the hardcore editor sitting behind his desk, cigar stub hanging from his lips, yelling at the junior reporter; “But its not news kid!”  “Can you PROVE it?”  That guy must be rolling in his grave when he reads the headlines these days.  News is no longer based in just the facts, editorial has seeped into the mainstream news and opinion seems to be the default proof when the hard facts prove to be too elusive.

I know, I know.  Its not a recent problem – its been going on for a long time now.  And to be honest its bothered me for a long time.  But today just seemed to be the day that it broke me.  Scrolling through my news pages and twitter feed today I was struck by the posts by Christiane Amanpour reporting on the state of play in Crimea when right in the middle of all this REAL news there’s a post about a fight between Russia and the Ukraine being about who invented the recipe for Chicken Kiev.  I kid you not.  WTF is that all about?  Christiane?  Is that you?  Did you hire US Airways social media department to run your Twitter account?  Come on!  Of all the real true journalists left in this world, how can you mention the expulsion of the Crimean leader in one post and then a f%^&ing recipe in the next???

Christiane Amanpour tweets about Chicken Kiev and the crisis in the Ukraine.

Christiane Amanpour tweets about Chicken Kiev and the crisis in the Ukraine.

The next thing that got me today was an article in The Globe & Mail.  For decades, the Globe has been a pillar of Canadian print media.  This has been a credible national daily newspaper.  But lately they seem to be fixated on a potential real estate bubble happening in the Canadian housing market.  Weekly and sometimes daily for the past few months they have been the harbinger of doom for the Canadian real estate market and who knows – they could be right – but today’s article absolutely took the cake.  Today they published an article about a possible exploding bubble that could see a reduction in home prices of as much as 25% within a year.  Included in the article was a calculator so you could see just how much money you would lose if your house was to lose 25% of its value.  Filled with disclaimers, they included this calculator on their iPhone app.  To be fair it also allowed you to slide the scale of the percentage from the potential 25% loss to a possible 25% gain.   But still – HOW IS THIS NEWS?  By offering the quick click through to a calculator which defaults to the doom and gloom of a 25% loss in value seems to only perpetuate fear on something based in speculation and not fact.  Furthermore, isn’t the housing market based on speculation so if you continue to propose that there is a housing bubble about to burst and spoon feed this to the masses will this not become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

I work with the media so much and while some writers are great and actually check their facts, most rely on Wikipedia to check for accuracy.  Wikipedia?  Are you kidding me?  Granted, I work in entertainment and getting someone’s first album title correct is not a matter of life or death.  But these are the simple things that should be done right. Perhaps this is a symptom of our voracious need for news and information.  We crave it.  We breathe it.  We literally hold it in the palms of hands all the time.  We need news and we need it faster than ever.  There isn’t time to make sure that the news that’s coming out of our “trusted” sources is accurate or even good information.  Its just information that we are clambering after at an alarming pace.  I guess I have to blame myself for needing to read 20 news apps every morning and expect new and different information with each one.  Can I really complain when Christiane Amanpour has to fill column space with recipes?

I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane

The Empty Gate.

The Empty Gate.

What is it with people when they travel.  Its like a switch goes off the minute they hit the security line-up.  They freak out and lose all sense of decorum and civility.  The guy who just rationally stood behind me in the Starbucks line-up is now at security pushing me through.  As I unpack every liquid, gel, electronic, shoe, jacket, sweater, piece of metal on my person – he’s filling the bins before I can finish.  Its no different all the way until we’re out of baggage claim on the other side.  What is it about air travel that causes people to completely lose their manners?

Maybe I’m a little grumpy but as I am just waking up with my first coffee following a completely packed red-eye on a 777, I think I have identified some of the main characters you encounter on when flying these days.  Here’s who to look out for:

1. The Premature Boarder – This is the lady who has camped out at the door to the gate in the hopes of being first on the plane.  Does she think there is a prize for being the first?  Like a nice chocolate waiting at her seat?  A bravo from the flight attendant perhaps?  Complimentary upgrade?  Um, no.  The Premature Boarder is flying economy, has no airline status, is not flying with small children nor is handicapped.  The Premature Boarder seems to be deluded into thinking that where you position yourself at the boarding gate matters.  First off – get out of the way.  Secondly, you are checked in and at the gate – the plane is NOT going to leave without you.  Find some patience and relax.

2. The Overpacker – Ok.  This Overpacker is not to be confused with my overpacking tendency.  This is not the person checking several large pieces.  This is the person with the oversized rollerboard, the massive duffelbag and some crazy souvenir piece of shit wrapped in bubble wrap.  The other variation on the Overpacker is the business traveller with the massive rollerboard and garment bag who refuses to pay checked bag fees and stows their luggage in the first overhead bins even though they are sitting in row 38.  Both of these people suck.  A lot.

3. The Seat-Grabber – This is the guy sitting in the row behind you that seems to forget that the seat back he insists on violently grabbing contains an actual human being that is nearly whiplashed every time he needs to check the overhead or take a pee.

Headed to 37,000 feet with some of your new best friends.

Headed to 37,000 feet with some of your new best friends.

4. The Recliner – The Recliner is just a dick.  You know what I’m talking about.  They’re the ones that push the seat all the way back the minute the landing gear comes up.  Thanks pal.  I love that your seat back is now in my face and that I need to contort my 5’5″ frame just to get to my bag under your seat.  Don’t even get me started about when the meal service starts.  Put it up you idiot.

5. The Under-Seat Stower – Dude.  Don’t try and shove stuff under your own seat. It goes under the seat in front of you.  Enough said.

6. The Anxious De-Planer – This is the guy from Row 38, on his feet and in the aisle as soon as you hear that little bing when the seat belt sign goes off.  He doesn’t have a tight connection but what ever he’s up to upon arrival is way more important than whatever you’re doing.

7. The Jetway Sloth – The Jetway Sloth is usually traveling with the Anxious De-Planer.  As they enter the Jetway, the apparent compulsion to GET OFF THAT PLANE ceases and they are now in no hurry at all.  Along with their friends they walk abreast and the minute you try to make a break for it and go around them they veer straight into your path oblivious to everyone else around them.  This happens several times in the span of 10 metres.

The Beloved Baggage Belt

The Beloved Baggage Belt

8. Baggage Claim Blocker – The BCB as I like to call them are often also traveling with the Anxious De-Planer.  Using trolleys and carry-ons, they take up valuable real estate at the baggage belt, usually located right at the junction where the bags come out.  They pick up every bag, inspecting carefully to see if its theirs.  They don’t discriminate, even though their bag is green they check the black and navy and floral printed ones too JUST IN CASE they packed a bag they forgot.  When their bag does finally come out, it has several colourful pieces of ribbon and yarn tied to the handle to help distinguish it in situations just as this.

Beware of these traveling characters and the havoc they wreak on your already taxing travel day.  When you do encounter them, know you are not alone in the pain of managing their abhorrent behaviour.  Keep your fingers crossed for an upgrade!

 

 

A Free (Wo)Man in Paris

Me and J beneath Charlamagne by Shorty #1

Me and J beneath Charlamagne by Shorty #1

We went to Paris last week.  Me, J and the Shorties.  I was excited by the prospect of showing them the City of Light and for a chance to be in Paris with plenty of free time to explore. It was an adventure.

We had been warned that perhaps a European sojourn was not exactly THE holiday for a young family, but an opportunity arose and the airmiles were cashed in and we decided to take a chance, win a prize (in the words of my poetic husband).   You know what, we totally won.  It wasn’t awful, it wasn’t boring and we were not in the least bit disappointed.  But we did learn a few things along the way…

1. International Air Travel in the days of personal screens, iPads etc can actually be pretty manageable.  Just don’t expect Les Petites to like the airplane food, even if it is the children’s meal.

2. Jetlag is a nightmare.  No way around that.  So just accept that for the first few days you may be sleeping the day away, so embrace the night.

3. Sort out your local transportation.  Paris is best explored on foot, except when you’re rolling with a 2 and 7 year old.  Various transport devices for the Shorties was the only way to go.  Stroller, carrier and scooter gave us options for them to move around and still be able to walk for miles.

4. Bribery is awesome.  Nothing like a macaron at the end of a long trip to convince La Petite to carry on.

Shorty #2 enjoys a proper chocolate eclair and wonders if she's found poo inside... Tres charmant!

Shorty #2 enjoys a proper chocolate eclair and wonders if she’s found poo inside… Tres charmant!

5. Don’t expect them to be fascinated by all the incredible art and history around you.  Rather let them be fascinated by the things that they find amazing.  Case in point, we took a trip to Versailles.  Shorty #2 was fast asleep on my back (NOTE: they do NOT allow strollers in the Palace – that was an AWESOME discovery as we reached the front of the line) and #1 was walking along the tour with us.  I gave her the task of counting all the suns she could see (good on Louis XIV for picking an emblem that’s easy to spot and placing it everywhere in the palace, thanks for that dude) but by the time we reached the Hall of Mirrors she was done.  “I’m bored” followed quickly by “I’m tired”  and then followed by “Can we GOOOOOO”.  It was the moment we had been waiting for on the tour and she decided now was the time to fall to pieces.  Luckily the Hall is filled with statues in various states of undress.  The Sun count very quickly became the Weiner count.  She laughed through the whole thing counting penises on the statues and every little naked cherub in the room.  I was pretty grateful for that revelation!

So the moral of this story – be brave, go with the flow and enjoy the moment.  By embracing the simple things on our trip we were able to experience Paris and actually have a great time as a family.

The Shorties at Place des Voges

The Shorties at Place des Voges