I've got a little list

Put away Christmas decorations. Check.

Get French Bulldog treated for pneumonia. Check.

Finish packing. Check.

Find a new hair colourist because Disaster. Check.

Drink ginger tea for Nerves. Check.

Finalize details with caterer. Check.

Pick up dress Saks for shortening and bustling, because you suddenly hate the dress you bought last year. Check.

Drink more ginger tea for Nerves. Check.

Realize you forgot a major item for caterer. Check.

Finalize details with caterer again. Check.

Review insurance policy on ocean house. Check.

Realize how many terrible things can happen to a house when reading the fine print. Check.

Drink yet more ginger tea. Check.

Realize you did not buy $4000 worth of stuff on December 23 at Best Buy and call credit card company. Check.

Cancel card. Check.

Order new card and change all numbers. Check.

Toss ginger tea and start mainlining GABA. Check.

Rethink the whole damn thing. Check.

Rethink the whole damn thing again. Check.

Gain perspective. Check.

Go get married and live happily ever after...

I'm out for a few weeks, cats and kittens. I'll be back in mid-January to report on the festivities.

In the meantime, I hope you have a wonderful New Year. Personally, I'm happy to see the back of 2016. Carrie Fisher was the final straw. I thought she was such a cool and honest woman and she was a terrific champion of mental health awareness. Plus, she had a french bulldog. I plan to read Wishful Drinking and reread Postcards from the Edge over the break.

2017 promises to be much better.

It's beginning to look like panic

What kind of an idiot closes a house deal, and negotiates another legal deal, while planning the final stages of a wedding right in the middle of Christmas? Oh ya, this one!

Oy, it's been stressful. And to top it all off, the french bulldog has pneumonia and while I was waiting for her x-ray results, the salon cancelled my wedding highlights appointment in spite of the fact that I called to let them know what was going on.

I have had two mini-panic attacks. I don't have them often but I've had them enough to know what to do (try to breathe) and what not to do (anything else.) Luckily I can stave off major ones by paying attention to my breathing and then embarking on some radical self-care.

Anxiety is the worst thing I face and I've faced some pretty terrible stuff. When I have a panic attack, the bad stuff all comes flooding back. It's like watching a Lifetime womjep movie on fast forward while attempting to hold your breath under water. I have to keep reminding myself that it's just a memory: it's no longer real.

I spent many years trying to avoid my anxiety, but to steal the wise words of Will and Grace's Karen, "It's not something you can just run away from like a hotel bill or a crying baby...." It's with me to stay.

Some people ask me what anxiety feels like. It feels like being kept awake for three days, drinking 100 cans of Red Bull, and then having someone pop a balloon in your face. It feels like dozens of tiny hyperactive monkeys running up and down your spine.

They say it has a purpose: it's what kept us safe when the beasts were chasing our ancestors through the wild. It let us run faster and climb higher and kept the species alive. Only we don't need that any more. At least not all the time.

Tell that to my brain.

So I yoga, I Sona, I reiki, I aromatherapy, I work out, I read, I have hour long baths. I read the how tos. I write the how tos. And it all helps. But it's not a cure all.

Thank the good Lord, I'm still able to sleep.

I need a steady diet of my Ladies of London and RHOBH, only the bloody Tivo keeps acting up.

These things are sent to try us...

Surprise Salt Scrub Shower

I was invited by my friend S to a salt scrub workshop my friend C was running. Now you must understand, C - who also happens to be my yoga instructor - is always up for a good time. So this scrub workshop could have involved just about anything: buying scrubs, making scrubs, being scrubbed. I've been super busy so I did not focus on the details until the day of the event. I asked S what to be wear. Yoga gear? A towel? With C, you never know.

I arrived at Nuworld Botanicals's retail space (they also sell their amazing goods online) where the workshop was being held.


The yoga ladies were hosting a shower for me.

Thank heavens I wore actual clothes.

The lovely owners of Nuworld walked us though making salt scrub at their raw bar. It was like baking: I mixed up some sea salt, grapeseed oil, pineapple enzyme, and green tea balm, and then added chamomile, peppermint, and rosemary essential oils for scent.

I selected some blue chamomile balm to go with the salts. I also picked out an Anxiety Relief aromatherapy roll-on. Because house deal + wedding + blending + Christmas = mucho mucho stress.

S is super talented cook and baker (she is making my wedding cakes) and made some amazing sandwiches and cakes. There were lots of other goodies too. #Spoiled.

We had a lovely time chatting. I feel very spoiled to have showers at this age and stage. I guess this wedding thing is really happening!

Swag included a Wander with Love Spiritual Gangster shirt, an apron designed by local designer a. wak, and some booze. If the Anxiety Relief roller does not relieve my stress, the Ketel One will!

The secret, I've discovered, to Surviving Stepford is to find your own tribe. There are lots of great people here. You just need to know where to find them...

A Holiday Tradition

I just heard the news about Zsa Zsa: 99 years of glamour. They really do not make them like that anymore.

It's been an exciting week. I'd share all the news, but a gal has to keep some secrets.

The Maritime Bolthole deal closed. I am officially Oakville - Lunenburg now. I'll have to change my correspondence cards.

Right now, however, I am very excited about the winter. On Saturday, we went skiing. Before Christmas! On something that fell from the sky instead of being made by a snow gun. It was magical and has put me in a lovely Christmassy mood.

Today, we saw The Nutcracker. Every year since my kids were very small, my daughter and I have gone to see the ballet. My son attended one performance, but after several vocal protests that there was too much dancing, he now gets Monster Jam tickets in lieu.

We have had various seasons since my children were small: we've been urban, and suburban; sometimes we were flush with cash, other times we were hunkering down financially. One year we were all quite broken. And yet, we continued to attend some version of the Nutcracker in spite of what was going on.

Some years, we attended the gorgeous James Kudelka choreographed version in Toronto. Other years, we saw local productions, which were charming in their own right. And whether we were seeing Xiao Nan Yu flawlessly dance the role of Sugar Plum Fairy or watching a novice Sugar Plum Fairy with imperfect footing, it was always special. It was a point of continuity in often-changing times. Some years, we saw it twice.

This year, we were back downtown, in the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. We enjoyed a special Nutcracker-themed lunch at Tundra before, and a quick run to Milk Bar at the Shagri-La after. It was heaven.

The performance is comforting in its familiarity. We know exactly what is going to happen next and -quite frankly - we like it that way. Tradition is a beautiful thing and in this season of change, we look forward to starting many new traditions to enjoy in the years to come.

I hope you have the chance to enjoy old traditions this year, and to start some new ones as well.

Come From Away

When were were negotiating to buy our ocean house in Nova Scotia, we heard the term CFA a lot. Come From Away is an east coast term for outsiders. In our case, it's anyone not born at the local hospital in Lunenburg. The fact that the Mr. worked in Halifax at the start of his career counts for nothing. We are Come From Aways through and through.

The term is not in any way a pejorative: it's simply an identifier. There are locals. And there are CFAs.

When we saw the ads for the Mirvish production of Come From Away, we had to get tickets even though becoming CFAs was still a pipe dream at the time. On Saturday, we attended the show. It's become quite the hot ticket in town as the reviews have been terrific and it's only briefly in Toronto on its way to Broadway.

Boy, it's terrific!

The musical tells the story of the 38 planes that landed in Gander, Newfoundland when the airspace was closed after 9/11. Gander, a tiny town of 9000 people quickly welcomed 7000 stranded passengers and this musical is a tribute to the good that came out of a terrible time. It's equal parts comedy and tear-jerker. Everyone in the sold out audience was moved.

It's going to be hard to get a ticket to the show in Toronto, but it starts its run on Broadway on February 18 and opens March 12. It's a beautiful telling of a beautiful tale. If you can get your hands on tickets, you need to go.

Hope in Hot Rollers

OK, so I don't know if it's anxiety or age, but I feel like I have about 4 hairs left on my head. Since my hair is also bleached to within an inch of its life, I have to be careful what products I use. I've been using the unshampoos or cleaning conditioners since forever, but I miss that squeaky clean feeling on my scalp and the volume.

A lot of mid-life bloggers I read seem to swear by Kérastase so I decided to try out one of their holiday gift sets.

This stuff is not cheap so I wanted to choose carefully. I filled out their little hair survey and they told me I needed their Chronologiste line to turn back time, just like in the film, About Time.

So far, I'm loving it. Silky, good volume and it feels clean. I've missed lather! I'll let you know how it goes after a month...

I'm also going back to hot rollers since LoL's Sophie swears by them and her hair is perfection. In the late 1990s/early 2000s, when the world had an anemic flat ironed look, I had hair like Texas thanks to hot rollers. I need to get that look back.

When it comes to your locks, are you fighting the good fight? What works for you?

Ladies of London, my relatives, and The Seventh Eye Circles of Hell

OK, so Ladies of London has been excellent. Although I love Sophie Stanbury - because hair - the Viscountess Hinchingbrooke is my spirit animal. Julie Montagu is a ballsy midwestern yoga-gal who now has an English title and runs the Mapperton estate. I very much identify with her trying to break into a fairly closed community. It's tough out there! 

I loved her battle over mugs and tea towels with Lesley, the Mrs. Danvers in the green sweatshirt who works at the gift shop at Mapperton. Lesley sat there sporting Active Bitch Face, telling Julie she is not fond of the colour green while wearing the very same shade. Her face reminded me of when I showed up an an event with the Mr. before we'd even started to date. I was greeted by a wall of angry women. One -- let's call her Too Tight Leather Jacket - made such a face that I asked the Mr. what was up. I was also shoved at the bar. At the time it was upsetting. That and similar antics spun me into quite a tailspin for a while. Now, it makes me laugh. They really ought to bring the Real Housewives franchise here. I'm not sure Too Tight Leather Jacket is as telegenic as they tend to seek out, but she's itching for a fight and would make for good TV.  Rather than letting it get me down, I've decided to do what writers do best and turn it into material. I can probably dine out on stories of my early years in Stepford for the rest of my life.

In spite of me thinking of this place as Stepford -- which it totally is (you've got to come on the school run with me some time and watch the yummies in the sea of Range Rovers) -- I've met a lot of excellent people here. Really excellent. The walking ladies, the yoga girls, the hockey people, the gals in the kiss and ride line: all splendid people. And you really cannot go by appearances. Some of the most down to earth people are leggy, super model types in massive homes. Whereas the earthy woman in the mom jeans is mean as hell. You really have to get to know people, which luckily I have. Going forward, I am focusing on the good eggs I've met. I'll attempt to leave the drama on Bravo where it belongs!

Between Stephen Andrew Jones's posts of late and Plum Johnson's They Left Us Everything, I've been thinking a lot about family. My mother was the surprise post-war baby and her sisters were much older so I no longer have living biological aunts on that side of the family. It's too bad as both Nonie and Joan were formidable. Joan was the type of woman who could get up before work and sew herself a new suit to wear that day. She was one moment a model, another a hockey wife, and yet another a pioneering manager at BC Tel. She had a blind dog named Buddy who would climb trees. She was one of a kind. I visited her and my uncle in Arizona shortly before she died. I'm so glad I made that trip. If you have extra money, spend it on people.

My aunt Nonie was a ray of sunshine and the aunt to whom I was closest growing up. I spent hours with her looking for shoes (I got my shoe thing from her) and reading magazines (again, an inheritance.) She loved her mink coat that smelled faintly of perfume and cigarette smoke (Diptyque needs to make a candle that smells like that!) She had a tough life. She lost her husband and daughter to an environmental cancer caused by uranium mining. She had severe rheumatoid arthritis, which shortened her life. And yet, she was one of the most positive people I know. Apparently, she was quick-tempered like me when she was younger so her example offers me hope. I should mellow into something quite fine.

My aunts inherited their Steel Magnolia personalities from my Swedish maternal grandmother. The other day, my mother and I were in Saks and saw the new Stella McCartney platform brogues. There is no way that my grandmother - who is quite the active spirit if the Medium I saw is to be believed - was not involved with these shoes. In life, she had one leg that was significantly shorter than the other and wore a built up shoe. She always favoured a similar black brogue to the one by Stella. Her hands were all over this shoe design. Well played, Nana T, well played.

She made the Cle de Peau concealer purchase that much more fun. On that front, I'll let you know if the $90 concealer (!) works on my Seventh Eye Circles of Hell. For that price, it had better make me look like Amanda Seyfried.

I hope you are thinking fondly of your relatives this season and, if not, are cultivating wonderful replacements in the form of friends.

Maritime Bolthole

So, pretty exciting times at Casa RJL.

First, the ladies in my walking group threw me a little shower. These women do not do things by half and I really hope none of them remarry because I will not be able to fête them like this in return.

It was really quite something with tomato & red pepper soup, goat cheese salad, and Delia Smith's Chicken with Mushroom, Bacon and Marsala sauce. There was bubbly and cupcakes and Poire William and champagne chocolates for dessert. Heaven. It was nice respite in a ridiculously busy day with a management dinner. school semi-formal, badminton tournament and swimming badge exam all at the same time. Thankfully my parents moved to Stepford and my mom helped do some driving while I ran back and forth.

Also, we bought our maritime bolthole! The Mr. and I were out east for a look-see in October and saw a very sweet place near Lunenburg, on the sea.

From the deck, you have a ringside seat on the ocean. I find the sea incredibly calming: the salt air, the sound of waves, the expansive views. I've struggled with anxiety my entire life and at the ripe old age of 44 have decided that that's just he way I am and, for once, I need to adjust my life to deal with it. I need a place to sit and write and read and listen to the water and the birds. When the Mr. and I combined two houses into one, we had some funds left over and this seemed like a great investment in our future. Whether it's a great financial investment remains to be seen. We are realistic on the growth prospects of recreational properties, given that the boomers are downsizing and millennials don't seem to care about ownership. Plus, Nova Scotia's South Shore is still recovering from the 2008 housing crash since so many Americans own property on the coast. Still, people are starting to buy up places once again and the point where we are seems to be booming, with new neighbours building their very own lighthouse. 

The thing we liked the best about the Lunenburg area are the people. Everyone we've met so far has been very friendly and relaxed. From our lovely real estate agent, to the water guy we've had extensive dealings with (ask me about wells!), to our lawyer, everyone on this deal has been great. Did I mention that Lunenburg has three bricks and mortar bookstores and a local theatre and about 12,000 restaurants? I love it. I'm also a history nut and love that there are places from the late 1600s. We know of a few Toronto types who've made a permanent move out east and who have never looked back. This is not our situation. We are remaining in Stepford while the children finish school, but in the interim, it will be nice to have another spiritual home.

I hope you are having some moments of respite and joy in this very busy season. 

Oh Christmas Tree

Well, we did it. We put up the Christmas tree this weekend and it is still standing. Bravo! Brava!

We hung the stockings - all 9 of them! I think our fireplace makes up look like The Duggars. Some are for pets, but still!

We had a nice weekend. On Friday, I picked up my wedding dress at Pearl Bridal House in Port Credit. I love Port Credit. I could live there. (Notice a theme?) The dress still fits, which is always excellent. Usually my daughter plays bridesmaid but she had badminton practice so instead I enlisted my son. The boutique manager has an in-depth knowledge of Pokemon cards so he was kept amused.

This weekend, the Mr. and I met with the caterer so this wedding thing is starting to seem quite real. We are not having a traditional wedding but instead a party with food, champagne, and dancing. I'm now starting to look forward to it. Before, we were simply too busy to really think about it.

On Sunday, I re-read the excellent They Left Us Everything, by Plum Johnson. We'll be discussing it at the 1010 Park Place book club on Tuesday and the author will be participating. If you are in the sandwich generation and are helping aging parents, or are simply interested in an exploration of family, memory and legacy, it will really speak to you. If you are looking for a great read during a mid-life change such as divorce, death, or other loss, Oprah's Little Guide to Starting Over is also terrific.

I had a chance to do some holiday shopping in Oakville with the lovely DaniBP. We popped into Lilly Pulitzer and Soap & Water and had a civilized lunch. I bought Watts & Co tapers at Soap & Water, which are burned in all the best houses of worship. Fancy!

It was an excellent day. My favourite part of blogging has always been getting to know some truly lovely people in real life.

The rest of the week is quite filled with lunches and coffee dates and tournaments and recitals. It's that time of year: busy but festive. Hope you are having a lovely December too. 

Pretty for the Holidays

One of the best things about travelling is buying products that you'd never try at home. At home, I never bought cosmetics at the drugstore until I tried Vichy in France. Now that's mostly all I use.

I apply this same theory when shopping in international grocery stores and have had some terrific finds as a result. I'm slightly obsessed with poppyseed danish (it's practically a character in my novel) and Starsky Fine Foods, a European grocery store not that far from me, has about a dozen varieties. When I'm in there, I love to check out the candy and the jams. It's also my go-to place for Elderberry syrup which is how I cure the common cold. It's about 1/10th the price of anywhere else that sells it.

Starsky has a little section of cosmetics and carries the Eveline line from Poland. Given that half of today's supermodels seem to hail from Poland, I thought I'd give it a shot.

I love the line. I'd probably love Cover Girl too if I gave it a decent shot, but I don't... Perhaps the women of Poland turn up their noses at Eveline and fill their suitcases with Cover Girl. I think this falls under the category of 'we do not value what we can easily obtain.'

My favourite Eveline product is the Lip Push-Up Serum that is meant to replace lip fillers. It's about $10 and while I don't know if it plumps lips permanently, it gives a nice full look with a hint of rosy colour. As a lass, I used to have bee-stung lips like Kim Basinger and I'm reluctant to let them totally go with age, so I think I'll give this stuff a go for a little while and see what happens.

Have a great weekend! Between The Wedding, Christmas, and #ProjectMaritimeBolthole, I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Hope yours is more relaxing than mine is!

The Joy of Little Things

It's the little things that make the biggest difference. 

Our new fridge, which had been held captive in some container somewhere between here and Korea for months, has finally arrived. We'd been saddled with this terrible old fridge with faux wood panelling that froze all of the food at the back. The new one is a joy. It has a door in door feature that the little kids think was custom-designed for them. It's amazing how grateful I feel for something I'd always taken for granted. The best part was sorting through all of the sauces and jams (we appear to have a condiment addiction in this house!) and putting them in order. 

Source: LG

Ladies of London is on air again. I'm picking it up in Season 3, but it's just like RHONY only with older and prettier houses, and better eye makeup. I'm totally loving it. Because I have collected some advanced degrees and used to be a film snob, people always seem to think I'm much more intellectual than I am. Give me a good reality show over public television any day of the week. I like The Crown, but - truth be told - I sometimes doze off. I have yet to doze off in RHONY or LoL. 

I've spent the week organizing my wardrobe. I love it when my closet is organized. I ordered a couple of new pieces at the Black Friday sales and want them to feel welcome. I love it when I'm organized. 

In the end, it's the little things that add up to the big things. What little things make you happy? 

Death Wears a Beret and Other Holiday Movies

I've been watching more television than usual because of all of the Christmas movies on these days. I PVR with abandon and have the movies running while I putter around my office. If you have not seen A Mistletoe Promise, you must. It seems to have had a bigger budget than many and the production values seem higher (in some of these films, you can practically see the boom.) Will You Merry Me is also decent, because Wendie Malick is hilarious. I like it because it's shot in Unionville, which is where I spent my teenage years.

Because I'm seeing commercials now, I'm more in tune with movie offerings than usual (I've gone from being a film zealot to someone who waits for Netflix.) Based on the trailer, I'm looking forward to seeing Collateral Beauty when it is released. It looks like It's a Wonderful Life meets Inside Out. The trailer makes me cry and I like the cast. Even if it stinks, the concept is fun. A beret-sporting Helen Mirren plays Death. That seems pretty perfect. I'm hoping it will rival A Family Man.

I'm playing Christmas music 24/7 in my car. I prefer the radio to Spotify because I like the thought that other people are listening to the same song too. This year, I'm partial to Christmas Day by McMaster and James, This is Christmas by Suzie McNeil, and 2000 Miles by The Pretenders. Each year, the younger kids and I wait to hear Driving Home for Christmas. I know it's very popular but we think it's the worst Christmas song ever. It's just not the holiday season until we've made fun of the lyrics while driving.

I've written a piece on the blending of the ornaments since it's the first Christmas that the Mr. and I have one house. You can find it here. 

Hope you are having fun preparing for the holidays.

The Perfect Weekend

The Mr. and I get married in 5 weeks. There is still a lot to do. When you try to wedge a wedding in between buying and selling houses and - well - life, it's a little nuts. We realized that we are so busy ticking things off a list, that we were not really enjoying the process. We decided to remedy that this weekend.

Saturday, we went into Big Smoke - aka Toronto - for some shopping on Bloor Street. We had lunch at The Windsor Arms hotel, which is a favourite of mine. It's much less busy than a lot of the hotels in the area and is great for a quiet lunch. Since we were in the fancypants city, I decided to pull out one of the big guns in my arsenal - my Dior new lock bag. It's an oldie but goody.

We are generally in a climate of abstemiousness because of moving houses and life, but The Mr. wanted to get me a wedding present. I'd had my eye on a necklace for the wedding day and nudged him toward the Van Cleef & Arpels counter at Birks.

We had success!

After trying on a number of pieces, I decided on the vintage Alhambra necklace in mother of pearl. It will make a great everyday piece too.

I have not shopped on Bloor in years. I used to be able to walk there from my house but that was a long time ago - so long ago that I made a strategic error and wore my fancypants Stuart Weitzman boots with the jacked up heels. They are fabulously comfy for wearing to a restaurant. Less fabulously comfy for wearing to run up and down Bloor. 

Saturday night, we had a few friends over for the Mr.'s birthday. We partied like it was 1999.

The foxes had a little too much champagne. 

I wore my crushed velvet dress from Anthropologie. So comfy and it got lots of compliments. Plus, pockets. Love it. Needless to say, I wore flat shoes. 

It was so fun to dress up. Most of the time, I run around in jeans and sweaters and a ponytail. It's so nice to gussy up, put on a coat of slap, and have a fancy day once in a while!

Shop the look:

Black Fri-Yay!

Canada has embraced Black Friday over the past few years. My heart will always belong to Boxing Day, but the call of the sales is enticing. Today, Anthropologie on Oakville's main street has everything in the store for 30% off.

When Anthro has a sale, its jeans are a ridiculous bargain. I hate spending money on jeans - mostly I buy the Nygard jeggings at Costco for $13. I do not follow jean trends at all. I focus on jackets and bags so as long as the jeans make me look reasonable, I'm good. But jeans tend to be 1/2 off in the Anthro sale room and then the extra 30% brings $200 jeans down to $60-70 Canadian . It's a particularly good deal because the sale prices tend to be on par with the US sale prices (the full price items are adjusted for currency differences.) In spite of our savvy, sexy, socialist Prime Minister, our dollar still trades at 75 cents on the greenback.

I picked up two pairs of jeans and they are both more on trend than anything I currently own. While in the sale room, I picked up two little malachite trays for $5.56 a piece. I saw a matching malachite candle for $13.96 that I thought would be cute for the powder room so I threw it in my cart. I have a slight malachite obsession, it would seem.

When I got to the cash, the woman ringing in my purchases got quite excited and announced that I bought a candle and then a few sales associates started to clap. Apparently I'd made the first candle purchase of the day and was entitled to a prize. They handed me a green box wrapped in metallic twine and pretty snowflakes. Inside, nestled in tinsel, was a $50 gift card.

How lovely! I'm a signs and wonders girl and am always looking for little signs that things are going in the right direction. After a season of grief, I've been trying to make some very big changes lately so I'm taking this as a celestial nod. My higher power would deal in Anthro cards, I suspect.

These are some cute pieces that might be gift card-worthy in future.

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave I hope you have a wonderful Friday and a very happy weekend. For those of you with leftover turkey and pie in your fridges, it should be a simple task.

The Angels of Hamilton

I love all things Hamilton - the place, not the musical - although I hear the musical is meant to be excellent as well. The place we currently live is pleasant enough, but Hamilton is that perfect blend of town and country with deeply urban spots and gorgeous conservation areas. It's my spiritual home and I'd love to buy a fixer upper to restore to give me as much time there as possible while continuing to live where we live for the time being. 

Last evening, the Mr. and went to Locke Street for coffee. We split a vegan Hello Dolly square that was divine. I have an egg allergy so it's nice to be able to have dessert without having my epipen at the ready.

When I went to powder my nose before leaving, I saw this quote written in sharpie marker on the back of the bathroom door.

It's one of my favourites quotes. I love it when I stumble over words that have given me comfort.

When I returned, the Mr. had given our table to some people waiting for a space and had started chatting with four gentlemen who were playing chess. One of them was wearing an Amnesty International t-shirt, which I took as a very good sign. Another -- a writer -- spoke of the soul enriching qualities of the community and offered to show us around at a future date. The foursome were very friendly and had a sense of ease and contentment you don't see every day. It was exactly what I needed that night.

As we left, I quickly checked the floor for feathers, as my godmother advises whenever anything out of the ordinary occurs. The entire evening seemed somehow heaven-sent and I look forward to spending more time in this magical place.

Person Place Thing


Missing Leonard Cohen. We all need more poets at times such as there.


Loving Hamilton, Ontario. Looking for an historic fixer upper to restore if you here of anyone selling. In the meantime, I'll simply stuff myself with foodie goodness at the Aberdeen Tavern.


Loving these Jellycat ostrich and swan plush animals for the young - and young at heart - on your holiday shopping list.

J Crew Pre-Black Friday Sale

Just a quick note to alert you to the J. Crew pre-Black Friday sale. Almost everything is 40% off, including these cute pieces on pre-order. Love the Zebra Cardigan as it reminds me of my favourite Scalamandré  pillow. Also love the Bow-Shoulder Top in Festive Plaid. The Tortoise Shell hair barrettes are always pretty and at 40%, they make great stocking stuffers.

Happy shopping!

12 Ways To Enjoy The Holidays (When You Are Feeling More Like The Grinch)

It's the most wonderful time of the year... for everybody else. At least that's how it can seem if this season you are dealing with less-than-perfect circumstances. Sickness, grief, and loss do not take a holiday and can be amplified during the hap-hap-happiest season of all. If you are expecting a tough holiday season, here are some ways to embrace peace and joy:

1. Ho ho ho-ld off spending time on social media. The constant flood of other people's filtered family photos can be hard to take at the best of times. When you are feeling low, it can become quite unbearable. Denmark's The Happiness Research Institute discovered that Facebook offers "a constant flow of edited lives which distort our perception of reality" and, as a result, "1 out of 3 [users] envy how happy other people seem". Social media tends to be quite fake and unless you can hold that in your mind as you scroll through other people's airbrushed lives, it's best to give it a holiday.

2. Shake your candy cane. Exercise releases feel-good hormones that are critical this time of year. Go for a walk to look at the lights, hit the local skating rink, or find a gym offering holiday-themed classes. (Four minutes of abs work goes much faster to the beat of All I Want for Christmas is You. Trust me on this...)

3. Don't funnel eggnog. It can be tempting at this time of year to self-medicate with holiday treats (I'm looking at you brandy beans...), but it won't help in the long run. While it's fine to indulge a little, diving headfirst into a barrel of shortbread will not make your problems go away. And things won't look brighter when you can't button up your pants in the new year.

4. Be selective with your holiday playlist. There are lots of great holiday songs out there that acknowledge this time of year can be tough. My Grown Up Christmas List is one of the best and reminds us that not everyone is having a perfect holiday.

5. Watch feel-good movies. There are a million holiday movies that overwhelmingly reinforce the notion that even in less-than-ideal circumstances, you should have faith that things will work out. I love Little Women and It's a Wonderful Life. Lifetime and W Network are flooded with movies about second chances. They are great for a good, happy cry.

6. Do something nice for someone else. This time of year, there are lots of simple opportunities to give. Whether it's putting some money in Santa's kettle, letting someone in front of you in the checkout line, or helping out at the local toy drive, helping others is an instant route to feeling better.

7. Compliment strangers. During the holidays, a lot of people are very stressed. Tell that overwhelmed cashier she is doing a great job. Tell the mom of the screaming child in the Santa line that her baby is dressed adorably (and if you are a mom or dad, tell her we've all been there!) Spread a little holiday cheer and make yourself feel better in the process.

8. If you are wrestling with family dysfunction, read some memoirs from empathetic authors. Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson and Running with Scissors: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs are both great choices. Plum Johnson's memoir, They Left Us Everything: A Memoir, illustrates that the perfect-looking life isn't always as it seems. While you are at it, read Jen Sincero's You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life. It's not about family dysfunction, or the holidays, but you should read it anyways and start planning for a fantastic 2017.

9. Know that it's perfectly OK to feel rotten. The last thing you need is to feel guilty that you are not feeling merry. Some years just suck and it's OK to write off 2016 and look forward to a new year.

10. Take advantage of the down time. Whether you celebrate it or not, Christmas morning can provide a few hours of peace as even the most flagrantly commercial enterprises tend to remain closed for the morning and people stop texting for an hour or two. If you are not surrounded by hustle and bustle, take the opportunity to read, to meditate, or to go for a quiet walk. It may be one of the few times that nobody is expecting you to do anything. Take advantage of the peace.

11. Take in all of the prettiness. The holiday season is great for eye candy: Christmas lights, elaborate shop windows, and reindeer antlers on passing cars. If you are lucky enough to live in an area with snow, admire how it makes the whole world look new.

12. Maintain perspective. Remember that Mary and Joseph did not spend that first Christmas stuffing their faces with organic turkey while smug-posting photos of the whole fam-damily in ironic Christmas sweaters on Instagram. That first Christmas was one of hardship and strain. You aren't alone, my friend.

Holiday decorating

I have a bittersweet relationship with the holidays. Some bad things have happened at Christmas, but it's a lovely time of year. I'm spending a lot of energy this year on making new traditions and reviving some old ones. 

The mercury dipped on Sunday so we decided to pull out the holiday decoration. We are blending homes and decorating styles, but my office/parlour is still uniquely me. 

Here's a little peek. Everything involves fairy lights. 

I hope you are having fun preparing your home for whatever holidays you celebrate. 

The gift of healing

I love this quote from Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery. Sometimes we don't need people to fix things. We simply need someone to acknowledge what we've been through. As she writes, "We don’t need a magician to take it all away – we just need a witness.” 

During this holiday season, see if there is anyone in your life for whom you bear witness. It is a tremendous gift to be able to sit with someone in their pain. It can be healing beyond measure. 

I hope you are having a wonderful weekend.

A Review of Alice Hoffman's Faithful: A Novel

I just finished Alice Hoffman's beautiful book, Faithful: A Novel. I love Alice Hoffman's work. Her use of magic realism tempers otherwise gritty subjects, allowing what could be depressing material to read as hopeful. Her latest novel focuses on a young woman who is consumed with self-loathing after her friend is killed. The book follows her on a healing journey that stays true to each character and avoids veering into sentimentality, which can sometimes happen in books of this nature. I fell in love with Hoffman's not-always-likeable protagonist and I think you will too. It's a perfect read for this time of year.

Christmas Rx

One of the very big benefits of being Canadian (and this year, there are many!) is not having to wait until Thanksgiving to put up the Christmas stuff. I've already found the Christmas station on the radio and will start to decorate this week. Christmas has not always been a happy occasion in my life, so I work really hard to make it happy for me and my family. 

One of my favourite things this time of year are all of the Christmas movies on Hallmark and Lifetime. I love them all: the worse they are, the better they are. If it were not for the fact that we are marathoning through Gilmore Girls in anticipation of the new episodes, it would be all Christmas, all the time. 

I realize that not everyone will sit through terrible films simply because they feature lots of lights and an unambiguously happy ending. So, for you, dear readers, I've rounded up some of the better ones showing this year.

Source: IMDb

My favourite this year is Angels Sing (2013) with Harry Connick Jr., Connie Britton, and Willie Nelson. It's It's a Wonderful Life meets Nashville. Did I mention Harry Connick Jr. is in it? How can it get better than that?

Source: IMDb

Loved Charming Christmas (2015). It's filmed in Dundas Ontario, which is my very favourite town in Ontario. If it was a little closer to Toronto, I'd live there in a heartbeat. I am obsessed with its charming Main Street and love Espresso Cafe, Beanermunky Chocolates, and The Kitchen Witch shop. But I digress... The movie is Scrooge-themed with the cold-hearted business person learning the true meaning of Christmas. It's very pretty to watch and has lots of Canadian content. 

Source: IMDb

Loved Paper Angels (2014). It stars Josie Bisset from Melrose Place and the hot dad from Gossip Girl. It's about the redemptive qualities of the holidays. And it's fabulous. 

Wishful Make-uping

There used to be a Lipstick Index: sales of lipstick would increase when people feared economic hardship. These days, nail polish is a better indicator of people feel the need to soothe their fears with tiny luxury purchases. In any event, now is a welcome time for Sephora's annual 20% off sale.

The only things I need are photo-friendly primer and foundation for the wedding, as well as a refill on my standby Dior polish in Palais Royale. but if I were on the hunt for new makeup, I'd be grabbing these items on sale. 


Today is Remembrance Day in Canada and Veterans Day in the US. It's a day where we remember how how much the people had to sacrifice to bring us the peace we know. This year, it feels different. The peace feels more tenuous somehow. In person and online a number of us have expressed fear about what the new world will look like now that we seem to have rejected a message of love in favour something else. 

Instead of allowing this to divide us, let us use this to bring us together. To be kinder to each other. To look for opportunities to be a bright spot in someone else's life. 

Crazy Times

For crazy times: the crazy sweater.

Marc Jacobs, Gucci or Gap. Pick your poison.

J Crew Holiday Picks

I've been struggling with anxiety of late. The US elections ugliness has been draining. And a troll has popped up on my IG yet again. Actually, troll is too flattering a term, since Das Sound Machine called Anna Kendrick a troll in Pitch Perfect 2 and she's quite lovely.

I'm trying really hard to focus on the positive things in the world.

Like this:

It feels like the old J. Crew is back, at least in terms of style.

I've picked my Wish List from the new catalogue. I'd be very happy if Santa were to leave any of these items under the Christmas tree.

Have you been watching The Crown? I like it. I was not a huge Downton fan as I found it a little soft. If I want to watch a soap opera, I'll go full Real Housewives (especially since Tinsley Mortimer is joining RHONY!). The Crown is more like Wolf Hall. I'm really enjoying it so far. I'm really looking forward to the development of Princess Margaret's storyline: so much great material from which to draw. Plus, she always had terrific style.

I'm reading Alice Hoffman's newest book, Faithful, which is terrific. I'm also rereading some upcoming picks for the 1010ParkPlace book club. Author Holly Robinson is an absolute delight and I'm looking forward to discussing Folly Cove next week.

Stephen Andrew Jones, who is a terrifically funny and soulful blogger, has a beautiful piece out called Celebrate Regardless. It's a wonderful reminder as we head into the holiday season. I encourage you to head on over to his blog.

Leaf Raking Attire

We've had a crazy warm fall. It's November and we still have most of the leaves on our trees. Still, there has been a lot of raking required. I'm sure one could rake in sweatpants and fleece, but that's not very Instagrammable. Far better to wear something cute should the neighbours walk by. For leaf raking, I like a plaid shirt, the J. Crew excursion vest, and short Bean Boots. Pearls add a festive touch, but obviously the Mikimotos should be saved for other occasions. Something faux is far more suitable.

Happy raking!

Hallloween, poisons, and too many Kit Kats

We all survived Halloween. I'm not a Fan. I'm a very private person IRL and do not like all of the ding donging at my door. The kids love it, however, in all of its tacky splendour, so I attempt to be a good sport. I soothe myself by inhaling mini Kit Kats. Today's wedding dress fitting should be a blast. I hope the lady working the zipper has very strong arms.

We had some sad news on the pet front. Thomas was Mr. RJL's cat long before we met and was an ornery barn cat who lived outside. He lived a very full life, scratching and scrapping, and it was only when he became a sweetheart that we realized something was wrong. He went quickly, with rapid onset diabetes and organ failure. His was a life well lived. We will miss him.

I'm noodling away on the novel, researching poisons for one of my characters. It makes the family nervous. I think they are considering hiring a beefeater on days they do not hang up their towels properly!

Visiting the Poison Garden at Alnwick is now at the very top of my bucket list.

source: tripadvisor.com

I also want a trip aboard the Royal Scotsman, and to swan about in an Etro robe aboard a Crystal Cruise (the cruise is something I will be doing shortly.)

On the topic of bucket lists, I have a request of the universe to explain to the real estate agents in my neighbourhood that a Bucket List is different than a To Do list. "Clean the eavestroughs" should never, ever appear on a bucket list in spite of their suggestion on the flyer they sent around. If the only thing you want to do before dying is clean your eaves, I'd suggest you need a slightly bigger life. At least try to watch The Crown on Netflix before you shuffle off this mortal coil.

I am trying to be very, very good during the fall sales since I'm now on this whole Property Empress kick and would rather use my pennies on appreciable assets. But I had to bring home some Face Stockholm highlighter to put in the inner corner of my eyes that have completely disappeared for some reason. I also am embracing the leopard after receiving a lot of compliments on my leopard Forever 21 coat I wore to a friend's wedding, paired with a vintage J Crew dress. The coat - and the fact that I'm standing next to a super glam news anchor - distracted people from my disappearing eyes. I think a leopard sweater is needed post haste! 

Then there is the Anthro dress. Some people take heroin when the world proves to be too much. I swathe myself in velvet. We each have our poison, after all. 

Hope the world is treating you with kindness. 

Christmas Traditions: Charitable Gifts from the Heart

Ok, are these guys not the cutest? They are leaning like they've had a little too much eggnog at the Christmas luncheon, no? They...