Monday, December 27

Sarah Richardson: The Momterview

Have you ever wished you could take some design lessons from a pro? What if the class was free, entertaining, and could be completed in the comfort of your own home? And what if the pro was none other than ultimate designer Sarah Richardson? We're all in luck, because Sarah 101 begins January 4th on HGTV Canada, and this is one course you're not going to want to miss! (Coincidentally, although Sarah looks like no typical professor, I did once see her sporting a jacket with elbow patches!)

From Design Inc. to Sarah's House, to the brand new Sarah 101, this Toronto-based mom of two informs and entertains us while tackling reno projects both big and small. I was very excited to have the opportunity to get Sarah's answers to my most pressing questions for this edition of the This Mom Loves Momterview.

This Mom: How do you think your career would be different right now if you hadn't become a mom?

Sarah Richardson: I think I'd be working too much and not laughing or cuddling nearly enough! Kids add an element of  juggling and time management, but they bring incredible balance and clarity on what really matters!

TM: I've read that you are good at leaving work behind at the end of the day. How do you turn off your 'work brain', and not think about issues on sites, ideas for shows, etc.?

SR: I'm good at compartmentalizing, and I'm not a worrier. There's a solution to every problem and you always have to think about the big picture. When I get home, I want to be able to focus and be good to my kids, not be distracted and irritable about the work stuff. They don't understand it, so why bring it in the door? To be honest, I have my husband Alexander to thank for this life lesson, which he taught me when we first met and I was working too hard.

{I don't know how not to worry about work at home. I've become good at not bringing so much home physically - marking, etc., but I don't think I have ever fallen asleep without classroom 'stuff' churning around my brain.}

Sarah's family, as photographed for the November 2010 issue
of Canadian House and Home

TM: What do you think is the biggest mistake that parents make when decorating for babies and children?

SR: Decorating for the age they're at when the project is executed. Kids grow really fast, and rooms can become outdated before they're even aware of them, so decorate for the future and avoid themes and juvenile motifs in favour of timeless choices that appeal to all kids.

TM: Your daughters are around the same age as mine. {Sarah's girls are four and a half and two and a half.} The other day when watching Sarah's House, I asked my oldest "Don't you just love Sarah Richardson?" and she replied "Oh, I don't HER daughters get time-outs?" they?

SR: Fortunately the mere mention of time-outs rights any errant behaviours since I followed through in the early days and gave they know it's not a reward! We want our girls to be happy, polite, positive members of society that people want to be around, so discipline, manners, and proper behaviour are very important.{Sarah requested that I not use her daughters' names, which I have to respect. My loyal readers know that I didn't actually name my children Frannie and Maggie, so I can understand her wish for privacy.}

Sarah and sidekick Tommy

TM: Often when I'm watching one of your shows I'm distracted by your terrific wardrobe. In fact, when I told my next-door-teacher that I was interviewing you, the first thing she said was "Her sense of fashion is just as good as her decorating!" So the question is - where do you shop?

SR: Wow - thanks! My oldest friend and Tommy's sister are business partners in a fashion line called Smythe, and they design great jackets which I wear all the time. I have so little time to shop that I go for the tried and true winners like Anthropologie, Banana Republic, Nine West, Club Monaco, Gap...and I have a true weakness for Diane von Furstenberg dresses!

{Sidenote: actress Rachel Bilson just mentioned Smythe in the January 2011 issue of InStyle magazine, and their website showcases tons of celebs wearing their creations, not least of which is Ms. Sarah Richardson!}

TM: What can you tell us about the new show, Sarah 101?

SR: It's a back to basics crash course in design aimed to help viewers achieve great results at home.

TM: How would you complete the sentence "This Mom Loves...."?

SR: ...spending precious weekends away from the buzz of city life and celebrating the simple pleasures of country living with the three most important people in my world!

Catch Sarah 101 premiering January 4th on HGTV Canada...though be forewarned that your significant other may not understand how   time-consuming the homework might turn out to be!

If you're currently tackling a project and searching for that perfect colour, you can check out Sarah's paint line for Para Paints, available at Lowe's. You can also keep up to date with the diary feature on the Sarah Richardson Design website.

Monday, December 20

So, How Have You Been?

Dear Readers,

I've been busy spending my precious blogging time catching up on public service announcements and giveaways, so I today I thought I'd just shoot the breeze for a while, and reconnect with you!

For starters, we've been very successful with Maggie's potty training, and just to reiterate: I highly recommend bribes. We went with the simple Smarties idea, and it worked like a charm. Although I think she was old enough to have her own instrinsic motivation, and the candy wasn't actually that necessary. We waited until she showed us she was ready (as in, she went and used the potty without any prompting, and came to tell us after the fact) which was at 28 months. I know some people want their kids trained ASAP (especially for the hassle of going out), but it's much easier to leisurely find a place to change your little one than it is to find a bathroom RIGHT NOW!

We use pull-ups at naptime (which are usually dry afterwards) and diapers at night (which are dry if she gets to the bathroom as soon as she wakes up, but not so much if we're trying to sleep in and are ignoring the girls on the weekends). Come on, no one else does that? When you hear "Can I wake up?" it's much more effective to feign sleep than it is to say "No!" Try it.

Frannie just performed in her very first Christmas concert, and entertained us all with her Junior Kindergarten rendition of Jingle Bells, and a cute dance to the song "All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth"...which is actually very appropriate for her. Think it's early for a four year old to be missing her teeth? Well, hers were gone at 19 months. Yeah, that story is coming up in my 2011 post on "Bad Mommy Moments."

In terms of my bookshelf these days, I recently finished The Birth House by Ami McKay, which was the amazing story of a twentieth century midwife in rural Nova Scotia. I'd definitely recommend it. I also read The Memory Keeper's Daughter for my book club, which was beautifully written but painful to get through. I honestly felt depressed during and after the reading...and eventually dreaded picking it up. I forced myself to finish it because I did want to know how it ended, but nothing good can come of a 1960's doctor delivering his wife's twins, and instructing the nurse to take the girl (with Down Syndrome) to an institution, while he tells his wife that she was stillborn. Really, that's the story. Only the nurse couldn't do it, so she flees town and raises the daughter as her own. I'm currently enjoying the MUCH lighter Mini Shopaholic, by the fantastically entertaining Sophie Kinsella.

I also have a backlogged stack of beloved magazines, which I haven't been able to touch what with the report cards/interviews/Christmas concert-shopping-wrapping-baking-planning rush. This is a busy season for teachers, especially the crazies who like to purchase and wrap little trinkets for each student in the class, and take field trips three days before school ends.

My latest blog news is that I surpassed the 400 Google Friend Connect followers mark...and of course I'm proud of that, but I take it with a grain of salt. In an ideal world would mean that there are 400 people hanging off my every word, but in the real world it translates as many bloggers who sign up to follow just in the hopes of a followback, or who want a bonus entry into a contest and never return. Many of my most loyal readers aren't even part of the GFC scene anyway. (I usually follow back, by the way, unless the follower is a middle-aged evangelist or teenaged aspiring rocker, in which case I think it's safe to assume that the person is not a genuine This Mom Loves reader. This applies to Twitter followers as well. It's lovely that a male realtor from Texas enjoys my tweets, but I'm pretty sure I'm not missing anything if I skip the followback.) I am thrilled with how my blog has evolved since the first post almost ten months ago, and the opportunities I have been presented with. Finding the time to keep it up is the hard part...

So, what's next for This Mom Loves? You can look forward to another great Momterview with a  fantastic television personality (think 'design'), a fun party theme, the aforementioned "Bad Mommy Moments", and of course more great reviews and giveaways.

Until next time, I want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas (or a Happy whatever holiday you and your loved ones are celebrating), and offer you my favourite Christmas carol phrase:

Tidings of Comfort and Joy,


Wednesday, December 15

Momterview Special: Holiday Wish Lists!

In honour of the holiday season, I decided to check in with some of the fantastic women who have been highlighted in my Momterviews this year to find out what they (and their kids) have on their wish lists this year.

Tracy Moore

"My Christmas list is pretty pathetic. I want slippers. Not the cute little ballerina flat kind or anything with a heel. I want big, comfy, moccasin slippers. I hate being barefoot and I really don't like hanging around the house in socks. Slippers are definitely my thing.

As for Sidney, even though he's not fully into the gift thing yet, he'll be asking for "mighty machines". Basically any toy that can dig, push, or flatten dirt.

Without any doubt there will be a ton of clothing for Eva under the tree. My extended family is great about buying big so I always have clothing for her next stage."

Laurie Gelman

"What I wish for is a clean house, and a family that helps me keep it that way. And an ipad.

The big things on the girls' lists are an American Girl Doll and an E-Z Bake Oven Cupcake Kitchen (Misha) and a puppy and clothes (Jamie). Jamie isn't getting the puppy, but she knows that. She asks every year, but Misha is allergic."

Marci Ien

"On my list: sleep!, spa gift certificates, Louis Vuitton monogram carryall, car starter, warm pj's.

On Blaize's list: Moon Dough, Stinky the Garbage Truck, Mighty Beanz, anything Spiderman, another guinea pig (male -- we have a female...and according to Blaize...they can then have 100 babies!!!), a computer, Silly Bands (she has 60 but wants an even 100)"

Jessica Holmes

"Daughter wants a wedding gown (what?!?!) and son wants an ice cream truck. A real one!"

This Mom Loves readers: what's on your list? I'm sure you have your kids' lists memorized (and possibly have gifts purchased and wrapped) but what are you asking for yourself?

Friday, December 10

I Caught Santa...and So Can You!

UPDATE: Congrats to loyal readers Kim, Mary, Tawny, Ashleigh and Anne who will be receiving codes to create their own I Caught Santa photos. Giveaway is now closed.

Giveaway open to Canada and US.

Can you imagine the look on your children's faces on Christmas morning when you show them a photo of Santa Claus, caught in the act in your own home?

I was recently introduced to a neat new website, Catch a Character, where you can upload your own photo (your tree, mantel, child's room, etc.) and digitally add Santa to the shot. There are various Santa poses, and you can adjust the size, colour, brightness, etc. to make the picture as authentic as possible.

Here's how mine turned out:

I know, Santa looks a little bright...and maybe a little short...but my kids are four and two. As if they'll notice! (Hey, I don't claim to be a graphic designer!)

Once you're happy with your image, you download it to your computer, and are then free to print, share, send to the photolab, etc.

(By the way, Santa isn't the only character who can get caught in the act. The Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and Cupid are also available!)

Catch a Character is providing me with codes for five of my readers to use towards their own FREE picture (valued at $9.99). I'm only going to leave this contest open for five days, and here's the deal: this time around I'd like to reward those who actually read and enjoy my blog (and aren't just random contest-enterers). Therefore, to be considered for the prize, you must to leave a comment telling me about one of my This Mom Loves posts that you have enjoyed/appreciated/referred to/etc. and why. (No bonus entries - just a one-shot deal.)

Be sure to leave your email address if it's not on your profile. If I can't contact you, you can't win!

When the contest ends at 8:00 AM  Eastern time on Wednesday, December 15th, I will use to choose five entrants who will receive codes to create their very own photo at Catch a Character.

For those of you who don't win, Catch a Character has provided me with a discount code which This Mom Loves readers can use for 25% off your purchases: Santa-2010

Now go catch Santa!

Wednesday, December 8

Three "Tucking In" Titles

Confession: I read to four year old Frannie much more often than I read to her two year old sister. Often little Maggie is sitting beside us, listening to the first few pages, but soon losing interest in the intricate plot and wordy pages. Sure, she gets some stories too, but not with the same effort or frequency.

Therefore, I was really excited to receive a few new titles to review which are actually just perfect for Maggie, and which have kicked me into gear. The last few nights, we have shared these stories together, and not only has she enjoyed them, I also feel like a better mom!

Time For Bed by Mem Fox is a rhyming story, telling each little animal that it's, well, time for bed, ending with a small child getting tucked in at the end. ($8.95)

Time for Bed

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, also by Mem Fox, is a simple multicultural tale, reminding us of the beautiful similarities shared by babies around the world. ($10.99)

Finally, The Napping House, by Audrey Wood and Don Wood, is all about what's taking place inside a home where everyone is sleeping...until they aren't! ($10.99)

All three are sturdy padded board books with enticing illustrations...though I must admit that Maggie is most intrigued by all of the babies in "Ten Little Fingers" (my favourite of the three). She also likes to end some of the rhymes and predict some of the lines in the stories, especially now that she's heard them several times. Just a few suggestions if you're looking for some new bedtime books for your little one!

Disclaimer: I received the above-named titles for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Winners: Scholastic Christmas Books and Family Games

Congratulations to the winner of "A Porcupine in a Pine Tree" and "Listen, Said the Donkey" from Scholastic:

#80 of 90

Marlene of Calgary, Alberta

and also to the winner of Rubik's Slide and Bubble Talk games:

#13 of 119

Kara of Northern Arm, Newfoundland

Enjoy your terrific prizes!

Friday, December 3

Seven Things You Didn't Know About Mommy Bloggers!

If you're a veteran mommy blogger yourself, I'm sure you know more than I do about this topic. However, the vast majority of my friends, family members and coworkers were unfamiliar with the world of mom blogs until discovering (okay, being begged to visit) This Mom Loves.

It is for the newbies that I wrote "The Mommy Blogs: Seven Things You Didn't Know" (click link for article) for the latest issue of Peterborough, Northumberland and Lakeridge Kids.

Check it out, and let me know if you learn anything! For the pros out there, feel free to share any other facts I may have missed...and for the wonderful people in my life who have entered this world at my beckoning (beckoning, pleading, whatever!), be sure to ask if you have any more questions!