Friday, August 31

Is Triberr Worth It?

(Preface: I apologize to my beloved readers who are not also bloggers, as this post may not be of much interest to you. However, you're welcome to stay!)

So, here's Triberr in a nutshell, for those who have no clue what I'm talking about:
  • Bloggers (who are also on Twitter) join tribes, with the idea being that you tweet out the headlines of and links to your Tribesmates blog posts through the Triberr site.

I joined months ago, and while tribes have merged and reorganized, I'm still mixed in with a group of mainly Canadian mom bloggers (pretty much all part of the same niche).

Every day I log on and "approve" which of my Tribesmates' posts I would like sent out through my Twitter stream, to my 2400ish Twitter followers. What I started out doing was approving them all. I know these women write quality, appropriate content and realize that topics that might not be of great interest to me just might appeal to my followers, so why not share it all? And of course, since they're all (theoretically) doing the same for me, my posts are getting promoted to a much wider audience (as I currently have a total reach of over 111,000 Twitter followers through my Tribesmates' accounts). Seems like a fantastic idea, right?

Here are some of the tidbits that have plagued or just niggled away at me:
  • Just to start with, does the 111,000 "reach" stat take into account that my 21 tribesmates and I probably have a large number of overlapping followers?
  • While Triberr (and Triberr enthusiasts) assert that the Tribe membership doesn't need to be "quid pro quo", that really isn't how I see it. I thought the idea was to join a Tribe you would be proud to promote, and other than sensitive issues you want to avoid (e.g. religious or political topics, "adult" posts) you should pretty much be approving all of your Tribesmates' work. Then I realized that while I had tweeted out up to 60 posts a month for some bloggers, they had not bothered to approve a single one of mine, and only 5 or 6 other bloggers are regularly tweeting my posts. I realize that everything I publish isn't award-worthy, but it's clean, usually uncontroversial, and (I believe) certainly in the league of my fellow Tribesmates, quality-wise. So what's going on?
  • One blogger let the rest of the group know that she would only be tweeting out posts that fit in her "niche" (let's say it's crafts). I appreciate being informed of that, but since I very rarely post about crafts, she will never be sharing my is it fair that I'm always promoting hers? Many would argue that it's not supposed to be about that...but if that's why I joined, then maybe it's time for me to "unjoin"?
  • Another kind (and I mean that sincerely) blogger shared with me that she is actually part of several tribes, and the list of posts to approve is prohibitively long for her (which I totally understand). But while there isn't supposed to be a pressure to "reciprocate", I kind of resent spending so much time retweeting posts for others who are literally never doing the same for me. (Especially considering I only post 8 - 10 times per month; I'm not exactly flooding the tribal stream.)
  • Despite the fact that I only have 21 other people in my group, I do agree that it is time consuming to go through and make the approvals. (Posts with forbidden keywords -"giveaway", "win", etc. - require an extra step to retweet as well, adding to time spent.) And I will openly admit that I do not read every single post that I share. I don't have the time, and I have faith in the work of my Tribesmates, so I have never thought it necessary. Others pride themselves on reading every word of posts they share, which is admirable and probably what I should be doing too.
  • I'm starting to feel like my Twitter followers are getting "spammed" by me and these links all of the time. At one point I was sending out at least a dozen of these a day, yet sending out authentic tweets with my own thoughts only a few times per week. The ratio didn't feel right. I feel especially guilty since I'm sure my group members and I share a lot of followers in common, who are then seeing the same links pop up ad nauseum in their Twitter streams.
Now that I've shared all that, are there advantages to Triberr? Well, sure. I do enjoy having these gals' posts listed in one place for me to check out, rather than seeking them out individually on their own blogs (and it's also neat to see who's writing about the same topics or reviewing the same products as I am).

And of course I am thrilled to get extra traffic coming my way...but I don't actually find it's that much. In the last month, my most popular posts got 10 clicks thanks to my Tribesmates tweeting them out. Most of my posts get clicked on around 3 or 4 times because of Triberr.

So what is my future on Triberr? I have now started my own little "quid pro quo" check before clicking on "approve". If I've written 9 posts this month and someone only sent out 1, then I think it's fair to cap her at 40 per month from my end for now.

I really would love to know what others think about this. Are there non-bloggers on Twitter who are annoyed by these Triberr tweets (usually ending in "via @twitternameoforiginalblogger"), or do you appreciate the exposure to the work of others? And Triberr members: am I the only over-sensitive one out there, or does anyone feel the way I do? Do you feel it should be fairly reciprocal, or not at all? Do you feel like you're investing much time in it, and if so, do the rewards outweigh the time spent?

Tuesday, August 28

My First Louis Vuitton Bag

I first shared with you my journey into the world of handbags with My New Coach Bag and Me: A Love Story.

Now the story continues, with my most extravagant back-to-school purchase ever: the Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas Speedy 30.

I used eBay again, and was quite happy with the whole process, except for the fact that it's hard to find a designer handbag which is in good condition, reasonably priced AND authentic. I scoured the listings (after reading up on "How To Spot a Fake Louis Vuitton"), keeping an eye on the ones that interested me. I didn't need the bag to be perfect, but when the ad states "strange smell", it's fair to cross it off the list of potential contenders.

I ended up buying a used purse from Hong Kong. It was listed as "Buy Now or Best Offer", and since I wasn't willing to go as high as the "Buy Now" price, I filled in my "Best Offer" and immediately received notice that it had NOT been accepted. Fair enough, so I continued checking out other listings. Thank goodness I didn't bid on anything else, because after the first listing closed, I received word that my offer would be accepted after all! (I didn't know that was possible.)

The bag arrived in just over a week, and my next surprise was that the mail lady showed up at my door wondering if I had $58 cash handy to pay the COD customs charge. (Mom warned me, but I didn't see anything about an additional charge on the listing!)

The extra cost was well worth it, as the bag is in almost perfect condition except for the natural wear on the handles. It's also a lot bigger than I expected it to be, and holds all of my purse essentials with tons of room to spare.

Clearly this was a "want", and not a "need"...but when you wear $15 blouses and $20 shoes, I argue that you can splurge for the classic pieces.

Once school starts, I'll have to break myself of the habit of carrying my new purchase everywhere I go. Might look a bit funny when I'm out on yard duty...

Thursday, August 23

This Mom Models Her Back-To-School Fashions

It's the burning question on every fashionista's mind right now: What, oh what, will rural Catholic school teachers be wearing this year? Well, ladies (and gents?), your answer is here.

Earlier in the summer, I had a visit from my very own personal stylist, Practical Fashionista (Lisa McLatchie), who performed a much-needed Wardrobe Makeover on my closet.

First, she helped me purge the stuff that needed to go. Next, she gave advice on mixing and matching pieces I already own, instead of my usual (yawn) combinations. To achieve my final goal, Lisa helped me to compile a shopping list of on-trend Fall items to complete my work wardrobe, trying to add to and complement things I have, as opposed to buying completely new outfits.

She later sent me some collages of ideas, working with basic dress pants already in my closet as a base:

Armed with Lisa's suggestions I hit various malls (always looking for deals of course), and managed to cross most of the items off my list.

Here are the various looks I put together, with Lisa's inspiration and advice. (Newly purchased items are in bold print; everything else was in my closet.) Keep in mind we're not analyzing the hair and makeup here, people, it's all about the clothes.

Look # 1

My Question: Is my tweed skirt still in, and what can I wear with it other than matchy-match brown blouses?

Lisa's Answer: She said yes, it's a keeper, and it can be jazzed up with a denim button down and a belt.

Skirt: Ricki's, Shirt: American Eagle, Belt: Mark's Work Wearhouse circa 1996.
I KNEW I kept it for a reason!

Thinking that there's something missing in the photo above? Well, here's the necklace I was planning to wear and forgot about: (Hey, you try to remember everything while styling and modeling in a photo shoot, being photographed by your husband who was coerced into the venture with the promise of "It will only take a few minutes!")

Looks # 2 and # 3

My Question: I have a great collection of dress pants in various colours, but I'm sick of wearing pants and a sweater every day. What are some other stylish options for tops?

Lisa's Answer: Layering using blouses and jackets. She also suggested looking for jackets in standout colours, avoiding the matchy suit look of black jacket with black pants.

(By the way, I saw Lynn Spence on Cityline last week going on and on about how hot blazers are for Fall, so this isn't just Lisa's opinion. Plus, my lapels have high notches; a good thing according to Lynn.)

Blazer, Blouse, Pants all Suzy Shier. The top has little keyhole cutouts around the neckline as well, which add interest when it's worn without the jacket.

Blazer, Blouse, Pants all Suzy Shier

Looks # 4 and 5

My question: How can I take some short-sleeved dresses and extend their lives through Fall?

Lisa's answer: Jackets, of course, as well as properly fitted cardigans and shrugs.

Cardigan: Sirens, Belt: Dynamite, Dress, Necklace: Suzy Shier

I've actually worn the shift dress above the past couple of winters with a long-sleeved tee underneath, but that look has seen its day. Lisa also reminded me that it's okay to ditch the belts that come with dresses and swap in something more interesting.

Jacket: RW and Co, Dress, Necklace: Suzy Shier

Lisa suggested picking up a modern-style denim jacket, which my husband totally doubted was back "in" until he saw the entire Canadian olympic team wearing them at the Closing Ceremonies! This is the look I wore when I went behind the scenes at Canada AM (though I ditched the jacket for my faux co-host pic sitting at the desk with Marci Ien!)

Sure, I run the risk of being known as "Jacket Girl" this year...but that's so much better than last year's "Old Predictable Boring Sweater Girl". I know, teachers can be so cruel. And I'm kinda pushing the age limits of the word "Girl", aren't I?

Look # 6

My question: What can I wear with this gorgeous jacket, given to me by a friend? It's hard to tell in the photo, but it's pretty glitzy looking.

Lisa's answer: A blouse with some metallic threading for underneath, and skinny jeans (or my cream dress pants, if I really want to dress it up). This is something I'd wear for an outing in the big city, probably not to work.

Jeans: Suzy Shier, Blouse: H & M, Jacket: Mac + Jac

Look # 7

My question: Should I be incorporating animal print hosiery (received as a blog freebie), and if so, how?

Lisa's answer: These tights go nicely with a denim skirt and a solid-coloured top.

Skirt: RW and Co, Belt: Dynamite, Necklace: Suzy Shier, Blouse: H & M, Tights: Secret (the brand name; I'm not keeping the information confidential!)

Look # 8

My question: What colours should I be looking for this season?

Lisa's answer: She encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone (I wear a LOT of black and brown) and punch up the colour. I thought I did well with this one (my first wardrobe item ever in orange, I believe), though I'll have to top it with a sweater or jacket for work, of course:

Blouse: Suzy Shier, Pants: Suzy Shier

Anyone else think I look kind of Elisabeth Hasselbeck-y in this one? Just me, then.

As shown at the top of the post, when Lisa put together the collages for me, she picked out several gorgeous bangle bracelets, but between my watch on the left and Pandora bracelet on the right, I feel like my wrists are full enough for regular workdays. I'll certainly try to jazz things up with a bangle or two for special occasions though!

It was hard to get good shots of the footwear, but here is my collection of flats for Fall, which are animal print, brown, black, grey and metallic, and all purchased at Payless. (I'm almost 5'10" and on my feet most of the day, so flats are my go-to for work.)

While I'm sure I have enough outfits to get me through to Spring now, I will have to do some serious boot-shopping once the weather cools down, because I don't think Lisa was very impressed with my clunky options!

As you can see from my outfit info, I don't shop anywhere fancy or expensive for my clothes. Which this year freed up extra money for a ridiculous handbag purchase...which I will share with you next week!

In closing, for those of you who know me well, either in real life or as readers, I ask you to picture this: for the last couple of weeks, as I waited for my "photographer" to prioritize this assignment, all of these outfits and accessories were strewn across my bedroom floor. Can you imagine the steady increase in heart rate and blood pressure? I could hardly sleep with the stifling clutter beside me. I swear, now that everything is hanging properly (because of course I had to do that before I could even think of writing up this post) I'm breathing much easier!

So, there you have it! Feedback, as always, would be welcomed!

Monday, August 20

My Girls' First Visit To Build-A-Bear: The Friends Count Experience

I've wanted to take my girls to a Build-A-Bear workshop for a long time now, so when the opportunity came up through the blog, I jumped on it! It was a perfect time for a road trip as our electricity was out for the day, and we headed to our local store.

The photos really tell the story of the step-by-step workshop process, starting with the unofficial pre-step:

Stare longingly in the store window (Is Maggie blinking or saying a silent prayer? We'll never know.)

Check out the easy-to-follow workshop steps: (with lots of staff around to guide visitors through the process)

"Choose Me"

Maggie and Frannie select their as-yet-unstuffed friends (Yes, Maggie's matches her dress perfectly! Hmm...was that what she was wishing for?)

Frannie chooses one of the "Friends Count" collection, released as part of a yearlong celebration of the company's 15th birthday and over 100 million furry friends made!

"Hear Me"

The girls sample the different sounds which can be put in the bears' paws, to be played when squeezed. Maggie chooses "I love you", while Frannie picks "Magic".

"Stuff Me"

The girls use a foot pedal to activate the stuffing machine (with staff assistance)

Here, they make some special preparations with the bears' hearts before they are implanted, and the staff member completes the "Stitch Me" step:

"Fluff Me"

 Again, foot pedals work the air bath, with fur brushes available for final primping

"Dress Me"

The kids select from an unbelievable variety of outfits and shoes, and deck out the bears in the Dressing Room. There was a great sale going on while we were there (any bear, outfit and pair of shoes for $34.99) but usually every item adds up so you have to hold strong when the kids start begging!

"Name Me"

Frannie and Maggie fill in their bears' new names (Andrea and Minnie Maggie, respectively) on the computer, and birth certificates print out.

"Take Me Home"

(For some reason, the "Pay For Me" step didn't make the chart!) The bears are packaged in their own special boxes (which can later be coloured) and off we go!

The thrilled girls with their new friends:

Maggie's feedback: "I like that I get to play with my bear and it was nice that they let me make one and it didn't cost us money (who needs a disclosure statement when I have an honest four year old?). The lady helped us get the stuffing in and they helped us pick the clothes too. I picked Minnie because I liked her so much."

Frannie's feedback: "Build-A-Bears are really special because you get to make them yourself and also you get to choose everything for them. I really think that a lot of kids should get them. It's really good for kids because there's even a website that you can go to on the computer to play games after you get your bear. I'd have to say the best part of it is when you get to choose its heart because you can press the heart and hear it beat when you hold it to your ear."

Thanks, Build-A-Bear, for a fantastic experience! I'm sure we'll be back for more outfits, and to enjoy a free fluff or new set of bows!

For more information or to find a Build-A-Bear Workshop near you, visit

And just as an "aw, wasn't my child an adorable baby?" moment, here is a photo of the first Build-A-Bear in our home: Frannie's baptism bear, lovingly made by her aunt and uncle (well, probably her aunt) with a recorded message inside. She still treasures it!

Disclosure: We were provided with two Build-A-Bears for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Friday, August 17

Stay Organized This School Year: Tips From a Mom and CEO

Please welcome my special guest poster today: Megan Brown, Co-founder of, an online family organizational platform. (She had me at "organized".)

How Stay Organized as the Kids Head Back to School

As another summer draws to a close and we begin to prepare our kids for the start of a new school year there are several tips we can follow to help stay energized, organized and on track.

1. Turn off the TV

Television time is ok but it should be designated. It is too easy to get sucked in and waste hours in front of the tube. Create a schedule with your kids on when they can watch TV and how much they can watch at a given time.

2. Schedules

With sports, after school activities, homework, play dates and more scheduling can be one of the more stressful tasks during the school year. It is important to be on top of your scheduling by using calendars, online organizers, and reminders to help you keep track of your busy day.

3. Storage

Buy boxes and baskets to help store things around the house like toys and gadgets. Compartmentalizing is great for organization and de-cluttering! They are also the perfect way to help each child know where to put items specific to them like homework assignments, permission slips and after-school activity information. Kids are used to putting things into labeled bins at school – why not let them help you keep organized at home too!

4. Cleaning

“A place for everything and everything in its place” is a great motto to live by. Don’t let the cleaning work pile up; try and disperse chores through the week so that you aren’t overwhelmed.

5. Preparation

Start preparing anything and everything that you can ahead of time. Some examples? Prep your outfit for work before you go to bed, prep dinner meals on the weekend, pack the kids’ lunches the night before and keep them in the fridge. This way everything is ready when you need it to be and you can start the day feeling prepared rather than discombobulated or rushed.

6. To Do Lists

To gain perspective on what needs to be done now and what can be held off - lists are always a great tool. However, sticky notes scattered across the walls of your home are not the best method for list making. Make one list at the start of your day and use it as you get things done throughout the day.

7. Sleep

You may not realize it, but getting adequate rest and having a regular sleep schedule will help you to be more organized throughout your day. Both kids and parents should have a bedtime.

8. Communication

Coordinating is never going to work without communication. Talking it out is also important in any busy family.

9. Stop Buying Things

Seriously! Consider what you actually need versus what you want. Not only will you be saving money, but you will also have less to clean up.

10. Reward Yourselves

Give credit where credit is due! If the kids are doing their chores and helping, don't forget to reinforce their good behavior with compliments and rewards like going out for ice cream or renting a movie. And if the parents have had a great week, treat yourselves to a night out.

The most helpful hint of all- Don’t over stress the start of the school year. If the family supports and loves one another then being organized will happen naturally, especially if you remember to follow the tips!

About Megan Brown:

Megan Brown is the co-founder of, the online organization and collaboration tool for families. She has over a decade’s worth of Wall Street experience spanning both sales trading and Asset Management Sales and Marketing.

Wednesday, August 15

Hallmark's Back To School Goodies

When I think of back to school, I have to admit, "Hallmark" doesn't immediately pop to mind. But if you're looking for cute gifts to inspire the little (or big) students in your life this Fall, here are some for your consideration:

Text Bands ($14.99)

My girls (six and four) are loving these! Kids can program up to ten characters into their Text Bands, and the messages magically swap by bumping fists, shaking hands or giving a high five to another wearer. You can also buy interchangeable fashion wristbands ($4.99). True, my four year old can't spell, but who can really understand what kids text anyway?

Peanuts Sentiment Figurines ($24.95 - $29.95)

Have a student in your life who could use a bit of September motivation? Charlie Brown and Snoopy fans will enjoy having one of these new gifts sitting on their desks (I particularly like the message on this one):

Disney Quotes ($12.95 - $19.95)

For the Disney fan...reminders from favourites like Tinkerbell, Tigger, and Walt himself to Believe, Dream, and Be Happy!

I also received a little 8-card school pack of "Itty Bitty Greetings" ($6.49), perfect for your child's lunch or school bag, with messages like "I Think You're Outstanding...And I'm always right!" and "Hang in and remember...You outclass them all". Kids always love notes from their parents...even when they get too old to admit it!

Next up from Hallmark...Halloween goodies!

Disclosure: I was provided with the above items as part of my role on Hallmark's "Press Pause Panel". Opinions are, as always, my own.

Saturday, August 11

Win a Personalized Backpack From Stuck On You

Giveaway open to US and Canada.

I've reviewed products from Stuck On You before, and I've always been very pleased. The quality is high and my kids have loved every item they've received.

The Stuck On You backpack is no exception. Two years ago when Frannie started school she got to try one out, and now that our "baby" Maggie is ready to head to JK, it was only fair that she get a special backpack as well.

I gave her complete control over her selection of colour (the backpacks come in pink, red and navy) and design (animals, aliens, transportation, children...the choices are almost endless!) You can even design your bag online and see exactly what it will look like in your chosen colour and illustration, and with your child's name.

(Shown here: "Pretty Garden Bicycle" and "Wheels Go Round Surfer Car" illustrations)

She finally decided on a pink backpack with the adorable "Sweetie Pie Swinging" design. Best of all, it's personalized with her name, so hopefully it won't get mixed up with her classmates' belongings! (Since I use pseudonyms for my kids here at This Mom Loves, I can't show you what it actually looks like!)

Maggie's input: "It's big! It's pink! It has my name on it! I love it!" (Hey, she's four, not a sophisticated reviewer like her mother!)

In terms of durability, I can tell you that Frannie's backpack lasted two years, with the very end of a zipper pull breaking off just a couple of months ago. Otherwise it was still in excellent condition except for the inevitable staining from repeated lunch spills and time spent in the mud. Two thick, adjustable straps and a handle make it very ergonomic, and the different compartments add convenience. (Coming from a teacher: keep paperwork separate from drinks, please!)

(Shown here: "Robot" and "Birdhouse" illustrations)

So, want to save some money on your back to school shopping? (Can you really answer no?)

Stuck On You is giving one lucky This Mom Loves reader a personalized backpack of your choice, valued at $49.95! All you need to do is check out the Stuck On You website and let me know which backpack illustration you would choose. Extra entries are available as well; just check out the Rafflecopter form. The contest will run until Saturday, August 18th at 12:01 a.m. EST. (It's a quick one week turnaround to allow time to ship the prize before school starts!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck...and don't forget Stuck On You labels for your kids' lunch containers, school supplies and clothing! Otherwise, be prepared to spend a lot of time at the Lost and Found on Meet the Teacher Night!

Disclosure: I was provided with a backpack, water bottle and labels for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Friday, August 10

Steal Like An Artist and The Scribble Diary: Great Nonfiction

I love both of these books.

In the inspiring guide to creativity, "Steal Like An Artist", author Austin Kleon expands on "10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative":

1. Steal like an artist
2. Don't wait until you know who you are to get started
3. Write the book you want to read
4. Use your hands
5. Side projects and hobbies are important
6. The secret: do good work and share it with people
7. Geography is no longer our master
8. Be nice (the world is a small town)
9. Be boring (it's the only way to get work done)
10. Creativity is subtraction

I was motivated and inspired by this book, which is perfect for teens and retirees alike. (Perhaps a gift for a new grad?)

Next, "The Scribble Diary" by Lisa Currie.

"Welcome to your own playful, personal doodling space. Release your thoughts. Make a memory collage. Draw your dreams. Reflect on your day. What's in your brain right now?"

Exactly as the title suggests, this book is a diary, but not one that requires words. There are tons of prompts ("surprise of the day", "the moral of the story", "new rule for myself")  and frames for the reader to use to reflect in pictures and sketches. For me, it would be work, because as my loyal readers might be able to guess, I like to spill things out in words. But what a brilliant idea for all of the people out there who are less linguistic and more visual.

What I really wish is that there were a children's version of this book. We expect so much from kids in terms of producing writing, but this would be such an effective method of having them share in pictures instead. I would totally use it with my students. If you can get on that, Lisa Currie, it would be greatly appreciated. Or wait a minute...if I "steal like an artist", perhaps I could come up with a children's version of this myself?

Disclosure: I was provided with the above books for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Monday, August 6

School Daze: Back To School Tips and Tricks

So, are you excited about "back to school" yet? Never mind that the phrase also translates into "back to work" for me...personally I can't wait to spend too much for my daughters' clothes, handle piles of extra paperwork on my kitchen counter, and -- wait for it -- pack lunches every single night, since both girls are full-time this year!

(If you're new here, yes, that is sarcasm.)

I think we could all use some help easing into a new school year, which is why I wrote School Daze for Peterborough, Northumberland and Lakeridge Kids; a compilation of tips and tricks for making 2012/2013 the best school year yet.

With contributions from many of my readers, the article includes ideas under several "back to school" categories: Get Back on Track, Calm Jitters, Shop Around, Start Organizing and Simplify Lunches...with a sidebar of "Tips For a Successful School Year" right from teachers!

Check out the entire School Daze article from Peterborough, Northumberland and Lakeridge Kids.

Wednesday, August 1

Behind The Scenes At Canada AM With Marci Ien

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at a national morning news program? Earlier this week I headed to the Canada AM studio to find out!

My gracious host (and co-host of the program) Marci Ien greets me in reception at 4:30 a.m. (yes, you read that correctly) and the whirlwind morning begins.

4:30 AM:  The team gathers for a morning meeting to go over the rundown for the show. While it was planned the day before, news can change overnight (especially with the Olympics taking place in a different time zone), and headlines need to be discussed. (If you don't believe the time, check the clock in the background for proof!) The team goes over the order of news items, who will be interviewed live, and what videos or stills should be used with stories.

One of the reasons I watch Canada AM is the comprehensive content, so it's fascinating for me to see how coverage decisions are made. I like to get major international and national news and staples like sports and weather, but also the balance of lifestyle and entertainment stories as well. On one episode last week, Marci went from talking about the Northern Pipeline to Kristen Stewart's "dalliance" (her word) in a matter of minutes. Talk about versatile!

My biggest surprise sitting at the meeting? The huge butterfly tattoo Marci is rockin' on her left foot, which I've never noticed on camera before!

4:55 AM:    Marci heads to hair and makeup (though believe me, she looked gorgeous even before going in). She shares how things are different on the show with co-host Beverly Thompson on holidays, and today it's just going to be Marci and Jeff Hutcheson manning the desk. The Olympics are keeping the show very spontaneous, as they can't predict event results, or when athletes might be available for interviews. I ask Marci about her holidays, and she shares that her family went to Italy at the end of June, and she'll also be taking a break at back-to-school time to support her eight year old daughter Blaize. (Son Dash is 11 months old.)

Having served as News Anchor for Canada AM for eight years, Marci officially took the co-host chair next to Beverly (after filling in for AM hosts many times previously) in January of this year.

I eavesdrop as Marci chats with makeup artist Leslie and hairstylist Bruno about current events, shoes, and her interview the previous day in Stratford with actor Christopher Plummer. Looking up at a TV screen, she notes what a great job fellow CTV-er Lisa LaFlamme is doing covering the Olympics, and how fantastic her layered hairstyle looks.

While the pros work their magic, Marci goes over the daily newspapers and her notes for the show. (To supplement her own research, she is provided with key points and suggested questions for each segment, which I was given copies of and will treasure as journalism-junkie souvenirs.) She's very much a terms of endearment gal, using lots of "sweetie"s and "love"s with her coworkers, but it all sounds sincere coming from her.

5:45 AM: Marci is miked up and camera-ready.

5:45 AM: We sneak into the studio and I glean some more insider information. Jeff is on-camera, recording questions for former Olympic medallist and Charmaine Crooks: the same questions he asked her over the phone the day before, while she was videotaped giving her answers in London. His on-camera questions are merged with her answers, and run later in the show, giving the appearance of a live interview. Tricky!

5:56 AM: Marci tweets me a welcome message...perhaps as I was taking the below photo. Next, she and Jeff review the big headlines and get last-minute instructions from Floor Director Vern.

6:00 AM: The show begins! I sit on a stool in front of the Canada AM kitchen (which is definitely not ready to be seen on-air today) and take it all in.

What I learn:
  • The room is not as silent as I expected. As cameras roll, a printer whirrs, guests are escorted in and out, the crew snacks, and the camera operators make low conversation. (Clearly this is old hat to them, and they are past my "Isn't live TV so exciting, people?" awe.) Apparently if you don't have a microphone, no one is going to hear you anyway.
  • Jeff is not, in fact, standing in front of maps or screenshots to cover the weather; just a green screen
  • There are little details unseen by the audience at home, like Jeff's breakfast sandwich hidden behind his laptop for commercial break munching!
  • Glitches do happen (e.g. a piece of footage run is not what the hosts were expecting), but few, if any, viewers would even even be able to catch them.
7:00 AM:     Guest coordinator Vicky (who is too sweet for words) escorts me up to the control room to really get behind the scenes. It looks pretty much like I expected: about ten people at computers (one with the title of "overnight writer"; definitely not the job for me) in front of dozens of screens showing in-studio and remote cameras as well as other networks. Time is being tracked and counted down, TelePrompTer text is being edited ("Zara Phillips is Princess Anne's daughter, right?" someone confirms), and graphics are being inserted in the show.

However, I am surprised by the calm, quiet atmosphere in the room (which I don't think is for my benefit; no one really notices me or seems concerned about my presence). Phone calls are made to and from the studio downstairs, and occasional directions are given, but everyone seems to be watching, typing and clicking away, getting their jobs done.

7:40 AM: I head back down to the studio, to be followed shortly after by makeup artist Leslie, scooting in and out to do shine-control (Marci had pulled out a makeup bag and touched up her lipstick just minutes before).

Marci and Jeff ask for confirmation on Canada's current Olympic standings, as one source has us in 18th place, another says 27th, and the co-hosts want to make sure they're delivering accurate, up-to-date information to the viewers. (Unfortunately 27th was correct.)

There are several different studio guest segments, which all take place on various parts of the same set, including an Olympic discussion panel being prepared for in this photo with Greg Westlake (Canadian ice sledge hockey player), Brian Stemmie (retired Canadian skier) and Canada AM regular Dr. Marla Shapiro  (I am pleased to meet Dr. Marla in person, having interviewed her over the phone for a Momterview feature just last year.)

Later comes a taped segment of Marci's interview about animation with Michael Kowalski of Pixomondo. As it runs, she explains to me that Kowalski was waiting at the studio to be interviewed live the morning of the Colorado movie theatre shooting, and many of the prepared segments were bumped for the breaking news. Instead, he stayed after the show and did a taped interview (as did some other planned guests), which was saved for today's episode.

Not a huge sports enthusiast, I don't live for Olympics coverage as many Canadians do...but I certainly perked up for the last segment (the perfect way to end my visit): Loulou Magazine presenting Fashion Sleeper Hits of Summer 2012. In the photo below, you can see accessories on display as  models get their last-minute instructions.

Since I'm sure you're dying to know, here are the aforementioned fashion hits:
  • statement pants (e.g. patterns)
  • pleated skirts, including the longer-at-the-back "mullet skirt"
  • geometric prints, mixed and matched
  • statement necklaces
  • wedge sneakers
As an aside: it's a good thing when you're wearing the same nail colour as as the Shopping Editor for a fashion and beauty magazine, right?

9:00 AM  The show ends, and I am shocked by how quickly the time has gone in. I find workdays fly by quickly in the classroom as well, but the major difference is that 9:00 is usually when my "showtime" is just arriving!

The hosts and crew dwell for a moment on what they saw as issues with the day's show (don't we all do that with our workdays?), but as Marci points out with her usual perspective, "It's live TV, warts and all!"

The cameras have stopped rolling, but Marci's day isn't over yet. A "post-mortem" of the show takes her until about 10:30 AM, and she heads home around 11. The afternoon finds her interviewing the Olympic bronze medallists in synchro diving, then squeezing in a nap before picking Blaize up from Art Camp. Next it's a conference call at 4:15 to discuss the following day's show.

The evening is for family, and once the kids are in bed she lays her clothes out for the next morning, does a bit of research and turns out the lights at 10, with the alarm set again for (gulp) 3:30 AM.

I'll leave you with a parting shot of Marci (who quite unfairly never appears sleep-deprived) and me at the desk. It suits me, doesn't it? (Hey, one of the cameramen thought that by "shadowing" Marci, I was preparing to cover for her on the show, so it's not that unbelievable!)

Thanks again Marci, and everyone at Canada AM for being so welcoming.

During the Olympics, you can find Canada AM on CTV Newschannel. After that, it's back on CTV, bright and early every morning at 6.