Every month* (approximately 2-4 days after the actual deadline), I write an advice column for our local community arts paper The Humm. It's a goofy column in which I respond to readers' questions with whatever answers I can come up with.
I don't take it overly seriously. I don't think my readers do either. But I do try to give solid advice. Not everything is a big fat joke you know.
This month I decided to write about the Art of Giving Advice. You can find my column in the February edition of The Humm.
And also, right here..
Anyone can give advice. We’re all professionals at having an opinion and imposing it on others. (Personally, I’m excellent.) But good advice? Good advice isn’t really about you. It’s about the person seeking it.
Allow me to side bar. My first career job was as a Junior Copywriter at an advertising agency in Toronto. I worked there for nearly 4 years before I began to feel my spirit being broken. My partner was a super talented Art Director, and though we worked well together, our personalities were entirely different. My boss, our Creative Director, was tasked with managing both of us, and he did so by treating us in exactly the same way. But we were different. You couldn’t manage us in the same way because we didn’t respond to the same things in the same way. What encouraged the best work out of me, didn’t do so for her, and vice versa. The two of us were never happy, fulfilled or successful at the same time because of it, and eventually we all sort of combusted. I remember thinking a great deal about how important it is to manage individuals even within a team scenario. And that, if ever I was someone’s boss I would work to communicate with them in whatever way was most effective for them. There is an I in team after all. (Editor: Please fact check this saying).
“But Miss Write,” you’re thinking, “what does this have to do with giving good advice?”
Giving quality advice has everything to do with who’s asking for it. The best advice comes from someone who actually cares about the advice seeker. I don’t always know who the lovely folks who send me questions are, no. But I always take the time to think about what it might be like to be in their situation.
I always imagine that person is a friend and try to feel out what kind of response they actually need to make their own decision. And then I try to add a little levity to the answer. To make someone smile is to lift a little weight from the decision to be made. This is life. There are no right answers, only countless choices and paths, all of which lead somewhere. (Even if that somewhere requires another decision to be made).
The best advice allows people to think for themselves and to know that they’re not alone in whatever they decide.
My advice on giving advice? Be a thoughtful listener. Be a supportive friend. Make ‘em smile.
*almost every month
Happy (almost) Valentine's Day my friends!
I know, I know. Half of you are all like "Blargh, Valentine's Day was invented by the good people of Hallmark Emily. We're not buying."
The other half of you are "Ooooo! Love! We LOVE love!"
Whatever camp you fall into, I'm pretty confident I've got just the card.
Because when it come to Valentine's Day (or any occasion really) Emily McDowell Illustration knows just what to say.
All of these cards, and many more are available in store AND online right now (go!).
Order by February 9th for guaranteed delivery.
I love you.
NOTE! Since writing this post, we've decided to host an OPEN HOUSE to show it off in person. Come for a visit THIS SUNDAY January 25th between 2pm and 4pm. 77 Union Street North, Almonte.
It's all a little sudden, but we've decided to sell our home.
The family is growing (in stature, not numbers. You shut your mouth.) and we've rather serendipitously stumbled upon a perfect home for our changing spacial needs.
So our beautiful little house here in Almonte is officially on the market.
We are located at 77 Union Street (here's the map), about a 5 minute walk from the downtown shopping district on one of Almonte's most desirable streets.
This late 1800s home (which we purchased when I was pregnant with Clementine in 2008) is brick and features an eclectic mix of original features and custom upgrades (I truly think I'm going to have a tougher time leaving my beautiful West Elm lighting than I will anything else.)
Allow me to give you the tour.
77 Union Street . Almonte . $319,000
3 bedroom, 2 bath
2 storeys, brick detached, garage
New (as of 2014) Furnace, Driveway, Roof on Garage
Spacious back & side yard
Loads of character
Walking distance to historic downtown Almonte shopping, restaurants & beach. Yes, we have one.
This is the worst our house ever looks. Because it's winter. And even houses get a little pastey looking in the wintertime. What you can't see on the porch is a heavy duty ring that hangs from the ceiling.
We put a single hammock on the hook during the summer and pretend we're somewhere tropical.
We drink a lot in the summer.
Now come on in!
I love this view. As you can see, I'm not terribly afraid of colour. I purchased the runner when the kids were little because I worried about tumbling to my death while holding a newborn. Not that the steps are slippery. But when you're sleep deprived, a soft place to land is often a good idea.
I dreamed of one day reclaiming the natural wood under the white paint.
Because that would be stunning.
If you buy this house, and decide to do that, don't tell me. I will die from jealousy.
(There's a real morbid theme to this part of the post. I did not plan that.)
The colour on the walls looks a bit pink in these photos, but I assure you, it's more of a coral/tomato colour.
I love it.
But, like the green in our living room, it's not for everybody.
Our living room is open to the dining room and both have beautiful hardwood floors in perfect condition. Large baseboards and original plaster medallions make this room so special.
Not to mention all the fun I've had being loosey-goosey, mixy-matchy with the decor. That's the secret people. Buy only things you love and it'll work.
I merchandise my home in a similar way to the shop.
By creating vignettes and giving people lots to look at.
In this photo alone you'll find a one-of-a-kind wood print from NaCoille Studio, pendant lights from Tin Barn Market (I hung them inside some metal baskets I found on clearance at Home Sense. Because I'm crafty), custom felt pennant from Melting Plastic, woven throw from Cambie Design, Almonte landscape from Woodposters, felted moose head from Wendo VanEssen, moss wreath by Laura Daub, metal birds from I don't remember but I know it's made from the scrap metal of a lawn ornament maker, and a million more other things that mean a whole lot to me.
Everyone is afraid of the black bird in the photo above, but it's one of my favourite pieces.
I don't think he looks menacing. I think he looks misunderstood.
There's a difference you know.
I promise you I didn't stage this shot. Some kid put the lion there. And it stuck.
All this drooling over decor has me wondering what's for dinner.
Here's where you'd be eating yours if you bought our house...
There's that light I'm going to mourn again.
When we moved in, there was no opening in the wall that separates this room from the kitchen. But you know how it is when you have a dinner party, eeeeeveryone ends up in the dang kitchen.
So we opened that sucker up and it made a world of difference. I had visions of putting in a breakfast bar and a few stools someday as well. Don't tell me if you do that either.
Shall we away to the kitchen?
The kitchen isn't jazzy, but it's functional. Appliances include a fridgerator, dishwasher and stove. And yet another great pendant from West Elm.
And if you love that E A T I know the girl who makes them preeeeetty well. Buy the house and I'll have some custom made for you. Sweeten the pot a little.
Just beyond the kitchen is the room we spend almost all of our time in.
The TV room.
Honestly. This room has everything you could possibly need.
Netflix and a two-piece bathroom.
You can keep this if you want. :(
To the right of the TV room is the space we built in 2010. It used to be a pretty poor excuse for a sunporch, and we turned it into our kids' playroom. And a thing of flipping beauty.
It's the happiest, sunniest little room and the kids love it.
Here's the part where I tell you the harsh truth that our house doesn't have a basement. Like many old Almonte homes, our basement is a crawl space with only enough room for a furnace (did I mention it's BRAND NEW?) and my husbands super stinky hockey equipment.
But who needs a basement when you've got a gorgeous playroom and a perfectly awesome garage?
Right? I know I'm right about this.
This room has all new windows and a door to the side yard. It also has a perfect little cubby for a kitty litter. If you have a cat. We don't, but we thought we might. It's currently full of kid's books and games.
Now close your eyes.
Imagine lush green grass, tall, fragrant lilac bushes, colourful daylillies, and a patio filled with friends.
Ok. You can open them now.
Here's that exact same scene in late January.
But you can imagine how great it looks in spring. You can do it.
Back inside now. It's freezing out here!
Let's go upstairs...
This is the master.
It's not huge, but it's cosy and has a big closet, painted pine floors and, my favourite: a book nook.
It would appear we are super into marketing, autobiographies and Mexican tchotchkes.
It's the only rear facing bedroom upstairs and is across the hall from the two kid's rooms.
Here's the first.
Welcome to Griffin's room.
Not pictured are his closet, small built-in bookshelf, and urine soaked pajamas.
TMI? He's 3.
Do you like purple? How about butterflies?
Because our daughter Clementine does.
I know. You're drooling over that yellow light fixture.
That's the only one you can't have. It's vintage. You understand. I knew you would.
Our washer and dryer (included!) are also upstairs. We just didn't take a picture because we haven't done the laundry in a few days. I implied we're potty training right?
Speaking of potties…here's the bathroom!
It's a BIG bathroom and we're told it used to be a bedroom.
That's how big it is.
The tub is deep and features magical, stress reducing jacuzzi jets. I haven't brought quite as much colour into this room. I think you'll appreciate that.
I think that pretty much covers it!
What do you think? Totally worth every penny of $319,000 huh? We should probably ask more...
This is Almonte people. Errbody wants to move here. And you? YOU could have the sweetest digs in town!
If you'd like a copy of our detailed sales sheet, please send me an email to email@example.com.
Free gift with purchase: This LOVELY little felt sign. Value: $24.
All the photographs shown in this post were captured by the ever-lovely, talented and generous Sarah Evans of Shoebox Pics. For ALL your photography needs (from weddings to portraits to commercial to home) contact this girl!
What an awesome Christmas that was. Thank you.
We've got loads and loads of gorgeous new product on it's way and I will be darned if I'm not going to partake in a little post holiday giving to move some product and make room.
Now through January 1st EVERYTHING IN THE SHOP is 15% OFF.
Happy New Year!
Is there anything better than a lovely piece of mail?
Today I received this gorgeous gold foil print from Etsy in my post box. A perfect addition to my new office!
Man I'm struggling with this eating thing.
Same old song that starts with me not prioritizing my health.
It's what I do. I started off strong with workouts, and now I'm down to exercising 3 times a week instead of my goal of 5x. I realize 5 was probably pushing it considering only a few weeks ago I was doing 1-2 intentional full body workouts...but fuck. Why (oh why) is the momentum so hard to keep?
Erin says though fitness is important, it's the food that's even more so, and that's no better really.
Most days I do awesome.
Each day begins with a great shake (Vega protein, berries, kale and water) that keeps me full until at least noon, then I have variety of vegetables and fruit throughout the day, a dinner of some sort of protein and veg, and tea before bed.
But other days? Days when someone leaves a sleeve of 3 Lindt chocolates on my doorstep that I should just pass along to someone with their Christmas card or, at the very least, share with someone? Those days I feel like a big fat failure.
I haven't lost a single pound since I started and it's all my fault.
Honestly, I think I'm going to need to serious simplify the way I eat if I'm going to get into any kind of fail safe routine. I've become entirely overwhelmed my all these fabulously complicated recipes (for which I rarely have the ingredients in my pantry)
It's December 27th. All the Christmas feast are over and I need to recharge. Again.
Breakfast: Protein + Veg + Berry shake
Every other snack/meal throughout the day: Some combo of veg + lean protein + good oils sprinkled with things like chia seeds, hemp hearts, nuts & seeds to add variety.
No alcohol. Except New Years. Because. New Years.
Loads of water.
Does everyone trying to lose weight struggle like this? I can't count the number of times I've failed myself. I'm not giving up or anything, but man, I'm so tired of thinking about it.
Instead of entirely transforming the blog into a food journal/fitness quest, I thought I'd do a weekly post documenting my progress. As difficult as it is proving to be, I'm not going to lie to you about how I'm doing.
I'm definitely not perfect at making good choices yet, and I find myself thinking "abstaining from wine is just not a realistic sustainable lifestyle choice for me", a lot. Like a lot a lot.
I am still drinking at least 1 cup (some days two) of coffee each morning, but I'm putting only a smidge of cream in it (Erin says cream is better than milk btw) and no sugar. I've never liked sugar in my coffee.
The family is trying new foods, but I'm focusing more on myself for this first chapter and encouraging but not forcing them to eat what I eat.
...as they say.
Brad is thrilled to follow my lead, but does his own thing outside of the house. That's cool with me. He's interested. And in the past, I've gone way overboard and tried to get everyone going equally hardcore. I've learned that doesn't work. Just because I'm ready to make a change doesn't mean everyone else is.
Breakfast: Beets and Berry Smoothie with Vega Protein
Snack: Celery sticks with Sunflower Seed Butter
Lunch: Taboulleh and turkey meatballs.
Snack: Apple followed by banana
Dinner: 3 eggs omlette wrapped in collard greens with whatever veggies I could find. Side of quinoa (lightly fried in coconut oil...so good).
Snack: Leftover overnight buckwheat parfait.
Fitness: One hour cardio dance at Heritage Fitness (ridiculous and super fun)
Breakfast: Kale, apple, carrot, vega protein smoothie
Snack: Tablespoon sunflower seed butter
Lunch: Taboulleh with half a chicken breast
Dinner: Salmon on mixed greens. Red wine vinegar + grapeseed oil + dash of maple syrup for dressing.
Fitness: Work Your Butt Off Fitness Camp with Erin (kids did Mighty Fit Kids at the same time!)
Day Three: a challenge
Breakfast: Overnight Oats
Lunch: Italian restaurant with a friend. Mixed green salad with grilled chicken, goat cheese, walnuts (candied) and balsamic on the side. Griffin had a pizza (fresh tomato sauce and mozza only) and I mindlessly ate a slice. Hated myself momentarily for being a robot.
Snack: Protein Bar (Erin's)
Dinner: Work event with Brad. Buffet style. Yikes. Filled half plate with mixed green salad (tiny bit of balsamic drizzled), grilled vegetables (I think they had olive oil on them), and chicken breast. The chicken did have some sort of balsamic style sauce, but I picked the driest looking pieces. There was chocolate cake for dessert. I had fruit instead.
Drinks: Lots of water throughout the evening BUT did have a vodka soda and a glass of red. Felt like a failure, then remembered that normally I would have had at least 3 glasses of wine. Small victories.
Snack: Oops. Had a hot pretzel with mustard at a German bar. Should have gone home. But it was their signature menu item. Would have been rude not to try...right?
Day Four: A new dawn. A new day
Breakfast: Overnight oats.
Snack: Peppermint tea (not a snack btw)
Lunch: Vega Protein smoothie with kale, cucumber, celery, apple and berries. 1/4c almond milk and water.
Snack: Protein Bar
Snack: Tbsp sunflower seed butter (feeling snacky)
Dinner: Homemade Turkey Burger (w/ flat bread whole wheat bun, pickle, salsa and cheddar cheese), Salad w. balsamic dressing
Snack: Wine. Three glasses. Side of guilt.
Day Five: A new dawn. A new day part two.
Breakfast: Kale, cucumber, celery, berries, vega/greens smoothie
Lunch: Last of the taboulleh.
Was at work all day and neglected to bring more snacks. Feeling peckish.
Dinner: Roast beef, grilled veggies, cottage cheese. Also had 3 triscuits with cheese. Also a glass of wine. Ugh. I'm weak!!
Fitness: Walked to work.
Day Six: Monday!
Breakfast: Kale, cucumber, celery, berries, vega/greens smoothie
Snack: Protein Bar, cucumber slices
Lunch: Fresh tomato indian soup.
Snack: Raspberry tea (again, not a snack)
Fitness: One hour of insanely sweaty cardio at the gym.
Ps. Scale this morning tells me I've gained 5 pounds. That bitch.
Breakfast: Overnight Oats
Lunch: Kale, cucumber, berries smoothie (w. protein)
Snack: Almonds. Probably too many.
Dinner: Legumes & Veg stir fry with beef made by Brad. 1/4 c rice. After I ate it sonofabitch told me it was Minute Rice. "But it's basmati" he cried. Not sure he understands what I'm trying to achieve here...
Fitness: One hour callanetics class at the gym.
After my first week I have to say I feel pretty empowered to have survived.
I have lots of energy and already feel stronger from daily activity. It's not so hard really. Just a matter of making it part of my day.
I think working out in the morning has helped.
I'm a list girl, and ticking fitness of my list early helps me prioritize it. At least I don't have as much time to de-prioritize it anyway.
This week's goals will be to focus on drinking more water (not doing so hot with that), and managing to maintain a healthy eating approach while on a business/social trip to Toronto.
I have decided that I will walk to and from the One of a Kind show from Melissa's apartment in Kensington Market, and will also walk to my meeting on Tuesday. That should be about 15km for two of the days.
Erin also provided me with the following tips:
- Start your long days with protein and veg
- Bring high quality protein snacks to have in the hotel and your purse (ie. raw nut and seed mixture and Vega One protein shake packages you add to water... it will help with your water intake)
- Eat every 2-3 hours (NEVER get to the point of hunger and base on protein and veg)
- DRINK WATER, herbal or tea and decaf (organic please) beverages ... keep water in your purse!
- Don't go to a restaurant starving and try to look at the menu ahead of time, so that you can plan what you will eat BEFORE you order
- Have fun :)
I think I can do it.