Friday, February 27, 2009

Low Cost Beauty Secrets

While I occasionally get sucked in by high-priced beauty products (ie. because of their white lab coats, the women at Clinique are really nurses and they're here to help me) I am, by nature, a low-maintenance girl. I'd like to share a few of my low-cost beauty tips with you.

The ultimate tooth whitener -- Baking Soda. There's a reason why they keep adding it to toothpaste. Yup, for less than 99 cents, you can buy yourself a box of baking and dazzle the world with your sparkling smile. Shake a little baking soda into the bottom of a cup. Put some toothpaste on your toothbrush, dip it into the baking soda, and you'll have a glow in the dark smile for just pennies a day. Baking soda is great for night guards, too.

Dishwashing liquid makes a great bubble bath. Call me crazy but, in a pinch, I've sunk into a tub full of bubbles produced by my lavender aromatherapy dishwashing liquid. Plus, it cleans your tub while you soak.

Can't afford highlights? Try lemons. I'm a natural blonde, so if I want to perk up my colour in winter, squeezing the juice of a lemon on my hair before rinsing is a sure-fire way to get highlights without the high prices.

Take advantage of samples.
Can't afford a big bottle of your favourite perfume? Most fragrance departments have samples they'll give you, for free. Same goes for small sizes of face and eye cream, and make-up remover. If you need to purchase something larger, it goes without saying that you should do it at Bonus Time. Frankly, I don't think I've ever owned a makeup bag that didn't come with a free bonus.

Anything you'd like to add?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Contagious Positivity

Last week I put a sign on a bulletin board in our department. It simply read: Think Good Thoughts.

Every day since then, I've been posting an article that I find in the newspaper that has some kind of positive message in it. Sometimes it's about the economy and sometimes, because I work in advertising, its about an emerging market or a new way of looking at an old problem.

The other day, for example, I posted an article about a new take on hair salons.

Instead of simply being a place where women go to get their hair cut, one entrepreneurial fellow in Toronto has opened a shop where women simply go for a shampoo and blow dry. Every woman reading this will nod her frizzy head in agreement -- unless we grow another hand, there is no way we could ever match the perfection of a salon blow dry.

The cost for the service is a manageable amount -- something like $25. The women interviewed for the article all raved that a salon blow dry lasts 3 or 4 days and, once you factor in the cost of shampoo, product and time spent with styling appliances, you could even justify a twice a week spend to have perfectly coiffed locks twice a week.

Not to mention, the salon is creating a kind of community -- a community that our Mothers know all too well. My Mom's been getting her hair done on the same day, from the same woman for the last 25 years!

There you go. A modern way of looking at an old problem. And a business that's finding a clientelle, even in these troubling times.

That's what happens when you Think Good Thoughts.

Because I'm consciously looking for good news stories, I've also become acutely aware of how much doom and gloom is being spread in mainstream media. There are two kinds of stories these days -- 1) we're going to hell in a hand cart or 2) the octo-Mom is driving the cart.

The thing is: it's easier to go with the negative flow, if that's the only perspective you're being presented with.

Then yesterday something really amazing happened. And I still tear up when I think about it.

When I went to post my good thought of the day, someone else had gotten there first. An anonymous poster had found their own good thought and silently added it to all the others on the board.

My own good thoughts came boomeranging right back to me.

Wow. It's working.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

You become what you think about all day.

Today I am thinking about being rich.

Just kidding.

Sort of.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

This means war

Niall Ferguson, a Harvard financial whiz kid and Debbie Downer, is on the cover of today's Globe and Mail online edition, with yet another financial doomsday forecast. This time he's eager to report that the "prolonged financial crisis" could even result in Civil War.

This makes the second time in two days that I've actually heard someone talk about the possibility of Civil War in the media.

Has Niall Ferguson been watching too much TV?

Yesterday one of my smarty pants, politically savvy writers, sent me the link to Glenn Beck's War Room. It's a Fox news report that tacitly acknowledge the rise of the militia movement in the US and, in a series of reports, shows how several war game worst case scenarios might play out.

Watch this if you want to know what people are watching at home now that they're laid off.

But in positive news...I've won two coffees in Roll Up The Rim To Win.

Monday, February 23, 2009

And the Oscar goes to...

I watched last night's Oscar marathon with a couple of gay men and a girlfriend who has, for years, read Entertainment Weekly like it's the Dead Sea Scrolls. I'd recommend this if you're looking for something other than ambivalence on Oscar night. A critical, hysterical mass, by anyone's standards.

A few thoughts:

Considering that those watching the event were commie, homo-loving sons-of-guns, there were tears all round when "Milk" won for original screenplay and a collective woop when Sean Penn collected the best Oscar nod -- although we were all kind of looking forward to seeing what Mickey Rourke would say about his dead chihuahua if he managed to bag the prize.

Hopefully the shenanigans of its star balancing the Oscar on his chin will find even more of an audience for the riveting documentary Man on Wire. See this movie.

Ann Hathaway can sing and helped make the opening number fresh and fun, rather than cringe-worthy. Amy Adams must be really pissed about the competition.

The compilation song and dance number, put together by Baz Luhrman, was way better than the three hour tragedy that was "Australia".

Best dressed -- Kate Winslet. Gorgeous dress and the best hair.

Worst dress but best agent -- Jessica Biel. No one can remember anything Jessica Biel has ever done, yet she manages to turn up at every Hollywood event. Starmaker's machinery.

Couple about to break up -- Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick. This from my EW-loving friend.

Couple you want to watch having sex -- Brangelina. Does anyone remember the year Angie turned up on the red carpet wearing a vial of Billy Bob's blood around her neck? I long for those days. I'm getting tired of the Mama Theresa smile.

Directors I'd like to have dinner with -- Gus Van Sant and Danny Boyle.

What did you think of this year's show?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen, THE BEATLES!

President Barack Obama came to Ottawa for 6 hours yesterday, and even the normally reserved bureaucrats were gushing.

My pal at the Bank of Canada -- the institution I dearly love both for injecting a note of positivity into the recessionary debate and ensuring that my mortgage interest rate is currently an unbelievable 2.1% -- joined the well-wishers on Parliament Hill and fired off emails about the visit all day.

"He's landed and the motorcade is moving," she wrote, early in the a.m. Then later, "He turned and waved to the crowd!" She was the first to share the news that Obama had taken a spin through the Byward Market, bought some souvenirs for his daughters, and stopped to enjoy a Beaver Tail -- a flat slab of sugary, doughy goodness that makes Ottawa winter somewhat palatable.

Even Stephen Harper, who we all know is not prone to shows of enthusiasm, seemed to be transfixed in his spell.

Michael Ignatieff, leader of the opposition and our soon to be new Prime Minister, proudly proclaimed that his own meeting with the leader went "ten minutes longer than planned!" Ignatieff added that he's met many powerful leaders in his time and that some seem smaller when you meet them in person. Obama, he noted, is the man you think -- and hope -- he'll be.

What an interesting time it is to be alive.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

And now a word from Lin-Chi

Trust the Chinese sages to engage in a little ego-deflating with this simple and succinct pronouncement.

What, at this moment, is lacking?

The answer, of course, is "nothing".

The past has already happened. The future hasn't yet happened. So what are we worried about?

We only have this moment. This. Enjoy it. Relish it. Be mindful of it.

The power of now.

Note to illustrator: you could make him smile a little.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bosses I Have Loved

I'm having dinner with one of my old bosses tonight.

We see each other with some regularity. When I transitioned from the world of not for profit to the world of mainstream advertising, he was the first guy who took a chance on me. He remains one of my favourite employers and a trusted friend.

Being a good boss takes a lot of work but it helps if you're blessed with an innate sense of fairness.

Fairness counts more than niceness in my books, though equal parts of both are better if you're on the receiving end. Knowing that your boss operates from a moral imperative is also good when it comes to questioning why they do some things and not others. It's nice to know they answer to a Higher Power who isn't just the bald, Satanic dude at head office.

When layoffs happen, which seem to be somewhat inevitable these days, it's nice to know that a good boss suffered a lot to make the decision. You know he or she didn't come by it easily. And you know they're working behind the scenes to find safe landing pads for their untethered former employees.

Being a good boss is often a thankless job. Few people turn up at your door and say, "Hey, thanks for the fair compensation package. Everything's going just fine. Thanks for having my back in that process meeting today."

So to you, good bosses of the world, I send up a silent prayer. Thanks for makiing a difference.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Two Hours I'll Never Get Back

I spent two mind-numbing hours watching The Bachelor last night. It was as though the battery on my channel changer had died, or I'd temporarily lost part of my frontal lobe.

This franchise would have us believe that dozens of gorgeous, seemingly successful and right-minded women would line up to compete for the affections of a good-looking single Dad.

Really, are times that tough?

I personally know half a dozen decent 30-something guys I could set them up with. Trouble TV cameras to follow them around. Might be a deal-breaker.

Last night, in what can only be described as legalized prostitution, they either accepted or rejected his invitation for an overnight date in the "fantasy" suite at the hotel.

Yup, I'd want my Mom to watch me have pre-marital sex on network TV. Everyone at St. Rita's Church would be so proud.

In the season finale, The Bachelor introduces his son, who appears to be about five years old, to the girls.

This is exactly the way you want your kid to meet his new Mother. In the trailer, one of the girls tells him a cringe-worthy "knock knock" joke. She probably has a Boarding School brochure in her back pocket.

Someone should really call child services. It'll be the most dramatic rose ceremony ever!

Friday, February 13, 2009

What's love got to do with it?

In honour of Valentine's Day -- the day I celebrate on the 15th, with the solo purchase of half price chocolate -- I wanted to share some things in life that I love.

1) Peanut butter and banana sandwiches. It's true. I've got a little of the Elvis in me.
2) The second cup of coffee on a Saturday morning when you know you don't need to rush out the door.
3) People who do the right thing, even when no one else is looking.
4) Anyone who gives up their public transit seat to an older person, without being asked.
5) Ju Jubes. Not sours.
6) Getting off an airplane somewhere I've never been.
7) Aid workers.
8) Broadway show tunes.
9) Clean sheets.
10) Clothes lines and cities that don't ban them.
11) People who have a passion for something I know nothing about -- collectors of almost anything, historians, lovers of lost causes.
12) The Westminster Dog Show, although I'm always happy when the standard poodle doesn't win.
13) The gentle rolls of fat on a baby's leg.
14) Theatre popcorn with cheddar cheese shakey stuff.
15) Documentaries.
16) Going for walks.
17) Reading the Sunday New York Times Magazine.
18) Changing from my work clothes into my yoga pants, the minute I get home.
19) Having a cat that's happy to see me.
20) Holding hands.
21) Dalton McGuinty, for giving us a new holiday in February.

Here's to more things to love, starting with today.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Today's Weather: Frost

Today's little tidbit in my Zen Day by Day calendar was from your friend and mine, Robert Frost.

You'll remember that Frost stopped by the woods on a snowy evening to contemplate two diverging paths. He's one of those rare poets who actually had some measure of fame and notoriety before he died. It's not easy to be a famous poet.

Anyway, today's bit of wisdom was this:

The only way out is through.

It's a good message, both for the next three weeks when my boss is away, and my work load will pretty much double, and for the current state of the economy. It's a good message for just about anything this old life can throw at us.

The more we try to avoid the reality of the situation, the harder it'll be.

It's gonna work out, so you might as well just relax and go with it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Here's a lesson in aversion for you. I don't like Heathers.

Naturally I'm referring to the clique of girls in the 1989 cult classic of the same name and not to actual women named Heather -- many of whom I like quite a lot.

I've been thinking a lot about Heathers, because we've got a budding group of them here in my office.

A small group of girls, led by one particularly strong and troubled one, are noticeably distancing themselves from everyone.

They sit together in group meetings and whisper together, even when our GM is talking. They lunch together, apart from the crowd. When someone who is not a part of the group approaches them, they stop talking. And last week at our off-site bowling activity, they kept to themselves, never mixing with the group. It was a little uncomfortable.

Let me be clear, here. People of like-minded interests have every right to form groups. It's natural selection, for god's sake. But this goes beyond. There's an element of judgement and intolerance to these Heathers.

Add to this a conversation I recently had with someone in a group to which I belong. Whether it's happening as she sees it or not, she feels that she's been wrongfully excluded, even bullied. She's suffering quite a lot over it.

I'm tremendously sensitive to this sort of thing because I'm by nature inclusive, and I honestly can't stand the thought of anyone feeling hurt and excluded.

I desperately want to "fix" it.

But I realize that I'm powerless over how others behave.

Sure there are laws to protect people if actual discrimination is taking place, but I can't make people behave nicely to one another. I can't demand morality.

We're all responsible for our own karma. Even Heathers.

Monday, February 9, 2009

How important is it?

My day's been hijacked by events outside my control

I arrived extra early to ensure I'd get everything done that needed to get done.

But what I thought I was going to do when I got into work this morning has been replaced by a whole host of new things I need to do, because one of my co-workers is home with a sick child.

Clearly, sick child trumps everything else.

Well, at least I'm not cleaning diarrhea out of my new Berber carpet.

I'm breathing in and out with the knowledge that my day will unfold as it should.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Food for Thought

I drove in to work this morning because I have an early morning presentation and I'm retrieving my dear friend from Ottawa from the Island Airport after work this evening.

On the way in, the DJs were asking each other and the listeners what food, if any, they'd have difficulty giving up...FOREVER.

Is there anything you love so much that you can't conceive of life without it?

Cheese seemed to be a popular item. As delightfully artery clogging as our fatty little friend can be, most people can't imagine anything more joyless than a life with more mac and no cheese.

One fellow cited salty meat -- back bacon, smoked meat, jerky -- while another said he couldn't live without pears. In fact, he has a pear of some variety every day. For some reason, I found this incredibly sweet and endearing.

For me there would be a few things that would be hard to give up.

Lactose intolerance would be a terrible curse for me, since you could wake me up in the middle of the night, hand me a bowl of frozen yoghurt, and I would eat it with gusto.

Fresh cherries are another food I'd have trouble giving up. During cherry season, I eat them every day. I sometimes even buy them in winter, despite the fact that they rival Gold on a cost per ounce basis.

How about you?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

25 Things About Me

I have been tagged by at least three people on Facebook for the latest viral craze, which is: write 25 things about yourself. They can be things, facts, hobbies or goals.

So here goes.

1) The first Christmas I spent away from home was in Japan.
2) I used to be really afraid of the dark.
3) I wrote my Masters Thesis on Zen and Agents of Grace in the Uncollected Short Stories of JD Salinger.
4) JD Salinger tried to block the acquisition of several of his uncollected short stories.
5) Meeting Romeo Dallaire was a religious experience for me.
6) Few things in life rival the experience of seeing the Rift Valley for the first time.
7) Three places I'd love to go, but haven't been, are: Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan.
8) I still believe in forever, despite ample evidence to the contrary.
9) Laughter is the ultimate aphrodisiac. Followed closely by loneliness.
10) I meditate every morning and I'm often in bed before 10.
11) I watched about 7 hours of TV a day when I was a kid and can probably tell you the plot of every Partridge Family episode based on the opening scene.
12) I call my Mother every day.
13) My mother has no idea what I do.
14) I'm taking salsa lessons.
15) I used to teach kindergarten.
16) I lost my desire to teach kindergarten when I caught the chickenpox.
17) I am an only child.
18) My signature karaoke tune is Alanis' "One hand in my pocket".
19) I think everyone should live in another country as a visible minority for some time.
20) I think having worked as a waiter makes you a better customer.
21) I believe my vocation in life is raising money for worthy causes.
22) I have a solid group of friends who refer to ourselves as Slippers because, no matter where we live, when we get back to's as comfortable as an old pair of slippers.
23) I was once seated in a table beside Woody Allan and Soon Yi at a New York restaurant.
24) I've lived in North Bay, Kingston, Ottawa, Montreal, Higashi Urawa, Nairobi and Canberra.
25) I'm extremely adaptable.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Money-Saving Tips

Being raised by a man born in 1928 at the start of the Great Depression has some decided advantages when it comes to living in a budget.

I have been raised to expect the fiery hand of God to descend should I ever allow credit card debt to get out of hand. I believe it's a venal sin not to wash and re-use plastic Glad bags. I negotiated hard for an excellent mortgage rate and I pay more than my minimum payment. I pay my bills on time and, in truth be told, often before the bill even arrives at my house.

With all these checks and balances in place, I watched, with interest, as Oprah interviewed some ordinary people who are extraordinary savers.

One couple had a combined income of $58,000 a year, four children, owned their own home, and savings of over $70,000.

How do they do it?

It's pretty simple, really. Mindful spending.

Almost everyone she interviewed said the same thing. Become more conscious of what you spend. Use cash or debit, instead of credit cards. And ask yourself, "Is that a want or need?"

Many of them cited how just 30 minutes of research resulted in savings of $50 or $100 a month on their home phone/internet/and cable bills.

As someone who works on these kinds of accounts, I can tell you that there is often wiggle room. As the Aussies are fond of saying, "The squealing pig gets fed."

Does this mean we all have to lead sullen, Amish lives? Not at all. In fact, most of the families interviewed realized, very shortly, that making the distinction between want and need actually freed up more of their time for the really important things in life. The super-expensive family holiday gave way to a Staycation, where they happily camped in the backyard, under the stars. Moms and kids got free DVDs at the library, instead of buying them the day they were released. They played board game.

In short, they turned their attention to things that money couldn't buy -- time together.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Listen to your Mama

I thought I'd share two little pieces of maternal wisdom imparted to me during my Mother's weekend visit.

If these sound bites appear random, they probably were. When Mom can't think of anything to say, she doesn't let that stop her.

1) "Your house cleans itself."

2) In observing the four or five people who had already lined up for the bus, and were potentially vying with her for her desired front seat, my Mother indicated the front of the line and said, "I think I'll stand here."