David Colletto (Abacus Group) is a Canadian pollster who can articulate his company’s findings quite well. I enjoyed this interview.

Regardless of how you’re planning to vote, this is an interesting Canadian election campaign in that all three major parties are polling quite close to one another. This interview with Evan Soloman tries to pull out the regional trends and show where the seats might settle out on election night.

As you may or may not know, I spend a bit of time (minutes, really) every week going through articles, posts, and videos in my apparent quest to gather as much information as possible. Just for the heck of it.

In an effort to share and play nicely, I will be offering up a list of the best for the week (or for the time since I last posted — let’s be realistic here). It is hoped that this list will both legitimize my reading time and prove that I do have sources for my “I read somewhere…” stories. So there.

I hope you find something interesting or informative or even infuriating in one of the items I include.

Let me know what you think!

Billy Connolly: Screw it. Let’s get on with it.

I enjoy Billy Connolly’s open, realistic, quirky and kind way of looking at the world. This is an interview done by q interviewer (more…)

BeautifulAs you may know, I did a marathon purge a few weeks ago. I started with my clothes and went through category by category, as is recommended in Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I picked up every piece separately. I looked at it. And I asked myself, “Does this bring me joy?

Well, let’s just say there are a few things in life that I cannot say bring me joy but are functional, expensive in many cases, and were not thrown out. Here they are in all their spectacular banality:

  1. Spanx and other foundation clothing. I did donate most of my foundation clothing. Not only do they not bring me joy, but they’re painful and how cute can I possibly be with my flat thighs and a huge grimace on my face? An actress I am not. Bye bye. I did, however, keep the Spanx. I’m not sure why, but they just felt like something I might squeeze myself back into one day. And, who wants to run out to buy more Spanx??
  2. (more…)

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I’ve done it. I’ve cancelled all but the most basic TV service (I tried to all-out cancel but Telus made me an offer I couldn’t refuse). I’ve committed to no TV for June, July, and August. All that I’m allowed is my Netflix.

Why?

You know those cute little studies on kid’s TV habits that are reported like the world’s children are about to go extinct? You know — “a report shows that children are spending up to a whopping 2 hours per day in front of the television set!”

I read those and think, “Amateurs.”

I can — and have — spent all day watching TV. I don’t mean four or five hours, now. I mean ALL day. I mean that I get up on a Saturday at 8am, grab my tea and put on the PVR and start watching four to seven shows that I missed during the week. Not missed because I was out living life necessarily, but often missed because there were other shows to watch at the same time. (more…)

Summer of Tidying

This is part one of a six part series I will be writing over the next weeks.

Full disclosure — I love books on tidying, cleaning, organizing, and eco-friendly household tips.

I took Adria Vasil’s Ecoholic to bed with me every night for a month several years ago. I spent hours pouring over the information on ecologically-responsible cleaning products, bedding, kitchen things, and cosmetics. It actually sparked my changeover to all non-toxic cleaning products in my own home.

Another book I really enjoyed was Ellen Sandbeck’s Green Housekeeping. I absorbed the tips on fabric softeners, how much cleaning fabrics really needed, food safety, and choosing appliances. It too accompanied me to bed, but for not quite as many days.

Over the years, I have perused Martha Stewart’s books on organizing and had long-running subscriptions for several home and lifestyle magazines.

Needless to say, I was not looking for another book on tidying.

So Popular I Had Not Heard of It

My friend E and I were walking through a Montreal bookstore when she told me her cousin had recommended this new cleaning book to her. It was supposed to be really good. So good, there were over 1100 holds on it in the Ottawa library system.

“How good could it be?” I thought to myself. (more…)

Teaching

Yes, I spent several weeks earlier this month teaching a college course. It was both a dream come true and more work than I ever thought possible. I loved every minute of it.

It wasn’t a glamorous course — Human Resources Management for Event Planners — but it is a necessary one for anyone planning to have employees, staff, or even vendors. All of which an event planner will need.

I have taught many workshops, giving numerous talks, and even taught little kids in my teen years. This was, however, my first foray into formal education. My first time giving homework. My first time marking assignments. My first time teaching so the students could pass a standardized exam.

I learned a few things:

  1. Brains learn in very different ways: I’ve known this for a long time, but it became startlingly clear when I was teaching the class how to solve math problems. I ended up solving each question four different ways. (Yes, math can be solved in many different ways.) I didn’t do it to show off my math skills, but rather because there were four thought patterns that I needed to teach to. It took four solutions for everyone in the class to understand how to solve the problem
  2. It feels mean to give homework: My little-kid-playing-teacher self was happy to slap on the homework. The former-student part of me was horrified. But, the truth of it is with all the distractions in the classroom (everyone had a desktop computer, for instance) and the fact that many students don’t learn from listening, homework is a necessary way to encourage practice and to help pinpoint what is important in a lesson
  3. Learning is a practice: As someone who has spent years (years) learning, both formally and informally, it comes fairly easily to me. Add to that the decade and a half of business experience I draw from and I was ready to write that final myself. But, for students who were coming back to education after several years away, studying and learning was challenging. It was a slow process of reawakening that piece of brainwave
  4. Experience is a great teacher: In addition to the textbook, I included a lot of experiential lessons. I called them labs — in deference to my years as a science student, I’m sure. In my opinion, the students learned and retained more about the topics they did exercises on than those for which they memorized a list or even were taught from the blackboard. They were better engaged and through research, problem solving, and interpreting situations, received better take-aways for their future businesses and careers

From College to Business — Lessons for My Clients

What have I taken away from my college teaching gig?

  • Be willing to reframe information so more of the audience understands
  • Worksheets, lists, and videos are a good supplement to any talk or text
  • Understanding is a process and takes practice. Be patient
  • Use case studies and workshop formats whenever possible. Doing is a great teacher

 

children
I think that most of us have thought about what we’d name our children, should we have some. We plan out the perfect combination, choosing carefully from what sings in our ear, taking into consideration those names already in play within our family, and trying to avoid those to which our friends have already laid claim. I have certainly had a few in mind over the years.

What I really didn’t take into consideration was how different a partner’s opinion might be in that exercise. I don’t have children, but I have watched a few friends and my brother and sister-in-law go through this process. Names my sister thought were shoe-ins were quickly vetoed by my brother. A few he seemed attached to didn’t work for her.

Despite pouring through naming books and websites, doing random searches for beautiful-sounding foreign words with meaning, many family members with children have still dragged their feet on settling on a name.

Now, I don’t mean that they wanted to meet the little one before naming them. That’s completely understandable. I mean when they want to share a list of possible names but only have one or two second names in mind.

I have also known a few children to be nameless for several weeks into their life. Their parents just couldn’t settle on the perfect moniker. And that might just be the issue, really. This is forever.

Usually.

Meg Ryan is famous for naming her little girl Charlotte only to change it to Daisy True a few weeks later. Her reason? The child didn’t look like a Charlotte.

That’s the fear, isn’t it? Picking the wrong name. Kudos to Meg Ryan for having the guts to just make it right.

I am truly shocked that more children aren’t named It and Thing.

CookiesIf you know me at all, you’re probably well-aware that I have been using the same Purity Cookbook chocolate chip cookie recipe for, well, forever. Whenever I show up with cookies, there is a very good chance that these are the ones I’m packing. It’s the recipe my mom used and it makes the most delicious cookies ever. Every time.

WHATS-FOR-DINNER-cover-1Even so, I am tempted from time to time by incredible cookie photos to try something new. This time, I was browsing through Curtis Stone’s What’s for Dinner (2013).

What was it that tempted me away from my one true love? The picture, of course. This cookie uses chunks instead of chips and offered a molten interior of divine chocolate. Yum.

So, I went about gathering my ingredients, the most expensive and luscious being a half pound of butter and 12oz of bittersweet chocolate chunked up.

I don’t know if you can imagine what 12oz of chocolate looks like — I certainly couldn’t or I would have just used chips at this point — but it’s about 3 cups or so when the chocolate is coarsely chopped. It is a true mountain of chocolate. I nervously glanced at my dough — was there enough for a pleasing cookie to chocolate ratio? I would know soon enough.

But, before I give away the end of the story, I’d like to talk about bittersweet chocolate. I don’t like anything using “bitter” as a descriptor — be it coffee, cherries, or people. As I stood in front of the Baker’s Chocolate options at the store (as you can imagine, bittersweet chocolate is not in my regular collection), I seriously considered just getting semi-sweet. It’s an old friend, you see, as it is what is normally used in cookies and I was feeling the need to be in control of some aspect of this new recipe. Alas, I purchased the bittersweet, reasoning that the recipe was written for bittersweet and I would be messing up the intended balance of sugar-to-bitter if I went out on my own.

Curtis Stone's version

Curtis Stone’s version

One more thing — the recipe, and the title of the recipe, calls for pecans. I don’t like crunchy nuts in my soft-centered, crispy-edged cookies, so I always just ignore that instruction line. If you’re new to cookie-making, nuts can generally be easily omitted without fussing with the recipe. If you enjoy the extra texture, then omitting would be just denying yourself pleasure. And why do that?

As I finalized my chocolate-laden dough and scooped the requested 1/3c blobs onto my parchment-lined cookie sheets, it struck me that these were going to be mammoth cookies. The blobs looked like those puffed wheat balls your mom used to make — they were a little excessive, but I was trying to match the recipe, so I went with it.

I wasn’t wrong. What I got were huge, flat, conjoined cookies that looked like they were filled with shards of chocolate. Breaking one open, it did indeed have the molten bits that I found so appealing initially. I tasted one — divine is the word I would use to describe it. The chocolate wasn’t even a little bitter and the dough had become soft centered with crisp edges.

My only complaint? My cookies looked nothing like the photo that so attracted my attention. Curtis’s cookies are plump with cookie dough encasing molten chocolate. Mine were well-mixed, flat, and had significantly less dough than I was expecting and prefer.

The new cookies are delicious, but not in the eat-three-in-a-sitting way that I know and love. These are very rich and more than one would be too much. These are freeze-and-eat-as-a-treat cookies. Which I have done. I look forward to my next treat.

turbineRandall Munroe is a cartoonist who looks at the physical world with a sarcastic eye. His website, www.xkcd.com, features a “What If?” section where he collects questions from readers and answers them. Now, these aren’t just any old questions, but thoughtful, sometimes slightly bat-shit-crazy questions. He answers them with a combination of imagination, drawings, physics, and math.

Some of the more recent questions include:

Could you get drunk from drinking a drunk person’s blood? Randall’s answer

What took more energy, the building of the Great Pyramid of Giza or the Apollo Mission? If we could convert the energy to build the Great Pyramid, would it be enough to send a rocket to the Moon and back? Randall’s answer

At what speed would you have to drive for rain to shatter your windshield? Randall’s answer

I recently “found” Randall Munroe’s work while browsing the TED.com site. This is his entertaining talk from Vancouver 2014:

What I like most about his site and talk is that he is unabashedly curious and — in how how he communicates through research, answers, and cartoons — he encourages curiosity in others. Some of the questions posed in his What If section are are darn right imaginative but who hasn’t spent at least some time asking crazy questions of themselves? The difference here is that Randall Munroe encourages people to ask them out loud and then he dares to take a stab at answering them. Love it.

Chocolate CakeToday is the first day of my fortieth year.

I’m turning 39, but since we live a full year before turning 1, this is the beginning of my new decade.

As I review my 30’s, it becomes clear to me that I spent a lot of those years in service to others. I don’t regret it for a minute. It was certainly called for at the time. After a while, it became second nature — a habit, really. But the need has passed and it’s time to focus on new things. And to break that habit.

So, I’m taking the next year for myself.

I read a chapter in one of Cheryl Richardson’s books many years ago that has really stuck with me. I use it in business, I use it to organize my day, I use it to make decisions. It’s her concept of a “3 Yes List.”

Simply put, at any one time define 3 things that are a high priority for you. For a Life Yes List — big picture stuff — it could include children, time alone, social time, etc. Whenever you’re not sure if you should accept an invitation, a job, or even grant a favour, you consult your Yes List. If it relates to one of those items, go for it. If not, walk away. It’s not right for you in that moment.

So, instead of writing resolutions — basically a list of what’s wrong and how to fix me — I’m committing to a Yes List for my 40th year. This will give me a guideline to what I want to do and what I’d like to avoid over the next 365 days. I hope that it will propel me out of my helpful habits and open up my world even more.

My Yes List is pretty simple:

  • New, good experiences
  • Creativity
  • Self expression

If an opportunity meets one or more of these items, I’m more likely to take it. If not, it is probably not right for me at this time.

I also plan, however, to use my Yes List to check in and make sure that I don’t just cozily slide back into the warm blanket of the status quo. I will blog about my efforts (the good, bad, and — ugh! — the ugly) and hopefully, have a truly incredible year!

Happy birthday to me.