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10 Things I Hope To Teach My Daughter*

A few things have spurred conversations about parenting and what our roles as parents are in our house lately. That combined with some other conversations have had me drafting this list in my head lately. Normally I hate lists with numbers, but this one kept coming out at 10, so I decided to go with it. In no particular order:

  1. Table manners. If she leaves home without these, I will consider myself a failed parent. Really.
  2. Her place in the world. To me this means understanding the differences and similarities between where she grows up and the rest of the world and her position in the socio-economic world.
  3. How to make pastry. Even if she never makes it for herself.
  4. Empathy. Really, I don’t think I’ll so much teach her this, but help her hang on to it. It’s my experience that kids are masters of empathy and simply need tools to allow them to continue to tap into it.
  5. Critical thinking.
  6. How to survive the zombie apocalypse. By which I mean how to be resourceful, collaborate with your community to improve your quality of life, and how to feed yourself from something other than a package.
  7. A sense of civic duty. This includes being an active participant in the democratic process in the many forms that can take.
  8. How to ride a bicycle.
  9. How to embrace failure with grace. Maybe I can teach myself this along the way?
  10. The value of heartfelt thank you notes.

* It’s important for me to note that while I’m gendering this by labelling it for my daughter, I’d have the exact same list if I had a son.

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Women, Work, Tech & Me

I just finished reading Rena Tom’s latest Medium post, The Lady Web, and it struck a chord with me. (For the record, I’m totally loving Medium lately but that’s a post for another time).

Having just finished convening the Social Venture Institute for Women in Vancouver Conference, I’ve been thinking a lot about women entrepreneurs and where they fit in my life. Depending on how you know me, this may seem like a strange thing to meditate on — I did write a book for women entrepreneurs after all – but the day to day reality of life is that, while I am a female entrepreneur myself, my work life is actually all about working with non-profits and the progressive sector to make strategic use of digital tools. Gender doesn’t overtly come into it.

Sometimes I’m not totally sure where in my story (my elevator pitch, my brand, what-have-you) the women entrepreneur bit fits. And given how much energy I’ve poured into convening an incredible group of women entrepreneurs lately (and for the most part off of the proverbial side of my desk) these thoughts have been chasing each other around my brain a lot lately.

Am I an advocate for women entrepreneurs? Yes. Absolutely. But not by trade. Do I love speaking to and inspiring women entrepreneurs. Yes. Definitely. But, again, it’s not my day job. I’m blessed, as a result of being a published author on the topic, to get invited to speak to entrepreneurs (usually women) on many topics and I adore those opportunities. There’s little I love more than standing in front of a room full of women entrepreneurs and taking in the energy that inspiring them feeds back to me. But, again. That’s not my day job.

Which in some ways takes me back to what initially turned me on to being a female entrepreneur. One of the original ideas for Raised Eyebrow was that it would be an agency that worked with both non-profit organizations and women owned businesses. For women, it was reasoned at the time, would particularly enjoy/prefer to work with other women in tech. What we didn’t see quite so clearly in those early days, was that most of our client contacts in the not-for-profit sector would in fact be women. So while Raised Eyebrow has evolved to focus more heavily on the not-for-profit sector (not women owned businesses), we do in fact work primarily with women contacts. (Not to the exclusion of men, of course). But, we don’t focus exclusively on women working in the non-profit sphere. Nor would I want to. Neither do we specifically address our genders in meetings about content strategy for national organizations looking to connect with their constituency in meaningful ways online.

The reality is that aside from the challenges, rewards and sometimes serious awesome (like Rena I tend to reach out to a pretty kick-ass Lady Web of colleagues to get stuff done) that being a woman entrepreneur myself can bring, my day to day thoughts are mostly wrapped up in how the web can be used to help my clients do their work to make the world a more awesome, just and healthy place to be.

And so. I remain a women entrepreneur. Running a tech firm. With roughly equal male and female staff. A champion for women entrepreneurs. An advocate for doing business differently. And a sometimes conference producer. And total advocate of what Rena calls, the Lady Web.

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Waking up with Spring

This last weekend I got a delivery of fresh garden dirt and spent several hours (though not yet nearly enough) out in the garden digging, moving, adjusting, pruning, planting and dreaming. And, I marvelled at how my inner monologue had switched from thoughts of yearning to spend a few days under the duvet watching Ms. Marpole episodes on Netflix (seriously, they’re good, slightly cheeky, fun times), to instead wondering how many days this week I could get home in time to squeeze in time in the garden.

The seasons don’t really change, and I’ve lived in this part of the world for most of my life, but still as a consumate “do-er” I find one of the struggles I have with the dragging and rainy final days of winter is beating myself up over not feeling motivated to start new projects and get things done. Then the time change happens, a few sunny days break up the rain and viola: it returns.

I’m trying (and sometimes succeeding) to be more gentle with myself these days. Mostly with my inner voice, and also with my schedule (she says as she ruminates on more projects to undertake), but it’s hard. I’ve been returning again and again to this post, delicately titled “How Do I Not Give the Fuck Up When Other People Get What I Want?”, which contains this excellent advice about Keeping Your Eyes on Your Own Plate:

In this day and age, when the Internet allows us to basically stalk thousands of other people living out various versions of our dreams, it’s easy to think you are stumbling around in very last place in the world’s biggest marathon. For every press release or humblebrag, remind yourself that you don’t know the whole story; you don’t know how long it took to get to their announcement day. You don’t know the sacrifices they made, the rejections they faced, the work they put in. You only have your own plate of work in front of you, and you can’t get any more until you clean your plate. Get to work.

And — queue West-Coast-Cliche-Drumroll-Please — I’ve been going to a lot of yoga. And damn if it isn’t helping me relax. Both physically and mentally. It’s not taken away all the worry. Why just now I’ve been up since 5am answering emails and then writing this blog post. But it is taken the rough off the edges. And, it’s helping me feel a bit less creaky, which helps with all the projects I have in mind.

And so for now, while I brace myself to get through yet another very, very busy month at work, I’m also spending some of that downtime doodling in my garden journal, getting plenty of dirt under my finger nails, and desperately trying to resist letting Pinterest bully me into buying hoardes of Japanese fabrics for Spring and Summer sewing projects.

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Three Cakes for a Three Year Old

Last week my little girl turned three and I’m caught up in plenty of “how did that happen so fast?” musings while also reminiscing about long nights, sometimes longer days and enjoying so much the stage that we’re at with a little girl who is so considerate, full of laughs and so much joy.

We had a little house party for her birthday with friends from the ‘hood in the 5 and under demographic. I think because her party last year was cancelled, and because I happened to get a bunch of particularly awesome cookbooks for Christmas that I haven’t yet tried out, I went a little overboard with my food ambitions. As a result, I made (or nearly made) three cakes within the space of 24 hours for one party. (Not intentionally). I hope to not repeat that with four next year.

So what happened? Well I committed a tried and true party planning mistake and decided to make a bunch of recipes I had never before tried, out of cookbooks I had yet to road test. Silly me. Each of the recipes was excellent in the end, but each came with a bit of a surprise twist that I hadn’t accounted for in the limited time that running a business and parenting a three year old affords. As a result, there were some last minute panics, two batches of flubbed cake batter taken out to the trash and a few minutes of total panic at 9am the morning of the party as I faced the three not entirely baked and definitely not quite right cakes before me.

In the end, the cake ended up being the sheet cake from the new Smitten Kitchen cookbook and I can safely say it was tasty as all get out, and well received by kids and adults alike. It’s a basic sheet cake recipe that’s not too high in sugar (seriously when you search sheet cake recipes there are some that have cups and cups of sugar in them) and the icing was phenomenally delicious. My only complaint is that I don’t think the icing recipe makes enough, at least not if you want to ice it as she’s suggested in a lovely chevron pattern. The recipe suggests colouring the icing with berries — blueberries, raspberries and blackberries specifically — which is brilliant, simple and tasty as all heck. The raspberry is the most successful and makes a wonderful pink buttercream that has the tang of fresh raspberries cutting the typical cloying sugar. The blueberry, as she notes, is a bit of a sludgy colour and the blackberry not much different. But if you are going to pipe the icing  you’ll always end up needing a bit more to account for icing left in the bag etc. and the recipe really just makes *exactly* enough to cover the cake in a reasonably small layer of icing. I ended up having to mix all the colours together at the last minute to create a kind of mauve-y purple and just icing it straight and decorating with raspberries. It was lovely, but if I were to do it again, I would have just done the raspberry and iced the cake straight, or done at least 1.5x the recipe to do the piping.

I also made a wild mushroom tart from the Tartine cookbook, which was super tasty (I added a small bit of fresh rosemary to the thyme because I love rosemary with mushrooms). The Tartine pastry is one of the nicest I have ever made and worked with. Easy as pie (forgive the pun) to work with and more like a puff pastry when baked, my only complaint there would be that it shrunk more than any pastry I’ve ever made (and I make a lot of pastry), so I’ll need to see what was up with that next time I try it.

Finally I decided to try these mac & cheese bites for the kids, which was a fail on two levels. One, they really didn’t hold together for me at all. Two kids that age don’t really eat at birthday parties. Some crackers, cheese, fruit and maybe a few veggies cut up are the most you’re going to get into them, no point in bothering with anything else, no matter how cute it is.

Despite the kitchen antics — and I won’t even go into the ugly details of the three cakes — the party was wonderful. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, it was great to gather our friends and neighbours and to celebrate my darling girl, who enjoyed herself thoroughly. And so far, with some tears along the way (only a few of them mine) three is proving to be tonnes of fun.

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Delegating: Why is it so damn hard?

Why am I so terrible at this? Truly, honestly awful.

In the past 36 hours I have:

  • Worked (no surprise there), but which has included answering literally hundreds of emails, taking 4 sales meetings (in various parts of town), leading another meeting, phone calls, approvals of budgets, filing of business taxes, etc.;
  • Spoken at a panel on Social Media;
  • Taken my daughter to daycare;
  • Organized, co-hostessed and catered a party for two dozen women leaders;
  • Begun planning for another party in mid-March;
  • Made a batch of homemade granola;
  • Oh, and showered, slept, eaten (a bit), sung my daughter lullabies etc.

I list all of this not to elicit sympathy or fist bumps for awesomeness. No, mostly I say it to remind myself just how very tired I am (already at 9pm on Tuesday when the week has only just begun) and to try to address my challenge with delegating by claiming it out in the open.

Each of the pieces on the list above has been something I have wanted to do. The same can be said about just about everything on my to-do list at the moment. If it’s not something I want to do, it is something that I have strongly felt needed to be done. What? You don’t think I needed to make my own granola? Possibly true, but it only takes 25 minutes, my daughter has some food allergies that make store bought granola dangerous (as well as expensive) and right now it’s just about the only thing she’ll happily eat in the mornings. So, when faced with multitasking for 25 minutes to make granola this afternoon, knowing it will make my morning tomorrow (when I am beyond tired) all that much easier… well I chose making granola. And I have similar justifications for all the other stuff on that list. But that’s the challenge for me: there’s always a reason to do things. The reason not to, or to pass them off, is frequently much less compelling (in my addled brain). This is something I struggle with personally and professionally.

So, I throw this out there to what remains of my blog community. Have you mastered this life skill? If so, show me the way or a place to start. I think if I’m going to tackle one thing in 2013, this should be it. (Honestly I think I should tackle a few more things, but let’s just start here shall we?)

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Things I’m not procrastinating on!

Deserve a little hurrah don’t you think?

  • Sewing little things for the little girl.
  • Managing and planting seedlings.
  • Tending to my 17 glorious tomato plants.
  • New cookbooks and trying new recipes.
  • Marvelling at just how much stuff Martin can make in that ramshackle garage of ours.

Photos and updates on all of the above soon to follow. I hope.

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Things I am procrastinating on

  • Finding the time to book a vacation. This one needs to change pronto.
  • Clearing out the horsetails from behind the back gate (and between the hedge and the garage, and down by the side of the house, and along the garden pathways, and everywhere else on earth).
  • Pruning the lilac.
  • Cleaning out little Miss L’s closet shelf that still contains various and sundry little baby things.
  • Potty training.
  • Moving to a big bed.
  • Getting back to blogging here.

I’m resolving to knock at least half of these things off that list this month. We’ll see which they are.

 

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On Repeat

Current kitchen favourites,  on regular repeat:

  • Smitten Kitchen’s Broccoli Slaw. Making it sans nuts so the wee one can enjoy it as well. Adding carrots in their place. Arguably not quite as awesome, but still crazy delicious.
  • The world’s easiest (and very tasty) Squash and Apple soup: saute one onion in 2 tbsp of neutral oil for 5 min or so, chop one tasty winter squash (butternut is dandy), cut up 3-4 small apples; add squash and apples to onion, and saute for a few more minutes, add a light veggie stock to cover, bring a boil and simmer until soft (about 20 min). Add a dash of salt, freshly ground pepper, some freshly ground nutmeg and a very small pinch of chili flakes; puree. Serve with a dollop of sour yogurt and chopped hazelnuts. Delicious and ready in under 30 minutes with very little active cooking time.
  • Elana’s Pantry Protein Bars. Helping me to beat the post-holiday sugar cravings. I make mine without the added salt or the stevia and use half the agave.

 

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Thank You Crafts

I have a bit of a thing for thank you cards. It is probably thanks, in large part, to my mom, who was quite consistent when we were growing up about sending thank you cards for gifts. It has certainly been reinforced by having some particularly thoughtful friends, and an ongoing love of sending and receiving real live mail. It’s for the latter reason that I tend to gravitate towards actual cards or hand-written notes over thank you emails, when possible.

That said, I do feel like the immediacy of email is sometimes the enemy of a hand-written thank you note. I frequently feel like I’m letting people down by taking a week or two to send an actual thank you card, in place of an email. I’ll admit sometimes I do both.

I’m hoping to instill the same habits in little Miss L, and this holiday season was really the first time that she had any real sense that gifts were given to her and that they also came from someone in particular. And so, while this is perhaps verging on the late side of things, this morning was the first time I had time to sit down and set her up to help me with sending thank you cards, which means we’re sadly going to be late according to current Emily Post guidelines for sending thank you’s. Alas.

To involve her, I decided to pick up some blank note cards at the art supply store which she could decorate. I set her up at the kitchen table after breakfast with some paints (she choose red and yellow) and some cookie cutters she usually uses for playdough to use as make-shift stamps. We had a great time. I also invested in a $8 “Thank You” stamp, which I hope to reuse for many years, which I then used to stamp the front of her creations and viola, mama and little girl thank you cards.

Miss L and Thank You Cards

The best part? Aside from the process of doing it together, which was great fun, she seems to have perhaps (ok maybe just a little) got the thank you concept, as she’s been happily declaring “thank you cards!” every time she sees the pile ready to go in the mail.

I’m big on stamps and kids art in general these days — beyond giving kids stamps, which is also awesome. My friend Louise mentioned that she picked up a date stamp so that she can easily date her daughter’s artwork as it is produced/comes home (brilliant!), and I’ve been thinking this same principle for making thank you cards could be applied to birthday cards, with the acquisition of a good “Happy Birthday” stamp. I did favourite a bunch of excellent “Thank You” stamps on Esty, if you want to consider the same kind of a project. In the end I picked ours up at Granville Island, but I’m particularly fond of this one. Next up? Perhaps we’ll try making our own stamps!

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Something Old, Something New

HopeaSometime a few months after my daughter was born we were robbed. It sucked. All the things you’d expect. Feelings of violation. General yuckiness. Shock. But once that wore off, the loss that really has stuck with me, left me sad, was that of my jewelry. Aside from a few family pieces I was supposed to be custodian of, nothing was of any real value. Everything was of deep sentiment.

We got an insurance settlement (and a safe for future storage), which I’m slowly using to rebuild my jewelry collection. And, in the world of #firstworldproblems, it’s been hard. It’s really hard to take 35 years worth of memories (and I don’t say that lightly as a number were pieces I was given as a baby/before birth) in one shopping spree. So, I’ve had my eyes open and have been picking up a few things here and there. I used to have a truly vast collection of necklaces and earrings, most of which were family heirlooms or pieces made by artisans and craft people and collected by me on journeys around the world. None will ever be truly replaced.

But, a few months ago I happened upon a literal treasure trove of awesome adornments. Hopea came to me the way that much does these days, via Facebook, and in this case via an old high school who was promoting her sister’s new business venture. At the words: mid-century, Scandinavian and jewelry I was sold. So, off I went to check it out and lost a great deal of time pondering over amazing pieces.

Hopea means silver in Finnish, and is the project of Cosima Friesen, a Montreal based woman with a degree in art history who fell in love, originally, with a collection of Montreal modernist jewelry, a period that was itself heavily influenced by Scandinavian design. She then spent a year collecting and building a collection of Montreal and Scandinavian pieces and now sells them through her site. No one piece is likely to appear there again. Everything is positively elegant. Cosima profiles the makers of the pieces, tries to collect multiples from different influential designers from that period and frankly has an amazing eye for mid-century work that is entirely contemporary and very, very wearable.

I love the earring and necklace set I purchased and wear them almost daily since they arrived by post (that’s them in the photo). I’ve got my eye on a number of rings for my next purchase (how great would this be for the non-diamond loving girl’s engagement ring?) and I get totally paralyzed with decision when browsing through the necklaces. I think Cosima is onto something beautiful and brilliant here. Don’t you agree?

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Photos

emira. Get yours at bighugelabs.com

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My Book

My book for women entrepreneurs is available at Amazon. How fun is that? The Boss of You is a business book for women looking for advice to start or run a successful small business. The book features advice from some pretty smart gals including Jenny Hart (Sublime Stitching), Grace Boney (Design Sponge), Alex Beauchamp (Another Girl at Play), and many others.

The Boss of You