Learning the back-end

by , on
June 30, 2013

I had the chance to register for a workshop put on by Ladies Learning Code last weekend. It was a workshop on HTML and CSS coding. These are things that I have wished I knew for a while but never took the time to teach myself.

The workshop was a full day, held at Shopify (which is a really cool office, by the way). We started with HTML and spent the afternoon on CSS, building a simple little ‘About Me’ site, changing colours, font styles, space.

By the end of the day I felt like coding was not as hard as I had expected it to be, and like I wanted to continue to play with it and see what I could do. In fact I started a new file when I got home.

The format of the workshop was fantastic, one person leading and mentors at each table to help us when things didn’t quite make sense. Now I have another skill and the nothing that workshop lead Tiffany Tse passed on – you learn by breaking things and going back in to fix them.

Weekend of Awesome

by , on
June 30, 2013

So I did my annual Summer of Awesome list (which isn’t really done yet) and this weekend we decided (I decided) to pack a bunch of stuff in.

On Saturday I spend all day at Ladies Learning Code (which was awesome and I’m going to post about it at the FiveTwoTwo blog). When Joe and the kid picked me up we headed out for dinner and then off to the RCMP’s Sunset Ceremony.

Mounties in dress

Mounties in dress

We didn’t get to see the musical ride portion of the evening, but the Mounties always put on a good show, and the demonstration by some Search and Rescue dogs was pretty great.

On Sunday the kid, Grandma and I headed out to pick up my sister. We had a nice patio breakfast and then headed strawberry picking. It’s one of those things I remember fondly from when I was a kid and my own daughter was very excited when I told her we would go.

Filling her basket

Filling her basket

She was thrilled the whole time we were out in the fill and didn’t want to leave. I think she’ll be even more thrilled to eat the berries we brought home.

On Sunday afternoon I decided that maybe it was time to put our ice cream maker to good use. I filled it up with vanilla, cream and some sugar and we kicked the ball around for a bit. (See: Awesome ice cream maker).

And then we ate the strawberries and ice cream together, as you do.


Ice and strawberries together

Ice and strawberries together

Next up: Celebrating Canada Day.


Marching forward

by , on
June 28, 2013

We’ve got a lot going on this summer. Joe and I just got back from our trip and soon I will be making lists and packing for our family reunion trip, and then at the end of the summer the kid and I are going to PEI with her Grandma and Auntie, leaving Joe and the dog to fend for themselves.

On top of that I have my Summer of Awesome list, inspired by Lynn – Things I want to do for fun this summer, experiences I want to have.

Last night I go very excited about things we could do this weekend with Canada Day coming up, and tonight I had another idea for a quick day trip we could take that would be a great experience. I think of something, I get excited I want everyone else to be as excited as I am, I’m impetuous.

And it just dawned on me why I’m so excited about this summer, and why I keep having ideas.

In September my baby girl starts preschool, half days, four days a week. From September on she will be in school, first half days and then full time forever. This is the end of an era – her and me, together, playing and experiencing.

I’m in full on “MY BABY!” panic mode.


Great Canadian Weekend

by , on
June 27, 2013

I love this country, and I love celebrating this country on July 1. This year Canada Day happens to fall on a Monday and I’m looking at the forecast for the weekend ahead and thinking we can have three full days of great activities.

With that idea, I glanced at my 2013 Summer of Awesome list and got a few ideas right away: the RCMP sunset ceremony, strawberry picking, visiting the farmers’ market – all things that we can do this weekend to celebrate our country, our region, our farmers and local businesses.

And then on the day we will go to our local Canada Day celebration which the kid loved last year, and we’ll visit my father for a barbecue.

I’m so excited for all this activity. It’s my favourite holiday of the year (though Christmas is great because it brings the World Junior Hockey Championships with it).

I’m additionally excited because I managed to make the kid her very own Canada Day dress:

Maple leaved

Maple leaved

She’s a Canuck kid – she was even excited to hear that the winter Olympics are on again next year and she’ll be able to watch curling.

On a scale of 1 to 10

by , on
June 27, 2013

I recently did some work entering and analyzing survey data for a client, and the way I approached it was to seek out a survey website and build an electronic version of the survey that my client’s client had sent out as a hard copy.

My first attempt was to use Survey Monkey, because it’s a site that I’ve heard of and I’ve known people who have used it. It’s fairly straightforward to build a survey, but with their free version you can only include 10 questions. Since the survey I was working with had 11 questions plus demographic data, that wasn’t going to work for me.

My second attempt was FluidSurvey, and while some of the descriptions for types of questions were not self-explanatory, I did some trial and error work and got the survey set up in a functional way.

Both the survey sites I looked at offered a free service, with fees added to get additional services, such as the ability to download your compiled data.

Surveys can be a great tool to help businesses focus, but they have to be well thought out and written clearly. Putting a good survey up on one of these sites can help find out more about your audience and how they view your brand and get quick access to all the data.

Live from Newfoundland

by , on
June 26, 2013

Joe and I took a vacation together. We flew to St. John’s on Monday and he’s already left on his flight back. I’m sitting in the St. John’s airport waiting for my flight to start boarding. (We’re flying on points, so we’re flying back separately).

I have been all across Canada in my life but this is my first time in Newfoundland and Labrador. I’ve been wanting to come here for a long, long time. Newfoundlanders are legend in this country. Fun, kind, friendly – and all of the stereotypes are true.

This is really the first time Joe and I have gone away together just for the hell of it, though we did drive up to Ganonoque and Kingston once, years ago.



Marriage is hard, and parenting is hard and trying to balance it all is really freaking hard.

Getting to walk around the city together, experience things together, wake up when we were ready, eat meals with no interruptions. It was all good.

Not to mention seeing some beautiful and historic scenery.

I can now proudly go back to the National Capital for Canada Day having seen 10 out of 10 provinces.

Lala Land

by , on
June 23, 2013

I knew that the kid would play with dolls. I had dolls – many, many dolls – that I loved dearly. Cabbage Patch Dolls were my babies, Jem dolls were my fantasy life.

She’s had Cabbage Patch Dolls, two Disney babies who she loves dearly, and a Doc McStuffins doll that was show and tell one week.

One of the big hits was the Lalaloopsy that her cousin chose especially for her for Christmas. On her birthday I added another Lalaloopsy (her name is Specs Reads-a-lot and she wears glasses. Acceptance of glasses is going to be important for our little girl). Since then we’ve been adding lots of mini-Lalaloopsies.

When I first saw the Lalaloopsys, with their button eyed blank stare I thought, like anyone who read or saw Coraline “Wow, creepy.”

The kid became interested in them when she saw them in a magazine. I acquiesced, but since we welcomed them into our home I’m becoming more attached to them.

She loves them, she imagines stories for them. They are little girls – there are a few boy characters but not many – but they don’t look human in the least. They have big heads and mitten hands and back-stories. There is nothing in the Lalaloopsy to live up to or compare yourself to, they are just playthings.

Loopsy coaster

Loopsy coaster

Each one of them has a passion – cooking, art, putting on shows, sleeping – but they are all friends. They are also all different colours. There skin ranges from light to dark with in-betweens, their hair is yellow, orange, pink and blue. There is no judgment, they are all just different.

Of course, every part of Lalaloopsy-land, including their new TV show on Treehouse, is built to sell more of their products, but that’s to be expected with most kids’ toys from what I’ve seen. I will happily play with my kid and her growing collection of button-eyed dolls and their weird back-stories, strange names and cute little pets.

Sexism every day

by , on
June 20, 2013

I have been reading through some of the stories on the Everyday Sexism website (Canada is here). These are stories of girls and woman who have been exposed to those men that exist in the world who feel they have a right to a woman’s body.

These men (not all men) who feel that women are there for them and should appreciate any and all attention they are given – staring, groping, assault.

There are men that don’t act like this, but still may not understand the fear that women feel a lot of the time, never knowing how a man will react to her if she says the wrong thing or looks at him a certain way. And if he does something to her – says something, touches her, gropes her – not knowing what to do or say for fear that things get worse.

There are also men and women who think that women who face these situations are somehow at fault – they put themselves there. After all no woman has ever been raped while appropriately dressed and sober by a person she trusted, right?

Another example of the difference being a woman day-to-day is here, point three. A man can say something like this and not get any particular response, but a woman just reiterates what he said and gets threatened and verbally assaulted.

I have been lucky so far in my life, no situations immediately come to mind when I look at the Everyday Sexism stories, but I still have life left to live, and now I have a daughter that needs protecting to. How do I maintain her happy, carefree attitude while also warning her of dangers? How to I help her trust the right people, who may not be the right people after all.

(You can follow Everyday Sexism on Twitter to see what women around the world are experiencing every day).

Money, money, money, money (mo-ney)

by , on
June 18, 2013

We have a household budget. I used Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s Interactive Budget Worksheet to build it. It’s great because all the formulas are there and I don’t have to figure anything out in Excel, and it gives you amounts for your “jar money” – Gail’s preferred method for keeping track of cash expenditures.

(I am a Gail Vaz-Oxlade evangelist. I love her, I have two of her books, I watch ‘Til Debt Do Us Part, Princess and Money Moron).

We have this spreadsheet, we have a budget where everything balances, our bills are all paid, we’re paying off debts.

And then there’s keeping track of it all. We use Gail’s spreadsheet but we don’t have the jars. We tried tracking spending in a spreadsheet but things got forgotten. I live in constant fear of surprises. We have a budget, but we don’t currently have an emergency fund and if something happens – like, say, the dog gets sick or I break a tooth – we have to fiddle with our budget to make it work.

We’re not badly in a hole, we’re not in a situation like the people Gail saves on her shows, but it sure would be nice to have her come in and even things out.

I asked on Facebook what my friends do to control their spending and got several identical answers: Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s spreadsheet and her jars.

I think I’m going to the dollar store tomorrow to buy some jars.

PR, Work

Off the record?

by , on
June 18, 2013


An interesting discussion took place on Twitter this morning concerning off the record and embargoed information.

The discussion centred around this story about the PMO sending information to the Barrie Advance and requesting that it be attributed to “a source.” The story written revealed where the information came from and the request that had been made.

Now I’ve worked in comms, I’ve sent out press releases, some of which were embargoed. I also went to journalism school where I learned, and internalized the idea, that when you go off the record, you do so only if you would be willing to go to jail to protect your source (meaning the information is important enough and your source could be in trouble if people found out where the information came from).

I had always thought embargoed information was different, kind of like a lock-up for the budget. It gives reporters advance notice of what’s happening, giving them time to prepare a story that can go public as soon as the embargo lifts.

Discussing this with several reporters on Twitter (@davidakin, @SusanDelacourt and @AlisonCrawford5) this morning, they agreed that they view information given off the record and under embargo the same way: the caveat has to be agreed to in advance for it to be respected.

It is unreasonable for the PMO to have sent that information and instructing the newspaper that it be “on background” or attributed anonymously without first contacting the reporter to see if he wanted that information on those terms. If a reporter receives the information without accepting those terms, they have no responsibility to use the information under those terms.

It’s not something I had thought about before, but it’s perfectly logical.

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