Have you made this? Send your picture to feedback AT canadianliving DOT com and we'll post it in our photo gallery! Petra's blunder One day at The Yarn Company, Petra and Julie wanted to knit up a sample tank top – one that was quick and simple but at the same time unique. They found a beautiful multicoloured yarn they liked, but it was very thin and would not be a quick knit. Julie and Petra decided to try doubling this yarn with a solid yarn. It looked great, but something wasn't quite perfect. After bouncing numerous ideas around, they finally decided to use two different solid colours separated by a stripe of the multicoloured yarn in the middle. This added just the right bit of uniqueness. Then, as Petra was knitting the tank top, she spaced out and forgot to finish the neck shaping. When she completed the first side of the neck, she looked at it and laughed at her mistake. But she liked the way it came out. The result was a square neck, and we loved it.
* Yarn is worked double throughout the sweater – this means you should hold 1 strand of A or B together with 1 strand of C as if they were 1.
* When piece measures 13" (14", 15", 16") from cast-on edge, you will hold 3 strands of colour C together as if they were 1 and work in St st for 1".
Back With #9 needle and 1 strand of colour A and 1 strand of colour C, cast on 60 (64, 68, 72) sts. Work in St st until piece measures 13" (14", 15", 16") from cast-on edge, ending with a WS row. Cut colour A and work with 3 strands of colour C for 1". Cut 2 strands of colour C and work with 1 strand of colour B and 1 strand of colour C. Continue to work in St st. AT THE SAME TIME, when piece measures 14-1/2" (15", 15-1/2", 16") from cast-on edge, ending with a WS row,
shape armholes: Bind off 3 sts at the beginning of the next 2 rows. Bind off 2 sts at the beginning of the next 2 rows. Then decrease 1 st at each edge, every other row 3 times until 44 (48, 52, 56) sts remain. Continue working in St st until piece measures 21" (22", 23", 24") from cast-on edge, ending with a WS row. Bind off all sts loosely.
Front With #9 needle, 1 strand of colour A and 1 strand of colour C, cast on 60 (64, 68, 72) sts. Work as for back, changing colours where noted until piece measures 14-1/2" (15", 15-1/2", 16") from cast-on edge, ending with a WS row.
Shape armholes: Bind off 3 sts at the beginning of the next 2 rows. Bind off 2 sts at the beginning of the next 2 rows. Then decrease 1 st at each edge, every other row 3 times until 44 (48, 52, 56) sts remain. Continue working in St st until piece measures 16" (17", 18", 19") from cast-on edge, ending with a WS row. Shape neck: Bind off centre 20 (22, 24, 26) sts. With no further decreasing, continue working each side separately until piece measures 21" (22", 23", 24") from cast-on edge, ending with a WS row. Bind off all sts loosely.
Finishing Sew shoulder seams together. Sew side seams. With an I crochet hook and 2 strand of colour A, work 1 row single crochet around neckline and armholes. Then, with 2 strands of colour B, work 1 row of single crochet around the bottom edge of the tank.
The Yarn Girls' Guide to Knits for All Seasons, copyright 2007 by Julie Carles and Jordana Jacobs. Excerpted with permission from Potter Craft, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher.
For many seeking a little retail therapy, online shopping has replaced a visit to the mall. “It’s an issue of convenience as well as access,” says Deborah Fulsang, style journalist and founder of fragrance website The Whale and the Rose. “Between life and work and kids, I have no time, so being able to go online 24-7 is invaluable.” From the comfort of your couch (and maybe even in your pajamas) you can save a car ride and head to popular online-only destinations Net-a-Porter or Asos. We spoke to Fulsang and Gracie Carroll, founder of style blog The Chic Canuck, to get tips for navigating the world of e-retail therapy and to make your transition to online shopping much more enjoyable.
“Size is always a big fat question mark, and it’s tough when you’re shopping a brand that you’re new to,” says Fulsang. Most sites have a detailed measurements page and even offer tips on how to accurately take your own measurements.
Three sizing tips:
1. “If there is an online chat assistant, then use it to ask questions,” says Carroll.
2. Ensure you’re doing proper size conversions. For example, if you’re usually a size 8, you’re a 12 in the U.K. and a 44 in Italy.
3. Stick to styles that you know work for your body type. If you’ve never looked good in strapless tops, don’t let the picture of the model fool you into thinking this strapless top will be the game changer.
Product quality can be hard to judge from a photograph on a computer screen. Carefully read the detailed descriptions to make sure you aren’t buying spandex when the photo looks like jersey. Carroll not only scans for product details, but also checks multiple photos when possible and reads customer reviews. “Reviews are especially helpful. When a price seems too good to be true, it usually is,” she says.
Not all sites offer product evaluations, but the ones that do often include details such as whether the product feels cheap or is transparent, whether it fits true to size and how the product looks on certain body types.
Online sales crop up regularly, so frequently check your favourite sites—especially if you have your eye on a specific piece. If you prefer to receive an email when new collections or sales launch, sign up for brand newsletters. Also make sure to follow your favourite labels on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. “I do a lot of online shopping because I see things on social media,” says Carroll. Many online shops also honour Black Friday and Boxing Day shopping traditions, which is a great bonus for those of us who prefer to avoid the crowds.
Hidden fees and duty
With many e-tailers, a delivery fee will be tacked on to your purchase. Generally, you can expect a flat rate charge between $5 and $20. Many larger companies offer free shipping if you spend over a certain amount (often $50 to $100), but don’t get tricked into buying items you don’t want just to qualify for free shipping. “At the end of the day, remember that you’re paying for convenience,” offers Carroll. “With big companies, I expect shipping to be inexpensive or free, but when it comes to smaller brands I don’t mind paying the shipping because I know running a small business is costly—especially in Canada.”
When items are shipped internationally, duties may be more expensive. Extra fees can pop up when the product is delivered, especially if the package is large, heavy or expensive, and there’s no dependable way to discern whether or not you’ll be reaching for your wallet at delivery time. Shop Canadian to avoid paying more than necessary.
Our favourite online shops
We regularly stop in at Zara stores, so it’s no surprise that we love shopping online for their wares, too. Although you will pay a small shipping fee, you can make returns in-store or online, no questions asked.
This online shoe shop is a great option when you have trouble finding your size— especially in the case of ladies with size 5, 6, 10 or 11 shoes. If you prefer, you can ship to an Aldo near you so that you can try on the shoes in store before taking them home.
With a huge variety of trendy items at every price point, Asos is one of our regular haunts. With this e-retailer, it’s important to remember that U.K. sizing converts to Canadian. There are no shipping fees, but you may get hit with a duty charge occasionally. For us, Asos’s awesome offerings make the extra charge worth it.
Stores such as French Connection only have a limited number of brick-and-mortar locations in Canada, so being able to shop the latest collections online is a great bonus.
Net-A-Porter has your designer fix when online shopping. The selection of luxury goods is a stylist’s dream and returns are easy. Your package may be subject to duty fees upon delivery.
Anthropologie has a great selection of jewellery, clothing and shoes. Shipping to Canada has a flat rate of $9.95, but you may be assessed for duty fees.
Mango is a great store for trendy pieces at reasonable prices and their returns system is top notch; simply request a courier to come pick up your items free of charge.
Gap/Banana Republic/Old Navy
This trio of stores has all your needs covered and offers free delivery for orders over $50. You can return anything you are unhappy with in-store or by mail, and, with sales happening all the time, we’re frequent shoppers.
For classic basics of great quality, Everlane is the perfect shop. It is reasonably priced and committed to radical transparency—meaning you know exactly where your items are made. There’s a fee to ship Canada, which varies depending on the amount you spend. You will be charged tax and duties upon checkout.
The Chic Canuck
Gracie Carroll’s The Chic Canuck celebrates Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs and is a great place to find gifts, jewellery and body essentials Shipping rates are dependent on where you are (her shop is located in Toronto, Canada), but Carroll is committed to ensuring that you are happy with your order and allows returns on all unused items.
Empty shopping bags, broken chairs, stacks and stacks of magazines—when writer Christina Gonzales realized her mom might be a hoarder, she went to the experts to find out how she could help, and repaired their relationship in the process.
At my mother's apartment, there are a lot of unspoken rules. "Don't open the kitchen cabinets" is one of them. I've only ever used one cupboard, which is right above the sink and houses the sieve, a few large ceramic bowls and the few packs of ramen noodles that haven't yet gone bad. I try not to ask my mom what's in the rest of those cupboards, or why our pots and pans are piled beside the stove and our dishes never leave the drying rack. I brought up the subject once in aggravation when I moved back home two years ago to save money. "You're too much, Christina," she responded angrily. It instantly brought me back to my childhood.
When it all began
As a kid, I was close with my mother, despite her inability to let anything go. From the outside, our family looked normal, but when you opened the front door of our two-bedroom apartment, it was obvious something was different. There were rooms filled to the ceiling with souvenirs of our past: my first mattress from a twin-size bed I had outgrown years before, reusable shopping bags, pillows, suitcases, books, a lime-green swivel chair. My mom's dresser overflowed with so many accessories, half-used bottles of body lotion, old blush compacts and loose coins that you couldn't even see the wooden surface. A layer of dust covered everything, which meant she didn't use—or even touch—the stuff. I was humiliated that our home was so disorderly.
The clutter really began to accumulate when I was about 11 years old. My mom stopped inviting people to our home, and I stopped, too. My best friends in high school asked me why we'd never hang out at my place, and I did my best to dodge their questions. My frustration stemmed from jealousy (why couldn't my mom entertain the way other moms did?) and a fundamental difference in what we thought "home" should mean (I longed to live in a house filled with family and friends; she thought home should be a private retreat). I would cry, yell and plead with her to throw things away, until my teen years, when I started to distance myself emotionally from her. I knew that no matter what I said or did, I couldn't control my mother's hoarding, and it was easier to avoid her—and the subject of home—altogether.
When I moved back home at 28—I'd quit my day job to pursue a full-time freelance writing career, and my mom offered up my childhood bedroom as a way to save money—it didn't take long before we had our confrontation about the kitchen cupboards. But this time, I realized I didn't want the cycle to continue; the bitterness I'd carried with me for years had to cease in order for us to have a healthy relationship.
Understanding the problem
What I'd always found most challenging was that she couldn't see where I was coming from—she truly doesn't realize her belongings are piling up around her. Yet, she's unlike the people I've seen on the TLC show Hoarding: Buried Alive; she's physically healthy, she's about to retire from a successful career and she has an active social life. She's also been a giving, supportive and loving mother. So what's the deal? I approached several specialists to help give me insight into my mother's hoarding issue.
Dr. Peggy Richter, a psychiatrist and the director of the Frederick W. Thompson Anxiety Disorders Centre's Clinic for OCD and Related Disorders at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, says that, while their houses might not look like the ones on TV, an estimated two to five percent of Canadians suffer from compulsive hoarding disorder. Dr. Richter explains that hoarding is more than the inability to throw things out. "Rather, to be considered a clinical condition, it results in a significant accumulation that impacts the ability to use the space the way you would like or the way most people would," she says. "And people may try to minimize the impact. For example, maybe their kitchen is quite cluttered; they can still make breakfast, but they have piles in front of the oven, so they never use it anymore, though they claim they never did. Similarly, someone whose bed is too cluttered may claim that she prefers, and is more comfortable, sleeping on the couch."
Elaine Birchall, a social worker and hoarding behaviour and intervention specialist with clients in Ottawa and Toronto, says hoarders tend to save things for one of three main reasons: sentimental (this item represents my life and is part of me), intrinsic (this item is amazing and offers so many possibilities) or instrumental (I might need this someday). I think my mom is a sentimental hoarder. She once mentioned that her own mother discarded her childhood trophies and awards and that she wished she still had those things to help her reminisce. There's a certain glee she gets from pulling out an item that someone else would've thrown away long ago, like the cheerleading catalogue my now-40-year-old cousin was featured in when she was in high school in the '90s. "It's so nice. Maria was so pretty," she'd say.
Dr. Sheila Woody, a professor of psychology and psychology researcher at the University of British Columbia's Centre for Collaborative Research on Hoarding in Vancouver, shed some light on how to approach my mom's hoarding disorder respectfully and without judgment. "Making your mom's apartment a place you want to live is not an appropriate goal," says Dr. Woody, noting that people with hoarding disorders don't realize the impact of their mountains of possessions. I first needed to accept that this apartment would never become what I'd always perceived as the ideal home. There was one thing that I could change, though, and that was the usability of the space. "If you're trying to make it so that [your mom isn't] at risk of falling over when she's trying to reach something, or not at risk of setting the house on fire when she turns the stove on, that's a very reasonable goal," says Dr. Woody, who adds that it's also important for there to be adequate room to get out of the apartment in case of an emergency.
Finding common ground
To ensure that my mom's apartment was no longer a hazardous zone, I began to help her discard what Birchall calls the "easy wins": For some, these are nostalgia-free items (such as old toothbrushes and grimy shoes) and those that are unsanitary (like expired food); for others, they're items the person feels no extreme need to save. Birchall recommended I calmly ask my mom if we could relocate old things to make room for new items we'd actually use. I did it for the first time a few months ago, when I called her from the grocery store to ask if we had soy sauce. When my mom went and retrieved it, she told me that it was expired. "OK, I'll buy a new bottle, and you can ditch the old one," I responded. When I arrived home, it was sitting on the kitchen counter ready for disposal.
In my childhood, I would've taken the bottle down to the garbage chute that instant, a nonverbal signal that there was absolutely no reason to keep expired condiments. Now, I understand that getting rid of things causes her real distress. Instead of feeling exasperated and ashamed, all I felt this time was guilt. I realized that I'd been acting like a punishing drill sergeant, pushing my agenda onto my mother by barking at her to see things my way. And, according to Birchall, that's exactly the wrong approach. "Even when my patients want to hold on to genuine garbage, unless it's contaminated, I have to do my level best to make them see the reality of this," she says. "And even then, I don't just try to get someone to agree to let go of something; I try to understand what the importance of that item is to them."
So I didn't ask my mom when she planned on discarding the soy sauce; I knew it wasn't a sentimental item and that she was practical enough to understand it wasn't safe to consume. There was no fight, no power struggle, no "I'm right, and you're wrong." Rather, I gave her the space to decide when it was the right time—if there was a right time—to throw out the bottle. I tried my best to be patient, to have a stress-free conversation and to respect the value of my mom's belongings while holding firm to my boundaries within our shared space. It's a slow process, but it's effective. Showing compassion for my mom's feelings about her stuff makes it easier for her to let things go. When I push too much, we backtrack on any progress we've made. The day after our conversation, I walked into the kitchen and that old bottle of soy sauce was gone. It was a small step, but for me—and my mom—it was a breakthrough.
Social worker and hoarding specialist Elaine Birchall gives her best advice for helping a hoarder.
1. Complete a safety audit. Find the heat sources, such as electrical panels, fireplaces, hot water tanks, furnaces and stoves, and make sure there is a clearance of at least four feet around them, if space allows. The paths to those heat sources must also be free and clear in case of fire and should be at least 33 inches wide.
2. Create boundaries and limits, especially if you live in the same home as the hoarder. Build a positive co-tenant dynamic by defining who "owns" each room and what is allowed in each space. Common areas must be clear so that all tenants can use the space and have a social life.
3. Decide on permanent spaces. A permanent place is a storage area that makes sense for an item. For example, you'd never store canned goods under the bed—you'd put them in a kitchen cupboard or pantry. When choosing a permanent place, hold the item and close your eyes. Ask yourself, "Where is the first place I'd look for this?" That is where it should be.
4. Do your research. Rather than insisting that you know why the hoarder should part with an item, find an appropriate expert source. For example, if a hoarder wants to keep expired foods, go to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency; the organization's website will explain why it's unsafe to keep around.
5. Show respect. Don't apply pressure. Work at the hoarder's pace and don't diminish his or her feelings. Try to put yourself in that person's shoes by doing a mental tally of 20 possessions you love and imagining how you might feel if a family member made you throw them away.
Whip up a dozen moist muffins on a leisurely Sunday morning. Or better yet, set out the muffin recipe ingredients the night before and let the first person up bake a batch for everyone. Most of these muffin recipes can be made in advance and frozen.
These supposedly healthy exercises could be hindering your fitness goals. Here's why you should ditch three common culprits for more helpful exercise habits.
You put in a lot of effort at the gym and want your hard work to pay off. But some exercise practices could actually be sabotaging your fitness goals. We spoke to fitness expert Brent Bishop about three common things people do to get fit, how they can backfire and what to do instead.
1. Sit-ups Many people who want flat stomachs and strong abs turn to sit-ups, but Bishop says most of us should eschew this abdominal exercise. "It's an exercise that puts you in excessive flexion, which most of us are already in all day while sitting at work," says Bishop. "Your hip flexors are already tight and short, so why tighten them and shorten them more? It puts a lot of strain on the discs over time."
And since the sit-up mainly engages the rectus abdominis (the top layer of abdominal muscles) and hip flexors, it doesn't help tighten or strengthen your core the way other exercises might.
Instead: Try planks. Variations of the plank activate your entire core, including your transversus abdominis (the innermost abdominal muscles), obliques and lower back. Not only will they help you chisel your waist, Bishop says planks promote proper posture, help alleviate back discomfort and minimize risk of injury down the line.
2. Boot camps Not all boot camps are bad, says Bishop, but there's a troubling trend in which these exercise programs urge large groups of people to do as many burpees, pushups or squats as they can, as fast as they can. "It's very competitive. If you can do them fast and do them correctly, that's great. But if you can't do them properly, you need to back off on the reps and tailor your form," says Bishop.
A more-is-better mentality makes injuries more likely because there is little focus on performing the exercises well, and the lack of emphasis on engaging muscles properly makes the moves less effective.
Instead: Focus on doing exercises slowly and properly. Once you can complete them through the full range of motion with perfect form, feel free to speed it up or add weights while maintaining effective posture throughout.
3. Monotonous cardio Many people who are focused on losing weight spend hours running each week or use the elliptical nearly every day because they think cardio is the best way to burn calories. "People who are putting in a lot of mileage are probably putting more stress on their joints than they need to," says Bishop. "If they're not doing strength training, not only are they not going to lose weight as effectively, but they're losing lean mass, too."
Instead: Replace about half of your cardio with strength training. "You're going to increase muscle a bit, so your metabolism is going to elevate and, over the long term, you're going to end up burning more calories," explains Bishop. "Not only that, but if you do high-intensity strength training, there's an after-effect in which your metabolism is elevated eight to 12 hours afterward, so you burn more calories after that workout."