My life, since it became seriously infested with children, has become an exercise in managing small pieces of plastic. Not a day goes by when I'm not confronted with the challenge of what to do with myriad bits of colourful crap.
We must have over a hundred Barbie hairbrushes, dozens of tiny tubs of body glitter, a hundred dollar-store golf clubs; balls, hockey sticks and pucks. My husband was pouring himself a cup of tea recently and was not surprised in the least when a Monopoly hotel surfed out of the kettle spout. And don't even get me started on those valuable little add-ons they include in Happy Meals.
Finding storage solutions Once every few months, I feel the weight of the plastic too heavily and commit myself to getting a handle on it. From there, it's off to Ikea and Canadian Tire, returning home with storage solutions. I whirl through the family room, dumping one toy bin after another onto the floor. The children are forbidden from entering the playroom during this time: after all, this work is not kid's stuff.
Great organizing tips Confronted with the full bounty of my family's plastic stash, I set about introducing order. The first step is to confine the mess to categories. There's the "animal" section, into which I herd an amazing number of tiny plastic rabbits, sheep, elephants and turtles. There's the "transportation" section for plastic cars, motorbikes, fire trucks and boats. I start an "accessories" category to house Barbie's tiny pumps, Madeline's belts and Polly Pocket's hand mirrors. I even nominate one plastic tub for “balls” and take great delight in tossing dozens of rubber orbs into its midst.
How to clear clutter Occasionally, I am faced with great dilemmas, like whether to put Finn's plastic dress-up shoes with the “girl make-believe” stuff or in the “boy imaginative-play” bin. And I wrestle constantly with miscellanea whose origins I am unable to accurately determine. Then, I assign one large tub “sundry” and vow to return to it later.
At the end of it all, I am spent. The intricate Kinder-Egg booty has all been sorted, the checker disks have been locked in the “games” box and the ears from Mr. Potato Heads have been tucked into the rear ends of their hosts. The McDonald's toys have been sorted into two piles: "trash" and "collectibles." And every last plastic piece has been assigned a home.
I take a deep breath, filled with the sweetness of order and reason. And then I holler to my husband, “Release the hounds!” The kids rush in, no doubt smelling the promise of freshly systemized plastic.
We may be approaching the end of award season, but Hollywood’s biggest night is still to come. It’s time to get ready for the Academy Awards (or whatever other big event you have planned).
Touted as the biggest night in Hollywood, stars will spend months primping and perfecting their appearance in anticipation of the Oscars. Even if you’ll be spending Oscar Sunday nestled on the couch instead of stepping out on the red carpet, you can probably appreciate the effort that goes in to looking good for a big event. Whether it’s walking down the aisle, a milestone birthday or even just an event with lots of photograph opportunities, there are occasions in our lives that we want to look our best—and pull out all the stops. The last thing you want is to be stressed out about your appearance instead of enjoying the big day.
We spoke to Victoria Radford, a makeup artist and esthetician whose handiwork you’ll be able to spot on the Oscar red carpet. Her advice? “You always look the most beautiful when you look like yourself—just enhanced. It’s important to start the process early, rather than making major changes the week before.” The the best move you can make is to give yourself plenty of time to amplify your appearance and account for some time-off. Just don’t forget to enjoy the process; remember, getting ready is half the fun.
6 months before: Consult an esthetician and hairstylist
Ideally, you want to be almost ready by the time you sit down in the makeup chair. What does this mean? Radford compares it to going to the gym: if you decide you want a 6-pack, you’re going to need to plan ahead. The same goes for skincare and hair — envision how you want to look and develop a personalized plan going forward.
Talk to your stylist about what you’d like to achieve. If this means growing your hair out long remember remember to be realistic and make note of your lifestyle. If your beauty routine is pretty low maintenance, don’t opt for hair extensions or a bob that requires heat styling every day. If you have curly or frizzy hair, Radford recommends an in salon Keratin treatments. Keratin combats frizz by bonding together all of the frizzy particles. It also prevents the hair from breaking, which is great for growing your hair out.
As for you complexion, a good morning and evening skin care routine is a great starting off point. Your skin cells renew themselves every 28 days, so to get your skin to reaching J.Lo glow levels consider going for a monthly facial in addition to having a rock solid skin care regimen. If you are looking to add volume or minimize wrinkles using injectables like Botox or Restylane, Radford insists that you do tiny tweaks over time, think of it as a sprinkle, instead of everything all at once. If this is your first time, leaving six months before the big day will ensure that any adverse reactions (either allergic or personal due to not liking the result) won’t ruin your look.
Photography by Marie Rainville
3 months before: Think about your brows
If you’re a chronic over-plucker and looking to grow out your brows, discuss with a brow technician what your ideal brow shape is. We spoke to Lexi Miles, the founder of WAXON Waxbar, who insists that your entire face changes when you have a great brow. Three months gives you three appointments to restructure your brows.
One month before: Test out beauty looks
Now is a good time to try out makeup and hairstyle looks that you think you’ll want to embrace on the day of the event. Try other beauty treatments like lash and brow tinting or eyelash extensions at this point. You’ll be able to make sure that it’s the effect you want and that there’s no allergic reaction, which sometimes can be caused by the dye or the glue.
Image provided by Vita Liberata
Two weeks before: Decide if you want a tan or a wax
If you’re after a more bronzed appearance, never get from the harmful UV rays, instead pay a visit to a professional for spray tan, or try to do-it-yourself at-home. Just make sure to pick the right tone for your skin: Light is for the fair skin, medium works for more golden skin, and dark is best for deeper and olive skin tones. Bonus: A faux-glow can also blur stretch marks and cellulite.
Miles recommends waxing before you get your sunless tan. “Waxing is a natural exfoliant,” she says. “Your tan will adhere to your skin a lot deeper and will last a lot longer. We would recommend at least 24 hours before you get a spray tan.” Just make sure to go to a wax specialist—they will help reduce pain and give you a better quality experience. How you care for your skin pre and post tan is key in determining how long your bronze lasts; Waxon's On the rocks is a 2-in-1 product that will both exfoliate and hydrate skin to ensure there's no patchiness.
One week before: Touch-ups
Book a facial or go for a chemical peel; they’re a fantastic way to eradicate dead skin cells, comedones, blackheads and plump up skin with hydration which will lessen the appearance of fine lines. It also get's the blood flowing, helps with lymphatic drainage, leaving your pores looking more refined and your skin buoyant. Now is also a good time to do final colour touch-ups. Spend the week giving your tresses extra nourishment in the form of hair masks, and avoid heat styling it so your hair will be extra healthy.
The day before: Do the things you love, again
The day before, organize a day of pampering and spend time touching up your treatments from previous outings. Whatever results you loved—spray tanning, waxing, eyelash extensions, tinting—do it as close to the occasion as possible, so they’re freshly done and looking as close to perfect as possible.
Grab someone close to you, like a friend or your mother, and schedule an appointment for a mani and pedi. It's the perfect way to de-stress, have some girl time and bring you one step closer to looking primed and polished.
Kenneth Willard/Trunk Archive
Day of: Get ready to knock ‘em dead
At this point, you’re nearly finished and there shouldn’t be much left to do. Although it sounds like overkill, it you want that red carpet celeb glow schedule in one last facial; but for those who can't make it to the salon employ a bio cellulose sheet mask that will provide as much last-minute nourishment and hydration as possible. Our favourite, the 24K Gold Mask by Victoria Radford, is formulated with colloidal gold, which takes down inflammation and encourages cellular renewal by using the same material treated on burn victims.
Want to take the all-over-glow up a notch? From Gwyneth Paltrow to Rihanna, every red carpet regular uses Prtty Peashun; a skin-firming lotion with a tint of colour for that conceals imperfections and enhances muscle definition. After that, play some music, pop some bubbly and it’s time for hair and makeup.
As always, the most important part is to relax and have fun. Feeling beautiful and confident is the goal, so enjoy whatever blessings you’re celebrating! And remember that your friends and family love you no matter what you look like.
When Health Canada announced they planned to expand food irradiation to ground beef earlier this week, we had some questions. Like, what's irradiation? Are we already eating irradiated food? And mostly importantly, is irradiation safe? Luckily, Dr. Rick Holley, professor of food science in the faculty of agriculture and food sciences at the University of Manitoba, was available to teach an impromptu Irradiation 101 class. Here are his answers to our five most pressing questions.
What exactly is food irradiation? Irradiation is a food-safety measure that involves the use of high-energy electrons to kill undesirable bacteria, like E. coli and listeria, both of which have caused serious food recalls in recent months. Holley explains that the electromagnetic energy makes changes to the bacteria’s DNA, effectively killing them.
Is it safe? Holley says there is absolutely no risk that irradiation will make your food radioactive: "The energy levels are not high enough," he explains. And he has years of research—from the World Health Organization, American Food and Drug Administration and even the Canadian government—to back him up. There has been some concern about whether chemicals produced by irradiation (what researchers call radiolytic products) are potentially harmful, but experts agree the levels found after irradiation are not toxic. In fact, when you compare the chemical changes involved in food irradiation with those involved in conventional cooking methods, the changes caused by irradiation are less significant. "The benzopyrenes that form in burnt animal tissue [when you barbeque] are far more risky," Holley says.
Does irradiating food change its nutritional value or taste? Holley says that irradiation can change the nutritional profile of a food, particularly by reducing levels of thiamine (also known as vitamin B1), but that change isn't nutritionally significant. And at the levels that irradiation are used in food, you won't notice a difference in flavour. "We did some work on beef three years ago with a test panel here at the University of Manitoba [using] a hamburger," says Holley. "They couldn't tell the difference."
How common is irradiation? Are any foods already irradiated in Canada? "Back in the 1960s, Canada was a pioneer in the area of food irradiation," says Holley. Onions, potatoes, wheat, flour and spices have already been approved to undergo irradiation in Canada. But the process is not actually used all that often, partly because of the cost associated with the process. This is true even in countries where it's more common, like the US, which has approved beef, pork, shellfish, fresh fruits and veggies, poultry and some sprouts. "Less than 0.002 percent of food in the United States, for example, is irradiated right now," says Holley. "And the biggest application is in insect control for elimination of transport of Mediterranean fruit flies." As we see the transport of more fruits and vegetables internationally, Holley says we'll likely see more irradiation to restrict the movement of pests from country to country.
Why add ground beef to the list? Ground beef is vulnerable to contamination by E. coli, which causes flu-like symptoms and can be particularly dangerous for young children and the elderly. "As we see more and more instances of illness that develop from hamburger as a result of contamination by E. coli, the need to have some additional means for control becomes quite evident," says Holley. "If irradiation were brought in, in the U.S., you would have a million fewer cases of food-borne illness in that country each year. It's really quite significant, the contribution that irradiation can make to the safety of food that we eat each day."
How much do you know about food safety? Get your results—and learn how to protect your family from foodborne illnesses like norovirus and salmonella—with our handy quiz.
Want an in-demand job with a healthy future? Look no further than the skilled trades in Canada. "There is an incredible amount of opportunity in the trades industry in Canada right now," says Peter Harris, editor-in-chief of Workopolis, who reports on trends and changes in the Canadian job market.
"Trades workers need not be subject to the boom-and-bust cycles of provincial economies, because trades jobs are evergreen and also come with a great deal of freedom of mobility," he says. For example, in every city across the country, homeowners are always looking for reliable, affordable work on their homes: renovation, plumbing, electrical, roofing and more, says Harris.
Positions in the skilled trades offer another bonus: These roles are far more insulated from being sent offshore and to automation, says Harris. "[These are] the two biggest threats to many career paths," he says. Furthermore, Canada faces a shortage of one million tradespeople by 2020, as many people in that field will be retiring, he says. "The average age of welders is 57, and large numbers of trades workers across the board are also into their 50s."
Defining the "best" trade is highly subjective; it depends on where you live and what you consider most valuable: lots of demand, high pay, flexibility to set your own hours or whatever you feel is vital to a good job. That said, based on the job opportunities being posted online in the skilled trades, Harris says the most sought-after employees are in these five vocations.
1. Construction workers Whether it be working on new home construction, infrastructure (like roads) or commercial enterprises, construction workers are in high demand in Canada. Construction is considered a cornerstone of Canadian industry and it represents about seven percent of the Canadian workforce, according to the Canadian Construction Association. While positions may be plentiful, construction work is often seasonal and contract-based.
2. Vehicle repair In the past year, the number of job postings for the mechanic trades has spiked 94 percent over June 2013, says Harris. As anyone who has ever owned a car knows, auto mechanics tend to be perennially busy. According to Human Resources Skills Development Canada, this job is also called automotive service technician, helpful keywords if you're searching for post-secondary education programs, which tend to use this title instead of "car mechanics."
3. Maintenance worker Although maintenance work comprises a very broad array of specialties, these jobs are in high demand across the country, says Harris. Not just hands-on repair (although it can include these skills), maintenance work encompasses operations, planning and information management skills as well. These jobs are posted under a variety of names, such as maintenance technician, maintenance mechanic, maintenance specialist and, of course, maintenance worker.
4. Electricians Electricity is vital to life as we know it in Canada. Licensed electricians lay out, assemble, install, test, troubleshoot and repair electrical wiring, fixtures, control devices and related equipment in buildings and other structures, according to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. Electricians are highly sought-after in commercial, industrial and residential spheres. There are many positions open with electrical contractors, maintenance companies and industries, and there are also ample self-employment opportunities.
5. Heavy machinery operators (such as a backhoe, bulldozer) Wherever there's a freshly paved road or newly built construction, a heavy machinery operator isn't far behind. Operators work backhoes, bulldozers, graders and other heavy-duty construction vehicles. Another term that describes this trade is heavy equipment operator, which is the terminology post-secondary schools and colleges use to designate program offerings. Like construction work, these roles can be plentiful across the nation, but also tend to be seasonal.
While women are naturals at communicating and forming communities, it's tougher for us guys. I was a stay-at-home dad for many years—I even had a blog called Mack Daddy, which quixotically tried to make being an SAHD seem cool—and I know that, as a dad, you can feel isolated, like you're the only guy in the world going through what you're going through. Reading some other dude's blog is one of the best cures. Dad bloggers offer a unique window into what men think about their lives in the wake of having children.
Maybe in some utopian future when we're all riding around in hovercars, we will speak only of "parent bloggers," making no distinction between male and female. Until then, dad blogs add a spicy flavour to the blogosphere. A flavour kind of like…barbecue.
Here are some of my go-to sites that let me know I'm not alone:
How to Be a Dad is my favourite, mostly because it's really funny. Charlie Capen and Andy Herald are the two heavily caffeinated, sleep-deprived dads behind this guy-type-humour blog. They're located in California, but fatherhood truly is a universal (and universally funny) experience, as proved by their posts. Check out pieces like "Types of Diaper Load" (which includes diagrams of "the log jammer," "the inverted exorcist" and "nuclear nugget") and "Zombie vs. Baby," which reveals the surprising similarities between the two creatures ("no sense of right and wrong…keeps you awake at night in fear…can turn others into zombies"). After all, if you can't laugh about things, what's the point?
Canadian Dad is a blog run by Ottawa father-of-two Chris Read. Chris speaks more to the sentimental side of fatherhood, and he recommends products and activities. His blog has a pro-fatherhood bent, aimed at counteracting the image of fathers as disengaged doofuses. Example: In a recent post he took a hotel commercial to task, wherein a kid wishes his father didn't have to be away on business and could read him a bedtime story. Cut to: Dad having a great time relaxing at the hotel. Ladies, that's not us. We're better than that—or at least we're trying to be. Canadian Dad is great because he never pretends to be perfect. Like most of us, he's just trying really, really hard.
The Urban Daddy is the blog for products and practical tips, especially for things to do when your kids are driving you up the wall. Warren Orlans, the Toronto father behind the blog, says he's "not your typical daddy," and I'm not quite sure what he means by that. (What's typical these days?) But, like me, he has a three-kid, two-career household. Also like me, he and his wife have the odds stacked against them: three to two. He's very good on the topic of "juggling"—which is especially useful for readers who live in urban jungles. Don't kid yourself: It is a jungle out there, and Urban Daddy is a great guide to avoiding the bear traps, vipers' nests and poison darts.
Dad Camp was started in 2009 by a Calgary dad Buzz Bishop as a way of connecting with other dads. But it quickly became a place for parents of both sexes to communicate and share stories and practical tips on how to navigate "the parenting minefield." I like Bishop's raw honesty. He's not afraid to "go there," like when he took heat for admitting that, although none of his children get preferential treatment, he does have a favourite. In response to headlines like "Father Admits to Having Favourite Child, Faces Backlash," he tweeted: "I am not afraid to say what everyone thinks deep inside. It's the Simon Cowell approach to blogging. If you don't have a fave, you're lying."