My friends are going through a nasty divorce, and the husband has asked me to write a letter stating my observations about his parenting skills. I think he's a great dad, but I don't want to get involved for fear I will lose the wife's friendship. What do I do?
Some people apparently don't realize that divorce isn't a game you play with friends. Allegiance issues during breakups are tough on the best friendships, and, as you are discovering, it's difficult for bystanders to remain neutral. The couple you know is clearly battling over child custody issues. The wife may be trying to restrict her soon-to-be ex-husband's involvement with, or rights to, the kids by arguing that he's a bad parent. Or, perhaps, the husband is trying to prove he's the better parent so he can obtain sole custody and avoid paying child support. Who knows! The reasons needn't be any of your business.
Still, you worry that if you write a letter saying he's a good dad, she will view this as taking sides. And that means you can kiss your girls' nights out goodbye. But if you refuse him, it's so long to your (or your husband's) good golf buddy.
What's a girl to do? Your best bet is to be honest. Explain to him that you want to maintain your relationship with both him and his soon-to-be ex-wife, and that his request puts you in a lose-lose situation. Tell him you're more than willing to help him -- and her and the kids -- through this rough patch, but not in this way. Make them meals and offer to care for the kids occasionally -- but stay out of their game.
We asked some of Canada's top celebrity designers to spill the beans on their best-kept design secrets—and did they ever! Read on for expert advice on everything from space planning and choosing paint colours to styling shelves and how to create a foolproof gallery wall.
The inside scoop on space planning
How much space do you need around your dining room table? Can you really make a room feel larger? Our experts weigh in.
Tip 1: Sofas should be two-thirds the length of the longest wall, and seating is placed close enough around so no person is more than eight feet from another to allow for easy conversation. — Glen Peloso and Jamie Alexander
Photography by Arnal Photography
Tip 2: One easy rule to figure out what size dining table you need: allow for a minimum of 30 inches walking clearance on all sides. — Karl Lohnes
Tip 3: Space planning is critical. For a kitchen island, for example, leave three feet of space between the island and surrounding counters. Ensure that appliances (like the fridge or dishwasher) can open without blocking traffic flow or hitting neighbouring walls or cabinets. Not leaving enough room is a mistake people make all the time, before they call a designer in a panic to help fix it! — Lisa Canning
Photography by Arnal Photography
Tip 4: Use mirrors strategically to expand space and increase the amount of natural light reflected in the room. Framing a wall with floor-to-ceiling mirrors adds a dramatic effect to the feeling and scale of the room. — Brian Gluckstein
Photography by Arnal Photography
Tip 5: Allow for 18 inches between the sofa and the coffee table so people have enough room to pass by and to make it easy to reach for drinks or food. — Amanda Forrest
Tip 6: Want to make sure furniture fits before it arrives at your door? There are a host of free sites (like planyourroom.com) that allow you to put furniture onto a scaled floor plan. Another option? Many furniture and decor stores offer free design services, and they'll do the calculating for you. — Janette Ewen
Light it up
Follow these five rules and your lights will shine in all the right ways.
Tip 2: Install dimmer switches; they're a practical way to control light and energy consumption. — Amanda Forrest
Tip 3: The bottom of the shade of your bedside reading lamp should be at shoulder height when sitting in bed. Do the math! — Karl Lohnes
Tip 4: Choose a pendant or chandelier that's one-third the size of the table or kitchen island. Hang it approximately 30 to 36 inches above the table or island; if there are more than one, place them 12 to 18 inches apart. — Mia Parres
Tip 5: Incandescent bulbs are great for atmosphere lighting, but LED bulbs are more suited to task lighting, when you really need to see what you're working on. — Janette Ewen
The inside scoop on paint and palette
Did you know that paint selection should be one of the last decisions you make when decorating a room?
Tip 1: I'm a firm believer in mood boards. They're not just for designers! Gather together fabrics, paint samples and inspiration images for a room before starting. It will create a picture and a trajectory that you may not have thought of. — Steven Sabados
Tip 2: When you design a room, pull your palette from one inspiration fabric. Whether you use a whimsical print or a more traditional pattern, take all the colours present in that material and allow those to guide fabric selection for pillows, throws, drapery and upholstery in the room. Take that same fabric to the paint store and have a custom colour mixed that matches one of the hues exactly. — Lisa Canning
Tip 4: Fine finish Choose a fresh trim colour in a semigloss, such as Benjamin Moore's Chantilly Lace OC-65. It creates a subtle separation from a matte wall, and it's a much more durable finish, which comes in handy since trims are usually the most touched, bumped and scuffed parts of our homes. — Mia Parres
Tip 5: Colour pop If you buy that cool orange statement chair, give it a buddy. When you're adding a colourful piece to a space, always have at least one other subtle hit of that colour elsewhere in the room to create a cohesive feel. — Tiffany Pratt
Tip 6: Want to make a room feel taller? Paint baseboards and crown moulding the same colour as the walls. Want it to feel huge? mix one-third of the wall colour into the ceiling paint. — Karl Lohnes
The inside scoop on styling
You've bought the sofa and painted the walls. Now what? Our experts show you how to style a room like a pro.
Tip 1: Shop at stores that have liberal return policies and buy three times as much as you think you need. This gives you plenty of merchandise to play with to see what works and what does not. Mix in unique family heirlooms and vintage finds with the new pieces you purchase to create a naturally curated look. — Janette Ewen
Photography by Magdalena M
Tip 2: For a no-fail pillow combination, you need only three: one 20- by 20-inch, one 16- by 16-inch and one 12- by 16-inch. Those sizes look good together no matter how you arrange them! — Jo Alcorn
Tip 3: Beauty is in the details When styling a console, include framed art on easels or leaning against the wall; it's a great way to display smaller pieces. Create a dynamic vignette by mixing in boxes, vases and vintage pieces in differing heights and dimensions. — Brian Gluckenstein
Tip 4: Mix and match Use these common elements when styling shelves: stacks of books, gorgeous flowers and at least one accessory that has a lot of shimmer and shine. Varying heights and textures is also really important for visual interest. — Lisa Canning
The inside scoop on art
Take the mystery out of hanging art.
Tip 1: Make your own art! Buy a canvas in a size you're looking for, then grab some paint in the colours you're decorating with, and see what happens. Great masterpieces are born of happy accidents or beautiful mistakes. — Tiffany Pratt
Tip 2: When hanging art on an empty wall, the middle of the art should to be hung 66 to 72 inches off the floor. — Karl Lohnes
Tip 3: Art relates to furniture, not the ceiling: Keep art about six to eight inches above the sofa, or any piece of furniture, when hanging it. — Glen Peloso and Jamie Alexander
Tip 4: For a gallery wall, use different-size frames in one single finish and select artwork with a consistent theme in colour or subject matter to keep the display cohesive. — Brian Gluckenstein
Each year, top designers and brands showcase the best in innovative and inspiring design from around the world at The Interior Design Show in Toronto. We’ve picked our top Canadian designers that you may not have heard of yet, but should.
Keeping a healthy lifestyle is important, of course, but quick fixes and flashy diets that you hear of online aren't the way to go. These trend diets, advertised to work wonders, can actually bring more hassle and danger than benefits to your health.
“People are willing to try and pay anything in the hopes of losing weight. There are many self-proclaimed ‘experts’ on the internet providing health advice that may not be safe or even science-based,” says Andrea D’Ambrosio, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Dietitians of Canada. “It’s crucial to be critical of information that we find on the internet to avoid being misled by false, unsubstantiated claims.”
D’Ambrosio says she reminds her clients that despite what personalities like Dr. Oz say, there’s no magical food or diet for weight loss.
Here are five popular diets to be wary of.
Juicing encourages dieters to juice their plant-based meals. It’s based on the idea that nutrients from foods such as fruits and vegetables can be absorbed quicker, and fresh juice gives our systems a rest from digesting fibre. While some claim this helps in weight loss and the removal of toxins, the truth is that the amount of sugar from the fruit you eat to maintain a feeling of fullness can equal more calories, which contributes to weight gain.
“Diets that remove entire food groups run the high risk of leading to nutritional deficiencies unless you make up the lost nutrients in other foods or supplements,” D’Ambrosio says.
2. Low-carb diet.
A low-carb diet requires the restriction of foods high in carbohydrates such as pasta, bread and certain fruits and vegetables. Although dieters don’t need to cut high-carb foods from their meals entirely, the suggested limit being advocated on social media, is 60 to 130 grams of carbohydrates per day. That’s less than three plain bagels.
3. No fat diet.
A fat-free diet sounds tempting, but is it really? When we think of fat, we often think of the bad kind that’s found in junk food, but we can also find it in nuts and seeds, fish and fruits like avocado. According to a publication by the Harvard Medical School, unsaturated fats (the good kind!) supply the body with energy and can even help prevent heart disease.
A positive note, D’Ambrosio says, is that these types of diets encourage people to eat less processed foods, which is healthier and helps weight management.
4. 5:2 diet.
For those familiar with diets, fasting is no stranger. The 5:2 diet is one of many regimens floating around the internet that has dieters eating normally (read: unrestrained) for five days and reducing food intake to 500 calories a day for the other two.
“Eating less than 500 to 600 calories a day on fasting days is very difficult for many people and challenging to sustain,” she says. “Many who attempt fasting or severe restriction also find a corresponding increase in cravings or binging after their day of restriction.”
5. Activated charcoal “diet”.
Touted by both health junkies and beauty enthusiasts on social media, charcoal can be consumed via tablets or used in cooking. Aficionados of activated charcoal claim it soaks up surface fat so that calories are not absorbed into the body, plus they say it removes unpleasant gases and toxins and reduces appetite.
The short-term effects may be tempting for those hoping to quickly shed a few pounds or to maintain a healthier lifestyle, but D’Ambrosio says there needs to be more research conducted for diets that boast impressive results. “If you want to lose weight fast, remember that you did not gain that quickly.” she says.
D’Ambrosio says working with a professional dietitian to ensure nutritional needs are met and healthy weight-loss strategies are implemented is a good plan for those who need a helping hand losing weight. “Forming a healthy relationship with food and a positive body image—regardless of weight—is also important during any weight-loss journey,” she says.
Tip from D’Ambrosio:
Food-tracking apps, such as eaTracker, give you a better idea of what (unhealthy) foods you’re eating and what swaps you can make to increase the nutrition and healthfulness of your diet.
Andrea D’Ambrosio is also the owner of Dietetic Directions a nutritional counselling and education company based in Kitchener, Waterloo.
Try this simple way to beat stress and help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression.
If you're into yoga, there's a practice you might already be doing that's been shown to benefit people who suffer from mental illness.
A recent study from the University of Pennsylvania found yogic breathing, a practice known as Sudarshan Kriya, helped "alleviate severe depression in people who did not fully respond to antidepressant treatments," and lessened symptoms, such as stress, associated with the mental illness.
Karusia Wroblewski, who teaches yogic breathing in her yoga classes at Toronto's Yogaspace, says the technique has significantly improved the lives of both herself and her students. "They have more energy and their outlook on life improves," she says. "One student reported being able to cut back on anxiety medications. I just received a thank-you letter from a student who had suffered from deep depression, panic, anxiety attacks and insomnia."
Yogic breathing is more than just slowed inhalation and exhalation—it requires a conscious effort in recognizing and regulating our breathing patterns by adjusting the speed, rhythm and volume of each breath. According to Wroblewski, we often neglect the importance of breathing because it's a natural process. She says injuries, stress and even strong emotions can affect "healthy breathing."
Thankfully, for those who can't make it out to yoga class, you can practise yogic breathing at home. It's entirely safe for beginners. Wroblewski suggests finding an experienced instructor if you want to try intermediate or advanced techniques. Here's how to do it.
When: Try practising when you wake up in the morning, or at night right before you go to bed. It's not ideal to do this type of breathing on a full stomach.
Proper position: Start by lying on your back with a pillow under your knees and interlace your fingers, resting them on your abdomen. Close your eyes. Let the tension in your body melt away.
The basics: Inhale gently through your nose—imagine a balloon inside your body slowly inflating. Exhale through your mouth while the air escapes the balloon. Control your breathing; your breaths in and out should be smooth. While you're breathing, try not to dwell on your thoughts—just let them come and go, as if they were on a cloud floating by. Repeat the breaths three to four times, then close your mouth while continuing to breathe through your nose.
This super soft wrap is the classic accessory you need in your closet for any time of year.
A luxurious wrap for all seasons – the Bayberries Wrap is the quintessential accessory. We chose to design this wrap in our luxurious Eco Alpaca DK yarn made of 100% superfine alpaca for its fluffy and luxurious feel. The large checker pattern is a unique alternative to plain stocking stitch and is reversible for a consistent look on both sides.
This wrap pattern is suitable for beginners, and knitters of all skill levels will enjoy the simple pattern and beautiful yarn. We recommend using stitch markers to indicate each square and make it easier for you to follow the pattern. Knit on 3.75 mm needles with five skeins of yarn, this pattern requires patience, but it is a joy to knit and you will wear the wrap for years to come.
Materials: - 5 Skeins of Americo Eco Alpaca DK (100% Superfine Alpaca) 100g / 262 yards (240 m) - 3.75 mm (US5) needles -Stitch markers (optional) - Yarn needle
Measurements: Approximately 75" (190 cm) long by 15" (38 cm) wide
Gauge: 20 stitches and 26 rows = 4 inches (10 cm) in stocking stitch using 3.75 mm (US 5) size needles or size needed to achieve gauge.
K, k: knit
P, p: purl
RS right side of work – knit side
WS wrong side of work
Using 3.75 mm (US 5) size needles, cast on 129 stitches.
Purl 2 rows.
*Next Row (RS): K2, (k25, p25) 2 times, k25, k2
Next Row (WS): k2, (p25, k25) 2 times, p25, k2
Repeat these two rows 12 more times (26 rows).
Next Row: K2, (p25, k25) 2 times, p25, k2
Next Row: K2, (k25, p25) 2 times, k25, k2
Repeat these two rows 12 more times (26 rows)*.
Repeat from * to * 6 more times.
Next Row (RS): K2, (k25, p25) 2 times, k25, k2
Next Row (WS): k2, (p25, k25) 2 times, k25, k2
Repeat these two rows 12 more times (26 rows).
Next Row (RS): K2, (k25, p25) 2 times, k25, k2
Knit 2 rows. Cast off in pattern.
Finishing Sew in all loose ends. For best results, block your finished piece. Enjoy!
Americo Original is a Canadian yarn company and online knitting shop with its own line of quality yarns, knitwear patterns and accessories. Americo’s yarns are made exclusively in the Andean highlands of South America, using only natural fibres, including luxurious wool, llama, alpaca, cotton, linen, silk and cashmere. Americo and its in-house design lab are based in Toronto, offering international shipping from its online store: americo.ca/shop.