One of the most common questions I get is, "How do you balance work life with home life?"  I always respond saying the key word is balance.  Balance means to keep things even, but in reality, it's a juggling act.  How do we juggle to keep the teeter totter in tack?

We have to do research to find the resources and options that make our own lives work.  If you've decided to go back to work, now you have to find childcare that works with you AND your pocket book.

Do you do a dayhome, daycare, nanny or a sitter?

With our first child, we hired a live out nanny.  She showed up at 8am and finished at 4pm.  Her duties were to take care of our child and tidy up after themselves, plus maintain the baby's laundry.  Since her duties didn't include house cleaning, we also hired a housekeeper to keep up with what I couldn't get to (IE: the bathrooms).   But it got too expensive for us.  So, after 7 months we moved my son to daycare.

That kept the costs down, but still had the housekeeper to tidy up as we both worked.  Daycare was GREAT.  My son loved it, they loved him, and he had great interaction with other children.  The only downfall, which was a big one, was when my child was sick, he couldn't go to daycare.  And, we all know that you can't really stay away from the germs that spread in a daycare.  No matter how clean and tidy it is, there are germs.  And once one child gets a cold, it will eventually spread to your child.  So now what?  Where are you going to take your child?  You can't miss out on work.  You don't want to use up your vacation days.  You can't always use family and friends every time your child has the sniffles.  And you don't want the guilt of taking your child to the daycare, pretending you didn't know they had a cold and being THAT parent that always gets the other kids sick.... So FIND A SITTER.

But you'll have to do your research.  Not all sitters can work during the day.  Where do you find one?  There are several resources for you.  One is to get to know your neighbours.  Perhaps there's someone who is retired, and wouldn't mind helping out.  Or, look in your local community news letter.  Maybe place an ad looking for someone who would be willing to "occasionally babysit" during the day.

OR... go online and sign up with Canadian Sitter (Known as Canadian Nanny)  This is a great website where you subscribe to find the best sitter for you.  You place an ad looking for someone who is available during the day for occasional babysitting.  Only the ones who are interested in your ad will email you.  You meet with the sitter, and decided if she/he is right for you.  Now, know that Canadian Sitter does not screen the people who sign up, that's up to you.  You should always ask for references.

In the end, we had a list of 4 sitters who were willing to work during the day.  One was a fight attendant who was available when she wasn't in the air.  Another was a retired preschool teacher, who was looking to keep herself busy.  And the other two had part time jobs who may be available.  This way you have other options that will reduce your stress when your little one needs a day to recover from the sniffles.  Plus, the sitters even worked out to babysit during the evening when Mom and Dad needed a date night.  There's nothing wrong with having a "List of Sitters".  If one isn't available, try another.  I had a great experience with Canadian Sitter, and hope you will too.

Now you can work towards that balanced teeter totter.  If there is such a thing!  But it's going to take a bit more juggling than a sitter, but it's a start!  And you are just working towards what's best for you and your child!

Canadian Nanny (Sitter) Online at http://www.canadiannanny.ca
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The Heart of our giving City

When I moved to Calgary 17 years ago now, I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into.  All I knew about this Western town was that in the summer during the Calgary Stampede everyone wears cowboy hats and cowboy boots.  17 years later, that hasn't changed, but what I have learned is, this is a big city with a HUGE heart.

I've lost count on how many times this city has come together to help those in need.  From the more serious circumstances like the Drop In Centre, to helping those who suddenly need assistance like a house fire, or a sudden illness.  There are all kinds of organizations throughout the city that can lend a helping hand.  But what keeps those organizations going, is people like you, a volunteer.  You are the HEART of this city.

The amount of time it takes to volunteer is up to you.  You decide where you would like to donate your valuable time, and how much of it you have to give.  Volunteering can be a lifetime commitment, to a couple of hours.  It all depends on you.

Some of the organizations that are near and dear to my heart are Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary, The MS Society, Made By Momma, and the Canadian Mental Health Association.  Each hold a special place with me because they've affected my life.

With Big Brothers Big Sisters, I was an in school mentor to a wonderful little girl.  Think back to when you were a child.  Was there someone who made you feel extra special?  An aunt, a grandparent or just a great neighbour?  What Big Brothers Big Sisters does is help children be reminded that they are important.  Being a mentor for a "Little" is about sharing time: playing catch, reading a book, or in my case making fun crafts with a child.  Big Brothers Big Sisters will match you with a young person who has common interests.  Someone who will work out with your location and time considerations.  Which is why the in school mentoring worked best for the time I had available to donate. If you are interested in Big Brothers Big Sisters, go to their website for more information http://www.bbbscalgary.com.

Last year I saw a posting on twitter from The MS Society in Calgary.  They were looking for volunteer photographers to help out with their annual walk.  A little light bulb went off for me.  1.) I love to take pictures, 2.) I've been wanting to help out with the MS Society for some time now.  Perfect opportunity for me!  What a great bunch of people who are all working towards understanding and coping with MS. 4 years ago my older brother was diagnosed with MS.  Seeing his quality of life deteriorate so quickly has been hard to watch.  My brother is 41 now, and copes with new challenges everyday.  I remember a time, not that long ago, when my brother was an extreme downhill skier, impressing everyone in the Alberta Rockies with his skills.  The opportunity to volunteer with the MS Society was a blessing to me.  There are countless volunteer opportunities with the MS Society, to find out more visit http://mssociety.ca/chapters/calgary/

After being introduced to Made By Momma, by Role Mothers last fall, I knew I found another way to give back.  Being a mother of two small children, Made By Momma touched my heart.  Their mission is simple.  To provide wholesome nourishment and nurturing care to mothers and young children.  Made by Momma is always looking for women with kind, generous hearts to help out!  They know that women are multi-talented and whatever your "gift" from preparing meals, baking, knitting, artwork, dog walking or providing support, you will be a welcome addition to their care team.  To see more about Made By Momma, visit http://madebymomma.org

And the Canadian Mental Health.  This is a big one for me.  Another one of my brothers lived the everyday challenge of Mental Health.  Jamie passed away 4 1/2 years ago now.  It was a long journey for him.  Everyday was a new day and a new challenge.  Even though I have never actually "volunteered" with this outstanding organization, I have made it my priority to get the word out about this group by means of radio and blog.  There are several ways to give back to the Canadian Mental Health, for more on what you can do, visit http://www.cmha.calgary.ab.ca/

These are just a few of the amazing organizations in our beautiful city.  Where everyone comes together to make the lives of others Brighter!  Thank you Calgary!  For even more volunteer opportunities visit Volunteer Calgary http://www.volunteercalgary.ab.ca/

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Oliver's Farm

Finally our temperatures are warming up and we've come out of the deep freeze.  But next time Ol' Man Winter hits, don't be left out in the cold.  Snuggle up with a sheepskin rug!  I have the website for you!  Oliver's Farm.  

You and your baby will be warm in no time.  Olivers Farm specializes in luxury English sheepskin.  Made at one of the few remaining tanneries in Cambridgeshire, England with more than a century of experience in crafting sheepskin rugs.  But that's not all.  

Oliver's Farm specializes in sheepskin rugs for babies, cowhide rugs for the home and children's sheepskin accessories like hats, mittens, and booties for babies.  They have also added some gorgeous, one of a kind bags and gloves for ladies too.  

Using an environmentally friendly and safe tanning process, their sheepskin rugs have been recognized as having huge benefits that help make babies feel calm and secure, and create an overall soothing environment.  Here are some of the benefits of Sheepskin: Sensory stimulation, helps relieve colic, hypoallergenic, non smelling, excellent heat regulators, dirt and bacteria resistant and easy to care for.

Oliver's Farm ships to Canada and the US. 

Visit Oliver's Farm online at http://www.oliversfarm.com
On Twitter and on Facebook.  

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Beautiful Toques

If there's one thing that's completely unpredictable around here, it's the weather!  I've lived here long enough that you never really put your winter scarfs and toques away.  So it's important to have a stylish variety of toques to choose from.  Not only for you, but for the little ones too!

Meet the Toque Fairies!  An idea that was born with two moms who were just looking to make a toque to bring their little ones home in.  Tanya's talent started when she was 12.  She taught herself to crochet and pretty much only made blankets.  It wasn't until she was pregnant with her first child did she ever consider expanding on her talents.  Good thing she did.  Karla has been crocheting for 6 years now, inspired by her grandmothers creations.  Her first project was to make an afghan for her first daughter.  And it just took off from there.  Both Tanya and Karla were getting rave reviews for their projects.  As friends, they decided to tackle a Christmas Craft fair.  From there, the orders came pouring in!

And I can see why.  Their designs are original, creative and adorable.  Not just for kids, adults too!  You can visit their facebook page to see more!  I just can't get over the ideas they've come up with.  Toques, dolls and cup cozy!  Love Love Love these ladies!  It's easy to get a great product when it's something that is done with passion and from the heart!

And now they're even coming into your home to showcase their products. You can invite your friends and family to come over and try on the hats before they buy.  They can either get something from existing stock or place an order for a custom item.  It'll be made to their specifications!  All of the hats can be made in any size from newborn to adult in any colour combination!

Oh oh oh... wouldn't it be cute to have a doll with the same hat as your daughter!!!  Then one for mom too!  I would totally do that... except I have boys and I tried passing on the idea of a doll to my son and I got THE LOOK, MOM!!  Okay bad idea.  But if I had a daughter!

Which reminds me... yes they do hat for boys and men too!  Just ask!  Great ideas ladies!  Thank you!

Toque Fairies on Facebook
Toque Fairies Email - toquefairies@gmail.com

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Organizing Stress ~ Get It Together

Wouldn't it be nice to just be organized?!  I start my day off thinking, "Okay, I'm going to get this, this, and this done today!  No more excuses, I'm determined to be organized."  And by noon, I haven't done a thing!  Sound familiar.  Getting organized is no easy task.  Because once you organize one thing, you have to organize another thing!

My pantry looks GREAT!  It's pretty well organized between, soups, pasta, cereal, snack food and junk food!  And at the end of the day after my boys get in there, it's a mess again.

So how does one control the stress of organizing?  Solution!  Hand it over to an expert.  I will get organized to call upon the company Get It Together.  Sheri Bruneau is the founder and President of Get It Together Inc.  On her website it lists the services of Moving Planner, Organizing Services and Concierge Services.  She WANTS you to fall in love with your home again, and time for all those other things you love to do!!  You can start off slow with the Jump Start Package in helping you to just get going.  Or you can pick up the Full-Meal Deal with 12 hours of organizing and de-cluttering.  I love that word "de-clutter".  It sounds so refreshing.  Like I've just put a flower to my nose and took a deep breath.  Ahhhh, the wonders of de-cluttering.  Okay Sheri I'll call you... soon. (I have a craft room with your name all over it!!)

But Get It Together does more than help you put your home back in order.  Maybe you NEED your very own personal assistant.  Come on, let's be realistic, sometimes you just can't do it all!  As much as we'd like to do it all and take all the credit.  If you had a personal assistant, perhaps then you could do it all, and more!  A personal assistant doesn't just take notes and send out your mail.  Get It Together wants you to live a balanced life with less work and more living.  A personal assistant can grocery shop, do a weekend get-a-way plan for you and your honey (now when's the last time you did that?) or how about help you plan that family reunion everyone keeps talking about, but wont do!  This is what Get It Together does... and more!  So much more!  If you are just overwhelmed with your "To Do List", then check out Get It Together.  You and your family will be glad you did!  Visit Get It Together for more!

Get It Together Online
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Great Idea ~ Confident Curls

One of the perks of being a girl is to have great hair.  Our mother's fuss with it for us when we are little, then we fuss with it when we are older.  We spend hundreds at the hair salon to try to make it perfect.  But imagine losing your hair.  And not just when you are older.  Vanessa McWilliams, founder and owner of Confident Curls, knows all to well about this.

Her story starts at 9 when she was diagnosed with Alopecia.  It's a medical condition in which hair is lost from some or all areas of the body, usually from the scalp.  And by the time Vanessa was 11 she had lost all but a little of her hair.  I can't imagine what she went though at that age to have such a huge loss.  To most, it's just not comprehensible.

Throughout her tween years she wore wigs that were too old, and too heavy for her small frame.  It wasn't until she was in her late teens where she took it upon herself to find the right wig.  Not only did the wig fit, but so did the idea.  She knew, based on her own personal experiences, she had to help other women and children.  As Vanessa says, "Discreetness without embarrassment, a comfortable atmosphere, and getting properly fitted with your 'Dream-Do' by another wig wearing woman, is the ultimate 'personal' shopping experience!" That's how Confident Curls was born.

The one thing I've seen through Vanessa is her passion.  And I've always said that in life we should always do what comes natural and what we know.  And Vanessa is doing just that!  All at the same time helping other to put smiles on their faces!  Thank you Vanessa for sharing your gift from the heart.

For more on Confident Curls, visit http://www.confidentcurls.ca/ Here you can find out more about here great products, more about Vanessa and how you can donate.

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Manifest your dreams

I remember it very clearly.  The day I realized that it was my life and I was the only one who was going to live it.  I was 13.  It was a time in my life when I was trying to go where the grass was greener, but the problems was I didn’t know where that was.  My parents divorced when I was 2 and I often went back and forth between living with my mother and living with my father.  Both parents had given me love, but I wasn’t sure where I fit in.  When I was 13 I told myself that I needed to figure out where I needed to be.  That was when I realized that I was really the only one that was going to live my life.  I chose to do my own things and follow my own dreams.  I’m sure if you ask my parents, they’ll be the first to tell you that I always had a mind of my own. From that moment, that’s when I started getting involved in programs that I wanted to do, not the ones that people told me I SHOULD do.

Air Cadets
To my father’s surprise I enrolled in Air Cadets.  It wasn’t really the “cool” thing to do, but I didn’t care.  What an amazing experience that was.  I’m still good friends with that group of people who really changed my life.  I learned dicipline.  I learned independence.  I learned leadership. 

I also decided that drama was my thing.  I loved acting.  I was sure I was going to graduate highschool and move to Vancouver to become an actress.  I auditioned for almost every school play and every local theatre company.  And to my surprise, I actually landed rolls.  

But it wasn’t until I was in my 12th year in High School that I realized what I really wanted to do.  I was working at a bottle depot in Castlegar, sorting the alumium from the glass, listening to the radio.  A young female announcer came on and was talking about her life and I said, “I can do that”.  And so I did.  The next day I told my High School councellor to set me up with a work experience program at a local radio station.  And there I was.  Within a month I was working there!  Little did I know that I’d still be in radio 20 years later. 

The point of my whole story is… It’s your life, you’re the only one that has to live it.  So live it the way you want.  I agree, there are life circumstances that put us in certain situations, but it’s your choice to either stick with those circumstances, or choose to get out of them.  If you want something bad enough, you CAN get it.  You just need to choose to make it a part of who you are.  The first key is to not care what other people think.  I wanted to try Air Cadets, and at 13 if you’re not cool, you risk your friends walking out on you!  I didn’t care!  My best friend stayed around and I made new ones.  You just never know what you’re getting yourself into, but you won’t find out unless you try. 

Rejection may also bring you down, but try again.  After trying and trying AND trying out for different roles in acting, I finally got a part!  It made me realize, the ones I didn’t get, weren’t meant for me.  The ones I got, shaped me into the person I became!

All I’m asking of you is to believe in yourself and what you are looking for.  If you want to change your career, do it!  Or at least open up the possiblitly of something new coming your way.  Remember, if you don’t open your own doors to opportunity, no one else is going to do it for you!  You are the only one in control of your life.  Make a point of living it how you would like. 

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The Year for Making Friends & Meeting Up

The Year for Making Friends & Meeting Up
By Marlana Prowal

A young friend of mine expressed to me that she was having trouble finding love. It wasn’t bad enough that she didn’t have the time, or the type of job that could get her out to meet a potential new partner, but dating sites had proven to be a big ego-killer. After all, who wants to be dissected, picked off, or passed over as if they’re a piece of fruit at a grocery store stand?

One thing I keep hearing as a mantra for 2012, is how important it is to surround yourself with people who care about you. Keeping old, stale friends on Facebook because they once lived next door to you twenty years ago isn’t exactly the way to maintain a stimulating social life. We still want to connect with people who are willing to share our interests and eager to see us face-to-face.

Instead of focusing on love, why not concentrate on friendship first? Some of the most meaningful relationships start out as friendships. Whether a connection can blossom from a friendship, or meeting a potential love-interest through friends, there is no doubt that the old-fashioned way of meeting someone – which is in person first, can boost your self-esteem. It is, after all, the original and natural way to meet people.

Thanks to online tools, getting started is easy, yet we still associate that the way to meet new people starts with dating sites. Try not to think of these sites as your only resource. Take the pressure off from finding romance. Instead, start with friendship! Find like-minded individuals through meet-ups and clubs. In a search engine, type in your city plus the word “meetup” or “club” to find group calendars for social events. Use the same strategy to narrow your interests down by typing in your city name with specific groups. Book clubs, theatre sports, improv comedy, photography, painting, games, and faith are all great places to start. Check your local continuing education calendar for personal interest classes. There are so many ways to get out there and make new friends.

From there, you never know what can happen!
Wishing you love and happiness for 2012,
Marlana Prowal

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Driving Miss Daisy!

Driving on the Deerfoot, especially when it's at a crawl, can be one of the best advertising places for your company!  Not long ago, I was stuck in volume congestion heading home and noticed a vehicle with an advertising logo on it saying Driving Miss Daisy.  It automatically made me think of my friend Lorraine.  Lorraine was a single woman who didn't drive, and on those cold winter days I would drive her to the grocery store so she could pick up her weeks worth of food.  From then on I called her Miss Daisy.  Of course all of this was inspired by the 1989 movie Driving Miss Daisy with the star cast of Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman and Dan Aykryod.
The company I saw on the Deerfoot, Driving Miss Daisy, provide an array of support and services to seniors which includes, but not limited to; driving to medical appointments, grocery shopping, home support, and Alzheimer's companionship.  WOW!  Not only a fantastic idea, but a comforting one.  Their mission is "To be the eyes for those with compromised vision, the feet for those with limited mobility and a strong arm to support the weak."

The story of how Driving Miss Daisy began is a touching one.  Bev Halisky, the founder, manifested the idea from her love for seniors and those with disabilities.  And at the age of 51, retired, she was looking for something to fulfil her dreams of putting something back into the community where she lived.  She found the need for this service, and in the beginning, provided door service to those that were challenged by poor mobility, failing eyesight and dementia.  Within only 6 months, the demand for her services was so high, she decided to franchise The Driving Miss Daisy Corporation.  Read Bev's full story here.

As of November 1, 2011, Driving Miss Daisy has 50 operational franchises operating in over 55 vehicles throughout Alberta, BC and Ontario.

For once I was happy to be stuck in traffic.  It lead me to Driving Miss Daisy.  A GREAT idea with a huge heart!  For more information visit http://www.drivingmissdaisy.net

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Chicken Tarragon Salad

by Christina Rowsell
The Brighter Side

Now is the best time to start eating right!  This was the first meal that I made that I realized, "WOW, I can cook a yummy meal."  At first it looked a little intimidating, but once I got going I was excited about this healthy delicious meal!

Photo © Christina Rowsell
Tarragon Chicken
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
5 Tbsp fresh tarragon chopped
2 Tbsp / 1tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp / 1tsp liquid honey
1 cup green onion chopped
2 oranges (sliced with no skin)
1 cup Grape Tomatoes halved
1/3 cup / 1Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts halved
Salt & Pepper (for taste)
1 pkg of Arugula lettuce (or lettuce of choice)
1 cup shredded red cabbage
3/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup of honey roasted pecan pieces

Heat BBQ or Grill to medium. (Lower heat keeps you from over cooking the chicken)

1.) Mixing Bowl #1is for the dressing.  Whisk the vinegar with 2 Tbsp of tarragon, 1 tsp of the mustard, 1 tsp of the honey and green onion.  Whisk in 1/3 cup of the oil.
2.) Remove the tenderloins from the chicken breasts.  (You can freeze them or use them to make chicken nuggets for a later use.)  Take the halved chicken breast and half again until you have just bigger than bite size pieces to use.   Season with salt and pepper.

3.) Mixing Bow #2  is for the chicken marinade.  Whisk the remaining 3 Tbsp tarragon with 2 Tbsp mustard, 2 tsp honey, and 1 Tbsp oil until well combined.  Spread mixture over chicken.

4.) Grill the chicken until done.  4-6 min per side.  (If using a BBQ, lightly oil grill using a silicone brush, this way the chicken won't stick)

5.) In a large bowl, toss the lettuce and cabbage with just enough of the dressing to coat well.  Add orange and tomato slices.  Portion onto plates. Add chicken slices.  Sprinkle with goat cheese and pecans.  Drizzle dressing over dish.  (By the way Sobey's has packaged crumbled goat cheese for easy use)

What's GREAT about this dish is not only the taste but the colour.  Bright and cheery, perfect for a cold winter's day!  

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Finding Yourself in a Happy Place

There’s a lot of pressure in today’s world for women.  Be beautiful, be skinny, have children, get rich, be smart, be a good mother, be a good wife, all at the same time making sure everyone else is happy.  

Honestly, do we need to have it all?  Where does this come from?  Our need to fit in, our need to be one of the boys, our need to be a super hero.  It’s like we’re always trying to prove ourselves.  But who are we proving this to?  To ourselves or to the rest of the world?  We spend most of our free time trying to please others and forgetting about ourselves.  Now I know you know better than that.   You can’t take care of others until you take care of yourself.  If you’re broken, you’re useless to the rest of us!  So how do we turn this around and make ourselves happy first.  Here’s a list of helpful tips to get you back on the right track and to bring yourself back to a happy place.

Know that you actually exist!  Yes you do.  You are not just your kids mom.  You are not just your husbands wife.  You are not just an employee.  You are you.  But who are you right?  That’s what you’re going to find out.  Write a list of things that YOU are really good at.  Example: 1.)  I love taking pictures!  If I could snap pictures all day long, I would!  With this list, you may actually get to know yourself again.  You’ll see where you need to spend more time, and how you actually enjoy life.

Seriously!  I don't remember
what was so funny!
We laughed
so hard!  
Laugh.  Find out what it is that makes you laugh.  Laughing is so GREAT for your whole health.  I recently took a trip to see my best friend, and all we did was laugh!  It was awesome!  I actually felt younger after visiting her!  Which is why I LOVE her so much.  

Now if you don’t have someone who can make you laugh, rent a funny movie.  Read a book.  The one book that has me constantly giggling is Jann Arden’s recent book Falling Backwards.  (Okay it’s not ALL funny, but there are funny parts… Jann is one funny gal!)

Childhood memories with
my brother Jamie. (RIP)
Memories.  This can be a tough one.  Especially if you think about all the bad memories in your life.  You have to get past those ones.  Put those ones in a different space right now.  Try to remember the ones that you love.  Pick a happy memory from childhood, and pick one from a recent event.  The point is to remind you that you do have GREAT things that happen in your life!  Not everything is bad and miserable. 
Today my greatest moments
are with my boys!

Congratulations you’ve just boosted your own self esteem!  You are now equipped to take on the world.  Okay maybe not the world, but at least you can walk around with your head held high.  You are GREAT!  And you can do whatever it is you set yourself out to do!

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