Saying Goodbye to your Dog

I’ve said goodbye to a number of pets including turtles, fish, dwarf hamsters, cats and dogs. For me, dogs have to be the hardest to let go perhaps because I spend so much time with them outdoors and in my home office.

Three years ago, our handsome Golden Retriever, Skipper stopped eating around age 12. Aside from skin allergies necessitating a fish diet, Skipper was beautiful and healthy. At the beginning of his fast, I was able to convince him to eat. Over months it became a chore for us both, with me cooking him an entire meal and hand feeding it as he turned up his nose like a two year old with mushed peas. The weight came off too and his energy flagged so that he could only eventually raise up his two eyebrows to mock me. See I told you I was old.

My husband didn’t ask me, he just took Skipper to the Vet.  He came home and didn’t say a word ~ the collar hanging by the leashes at the door.   He was quiet for weeks and I cried at the most unexpected times.  Sometimes there are no words.

Two years later, Callebaut, our easy going black Labrador Retriever was 14 and was the marvel of the leash free. Even with gray whiskers since age nine, his hips, eyes and ears [selectively] were pain and disease free and he could roam for miles if left unattended. Over several months, I noticed he was restless at night. He’d wander from room to room panting heavily. Confused, I guided him from the door to the water bowl, but he wanted neither water nor to pee. When I returned from a week’s vacation, I noticed that Kona our Goldi-Poo would no longer sleep in the same room with him. After a couple of weeks, it suddenly hit me that maybe he was looking for the door.

Colin & Callebaut Summer 2014

I know I would rather have my pet die naturally, like I would like to die in my sleep. As a child, our dogs would wander off or go to the dog house or under the porch to die. I’m not sure if it’s the access we have to quality pet food and pet health care, but I know of very very few dogs that have died naturally. Mostly, I know people who have waited too long until their pets were in agony before they chose euthanasia.

How do our pets tell us when they are ready to be unburdened with old life in this age? How do we put our feelings aside to do the right thing? It’s a very personal question. I think in both cases Skipper and Callebaut did communicate beautifully.

I was very blessed that my son dropped by exactly as I was taking Callebeaut to the Vet Clinic for euthanasia. My recollection was correct that in spite of the open file on the Vet’s desk which showed years of tender care and my dog’s advanced age, she still felt it necessary to challenge my decision for euthanasia. What about blood work or xrays, she said? What about an overnight for observation?

I held onto my son and only his tearful face in front of me could remind me of the 14 plus years of the envious life of a healthy, well-loved dog that was Callebaut.

Deep Breath. a Choice, following which the Vet was incredibly helpful and sympathetic. My son and I held each other a cried a river between us.

Kid’s Crafts – The Christmas Elf

If only to hide the evidence, I’m always looking for something to with the many, many corks left over from my favourite vice of wine tasting.  Here an easy Cultural tradition to do with kids.  They will look adorable on the Christmas table or hung on the Christmas tree.  Don’t forget to put the year and the child’s name on the bottom!

Ho Ho Ho

Ho Ho Ho

Tomte, Nisse or Tomtenisse [Sweden], Nisse [Norway and Denmark] and Tonttu [Finland] is generally considered the Swedish and Norwegian version of Santa Claus. He’s about three feet tall with a red cap and like the of Brownies of Irish lore, is a mischievous domestic sprite that can be extremely helpful or, if you don’t leave him butter or other treats, can be very naughty. So if your cow’s milk is soured or you can’t find your best woolen socks, you’ve no one to blame but yourself.

You and your children may have seen the new animated mini series, Over the Garden Wall, whose character Wirt look suspiciously like our sprite sans beard.  Thanks to Sam for introducing me to this charming series which I am going to share this Christmas with my granddaughter, especially the song Potatoes and Molasses.

I used a glue gun, but white glue is great too.

I used a glue gun, but white glue is great too.

What you need:




Red Felt

Cotton Balls


Bells [Michaels Arts & Crafts, PartyCity and Dollarama in the Wedding Section]

How – To:

Cut 3″ X 3″ squares of Red Felt.

Run a line of glue in a reverse L.

Starting on the Left Roll a the Small part of the Cork to the Right till the Seam meets.

Join the Seam and Press till Dry.

Draw in the Eyes with the Sharpie.

Add Glue to the space beneath the Eyes and Pull off Enough Cotton to make the Beard. Press on.

Clip a tiny Triangle for the Nose and Glue on.

Crimp the top of the Felt Hat and Tie on the Bells.

Add a string for a wonderful Christmas ornament.

Add a string for a wonderful Christmas ornament.

Making Great Stock

I had occasion, having prepared for and undergone an endoscopy last week, to thaw and drink some homemade chicken stock.  I was so grateful that I had taken the time to make it because the ingredients were full of ingredients that are healthy and yummy.  The jury may be out on whether chicken soup actually has healing properties, but I think most people will attest that hot chicken soup is good for the soul.

Soups always start out with a solid foundation of stock and here is my simple recipe for chicken stock.  Don’t toss that carcass, even the store bought hot chickens have some upcycle value.  Take off all the fat and skin and cover it with water in a roaster.  Add bay leaves, chopped celery and carrots and black peppercorns.  Skim the scum in the first couple of minutes for clear stock.  Continue to simmer until the fluid volume is one-half to one-third.  Cool, strain and freeze.

Colorectal, Stomach and Esophageal cancer runs in our family.  Screening is the best way to stop colorectal cancer in its tracks.  According to Cancer Care Ontario, If it is caught in its earliest stages there is a 90% chance that you can be cured of this cancer.  Early detection also avoids more invasive forms of surgery, like the removal of portions of the colon.

Sources: Cancer Care Ontario & Ministry of Health & Long Term Care, Quality-Based Procedures:  Clinical Handbook for GI Endoscopy, March 13, 2013 [Updated September 2013]

Chicken Soup Really Is Good for a Cold, By Melissa Schorr,, Read: November 30, 2014

How to Fall in Love with Morocco from your Couch

Bliss Bracelets

Bliss Bracelets

It would give me no greater pleasure than to visit Morocco.  The light of North Africa, the colours of spice, the intersections of costume and traditions of Berber, Jewish and Muslim communities.  I don’t have immediate plans to go, but I have found a way to enjoy a bit of Morocco [and Peru] from Canada and that is through Jessica Torres of Welland, Ontario.

Like me Jessica fell in love with One Earth and decided to become a sales consultant with them.  One Earth products meet my own criteria for company ethics and fair trade, sustainable income for locals, emphasis on local and hand made products, and well, the products are seriously cool.

From Jessica, I’ve already bought the small tea pot and a hand-tooled leather bag pack made in Morocco, but I’ve got my eye on the Lala Satchel Purse for me and the Peruvian Bliss stacking bracelets which would make exquisite stocking stuffers for my sisters and nieces.

Lala Satchel

Lala Satchel

If you are an Anthropologie junkie like me, you are going to loVe Jessica Torres and One Earth.  Shopping local in an entire new way.

Jessica lives in Welland, Ontario and her Twitter handle is @one1earthbyjess


Do remember Thomas Magill? He was that young man in 2010 who jumped from a New York building and landed not on the pavement, but in the backseat of a Dodge Charger parked below.   He survived, but since that day there has been nothing in the news about his apparent suicide attempt or his recovery.

The question that my husband posed was, on the way down did he change his mind?

SuperheroesI’ve been thinking. Having survived, did he continue feeling bad or did he find God? Perhaps it one of those Hollywood moments like in Sliding Doors where the film lingers on the face of the characters as they smile a small smile and ponder whether it was fate or coincidence.

….but what about choice?  Not a superhero’s choice to save the physical body, but what if, when we are falling in life, to have that clarity to understand what is really important to us.  In that moment.

Magill didn’t intend to survive and had no clue he would survive, but in that moment falling, did he have any control over the outcome in his mind and find meaning?

I’m saying this because my family has crappy DNA. I’m holding my breath as I prepare to undergo a upper and lower scopy to scan for the nasties that took my father at 60 and my sister at 46.  I’m not worried about the procedure [which has its own risks], but I am thinking about the outcome and choices.

I feel like I am falling.

When Does Christmas begin for You?

Growing up in Calgary we must have had our tree up at least two weeks before Christmas.  Actually I don’t remember the timing.  It never seemed to be an issue.

Grammie Elf

Grammie Elf

The important parts were walking a family member’s Priddis ranch property to find the perfect tree.  Placing aluminum, not plastic, icicles along the branches an agonizing one strand at a time.  Wearing brand new Nanny pjammies and opening stockings in bed with my three sisters around 4:00 a.m. each Christmas morning.  Dinner with our extended family which included shredded carrots in orange jello and the mashed turnip that everyone put on their plate, but few ate.  Wondering if I would ever be big enough to sit at the adults table and not understanding that I would then be expected to wash the dishes instead of watching the Wonderful World of Disney on the floor at Grampa’s feet.

I don’t know when starting Christmas too early became a problem.  I know my husband refuses to get the tree or put up lights until days before the Eve, while I sneakily decorate the house in stages as soon as it gets really chilly.  I do, however, loathe businesses who are built around seasons.  It just puts too much pressure on everyone.

Some of my costume products are in demand before Halloween as companies and communities prepare for November events like the Santa Parade and staff parties, but this is their choice and I am responding to it.   I wish more business owners would fight the urge to unnaturally force this already stressful time of year onto themselves, staff and consumers.  Do you agree and …

Creative Collaboration in Small Business

My teeth were cut in the 80’s as an ad executive in traditional advertising and public relations and opening a costume concierge business in 2010, I embraced social media.    I’ve noted,  working with other new entrepreneurs, especially women, that cash poor and product heavy businesses choose collaboration or cross promotion to market themselves.

However, these collaborations fail or are horribly unsatisfying for the Entrepreneur and this is why.

Entrepreneurs are creative, passionate and energetic … and hopeful.  You feel if you offer a quality product for free, including your time, that the collaborating company will give you something equal in kind.  Right?  Wrong.  How could you not help but be disappointed with yourself or the result?

Here are some tips and case studies about entrepreneurial collaboration that work for different reasons.

Tip 1 – The Six W’s.  Whose going to be there that is important to me?  When am I expected to be at this event?  What do I have to provide for this event?  Where in the event am I situated?  Why am I going to this event?  HoW the hell do I get the most out of this collaboration?

Case Study 1 – Hockey School Fundraiser  – The question Where found me in a private venue for an adult-only event with lots of food, drink and dim lighting.   The challenge was how to feature my product amongst hundreds of others.  With my mannequin dressed in as Elsa [the hottest 2014 costume] beside a rotating photo frame of my product, the event coordinator said it was a total hit, attracting attention to my table while improving the overall quality of her event.

Tip 2 – Value can be measured in many ways. Contradicting myself, sometimes a charitable event meets your company’s mission statement, or free product for a photo shoot gives you lifestyle shots of your product.

Case Study 2 – Photography Collaboration – I invited my co-op students to a participate in a free photo shoot.   The goal for the photographer and myself was to break creative boredom by working in a new genre called Cosplay.  I agreed to let the students pose in their own costumes as long as they were holding/wearing at least one of my products and if I could use the photographs in social media.   I learned a great deal about Cosplay and how I might make money from these young adults and was cool by association.


Photo Shoot with Welcome Aboard Photography

Tip 3 – Ask for what you want out of the deal.  They will either say yes or no.

Case Study 3 – Library Workshop Collaboration –  I’d hoped this event would give me data on how to proceed with the development of additional teaching units for middle schools and private playgrounds.   I asked if the Mississauga Public Library would use their substantial electronic and paper distribution systems to publicize the events.  They said yes, and I thought I was a shoe-in.    After six weeks of marketing, we had only six teens attend the workshop, a total bust.  I’m still not sure why the marketing failed, but the positive outcome was testing the ideas without having to carry the entire cost. #BigGuysCanAlsobeNiceGuys

Emma-Library Sign

Costume Workshop at Local Library

Tip 4 – Don’t just value your products.  Put a value your time.

Case Study 4 – Sponsorship of The Toronto Zombie Walk & Halloween Parade.  Not exactly a “collaborative” event since I am paying for vendor space and banner placement, but with this group IF you are creative the opportunity over and above the sponsorship is substantial.  What did I get?  Sponsorship means that my advertising banner, on TZW web site, is linked to my web store for a full year.   TZW has other events all year long that I can springboard from.  TZW also pimps me in other ways.

I zombify Blindsighted Host Kelly Macdonald for TZW 2014

I zombify Blindsighted Host Kelly Macdonald for TZW 2014

For example, they introduced me to AMI whose one hour filming on site with Blindsighted Host Kelly Macdonald, airs in January 2015, not in October when I am over saturated with “opportunities”.  Finally, the buttons I give away annually at TZW have my website address.  Because the TZW event, like Cosplay, is a highly photographed event,  people with our buttons will show up in photographs until digital kingdom is done.   The bang for my buck of time is amazing value. #ExploitinaNiceway

Cole Arthur, and our 2011 button complete with web address, appears ad infinitum, thanks to photographer Henry Chan

Cole Arthur, and our 2011 button complete with web address, appears ad infinitum, thanks to photographer Henry Chan














Case Study 5 – Through Twitter I met Murder Mystery Maven, Leigh Clements.   Having made custom flapper head bands for many of her guests at a Toronto event she hosted, I impressed photographer Wales Wong.  With Wales and her team, on a rainy day in Toronto, I helped style a photo shoot published in Dark Beauty Magazine.  My credit styling this event, again, appears on the internet in multiple places giving weight to my store’s web metrics in ways I will never understand and making me feel very cool, just by association. #FollowtheThread

IMG_5621DangerousAffairs IMG_5770

Case Study 6 – St Joseph’s Health Centre HallowSuperJohnsoneen fundraising campaign in Bloor West Village.  I created looks and styled five families as super heroes.   The ad campaign would appear on a web site, posters, banners, elevator doors.  I did it because my kids went there for every major crisis, it was a challenge and it was very cool. #CommunityService #Volunteer







Tip 5 – Some people or companies may just be dicks.  If they are really all that and it’s worth riding on their coat tails, just be grateful.  If they think they are all that, you either bought into it or were naive and in either case, you’ve got to just accept it and move on.

Case Study 5 – Shall Remain Nameless Collaboration.  I was invited to do something cool, a workshop on prosthetics and make-up and I spent months designing and over $1,000 in products, staff and hotel with a promise of reciprocal social media promotion, being in the paper program, blah blah blah.  I was so excited I said yes, pulled out all the stops, created an amazing event, fizzle, burn, nadda in return.  It was humiliating.  It was embarrassing and … my ego and enthusiasm is definitely to blame.

I’m sure I will make more mistakes in this entrepreneurial journey at FeeFiFoFun Costumes and in my blogging Off the Porch, Black Oaks and In Disguise, but if I enter with my eyes wide open I can enjoy the best and throw away the rest.