Lest We Forget

This Remembrance Day Canada Bereft, part of the Vimy Memorial, reminds us of the sacrifices that have been made for freedom.


Gazing down onto the tomb of The Unknown Soldier.

You’ll always be my hero Dad. Miss you.

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Backwards Dinner

For several years I have wanted to create a backwards dinner for my visiting nieces and nephews. That is, a main course that looks like dessert, and dessert that looks like a main course. Channelling my inner child?

I’ve put it off for a few reasons.:

It requires thought and effort.

What if the children thought it was silly.

What if it looked more like a dog’s dinner than a backwards dinner.

Well, this was the year. If I postponed much longer this visiting crew might consider themselves too old to engage in such silliness. Their aunt and uncle would, of course, never be too old for such silliness.

They immediately agreed to having dessert first. Even their dad didn’t take much convincing. It seems everyone is happy with relaxed summer dining.

Here’s the menu:


various tarts (mini quiche)


Frosted cupcakes

Frosted cupcakes

cupcakes with frosting (meatloaf made in muffin tins with whipped sweet potato frosting)

Ice cream with sprinkles

Ice cream with sprinkles

ice cream with sprinkles (whipped potatoes with peas sprinkled throughout)

caramel sauce (gravy)

Jelly Bellys

Jelly Bellys

Jelly Belly beans (bean salad with added rectangles of red, green, yellow, and orange peppers)





sliders (half of a two-bite brownie between vanilla wafers, icing condiments)



pizza (almond cream cheese on cookie base, circles of fruit, warm strawberry jam glaze)




The hors d’oeures were met with strange looks.

The main course was greeted with exclamations, the three and a half year old indignantly declaring “Not i cream!”

Dessert was eagerly anticipated and speculation began on what it could be.

Was it a success? Yes.

Will I do it again? Yes.

Was it silly? Yes.

Was it a fun, animated meal that family will remember? Yes.

Let us know if you’ve ever created a meal like this. What did you serve? How did you make it? And I’m sure you had as much fun being silly as I did. If you haven’t, I hope I have inspired you to try it. Be silly!

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Flip-Flops Are Not Shoes

detail of a businessman wearing flip-flops

When giving Business Etiquette workshops I’m often asked to touch on the topic of attire. I have a quick list of things that a professional would and wouldn’t wear. When I mention flip-flops (when I was growing up we called them thongs, but that has an entirely different meaning now!) I brace myself.

I simply state that flip-flops are not shoes. They are not part of professional attire unless one works at the beach or at public showers. Usually one person in each session crosses their arms, stares at me, and defiantly states that they have always worn flip-flops and will always wear them. Their body language tells me they won’t hear anything else I have to say on the matter.

After the sessions I usually have some less vocal participants stay behind to thank me for mentioning the inappropriateness of flip-flops in the workplace. They find them noisy and unprofessional in appearance. Some go as far as to say they are unsafe.

If your workplace has a dress code and states no flip-flops, then that is it. They are not part or your work wardrobe.

If your workplace doesn’t have a dress code then the decision is yours. It’s up to you. What impression do you want to make?

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Tipping. Do You Have To?

On a recent vacation in Central America we returned to our hotel just as a large group was checking in. I overheard a woman loudly proclaim, “I don’t tip anyone. They get paid for what they do.”

Wince. The ugly tourist strikes again.

I regularly present Business and Dining Etiquette workshops to newcomers to Canada. When talking about dining in a restaurant I always mention tipping. Someone in the group usually asks if they really have to tip. Of course there isn’t a law regarding tipping, but after I explain the reasons, I ask if any of their children are planning on part-time restaurant jobs during the summer. Once people, or their children, have been in the service industry they understand how tipping truly works.

This is not a blog post on who and how much to tip. That information is readily available. It is simply a statement that tipping is part of our culture and becoming part of many cultures.

  • In the service industry tips are assumed as part of earnings and salaries reflect this fact. The low hourly wage might shock some, especially tourists to other countries.

  • Tips are frequently shared among staff. Snubbing a slow waiter likely means depriving several others of anticipated income.

  • When travelling or dining out, be prepared to tip. Budget for it.

To the loud tourist in Central America, the tip you denied the porter was a fraction of the cost of your fancy umbrella drink. A small gesture on your part could make a significant difference in the life of someone else.

How to avoid being the ugly tourist?

  • Be aware. Know who and how much to tip before travelling.

  • Be prepared. Have small bills in your wallet ready to give.

  • Be sensitive. Give sincerely and discretely without being patronizing.

  • Be generous. Yes, you really do have much more than most of the world.

    bills ready to give

    bills ready to give

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Every Day Is a Special Day

Last week I was setting the table in preparation for my book club dinner. A spring dining table called for my mother’s silver flatware. She knew how much I loved handling the silver knives and forks as a child so passed them on to me.

I haven’t used them in a while so was struck again by the cartoon message she had tucked away in the corner of the box.silverware cartoon

It reminded me of a blog post I wrote five years ago, Use the Good Dishes. Now, because of a yellowed cartoon I’m adding, use the good flatware too. Every day is a special day. Thanks for the reminder, Mum.

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Asian woman taking self portrait selfie photo on Europe travel.I’m going to come right out and say it: I think selfies are silly. There. I said it out loud.

I feel justified in saying it after Prince Harry told a group of admiring onlookers in Australia “…selfies are bad. Just take a normal photograph.” So, the dashing prince said what a lot of us have always thought.

  • Offer to take a photo for a stranger in front of that famous monument. They’ll likely offer to do the same for you.

  • Many museums and galleries have banned the taking of selfies, especially the use of selfie sticks. Think about it.

  • Distorted selfie faces are an insult to true photography. With that expensive phone or camera don’t you expect a quality photo?

  • Do you really want to appear that self-absorbed?

  • Your friends aren’t anxiously awaiting another fish face of you.

I concede, there may be the odd time when a taking a selfie is justified:

  • You’ve just made it to the North Pole and there isn’t anyone else to take your photograph leaning against the red and white striped pole.

  • You really want a lopsided photo of the Acropolis with your distorted head and massive hands in the foreground.

I could go on with the justification examples, but you get the picture.

I doubt the selfie phase will completely pass but it is diminishing. That’s something to smile about.

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Ten Reasons I Love My Friends

Many of us have a handful of people in our lives who are dear to us. They make us smile, let us cry, and give us a virtual slap when we need it.

Like most of you, mine is comprised of friends and family. Some are miles and oceans away. Here’s why I love them:

  1. They talk rather than text. Real conversations. No embarrassment if it’s been a while.

  2. They appreciate our differences as well as our similarities.

  3. They listen.Best friends - kitten and small fluffy dog looking sideways - co

  4. If they judge me they keep it to themselves.

  5. They seem happy to see or hear from me.

  6. They celebrate my successes.

  7. They grieve with me.

  8. They share. No secret family recipes.

  9. They remember.

  10. They tolerate my character flaws.

I hope I give them some of what they give to me.

I thank them.

Share what friendship means to you.

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Some Things Never Go Out of Style

I was watching my great-nephew play the other weekend. He has a box full of battery operated trucks, a DS, and the latest action figures from which to choose. What was he doing? Building airplanes with these:

Yes, TinkerToy. Remember them? These were his mother’s from when she was a child, way back when. With all the new, exciting things available, some things never go out of style:










What’s on your never go out of style list? Break out your carefully packed away TinkerToy (or equivalent) and tell us what you think.

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It’s More than February Fourteenth

Valentine’s Day is busy with flower deliveries and long line-ups at chocolate shops. Red and white hearts tell us that this is the day of love and romance.

I remember a Lynn Johnston cartoon (For Better or For Worse) of many years ago in which Elly remarks, Some men say it with car maintenance.

Yes, roses and chocolates are lovely. They are the symbols that have been created for us of love and caring. But love and caring are year long. February the fourteenth doesn’t have the monopoly on love and romance. It’s the little things, the things that happen every day, that really have the true meaning. If I had to decide between a box of dark chocolate truffles on February 14th and the following all year, guess which I’d choose?

  • A surprise cup of tea delivered to my desk.

  • Dinner under way when I’m late coming home.

  • An empty dishwasher.IMG_3673_2uca

  • Computer gremlins evicted.

  • The red jujubes set aside.

  • Knowing my vehicle is always ready for the road.

If anyone comes across the For Better or Worse cartoon I mentioned I hope you will share it. It had a powerful message. There are many ways to say I love you. And Valentine’s Day isn’t the only day to say it or show it.

Say and show I love you to someone today, not just February 14th. It doesn’t have to be a spouse or partner. Who is important in your life? Let them know. Any day. Today would be good.

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Walking With Our Sisters

Earlier this month I was in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories for business. On the flight a gentleman told me about an exhibit that had just opened in Yellowknife for a short period. I made a mental note to try to catch it.

After giving two days of presentations I was tired. It was -35C. The hotel room was warm, had great internet connection and room service. Not a bad way to spend my four free hours.

As warm and cozy as it was in my room I felt compelled to visit the Prince of Wales Heritage Centre. For the past year or so the tragedy of murdered and missing indigenous women has been prominent in our news. Here was an exhibit that pays tribute to these women.

Walking With Our Sisters is a travelling exhibit. It consists of a path of beaded moccasin vamps laid out on the floor. Only the vamps, the tops of the moccasins, are made. These unfinished moccasins represent the unfinished lives of hundreds of murdered and missing indigenous women in Canada and the United States. Each pair of vamps represents one woman. The vamps wound through two rooms. The numbers were shocking.

The beading was beautiful. Each pair unique, just like the women they represent.

Here are a few pictures, taken with permission, from the Walking With Our Sisters poster. No photography is allowed in the exhibit.



I urge you to visit the website and read more. It is sobering. It is reality.

Should we, as a nation, be ashamed?

Should we be outraged?

Can we do anything about it?

At the end of my tour of the vamps I was met by a gracious lady, fully prepared to engage with emotionally impacted visitors. Like the exhibit, she exuded peace and serenity. These women are gone, but not forgotten.

Let us know if you read more about Walking With Our Sisters. We would love to know your thoughts.

For our Ottawa readers, the exhibit will be at Gallery 101, September 25th – October 16th, 2015.IMG_3658uca_2

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