Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Great Santa Debate

With Halloween and Christmas fairly close together, I've found myself defending my choices as a mother lately. We don't celebrate Halloween, we don't do the Santa thing and the Easter Bunny never drops foil wrapped cheap chocolates at our house.  I've also never chanted, "I do believe in fairies!"

Its amazing how much people will attack your parenting skills, especially when you live a life that is fully immersed with an online presence. Apparently, since I welcome discussion on topics I'm also fair game for angry emails, DM's and even Facebook messages.

Today I received an email saying "You are robbing your children of everything that is magical and wonderful about childhood. To keep them from believing in Santa who only does good things is akin to abuse, you're just setting them up to be beat up on the school yard."

Have to admit, I didn't realize that I was abusing my kids. Call the cops, why don't ya?

As anyone, I have deep and thoughtful reasons for my beliefs. When it comes to Santa, what I see is greedy children demanding presents from a dude that doesn't exist. I see parents waiting in lines, stampeding for the years' coolest toy and in one extreme case last week, pepper-spraying fellow shoppers to keep them away from a video game she wanted to buy. I see people maxing out their credit cards, spending money they don't have to make this Christmas the best ever. And after all that, they give the credit to a fictional fat guy with a beard. Seriously?

Now I know the original story of St. Nick, who was a truly great fella. But don't try to tell me you're carrying on his tradition, because if you were you'd be taking your kids out to buy Santa presents for other kids.

So here's what Christmas is like in my house. We have a tree, our turkey dinner and a whole lot of fun. We also have gifts. But rather than bowing to consumerism and buying everything and anything that looks cool, I have a pretty hard cap budget of $80 for each of my children. Last year, they each got a dump truck, a whole bunch of dinky cars and some books. And you know what, I was a pretty popular mom in my house even though they didn't get any fancy electronic games or a talking Elmo doll. But most of our Christmas season, much like the rest of our lives, is spent in the service of others. Christmas morning this year we will go to church and before gifts and family time, we'll go to the hospital to give out Teddy bears and cookies to kids who are stuck in the ER. We'll probably invite home a stranger for dinner. After Christmas dinner, I'll hit the streets of downtown Kitchener with sandwiches, blankets and coats for people who don't even have 4 walls around them, much less gifts.

Your Christmas celebrations may not be like mine and I'm okay with that. I respect you and your traditions. But don't ever, ever tell me I'm a bad parent because I choose to teach my children how to put others before themselves. Someday, they may be the ones offering you a helping hand when you've fallen off your self righteous pedestal.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Can Twitter Buy a Stove?

So the lovely Jodi (aka karmicevolution) and I had a meeting today at ROOF to clear up some final details with our event. We're happy to say that things are moving along swimmingly, we're so excited!

During the course of the meeting Jodi asked Katie, the wonderful and exuberant Program Manager at ROOF if there is anything the shelter needs that we can help them with. Jokingly, Katie tells us their stove died yesterday. Now ROOF runs a program called The Lunchbox where they provide catering for meetings that teaches their kids skills in food preparation at the same time. Along with dinners, special events and other things, a stove in this shelter is a necessity. In unison, we tell her "We can probably do that!"

Fast forward 2 hours and about 20 tweets later, Jodi and I were off to City Appliance in Cambridge who provided us with a very nice refurbished gas stove at a great price.

So thanks Twitter, for once again stepping up to the challenge and helping us meets the needs of this wonderful agency.  The stove will be delivered tomorrow afternoon and once again, the kids at ROOF will be preparing and eating hot meals.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I'm Sorry For Being A Bad Blogger!

I haven't blogged in a while, not because awesome things haven't been happening but because awesome things have been happening at an incredible pace!

The 50 Teens 4 Christmas event is coming along splendidly. We hit a rough patch where we lost some major sponsors and weren't bringing any money in. So Jodi did what she does best, she poured out her heart, she cried, she got angry and people heard, listened and started donating and backing us up. We're happy to say that we now have some sponsors, some money and the event is all planned. now we just need to pack the bags and anxiously await the big day!

I want to give the biggest thanks possible to all of our sponsors and donors. I'm not going to name everyone right now because I'm sure to miss someone, but you know who you are. If you've never had to go to bed hungry, slept in a shelter or the vestibule of a bank, then you may never know how truly you've touched the lives of these kids. On their behalf, I thank you.

Keep watching the #50teens4christmas hashtag on Twitter. We're still in need of some items, mostly hand me down clothes and shoes to set up our shopping area. If you can clean out your closets, get your kids to do the same and pass it on to us we'd greatly appreciate it!

I can't wait until Dec 14 to pass on the awesomeness of the people of Waterloo Region to these teenagers! Thank you all for supporting us!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Who's Hungry?

I’ve recently had the opportunity to see a Food Bank of Waterloo Region emergency hamper up close and I’ve got to admit, I was pretty impressed. The hamper had a ton of fresh fruit and vegetables, almost too much for what many families would use. There was a pineapple, 2 heads cauliflower, lettuce, 10 lbs carrots, red onions, 5 lbs plums, 6 oranges, 6 pints grape tomatoes, apples, 18 kiwi, 3 lbs strawberries and 3 heads celery. The dry goods did not include any macaroni and cheese boxes, which I found surprising but did include packs of dry pasta, pasta sauce, cup of soup packets, cookies, cans of corn and tuna helper. The proteins in the hamper included chicken wieners, smoked sausages, hamburger, lamb shanks and sliced deli ham. Now the proteins, from a health perspective could use a bit of work but I was amazed at the amount of good offerings in the hamper, especially considering that the public often only hears requests for the basics like mac & cheese and peanut butter.

Our local food bank feeds 26,500 people in the region annually. 900,000 people across Canada use their own local Food Bank annually. That is a lot of hungry Canadians. It is thanks to companies doing food drives, families using food banks as a teaching tool, local store and farms donating excess produce and large volume suppliers that offer volume discounts to the Food Bank that these people were able to eat.

Can you imagine not being able to feed your family? How hard must it be for someone who has worked their entire life to admit that they have hit the bottom and are no longer able to provide for their own children or themselves. It is estimated that for every 1 person who goes to the Food Bank, another 3 people don't. This may be because it can be hard for some to access a food bank but in many cases, it can be because they are afraid to admit that they can’t provide those basic necessities for themselves ad their families. In a world where the almighty dollar is a status symbol, it can be a crushing bow to someone who is already knocked down to admit that they have none.

I’ve learned that there is nothing wrong with asking for help. In any situation, whether it be asking for business help from a mentor, help with an event from a friend, help with paying your bills through a credit agency, help with finding money to pay your rent or help with money to start your own business, there are always people out there who are more than willing to lend their support and expertise.

Since some people aren’t so great at asking for help when they need it, I’m going to ask for them. No matter where you live, there is a Food Bank. In small towns they may just be located within a local church and in a metropolis they may be huge distribution centres, but they are there and they need your help. If your family is able to in any way, find a way to donate to your local food bank. When you have small children, I find donating food is best because it is a visual lesson for your children. Remember, a $1 bag of dry pasta and a $1.50 jar of pre-made pasta sauce will feed a family of 4 for dinner and quite possibly lunch the next day. It doesn’t take a lot to help someone in need. If you’re able to, cash donations are even better. With bulk buying power and serious discounts from manufacturers and distributors, food banks can usually turn your $1 into anywhere between $3-$5. That takes your $1 package of dry pasta and turns it into 5! So if you donated $10 which your large food bank turned into $50... that could feed a family of 4 for an ENTIRE WEEK. For $10.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

50 Teens 4 Christmas Update!

It is absolutely mind-boggling what this community has done for the 50 Teens 4 Christmas event in less than a week!

The gift bags are being filled and we are meeting most of our goals. Here is an updated list of what we are looking for to finish filling them up:

- hand warmer packs
- flashlights (LED)
- deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo & conditioner
- hand sanitizer
- socks
- gift cards

Although this is not a complete list I've got to shout out to a couple of super sponsors who are helping make this event awesome... like Jenn Annis, Chris Arnold, Michelle L., Sobeys, Solo Gi, Martins Apples, Adult Essentials, Clippo, Entripy, Kevin A Magee, 570 News, Andrew Coppolino, Christine Reid Photography and more that I don't have all the details from yet.

This event is my baby but the people above, Jodi from 5 Dollar project and all of you are making it a reality! Huge, huge thanks from the bottom of my heart!

An Update of Awesome

Well. Where to begin?

The mystery benefactor is a real person, that I know, so I took up the challenge and today, through the power of social media have raised $1000 towards the $1500 goal. I still have a day and a half to go.

I am shocked and amazed and so appreciative. So many people giving up their own money to go towards my project. So many people who believe in what I do, it's incredible. Thank you.

50 Teens 4 Christmas is moving along at breakneck speed. My partner in awesome of this project, Jodi, is working her butt off, calling in favours, talking to every single person she knows. She's pretty much a machine.

The donations and sponsors we are getting on board is fabulous! So many great things coming our way, and again, it's all due to the powerful reach of social media. People are jumping on board, buying gift cards, forcing their teens to clean out their closets, asking their workplaces for donations. I don't have a problem admitting that I'm a little overwhelmed. This is a huge event for me and I just can't wait to get all this stuff to the shelter and give these kids a wonderful Christmas celebration!

We've got 2 amazing speakers lined up who I think will really motivate and empower the group, lots of prizes to hand out to donors who financially support the project and an apple sponsor! Because really, where other than Waterloo could you get an apple sponsor (and by apple, I mean the fruit, not the other kind)? And then there are the ladies knitting hats, the family whose children are giving up all birthday gifts in favour of gift cards to donate to the Christmas gift bags and the folks online who are putting a little bit of pressure on some radio folks to get Jodi and I on air to talk about our project.

I think I speak for Jodi and myself when I say that we are so lucky and honoured to have so many friends and supporters who have our backs and are working as hard as we are to make this event a success.

Lastly, I've been doing a drive this week for sweaters, coats and blankets for the homeless, because you know, I haven't asked my friends for enough.

Well once again, people are coming out in spades, dropping off bags at my house, sending me their addresses for pick up and giving me huge amounts of warm weather gear. Saturday I took my boys out and we handed out 10 jackets, 6 sweaters and 9 blankets. Tonight I was out again with my Tuesday night street ministry team and we handed out at least another 40 sweaters, 8 jackets, a blanket, some scarves, mitts and hats.

What's funny is, I never used to ask anybody for anything. Like I wouldn't ask my husband to pass the remote, I wouldn't admit if I didn't understand a problem and I certainly would never fess up to needing help at work. I was just frustratingly independent and stubborn. Probably my self esteem was low enough to think that no one would want to help me either. Well I've learned that all you have to do is ask! Sometimes people say no but oftentimes they say yes! Will I be asking my friends to clean out their closets/help me fundraise/give teens a Christmas every week? Oh no. This week is very special and very weird. I feel bad asking for so much but you know what? I also know that people are helping because they like me, they like the things I'm involved in and they are happy to help. I'm not going to take advantage of that.

So in all, a crazy busy and very odd week. And it only just turned into Wednesday an hour ago so there's still time for it to get stranger. I'm gonna hold on tight and enjoy the ride!

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Mystery Benefactor

So I have just received an email, or rather an email money transfer from a "Mr. Awesome". No jokes here, I promise!

So "Mr. Awesome" has sent me an email money transfer for $3000 but did not give me the password to accept the transfer. The condition is that I have to raise $1500 in 48 hours after accepting and he will give me $3000 to fund bigger and better FoodLove projects for the next year. He also sent me instructions for a very worthy charity and the type of event he'd like to see put on for them.

So the question is, do I do this? Do I trust him? And are there enough of you out there that love my FoodLove project enough to donate money to help me get to this next level?

50 Teens 4 Christmas

Last night I officially announced the next FoodLove event, 50 Teens 4 Christmas to be held for homeless and vulnerable teens at ROOF. Since then, I (and my amazing friend and chief smilemaker at 5 Dollar Project, Jodi) have been working non-stop.

What started as a regular FoodLove event with lots of homemade goodies, a mini concert and a few gift cards has turned into a MASSIVE event involving the same homemade goodies, motivational speakers, a fundraising raffle (of which proceeds will be split between 5 Dollar Project and 50 Teens 4 Christmas), gifts bags stuffed to the brim and more! I can't thank Jodi enough for her hard work and using the many, many contacts and friendships she has to make this project so awesome.

We are looking for donations specifically for the Christmas gift bags right now. We want to give these kids slightly used or new jackets, sweatshirts, toques, mittens, long distance phone cards, gift cards to go shopping, easily transportable and healthy food, personal hygiene products and REAL Christmas gifts like books, makeup and other things that all normal teens want.

We would love to see Waterloo Region rally around us and give these teens a Christmas to remember. You can do this by collecting items for the gift bags, asking your workplace for donations for our fundraising raffle, buying a raffle ticket (will be available soon!), spreading the word AND buying Christmas cards and getting them signed by as many people as you can!

Watch the #50teens4christmas hashtag and follow @FoodLoveKW and @5dollarproject on Twitter to keep up with all the latest details.

With all of our resources, we can make this a Christmas to remember!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

What I learned at SCCTO

So over the last 2 days I was at the She's Connected Conference in Toronto. It's a conference to connect bloggers and brands, to learn how to work with each other, what to do and not do and a whole lot of information for those bloggers or brands who haven't done this kind of promotional work together before.

Now I posted a while back about whether or not I would go because I was pretty sure that I didn't want to be writing sponsored posts for companies on my blog. I questioned whether it was a selling-out point and I believe even referred to it as "whoring" myself out. A lot of intelligent discussion convinced me to go and give it a try. So what did I learn?

1. I still DON'T want to accept free stuff or money for myself or family from companies to shill their product. It's not that there's anything wrong with it for those that do it, but I'm already busy trying to promote my OWN brand and business (need a cake, buy it here!) and I don't have the energy to give myself to another company when I'm barely making enough money from my own to survive. Just not for me.

2. I DO want to work with brands when it comes to my volunteer work. As some of the events I'm working on get bigger and bigger I'm starting to recruit sponsors and some companies would mesh really well with them. If Ford wants to lend me a truck to cart around the bags upon bags of goodies for a FoodLove event, I would be ecstatic! To me that's working for the greater good. The brand is getting promoted, I'm getting promoted, my charity is getting promoted and MOST IMPORTANTLY, local people, people in my very own backyard are reaping the benefits and kindness. This is a win-win.

3. I DO want to look at my own options, as a brand, of working with bloggers and influential women to promote my business. Let's face it, women talk. Women buy what other women buy. I make affordable, unique custom cakes and need business from women. No brainer.

Also, because this was my first ever big conference, I learned a few other things that weren't on the agenda:
  • band-aids should be carried at all times
  • it doesn't matter if you can fit everything in a duffel bag, bring a suitcase on wheels
  • it's a lot of fun to tweet with someone sitting 4 ft away from you
  • you will be hugged a lot, be prepared
  • pay the damn money and stay in a hotel, the subway at midnight is not fun
  • even friendships you already had will become more concrete by the time it's done

Thank you for having me join the conference, She's Connected team. I'm not sure if my experience had the outcome you were hoping for but I had fun, I met some fabulous women AND I got a night away, which is no easy feat for a mom!

Also, thanks to Toshiba Canada, I won a laptop at the event! I'm super excited and was really looking forward to receiving it but this morning I decided that there was someone else who needed it more.

Volunteer Builders is an Oakville, ON organization that designs and builds "one project every spring to benefit a worthy individual or organization". All of their builds since 2001 have involved summer camps and all the buildings are beautiful. A few days ago a tweet came to my attention that Volunteer Builders needs a laptop for the organization. They were asking for a used laptop or donations towards buying a new one. So I decided to donate the laptop from Toshiba to them. It's a worthy organization made even better that friends of mine are involved in the project.

The love I've received from Twitter today has been amazing. It's undeserved, I think. I'm not putting myself out by donating this laptop, I'm not giving up anything I needed. I'm just passing along the niceness of Toshiba along to someone who wants (and needs) that laptop even more than I do. So thank you, Toshiba, for giving me the opportunity to help Volunteer Builders. Volunteer Builders, thank you for the awesome work you do. I'll be contacting you about volunteering for your next build. And thank you Twitter, for sending me so much love today in regards to the laptop donation and then again, when I asked you all to donate blankets and sweaters for me to hand out to the homeless. The amount that you have already donated and have promised to donate over the next few weeks will soon have me traveling to find people in need in other cities. The love from my online community today has lifted me higher and reminded me that I'm not changing the world alone... I have thousands of people cheering me on, supporting me and kicking my butt into gear!


A Theme and A Purpose

All my life I have been an activist, a volunteer, a community supporter. Throughout elementary school I was a tutor, a reading buddy, a dog walker at the Humane Society and a letter writer for Amnesty International. In high school I was on school council, I organized coffee houses, I organized volunteers to "green" our school and build a rock garden and each year I was a driving force behind the 30-hour famine. As I've grown into adulthood I've been a church volunteer, a "listener" at a battered women's shelter, an advocate for special needs children, part of a team that feeds the homeless in our area and the girl who gives out cookies in exchange for smiles.

I'm not telling you this because I'm looking for attention or accolades. I'm telling you this because I've finally realized what my life (and subsequently, this blog) is all about.

My life's purpose is to bless and serve other people.

When I started this blog, I had a few things I wanted to write down but I had no idea if my blog would have a theme or if it would just be insane ramblings of me. It's natural that people would think I would write a food blog but I'm not organized enough for that. I forget to take pictures of some of the most incredible cakes I've ever made, I'll never remember to take pics during the cooking process. So where does that leave a girl who wants to blog but who often proclaims that the only thing she knows is food?

She searches herself and gains enough confidence to realize that she knows MUCH MUCH more than food. She knows people, she's got a soft heart that cries whenever she reads the news and she has a determination to make her world a better place.

So from this moment on, although I'm sure there will be the odd random post, this blog will become my way to help others, help others. You will read stories about amazing people doing amazing things. You will read stories about folks who need a hand up and most importantly, I will help you find a way to make your own contribution to causes that are important to you. If you have money to give, I'll help you get it there. If you have spare blankets I'll collect them and personally hand them out to the homeless on the street. If you always happen to bake 2 dozen cookies too many, I will help you hand them out to people who really need a smile in their day.

So if you know an amazing community builder, if you know a story that needs a voice, if you know a person that needs help finding their smile again, let me know. I am here to serve.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Daycare Dilemma Solved!

Since my oldest son started back to kindergarten last week his little brother has had a hard time being dropped off at daycare for his 2 days a week. It has hit me pretty hard because my kids have always been the ones who never looked back, never cried and never said goodbye. So I've been guilting myself about leaving the kid when technically I'm at home, and the drop offs have been getting harder and harder. Until last night.

I was making the boys school lunch and my little guy came down and asked for a lunchbox too. So he hopped up to the table and we packed a lunch for him. This morning the kid was so darn excited to grab his lunchbox and show his babysitter that he didn't even think twice when I said goodbye and walked out the door.

So there I go, yet another parenting dilemma solved in my house. Now if only they all could be solved with a Toy Story lunchbox.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Perpetuating the Bullcrap

One of my favourite radio stations is a local faith-based station that has an insane amount of good programming. On Sundays though, when driving home from church, I find that the station is always broadcasting shows that are spreading propaganda and talking about controversial issues that usually have no basis for reasoning. This afternoon was no different.

They brought on an "expert" in Autism, a non-medically trained woman who proceeded to spout off about how sure she is that vaccinations play a huge role in Autism Spectrum Disorder and how vaccinations for children should be stopped immediately. Thanks Jenny McCarthy.

ASD is a neurological disorder and in most children, is recognizable from a very young age although parents and doctors usually don't see it until they look in hindsight. Childhood vaccinations are not the cause of Autism, they never have been and they never will and the fact that once again, someone is advising parents not to vaccinate their children angers me to no end. You know what happens when you choose to not vaccinate your children? You place the ENTIRE population at risk for diseases that have been effectively eradicated from our society. The reason you've never had mumps? Because since everyone is vaccinated against it, we have won the war against the disease taking over our bodies. When one person, then another and another choose not to vaccinate, they have invited that disease back into our lives, putting us all at risk because of their misguided opinions and advice from non-medically trained professionals.

Stop the insanity. Stop perpetuating the bullcrap. If you have a question, talk to your doctor. Call up a pediatrician that specializes in working with ASD children. They have the answers AND the research to back it up. Don't listen to self-proclaimed "experts" for advice on issues which they have no training and no research to back up.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

These Foolish Games

This is a copy of my facebook rant about the silly breast cancer game going around:

Your "naughty" status, pretending to be pregnant and craving something, is NOT doing anything about raising awareness of breast cancer. It's a game that makes you giggle because you wonder how many people will catch on to it or how many people you will trick. How about taking a moment to feel for the friends you have who cannot get pregnant or who have become infertile BECAUSE of their cancer treatments and go do something that'll really help the cause like donating money to Run for the Cure.

Thankfully, it got some discussion going and hopefully opened a few peoples eyes about why these games are not helping the cause and helping to find a cure for breast cancer. In the process, it's hurting many women who couldn't get pregnant and confusing people who are mistakenly thinking these pregnancy statuses are real.

Let's find a REAL way to kick cancer's butt.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Selling Your Influence

So I've been invited to the She's So Connected Conference Sept 29 and 30 in Toronto this year. When I pressed the "apply" button, I wasn't sure what I was signing up for but saw that several friends were going and wanted to check it out. Then I got the tweet saying, "This is your invite!"

Now I'm excited, partly because there are some really amazing local women going, partly because I'll get a night away from my house and partly because I'm hoping to make some new friendships and learn something new. However, as the time to the conference gets closer, I'm also getting a little worried that I've signed myself up to really just pimp myself out to the highest bidder.

I've been watching the tweets become more frequent, "Hey @______, want to sponsor me a new wardrobe for #SCCTO?" and "Wow, I'd really love to drive a @_______ new car to #SCCTO" and another, "The only thing that would make #SCCTO better is if I had a @_______ smartphone to tweet my experience from".

Now, I love a lot of brands. I swear by them, I talk them up to everyone I meet. So am I doing it wrong? Should I have been asking Kitchen Aid for a free mixer before I started talking about mine? Shall I be asking Baby G diapers for a lifetime of free flushable inserts before telling folks how much I love them? What about my Wilton food colours or my Iwata and Master airbrushes? Maybe even Kleenex brand toilet paper because it's just about the nicest thing on earth to put down there?

I don't want people to think that I am getting paid if I say something nice about a company and this is why this whole sponsorship thing bothers me. Now I don't know if someone is recommending me a certain product because it is truly awesome or because they are getting paid to do so. If I say something great about a company, they DESERVE it. They have earned my trust and my brand loyalty, by providing great products, incredible customer service and value for money. I'm not saying that Company A doesn't deserve great reviews as well but frankly, if they've paid you to say it, I probably don't trust the review quite as much.

So why was I invited to #SCCTO? I have no idea! I've never promoted a brand, I've never done a blog giveaway or review and my thoughts on this blog and in my tweets are not very PR worthy. I don't know how the selection was done and I doubt that I'm one of the top digitally connected women in Canada however, I am looking forward to the conference. I am looking forward to connecting with other women, I look forward to learning more about brand promotion and sponsorships. I'd like to see the presenters and brands prove to me why this sort of brand promotion works and why I would want to sell my (very small) influence. #SCCTO will be a learning experience for me and that is really the point of life, to keep growing and learning, then using your knowledge to affect the world.

*This post WAS NOT sponsored in any way by Wilton, Iwata, Master, Kleenex, Baby G or KitchenAid. I've name-dropped these brands because they are great and I love to use them!*

Monday, August 15, 2011

"Free" with Donation

Summer especially, there are a lot of "free" festivals in the city, which is fabulous. However, a lot of event advertise, "Free, with a food bank donation", "Free, with a donation to ______ (insert the charity of choice)".

I love encouraging people to give, especially to our local Food Bank but there's one problem... some of the people who want to go to the "free" events the most are also clients of the food bank. I took someone to an event last week who was almost denied entrance because she didn't have a donation. Had she given one, she would have given up dinner for the night.

Food for thought.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Success Breeds Success

Do you dream of being successful?

There's a saying "Success breeds success." Success breeding success is evident when you look at Ivanka and Donald Trump. What better opportunities could a girl have had then to have a wildly successful businessman for a father? She had the privilege of going to the best schools and being mentored by some of the best brains in the business world. Now, Ivanka is also incredibly smart, talented and driven, but would she have fared as well in this world had her father not been who he is?

The good news is, there is hope for all of us who don't have Donald Trump as a father, who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, who didn't go to college or even finish high school and that is this... the success breeds success expression doesn't apply only to genetic relationships. What I'm saying is, you don't have to have a rich daddy, fancy education or anything else like that to be successful, you only have to surround yourself with successful people.

Think of success building like a pyramid scheme. You have two friends who are successful in what they do. Because of their motivation, you set a goal and achieve it. Because you have achieved a goal, there is now someone else who looks at you as being successful. Because of you motivating them, they achieve their goal and become success mentors to someone else and on and on.

So where do you find successful people? Well, it kinda depends on what kind of success you are looking to achieve. For me, success is being able to wake up in the morning answering only to myself as a boss. It means never having to worry about whether my family will have enough to eat or not. I'm a simple girl. I'm not looking to be the next Food Network Chef or the next Oprah cooking guru, I just want to do well for my family and the people in my community. Where are your success dreams going to take you?

Tonight, my success dreams will be taking me to the #140ConfONT tweet-up at the Galt Country Club in Cambridge. Tonight, I will be surrounded by people who are so successful I would be happy if I only achieved 1/10 of what they have done.

Tonight, I'm going to continue building my part in the success pyramid scheme.

Are you ready to take charge, get inspired, get ahead and get going? Come join us tonight for some energy building and then again on September 15 as the 140 Characters Conference makes its way to Canada for the very first time.

It's time for you to realize your dreams.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Exciting News!

Big stuff has been in the works for weeks around my house and I'm excited to announce that in September, NOURISH by bourbonbaker will finally be my only job!

HUGE thanks to all my customers over the years that have encouraged and supported me, to my hubby who has faithfully stayed home raising our kids while I worked every hour of every day and to Christine Reid, whose photos of my cooking parties have finally helped tell the story of what happens when you throw me into a kitchen with a group of people: DELICIOUS FUN!

I am currently negotiating some deals that will see my signature recipe energy bars hit stores all across Ontario, my cakes in some local gourmet food stores and even more restaurants will soon be carrying desserts made by me!

Looking forward to September and all the new ventures! Long live good food!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Street Love, Food Love, KW Is Awesome...

I was already a blog post behind before last night came along. Now after the events of last night and today... this might be a long one.

Tuesday night, I was out with my street ministry team and a man named Wally came running up to us. Wally is a long time street person and has a special connection with many members of our team, including me, because he is just so darn sweet and grateful for all the little things. Wally is also a pretty incredible musician.

So anyway, Wally comes running up and he's carrying a large case with him. Our team leader, George, immediately recognizes that it is Wally's accordion that he has finally gotten out of pawn. Wally motions to our little coolers on wheels and asks if we have a spare frame around that he can use to pull his accordion because it is so heavy. Well we don't, but I do have one of those fabric shopping carts from Zehrs and so I tell Wally that after I take the apples out of it, it's all his.

Fast forward 2 hours later and we're just about done for the night. I turn to George and gasp, "my keys were in that cart." Prayers from team members and racing hearts, we head towards downtown to the place that Wally usually sleeps. He's not there. We find some other people who tell us where he may be BUT he might be in something of an awkward/bad situation right now. George and I leave the team and head off. Up a block we see a figure crossing the road, the unmistakable gait of Wally. We break into a run to catch up. Wally sees us and says "YOU! I've got your keys!" Then he took us into a small restaurant/bar and returns my keys that are my entryway into everything I do.

Thank you Wally, for loving me, for being kind and keeping my keys safe.


Last night was the second pitch meeting for the KW Awesome Foundation. In a nutshell, some generous people pledge $100 each to reward ideas that will make our community more awesome. The winner gets $1000 to put towards their idea and EVERYONE walks away with contacts and ideas on how to make THEIR awesome idea come to life.

I spoke about FoodLove, although saying "spoke" makes it sound like I had an impressive speech that knocked every one's socks off. What actually happened was I showed up with only a giant bag of trail mix bars and FoodLove flyers. My "speaking" was more like barely stumbling through some heartfelt words that only begin to describe how incredibly awesome FoodLove actually is. My legs were shaking uncontrollably, I thought I was gonna puke or pass out and I had tears in my eyes the entire time. If you've seen my earlier post on overcoming my social anxiety you may understand why I was so nervous and scared. This was a huge step for me.

At the end of the night, after some great pitches on a giant watergun fight, rockets, needlework, neighborhood greening competitions, a young dancers dream of getting to LA to dance and a KW version of Dear Photograph, I won the $1000. I swear it, me, knocky-knees-about-to-barf-cries-all-the-time Melissa won $1000 to help expand my FoodLove program!!! This is AMAZING and WONDERFUL and AWESOME! I received so many kind words of support, hugs and MANY MANY offers to bake for the upcoming Aug 21 FoodLove hospital trip.

I am WAY beyond grateful and humbled that so many people believe that what I do is a great enough idea that they want to be a part of it. I am so thankful that there are folks out there who are willing to part with their hard earned money to make things like FoodLove and bubble fights and dancing dreams come true. The trustees of the KW Awesome Foundation are truly amazing people.

I received over 75 messages of support through Twitter, a bunch of phone calls and so many emails I've barely begun to wade through them. One such email has offered me, "a 1 year membership to Toastmasters, to be mentored by professional speakers, to learn how to speak in front of a crowd because I recognize that you have an amazing way with words and a very big and genuine heart that needs to be shared with the world." I don't know if I feel the same way but thank you, email writer, for loving and believing in a girl that you've never met; YOU are what makes KW so awesome.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Count Your Blessings

Today I am thankful because:

I had a bed to sleep in last night.
The sun is shining.
I have a job I love.
There is food in my fridge.
I have 2 amazing little boys.
My kitchen floor is clean enough that I don't need to wash it today.
I have a truck.
The cake is still intact in the fridge.
Wild Ontario blueberries are making their appearance.
I have a BIG God who loves me.
I have friends who love the weird parts of me.
I'm about to go to Starbucks, a very special treat.
I only wear my socks for one day, not five, before washing.
I know tomorrow will be even better.
My lessons for Sunday School tomorrow are done.
My husband is out working.
I'm listening to my top-secret copy of the WPA worship team.
The boys' tooth pain seems to be gone.
I've only seen 2 ants inside, this is a record.
My son is cuddling up next to me without me forcing him too.

I am alive. I am living my dream. I am blessed.

Count your blessings every day. Every single thing is a miracle. I don't see the crayon scribbles on the wall... I see myself being blessed with a budding artist. Be thankful.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

140 Conference Ontario

Last night, the very first meetup/tweetup regarding the very first 140 Characters Conference to come to Canada was held in Waterloo. Wowzzers, all I can say is that with such a great planning committee, a terrific venue and pretty much the best place to hold it in ALL OF CANADA, this conference is off to a terrific start.

I was fortunate enough to meet a bunch more great people last night, and was completely inspired and in awe of so many of them. If the NORMAL people of Waterloo Region are this awesome, how great are the speakers going to be?!?!?! Boggles my mind.

Unfortunately, I won't be able to go to the actual conference but I do know that on that day, I will be watching the #140confONT hashtag all day to get as much info as I can of what went on.

How awesome is Waterloo Region!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Marriage as Defined by Noodles

I am happily married to my polar opposite. Now, I don't mean we just have different tastes in music or movies, but there is not a single thing we agree on; not fun time activities, not parenting styles and certainly not food preparation techniques.

He's a fast food kinda guy while I'm a fine food kinda gal. While I expertly hand make delicate pastries, his idea of dessert is a box of Jos. Louis. He thinks lemon is disgusting, I think lemon is one of the most underrated pleasures on Earth.

Needless to say, dinnertime at our house has been one giant marriage exam over the years. As I'm toiling over the stove, testing recipes, marrying new flavours, he has been my sometimes unwilling guinea pig. For the first several years, I was sure everything I cooked was awful because his biggest dinnertime compliment was "It's ai-ight". Not exactly the glowing praises I was expecting to hear.

Like any seasoned veteran of a wife, I have learned that I cannot *gasp* change him. Why we gals think we can, I'll never know. So to ease dinnertime struggles and give ourselves a fair chance at a passing grade, these are the changes I've made in myself and my cooking style to suit his more trailer park tastes:

1. Dry it out. Why have moist, succulent chicken breasts when you can have chicken jerky? I pull our meat out when it's almost done, cook his for 15 more minutes at 450 and then pop ours back in for 2. He's happy if he has to take a swig of beer to get every single bite of chicken jerky down.

2. Let it go stale. In an odd moment of "make your man happy" marriage bliss, I once decided to make homemade Jos. Louis. His reaction was something between I'd rather eat foie gras and sidewalk chalk would taste pretty good right now. BUT the last homemade Jos. Louis that sat in the fridge for 5 weeks, well that was the one that made him grin and say "now THIS is what they're supposed to taste like!"

3. Put it on a stick. It may actually be souvlaki, but when you call it "Chicken on a Stick" it pleases the ears so much more, don't you agree?

4. Cook it 'til it's brown. Broccoli is not actually supposed to be green, did ya know that? I'll leave his in the water for a few (or 10) extra minutes until it turns that fabulous grey colour and he praises me that it's "just like my moms".

5. Sog it up. Our biggest clash has always been the noodles, I like them cooked al dente, he likes to make sure that there's no need for chewing. Because I am a good wife, I always make sure I call him for dinner 5 minutes after we start eating so his noodles have have time to decompose within the sauce on the stove.

I must warn you, cooking bad food on purpose is not for the faint of stomach. The wallpaper paste noodles, the cardboard burgers, the burnt on the bottom muffins... they can make you retch in your mouth a little. But if you're a good wife, you can do it. And he'll love you for it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tweeting My Way To Sanity

If you'll indulge me, I'd like to travel back in time a bit. We're heading all the way back to February 2010 for this one.

Meet Jane, a girl with a big heart, a small business and lots of plans for life but also saddled with an absolutely crippling social phobia. See this girl wasn't just bad at making friends or awkward in social situations, she was downright terrified when in public.

Going to the grocery store was a frightening experience. Walking among the people, being forced to talk to the cashier... her knees would start to shake before getting out of the car. At work, people thought she was a stuck up snob because she never spoke to anyone; they didn't realize that even the thought of muttering words to another human being she didn't know made her start to tear up.

At home, she was comfortable inviting people into her home, at church she welcomed children into Sunday school without a problem but when she left her comfort zone, the tears would roll, the queasiness would start and irrational fears would overtake the mind of the mind of this incredibly bright girl.

She would sit at home at night and weep over the friends she didn't have, wonder why she was so darn eff-ed up.

On March 13, 2010... Jane died. Emotionally, she was spent. Spiritually, she was struggling. Physically, she was making herself sick daily.

On March 14, 2010... she was re-born. She was the same person inside and out except for one thing, she had a dogged determination that she would no longer let fear rule her life. She decided to transform her outer self to match her inner self. This was going to work. There was no way she would let her plan fail.

I am Jane. My social phobia was so incapacitating, I couldn't even sit at home and THINK about going to the drug store without getting the shakes. The day I decided to let go of my fear and take over my life, I had no idea how I was going to do it. I trusted that God didn't want me to be so unstable and would help me find the opportunities I needed to get out of the hole. I made a steadfast promise to myself and to God that I would not turn down any opportunities out of fear, that I would try at least one new thing every day. I vowed to strike up conversations in the produce section at the grocery store, to invite someone from work out for lunch, to go out and find a way to make friendships and to never turn back, to never, ever let my children see me as the mess I was.

I started out by talking on a social level to the people that are on my leadership team at church. Then I went out after work for apps at a restaurant with some co-workers. I made a batch of cookies and dropped them off at a local fire station. Every single day, I battled the pit in the bottom of my stomach and at least tried to reach out to someone.

Then one night I was home alone and decided, for some unknown reason, to join Twitter. I had no idea what I would tweet about, why anyone would possibly want to read my thoughts but what the heck, I figured, everyone else is doing it.

I think it was day 4 of Twitter that hooked me. I gained 15 followers all in one day and had feedback on 3 different tweets I posted. From that moment on, I started researching Twitter. I was looking at the demographics of the users; why, how and when they were using this form of social media. I started interacting with a number of people every day. I posted about what I knew, my family, my business and food.

Although I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be speaking in front of groups of thousands for some time, Twitter has completely changed how I see myself and how I present myself. BT (before Twitter), I knew that I had some wit, the ability to listen to others and care about what they were saying but I had no one to put this into practice with. AT, I am confident in my ability to relate to others. Since I have conversations with people before ever meeting them, the social anxiety of meeting someone for the first time is erased because we're already friends before we lay eyes on each other. There are some people whom I haven't met yet, and would still give them my shirt if they needed it. IT's that kind of place where there's no bullying, no one laughs at you or makes you feel alienated... it's an open conversation between amazing adults.

To date, I have met 33 people in real life that I first met on Twitter. I'm happy to say that I've made some incredible friends, gained some supporters and seen my business increase by almost 9%... even though I rarely tweet about my business.

I'm sure that helping an awkward baker overcome her social anxiety wasn't part of the plan when Twitter was created, but that's what it's done.

I can now proudly say that the person you meet today, is the person that was trapped inside my screwed up brain for a long time. It's nice to meet you.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dining Out With Kids

Last month, Twitter was in a flitter over a Cambridge restaurant who announced that their restaurant wasn't suitable for anyone under age 14. After some backlash, the restaurant backpedalled and said that kids were okay as long as they didn't bother the other customers.

Well, the backlash got sorted out, although I am afraid that the restaurant did lose some customers in the process. But it did get me thinking about kids and dining out. What parents expect of them, what the other patrons expect of them and how a restaurant can find the fine line between providing an upscale environment for all customers while also continuing to serve the upscale customers they have who also happen to be parents.

I've been the chef in a restaurant that hears the customer complaints about the child picking his nose, staring over the seats and banging his fork on the plate and I've also been the parent who's getting dirty looks from my fellow diners. Here's my two cents:

Children are spending their entire childhood learning how to be productive, respectful adults. If we, as parents, do not take them out to eat, how can we ever expect them to instinctually know how to behave in a restaurant? That being said, did I start my kids off eating in restaurants like Verses and Pangaea? No, I spent my fair share of time in places like Oscars, Pho Dau Bo and the Stone Crock, all places that were relatively happy to participate in the civilization project of my children.

Then we moved on to places such as The Bauer Kitchen, Wildcraft, Boa Nova and Classico's. They were all restaurants with a slightly higher decibel rating that muffled the whines.

Nowadays, I don't hesitate to take my boys to any restaurant. We've dined at Verses, the 41, North 44, Nota Bene and Langdon Hall... among many others.

As parents, we know our children pretty well. If baby A has been whiny all day, throwing tantrums and generally being a meat-head... perhaps you need to re-think your dinner plans. But... we all know that our children generally behave better in public than they do at home. How many times have you said "why doesn't he do that at home?!?!"

As customers, we're paying for an experience when we go out to dine. I certainly understand what it's like to have some little brat staring at you, running around or talking about poo-poo during dinner and it's not cool... trust me, if my kids acted like that we'd be out in a split second. But as a chef, a parent and a food lover who is raising future food lovers, I ask that you be patient. If the parent is ignoring their child's behaviour then you certainly have reason to say something to your server but if the parent is trying their best, please respect that this is an education for the child that they cannot learn at home.

For restaurants, I suggest that the best way for you to advertise is not to say children aren't welcome. There are a whole lot of parents out there who would boycott your restaurant on the principle alone, even if they would never dream of bringing their own children there. If you are really against children in your restaurant, you can subtly get this message across by not offering the dreaded "children's menu" or not having high chairs. But you do need to be flexible when a child comes into your restaurant. If some of the world's best and busiest restaurants can whip up a vegan gluten free meal at the drop of a hat, it wouldn't kill you to hand bread a few chicken strips or make a plain cheese pasta. And be friendly to the kids. If the chef has time, a quick hello to the child or even a wave from the kitchen relaxes the kids and makes the experience more enjoyable. Kids are fascinated by food and the workings of a kitchen, so if they stop by the kitchen door and stare at you, dust off a couple of your show-off moves and put on a spectacle for them. If they order gelato for desert, make 3 scoops into a snowman with blueberry eyes. Kids know when they have behaved and most are smart enough to know that if they behave, they will get to enjoy the same experience again, so help them have a fun time that they will want to come back to. Remember, if you hope to be in business for a long time, these children may someday BE your customers.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Love KW

You ever heard the one about the farmer who tweeted on his Blackberry while riding in an Old Order Mennonite horse & buggy?

If you haven't, then you have unfortunately been missing out on the incredible place that Waterloo Region is.

I love where I live. Not just a little, but almost as much as I love my family. I have pride in my country, but Waterloo Region... I live and breathe it.

Waterloo Region is RICH. Not dollars and cents rich, although there's some of that floating around too, but rich in history, rich in culture, rich in innovation.

There's this little thing that can be found worldwide called the Blackberry, made by RIM. Guess where RIM is and where the Blackberry was created? Yup, you got it... Waterloo.

Waterloo has a small town/big town identity crisis going on that I wouldn't change for the world. I can be at a major shopping center sipping a Starbucks latte and 15 mins later at a Mennonite farm buying fresh eggs and bread.

We have churches that open their doors on cold winter nights so the homeless have a place to go.

We have KidsAbility, an incredible organization that serves all our children with special needs and we have the groundbreaking Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.

There's a prominent Jazz Fest every summer, and the Multi-Cultural Festival, bringing together our cultural diversity.

We have farmers who tweet while driving their tractors and this guy who shows up on a google search for almost anything.

Waterloo is a place where a Social Media Breakfast of 75 people can make #smbwr trend on Twitter across Canada.

Waterloo Region is the place where you can find a group of 10-12 people feeding, clothing and loving our areas less fortunate folks every Tuesday night.

Waterloo is home to a Farmers' Market that rivals any market in north America, and all the food is grown right in our own backyard.

Waterloo has a crazy baker who runs around town passing out FoodLove, just because.

We have a bible college, a community college, a pharmacy school and we're only an hour away from the largest city in Canada.

Waterloo is a small enough town that I run into someone I know at every event I go to, but large enough that I meet even more new people every time I step outside.

We've got 2 girls who wear tiaras because they're fabulous and we've got a group of area churches who put on huge events just to show the people of K-W how much they love them.

We have a restaurant that has been awarded the prestigious CAA/AAA Four Diamond award and another that is on the "Where to Eat in Canada" list and yet we also have Harmony Lunch, a place that cannot be described, only experienced.

I am beyond proud of my community and incredibly lucky I have the opportunity to live in a place like this.

Thank you, citizens of Waterloo Region, for making this one of the best places on earth to live. Thank you for caring about your neighbors, for accepting everyone as they are, for cleaning up parks, for supporting our local farmers, for bringing huge festivals and events to our area and for volunteering an immeasurable amount of hours to make our home a better place.

I ♥ Waterloo Region.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Foraging Family

I love foraging. My grandpa always took me out to search for morels when I was a kid and now that I've grown up, my repertoire of edible wild food has increased dramatically.

This week my hubby found an incredible forest full of fiddleheads, and by golly, wouldn't it just be that fiddleheads are just about my favourite thing to forage! So off we went today with the kids, to start the tradition of using them as slave labor to pick our meals.
This is our secret spot.

The boys needed a helping hand across the river.

When we walked into the field, all we saw was this...
...and they were EVERYWHERE. Small patches, runts just starting and lots of gorgeous, unfurled ones. This is what gets a chef excited!

My littlest boy got right in the action, counting the fiddleheads as he picked them ever so gently. This kid is destined to be a foodie for sure!

Tomorrow, I head out on my own for some morels and the last of the wild leeks.

It's been a great start to summer for this foraging family.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter FoodLove

On Sunday April 24, 2011, armed with over 400 portions of donated baked goodies, my son and I set off to Mary's Place, Anselma House and the House of Friendship in Kitchener to deliver some FoodLove to deserving folks.
The premise of FoodLove is simple... hand someone a cookie (muffin, chocolate, cake etc.) and you may just change their day.

We had a TON of INCREDIBLE people who took some time to bake us up some goodies, many of them people I had never met until they arrived at my house to drop off their donation.
Due to the sensitive situations that some of the people we were visiting are in, we couldn't take many photos. But, the boy and I were met with a lot of smiles, a few tears and even a hug from a little boy with a frosting smeared face. While I hope that the food we delivered brought some smiles, I'm sure that what Nicolas and I felt was even more profound. In the words of my small son, "I LOVE giving food".

I am so grateful for all the people who helped out with this event. It was bigger than I ever expected and it gives me even higher hopes for the next one (save the date, it's coming on August 21).

I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to involve my son in activities such as this, knowing that what he learns today will become a habit for life. There will never be a day on this Earth where a spirit of giving is not needed.

I am so grateful for all the volunteers and staff I met at the 3 different shelters... what we did took a day, volunteering like you do on a regular basis is a wonderful and selfless act. YOU ARE APPRECIATED BY MANY.

Details for the Summer FoodLove event are coming soon at

Friday, April 8, 2011

Finding Appreciation

Because of my profession, I guess I've taken it for granted that I always have a professional dishwasher to help take care of the very large mess I create. And I do mean VERY large. I've never been a one-bowl kinda girl... why use one bowl when you can use six?

One of the causes of my very large mess problem is that I am a serious muti-tasker. When I'm in the kitchen I can have 5 or 6 things baking at a time and well, those things create dishes. When I'm baking at work, no problemo, I've got a person that's assigned to just doing dishes all night long but when I'm at home... well I can't afford to hire anyone and my kids are too small for slave labour so the mess often ends up in the hands of my darling hubby.

I usually don't think about this too much, I gotta admit. I leave the place a mess; run to work, a cooking party or cake delivery and when I return it's all shiny again. I notice he's done it, I appreciate him for it but gosh, it just never occurred to me that I haven't had dishpan hands myself in months.

Until this week... hanging up the phone I grinned at him and said "50 custom cookies and a 2-tier cake" and his reaction was on the side of muttering "well isn't that just (insert profanity here) great" while walking away.

So next week, I'm giving up my dream of buying a smartphone and I'm going shopping for a dishwasher, because in the end, if I didn't have him, we wouldn't have this business at all.

Plus, he's kinda cute.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Hand Up

There are these 2 homeless men that wander around my Waterloo neighborhood picking up cans and bottles from the recycling bins and pulling things from the garbage that they may be able to sell. Every time they walk by when I am outside, they stop and say hi, calling me ma'am, saying thank you and God bless you. Honestly, these are the friendliest neighbors I've got.

Today I pull into the driveway and there they are, looking in my recycling bins while their shopping carts hang out on the street. We exchange pleasantries and they go to leave until it hits me, "Melissa, you have got to do more".

Now we have a home, food and a nice car, because of those choices we don't have many other resources but I do have a heart, a big one. So I asked the guys if they wanted to come back into my backyard to help me clean up the post-winter mess. Without any payment negotiations, they were heading back towards the gate with huge smiles on their faces. My kids and husband watched out the window as I hung out with David and James, cleaning up the trash, raking and sorting out broken toys from usable ones.

We talked about God, about homelessness, about our wonderful city and about my children. The entire time, my new friends had smiles on their faces and a spring in their steps. Towards the end of our clean up time, I asked them to wait outside while I went in for a few minutes. I packed up a bag full of apples, yogurt, 2 new toothbrushes and toothpaste, some bars of soap and a few sandwiches. Then I gave them each a $10 Tim Hortons card.

There was a hug and some tears, then David and James grabbed their carts off the front lawn and headed off down the street. While I don't feel like I did enough to change their lives, giving away a few things I had around the house is going to make a small difference and I gained two new friends in the process.

I wonder if James and David know just how big of an impact they made on my life today?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

WPA Cake Auction 2011

Well, it's been a busy week in my world of cake. This morning we held a Cake and Dessert Auction at WPA to raise funds for our "Heart of a Teacher" outreach in April. With this outreach project, we are inviting local teachers from Waterloo Region to come to our place, have desserts, receive a free book, movie and fill a goodie bag full of those items teachers love to use in their class but usually have to pay for from their own pocket.
^^^Valentines Cakes made by ME!^^^

Without further ado, here are some pictures of this mornings auction...

We were blessed with so many donations:
Cupcakes from Yvonne Zensner at The Cake Box
Cake from Bonnie P

Cake and a gift certificate from Bev Kesselring of Latasia
Cake from Kathy, this one was just itching to go to a party house!

Picking up the winnings!
Excited? Scared? Wondering how he was going to hide his lemon bars from the family?
and my monkeys... wondering why the heck I was making them sit nicely when they could have been eating cake!

In the end, our WPA family was very generous, helping us to surpass our fundraising goal.

Now we have a very real and tangible way of showing the teachers in Waterloo Region how much they mean to us.

Thank you to everyone who participated.