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Volunteering on vacation in St Maarten

I love volunteering. It is a simple and amazing way to give back to your community and to help others, especially those in need.

Volunteering is giving your time and effort towards good causes. It doesn’t have to take all of your day, it could be a few hours in the weekend, and that goes such a long way.

My favourite events that I volunteer to help with, are those held for children. I have always enjoyed working with children and this even led me to become a teacher. I especially love working with children with special needs.  While you’re helping others, you’re also learning something new,  utilizing your skill-set, talking to people and working as part of a team towards a common goal.

While vacationing in St. Maarten, in March this year, I noticed an organization called SXM DOET advertising a weekend of island wide events to give back to the community and a call for volunteers. Naturally I contacted them and just like that- I had an opportunity to volunteer with senior citizens. The weekend event was packed with fun activities.

On the first day, I accompanied the seniors on an island tour, which allowed me to also learn and experience the island in a way I hadn’t before!

I had a great time in wonderful company, as I listened to their stories about how the island was in their youthful days.

The next day, there was a Fun Day Barbecue at a local picnic spot. I brought my teenage sister with me to help and it was her first time volunteering. My volunteer team set up seating and food service areas, decorated, served food and started games for the seniors and their families to play. It was an amazing day!

After all the dancing and games, I somehow ended up giving foot massages to two of the old ladies and we relaxed together and chatted. I met some amazing people that weekend, and I will make sure to look them up the next time I am on the island.

They really do appreciate this because as people age, their joints can become more stiff and painful, and a simple massage would help ease that discomfort. The simple truth is that many older folks are really in need of some good company and the visits give them something to look forward to.

Volunteering can be great quality time away from work and a busy life, because the focus shifts from you and onto making someone’s life better and more fulfilling, which is even more necessary if they are less fortunate.

It has been my experience that volunteer work also allows you to enhance your own self-development in ways you may never have thought of.  You can gain confidence and self esteem by working with your team of volunteers to help others. It gives you a chance to meet new friends, be more outspoken and learn more about your community

Helping others always feels good. You don’t have to give money. Giving your time and energy is usually even more appreciated!

 

Tips to combat those blues

Just because the weather is getting nicer doesn’t always mean a better mood and that mental health will improve.  If you are finding it rather difficult to get out of bed in the morning, let alone accomplish day to day tasks, you might have depression. And although there are several remedies to help you with your depression, there are slight changes and routines that can also assist.

Proper water intake is key to feeling better and many neglect to drink the appropriate daily amount.. Want to lose weight? Drink water. Suffer from acne? Drink water. Mad at bae? Drown him, just kidding.  In fact, it seems that not drinking enough water is the root of all problems. It can actually lead to a lot of mental and physical issues. For one thing, a lack of water intake can cause brain fog. This can prevent you from thinking clearly, not to mention leave you in a less than content mood. Of course, lack of water intake can result in dehydration. The symptoms of dehydration don’t always have to be thirst. Fatigue, headaches, and even excess body heat are all signs that you need to up your water intake. It’s not always coffee that you need to wake you up. Put down the mug and pick up a bottle of water instead. Your mind and body will thank you.

Symptoms of depression do not pertain solely to being in a bad mood. Your physical health can be a red flag too. If you find taking a nap is always on your mind, not to mention you’re struggling to break free from your sluggish and lethargic state, check your vitamin levels! Vitamin B, C, and D  and depression are very closely linked to one another. Living in Canada, almost everyone lacks Vitamin D, also known as ‘the sunshine vitamin’ which can leave you feeling gloomy with a lack of energy. Be sure to also check your Iron, Magnesium, B12, and Vitamin C levels as well. Not only can these vitamins and minerals help with depression, they are also essential for maintaining your overall health. Either get your intake through supplements or incorporate meals that are rich in nutrients into your diet. That poutine may taste good while you’re eating it, but it’s doing more harm than good in the long run.

It’s easy to slip into a state of withdrawal when you’re suffering from depression. All you want to do is crawl into a corner of your bedroom and watch Netflix all day. However, being a couch potato is highly counterproductive to improving your mental health. Although it makes sense to let yourself grieve and feel your emotions, it is more important to find ways to break free from the cycle. So, do yourself a favour and hop on a fitness cycle! Getting active in small ways such as taking a walk around the block or trying out something more daring like rock climbing, can be a huge step towards bettering your depression. It’s no secret that exercising releases endorphins, helping you feel good. It can encourage you to try something new, engage in more social interactions, and just have a change of pace from your everyday routine.

Ah, social media. The biggest blessing and curse the internet has to offer. Social media has become an integral part of all our lives. It helps us keep connected with Jennifer all the way in Australia while keeping us informed on Trump’s day to day shenanigans. However, it can also contribute to negativity in our lives. Unfortunately, being active on social media can lead us to compare our lives with others, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and depressed. You can be sitting at home, trying to get active and eat healthier while your classmates from high-school are posting photos of their engagement or new house. Getting caught up in other people’s lives is not only irrelevant, its detrimental to your physical and mental health. Unfollow the accounts that leave you feeling empty and start following accounts that encourage positivism and boast motivation. Better yet, put down your phone and focus on your own life

Say no. No one will be offended if you do. And if they are — good riddance. Whether it’s in your professional or personal life, politely refusing to do things can help you feel in control of the life you fear you’re losing grasp of. Unfortunately, a lot of negative feelings arise when you put yourself before others. However, changing this habit will help with your self confidence. You may just not want to go out for dinner with your friends one night and it’s next to impossible when your boss has already put so much on your plate. It’s okay. Listen to yourself. If you feel like you can’t take it anymore, step away. Thank yourself later.

Be sure to visit your doctor if your depression persists for a prolonged period of time or if you feel your symptoms worsening.

 

Indigenous women not forgotten, the fight continues

I watched a devastating movie recently called Wind River. Set in the United States, the series of events painfully drew attention to the lack of effort put in by authorities when indigenous women are murdered or go missing.

The story describes the experiences of those who mourn the loss of missing or murdered loved ones. The movie also depicts how abuse is often overlooked by authorities in Indigenous communities.

This past week a longtime advocate for missing and murdered indigenous women,  Bernie Williams, gave final words to wrap up the national inquiry. Williams, now in her 60s has led the fight for women on the East side of Vancouver for 30 years. She shared her own story of abuse which started at the age of 3:

“As many of you know, I don’t wear shorts very often, because I have cigarette burns all through my legs right up to my back. … This is what we endured. We were just kids. At the age of 11 to 12 years old, six of us girls were sold into the sex trade work.”

Her three sisters and mother were all murdered and Williams questioned why it has taken 4,000 missing and murdered girls and women to bring about an inquiry.

Williams insists that it’s time that the wave of violence is stopped.

The inquiry will continue to carry on privately, and was initiated by the federal government in 2015. It was intended to investigate the high number of missing and murdered indigenous women across Canada and to give family members of the girls and women a chance to be heard.

Chief Commissioner Marion Butler has shared that the inquiry needs to continue on. Butler spoke with the Canadian Press  and  indicated that so far, the inquiry has produced enough material to draw up a report, but that the findings only scratch the surface of the stories that remain untold.

The Commissioner has asked the federal government for a two-year extension on the inquiry.  There needs to be an emphasis put on cases involving Indigenous women and girls that are not yet solved. All murdered, missing and abused people deserve the same respect and attention to be paid, regardless of race or nationality. It is also necessary for authorities to determine what is at the core and root of the violence so that women are not the target anymore.

 

 

 

 

Tourist Tips: Surviving a police trap in Vietnam

 

We missed our turn. Even though we had a map, and even though the man at the motorcycle shop showed us exactly where to go. Even though we had read plenty of ominous articles warning readers to not miss that very crucial turn, we missed our turn.

Let me take you back…

It was the beginning of December in Vietnam and my partner and I were wrapping up our six-week backpacking trip through Southeast Asia. We only had ten days to spend in Vietnam and, although there were plenty of cities and villages we yearned to see, we didn’t want to spend our last week of vacation commuting across the country. But, our unsettled spirit for adventure also refused to let us situate ourselves in one place for the entire duration. So, we compromised.

We decided to hitch a short ride from Ho Chi Minh City to Mũi Né, a sleepy beach town where we could relax and explore the southern coast. Mũi Né is a fairly quiet place, but it still seems to thrive on tourism. It’s especially popular with Eastern European travellers, as many of the restaurants, shops and hotels are owned and operated by Russian expats. The town’s main claim to fame, however, is an unlikely set of rolling red and white sand dunes that are popular for dune buggy trips and beautiful desert panoramas.

This natural landmark was at the top of our list and, as we had done in previous countries, we set out to rent a motorbike that we could ride to the dunes and beyond. The streets were much quieter here compared to Ho Chi Minh City, a place where the mere thought of mounting a bike in  the lawless flow of traffic was enough to induce a panic attack. However, I’m a pretty overly cautious traveller (and person), so, naturally, I began looking up license restrictions, driving conditions and shop scams in the area. Low and behold, Google returned a slew of results about the dreaded ‘Mũi Né Police Trap.’

Story has it, that a while back, some Russian tourists were driving recklessly in the area. In response, the Vietnamese police decided to clamp down on unlicensed drivers. Technically speaking, you require a Vietnamese license to drive a motorbike anywhere in the country, but it’s very rarely enforced, as locals prefer to keep vehicle rental businesses alive. The Mũi Né police force, however, took the order as an opportunity to construct a scam using the popular sand dunes as their bait.

Situated near the landmark’s entrance, they pull over non-Vietnamese drivers and pitch freedom at a cost, encouraging tourists to reach deep into their pockets if they want to leave without consequence. As you can imagine, the more fear they instill, the heftier the bribe they’re likely to receive. Thankfully, we knew exactly where these police officers were stationed and had clearly mapped driving instructions to avoid their shady trap.

Here’s the part where we miss our turn.  

We didn’t realize until they were ten feet in front of us, pulling every foreign face to the side of the road. The night before, we overheard a guy at a bar telling a drunken story about how he just kept on driving, right past the police officers who were too lazy to get on their bikes and chase him down. I felt my boyfriend rev the engine and I squeezed his waist as we zoomed on by, hoping the universe would grant us the same fate.

Suddenly, we were the prey of a police chase. And, before you envision Pierce Brosnan and Michelle Yeoh whizzing through dense traffic at full speed, reel in your imagination- it was more like Wallace and Gromit going a steady 40 kilometres per hour and whistling an apprehensive tune.

The police officer pulled right up beside us, looked over with a tired face and simply said, “stop.” We joined a small group of scared, helmeted tourists who had also been caught. He first asked to see our Vietnamese license, which of course we didn’t have, so he then proceeded to pull my boyfriend into a parked pick-up truck where he broke down a deal: we go free, with the motorbike, for five million dong (about $280 CAD).  

Now, you’ve probably already heard this travel tip preached by your father or your Lonely Planet Guidebook, but any time you clip in your backpack buckles, be sure to have a trusty stash of emergency doe tucked away in a secret spot. It’s easy to shrug off, but, trust me,  it’s so worth it once your staring into the sweaty face of a corrupt policeman.

We told the officer that we didn’t have that much money and showed him our empty pockets as proof. So, he ordered my boyfriend to drive to an ATM machine and withdraw the amount while they held me as ransom. At the time, we were using a Chinese bank card and, for some reason, it wasn’t working in Vietnamese bank machines. In all other money-related situations we were screwed, but in this instance, that Chinese card saved our butts.

We explained our situation as best we could, and after nearly one hour of broken debate with the officer and his sidekicks, they shook our hands and let us free for the mere price of $5 CAD. I’m still not sure if it was our knack for sweet talk, or just the pure exhaustion of being a tainted trooper that got us off, but I sure was relieved to hit the road again leaving the hustle in our dust.

Sometimes in life you miss a turn or two, but hey, all you can do is reroute yourself to the destination. We did reach the the sand dunes, after all, with a stack of hidden cash in our backpack’s inner pocket and a soon-to-be hilarious travel tale to add to the books.

Travel Diaries: I left my heart in Sausalito

I have had the opportunity to travel to many locations and exotic destinations over the course of my three decades on this planet. For years my sights were set on Europe and the countries that sit nestled along the gorgeous Mediterranean. It was not until the past year or two that I began delving in and discovering what it is that can be found on the very continent that I reside. This curiosity finally took me to The Big Apple on numerous occasions, along with Miami and various locales on the California coast.  I have since fallen in love with the remarkable variation of settings, scenery and culture that lay waiting for discovery here in North America.

In recent months, I had the opportunity to set off to the northern reaches of California. After exploring Napa and Sonoma Valleys, where I obviously indulged in some premiere wines and delectable dishes, I decided to discover what it was that caused so many to leave their hearts in San Francisco. San Francisco and its surrounding beauty, offer an experience like no other.

Although I found pleasure in roaming through the neighbourhoods like North Beach and Telegraph Hill in addition to enjoying some chowder and taking in the fun sites and entertainment at Fisherman’s Wharf, it was when I crossed the symbolic and majestic passageway over the Bay-The Golden Gate Bridge- burning red in all its prestige and strength, that I discovered my true hideaway that will keep me coming back to the Bay area again and again.

Sausalito, California is a breathtakingly beautiful San Francisco Bay town that boasts a Mediterranean charm with the relaxed and luxurious culture to match.  Tucked into rolling hills overlooking the steely blue crashing waves, are scattered stately homes of all manner of designs. The front street is smattered with quaint boutiques, beckoning spas, for your relaxation while on getaway, and offers a plethora of fine-dining options. If it weren’t for the beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge in clear sight, it would be easy to imagine that you were spending time on the shores of the Amalfi Coast.

Many inns are available for travellers while visiting this town of  well-to-do Marin County. All hotels include tastefully decorated rooms, and many offer spa services that will cap off a day of adventure with utter relaxation.

In close proximity to the main stretch is a ferry boat that can easily transport you to central San Francisco to attend whatever performance or tour you wish to partake in. A short drive north of the picturesque town of Sausalito and you’ll find yourself in wine-lovers’ paradise where Napa vineyards will keep your taste buds aroused. A drive back from the northern wine region would be even more spectacular if the route chosen is the California coastal highway.  Views are surreal and the number of fishing villages with fresh seafood on offer that you’ll discover while making the trek back are just another reason to add this adventure to your to-dos while in the area.

Keeping fit and active in San Francisco is never a difficult feat seeing as there is no shortage of hills to climb. Hop on one of the city bikes or take a bike tour by an offered tour company, through the streets of SF and back across the Golden Gate Bridge to rest your head in Sausalito at your choice of inn. Perhaps finish off an active afternoon in the spa with a well-deserved massage and a crisp glass of chardonnay from a choice Napa vineyard.

Working up an appetite certainly deserves the best of the best in regards to dining. Enjoy a lovely evening at one of many a 5 star restaurants, for some mouth-watering authentic bites that will have you singing “That’s Amore” before the night is through. Sweet treats are easily found by stepping out onto Bridgeway Drive and stopping in to one of the number of bakeries and ice cream shops on Sausalito’s main street.

A perfectly poised post for visiting all that San Francisco, Napa and Sonoma Valley have to offer, Sausalito is the luxurious and charming destination to choose to ensure that your getaway can involve a touch of relaxation,  fine dining, nightlife, exciting activities and adventure. I fell in love with this place while I was within Sausalito’s borders, and trust that you will as well.

‘Woman-led’ businesses are now identified by Google Business

It’s certainly an exciting time to be a woman, seeing as movements for equality have been sparked around the globe, in addition to those encouraging women to speak up. One bit of news that was recently announced that has my attention, is how Google has introduced a new feature that allows business owners to identify their business as “woman-led” on Google My Business, per Google. Businesses that use Google My Business can enable the attribute from their dashboard, where it will appear in their listing until they choose to disable it.

I see this as one more way that females can support and empower other females, and it also presents the opportunity for women to publicly showcase their efforts and abilities in their given industry.

The My Business verification process gives the opportunity for women to manage information on their Google platforms, such as the maps and searches. Now, the “woman-led” descriptor, which will have a female gender symbol associated, is set to appear next to the details in the listing of the business, which will highlight any special offerings as well.

Female business owners and businesses that are women-led, can easily add this icon by clicking on the info tab on the left-hand side and scrolling down to the “Add Attributes” option. Simply click on the pencil icon, and a new window will then pop up, that will allow you to click on the “Women-led” button and apply this option to your page.

A Google spokesperson spoke about the new feature, early last month, in celebration and as a means to recognize International Women’s Day.

“We strive to organize the world’s information in a way that is inclusive of all people. Last year, we added an LGBTQ-friendly attribute in time for Pride. This year we’ve added the women-led attribute to empower women-led businesses to succeed online and enable people to find businesses to visit using Google Maps and Search.”

Google highlighted three women-led business at the time of its latest announcement, to demonstrate how the new option works for female Google Business users. These three businesses are Progetto Quid, out of Verona, Italy, which is a textile company that offers employment opportunities to women who are struggling to find employment. The second highlighted business is Reaching Out Teahouse, in Hoi An, Vietnam, which provides jobs and a support network to people with physical disabilities. The final business highlighted and used in Google’s example is Yogolandia Yogurt & Botana Bar, out of Chicago.

What are your thoughts about this new feature from Google?

 

Capturing strength, confidence and beauty: Why every woman deserves to step in front of the camera

Taking photographs has become a customary part of daily life – from selfies to photos of the kids, day trips and vacations, interesting architecture, fancy meals, the list goes on. But how often do we go back and look at these through our phone, computer or social media channels? How many photos of ourselves do we print off and place on display?

My family has a photo shoot done every couple of years where we have family portraits done as well as various staged and candid shots of the kids, the pup, and my husband and I together. These photos are always printed and put out on display, then dated and put away in an album when the new ones are ready to be framed.

We have fun as a family doing these shoots, coming up with ideas and spending time together. These photos reflect where we are in life, our interests and show how we are growing.

I have thousands of photos of my family on my phone and computer, they aren’t organized in folders; there are hundreds of duplicates to sort through, some are complete duds, and only a handful include me or my husband.

That is why we have a photographer – so we can be with our children in photos that we love and are proud to display around our home.

It was these family photos that led me to a personal photo shoot. This isn’t an idea I would have come up with on my own, however the opportunity arose to have my hair and makeup done, wardrobe styled and photos taken. I jumped at the chance.

I’ll admit, at first I felt a little awkward about getting dressed up and being in front of the camera. After all, there was no special occasion and no exact purpose for these photos. But, my goodness, it was a breath of fresh air. As a mother I have no issue setting up elaborate newborn shoots and cake smashes, arranging portraits of our children to hang on the wall. The kids get all the glory, and you know what? I deserve a bit of the same.

Participating in this photo shoot was lively, fun, and honestly, empowering. I felt beautiful, confident and successful as the photos were being taken. Those feelings stayed with me for days afterwards, and came back even stronger when I received the images.

That shoot was a wonderful reminder of who I was prior to becoming a mother, and who I could still be outside of motherhood, my career, and other responsibilities.

Every woman deserves to feel the way I felt and continue to feel whenever I look at those photos. It isn’t just about the cosmetic or outward beauty that is captured. With the right photographer your personality shines through; you will see strength, perseverance, confidence, and the beauty within.

These photos can extend to your professional life as well, be it on your LinkedIn profile, business website or blog. Having quality pictures that reflect who you are and what you do will set you apart. They show that you’ve invested in yourself and that others should too.

When hiring a photographer their price and portfolio are often the main considerations. However, if you don’t jive with the photographer, the photos will reflect that. You want to work with someone you feel comfortable with and can even be vulnerable with. Ensure they are good with kids and pets if they will be in the photos as well.

Have a plan in place for what you want to accomplish, and ask if they can honestly offer what you are looking for. Are they available to come to your home? Can you have multiple set-ups? What kind of packages can they offer?

With any profession there are varying degrees of experience and price points. This is not something that should break the bank, however it isn’t something to skimp on either. Once you decide how much you want to spend, take time to speak with different photographers and get an idea of who will be the best fit.

Finding a photographer and having professional photos taken of yourself and your family is worth the investment. Even if you only do it once, you have the images forever.

 

Top running tips for conserving energy with efficient style and form

When I first started running, I had  inadvertently adopted a few poor running habits that zapped my energy and caused me to run slower. To get the most out of my running performance and to stay injury free meant developing good running habits. This is always the key to healthy lifelong running.

I was new to the sport of running and had picked up poor running habits -which was easy to do. Having a busy schedule  led to my  thinking that stretching wasn’t important anymore, and neither was checking the weather conditions. The ramifications, however, can be substantial. By not stretching all of your muscle groups after a run, you are setting yourself up for injury that can shelve your running for six weeks or more. And being unaware of an approaching storm or sudden change in temperature can leave you unprotected from the elements at the worst possible time.

Here are my top five tips for adopting a more efficient running style:

  1. Stretching is not only a workout in itself, it’s an essential component to running that offers many benefits, such as improving your athletic performance through increased flexibility, while substantially lowering your risk of injury. Surprisingly, there are many runners that still don’t stretch. Stretching should be done after a 10-minute warm up jog, and again following your workout when your muscles are warm. Hold each stretch for 60 seconds or do two sets consisting of 30 seconds for each stretch.
  2. Carrying your shoulders high and swinging your hands across your body are counter-productive and will deplete your energy, resulting in poor running economy. To correct this you should run relaxed with your shoulders low. Focus on pumping your arms front to back, and your feet will follow. This allows you to conserve energy, especially while running uphill.
  3. Give yourself at least 90 minutes to digest your food before running, otherwise you may experience muscle cramps or an upset stomach. Always carry a water bottle for longer runs, or choose a route where water is accessible along the way.
  4. Avoid clenching your fists, especially as you become increasingly tired. Keeping your hands relaxed will help you to maintain control without cramping or side stitches.
  5. Always dress for the weather conditions – especially at night – for safety. Wear bright, neon, glow-in-the-dark garments with lights, so you can be seen by cars, buses, bikes, etc. For colder weather, wear layers that can be peeled off, carried, and re-deployed as needed. Older shoes lose their cushioning properties and can lead to injuries such as shin splints.

Before going for that run or participating in an event I always double-tie my laces to avoid losing time in a race or wasting time on a training run. I also wear sun screen, even when running on shaded routes. Suggestion-I wear a running cap with brim that will protect my eyes all year round from the sun and the elements.

Hopefully by following these tips your experience will be that much more enjoyable in the long run. Pun intended!

Twitter: @christineruns

YouTube – runwithit

Perfect Pairings: Enliven your food with the right choice of wine & spirits

Food is most certainly at the centre of any holiday get-together in my household, and runner up to a delectable meal, are the delicious beverages to complement. Wines and spirits are the perfect option when pairing with that Easter spread. So when determining what will go on guests’ plates, take some time to consider the wine pairings that best bring out the flavours of the foods you’ve taken such care to prepare (or simply plate-if you’re anything like me and are not exactly a top chef in the kitchen.)

Fiona Buchan, Director of Marketing at Lakeview Wine Co., shares how the right pairings can bring your dinner party to new heights.

“Wine and food pairings are not just for the elite and the wealthy. Anybody can pair a wine with their food to build new flavour profiles and enhance the dinner. The key is understanding the wines that pair best with the foods you are cooking.”

Read Buchan’s tips on the subject of the perfect pairings, below:

The Aperitif — Welcome your guests properly. Before dinner is served and people are arriving, serve a nice sparkling wine. The bubbles help stimulate the palate to get people ready for the meal to come. If you (or your guests) are not a fan of the bubbly, pour a light white that stands well on its own, such as a Pinot Grigio.

Honey Glazed Ham – The staple of the Easter dinner is the glazed ham, in all of its sweet and salty deliciousness. The ham calls for a lighter, somewhat sweeter, white wine. FRESH Beginnings Moscato has peach and citrus notes on the nose, with pear, honey and fruit salad flavours on the palate — ideal for the sweet glaze and salty meat of the ham.

Turkey – While not a traditional Easter main course, the turkey is growing in popularity as a catch all dish for big family dinners. Key to pairing wine with turkey is to find a wine that is rich and flavourful without overpowering the seasoning of the bird and its stuffing. For red wine drinkers, the soft tannins of a Pinot Noir are ideal. For fans of white wines, go with a Gewurztraminer.

Cheesy Potatoes – Some sort of cheesy potato dish is a must, whether they are simmering scalloped potatoes smothered in cheddar or a creamy mashed potatoes with the cheese whipped inside. The gooey, salty goodness of the potatoes and cheese calls for a sweeter wine, like an off-dry Riesling.

Asparagus — Easter is a sure sign of spring and if the calendar cooperates (this year is not likely one of those years) the early crops of local Ontario asparagus are in market to bring some of that spring freshness to the dinner table. Fresh, crisp asparagus needs a fresh crisp wine. The mineral and grassy nots of a light, refreshing 20 Bees Sauvignon Blanc is ideal for this side dish.

Milk Chocolate — If nothing else, religious symbolism aside, Easter is associated with chocolate. Little chocolate eggs. Bigger chocolate eggs (with rich fillings inside), chocolate rabbits, and chocolate shaped into the characters of whatever movie is hot at the time. Key to pairing chocolate with wine is ensuring your wine is sweeter than the sweet dessert. For the milk chocolate that is most common in Easter confectionaries, pair with a sweet Riesling or a dessert wine.

For more information, please visit lakeviewwineco.com. Stay engaged on Facebook at /LakeviewWineCo, follow it on Twitter @LakeviewWineCo and on Instagram @lakeviewwineco.

 

Woman of the Week: Laurie Young

Caring is the word that first comes to mind when reflecting on my meeting with Laurie Young, CEO of Ogilvy & Mather. She has a strong handshake and a big smile. Not pretentious, rather a combination of thoughtful and spirited.

We met to discuss the #MeToo campaign in Canada and the role women leaders must take to bring about social change.

Young’s office is orderly and functional. In jeans and a blouse, she is relaxed and open. She told me about her family – two kids, aged 24 and 28, and her husband of 30 years (a rarity in the media industry). She describes him as “amazing” and explains that his hero status comes from his consistent and unwavering support through all the ups and downs in her career – “the cancelled vacations and 2 am talks.”

Laurie graduated with an Arts degree and was immediately attracted to a job in advertising, where she found the commercial and creative successes appealing. “I could use my creative side but it also fed my competitive side. And I was constantly meeting interesting people.” The advertising industry is all about building relationships and it is obvious that she enjoys getting to know people, but this isn’t what drives her.  “Others would say I am driven by success, and I am competitive, so I’d have to say they are right.”

I asked Young about the gender balance in the advertising industry.  She explained that the industry still has men dominating board positions, but she’s hopeful it will change as more women gain leadership roles.  Laurie spoke about a week-long conference Ogilvy held in Saville – their “creative cadre” – a meeting for their top offices from around the world to share their current campaigns. Each office presented their campaigns on stage and when it was Young’s turn to present, she decided to go off script… and focus on the fact that it was International Women’s Day. Her speech began “What has struck me today is the number of campaigns about domestic violence, sexual harassment and gender equality that have been presented from around the world, but especially from India, South Africa and Indonesia. On the eve of International Women’s Day, we should not only celebrate great work, but we should strive to ensure that these campaigns make it to market and that they change attitudes and behaviours, so that fewer of these are needed in the future.” The room was silent for a few very long seconds, but then one woman, followed by another began to clap and then the entire room suddenly broke out in applause.

Young isn’t afraid to lead on tough issues like sexual harassment and gender equality. She acknowledged that her industry still has a long way to go when it comes to gender equality and admits her desire to break down the barriers. As CEO of Ogilvy she hosts networking events for her women clients that are specifically designed to help them develop leadership skills.

We talked about how society still expects women to dismiss sexual harassment and assault, how women are still blamed if they speak out about it.  I asked Laurie to tell me about some of her #MeToo experiences. She remembered a time she was sitting in a boardroom full of her colleagues (mostly men). She had just landed a big client and was excited to share the news with them until one man joked that her male client signed on because he “wanted” her. Laurie remembered her raw anger and the snickering from all of her colleagues.

When I asked her if she had ever been groped, Young remembered a time years ago when she was 16 and backpacking. She was travelling by bus and had picked out a window seat. As she settled in a hand from behind her slipped in between the window and her body, grabbing her breast. She remembered her anger, jumping up and yelling at the man while people tried to calm her down. She remembered that the colour of the seats on the bus were blue. Our conversation touched on emotional moments and how they seem to embed themselves into your memory. To what extent do these embedded memories of harassment or assault cause women to lose confidence, hesitate, or pull back from experiencing the world fully? Young didn’t view her sexual assault as a #MeToo moment because she didn’t hide the experience, rather she had the courage to turn on the man and expose his actions. And that is what the #MeToo movement is about – women finding courage to expose men who behave badly.

Laurie Young has the courage to face adversity with confidence and grace. And whatever her next challenge might be, I know she will rise to it with a twinkle in her eye.