They’re so happy! Video by Sugar and Spice

Along with writing emails to their family members, the girls have used their spring break to start hobbies in videography. Check out one of their video creations… Starring our cocker spaniel Maggie, our Cairn Terrier Laughlin, our Irish wolfhound Tully, and our rescue cats Vega and Haatim!


We’ll be in Vegas with Bruno, Sam and Ed

Jason and I decided that this year was going to be about us. So like 20-something’s in tank tops, we are flying to Las Vegas the May long weekend for the biggest music festival in the world.

Last year, we poured all our energy into getting the clinic off the ground. Anything we had leftover, time or money wise, was spent on trying not to neglect our children. Our holiday savings were spent on going to Ethiopia with the girls, and our rare moments of free time were at family camp or family outings.

You can only ignore your spouse / business partner so long, so this year, we are trying to focus back on each other. We’ve been going on a few dates, and Jason’s been bringing me flowers (once, even without a reminder from the kids!)

I wanted to try to see Ed Sheeran this year… So love love his music… But I couldn’t get tickets to his Canadian concerts. Then I had this wild and crazy idea. Why shouldn’t we go to a huge festival, and see Ed Sheeran, as well as many of our other favourite contemporary artists? Much to my astonishment, Jason agreed. So in May, we are flying to Vegas for the two day long marathon festival of Rock in Rio!

Vegas is probably my least favourite city in North America. Seriously, I can’t stand the flashing lights, smoking and infernal clatter of slot machines. BUT… We are staying at a non-smoking, no gambling hotel. The concert is outside for two days. And it is just so dang cheap to get there.

We are poor as church mice at the moment, but we used Jason’s birthday money for the majority of the concert tickets, and points from our business Visa card to book the flights and hotel. Woo hoo! The only costs will be food, booze and souvenirs for the girls. And the beer hat with straws that criss cross his head for Jason.


Check out the lineup!

Ed Sheeran, of course. His song below is so romantic… I am already planning on molesting my husband in public while we sway in the sweaty crowd together. Yes, you can look forward tot that, honey.

But the big kicker for me, the most fabulous of all! Is BRUNO MARS, baby!! Yeah!! I can’t wait to see him and his band.

Jason’s favourite of the lineup is Sam Smith…

But there are also Jesse J, who is AMAZING,

John Legend, that amazing crooner,

And even Taylor Swift (I could scoff, but the truth is I’ll be bopping along…)

It’ll be a blast.

My daughters would be insanely jealous, except apparently going to their Auntie and Uncle’s house for the weekend is on par with a monstrous concert. You have a bit to live up to, Ena and M!

Now all I have to do is find a house sitter for my Tully baby and the rest of the crew. Anyone want to babysit a 80lb puppy??

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Feeling whimsical today… Appreciating this beautiful spring weather, and all I have to be thankful for…

30% Off Africa Sleeps Braid Balm

The original Africa Sleeps braid balm… and still, our best selling product! Made with local beeswax, organic, fairtrade shea butter and organic sweet almond and apricot kernel oils, it has just the right grip for braiding your child’s hair. Plus, it nourishes the hair and scalp while the style is in! Sometimes, the simple solutions are the best.

spring braids ad

In March and April, get 30% off braid balms with the SPRINGBRAIDS coupon. Happy shopping! And thanks for supporting our family business.

Isn’t that a darling picture of Sugar and Spice? They were only 3.5…

Love has no labels

I remember, before we adopted the girls, people asking me if we could possibly love “someone else’s children as much as we would love our own.” The simple answer is that we couldn’t love them more. Not possible. It doesn’t matter that we share parenthood with others. The funny thing about love, is that it is endless… through loving, you only open your heart more, and make more room for love. It opens you up to share with others, and not to be threatened by others’ love.

Sometimes we get too hung up on externalities, like where a child is born, or what religion we believe in. Love doesn’t see externalities. There is a fundamental need that we have to love, and to share that love with others. As the Dalai Lama was quoted as saying: “The need for love lies at the very foundation of human existence. It results from the profound interdependence we all share with one another.”

We can’t be colour-blind or ignore the society that we live in around us. But only through loving unabashedly, regardless of colour, religion, gender, age or ability, can we change that society to be more just, and more compassionate.

Our giant baby: raising an Irish Wolfhound pup

It's now been exactly a month since we brought home our new baby Irish Wolfhound, Tully. Boy has he grown! He's going from 26 pounds up to 50 pounds. Yes… That's doubling his weight, and doubling his size. All in a month. Everything is giant sized with a giant baby.

It's been fascinating watching him grow at such a quick pace, and getting to know him better as his personality develops. Tully means “gentle” in Gaelic, and that's exactly what he is. He's loving, fun, always up for an adventure, and exceedingly gentle and calm. For a puppy, anyway.

Raising a giant baby has had its unique challenges in unique situations. Everything is bigger!

Most puppies sleep, eat, play, and poop. And Tully is the same… Just everything is Tully sized!

“Little brother,” as I refer to him in relation to our cairn terrier Laughlin, needs some serious physical space. In preparation for his coming, we emptied out my office in the kitchen, and moved it into my workshop. We replaced the office with a leather futon, which we got from some kind people, secondhand. I say kind, because we got it for $60, delivered!

For the first week or so, we kept it up as a sofa, but it became obvious that Tully's legs outgrew the seat.

So we flattened it out, and now it is Tully's main haunt. Tully has three naps a day, and thankfully, mostly sleeps through the night. His naps are either on the sofa, if he puts himself down, or in his crate, which is in my workshop.

The crate was originally shortened up, so that he wouldn't sleep in one end and pee in the other. But again, his legs grew so that he needed to stretch out.

So Sugar and I made him a new crate mat out of camping phone. Yes, I own a pet store, and I can assure you that they do not make crate mats, 4 inches thick, readily available. So it was easier for us to just make one. Completely Sound of Music, as we made it out of old curtains.

His favourite place to sleep, however, is the back of the station wagon. He loves going on trips, even if it is doing errands around town. He'll spend hours in the back of the car, perfectly happily. But it is starting to be spring here… So we have to work more on the crate training so that we can leave him not only in the car, the clinic, and the backyard… But his crate inside as well.


Tully eats four times a day. Most puppies eat three times a day… But quickly growing giant puppies need to eat even more often. So four times a day I measure out his kibble and his homemade food, add probiotics, fish oil, and digestive enzymes, and grow the puppy a little bit more. Interestingly, most large breed puppy foods, however properly balanced for dogs who will be 50 to 100 pounds, have too high of calcium percentage for puppies that will be, er, 160 pounds, like Tully.

So we give him two thirds of his calories through a balanced kibble, that has a good calcium/phosphorus ratio and other vitamins and minerals, and one third of his calories through homemade food. I make up a batch every week or so of homemade goodness… We have no shortage of fresh fruits and vegetables in the Okanagan, even at this time of the year. I mix them up with eggs from the backyard, and other proteins such as an old bison roast from the freezer or some leftover roast turkey. I plunk ingredients into a nutritional calculator and calculate how many portions the recipe makes, so that I can add to his diet each day, without growing him too quickly.

But Tully grow so fast, twice a week I have to adjust how much he is feeding. You can do the math… He's grown between 6 to 7 pounds every week! Jason says there are two reasons now why I can't be hit by a bus. He would never be able to do the girls' hair, and he would never be able to figure out Tully's diet.

Tully loves to play… He fetches wonderfully, and loves to play tug as well. He has his own little collection of toys, and love stuffies as much as our old dog Hamish did. He also likes the prints around in the yard… It's somewhat earth rumbling when he jumps about, and comical, as he looks like a young cold with his gangly legs. Unfortunately, Tully has decided that he is a digger. Dang it. I've been warned against this, and know I will likely have volcano craters in my backyard in the future. Interestingly, Laughlin doesn't like his yard being dug up, though. So every hole that Tully makes, Laughlin pees in it to deter him from it next time.

Just like other puppies, Tully occasionally mouths and play bites. It's Tully sized though!

So his mouth easily fits my arm or the girls' legs. Whenever they wear a new set of leggings, he gives it a try… But the girls are really good at stopping, yelling “NO!” And then the other one running for his bunny to distract him. Luckily, even his bites are gentle.

This Friday, he is going to grade 3 for the first time! The kids are doing measurement in school, so I figured out a worksheet and the grade three kids are going to measure him once a month for four months. His tail, the circumference of his chest, his height, is weight… everything grows so dramatically, it will be fun for them to compare over a short period of time.

Totally has also been out to the pharmacy, back-and-forth to the clinic, and a little walks. He gets very tired if he walks more than three blocks… Seriously! The tires out easily, but everywhere he goes, people know him, call out his name, and stop to give him a pet. I'm teaching him to sit every time he meet someone, so that when he's older he won't accidentally knock anyone over.

Oh and the last thing puppies do… Tully has to go outside after every meal, after every time playing, and after every nap. If you do the math, that's at least 12 times a day. Wow! What a lot of work. I did forget how much care and attention a new baby takes… And I have to say that the number of times he goes outside is giant sized as well. But he's doing super well with his host training, so I anticipate he will be pretty bomb proof within the next month. Thank goodness I am around most of the time to be shuttling him in and outside.

I hope you enjoy the pictures! My mother-in-law said that my children have been replaced on social media by my puppy. Just for her… Here is a picture of the girls and Tully about a week ago.

He has grown 8 lbs since then.




Young, Gifted and Black: Jully Black

To celebrate Black History Month, I’m profiling some of Canada’s amazing contemporary musical heroes. Children and teens relate to music, and feel connected with singers. I hope knowing some of these talented stars will inspire your kids, as well as mine, to express themselves and walk with confidence. As my favourite singer Nina Simone exclaimed “Oh but my joy of today, is that we can all be proud to say… To be young, gifted and black, is where it’s at!”


Born in Toronto, Jully Black is the queen of Canada’s R & B scene. Her proud glorious and powerful personality beams from the stage into the audience, telling you that she knows exactly who she is, and you love her for it. Her vocals are perfect, her attitude is bright, and her self-confidence is a lesson all young girls can learn from. Jully was the youngest of seven children; her parents were Jamaican immigrants to Canada. As a first generation Canadian, her story is one that thousands of young Black Canadians relate to.

I fell in love with Jully Black when her “Seven Day Fool” song hit the airwaves… it was so witty, contemporary and yet grounded in a rich history of music.

I’ve seen her in concert, and she’s so powerful, funny and confident. My daughters watch her videos and simply say “she’s cool.” Absolutely.

Quite a few of her songs have socially active lyrics, but she packages them in pop, singable packages. This is one of my favourites.

Jully doesn’t tour as much as she used to – she was mostly around Toronto last year. But if you have a chance to take your teen daughter to a concert (or one of the other venues she plays, like Pride Fest) I would leap at it. My daughters are only eight, but awestruck by her hair,  her powerful body, and learning lyrics.

Blood collection in Canada discriminates against gay men

The last time I went to give blood, I picked up a brochure from Canadian Blood Services. To my horror! I saw that our dear nonprofit that does so much good, does not want blood from gay men (or an other men who’ve had sex with men.) This is a completely irrelevant hangover from the fear of HIV from 30 years ago.

The video is from USA, but in Canada, and cannot donate blood if they have had sex with other men in the last five years. We now screen ALL blood for HIV yet, the discriminatory policy to gay men remains. Men and women can contract HIV from both heterosexual and homosexual sex. This five year weight period completely ridiculous to apply solely to men who have had sex with men.

I called and complained about the policy year or so ago, but this video reminded me that we need to be persistent to affect change.

If you think this is crazy! As I do, then please call 1 877 709 7773 or email and tell them that their policy is discriminatory, offensive, and just plain stupid.

Young, Gifted and Black: Drake

To celebrate Black History Month, I’m profiling some of Canada’s amazing contemporary musical heroes. Children and teens relate to music, and feel connected with singers. I hope knowing some of these talented stars will inspire your kids, as well as mine, to express themselves and walk with confidence. As my favourite singer Nina Simone exclaimed “Oh but my joy of today, is that we can all be proud to say… To be young, gifted and black, is where it’s at!”


Born in Toronto, Drake is a childhood actor (yeah Degrassi!) who grew up to greater things. His emotional, articulate rap music has shaken the often conflicting worlds of rap and hip hop. He’s won a Grammy, and critical acclaim from his peers. Debatably, he’s the most famous young Black Canadian in North America today.

Drake’s dad is African American from the US, and his mom is Jewish Canadian. It’s a pretty typical Canadian mosaic story, and I love that he shares his family’s multicultural background with the world. The quintessential SNL skit was such an awesome tribute. I bet his family was laughing as much as we were…

Now, rap is not my thing. But I appreciate the poetry of the genre, and can recognize talent, even it’s not something I enjoy listening too. My kids already like rap – the clean lyric songs they listen to on the radio, and with their dad. Rap is a cornerstone in North American Black culture, so we try to expose them to it, in an age appropriate way.

Frankly, it’s hard to find examples of Drake’s music that are appropriate for my family-friendly blog. Most of his work is very explicit… but that’s not to say it isn’t powerful, beautiful and tells intimate stories. This song with Rihanna is a non-rap example of his talent:

I wouldn’t be surprised if Drake got back to acting in the next few years… he’s one talented guy.

I’m not racist BUT

If I had a nickel for every time I have heard the phrase, “i’m not racist but… (insert racist statement)” I would be a rich woman.

If you ever hear yourself starting to say “I am not racist, but…” please shut your mouth before you say what comes next. Because I can guarantee that it is racist. Why the heck else would you give it the caveat?

I am a little racist, too. I am not exempt. So if you ever hear me say that phrase, everyone on the planet has my full permission to give me a good poke with a finger in the ribs and then wagged that same finger at me saying “you idiot. Think about what you were saying.”

Everyone is a little bit racist… We all have preconceived notion that we applied to groups of people. But the point is that we need to be aware of those notions, mitigate them, and try to constantly challenge our viewpoint. We need to be aware of our prejudices, and work on them.

Valuable Friends and Life Skills in Brownies


This is the fourth year that Sugar and Spice have been in Girl Guides… Two years in Sparks, and now they are nearing the end of the second year of Brownies. They are super excited about going into Guides next year, too.

The girls love camping, and it’s great experience for them to be away from home, by themselves, for a clue of nights. They learn to pack and live with whatever they took with them, self-sooth and comfort others at night, make new friends, and keep track of their stuff. Never mind the making bedrolls and crafts… These are such good life skills for eight year olds!


Sometimes the girls aren’t fond of all the activities they do at meetings, but they still want to go every week. For the most part, they are engaged and feel very welcome. It’s also great that we have a nicely diverse Brownies group including a good handful of little brown-skinned girls. We are blessed with a great leader who knows what she is doing. So this year, the girls have put together backpacks for people experiencing homelessness, sung Christmas carols at retirement homes, shared food from their own cultures, brought their pets, and this week, had a Valentine’s princess party where they learned and practiced table manners.

If you are looking for a wonderful, non-religious, community serving organization for your daughter, I’d highly encourage you to check out Girl Guides or Girl Scouts in your own neighbourhood!


Young, Gifted and Black: K’naan

To celebrate Black History Month, I’m profiling some of Canada’s amazing contemporary musical heroes. Children and teens relate to music, and feel connected with singers. I hope knowing some of these talented stars will inspire your kids, as well as mine, to express themselves and walk with confidence. As my favourite singer Nina Simone exclaimed “Oh but my joy of today, is that we can all be proud to say… To be young, gifted and black, is where it’s at!”



Born in Magadishu, Somalia, K’naan sings grounded and heart-felt music that reflects his journey as an African-born Canadian, and his perspective of injustice and inequality. He’s a hard-core rapper and pop chart-topper, with messages of peace, respect for elders, and social justice. K’naan’s grandfather was a renowned poet, and I heard that legacy in every song he writes.

knaan vid

From this video, my favourite line is this: “Still the thing that moves the human being, more than anything else, is their own hope for companionship, and for greatness and for accomplishment. Everyone in Somalia just wants a life in which they’ve done something significant, and felt something significant.” I think that line speaks to the base needs in all of us.

I’m a fan, and have been before his global breakthrough with Waving Flag at the Olympics. Here’s the second version of version of his song that raised money for the Haiti earthquake. And for our non-Canadian friends, yes! all these fab singers are Canadian.

His “Hurt Me Tomorrow” is all over the radio right now… such a great song!

Not all of K’naan’s music is kid friendly – pre-listen to what you download before you play it to your six year old. (Whoops! Oh, well, they don’t remember now…. lol)


What my kids do remember is K’nnaan’s story. You may not know that there is a children’s book about K’naan’s early life as a child in Somalia, and his experience as a young immigrant in Canada. It’s a beautiful book, but more importantly, a great discussion tool to talk to your kids about prejudice and hardship, as well as celebrating the joy in life.

In a CBC interview about the book, he said “… I wanted to contextualize the immigrant experience for children so that it doesn’t seem like it’s some ‘other.’ The idea of an immigrant to a child, it can seem like its own universe where ‘That’s what those people are.’ No one is inherently such; and immigrants have had their own language and their own family, and they were loved by their own grandparents. These are things, I think, that for a child need contextualizing.”

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