How I survive December without entering a mall, or The beauty of small shops

December 13, 2010

I hate malls. I’ve always hated malls. Even when I was a teenager and worked in a mall for three years, I wan’t big on malls. I don’t like the crowds, I don’t like the cooped-up indoors feel of them. These days, I most hate the same-ness of the stores and the throngs of crowds. In fact, in our first months together, one of the first times my now-husband told me he loved me was when I told him I hated malls.

So you can imagine just how very much I hate malls around Christmas. I make an annual vow not to darken the door of a mall all of December (yet even I make an exception on Boxing Day to brave the crowds for sales, although I never queue up to enter any store).

While it’s easy enough to get my holiday shopping done before the deadline, especially this year with Hanukah starting December 1, that doesn’t mean I have no shopping to do all month. Sometime you just have to get something that you can only buy at the mall store.

On the weekend, I really needed to buy a certain-sized curtain rod. I tried driving across town to a fabric store, but they didn’t have the one I needed, which really just left me the department store at the local mall. I had to go the mall. But I tried to outsmart the mall. I went to the upper parking lot no one ever uses, came into the department store only, found my curtain rod and headed straight to cash. Five minutes–I could have held my breath — except for the ridiculously long waits at the checkout.

I thought I would collapse from anti-mall-itis, but someone with a huge basket of stuff let me cut ahead for my quick purchase and I escaped mostly unscathed.

The funny thing is the next day, still the weekend, I was walking along the street of my local shopping block, which features some of the same stores as the mall but also many smaller boutiques and coffee shops. And those stores were busy but not crushing. I could go in without hyperventilating, and I could get served and buy what I needed without huge waits or loads of frustration.

This has really renewed my faith in local shopping areas, in small shops and customer service, and has also renewed my vow to stay the heck out of a mall after December 1 every other year. I vow, never to return. At least, not until Boxing Day.

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My happy holidays email-in-lieu-of-greeting-cards inspires others, and that gives me a warm fuzzy

December 23, 2009


As a consultant, I usually thank my clients for their patronage, and like everyone else, I generally do it at this time of year. For big clients, I’ve done gifts in the past. And up until this year, I’ve send greeting cards in the mail to most clients and contacts. I stopped giving gifts a few years ago, and started making a donation instead, but this year, no cards, so I gave a bigger donation. This is the email message I send to my contacts this year instead of mailing them a card:

Happy Holidays!

I’ve been weaning myself off greeting cards slowly over the past few years, but this year I decided to go cold turkey, so everyone is getting a holiday email instead.

To celebrate the season, on behalf of my clients, colleagues, friends and family, I’ve made a donation to the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House to help them in their goal to provide healthy whole foods to DTES residents. As you know, I have become active in food policy work, so helping people on the DTES eat healthy food is one of my priorities.

You may have also heard that recently I sold my side-business, Movies for Mommies, to an enthusiastic new owner. To celebrate that sale, I’ve donated baby food, diapers and wipes to another worthwhile organization helping Vancouver’s downtown residents, Crabtree Housing, which offers 12 supportive housing units for young women with newborns.

On behalf of me and mine, I wish you and yours a very merry holiday season. Happy belated Chanukah, Joyous Christmas and a very happy and prosperous New Year!

And this year, in response to my email, I’ve had many responses back, saying my donation inspired them to give to these or other Downtown Eastside charities. And that makes me feel very good.

Happy holidays!


Teacher gifts

June 22, 2009

It’s the last week of school, which means my kids have one party and field trip after another, with nary a moment of learning to be found. But hey, they’re still at school all day and I still get to work, so for that I’m grateful.

But it’s also the time of year when we mommies have to thank all the people who have taught our kids over the year. Some are easy, like thanking the daycare staff and the classroom teacher. I usually do gift baskets for them, so there is lots of little things in it and is easy to share if there are more than one teacher to be thanked (did I mention daycare?).

But it’s all the other teachers that always trip me up. Do I have to thank the kindercare teacher who is there over lunch, or just the one who stays in the afternoon once class for the kids who attend pm kindergarten starts and only the kids from am kindergarten remain? Do I have to give a gift to the piano teacher?

What about the gym teacher? I don’t even know her name, but my kids have gym twice a week at least. And the librarian. Do I thank her? What about the music teacher?

I find end-of-school-year gifts harder to figure out than the Christmas tipping season. I got six gifts this year for all the teachers of my two kids, but I just know I’m going to hurt someone’s feelings by forgetting them.

Another modern mommy dilemma..