Creatively Giving

Now call me selfish (only because I kind of am) but when I first heard about ‘support Japan’ and ‘donate to the cause’, I likened it to the Queen Mother asking for donations to help pay for the royal wedding. AKA I assumed Japan was a rich country that had many resources and adequate funding available. Also, being well known for efficiency and cutting-edge technology, would have the ravaged city back up and running within a few days or so. Maybe a week, tops.

Luckily, a well-informed friend – well – informed me that soon after the earth quake/tsunami hit, the Japanese stock market crashed and thus – money gone. Taking their word for it (because actual fact checking is lame) I’m happily on board this new donate-to-a-good-cause train.

As I have an event coming up (The Perfect Wedding Show) where we’re supporting Dress for Success Vancouver in a unique way (via a Wedding Show), I thought it’d be fun to showcase a few other creative  fundraising efforts around the city in support of Japan. Also, as always, since I do enjoy judging others, or at least criticizing their efforts, I’ve also decided to throw in some random grades for their money-raising campaigns.


Nelleytimes Presents: How well do you give ‘er?

I (heart) Japan

Jammin for my Japanese peeps? I'm in!

The funky nightclub Fortune Sound club had a wide selection of DJs (some with Japanese sounding names so I’ll assume…), throwing down the hits and playing all the hot tunes in support of Japan. Altogether making the ground shake for a whole other reason.


Notes: The feel good vibes and fun factor are through the roof. (Please note, extra points would have been granted had they sponsored a drink special like a cherry blossom surprise or a kamikaze kooler)

Japan Relief Walk of Hope*

Another (yawn) walk in Vancouver. From now till October, you can’t go for a Sunday stroll in the park or a jog on the beach without accidentally falling into a walkathon.This time it’s The Vancouver Japan Relief Walk of Hope.

However, this group is making a few creative changes to the traditional (yawn) walkathon. Organized by Vancouver based Photographer Christopher Pike, he and a group of photographers will be photographing the walk and posting images on flickr to keep the giving momentum going. To make the images unique, walk participants are encouraged to wear red and white coloured clothing (both Canada’s and Japan’s flag coulours, cool!).

Grade: B+

Notes: Another walk-a-thon= yawn. But great photo opportunities= yay! (I can’t wait till the pics are posted!)

*Still accepting donations via The Red Cross website. Donate now!

The Facebook Effort*

Then of course, someone had to invent some sort of facebook based invite/game for donations. In the same vein as the bra game (black & lacy)  or the purse game (I like it on the kitchen table) or even the drinking game (I’m a blueberry avocado pineapple spritzer, ha!), this new one had a few requirements of you too:

  1. Replace your Facebook profile picture with the UNITE TO HELP badge (see right)
  2. Copy and paste to update your status to: “UNITE TO HELP For Japan With Love. Get involved and donate @
  3. Share and invite your friends on Facebook and spread the word to donate. Every little bit helps!

What’s great about it: All in all a perfect viral campaign! (Viral campaign requirements: easy to follow; limited cost to user to participate; a high ‘feel good’ factor; desire to spread to others).

Also, people are used to this type of promotion and it’s nice to let the boys in on some of the fun for once. 😉

The big question: Although everyone is spreading the love, and changing up their profile pages, how many people have actually donated? Answer: over $66,000 raised to date. Woo! Go world!

Grade: A+

I would have given them a B if not for the fact that it actually worked and raised money for the cause. I respectfully ‘eat my shorts’.

*Still accepting donations via The Shelterbox website.

Street Teams

And then there was this fundraising campaign:

Strategically placed at the corner of a busy intersection in downtown Vancouver, most of their donations seemed to come via honks from cars: “Honk if you love Earthquake relief!” so I’m not sure of the cash value of that.

GRADE: A for effort!

Notes: Although I’d bet they raised very little actual cash but raised lots of Japan Relief awareness, it’s good to see the kids out there productively (if not effectively) trying to help.

Give it up

There are many reasons to donate your time and give money to a cause so if it’s not Japan Relief, then you need to find the cause that moves you and help them out in any way you can. Sure I donate to anyone who asks me and to many different causes (mainly for the tax credit) but mainly because it feels good (it feels especially good when you get the tax credit). So go forth, find your cause, start up your campaigns, and get people to donate. There’s no pressure to make it original or even to be creative, just a pressure to do something. And when you do, just remember one thing…

I’ll be judging!


Don’t judge! Criticize instead.

Use all the semantics you want, but the fine line between judging, criticizing and constructive criticism doesn’t have to be so fine.

Don’t know the difference? Well here’s your handy guide:

  • Example #1: You suck! (Judgement)
  • Example #2: Wow. It’s incredible how much you suck. (Criticizing)
  • Example #3: If you’d say something positive every once in awhile… you probably wouldn’t suck so much. (Constructive Criticism)

Judging vs. Criticism vs. Constructive Criticism

  • There are legitimate reasons to judge:

Who doesn’t love the power trip Judge Judy and others must feel every time they tell the plaintiff  “You’re lying!”.

Fun reasons to criticize (taken from review of the new Nicolas Cage film Season of the Witch) :

  • Finding online examples of constructive criticism was though. Hmmmm. Maybe we can consider humourously constructive in a back door sort of way:

    Steven Colbert’s ‘The Word’ (video link)

    • We also judge the celebrities in the media:

    umm..I didn't have a superbowl party either. Is THAT considered news too??

    • We even criticize strangers we see on the street (Glamour Magazine just does it with more fashion credentials):

    Glamour Magazine's infamous 'Do's and Don’ts

    Judge on

    Which brings us to the task at hand.  In a post written a few weeks back titled “The Follow Up”, I asked anyone willing to participate to read a non-fiction passage and to judge freely, to criticize uncontrollably and to be constructive as much as possible. I facebooked the challenge, I tweeted the info and then I stopped (I do have a life you know). I’m thick skinned so I was prepared for the worst. Unfortunately, you thin-skinned folks were so easy on me I ended up with loads of unadulterated praise (Not complaining though! I have no problem with y’all stroking this ego):

    “I like it, after reading it I want[ed] to read more.”

    “… it’s pretty good”

    “I like where this is going.”

    “It’s good and intriguing.”

    To more critical appraisal:

    “Personally, I thought it was alright, I’d give it around a 6.5/10”

    To helpful advice:

    “What you need is development. Think about who these characters are, try to get into the furthest depth you can about who they are…”

    The Last Word

    I think deep down I was secretly hoping for lots of ‘You’re great” and “Wow, I would buy this story today!” responses, I realized I was happiest reading the constructive feedback. It brought up many good narrative and character development points I hadn’t originally considered. The characters are all formulated in my head but that’s not whats coming across on paper. Plus, the feedback shows me that I need to get an outline in place so I can visualize where I’m coming from and better articulate on paper where the story should go.

    Bottom line: loved it all! Most feedback came via email and it was interesting and encouraging to read all the comments.

    As one critic soothingly expressed:

    “If there was nothing of merit in the piece, I wouldn’t have bothered writing… a…critique.“

    To dumb it down: I wouldn’t have wasted my time if I thought it was crap.

    I appreciate all comments and feedback and see that you all did wonders in determining the fine line between useless judgment and helpful (aka constructive) criticism. Thank you!

    You all deserve a $25 VISA gift card in my opinion, but, based on my contest rules, I can only give out one and so the random winner is…

    Ryan @!!

    Luckily Ryan, I have already used your $25 VISA gift card as down payment on my yet to be written debut novel!  Expect delivery within 1 to 3 years.

    Just kidding of course. I will contact you shortly and get your prize to you this week. As for what you can spend your gift card on, that’s completely up to you. You can buy whatever you want with your big prize! From a higly regarded literary magazine or even a copy of Teen Vogue. Don’t worry,

    I’m not going to judge.




    …but I may need to offer you some constructive criticism. 😉

    A slip of the Mexican tongue

    I love my friends. Without them, I never would have gone to LA, Las Vegas (several times!), plays, beer festivals, polar bear swims, fashion events, Latin festivals, charity stair climbs, Turkish Festivals, Social justice movements, and whatever the heck else they’ll have me do/attend/participate in next week (can’t wait!).

    If it wasn’t for their sane (and sometimes insane) ideas, I don’t know how I would ever get off the soft, comfy, invitingly squishy pillows of my couch. On a recent Saturday afternoon, while the couch called softly to me, a girl friend called out to me in a much louder voice:

    We’re going to a Mexico thingy downtown. Come with us!

    My friends know me too well. Not questioning what the Mexico thingy was (Salsa dancing? Spanish language lessons? Illegal border crossing?) I dutifully got dressed and headed downtown prepared to dance, learn a new language and/or scale an electric fence (in any order).

    Located just outside the Vancouver Convention Centre at the site of the 2010 Olympic torch, the festival was scheduled to kick off at 12 noon. Arriving promptly @ 3:35pm, the festival was well under way despite the undesirable weather.

    Cool winds, grey skies, and a most probable chance of rain are not ideal conditions for any festival – let alone a Spanish themed one which brings to mind visions of hot summer sun, long sandy beaches and chilled tequila shots (betcha can’t drink just one…). Alas, when the Mexicans have a party, everyone shows up…albeit a little bit late.

    Having just gone to the Latin festival a few weeks back, I was confused as to why a Mexican festival was in order now. However, as a fellow lover of Mexican and quasi-Mexican cuisine (me quiero Taco Bell!) I was not one to question an excuse to dance outside on a Saturday afternoon (with music and not by myself for once).

    First things first, to the food we go. Long lines greeted us at all 4 of the food pavilions serving the traditional Mexican fare of Tacos, churros, arroz con leches and of course the traditional Mexican fare of Romano’s Pizza (traditionally served in Mexico’s unknown pizza region).

    I had no plans to eat anything, but by the time we waited in the long lines to get my friends fed (50 people deep @ each station) I had built up a healthy appetite (standing around chatting and dancing can burn so many calories you know).  As everything was in Spanish, I had my Spanish speaking tour guides translate for me. Tacos were served in platters of 4 for $10 and you could pick from chicken, pork, lamb, prime rib and there was also something listed called lengua. Thinking this was the Spanish word for language, meaning you could order in Spanish or English, I tried to show off my skills to my friends. To my horror, lengua correctly translates to tongue.

    As in cow tongue.

    As in a cow tongue taco.

    As in they cut up and cook the tongue of a cow and for some reason put this concoction into the innocent and open lapels of a lightly heated corn tortilla.

    Horribly disgusted by this decidedly revolting culinary concoction, I of course order 4 of them.

    Clockwise from top: chicken, pork, lamb & prime rib

    Or at least I planned too. If I ended up being hungry after my safe selections of 1-chicken, 1- pork, 1-lamb, and 1- prime rib tacos I was going to have first then I would totally, totally order the…er tongue.

    Luckily, I wasn’t.

    Up next:

    Rock Mexican music to the stage!

    Mexican art

    Non Mexican, Canadian celebrity spotted – Kristine Kreuk!

    Canadian Celebrity Kristin Kreuk

    Mariachi Band!

    During my time at the fest, I learn the reason we’re all here is not just for the food and drink (sure, sure) but to celebrate the bicentennial of the Mexican Independence movement from Spain. Its also the celebration of the centennial of the revolution brought about by Mexico’s desire to have a local government and to separate from its colonial Spanish controllers.  The fest’s aim is for us to learn more about Mexican culture; to view the marvels of Mexico; to discover lesser-known tourist destinations in Mexico (like Copper Canyon); to view thought provoking art and most importantly to reflect and to think about Mexico’s great traditions and colourful history.

    However, all I can think about is that dang tongue.





    Romano’s pizza image

    The L.A. Experience

    The invite to a 4-day jaunt to sunny California came suddenly and simply via text as:

    Wanna go to Cali? Flights are priced at $9.95 each way, plus taxes. We have to book right away though so text me ASAP if you’re in.

    The plans for this vacation were the same as always: Go out at night to dance and meet the locals and catch up on trashy reality TV during the day. This trip’s pick -the trashy goings on of the Kardashians. We kept up with them for several episodes & then
    followed Khloé & Kourtney as they ‘Took Miami’. In the latter episodes,  Kourtney has a Maxim magazine bikini photo shoot and then later gets pregnant and pops out a baby, then wants to do another photo shoot post baby but has unrealistic expectations on how her body can look. Ask any mother. Sure they’ll claim to love their little body wreckers children unconditionally but they know the real reason their hips have swelled out and their bellies have stretched…

    As I yelled at the TV characters (reality people ARE characters after all) because they look healthy and good and are so obsessed with looking better,  my friends send me incredulous

    Oooo sexy muscles

    stares with hints of black kettles and dark pots.  Ya, ya, ya well I’m just seeking out sexy strength is all (see Alicia Marie) and I like going to the gym.  Plus I have another few months to achieve a firmer look or forever hold my gut. Sigh.

    Alas, I think I have a good eat/live balance at least – after all, here’s how the weekend played out:

    Day 1

    Pre vacation weigh-in: Yay! Lost all the weight gained during the previous vacation (a few weeks earlier). Keeping this momentum going, blueberries and high fibre cereal with almond milk are had for breakfast. Lunch will be more blueberries & whatever healthy snacks are available at the airport.

    Lunch: Bottled water, half a ham and cheese sandwich (which was literally just ham, cheese and bread) and a small bag of Fritos for the low, airplane price of $8.
    Dinner: The plan was a salad until I saw an In and Out burger down the block from the hotel. Having wanted to try this American chain for years, all thoughts of getting a salad go out the door. A cheeseburger, animal style (with grilled onions and special sauce) and fries are what’s for dinner today!

    Day 2

    Last night’s burger and fries, coupled with a poor decision to try cherry flavoured vodka (what were we thinking?) and lots of it, left me with a sore throat and a forcibly emptied stomach. On the plus side, it’s like the cheeseburger and fries and the Fritos on the plane never happened. Yay! Fresh starts rock!

    Breakfast: Free continental brekky from the hotel. I plan on stocking up on fruits and lots of grainy fibre. Oh darn. Learning what a continental breakfast at this hotel means, I instead stock up on buttered english muffins, cream cheese slathered bagels and chocolate chip muffins. The healthy eating starts at lunch!

    Lunchtime hits and still high off my ‘fresh start day’, I decide to order something substantial for lunch – pasta bolognese in a rose sauce. This way, I can have a big salad later on for dinner (good plan!). The large dish arrives carrying over 8 servings of pasta on it (wow).

    Whoa. Thats a lotta pasta...

    A local friend joins us for lunch and regales us casually with tales of playing basketball with Leonardo (Dicaprio) and Leo’s  fiancé Bar (Rafaeli) and hanging with Natalie (Portman). The dropped names are whispered so apologetically that we each utter a “pardon?!!” whilst picking our jaws up off the floor. While he only mentioned them is passing at our pressing, I’m quickly reminded that we’re in Hollywood – the land of beautiful people. Knowing I have to buy an outfit for tonight, I look at the mound of food in front of me and nibble off one serving, getting the rest to go (for the next 7 meals?). After all, I don’t want to try on outfits with a food baby.

    Now THAT's classy!

    At the store, I gingerly grab a few dresses in my current size in the hopes that I can still wedge into them. First up, a beautiful and form fitting brown/gold Calvin Klein dress. It epitomizes sexy to me in a Sex and the City way (the good kind!). Double checking the price tag, I see its also one of the smaller sizes, whoop! What’s more, it’s actually a little loose in the belly area, double whoop!

    Dinner: Clutching my amazing dress, I head back to the hotel and polish off another 2 servings of leftover pasta bolognese (I’ll pick up some fruit later for the morning…). This would also be my last full meal of the day (see girl’s guide). The next meals would consist of olives, marachino cherries and little umbrellas.

    9 hours later

    It actually looks like the inside of a house, cool!

    Later that night, walking back to our hotel from the famed Hollywood nightspot ‘My House’, lovely gentlemen driving by spy our sophisticated outfits and decide to show their appreciation via honks, whistles and hollering (a true way to a girl’s heart). My body language ignores them but my stomach growls in response (olives & celery just don’t go as far as they used to). Feeling great in my new dress (thank you, drunken male fans!) I decide to allow myself a small snack in celebration. I slip into the 24-hour cafe attached to the well-known Roosevelt Hotel and order a deluxe burger (grilled onions, panchetta bacon, gorgonzola cheese, etc.)  with yam fries to go. $14 and 2 large containers later, I take 2 bites of the burger and a handful of fries and am literally stuffed (damn shrinking stomach). As my father would say “My eyes were bigger than my stomach”. With plans to eat the rest for breakfast (it’s healthy-ish, right?), I wake up the next morning with no desire for any of it. However, to appease my rumbling stomach, I remove the bun and polish off half the burger (protein) along with the tomato, onion and lettuce (look, a salad, yay!). The rest gets tossed in the trash along with the remaining pound of yam fries.

    Day 3

    Breakfast part II: Sleeping through the continental breakfast hours, my friend saves the day by entering the room with McDonalds’ fries for all. We excitedly dig in until we taste them and they’re ice cold. Not necessarily a negative for mickey dees but some underpaid worker didn’t bother to salt them so it was like chewing cold, greasy cardboard.

    Lunch: Thoughts of food pushed to the wayside (trying to choke down a carton of cardboard will do that to you), shopping was next on the agenda. Finding a great shirt to wear that night (it fits, yay!), we crave and share 1 dish of fast food Chinese.  Mmmm. Maybe I was starving but I thought it was the best dish of Chinese I’ve ever had. My shopping buddy (who had earlier polished off a large McDonald’s meal) nibbled on her half and informed me I must be starving as this dish was worse than a food court dish of Chinese grub (I wonder if that means she doesn’t want her half??).

    Dinner: After a 2+ hour tour of the city’s famous  landmarks, I’m famished. Sure it was a

    Uncle Phil? You still in there?

    seated bus tour but all that fresh Beverly Hills was taking its toll. Time to eat. I inform my friends I want something chocolate-y, deep-fried and caffeinated. After explaining to them that its 3 different things I crave and not some amazing superfood (won’t someone please invent it?), I settle for a half slice of pepperoni pizza and a hazelnut latte (protein, grains, dairy and…other?).  Going out on our last night, the next meal would again consist of olives and lemon wedges.

    After hours

    8 hours later and another great night of dancing to some amazing DJs comes to an end. This time at the 2-level, 5 dance floor Highland Club in Hollywood. Heading back to the hotel, I smell a deliciously meaty combination that I can’t quite place and turn to see a Latina woman with a rolling cart selling grilled hot dogs….wrapped in bacon. Wow! I demand that she sell me one and she happily obliges. A jumbo hot dog, wrapped in bacon then served with grilled onions, watercress, ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise. Walking back along the Hollywood strip to our hotel, the attention received is now more for the hot dog “ Hey baby, lemme get a piece of that hot dog…” wishing I could share the calories but having no intention to share the hot dog, I polish it off myself with mental promises to do some laps in the pool in the morning before we leave (5 or 6 should do it).

    Day 4

    Breakfast: More starches and butters and jams and cream cheeses. I have already mentally added 3 additional workouts at the gym for the coming week (to make up for the lack of laps in the pool too).

    Lunch: Lounging on the beach in Long Beach,  we head to Alfredo’s Lunch Shack. While I was planning on having a garden salad for lunch (hahhahahahahaha!)  they didn’t serve anything of the sort. We settle for corn dogs, chicken strips, fries while I had 2 of the best baja style tacos ever (protein, corn is the grain and the salsa verde and the lemon are the serving of fruit/veggie!). If they served soft serve twist ice cream, I would have eaten that too (dairy!).

    You should be lunch EVERY day!

    Dinner: on the plane ride home I get a bag of munchies and a package of m&m peanuts (you see the chocolate is the….ah who am I kidding??) and just enjoy the memories of good times shared in a beautiful city (damn those tacos were good!)

    The Skinny

    Good intentions are nothing without a little desire and some willpower. Eating healthy on vacation is absolutely possible but planning is obviously necessary. Back from vacation, I know that planning ahead is the key to staying on a healthy eating path and I definitely, absolutely, positively plan to get right on that….

    Starting tomorrow. 😉




    pasta image source

    In defence of celebrity

    Confession: I like Heidi Montag

    Not enough to be a fan, do a google search for her or even buy her albums and various products (I think she has a clothing line now?). In fact, barely enough to hit ‘like’ on a facebook fan page, should one exist, and certainly not enough to search for such a page.

    No, I have the type of ‘like’ that emerges once everyone else has decided to openly ‘dislike’ someone. Perhaps it’s just my contrary personality (but maybe it’s not). If you dislike someone so much then maybe I can find a reason to like him or her. Just to tick you off, of course. It’s more fun that way.

    Now, I’m sure my comments on Heidi aren’t timely but the bandwagon I’m starting certainly is.
    Quick recap: Heidi is a reality ‘star’ who’s famous for whatever reality stars do (live?) on the television show The Hills and its subsidiaries (tmz, perezhilton, etc). Most recently, Heidi underwent several surgeries to enhance her face and body (the word ‘enhance’ is subject to debate). She wanted to get it done, she told the world about it too and even got a cover spread on People magazine detailing all 10 procedures. My assumption is she figured the media would have picked up on at least one obvious change anyway (I’ll let you decide which is most obvious) so why not just announce them up front and take away any potential ‘did she or didn’t she?’ debate.

    Kinda like six of one...

    Well good for her. If there’s something you don’t like about yourself or your body and it bugs you to the point of distraction, go ahead and get it fixed. She has the money and she certainly has the time so why not get the body and face you’ve always wanted?

    Bravo Heidi. Bravo.

    Speaking of ‘love em or hate em’ celebrities, the name “Bombshell” Michelle McGee is at the top of the current list. If you aren’t in the know, she’s the much-publicized woman who bedded Sandra Bullock’s then husband Jesse James. I’m not for adultery (as the 50% divorce rate proves that at least half of you still believe in the sanctity and forever-ness of marriage) but I am against blaming the mistress/lover. Everyone has a choice and Jesse James made his.

    Awww. She looks so innocent...

    Is she innocent? I’m going to go with a definite yes (oooo. I can feel the mouths dropping right about now). After all, she wasn’t the married one. However, even my favourite writer/comedienne Tina Fey vilified her on Saturday Night Live (no Tina, no!). Tina called her out by saying “When your body looks like a dirt bag’s binder from 7th grade metal shop it doesn’t bode well for your character” and that the problem is that there are “women like Bombshell McGee running around”. While I’m neutral in regards to tattoos, we can all agree there are woman out there who love full body tattoos and probably aren’t interested in sleeping with your husband.

    Next up: Mister Jon Gosselin.

    Who's that monkey on your back?

    See. My support is not gender specific. The much loved ‘reality dad of the year’ won over North American hearts as the doting and long suffering father and husband to Kate Gosselin and their 8 beautiful children. Today, the ‘dirt bag’ father is winning awards for all the wrong reasons.  Married in his early 20’s, then a father of 8 children by age 26, Jon, now 30, is getting criticized for his Las Vegas partying ways, his Christian Audigier brand shirts and the young women he dates. Of course, that’s all the media’s showing us. We have to now believe that the loving, supportive, full time dad chronicled 24-7 from 2004 to 2009 is now a philandering playboy in 2010. So which version of Jon Gosselin do you think would sell more copies of those weekly trash rags?

    I hate finding myself on the supporting end of bad* behaviour (*depends on your definition of bad) however I do love the debates that ensue.

    Luckily, there are many sites out there that share my outrage against the vilification of certain celebrities by the media. They also share my compassion for those who unfortunately lay claim to the terms: ‘tabloid heel’ or ‘go-to villain’ and now have every minute of their lives blown up and negatively analyzed in the public eye. I should probably seek out those websites and it would be great of me to support them by signing up to their newsletters, etc or I could even leave encouraging comments on their various blog  posts but frankly,

    I’m not that big a fan.




    Heidi Montag photo source

    Jon Gosselin photo source