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KonMari-ing the Crap outta this place

Hello! If you don’t follow me on the facebooks (/jen.watkiss) or twitter (@jen_watkiss) you may not know that Team Watkii expands to a foursome in August. I know, we’re pretty stoked.

But this means we need to make room in for a whole extra person in our current existence. And we have amassed a lot of crap in the current formulation of our family. Some (lots!) of it must go!

We also need to combine the bigger master bedroom into a guest room/office/dog room, and move ourselves into the smaller double bedroom (which has until now been a guest/laundry-drying/dog room), so we can turn the current office into a nursery. Compounding the awkwardness is that we live in a Victorian Terrace style house, so there are lots of narrow hallways, doorways, and small rooms. Every time we move something, it generally means a cascade of moving a bunch of other things in some perverse game of furniture Tetris, involving a lot of cursing and stairs.

A happy coincidence of timing meant that, just in time for the nesting instinct to arrive in full-force, I discovered Marie Kondo’s “Life changing Magic of Tidying.” A few pages in, I was ready to write the entire book off as a load of total crap. Thanking my belongings? Dumping everything out and touching every. single. item. in order to evaluate? Not bloody likely, unless I’m going to take four days off to deal with the clutter.

So I was pretty sceptical when I read her instruction to get rid of anything that “doesn’t bring you Joy.” What the hell? Joy? I am hardly joyful about my toilet brush. But it’s still a thing we need in the house.

If you really think about the concept of having only things that bring you Joy, though, the method holds. And has been the most useful formula I’ve found for deciding what to keep and what to toss.

Because Joy is not just about out-of-the ordinary happiness. Joy can come from basic purpose and satisfaction. Having a toilet brush brings me joy, because I’m able to clean the toilet, and a clean toilet makes me feel good about my home.

It becomes even more powerful when you flip the equation, and look at things that are still useful, but maybe don’t bring Joy. It also combats the famous William Morris quote, instructing one to “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

For example, we have a shedload of tiny tchochkes that Isaac has collected from outings and in birthday party bags. Having a few of these things around brings me Joy, because they’re useful for dropping into a day pack when we’re out for a day and could use some novelties to keep a small person occupied at restaurants or on long car rides.

However, those tiny tchochkes cease being useful when we’ve got a box amassing hundreds of the stupid little things. Then they cross into ‘oppressive’ territory, when I can’t imagine when we’ll ever use them all up, and I need to figure out where to keep them in the meantime. KonMari’s theory of “Joy” makes it a lot easier to keep a small selection of small toys, etc. and guiltlessly toss the rest.

Same goes for books I’ve meant to read, clothes I’ve meant to wear more, furniture that no longer suits its purpose. All these things to which my first reaction is negative (guilt, annoyance, frustration), instead of positive (or joyful) – even though they may be useful – can go.

So am I a KonMari convert? Maybe? I’m not entirely sure. I’m still not talking to my possessions. And I’m not making massive piles in the middles of rooms to start the process (who actually has time for that?). But we’ve taken 5 bags to the charity shop so far, with no signs of slowing. And it actually feels pretty good.

Blog: interrupted

I appear to have broken the back end of my blog. Perhaps the latest wordpress update is to blame?

In any case, I’m writing this from my phone, where the wordpress app still seems to be ok (assuming I can actually publish this).

Any wordpress wizards want to point me in the direction of what I can/should do now?

And in the meantime, here is a picture of my dog for you to stare at.


For the Girls

A few days ago was the first ever international day of the girl, and a couple pieces of news from both places I call home are converging to make it especially poignant.

In Vancouver, 15-year-old Amanda Todd killed herself because she could no longer handle the bullying and taunting after she flashed a webcam, and a photo of her naked breasts was used to shame and ridicule her for years afterward.

It’s being painted mostly as another issue of bullying – but it goes so much further than that.

The Feminista column on the Vancouver Observer site goes exactly there with the piece “Why isn’t anyone talking about the misogyny involved in Amanda Todd’s life and death?

There was no discussion of the pressure girls like Amanda experience to measure their worth through their sexual desirability. From her story it sounds like this man had the hallmarks of a predator—he tried to use her photos to blackmail her and yet she’s the one who got blamed….In a context in which women are told in manifold ways that everything about them is wrong— their emotions, their bodies, their fat, their lack of fat, their developing, their aging—when someone comes along and tells you that you are perfect and beautiful, that’s some powerful stuff.

This man’s intention, when he threatened Todd with exposure of the coercive images, was to make Todd feel like a whore.

If we diffuse the judgment, and look at the behaviour of the attacker, we can weaken the attack. We need less focus on “the mistake” and more on the sexism in our society that this man wielded—successfully—to rid the planet of another young woman.”

Which brings me to this side of the pond, and the fact that Page 3 of The Sun still exists.

As long as we are glorifying the dissection of women down to body parts, and marking their “newsworthiness” by their willingness to show their breasts, we are going to have girls like Amanda who believe showing off their bodies is the only way to gain attention and acceptance. And boys who “have been encouraged by a wider culture to see girls’ bodies as property which they can own.

They may be an ocean apart, but the issues are distressingly related. It’s why the UN declared it the international day of the girl. So while you are forging ahead with your anti-bullying activities, perhaps you can remember to sign the No More Page 3 petition as well.

For Amanda. For all of us.


I mentioned on the twitters a little while ago that I thought I wanted TOMS for the summer. And I was correct, because I went and bought some, and LOVE them. Cute, comfortable, perfect for tromping around in the heat.


After having them for only about 6 weeks (admittedly wearing them near constantly for that time) the sole of one of the shoes started to separate at the toe.

I had a hobo-like flappy-mouth shoe! Not only unattractive, but also hazardous, because I’d trip over it sometimes.

I emailed TOMS, and got a form-reply saying I should try returning to the point of purchase if it was a retail sale, and if the store couldn’t help me, to supply TOMS with the details.

I went back to the store, but with so much time having passed, and having long-since thrown out my receipt, they couldn’t help me.

So back to emailing TOMS with their requested pictures, details of the issue, where I bought the shoes, the model/colour, and my contact info.

And then I heard nothing for a couple weeks.


I received a set of emails letting me know that the people at TOMS stand behind their craftsmanship, and my new replacement pair was on the way! No need to return the old ones.

The new shoes arrived today, so my feet are TOMS-clad once again, just in time for our trip!

I’m pretty pleased, and looking forward to wearing this pair out (hopefully in significantly longer than 6 weeks this time), and adding some winter TOMS to my shoe collection.


I love a happy customer-service story. Don’t you?

Derek K. Miller

My friend Derek passed away yesterday.

We met in 2005 at the first Northern Voice social media conference, and though we’ve never been close, he (and through him, his family) has always been one of my favourite blogging colleagues.

Since meeting, I’ve learned we have many friends in common, which is something many who knew him will find. Derek was one of the most universally well-liked people I’ve ever met. His gregarious personality was only outdone by his generous and gracious spirit.

I’m so glad we were able to see him for one last visit, and introduce him to Isaac a few weeks ago. I miss him already.

In typical Derek fashion, he’s carefully curated his website so that it will remain a legacy of his humour, creativity, talent and (most recently) dignity and strength living with and dying of cancer.

Derek had hoped to live to see some of the stunningly beautiful Spring days the Lower Mainland has to offer, and the weather yesterday served up just that. I hope he enjoyed the view before he slipped away.

Derek was such a force, he hardly needs any of our efforts to ensure he leaves a legacy, but it would be wonderful if you would do any of the following:

1. Tell your loved ones you love them, and be kind to each other;
2. Donate to the Canadian Cancer Society, if that’s your thing;

and above all else,

3. From this day forward, never ever use more than one space following a period.

The Campfire Grill – Kickass BBQ

If you haven’t checked the update on my last post, mere hours after putting my frustration out to the universe, Inger McCrae, proprietress of the Campfire Grill (along with her husband Mike McCrae), commented on my post with some excellent directions to their even more excellent BBQ!

Tucked in the entrance of the Eagle Vista RV Park (Directions hint: if all else fails, follow highway signs to Eagle Vista RV Park) is the great little trailer that’s home to Campfire’s prep area and attached to an assortment of grills and smokers. It does look like a couple of tiny shacks, but the best version of a shack that’s cute and comfortable and clean and a place I’d love to spend a lot of time hanging out on a late summer evening. There’s even a fire pit, and Inger & Mike have marshmallows for roasting!

But, enough of the ambiance, you say, what about the food? DELICIOUS!

We tried their BBQ Feast for 2-3, so we could sample a little of everything. And it was all good!

  • The pulled pork was awesome, a perfect mix of fat and lean to get a great shred with a mild rub.
  • The brisket was also really nice, juicy and falling apart, and wonderful with their honey-mustard sauce (Mike & Inger make 4 BBQ sauces: Chipotle, Apricot, Bourbon and Honey Mustard)
  • The rub on the ribs was unique, with hints of turmeric(?). Neil kept laughing at me because I was grunting with pleasure as I ate them.
  • And the chicken – wow. I’m always disappointed when I get smoked chicken anywhere but off my own BBQ, because it’s usually a dried out memory of how good it could’ve been UNTIL NOW. Mike’s chicken was juicy and succulent and everything good BBQ chicken should be.

  • Neil gave two big thumbs up to the coleslaw, which is a ringing endorsement. His tastes for slaw are very personal, and his standards are high. He is generally wary of any slaw with mayo (as it often ends up tasting like mayonnaise soup), but the slaw at Campfire is a perfect mix of creamy and acidic, with a nice addition of crisp apple to the green & red cabbage and carrots.

    I would say the only disappointment was the beans, except they weren’t exactly disappointing, they were good, just a bit boring compared to how excellent everything else was. I have yet to find local baked beans that can hold a candle to the Memphis Blues Pit Beans.

    The Campfire Grill Smokin’ BBQ has only been open since May long weekend, and after tasting the food I can see how they did a brisk business over the summer!

    It’s great to see more excellent BBQ able make the move from private backyards and competitions to full-time “restaurant” offerings in this part of the world. And looking at Campfire’s Facebook page, I’m looking forward to trying more of the awesome things that come off Mike’s grill. It’s certainly now a must-stop for me if I’m going to or through Squamish.

    The Campfire Grill...Smokin' Barbecue on Urbanspoon