In Business: Reasons Mommy Drinks

DSC_4415

When you get poo in your hair: Local writers produce funny essays on the untold truth about parenthood

While on set of NBC’s The Today Show in New York, where they were celebrating the launch of their book, Reasons Mommy Drinks, co-authors and comedians Lyranda Martin-Evans and Fiona Stevenson were paid a big compliment.

“They actually called us the Sex and the City girls with babies,” a smiling Martin-Evans says from a coffee shop on Mount Pleasant Road. “I was like, ‘Did you get that off a poster somewhere? That’s the greatest thing I’ve heard in my life!’ ”

Friends since high school, it was at North Toronto Collegiate Institute that the duo began writing together, in the form of full-length musical comedies. Years later, when they were on maternity leave at the same time, the idea for a blog was conceived.

They picked the name Reasons Mommy Drinks, to stand apart from the 4 million other existing mommy blogs, and launched in January 2012. Within six months they had secured a book deal.

“We thought we should continue to flex ourselves creatively and do something fun so we decided to start writing and thought a mommy blog would be a good way to start,” Stevenson says, noting they also studied together at the Second City Conservatory. “We have always written in a comedic voice and thought, let’s write funny essays on the truth about parenthood.”

In the book, they combined their own experiences with tales from friends and mom groups. They wrote humorous accounts of some of the struggles of having a baby, from the baby shower all the way up to the 18-month mark.

They describe the book as the antithesis of regular pregnancy books that are serious and often filled with worst-case scenarios — which can be terrifying.

“So we talk about what happens when you get poo in your hair, because it’s going to happen,” Martin-Evans says, adding the book contains 100 reasons mommy drinks, in the form of short essays. “Or sleep training: I found it so hard, emotional and the lack of sleep and taking all those things and making them funny, allowing her to laugh at them. Allowing her to laugh versus making her terrified.”

Stevenson, who calls North Toronto home, says the book links those first moments of parenthood — which she summarizes as amazing yet overwhelming and funny in hindsight — to pop culture and celebrities. Being on The Today Show was also a culminating moment. They refer to hosts Kathie Lee and Hoda by name in an entry.

DSC_4401

“A lot of the entries stem from that pressure that mom puts on herself,” Stevenson says. “In the moment, those moments can be so overwhelming and difficult, but months later you look back and all you remember are the beautiful moments, and you really do laugh at it. When you’re sleeping three hours in a 24-hour period, at best, everything can seem hard.”

Although every entry comes with a fitting drink recipe — such as the Naptime entry, which includes a drink with thyme in it, or the Ode to Daddy, featuring a twist on the Manhattan cocktail called the Man-hattan — they stress their parenting lessons aren’t all about drinking on the job.

North-Leaside resident Martin-Evans explains the genesis of the Reasons Mommy Drinks name.

“It was more about that feeling that you used to get at work, like ‘Ah, today’s a terrible day, I need a drink,’ but then you go home and drink a Diet Coke and order pizza and you don’t really mean it,” she says. “That’s sort of how we came up with that hook and then we thought, you know what would be even cooler is if based on the essay there was a drink, a mocktail or a cocktail, that went with what we were talking about.”

Although Martin-Evans and Stevenson, who respectively hold full-time positions as creative director and director of innovation, had big dreams of renting a cabin for a lengthy writing retreat to finish the book, they admit the idea quickly fell apart.

“We were going to immerse ourselves, and then reality sets in, which is a child and work and all these other things that you have to balance, so we literally wrote the book with the great support of our partners, with naptime constraints,” Martin-Evans says. “We would sort of like, race against time: 1½-hour power sessions during the nap, let’s go and be super productive.”


This article was originally published in the October 2013 edition of the Leaside-Rosedale and North Toronto Town Crier. All photos by Ann Ruppenstein.

mommyreasons

Local Designer: Tuck Shop Trading Co. & City of Neighbourhoods

DSC_4565

The idea stemmed from a coat.

After receiving an old buffalo check jacket from her mother-in-law, Lyndsay Borschke started thinking about creating clothes that embody both city and cottage life.

“I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if this coat were a little bit more updated and it could have more street value so you could wear it downtown,” says Borschke.

The resulting cottage coat is one of her favourite pieces in her newly launched label Tuck Shop Trading Co., a line of ready-to-wear men’s and ladies’ casual clothing and accessories.

Her line includes toques, scarves, jackets and bags made with fabrics like cashmere, fur and leather. She had already been involved in designing lines of clothing for summer camps and schools when she decided it would be “fun and a little bit of an adventure” to do something with more luxurious fabrics while still being influenced by “that outdoor lifestyle.”

DSC_4524

A major inspiration for the collection was the time spent at Algonquin Park growing up. She also worked as a business director for a summer camp there, and now spends summers with her family at a cottage on Canoe Lake that was originally leased by her husband’s grandfather.

Historical pictures of his family, who in the 1940s would travel by train to the lake and were, in her words, “always superbly dressed,” are incorporated into the company’s hand tags and website.

The idea for the name springs from onsite tuck shops where summer campers can get necessities and clothing.

“I thought, well it’s sort of like a tuck shop at camp but then I was also thinking fur traders bringing fur to the old trading posts and then that filtering back down to the city,” she relates.

Borschke has a subsidiary line called City of Neighbourhoods, which allows people to proudly display their neighbourhood pride — on their toques. Midtown neighbourhoods represented include Summerhill to the Annex and Yorkville, Rosedale and Forest Hill to Lawrence Park.

Leaside will be part of the latest toques added to the collection, which will be available this month. Other additions are St. Clair West and Christie Pits. Sweatshirts and t-shirts featuring the neighbourhoods are also available.

DSC_4557

To celebrate Tuck Shop Trading Co.’s debut, Borschke held an official launch party at the Big Crow on Dupont Street near Davenport Avenue on Oct. 1.

“It was great to have all the products on display and it looked woodsy and like a tuck shop,” she says. “It had a wood background, but then there was also this wonderful smell of wood smoke and we were serving Canadiana-themed food.”

Although Borschke is already looking ahead to a brick-and-mortar location, which she would like to see in the Summerhill area, both her collections are currently available online at tuckshopco.com and select local stores, including The Narwhal and Over the Rainbow. She also hopes to expand City of Neighbourhoods to major cities such as New York, Boston, Los Angeles, London, Paris and Sydney.

“Since the launch the response to the neighbourhood hats has been fabulous,” she says. “It’s great to see how people are responding to them on social media and posting pictures of themselves wearing the toques, and also just how they’re asking for different neighbourhoods and how they want to represent their own neighbourhood has been really great.”

All images by Ann Ruppenstein

In Business: Neal Brothers celebrate 25 years

DSC_3872

Twenty-five years have gone by since brothers Chris and Peter Neal started a business together, baking croutons in their mother’s kitchen.

Today their line of Neal Brothers Foods, which grew to include pretzels, popcorn, tortillas and barbecue sauces, are available in grocery stores across the country, and the company distributes products such as Tazo Tea and Raincoast Crisps to major retailers like Loblaws, Metro, Sobeys and Longo’s. They also market salsa and pasta sauces made in East York.

In May, the pair further expanded their offerings by launching a line of kettle-style chips, which was actually the initial idea behind starting their food company.

In August, they added a fourth flavour —Maple Bacon — to the initial collection, which consisted of Pink Himalayan Salt, Sweet and Smoky BBQ and Pink Salt and Vinegar.

“We want you to open that bag and smell Saturday morning — with the exception of coffee,” Chris was saying recently from a beer pairing event at Leaside’s Amsterdam Brewery, where the new Maple Bacon chips were being matched with two beers: Big Wheel and Market Pale Ale.

“The maple syrup, the home fries, the bacon sizzling. We want you to experience that every time, and I think we’ve done that really well.”

Peter can pinpoint the start of their venture. It started with a letter he wrote to his brother, a student at the University of Queens at the time, while Peter himself was attending Bishop’s University and shuddering at the thought of the corporate career that lay ahead.

“I said, ‘You’re good at all these amazing things and I think I could bring a number of really good things to the table, [so] why don’t we start up a food company together?’” he recalls.

While building a business alongside his brother has been a career highlight, Peter, a north Leaside resident, feels having the ability to choose staff and partners with the same ethics and values for fair trade practices and environmental sustainability has been a privilege.

“We’re not shooting for world domination, but certainly providing healthier options than other food products,” he notes.

For Chris, another moment that stands out is the day in 1988 the brothers had to replenish their croutons in a store for the first time.

“Seeing the potato chips has been really cool too, because it’s our faces,” Chris says about their kettle-chip packaging, which features pictures of the siblings as they looked through the years, including one of the boys as youngsters in 1976. “We walk in and we’re actually seeing ourselves on the shelves.”

Despite fielding offers to sell the company, Peter admits he’s having too much fun building the company to seriously consider selling.

“People ask us all the time when are we going to sell, and we’ve had a number of bigger competitors approach us to talk about partnerships or buying our company, but then the dream is over,” Peter explains, adding that he and Chris both “get a kick about what we’re doing.”

“There’s a lot of fun with the business: traveling throughout Canada, throughout the world, to find new food, new products, new inspiration,” he said. “No, I don’t want the dream to end.”

This article was originally published in the September 2013 edition of the Leaside-Rosedale Town Crier.

NealBrothersTC