She’s the co-author of Sweet Potato Chronicles, and its brand spankin’ new cookbook that we think needs to be on everyone’s kitchen counter, How to Feed a Family: The Sweet Potato Chronicles Cookbook. She lives in Toronto, where she lives with her husband and children Esme (6) and Julian (4). We’ve been huge fans for a long time, and are super excited to introduce you to her.
Give us a little background on yourself/what you do/how you came to it. How much did becoming a parent shape what your business is?
Before starting Sweet Potato Chronicles I was the editor-in-chief at a Canadian fashion magazine for 8 happy years. I loved the pace, the travel, the managed chaos… until I had kids. I worked right through my first “maternity leave” and was editing page proofs with newborn Esme in my arms. Which sounds like a scene from a movie but really it was exhausting, and in retrospect, so ridiculous. When I became pregnant with my son a couple of years later I knew the centre would not hold. I had to make a change! My friend, fellow new Mom and workmate, Laura Keogh (she was the beauty director at the magazine) and I would talk a lot about how to figure out a way through this chapter. We wanted to figure out a way to use our professional skills, maintain some flexibility but work at something that reflected where we were at in our lives. And, voila!, SPC was born.
We wanted to create a place where parents could get everything they need around food – a recipe for tonight, the latest nutrition information, some great product finds and hopefully, a laugh or two along the way. And because of our backgrounds in fashion and beauty, we wanted it to look great. We know that most parents feel like they’ve got enough visual clutter in their lives so we always knew it would be a large part of our mandate to create beautiful, sunny images that look just a little better than most of our realities.
Do you work in a home office?
I do work from home some days, particularly if I’m recipe testing or prepping for a shoot. But I’m lucky enough to have an office outside our home, too. It’s a space I share with my husband. I also get to share the amazing tech skills of his young assistants, who kindly refrain from rolling their eyes at me when I need help with WordPress. For this, I’m extremely grateful.
What would you say is your “mom uniform”?
I have to say that my mom uniform is a work in progress. I still have a closet full of clothes from my previous life as the editor of a fashion magazine – all gorgeous but not really appropriate for the daycare run. It’s tricky when you’re alone writing most of the time and then end your day with an hour at the park – but I fight the impulse to give in to the schlep! I’m in jeans a lot but I pair them with jackets from Smythe to keep me feeling pulled together. I love oxfords or ballerinas from Bloch. And I recently discovered the perfect, slouchy white T from Market. I have a stack of them.
Do you cook much–what are your go-tos–both for yourself, and for your kids?
I cook every day of my life. Luckily, recipe testing for the site also feeds my family! And it forces to me to stay out of ruts as I’m always working up new recipes. My kids would eat pasta every single night of their lives if I gave them the option so I like recipes like this one for Orecchiette with Turkey and Broccoli where there’s as much veg as there is pasta. I like to be sure we’re meatless at least two nights each week and on those days I often turn to eggs. We all love Shakshuka but have also been working this Mexican Egg Bake into heavy rotation as well. Above all, I believe in family food, not kid food.
What’s your weeknight family dinner routine?
It’s often just me and the kids at dinner time as my husband’s work as an architectural photographer has him shooting at dusk many, many evenings. We’re pretty easy going at the table but my one rule is that I don’t want to talk about dinner at dinner. Sure, let me know that you love the Lemon Linguini but after that let’s drop it. I think teaching kids how to be charming dining companions is as important as teaching them which fork to use. So, I try to lead by example by coming to the table with an anecdote from my day or a question for them that goes beyond, “How was your day?” I’ll ask them where they think our next vacation should be or what we should do for the next family birthday coming up. I want them to know that the table is about so much more than the food in front of us. Sometimes we have amazing conversations and sometimes it’s a bust and they persist in knowing “how many more bites to get ice cream?” Sigh….
What’s a typical weekend like?
Weekends mean errands – groceries, swimming lessons, dance class, birthday parties, etc. But we always try to start out slow. I make pancakes at least one day of each weekend and I’m always switching it up – Lemon Pancakes with Blueberry syrup, Buckwheat Banana Pancakes, Cinnamon Multigrain. We let the kids have a good bit of screen time on weekend mornings, mostly because it buys us a few more minutes with the paper and a second coffee. Even though we’ve usually got a lot to get accomplished on the weekends we try not to rush in the mornings. Because Monday to Friday, it’s a wind sprint.
Best family trip?
We just got back from our best family trip ever in Begur, Spain. It’s on the Costa Brava, about one hour north of Barcelona. It’s an area made up of tiny hillside coves that are much too small for big hotel development. Begur itself is a tiny, medieval village with circles of narrow streets radiating out from the town square. We rented a great little house, would spend our mornings at one of the five or six beaches all within a ten minute drive, go home for lunch and a siesta, then wander into the center for a late night dinner. Tapas is the perfect food for kids and restaurants in Spain are very relaxed about boisterous small guests. One evening we were having a drink at a cafe on the edge of the town square while Esme and Julian romped around with other vacationing kids they’d befriended, and we just looked at each other and said, “This is it. This is the moment we’d imagined coming here.” Do I need to mention we’re already planning our return?
What’s the thing that always stays on your to-do list, never gets crossed off, and nags at you?
The thing that never gets done is our home. I always said I’d never be one of those parents that let’s their kids take over the whole house. It does get better the older they get but there are still always My Little Ponies under foot and scooters abandoned in the kitchen. The kids want to be where we are even if they’re doing their own thing, so I feel like you can’t insist that the living room be a toy-free zone. Our place looks the way I’d like it to for approximately one hour after our wonderful cleaning lady is here on Wednesdays and then it starts devolve over the week into outright mayhem come Tuesday evenings.
Tell us about the transition from print to digital and well, with the book, you’re back to print! And how about social media?
I think what surprised me most about making the leap from traditional media to digital is just how open and collaborative the community is. In my previous role as a magazine editor it would have been unthinkable to call up the editor-in-chief of our main competitor to pick her brain about cover lines or distribution. But in the digital world there’s not that sense of secrecy and competition – I feel like I can call or write to anyone and get a response. And I do! Maybe it’s because digital is still relatively new and everyone is still figuring out how it’s going to work. I would advise anyone starting out in a new field to not be afraid to ask for advise or ask for help. No one gets ahead on their own and you can waste a lot of precious time struggling away on your own. But then you’ve got to give back to the goodwill bank – when someone asks for your input it’s simply good karma to help when you can.
Social media is a big part of our project and mostly because it’s where our audience is. You can’t just publish your little blog and wait for people to find you. We spend a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and holy grail of online traffic, Pinterest. For us it’s been important to understand the subtle differences between each platform: Facebook is more serious, Twitter is the most irreverent, Instagram is the most personal and so on. And in the digital world it’s important to share broadly, not just use social media as a way to promote yourself. It’s kind of like being a great guest at a dinner party – no one wants to sit beside the person who only talks about themselves.
My guiltiest pleasure is t.v. bingeing. My husband and I won’t watch any t.v. together for weeks and then fall into a black hole over Orange is the New Black or House of Cards. We know we’ll be paying for it the next day when the kids crawl into our bed at 6 a.m., but when you’ve got to know what happens with Crazy Eyes we just don’t care!
Proudest moment in parenting?
My proudest moment recently came while I was watching Julian play restaurant with another little boy. Julian was the waiter and he asked his pal, the customer, “What would you like? Pizza? Shakshuka?”