Filling the House with Family


How many members of your family – or your spouse’s family – have you crammed into your home in one day, one evening or one weekend? The most relatives I have ever hosted for dinner was 32, and Holiday meals at my house average 25 people. I have hosted parties for family or friends with dozens of people too. But how many of these relatives have stayed at your house overnight?

Each year, throughout the summer, my husband, David, and I host a ton of close family who are visiting from overseas. So, when I say we “host” I mean we cram in various family members for days at a time into our house. David’s family lives all over the world, from faraway places like Israel and New Zealand to various towns in Ontario like Peterborough and London. Their main destination is the family’s beloved country home in Saint-Donat, Quebec (details on that house coming in a future post). But they also enjoy some big-city fun, BBQ steak and a visit to our home while they are in Canada.

Once in a while we will host a few relatives, but usually when one plans a visit they line up behind him or her and come along too. In the summer of 2014, just after we moved into our current home, I believe we crammed 12 or 13 people into the house for four days. I had people sleeping on couches, a futon, a couple of beds and even the floor. There were toys, clothes and scraps of food everywhere. My fridge overflowed with food and emptied every few hours, and we gave our stove and oven a good workout. There was screaming and whispering and tears and laughter.

Hugs from cousins visiting a few years ago – who again visited us this past week

This week was the start of our annual summer hosting of David’s family, and this weekend we were a rowdy group of 8 people in the house. We made full use of our spacious home, with people sleeping on the futon, a couch, beds and even the floor. I cooked from all the food groups, starting with a huge steak and chicken BBQ dinner on Friday night, and the festivities came to a crescendo Sunday night with my first-ever attempt at fish and chips.

We always need a photo when cousins arrive at our house, as we did this week
Eating fish and chips in the backyard last night

Family will continue to arrive and depart Canada in the coming weeks, and most of them will make a stop at our house. Next weekend David’s sisters are joining us, then a few days later his brother arrives. Each guest is different, and as is the case with all of us (including me, David and our children!), everyone has their quirks. Some are cleaner and tidier than others, some are loud while others are quiet, but one thing is clear – they all like to eat!

Now don’t get me wrong – I enjoy hosting family, and I love to cook for a crowd. In particular, I like to cook for a crowd who appreciates food and like to eat. David and I look forward to the summer visits from various relatives, and we carefully plan our menus, sleeping arrangements and activities. But of course, it’s a lot of work, especially when our house is crammed with people for days.

This weekend’s relatives have moved on to other destinations and for a few days the house is quiet with only me, David and our girls at home. We will open our home again this coming weekend to family, find various places for them to sleep and fill the fridge with wondrous delights. Then we will come up for air, jump back in for another weekend, until it’s our turn to make our way to Saint-Donat and join the throngs of family along the shores of Lake Archembault.

July is almost over and as usual summer is flying by too fast. It’s nice to know that we can always count on visits from family to enrich the season. We feel blessed to have a large family who actually want to spend time together year after year, and we look forward to hosting them for years to come.

Will Canada Ever have a Real Child Care Program?

child care

“Canada succeeds when women and girls are given opportunities to succeed.”  This was part of a statement I read by a spokesperson at the Canadian Department of Social Development. On its own I agree wholeheartedly with this statement, and I believe that the current Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, is a strong advocate of advancing the role of women in our society. However, while women and girls have more opportunities than ever to be educated and follow the career path of their choice, when they become mothers they have few choices for child care.

Our government is not doing enough to support educated and ambitious women who want to continue to pursue their career goals once they become mothers. Limited funds have been allocated to help Canadian families pay for the exorbitant cost of child care.

This week the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that the Government of Canada could spend $8 billion annually to help families reduce the cost of child care. Not only that, according to the IMF, this program would pay for itself, with more women going back into the workforce, contributing to the economy and paying more income tax.

I’m not going to analyze and discuss all the pros and cons of this specific idea brought forward by the IMF. I’m not a finance expert and have not read the full report. But I’m glad the report re-energized the conversation about the very high cost of child care.

In this year’s budget the federal government announced a new child care benefit plan, with money paid directly to families. The amount a family received was based on their income from the previous year. With this new initiative, lower income families, logically, receive the greatest amount of money. It is explained well in a Toronto Star article published on July 26:

“The $23-billion-a-year benefit is worth up to $6,400 annually for a child under six, and up to $5,400 a year for children six to 17. The benefit is income tested, meaning that the less a family earns, the more it receives in benefits per child.

“The IMF says the benefit doesn’t provide incentives for parents to work or get job training.

“The effect on low-income families may be the largest, with the IMF team calculating that they would see their finances worsen if both parents work due as a result of a reduction in the child benefit, increases in taxes, and covering the high cost of child care. Middle and high-income families see their finances improve or not change at all if both parents work, the report says.”

I definitely agree that the high cost of child care is encouraging women in low income families to just stay home. They get little financial benefit from working, often long hours, and paying someone else to care for their children.

However, while the financial benefit is significant in middle to higher income families when both parents work, the high cost of child care does take a hit on the overall financial situation of the family.

Middle income families in Canada are often faced with big expenses, such as a mortgage, carrying costs to run a home and the general cost of raising children (other than child care). The two incomes are necessary to pay the bills, and the added, often large child care expense, takes its toll. For a family with two or sometimes three young children, the child care bill can easily balloon to well over $2,000 per month, which represents a significant percentage of any salary.

I was lucky to find good, safe child care programs for my first two children, who thrived in daycare and full-day preschool. They attended full-day programs from the age of 12 months so that I could continue to work and contribute to the finances of my family. But it was very expensive.

My life has changed since my third child was born, and I am no longer in a full-time job (something I have discussed quite openly in previous posts). I do not need a full-time daycare program right now and am blessed to have the most wonderful and loving child care support part-time in my home for the baby. Right now, as I find my way in my career, I continue to balance my desire to work and earn an income with the cost of paying someone to be with my children when I do work.

It is a challenge that thousands of Canadian women are facing, and unless our government steps up to support young families, it is a challenge we will face for years to come.

Life can be Beautiful


It begins with Carole King sitting in front of a grand piano speaking to the audience. She tells us that life doesn’t always go the way we plan. It’s what we do with where life takes us that can make it so beautiful. Then she sings So far away.

Last night at the theatre I felt like Carole King, played so eloquently by Chilina Kennedy, was speaking directly to me. Besides the fact that this play, Beautiful, was one of the best I have seen in a long time, with great music and a strong story, it got me thinking about the path I have taken in my own life.

Young Carol Klein was a brilliant and talented young woman who convinced a record producer to buy her song, at age 16. She was on a career path to become a teacher but instead became a composer, a lyricist, a singer and ultimately one of the greatest female artists of the past 50 years.

While it was never my dream to join the music industry (I play piano, but not like Carole King!), Beautiful made me think about the dreams I didn’t pursue and the path I have taken in life. Have I followed my dreams, and even if I haven’t, am I happy with where I am and what I have accomplished?

As a teenager I attended a performing arts high school for one year, with a major in dance and a minor in drama. I loved theatre and acting and at the tender age of 14 had aspirations to follow that path. While I participated in dance and drama classes and directed camp and school plays I kept this dream to myself and never pursued this path.

At age 16, the same age that Carole King wrote It Might as Well Rain Until September, I experienced that moment in chemistry class, soon after I created Kinetic Man, which made me want to drop science and become a journalist. I loved to write, but again, I pushed the idea aside.

I guess you could say I considered myself to be a sensible person. Instead of following my instincts to be a member of the arts or media communities, as an actor, a writer, or a journalist, I went to university, on a path to be a doctor. I soon realized that being sensible wasn’t going to work for me, and I am happy I followed my dream to become a journalist.

I will admit that over the past 15 years my career and life path have traveled in various directions and gone off on sometimes unplanned tangents. If I look back at my 14 or 16-year-old self, would I be happy with where I am now?

I’m definitely writing, and this blog is fulfilling a dream I have had for over 10 years. It has taken me years and many jobs to figure out that my true path is writing. Will I write a book, contribute to a publication or see where this blog takes me? Right now, I don’t know. But I do know that no matter what path I follow I will make it beautiful.

The Wonders of the Hotel Breakfast Buffet

breakfast buffet

I traveled back from Halifax on Monday, and Tuesday was so busy that I did not have a chance to write and post. My apologies to anyone who was looking forward to Sports Wednesday today, which will not happen this week. Instead I have a few more thoughts from my trip to the Maritimes. As you can imagine from the title of today’s post, it’s about the wonders of the hotel breakfast buffet.

As I ate breakfast on Monday morning, with an overflowing plate of delicious goodies in front of me I started to think about the various hotel breakfast buffets I have enjoyed over the years. When I travel, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially when I stay at a hotel which rolls out a vast breakfast buffet.

When I am at home breakfast often consists of a bagel with cream cheese, yoghurt with fruit and granola, or if I am in a rush sometimes it’s just a banana. I’m really not much of a breakfast eater, mainly because of laziness. But when I stay at a hotel that offers a breakfast buffet suddenly I become an eager breakfast eater and dive right in.

Unfortunately, it did not occur to me to take photos of the various hotel breakfast buffets I have enjoyed over the years, but I will describe some of my favourites here to create a written picture.

Israeli hotels are known for their spectacular breakfast buffet. I remember the first time I laid eyes on one, back in 1988. My family traveled to Israel, and on our first morning in Jerusalem, at the Moriah Hotel, we came upon a breakfast buffet that seemed a mile long. Chocolate pudding for breakfast?! I was in love. Over the years, as I stayed in numerous hotels across Israel I became an expert in cruising through the selection. One will find a vegetable area, with a choice of every kind of local produce, and of course a variety of fresh fruit too. Don’t miss the endless selection of dairy offerings, such as cheeses, yoghurts and creams. There is fish for those who enjoy it and various kinds of pastry and cakes.

I also recall the English hotel breakfast buffet that I enjoyed in London over ten years ago. When my husband and I arrived on a cold December day our hotel realized it had made an error and did not have a room for us for the first night. They moved us to another establishment nearby which was huge and basic but did offer a breakfast buffet. I remember how heavy the food was, with a lot of eggs and meat choices. That was the first time I saw (but did not eat!) Black Pudding. Not for me.

Then there’s the beautiful breakfast buffet offered at the Westin Nova Scotian in downtown Halifax, where we stayed this past weekend. We stay here every summer and always look forward to breakfast. It is elegant and tasty, with many choices for adults and children. It offers many of the typical foods one would see at any North American hotel like scrambled eggs and bacon, pastries, fruit, cheeses and cereal. But what puts this one over the top is the chef who makes made-to-order omelettes and waffles (with whipped cream and chocolate sauce if you want to indulge). Yes, we indulged.

breakfast buffet
Julia shows off her chocolate muffin at breakfast this weekend
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Nessa sampled everything at this weekend’s breakfast buffet

My mother-in-law can’t stop raving about a hotel breakfast buffet she enjoyed in Paris this past winter. It even had fresh Japanese food. Our hotel in Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands ten years ago also had some unique food, with plates of local pineapple and avocado. I am getting hungry just thinking about all these delicious hotel breakfast buffets!

breakfast buffet
Thanks to my mother-in-law, Barbara, for taking photos of breakfast in Paris.
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More from the Paris breakfast

As I do not have any photos of my favourite hotel breakfast buffet locations, please send me your photos and I will add them to this blog post. Post them to me on Facebook, tweet me @AliciaRichler or send an email to I look forward to seeing photos from your favourite hotel breakfast buffet.

There’s Nothing Like Maritime Hospitality

maritime hospitality

I’m sitting here late Sunday night writing this Monday post, hoping to get ahead before I fly back home to Toronto.  I have a couple of the best chocolate chip cookies on a plate beside me, baked by the very special Cathy at Camp Kadimah. My husband and daughters are asleep behind me, tucked in to the comfortable beds in our hotel in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It is the end of a busy long weekend, filled with the very best in Maritime hospitality, good friends, close family, tasty food and of course our beloved Camp Kadimah.

For the last few years we have made the annual trek out to Atlantic Canada in late July to visit our son at camp. We have grown to love this part of Canada. Every time I land at the Halifax airport I feel energized, and as I walk off the plane and am greeted by some of the most cheery and friendly people in the world.

Halifax is one of my most favourite cities in the world. It has all the features of a big city, with shopping, restaurants, historical sites and trendy neighbourhoods but still retains a small-town feel. Getting around Halifax is easy and quick, and the downtown core has maintained its maritime essence. The famous Harbour Walk, along the boardwalk, runs north to south and is always crowded with both locals and tourists, all out enjoying the city.

maritime hospitality
My annual selfie with Julia on the Halifax boardwalk

When you visit a city year after year, in the same season, you start to feel at home and crave some of the local delicacies and treats. Our checklist included a visit to the historic Seaport Farmer’s Market that has been operating since 1750 (though not necessarily in the same location). We visit some of the same vendors each year to pick up picnic supplies to bring to camp, and it’s always easy to shed our cash and fill our basket.

maritime hospitality
Choosing a cider at the market
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My girls enjoying a moment outside the market

There’s our daughter’s favourite spot along the boardwalk, the tugboat playground, which sits beside a famous wave sculpture. I love the sign beside the wave which says, “Please do not climb on the wave,” which is ignored by locals and tourists alike who love to climb and slide down.

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Nessa loved the whales at the tugboat playground
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Who says you can’t ride the wave?

Then there’s the food which we must sample every year, and woe is me if I miss out on anything on my list. I must have some fish and chips, a strong and high quality iced-coffee (the spot I love is under new management now but it’s still just as good), sushi from Momoya (up on Barrington Street) and the day is not complete without an ice cream from COWS. Other snacks and attractions may pop in here and there, but these are my staples.

maritime hospitality
We enjoyed the fish bites and frites at this place this year
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Cows has its own stand in the middle of the boardwalk now!

The climax of our family’s annual summer weekend to Maritime Canada is the visit to Camp Kadimah. As I have mentioned in a couple of previous posts, overnight camp is a wonderful privilege shared by many children across the world, and the few hundred children who call Camp Kadimah home every summer know it’s a special place.

I get goose bumps and my eyes get teary every time I get my first glimpse of the camp. As the car goes around the bends in the road and the whole camp appears before my eyes, my excitement grows. As I saw the tanned smiling face on my son this morning I knew my trip was complete. Matthew ran to hug, hold and cuddle his baby sister, then we enjoyed a wonderful day at camp. 

maritime hospitality
All he wanted was his baby sister
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Picnic lunch with the family at Kadimah
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Yes, she may be the Property of Camp Kadimah, or at least she will be in summer 2023!
maritime hospitality
Our annual family photo at Kadimah
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My parents have five grandchildren at camp this summer. Here’s six of the grandchildren, of whom four went to camp.

Camp Kadimah is the very essence of Maritime hospitality, with friendly faces and a welcoming spirit all around. It is the heart and soul of the Atlantic Jewish community, and I’m excited to be at camp next summer when Kadimah celebrates its 75th anniversary. I’m sad my short trip is over, and I look forward to returning next summer when no doubt I will be greeted with yet more Maritime hospitality.

maritime hospitality
My father and his granddaughter looking at the water in Mahone Bay after a day at camp.
maritime hospitality
I had to get the shot from the other side too as it’s just so sweet, on a bench in Mahone Bay

Doo Yoo No How too Spell Corectly?


My apologies for the multiple spelling errors in the title of this post.  Can you read what I wrote? What I asked was, do you know how to spell correctly? The inability to spell has become an epidemic in our society. I don’t believe this is a situation that only exists within the younger generation. People of all ages simply cannot spell, and it drives me crazy.

I won’t even touch the topic of grammar etiquette as that is a whole other can of worms. For now, I will look at spelling.

We all learned to spell back in elementary school. I had regular spelling tests all the way through high school. First, I learned the simple words like “it,” “and,” or “cat,” then moved up to the four or five-letter words like “your,” “what,” or “table.” It became more complicated as I grew older, as I learned exceptions and longer words. English is a hard language, and it can be complicated to learn its nuances. However, everyone is capable of learning how to spell correctly.

Spelling errors are commonplace in elementary school, as a child learns how to read and write and sound out words. I would even allow for mistakes in high school as a teenager learns some of the harder words like “chrysanthemum” or “accommodate.” But, every high school graduate should understand the difference between “there” and “their” or “your” and “you’re.”

My niece is young enough that I will allow her many spelling errors in this letter from camp to my daughter. It was so sweet of her to write to Julia.

Technology has pushed its way into our daily lives. The art of letter writing seems to have disappeared, and we communicate by text and email. In some ways, we are writing more than ever. It’s easier to send your friend a text than walk across the room to ask a question. Employees prefer to email their colleagues instead of picking up the phone.

So, if we are talking less and writing more, shouldn’t we spell better? Text and email are so informal that people often don’t check what they wrote before sending, and the messages are sometimes unreadable. A person who cannot spell is as bad as someone who knows how but is too lazy to check if they spelled the words correctly.

Many would say that newspapers are a dying industry, as people receive their news in new and innovative ways each day. Copy editors lost their jobs years ago, and it shows. It is rare to read an article in even a respected publication anymore that does not have spelling errors. Someone had to edit it – the writer or some editor, I would think. I encourage them to please take the time to read through their articles and correct their spelling errors before pressing “publish.”

I could go on and on about my distress over the lack of good spelling in our society. Emails, texts, news articles, press releases, even road signs and books. Please, everyone, learn to spell, or at least use spell check. Take your time before you press “send” and make sure you spelled the words correctly. It will make me happy.

*Thanks to my friend Dara for seeing this Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) sign, snapping a photo and posting. It’s priceless.

My Husband David Usually Cooks and Bakes Great Food But….


 My husband, David, loves to cook and bake. He does not cook and bake often, but when he does the food usually tastes really good. He always comes up with interesting and adventurous ideas for meals, and usually the result is delicious. I commend David for being enthusiastic about cooking and baking and helping out in the kitchen. I encourage him to keep experimenting with recipes. But… sometimes the food tastes a bit funky, or it looks strange or it takes David so long to make the food that I quietly grab a snack or two while he cooks and I don’t have the opportunity to eat his food.

David makes the BEST pie I have ever tasted. His two specialties are sour cherry and blueberry. I don’t know how to make pie so I have no idea what he does to make the crust perfectly flakey and the filling a perfect balance of sweet and tart. I have learned to never actually watch him prepare his pies as he manages to turn the kitchen into a space that looks like a hurricane blew through. Flour covers all surfaces; the floor is sticky and every bowl and utensil in the kitchen is utilized. He cleans up after the baking is complete, but the process is painful to watch.

David taught Matthew how to make blueberry pie last summer in the country house in St. Donat

Some of David’s baking experiments have not gone as well. The one I remember best was his version of Black Forest Chocolate Cake. My poor sister joined us when David presented this abomination, which definitely did not look or taste like a cake at all. Kudos to him for trying.

Barbecuing is not his forte either, as the food often comes off the grill either burnt or dry. Most men, in their macho way, see themselves as King of the Grill, but from my experience women are much better at grilling up perfect cuts of meat than men. Yes, I do the barbecuing in our house!

I don’t know what it is about males and eggs, but I have met many a Dad who can’t cook much but can make great eggs. Scrambled, sunny-side up or over-easy, David makes great eggs. He usually makes use of every fry pan and pot in the house when he cooks those eggs, but they taste great. It took him a while to figure out how to make pancakes, and his first try was rather unsuccessful. He has learned from his errors, and I know our children love his pancakes.

I think these are pancakes

Speaking of eggs, David’s best dish is an egg-based middle eastern delicacy called Shakshuka. Simply put, it consists of eggs poached in a sauce comprised of tomatoes, chili peppers and onions, and it is spiced with cumin and black pepper. David cooked this dish for dinner last night, and it was the inspiration for today’s post.

David offered to cook this dish for dinner last night, even though he only started the prep well after 7:00 pm. He was slow moving and messy as usual, but wow, it was delicious! I cleaned my plate and even our seven-year-old polished off her portion.

So indeed, my husband David usually cooks and bakes great food. He is slow and messy and sometimes does not quite read the recipe correctly. But… I love that he cooks and I hope he keeps rolling out great food.

How Many Ways Can You Get Your Sports Fix Today?

sports fix

If you are a sports fan, it is important to get your sports fix on a regular basis. Growing up, for me, I was a huge fan of the Toronto Blue Jays. I was upset if I missed a game. I had few options back in the 1980’s and even the 1990’s to follow the game, and my preferred choice was usually the radio. Or, my parents would turn the TV on then mute it. Then they cranked up the radio so we could hear Tom and Jerry call the game.

There was something so pure about listening to a baseball game on the radio. If I closed my eyes and listened carefully, I almost felt like I was there. I could hear the ambient sounds of the ballpark coming through my speaker, like heckling fans or the hollering “beer here for sale” guy.

If I was away on a trip or even just out for an evening it was rather difficult to follow the Blue Jays or really any other hometown sports. Newspapers proved useful, where I could get the score and sometimes a short news story the next day. There was always the telephone, where someone could check on the score and tell me instantly. But, until recently sports fans had few options if they really had to have their fix.

An avid fan today has a plethora of choices to get their sports fix. It is so vast that it’s almost overwhelming.

First of all, the old reliable radio is still available, with Jerry still calling the game, along with Jo. There’s something so sweet about listening to the Jays game on the radio, while in the car driving to the cottage or just sitting at home. With the Blue Jays Radio Network a super fan can listen, on the radio, from Vancouver to Halifax. And there is no subscription fee to listen live.

Today every game, all 162 of them, are aired live on TV, all be it on cable, on Rogers Sportsnet.  The regular team of Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler are entertaining and informative. Many people still do subscribe to cable TV. But, if you have just a basic TV package and want to watch the game on actual simple TV you are out of luck.

Then comes the internet. About 89% of Canadians have access to the internet, and if you are a sports fan there are many ways to make use of the World Wide Web. Every sport, including Major League Baseball, streams games live on the internet – for a fee. If you want to watch your favourite sports team and you are on the road, don’t have cable TV or eke, you are at work and can’t miss the game, the internet can usually come through for you.

MLB TV boasts that a fan can “watch live on over 400 devices.” Really? I didn’t even know there were 400 different devices available. Other major North American sports have similar subscription options, such as the NBA, NHL and NFL. I see that the MLS also has a subscription option to stream all their games live. Most sports leagues around the world have jumped on the live streaming option as well. On a quick check, for example, I see the English Premier League and Japanese baseball. International multi-sport competitions also live stream.

If you don’t want to pay to live stream or don’t have enough data to watch a game live (wow do live sports eat up a lot of data!), a super fan can easily follow the game with live updates on the internet or check scores for every sport around the world 24 hours a day. The internet has definitely given sports fans an easy path to become sports addicts, with so many websites, blogs and social media feeds dedicated to the love of sport.

Are you a sports fan? What’s your favourite sport and how do you follow it and get your sports fix? Leave me a comment here, post on Facebook or Tweet me @AliciaRichler.

Two Months for this Blog and What have I Learned so far?

Time has a habit of happening very quickly. As I wrote in my first post on May 17, I always wanted to write, but it took me many years to compose my thoughts and create an online space where I could voice how I felt about many topics. I registered Kinetic Motions back in February of this year and knowing just a little about WordPress I launched this blog a few months later.

One thing I quickly figured out is that I am not an expert at this! Many people have guided me and shown me some tricks (thanks in particular to my brother Neil Richler!), and I have played around and experimented over the last five months to get this blog to where it is. I will admit that what you see is still very amateur, and I know that these pages will continue to evolve.

I would consider myself both a journalist and a strategic communications expert (yes one can be both). I have always been confident in my skills associated with these professions, in particular my writing and editing skills. I always worked closely with many online journalists and bloggers and social media experts. But, until recently my knowledge and deep understanding of how the blogosphere and social media space really worked and moulded our society was limited. Every day over the last two months, as I write and publish my work for all of you to read I am in awe of the world’s online space. I am excited to write each new post and share my thoughts with you.

But alas I do still have a lot to learn and hope to see my blog grow. What I have laid out is very basic and I am not sure how easy it is to navigate. I am starting to find my way through terms like SEO, Widgets, Plugins and a good Readability score. I feel good about the content – that it is interesting and appeals to a wide audience.

I am always happy to listen to advice and take some constructive criticism. It is how I will learn and grow as a writer and blogger. If you have suggestions on how to make this blog easier to navigate, how to improve its SEO or topics of interest to you that I should cover please do reach out to me. Send an email to, leave a comment here, post to me on Facebook or Tweet me @AliciaRichler.

Thank you to everyone who follows and reads my blog. Your support is appreciated. Stay tuned for great things from Kinetic Motions!

Would you Accomplish More if you Worked Three Uninterrupted Hours a Day?

I just read an interesting historical fiction called New York, by Edward Rutherford. It follows the story of this great city from the 1600’s to the present day, interweaving real historical events with the lives of fictional characters. The book had many memorable moments, which I will not describe here, except for one in particular. It was less of a moment and more of a statement in a conversation at a dinner party near the end of the book. The characters were overworked and all spent hours each day at the office. One person brought forward the idea of uninterrupted work and getting more done in less time.

I will quote directly from the book as the author quite eloquently discussed the subject:

“’I was reading Virginia Woolf the other day, and she remarked that at one period in her life, she was able to get so much done because she had three uninterrupted hours to work in every day. And I thought, what on earth is she talking about? Only three hours a day? And then I looked around the office at all the people working their fourteen-hour days, and I thought, how many of you actually spend three hours in a real, creative, intellectual activity in a day? And I reckoned, probably not one.’  She smiled. ‘And there’s Virginia Woolf achieving more than they ever will in their lives, on three hours a day. It makes you think. They might do better if they worked less.’”

When I read this, it made me put the book down and think. For years I worked long days, spending hours at the office and often I continued my work at home late into the night. But how often did I have a true uninterrupted stretch to work each day? When I was at the office there were so many distractions around me. The office phone would ring, a colleague would stop by to ask a question or a group would congregate nearby and I would join the conversation. Add in the meetings and conference calls and I wonder now how I ever got anything done.

Once in a while, when I wanted to concentrate and really focus on my work, I left the office and worked instead at home. If the house was quiet and empty I could accomplish a whole day’s work in just a few hours. The distractions of the office weren’t there (yes, I know the house provides other distractions but I am able to usually avoid them!), and with few to no interruptions I used my time efficiently.

I believe I am not unique and that most of us would accomplish much more if we worked three uninterrupted hours each day. Now that I am a sole proprietor of a business and answer to myself each day I need a lot of self-discipline to get work done. I need to find time each day to focus my thoughts and energy and avoid distractions. When I do that I am always amazed how much I can accomplish.

I believe that it’s less about how many hours you work each day and more about how you use the hours you work. It is not about physically being at the office for 8, 10 or 12 hours in a given day but rather efficiently using those hours and completing your tasks. I think this is a philosophy that is slowly being embraced by many Canadian businesses and workplaces and something I strongly support and encourage. It is an approach I hope to follow as I go out on my own and work as independent professional. Just imagine how much I could accomplish every day if I gave myself three uninterrupted hours to work. My time is valuable and I hope to use it wisely.