Throwback Thursday: Behind the Sisters

Chris and I are headed to visit my sister and brother-in-law who live 4 hours from us this weekend to celebrate Canada Day! I can’t wait to see my sister Heather (named after my late grandmother from my moms side), we’ve grown so close as adults!

Having a sister who is only 19 months older than me has been pretty awesome! When I was a kid everyone thought we were twins and we always had someone to play with. We would bring barbies and toys to quench our ever-thirsty imaginations to our brothers hockey or my dads baseball games. 

Eventually Heather and I played hockey ourselves and every other year we’d be in the same age division! She played right wing and I played left. If you’ve seen us play pictionary together then you know that we can read each other’s minds and that we work well as a team!

As teenagers we became a bit more private and a bit moodier with each other, but we still had a ton of laughs. We shared a deep love of all things television and movies – we often quote things that only each other understands.

Adult Heather and Cassy are doing really well too. We’re 4 hours apart, but miss each other all of the time. On top of television and movies, Heather and I share a love of romantic comedy novels that we trade back and forth! I love having such a great big sister, we were each other’s maids of honour at our weddings and in this last photo we stood with our brother as our father’s grooms party for his wedding last year! 


Heather has been, and will always be, my partner in crime no matter how far apart we are. When we get together, it’s like we still share bunk beds and she still threatens bullies for me – our bond is ever lasting and we’ve got each other’s backs.

Don’t mess with us… we’re the Goulding Girls and we’re a lot tougher than a couple of old ladies from Florida!!!

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A Sunday Stroll Through the Park: The Oshawa Peony Festival

Tis the time of the year for one of my favourite local summer festivals – the Peony Festival! This year’s festival was held from Saturday June 10th to Sunday June 11th. Chris and I had a busy weekend, but I knew that I wanted to squeeze in a walk through the Oshawa Valley Botanical Gardens for the big event so we made time on the morning of Sunday June 11th.

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Photos spontaneously captured by Rosenlee Photography – just good timing!

The location of the festival is special to me: oddly the gardens are outside of a small arena that I used to frequent for hockey practices in my youth (Children’s Arena); my family had lots of fun and took photos there before my parents divorced; and lastly, Chris proposed to me in these gardens a year and a half ago (they put a garbage can in the exact spot where he knelt [we laugh at the “romantic” spot now]). The paths and gardens represent a lot of happy memories for me and the Peony Festival celebrates the parks beauty, Oshawa’s beauty.

edit.jpgChris and I were excited to bring Summit because it’s held mostly in a public park, there are elements held in the arena, but why would you want to go inside on such a beautiful day? Parking was a bit crazy which I think is wonderful because it means that the festival is an ongoing success! Luckily the neighbourhood has many side streets that quickly filled with parked cars. We walked the short distance from our car to the park grounds and people had already started to compliment Summit on her beauty – I am a shamelessly proud mother.

collage 1.jpgThe festival includes: manicured gardens with over 300 varieties of peonies; dozens of local art, artisan, and food vendors; contests; live jazz music; and people enjoying the walking trails. Chris and I first stopped to view collected bugs in glass cases that was surprisingly fascinating. It was neat to see bugs from Malaysia too, Chris says that he hasn’t encountered them which is good because they were pretty damn big!

We continued to browse vendor booths along the walking trails and I especially loved Fancy Fellows who makes bandanas, bows/bowties, and other fashion accessories for dogs and children! They sold out of the Star Wars selection so we are planning on Photo 2017-06-11, 11 24 01 AMordering a custom one from her online! She has some really great fabric patterns so be sure to check out her page!

We met with the committed creator of What’s on Oshawa, a local online supporter of my hometown community that I have followed online for a long time! Creator Anna Huk was a joy to meet and I recommend you follow them online to keep up with cultural events to attend if you live near by! What was so fun was that Anna also recognized Summit from her Instagram account, she asked “is this @summit.the.sweetheart?!” and my proud-dog-mom heart grew four sizes. Chris laughed because he knew it would only encourage my commitment to our dog’s Instagram shenanigans.

collage 2.jpgWe took Summit to the water to get a drink and walked the rest of the trails. I also met a lovely En Plein Air painter working by the river. Her name was Judy Harper and she mentioned that she was looking forward to painting in this coming September’s Plein Air festivals in both Millbrook and Belleville. It’s a lot of fun to watch the live painting process so even if you don’t paint I recommend going to see artists in action. Keep your eyes peeled to see her work!

Photo 2017-06-11, 11 05 00 AM.jpgOur morning was filled with beautiful nature, friendly festival goers (so many people stopped us to talk about Summit and loved hearing her St. Berdoodle breed name), and a long healthy walk. Summit had a great time and it was really nice to expose her to socializing with that many people since her past wasn’t an easy one and she was once much more scared of people than she is now. Chris and I love spending time together at free events like these and it was the perfect Sunday morning activity.

I hope you keep in mind free local events like these in the future! They are incredible mini-day-dates, make for fantastic family photo back drops, and you can meet some wonderful people while you’re there! Oh yeah, the flowers were pretty nice too.

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Marilyn, Makeovers, and Moms, Oh My! Details on My Marilyn Denis Show Experience

Last Friday, April 21st, my friend Natalie and I got makeovers on The Marilyn Denis Show (see the actual episode here)! It was a great experience and I wanted to give you the details on how we snagged the opportunity and what it was really like.

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A collection of photos that I sent in with our write up.

A couple of months ago, I was entering a long list of online contests (as per usual) and came across a casting call/contest for two best friends who needed makeovers. I did the required blurb about why we needed them and submitted a couple photos of us together. A couple weeks later, I got an email from one of the producers letting me know that we were on a short-list, she asked for a more detailed write up as to why we needed the makeovers and some photos of us from head to toe. I quickly wrote a one page essay explaining how thrifty we are and describing our student lifestyles that have carried into our recent graduate lives. I sent the producer a reply letting her know that our write up was completed, but that I was waiting for an opportunity to get together with Natalie to take the photos. The producer told me that they had already filled the slot! I was shocked at how quickly the process really was since I had messaged her in under 24 hours. I sent her our write up anyway, along with a dozen photos of Natalie and I together. She told me that she would keep it in mind for future opportunities, but I didn’t think I’d hear from her again.

Photo 2017-03-24, 10 19 55 AM.jpgTwo weeks later, I received an email from the same producer letting me know that she loved the write up so much that she and her team were inspired to give us makeovers with the general theme of “Thrifty to Thrilled!” I was over the moon excited and we quickly exchanged the proper information and I jotted down the scheduled makeover dates.

A field producer and cameraman came to my house one Friday morning and we filmed the backstory/home interview footage that was shown as our “befores.” For someone collage 2.jpgwho sings, hosts events, and talks almost non-stop, it may come as a surprise to hear that I was pretty nervous about the interview sequence because talking on camera can get you tongue-tied. I definitely took multiple takes and had to have Natalie stand out of view because she unintentionally made me laugh, but otherwise it went well. Natalie did so well on camera and needed less takes than I did! Summit (my dog), although gorgeous, didn’t manage to get any air time, but luckily neither did a lot of embarrassing footage!

Our next part of the Marilyn Denis Show Makeover Experience was to go downtown Toronto for fittings and hair colouring. While waiting in the Bell Media building lobby, I noticed how many good-looking people work there! I was surrounded by beautiful, fashion forward media workers, but it felt like I was already on TV and the extras were prettier than the star (that’s me). Upstairs, we did more waiting (a common and understandable requirement when getting free services) and were eventually taken to try on our curated outfits separately. They wanted us to keep our finished looks a surprise from each other and somehow neither of us spilled the beans on what we would be wearing before the taping!

collage 3.jpgFrom the fitting, Natalie and I Uber’d to our scheduled hair appointments at The Cellar Salon. We had a bit of a wait and fawned over the salon dog (which every salon should have), he was a bit skittish, but cute to watch all the same. Aaron Obrien, Marilyn’s hair stylist, went gave us hair colour consultations. He really wanted to make me a redhead, similar to Emma Stone, but I knew that the up-keep would be too difficult and expensive while still searching for a job in my industry. He very accommodatingly agreed to do a darker blonde balayage so that my hair could grow out without having to touch up the roots and Natalie was to get a lighter blonde balayage. Over a few hours, two female stylists dyed our hair and we looked sci-fi-chic in our cling-wrapped hair. After a painfully long day, we headed home to our fur-babies and slept well later that night.

Our hair was dyed, our clothes were picked out, and we were ready to be made over! We were each allowed to bring a guest so our moms excitingly tagged along to Toronto for

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A screenshot from The Marilyn Denis Show website before the episode had officially aired.

filming day. The show was filmed on a Friday morning and we were both very appreciative of the makeup foundation they gave us for our appearance on the show pre-makeover. They cleverly tied our hair into ponytails so that it was harder to see that our hair had been dyed earlier in the week and we wore casual clothes. We did one stage rehearsal where we were shown x’s that marked the spots and the crew gave us some tips (like how we should hug each other because people like that).

After the audience settled into their seats, the show started and we eagerly waited outside the set for our cues. The producer gave us the okay and we officially met Marilyn on stage! We had a lot of fun during the segment with Marilyn and fashion stylist Alexis, but watching the show when it aired made me realize that I may need to get a better bra… which in turn made me think about how many women must come to that same realization after seeing themselves on camera.

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My mom took a bunch of photos while she was watching the episode on TV!

A joke here, a joke there, we held our own on stage and went down the hall to get made over (in separate rooms). I was lucky enough to have Aaron cut my hair and I really love it! We had a lot of fun in the dressing room singing Spice Girls songs while Aaron snipped away and the makeup artist, Amy Janisse, painted my face! I really loved both beauty professionals so much and couldn’t say enough about their amazing personalities. I changed into the floral pencil skirt, black top, and striped blazer, but waited to slip into the high heels until the last possible moment.

The next step went by in a bit of a blur and was the best part of the experience. I climbed into the back of the reveal box

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Our proud mama bears!

and popped out with the cue of a shoulder tap. Natalie and I saw each other for the first time and I felt ten times more confident than the first time that we had shared the stage with Marilyn and Alexis. My other favourite moment was seeing our moms beaming with pride in the audience and looking like they were having the times of their lives. Marilyn and Alexis helped make us feel special and beautiful and we were also able to get a quick photo with Marilyn after the show.

All in all, I would definitely recommend the Marilyn Makeover Experience, but advise you to be patient and appreciative! It aired a few weeks after taping and we were showered with love once more from our friends and family. Thank you to everyone who watched and I hope some of you get inspired to look into casting calls after reading this post!

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Our moms, Marilyn, and our made-over-selves after the show!

Cord-Cutting in Canada: Separating, Streaming, and Saving

Over four years ago, just as we were starting to date, my husband bought the house we now live in together. I remember helping him move in and him telling me about his plans to forego getting landline or cable services in his home. It all made so much sense to me and I had the easiest transition when I moved in. I rarely used the landline when I lived with my parents, except for times of frustration when hanging up on telemarketers, and I had already started watching a lot of television shows online. Flash-forward to today where Chris and I happily live (essentially) wireless and are extremely content with the money we save and the services we use.

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Our media set up!

Per month, we pay approximately $12.00 for Ultra 4K HD Canadian Netflix and have just subscribed to CraveTV services as well for another $9.00. On top of our streaming services we watch a lot of streamed TV on our computers so as you might have guessed, we definitely use a lot of internet. We pay roughly $62.00/mo. for our internet services (50 MB/second and 400GB internet usage which we have never gone over) with TekSavvy (a company that has lowered our rates twice now without any prompts [thanks TekSavvy]). What do you currently pay for television and internet services combined?

In terms of living without a landline, do it. If you presently pay monthly fees for mobile phone plans, why bother paying for the landline? I think we have come to a point in time where it is largely unnecessary in a household setting. It’s been so long since I’ve wondered “is it for me?” when a phone rings because I know that if someone needed me, my cell phone would be ringing.

We’re definitely not alone in this popular cord-cutting trend (we are technically cord-nevers rather than cord-cutters as we have never paid for cable or satellite since living on our own).

In figure 1, Statistics Canada survey results indicate that less and less Canadians are choosing to keep their landlines with each passing year.

Figure 1:

Cellphone and landline ownership rates in Canada 2011-2014
This table is from the CRTC’s “Communicaitons Monitoring Report 2016: Canada’s Communication System: An Overview for Canadians” (p. 19 of the downloadble PDF).

In figure 2, the graph shows the steady increase in prices for Broadcasting distribution undertakings (BDUs). Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) researchers state that their findings suggest “that the rise of mobile-only households does not solely reflect changing preferences but may also be driven by affordability.

“What are BDUs? Broadcasting distribution undertakings (BDUs) provide subscription television services to Canadians. They redistribute programming from conventional over‐the‐air television and radio stations. They also distribute pay audio and discretionary services (i.e. pay, specialty, pay‐per‐view (PPV) and video‐on‐demand (VOD)). Most BDUs are cable, national DTH satellite, or Internet protocol television (IPTV) service providers.” CRTC

Figure 2:

Price indices for communications services compared to the CPI
This table is from the CRTC’s “Communications Monitoring Report 2016: Canada’s Communication System: An Overview or Canadians” (p. 12 of the downloadable PDF).

Emily Jackson of the Financial Post writes that over half a million Canadians got rid of their landlines “between the first quarters of 2015 and 2016” alone. The number of Canadian cord-cutters during these quarters came to approximately 540,000 people – that’s almost double the population of my home town and it’s a lot of customers to lose in a short time period.

A huge reason to cut your ties with cable and landline companies is the cost saving which is why it makes sense that many millennials are involved in the movement. So many of us have post secondary school debt to worry about and are still struggling to find work in our fields with a lack of entry level job openings (a rant for another post). It’s important to note that cord-cutting isn’t just a youthful fad and that people of all ages are benefiting from changing over to streaming services.

My main reason for loving streaming services in comparison to BDUs is the lifestyle. I am no longer bound to the schedule of my television programs and don’t have to fast forward through commercials of PVR’d programs. The two most common questions that I get asked when preaching the cord-cutting lifestyle are:

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Screenshot from my current Twitter newsfeed.
  1. How do you get your news?
  2. What about sports?

For news, I follow local Twitter accounts to stay informed about my city and province or I access Reddit’s /r/WorldNews to keep up with international events. Both internet sources pride themselves on consistent updates from news platforms as well as citizen journalists and keep me possibly more up-to-date throughout the day than TV news viewers.

Sports…? Sports-smorts – Chris and I don’t really watch sports, but just because I don’t like to watch sports doesn’t mean that you don’t so I did a little homework for you and found out that the following sports oriented streaming services are available in Canada: SportsNet Now, Rogers GameCentre Live, MLB.TV, NBA League Pass, and NFL Game Pass.

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Another alternative is the program Kodi, this streaming method allows me to find shows that aren’t available on Netflix or CraveTV, like Jeopardy! Kodi also provides you access to live sports streams and even the news.

So there you have it folks! Join Chris and I on the dark side of being thrifty and cutting the cord(s) – babies don’t need them and neither do you. Start by getting rid of your landline, it’s okay to slowly sever the cord with a knife if you want and this is the easiest way to start.

cordcutting.jpgHere’s some further reading on pros, cons, and some how-to’s on cord cutting. Maybe you’ll get lucky and start hating sports (it’ll save you money)!

  1. “Pros and Cons: Streaming Services vs. Cable TV”
  2. “10 Things to Consider before Cancelling Cable TV”
  3. “Cord Cutting 101: How to quit cable for online streaming video”

A Photo Essay: Walking in Oshawa’s Winter Wonderland

collage-1I present you with a brief photo essay:

We love living near the dog park, but we never appreciate it as much as we do after a fresh snowfall. The Oshawa Harmony Valley Dog Park looks surreally beautiful when the trees are dusted with powder and the fields are blanketed in white sheets. I asked Chris to bring his camera for our walk on what was a truly beautiful day.

Summit, our approximately two-year-old Saint Berdoodle, loves running around in the off-leash zones at the park. She’s the first non-black dog that I’ve ever owned and I still haven’t gotten used to having a dog that doesn’t appear to suffer from severe dandruff during snowy days. Her smiles are just as big as my past dog’s though, and I enjoy watching her bounce around in a deer-like manor.

Chris and I put on our big winter boots and almost over dressed as the temperature was surprisingly warm for a snowy day. We trudged along the paths and took a lesser known route by one of the streams. We carefully crossed the ankle-deep water by stepping on dscf9234snow covered rocks (luckily, we didn’t fall in [our mothers would have told us not to do it, but like most adults we make stupid decisions sometimes]). Summit bounded across the newly frozen ice and her back legs broke through a thin patch. She quickly made it to the ‘safety’ of the nearby ground after getting some ice-cold motivation!

Before walking to the open field where Summit likes to play, we stopped to take photos with her by our favourite bridge. The entire walk, including twenty minutes of playtime, lasted for forty minutes and I could feel tiny drops of sweat beneath my scarf. We came home with rosy cheeks, runny noses, and new winter memories.

 

Check out our photos here:

Remembrance Day in Canada: Intergenerational Storytelling

(Photo in the Header image provided by Sam’s great-uncle from WWII)

Tomorrow is November 11th and Remembrance Day is important, but many of us (young people especially, including myself) don’t truly understand and appreciate this day of memorialization. We learn a moderate amount from textbook stories in secondary school history classes, but how impactful are facts without personal connections?

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Two posters I drew and entered into a Remembrance Day contest when I was 11 years old.

I grew up looking at the faces of soldiers or concentration camp prisoners in captioned photographs and felt incredibly bad about what they went through. I cannot, however, imagine the emotions that these photos must evoke when those faces represent one’s friends and family – it’s this special link that I find fascinating.

The thing about history books is that they often generalize or focus purely on overall facts which can dehumanize the tragedy that is war.

This is why I wanted to reach out to my peers, to see if they could share stories that have been passed down to them, share their personal experiences with Remembrance Day, and to share something about their loved one that had nothing to do with the war. I ended up only needing to talk to two friends who had expressed interest because they both provided me with a surplus of material. They are wonderful young women and I thank them for providing all of the photos in this blog as well.

Two soldier’s lives are to be featured today: one who is still alive and one who died in combat overseas.


Poppies for Poppy

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John (in the middle) and his two brothers Walter and Nick.

My friend Sam is 22 years old and she is lucky enough to have learned a lot about her grandfather John (who she calls Poppy) from the man himself as he is still alive and well at age 89.

John joined the army at 16, he was quite a bit under the age requirement, but the war was coming to an end and the Canadian army needed more men. He was to join his three older brothers who were already fighting in WWII.

“He went to basic training, and, as he tells it, he had the time of his life,” Sam comments, “he absolutely loved it.” Apparently, John really enjoyed the training schedule, the camaraderie, and the physical activity. Sam states that “he often speaks about his time in the army as the best time of his life.”

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John’s army class.

By the time that John finished training, but before he was deployed, the war had ended. He was one of the lucky ones. His three brothers Nick, Donny, and Walter all made it back home to Canada with photos depicting the innocence and youth of their fellow soldiers overseas.

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A collection of photos from WWII that one of John’s brothers took while overseas.
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Sam’s family has kept these two historical documents from the time: Ration Cards and a Prayer Book.

John’s wife Isla, Sam’s Nana, also had three brothers who fought in the war. Unfortunately, Isla’s family wasn’t as lucky as John’s – two of the three brothers died in combat. Isla’s WWII memories differ from her husband’s quite a lot. “She lived in Scotland, and had a much harder time than my Canadian-born Poppy. When she’s speaking about that time, she most often talks about rationing – and we actually still have some of her rations cards that she saved.” Sam recalls that even today, her Nana “never puts more on her plate than what she will eat, and all of her grandchildren are frowned upon when we don’t finish.”

After the war, John and two of his brothers started a moving company that they sold while Sam’s dad was still in high school.

“I can’t say that I have ever really spoken to my Poppy directly about Remembrance Day,” Sam confesses, “though when I was younger my father took me over to grab a bunch of Poppy’s war photos for me to take to school. It is around this time where he most often speaks about how much fun he had during training.”

Sam’s take on November 11th is honest and similar to what I would guess many other millennials experience. “Remembrance Day is kind of just another day to me – it’s actually my boyfriend’s birthday so it’s not exactly a focus, as bad as that may sound. I participate in the moment of silence every year, and am completely aware of what it represents, but at the same time, it doesn’t ever have a lasting impact on me.”

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John last Easter at age 88, showing everyone how it’s done!

Fun fact about John: “My poppy love love loves hockey (and being active in general)! My youngest brother is the only one in my family who still plays competitively and not in a beer league. My Poppy often goes to his games. My Poppy himself played hockey until he was 80, and I actually had a supply teacher in high school recognize my last name because he knew my Poppy and uncle for that fact.”


Descendants at Dieppe

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Hanna (one of my bridesmaids) and I at my wedding.

Hanna and I have been best friends since we were 11 years old and she’ll be turning 26 this month! She broke our childhood pact to visit Europe together, but it was for a good reason – for a life-changing university history trip! Hanna’s relation to her great-great-uncle may sound distant, but her connection to him and her family’s history is admirably strong.

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Left: George Sr., Margaretta, and their children Rennie, Mac, and Jimmie. Photo take in 1927. Right: Jimmie Burnett’s picture in the paper “Those Lost at Dieppe.”

Jimmie Burnett was 19 when he was killed in combat, but he had enlisted when he was only 16. In order to do so, his dad helped him lie to the Canadian Military and said that his son was 18 years old. Private Jimmie Burnett’s tombstone at Dieppe, the Normandy beach town where he was killed, says that he was 21 when he died, but it is actually two years off.

“He was my grandfather’s uncle on my dad’s side, Papa was named after him (Jim) and was born in ’42 about a month before the family got any confirmation that he had been killed.” Jimmie Burnett was killed on August 19th, Hanna explains that “the allied forces tried to gain a stronghold and failed miserably in 1942 (trying to create a second front and alleviate the eastern front where Russia was struggling to hold off Germany).”

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The original telegraph informing Jimmie’s family of his death and a sympathy  note from Buckingham Palace.

“I first started to learn about him when I got accepted into this History class in university that studied war and memory and particularly how we memorialize Canadian efforts in WWI and WWII. Papa had started doing some family research and when I got our assignments for the class, which included a soldier biography, I hit the ground running. We got hold of his military records and chatted with his youngest sister who was just a kid when he went to war, Margie.”

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Jimmie Burnett’s military records. Left: Letter written by George Sr. confirming his son’s falsified age. Right: A list of Jimmie’s personal effects.
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One of Hanna’s photos from her trip.

On the aforementioned European university history trip, Hanna was able to discuss the battle of Dieppe with her classmates while standing on the same beach where her great-great-uncle had been killed. At this point, she was knee deep in research and very connected to Jimmie. “I just remember bawling my eyes out when one of our profs asked ‘how do you feel being here?’ Dieppe was a huge loss of life – I think the casualty rate was like 95% – and I couldn’t believe that the allies had chosen such an easily defensible place to attack the Germans.”

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Hanna was also able to visit Jimmie Burnett’s grave site the next day. Luckily, her peers were very supportive. The combination of a number of emotional moments on her trip contributed to her feeling closer to her family than ever before. Hanna admits that she felt a stronger connection to our collective history and had never felt more patriotic than she had during that time of her life. She discloses that she felt especially “patriotic because the war ended a terrible evil in the world and was fought with purpose. Jimmie, like his brother, his sisters, and mother were a part of that.”

The pride that Hanna has in her family history coexists with her general heartache over her family’s loss. “I was so proud but also endlessly sad – my brother was 19 at the time. Could I imagine him going to war?”

When I asked Hanna about how she felt about Remembrance Day before and after her research, she told me that her family had already taught her that “it was a day worth really respecting.”

“You wear the poppy and you’re told as a kid that Canada has this really great reputation as a peacekeeping nation and between that and a number of wars, many people have given their lives in service of our country. But to form that connection and to become a part of someone’s military story, that changed me. I think about Jimmie and his sacrifice every day, but particularly around Remembrance Day and August 19. I have had it memorialized on myself with a tattoo so that I never forget not only his sacrifice, but also just him. Jimmie the 16-year-old kid who protected his family and loved his siblings and was this unique person. My Papa never got to meet his uncle but feels this huge connection to that lost part of his life. I now feel the same and on Remembrance Day get to share that sense of loss, respect, admiration and support with others all across the country.”

Fun Fact about Jimmie Burnett: Hanna discovered some personal anecdotes when talking with Jimmie’s sister Margie. “We found out some amazing stuff – like how he was this devilishly charming guy with a reputation for the ladies, even as a 16-year-old and he went AWOL a whole bunch of times during basic training because he kept sneaking off to hook up with chicks.”

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Jimmie Burnett (on the right) and his two high school friends who tragically all died in combat at Dieppe.

I believe that oral story-telling and passing down personal documents is the most important part of historical education. We all get the overview of what our nation tells us happened in textbooks, but it’s the individual experiences that will further the appreciation of Remembrance Day for younger generations.

Do you have connections to anyone who has felt the harsh reality of military pursuits past and present? Let me know in the comment section, everyone’s story is important – no matter how great or how small.

A Pudgy Pumpkin Meets Pop Culture

Over the last four years, Chris and I have come to look forward to special holiday traditions. Pumpkin picking and carving are two favourites of ours.

I grew up in a household with parents who loved holidays more than other parents that I knew. We really celebrated and they made the holidays so much more fun. I happily carried this attitude into my adulthood and Chris has enjoyed being a part of the excitement.

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We like to get our pumpkins from Pingle’s Farm, they are local, they have the best prices, and the biggest selection (last year we looked at another farm and immediately went back to Pingle’s).

As adults without children we don’t partake in the other autumn activities that are available at the farm, but families really should! In the past, my mom and I have taken my niece to the petting zoo, bunny hole town/sanctuary, smaller mazes, puppet theatre, hand painted face photo-cut-outs are all really fantastic. Pingle’s is also known for their massive corn fields that feature really creative designs.

Chris and I set out on Tuesday afternoon all smiles, but I was a little cocky about the weather. It was very cold out at PIngle’s, a farm located on a bit of a hill surrounded by a lot of open space. The chilly weather didn’t dampen our spirits, but it definitely put the trip on fast forward as we hurriedly went inside to pay after some humming and hawing over the over-sized vegetables.

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Lori Anne and Brett, rightfully proud of their massive pumpkin!

My friend Lori Anne and her boyfriend Brett got a HUGE pumpkin this year and Chris wanted to try to ‘out pumpkin them.’ Since they’re not next to each other and we don’t have a scale to weigh ours, we can’t be completely sure, but I’d say theirs is the winner!

You can pick your pumpkin at Pingle’s either by choosing from a few heaping piles or by wandering their fields for a little more authenticity. We chose the first because it was cold man! We found ourselves a big pumpkin, then looked for a smaller cuter one for my Yoda decorations (you’ll see), and finally a tiny white pumpkin just for variety. We normally carve our own, but decided to share the big one this year.

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Chris checking out a contender who didn’t make the cut – so many good options!

 

 

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When we got home, Chris wanted to spray them off before bringing them in the house (the adorable clean-freak that he is).

After dinner, Chris and I moved our coffee table aside, laid down the sheets we use as paint drop cloths, grabbed our garbage can and started to think of some jack-o-lantern ideas over some drinks. I sketched some typical face shapes while we watched an old Fresh Prince of Bel Air Halloween episode and Chris carved our lid.

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Suddenly, I thought of (what we consider to be) a brilliantly hilarious idea. Chris and I are really into this odd comedy program called The Eric Andre Show (you need a special sense of humour to watch this show – you are now officially warned). Part of the show includes street skits in a style that is similar to those of Tom Green. One of the many skits that we love is one where the actor wears a ridiculous outfit, carries/drinks a bottle of ranch salad dressing, and shouts “Ranch it up” or “Legalize Ranch.” Like small children, we proudly began our pumpkin carving joke.

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We emptied the pumpkin of its gook and guts pretty quickly. For someone who considers themselves quite artistic, I’m quite average at carving pumpkins. We use a regular steak knife and are moderately sloppy. Let’s just say that many toothpicks get used to repair designs that get cut off and we’re very okay with that.

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We wanted to include a bottle of ranch dressing next to our pumpkin, but don’t really use it so we used an empty bottle, took the labels off, put less than an inch of baseboard paint in it and shook to our hearts content.

No, our pumpkins aren’t exceptional works of art, but they’re a lot of fun. More importantly, we have a lot of fun while working on them.

Tuesday night was memorable, we both really enjoyed ourselves, and it was one of those times that reconfirmed our love for each other. We’re best friends who like to laugh and hang out.

What did you carve into your pumpkins this year? Let me know!

Until next time, Ranch it up!

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Chris totally called out the #Memberberries in the background of one of the Fresh Prince episodes (Member berries are from the current season of South Park that’s airing now)! PS. Give him a follow on Instagram!

How-To-Halloween Using Netflix Canada: Make Your Own Marathon, Eh

 

(Find concise list at the bottom)

Maybe you have a Halloween party or two to go to this weekend, waiting for the Great Pumpkin, or you’re just looking to get into the spirit of the holiday at home, here’s my list of really great Halloween themed episodes from TV shows that you can find on Netflix Canada.

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You at your Halloween Party.

We all have our favourite Halloween movies and there are plenty of lists naming the greats, but the issue is that Netflix Canada kind of dropped the ball on providing us with a decent selection this year.

Where’s Hocus Pocus? Where are all ten of the Halloween franchise films? What about those amazing animated holiday specials we used to watch on TV each year from Peanuts, Garfield, and other greats?

To be fair, they do have some good “scary” movies including: The Others; The Sixth Sense; Rear Window; and the family films: Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit; Hotel Transylvania; and The Nightmare Before Christmas (Halloween/Christmas movie).

We need to see people dressing up, celebrating, and/or being spooked actually ON Halloween.

The perfect alternative to putting your favourite Halloween film on in the background while you get ready this year is to watch some of these holiday-special television episodes. I always love Halloween-themed episodes so I’ve taken the time to figure out the season and episode numbers of some of the shows that I like on Netflix Canada.

I hope that this makes it easier for you to coordinate your own Halloween-TV-marathon with Netflix Canada.

Cassy Curates: Halloween Episodes on Netflix
(in no particular order):

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  1. Community
    1. S1 E7 – Introduction to Statistics [Day of the Dead Party]
    2. S2 E6 – Epidemiology [Dena’s Halloween Party = Zombies]
    3. S3 E5 – Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps
    4. S4 E2 Paranormal Parentage [Pierce’s Mansion)
      1. (NOT ON NETFLIX) S5 E8 – App Development and Condiments

For some reason, Netflix Canada only has the first 4 seasons of Community, but if you’re up to streaming the last one good for you! Community has made some of my favourite holiday-themed episodes of modern television. Definitely watch these ones for your marathon to either continue your love of the show, or to ignite your desire to start watching this fantastic comedy series!

 

 

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  1. The Mindy Project
    1. S1 E4 – Halloween

I LOVE The Mindy Project and only hope that they make more holiday-themed episodes. We need to see Mindy Kaling in more costumes please! Also I really recommend that you read her two books that she has published, because she is one hilarious woman (especially beneficial if you’re also a fan of The Office as she has many behind the scene tidbits in her first book).

 

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  1. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
    1. S1 E6 – Halloween
    2. S2 E4 – Halloween II
    3. S3 E5 – Halloween Part III

Simple titles, but these three episodes do not disappoint. If you don’t watch the show already, you’re going to want to start from the beginning after seeing Andy Sandberg’s adorable character dressed in a variety of costumes and carrying out more tricks than treats in an ongoing bet against captain Holt.

 

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  1. Freaks and Geeks
    1. S1 E3 – Tricks and Treats

A show that everyone knows should have been granted with the go-ahead of a season two, luckily (for me) had a Halloween episode in it’s first. Many shows don’t do holiday-themed episodes every season so thank you Judd Apatow. This show is stacked with some great actors and actresses who had yet to see the fame that waited for them with later projects. If you’re a fan of 80s nostalgia, good writing, and teenage shenanigans than you should definitely give it a watch – I mean look how awesome actor Martin Starr, playing Bill, looks as the Bionic Woman!

 

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  1. Friends
    1. S8 E6 – The One with the Halloween Party

Obviously Friends is on this list, it was my sister’s favorite show so I have seen every episode multiple times. It’s been nice to rewatch the series now that I’m in my mid-twenties too! This is strangely the only episode dedicated to Halloween and it took them until the eighth season to do it. A sexy cat and a soft pink bunny host a Halloween party, plus a bunny and a potato have an arm wrestling contest = gold.

 

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  1. How I Met Your Mother
    1. S1 E6 – The Slutty Pumpkin
    2. S7 E8 – The Slutty Pumpkin Returns

I’m shockingly not a huge fan of How I met your mother, but I can admit that the show makes me laugh when it’s on. I dated someone who loved this show and I therefore saw quite a number of episodes, these two were far apart in seasons, but I loved that they exist. I also really appreciate the titles since so many shows go with the lazy ‘Halloween’ and leave it at that. If you’re single this Halloween and attending a party, these two episodes should be at the top of your Netflix marathon list. Be hopeful, and definitely dress up so that you don’t look stupid next to your very own slutty pumpkin soul mate.

 

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  1. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air
    1. S1 E8 – Someday Your Prince Will Be in Effect (Part I)
    2. S1 E9 – Someday Your Prince Will Be in Effect (Part II)
    3. S4 E7 – Hex and the Single Guy

I am still very pleased that Netflix put The Fresh Prince of Bel Air on their roster. I was/still am a huge fan of this show. It was able to be innocently funny while also producing some very touching and emotional scenes for teenagers to relate to. “Someday Your Prince Will Be in Effect” is a very memorable two-parter for me, not only did it focus on one of my favourite holidays, but it also had a fairytale ending. Watch as Carlton and Will compete to get a date for the party and enjoy the amazing costumes! The fourth season’s Hexing Halloween episode also features Carlton looking his most hilarious as McCaulay Culkin!

 

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  1. 3rd Rock from the Sun
    1. S3 E5 – Scaredy Dick

I watched 3rd Rock on an irregular basis when it originally aired on TV, but I am so glad that I took the time to watch the entire series when it arrived on Netflix. It is now one of my favourite television shows ever and I strongly urge you to watch it from episode one. Since the show is about aliens, the sci-fi element always exists so it makes sense that only one episode in six seasons focused on Halloween. Maybe I’m biased, but I personally don’t think that there is a bad episode and you will laugh while Sally and Tommy attempt to guard Mary’s house from egg-ers and Harry gets spooked by a ghost.

 

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  1. Buffy The Vampire Slayer
    1. S2 E6 – Halloween
    2. S4 E4 – Fear Itself
    3. S6 E6 – All the Way
      1. S4 E10 – Hush

I have a soft spot for Buffy as she represents a tough on-screen woman who is both strong and feminine – everything I strive to be! Yes she slays vampires and other supernatural beings, but she also takes the time to try and experience what it’s like to be a teenager which means Halloween parties, mishaps, and monsters who totally take the fun out of her downtime and put the fun in the series for the audience. In case you don’t know, Joss Whedon and his fellow writers incorporate humour insanely well and the Halloween episodes have some of the funniest lines! Even though “Hush” from the fourth season isn’t technically on Halloween, I included it because it is definitely the scariest episode in the series for me – check it out if you’re into creepy villains.

 

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  1. Gilmore Girls
    1. S6 E7 – Twenty-One is the Loneliest Number

I watched Gilmore Girls when it originally aired and was heavily invested into Rory’s love life, it was funny to be more interested in Lorelei’s suitors when I rewatched it this past year. For a series that loved featuring the small town’s festivals, the creators tended to steer clear of holiday-themed episodes. The show was more episodic than some of the other sitcoms on this list, but I still wanted to include this one so that you can get a healthy dose of Stars Hollow-een in your system if you’d like. Plus I’d like to acknowledge all the times that Rory dressed in costume throughout the series – she had some pretty good ones!

 

 

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  1. The Office
    1. S2 E5 – Halloween
    2. S5 E6 – Employee Transfer
    3. S6 E8 – Koi Pond
    4. S7 E6 – Costume Contest
    5. S8 E5 – Spooked
    6. S9 E5 – Here Comes Trebel

Look at all the Halloween episodes to choose from! The Office was one of my true loves in high school, I’d say that it was my boyfriend instead of actual human males. The sheer number of holiday-themed episodes is reason enough to explain why. I drifted from the show after high school for a bit when it was heading toward its fifth season, but Netflix has made it easy to catch up on what I missed since then. Three-hole-punch Jim is a classic costume and seeing Dwight as a Sith Lord makes me very happy as well. If you’re an Office fan, you could just have a mini marathon of their Halloween episodes alone.

 

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  1. Scrubs
    1. S2 E6 – My Big Brother

Scrubs is a work-centered medical dramedy so a lot of the costumes you see in this episode are at work. The Halloween themes are subtler than some of the other episodes on this list, but enjoyable just the same. J.D. and Turk are their ever-adorable selves so why not watch them bob for apples?

 

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  1. That 70s Show
    1. S2 E5 – Halloween
    2. S3 E4 – Too Old to Trick or Treat, Too Young to Die

This show makes me laugh so much, I love looking at the retro fashion and home décor. If you’re also a fan, you already know that it’s one of those programs that ran on a little too long, but these episodes were in the earlier seasons so they’re really great! In “Halloween,” Fez goes trick or treating for the first time as Adam West’s Batman and the gang watches the Texas Chainsaw Massacre in theatres. In “Too Old to Trick or Treat, Too Young to Die,” the show parodies classic horror movies while Fez dresses in drag (Rocky Horror Picture Show-esque).

 

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  1. Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23
    1. S2 E2 – Love and Monsters

I only just started watching this show, it’s a bit wild, but is a great background show that makes me laugh. What’s exciting for me is that I haven’t actually seen this episode yet! I will definitely be including it in my own personal Netflix Halloween marathon. I don’t want to spoil the laughs for myself so all I researched was this one picture!

 

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  1. The Magic School Bus
    1. S1 E8 – The Magic School Bus: In The Haunted House

I included this one because it’s nostalgic and always educational! The great thing about including this one on your list is A. nostalgia and B. it’s nice and short. If you’re short on ideas for Halloween costumes still you should definitely go as Ms. Frizzle, you might not get another good opportunity to wear a wacky dress while being simply fabulous.

 


There you have it, 15 shows, 33 episodes, and plenty to choose from to make your own marathon! Hope you enjoy watching Halloween specials this year and I’ll be very jealous if you get to see Peanuts and Garfield.

Concise list:

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Other Contenders:

Supernatural

  1. S4 E7 – It’s the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester

Charmed

  1. S3 E4 – All Halliwell’s Eve

The Vampire Diaries

  1. S1 E7 – Haunted
  2. S2 E7 – Masquerade
  3. S3 E7 – Ghost World
  4. S4 E4 – The Five
  5. S5 E5 – Monster’s Ball
  6. S6 E5 – The World Has Turned and Left Me Here
  7. S7 E4 – I Carry Your Heart with Me

Pretty Little Liars

  1. S2 E13 – The First Secret
  2. S3 E13 – This is ‘A’ Dark Ride
  3. S4 E13 – Grave New World
    1. Special (Not on Netflix) aired during S5 – We Love You to DeAth

Grey’s Anatomy

  1. S4 E5 – Haunt You Every Day
  2. S10 E7 – Thriller

Last Man Standing

  1. S1 E4 – Last Halloween Standing
  2. S3 E5 – Haunted House
  3. S5 E6 – Halloween

Netflix should put Home Improvement on eventually and when they do… Halloween episodes:

  1. S2 E6 – The Haunting of Taylor House
  2. S3 E6 – Crazy For You
  3. S4 E6 – Borland Ambition
  4. S5 E6 – Let Them Eat Cake
  5. S6 E7 – I Was a Teenage Taylor
  6. S7 E5 – A Night to Dismember
  7. S8 E6 – Bewitched

About a Boy

  1. S2 E3 – About a Will-o-Ween

Angel

  1. S5 E5 – Life of the Party

Glee

  1. S2 E5 – The Rocky Horror Glee Show

Futurama’s The Honking is S2 E18 and for some weird reason Netflix starts from S3.

Netflix Canada, I officially request you to get Bob’s Burgers, Frasier, Family Matters, and Home Improvement. These would be a good start at least.

Sincerely,
Dedicated TV Fan Cassy

Budget Bride: How I Won My Dream Dress

(Summary of my wedding can be found on an earlier post here and stay tuned for a future entry explaining how we kept our wedding budget to under $8500.00)

Fact: I am a crazy contest lady.

What does that mean exactly? It means that I am a strange human being who actually enjoys spending hours on the computer filling out online forms from reliable entities in order to have a chance at winning a prize. We do exist.

(Sites I like to use are: Contest Canada, Contest Girl, and a variety of others)

I haven’t won an insane number of things, but when I do win something it’s fun and exciting. Someone has to win and you never will unless you take a chance and enter.

Contest Tip #1: Always enter, someone has to win.

Winning my wedding dress was the best prize that I have won to date (next to Chris’ heart [Ba Dum Tis]). It started with winning a much smaller contest – the entire process was very lucky.

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You can see my easy Instagram entry in the comments.

I first saw a random post while searching for #weddingcontest on different social media forums, this is why some contest entering can take patience in research. I found a post by the National Bridal Show (@ntnlbridalshow) on Instagram that was giving away two free tickets to their upcoming convention. The show was in Vaughan, Ontario, which was approximately an hour drive from my house and it happened to land on the weekend of my 25th birthday party that I had been planning for a long time (Cassy-con: everyone had to dress in video game, anime, comic book, sci-fi, or fantasy costumes and I made a lot of DIY decorations).

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Cassy Con event photo I made (yes that’s my face on Leia’s and yes that’s master Roshi’s house from Dragon Ball).
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Photo of me wearing my DIY Saria costume from Zelda: Ocarina of Time with my fur-niece Sidney who I can no longer pick up! 

I entered the contest just in case.

I was happy to win the tickets, but unsure of how I was going to make it work! I decided that I would go on the Sunday, luckily I drank a lot of water during my party and wasn’t hungover. I brought my mom and my future (now) stepmom which is an odd mix, but they got along great and it we had fun.

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Left to right: mom, myself, and my step mom. Having fun trying out one of the bridal show photo booths.

I was excited to be there for mainly one thing – contests. Bridal shows, especially big ones, have a lot of contests with really great odds. I had hoped to have a chance at winning some stuff for the wedding since we were on a small budget, but I never imagined winning my dress.

After entering every contest in the building, sampling food, and collecting too many heavy items in our bridal shower tote bags, we headed home.

Sometime later, I got an email that I had won the chance to choose any dress from a bridal store and I almost didn’t believe it was real.

Contest Tip #2: Always research; do your homework on who is hosting the contest to determine the legitimacy of the prize.

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My Instagram post about winning my dream dress!

The store was legitimate, beautiful, and the prize was better than “you won this specific dress,” it was “come to our store and choose any dress that you want!” I was over the moon excited. My original budget for my wedding dress was $500, but I would likely get to wear a real wedding dress now and all I would have to pay for were accessories and alterations. The boutique sells dresses at discount prices similar to Vows [check out PHD and Pie Filling’s experience there] on I Found the Gown so their prices are quite reasonable for brides on more traditional budgets!

The wonderful dream-granting store was Revival Bridal Boutique in Vaughan, Ontario. The two women who own the store are incredibly sweet, friendly, and accommodating. I recommend supporting their small business not only because they gifted me a gown, but because they have great prices for really beautiful dresses that work within a wide range of budgets.

 

Once the shock of winning died down, I figured out a date that worked for my bridal party and waited with anticipation for December. My bridesmaids (minus my now sister-in-law who lives in London, England), my mom, and Chris’ mom (my stepmom wasn’t able to make it this time) excitedly drove to Vaughan one cold day. The two moms and I met my sister at a nearby hotel where we were going to have a girl’s night after because my sister lives four hours away, this worked out too because my sister is 1000x better at doing hair than I am and helped finish my look before trying on dresses.

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Dresses I loved, but didn’t choose!

Vanda, one of the co-owners from Revival Bridal Boutique, was a joy to work with. She made sure that even though I wasn’t buying the dress I was getting the regular bridal appointment treatment. My support group sat around the dressing room and Vanda helped me try on dresses, she had picked out some gowns that were similar to what she saw on my pinterest board.

The first dress was beautiful and I joked about how on TV women often end up choosing the first dress they try on. It was really gorgeous, but I didn’t have a “moment,” I didn’t cry or anything. I was excited to try on the next one. I tried on around ten gowns that day and loved most of them, but I’m actually a really good decision maker and picked the top three quite easily (ability to do the twist was a priority). From there we tried them on again and it was clear to me… the first dress was my dress.

The second that I realized this I started to cry – which is so silly, but it happens sometimes when you start to get older and you cry about a lot more things than you used to (this is coming from a girl who’s favourite parts in The Lord of the Rings movies were once when people’s heads got cut off with swords – now I’m a sap who cried three times during a Disneynature chimpanzee documentary narrated by Tim Allen)!

I never thought that I’d wear a veil, but I loved the cathedral length one. That day, I purchased a belt and a veil that came to $300 together and placed the order for my Lillian West gown #6349 in Alabaster/Ivory.

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When I chose my dress with the help of Revival Bridal Boutique co-owner Vanda.
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My team on dress-picking day!

A month before the big day I drove to pick up my dress with my bridesmaid Natalie in terrible Friday afternoon traffic on the 401. The gown was exactly how I’d remembered it and fit almost perfectly, it just needed to be hemmed and for a bustle system to be put in. The owners were very understanding in my wanting to have it altered closer to home and were happy to make my dreams come true.

I had it altered by a very sweet lady in Oshawa who also altered my stepmoms wedding gown earlier this year. I really recommend Shimmer Alterations for price and professionalism in Durham Region.

My alterations came to $316.00 making the grand total for my dress, belt, and veil $616.00 which I am VERY happy with.

Collection of dress photos from the wedding taken by Caitlin Currie:

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Strangers I Admired in High School

(See Life lesson at the bottom)

Celebrities play an interesting part in our lives, often times without directly meeting us. They were especially influential to me personally when I was in high school.

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My dreaded grade 9 yearbook photo (Almost 14 years old [December birthday).
For me, I had a select group of actresses, singers, and models who I looked up to, groomed myself to look like, and secretly wanted to be. Some of these resulted in good practices and others resulted in questionable fashion choices. Interestingly enough, high school-me had mostly good taste because I still admire a lot of the same women today that I did then (in a much less obsessive way).

In no particular order, here are the women I admired most from ages 14-18:

-Ella Fitzgerald
-Natalie Portman
-Audrey Hepburn
-Leslie Feist
-Ingrid Michaelson
-Edie Sedgwick
-Twiggy
Agyness Deyn

Since high school, I have transitioned from idolizing to admiring. I also recognize a lot of unfortunate life choices as less than admirable for ‘idols’ like Edie Sedgwick and look back on the time when I loved her as very misguided on my own part. The main issue was that although I respected and adored the talents of a number of these women, I often focused purely on their beauty.

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The many colours of the rainbow that I sported on my head from ages 16-19 (also my best friend Hanna can be seen in many of these photos – met in hockey at age 11).

For someone who took haircut risks in her teen years, I was definitely a wall flower in school. I spent a lot of time in the art classrooms, all my friends were in band even though I wasn’t, and it took years before I sang in public – it also shocks a lot of people that I was shy and very quiet. A lot of my friends were male because of our shared pop culture interests and sense of humour, but I always considered myself to be one of the guys rather than a potential love interest to any of them. I was not popular by any means.

I knew that I wasn’t a typical teenage girl and due to catholic school uniforms I was limited to expressing my personality through avenues other than fashion (I’m an atheist now, but it wasn’t out of bitterness toward the uniforms I swear). This meant that my hair and eventually my makeup were a big deal to me.

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Top to bottom: Twiggy, Edie Sedgwick, and Agyness Deyn.

Lacking confidence and a self-declared tomboy (not a term that I’m a fan of these days), I didn’t do my hair or wear makeup until I was around 15-16 years old. For six years after that, I sported a variety of pixie cuts, had almost no eyebrows, grew my eyebrows back, wore dark 60’s inspired eyeliner, and dyed my hair a rainbow of colours.

 

THE MODELS:

The likes of Twiggy (60’s icon), Edie Sedgwick (60’s icon), and Agyness Deyn (modern model) inspired me to chop all my hair off around 2006 and confidently bleach my brown hair while keeping my dark brows. The realization that hair could grow back quickly when short, that I could do whatever I wanted to it and cut it off again if it looked bad, allowed me to try just about every style I wanted (basically I tried each short hairstyle that Natalie Portman, Keira Knightley, and Winona Ryder ever had).

Twiggy, Edie Sedgwick, and Agyness Deyn didn’t only fuel my desire to make impulsive hair decisions, but also fed the destructive appetite of a low-self-esteem teenager who longed to feel beautiful. These women were skinny like I was and applauded for it, they weren’t ‘typically’ beautiful yet they were famous for their looks. Although their body shapes were unhealthy ideals for myself (I’m not naturally model-height-tall), their being different-looking eventually helped me see my own type of beauty – and for that I thank them.

THE ACTRESSES:

I watched a stupid amount of television and movies that I do not regret one bit. When I was 12 years old I had a crush on Hawkeye Pierce from MASH and Mr. Kotter from Welcome Back Kotter – I found older programs (and men apparently) fascinating.

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Left to right: Characters Hawkeye Pierce and Mr. Kotter.

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As a brunette who grew up in a blonde Barbie world, I didn’t always appreciate my natural hair colour. Society/the media often subtly told us that to be blonde was to be better than other girls. This is why The Beauty and the Beast stood out to me amongst other Disney movies, and why I so easily fell in love with Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Roman Holiday (surprise, surprise, she chops off her hair in that film) – brunettes for the win!

Audrey was the most beautiful and classy woman that I had ever seen. I loved everything about her and she was the positive role model that I needed after Twiggy and the girls. She showed me that my natural beauty was special and that a good personality can make someone much more attractive than their dull counterpart. I still admire Audrey, but know that she had her share of issues and wasn’t as happy as she appeared.

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They look so similar!

I can’t remember which movie I first saw of Natalie Portman’s, but I know that I’ve seen just about everything that she’s been in. I really fell in love with her when I first saw one of my favourite movies Garden State, the scene where she cries in the airport (see scene here) is when I thought “wow, she is a brilliant actress.” She seems like she could be the modern day Audrey Hepburn in resemblance, but she expanded my ideals once more.

Natalie Portman went beyond looks and personality, she taught me that being smart was totally cool. She made time to complete a Harvard Degree in Psychology (see her speak on her time at Harvard during the 2015’s commencement) in the middle of an increasingly successful acting career. I have always been quite the keener and my competitive spirit drove me to want to be the best in all my classes (I’m a bit of a sore loser and hate getting a bad mark). Natalie Portman taught me that intelligence and ambition should not take away from a woman’s beauty – it should add to it.

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THE SINGERS:

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Top to bottom: Ella Fitzgerald, Feist, and Ingrid Michaelson.

Pre pixie-cuts and any belief that fashion was important, I found a female jazz singer. I was 14 years old when I first heard Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington’s It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Aint Got that Swing in a history class. I loved singing, but hadn’t sang in public since I quit elementary school choir at a young age. I feel as if it was Ella’s collection of jazz songs that convinced me that I wanted to take the vocal class at my high school and really discover my own musical tastes. Chris and I danced to one of my favourites at our wedding, Ella’s version of Cole Porter’s Let’s Do it.

Come grade 11, I had sung with some other students at a make-shift school library event and a friend at the time told me that I sounded similar to a Canadian artist, Feist. It was love at first sight/listen when I watched the video for My Moon My Man; she was everything that I wished that I could be.

Soon after this, iTunes used her song 1234 in a commercial and she was getting wider recognition. Leslie Feist, was unique looking, a private person, she wrote songs that didn’t need to compete with mainstream pop hits, and she was able to live her life as a successful musician. She inspired me to want to be a professional singer (this goal is on a long hiatus).

I began paying closer attention to commercials as I realized that the music they used behind their promotions were frequently up my alley. I found a massive collection of songs from commercials, as well as in the background of television shows and movies that became the soundtrack of the last years of my high school career. This was also how I stumbled upon Ingrid Michaelson’s Girls and Boys album.

Ingrid Michaelson wrote in a new way that I related to, it was quirky, untraditional, and sweet. She is still one of my greatest influences in songwriting style. Ingrid is particularly special because she exceeded my expectations when I saw her in concert. She was talented, but she was funny – so funny. She wore glasses, wrote quirky songs, and told jokes throughout her set.

 

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Left to right: Me graduating from high school in 2008, college in 2010, and university in 2016 (had some years off between academic gigs) – now happier and healthier than ever.

LIFE LESSON:

No woman is perfect, it’s too much to expect of any human being. I think that it’s important to talk about who we admire with younger generations so that we can share insight into recognizing the good and the bad that they might influence.

The society that we live in makes it too easy to fall in line with what celebrities say and do, to act like them, and idolize them so we should incorporate healthy conversations about them into our lives. Looking back, I see a lot of beneficial ideologies that I took from women who were strangers to me, but I wish that I focused less on their beauty and more on what not to do from their mistakes.

All in all, I think that there are a number of female celebrities that are good role models for young women and I hope that teenage misfits like young-me find the right ones.