My Happy Hobbies: Dogs, Puzzles, and Chick-Lit

There are so many distractions in life that pile onto our plates and, at times, carrying that plate can be pretty stressful for me. There are a few hobbies that I try to dedicate time to throughout the week to help me de-stress. The three that I’ve chosen to talk about are ones that work best to take

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Sniff, sniff…”Can I eat these?”

my mind off of ever multi-plying deadlines by refocusing my attention to things that make me happy!

  1. Dogs
  2. Puzzles
  3. Chick-Lit

This combination is the key to my happy place when I’m on my own while Chris works internationally for a month at a time.


Dogs

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Illustration of the dog park that I actually go to created by  Mellisa Archer (DEFINITELY give her a like on Facebook and Instagram)!

I, of course, watch an immense amount of television and movies in my spare time, but when I’m not doing that I like to go to the dog park with my St. Berdoodle/partner in crime Summit. She’s been a part of our family for eight and a half months and is adjusting to her new life so incredibly well. Summit loves going to the dog park and, admittedly, I think I love it almost just as much! The majority of the park that we walk is off leash and my mind is kept busy making sure that Summit is having fun while also being good. She never looks happier than when running through the dog park and sniffing other dogs’ butts (did that make you smile?). Her happiness fuels my own and then on top of that, I get to meet, Photo 2017-07-17, 6 03 10 PM.jpgpet, and watch other amazing doggos who are also in their happy place – it is all around, the greatest distraction from anything not dog related and negative!

If you don’t have a local dog park nearby, play tug of war with your pup in the house or play hide and seek in the upstairs bedrooms. If you don’t have a dog, volunteer at your local shelter or rescue organization to help find homes for adoptable pets! Just put yourself in situations where you get to see and/or be with more dogs… this is the best advice I could ever bestow upon you!


Puzzles

When was the last time that you did a puzzle? During a 1998 rainstorm at the buggy lakefront cottage your family rented? If it’s been that long, you really need to give it another go as an adult!

My sister and I both love doing puzzles and she’s the one who got me back into the hobby in the last few years. Often times, I would visit my sister and she would have a puzzle started on her table in front of the television. We would put on an easy background nov 2 2016 puzzlemovie and focus on piecing the puzzle together while munching on snacks. When puzzling by myself, I often have smaller chunks of time to work away at it and spread out the completion for a week.

When you do try this, you’ll see that you’re so focused on finding the pieces that you can’t think of those outside distractions that you were worrying about earlier. You might also find that it’s fun – yes, I said it! Fun. You get a similar self-satisfaction that you might feel when completing a tough sudoku or Sunday crossword. Plus if you buy a fun themed puzzle like this Barbie puzzle that my sister just leant me (I recommend that you listen to Aqua if you get a similar image), you will get to reminisce about childhood toilet paper fashion creations that you made for your toys.

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Follow this link to a quick and fun online jigsaw puzzle of the above photo – it’s my favourite photo of Chris and Summit!

Cassy’s Puzzle Tips:

Cassy’s Puzzle Tip One: If you get your friends in on the puzzle-trend (I don’t think that’s a real thing), then you can swap to save money on new boxes.  

Cassy’s Puzzle Tip Two: Make sure you don’t have friends who lose things easily… like puzzle pieces.

Cassy’s Puzzle Tip Three: If you can live with the puzzle missing a piece or two, check out your local thrift store. I know that Value village carries a ton of puzzles for a good price.

Cassy’s Puzzle Tip Four (way more puzzle tips than expected even for Cassy): If no one wants your puzzle when you’re done and you don’t think that you’ll ever do that same puzzle again, give it to a local retirement home or a community centre. There are a ton of people who would enjoy the puzzle around town that you might not have thought of before.


Chick-Lit

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Chick-Lit is not to be confused with the candy!

What is chick-lit? Female oriented fictional literature based on the adventures of women working otherwise mundane jobs, who get into funny situations (often solving small-town murder mysteries before police authorities) and stumble upon love with the men of their dreams (frequently drawn out in a formulaic series of at least 12 books).

It is what it is and I love every bit of it. I love this genre of books because they make me happy, I almost always laugh out loud when reading a good rom-com novel. They’re light, funny, romantic, usually predictable, occasionally ridiculous and they are genuinely enjoyable reads. After a night of reading some of my favourite chick-lit books, I have woken and wondered what hilarious sit-com I had started watching only to remember that it was just a really great book.

I read a lot of classics when I was younger oct 2016 read.JPGand I love a large number of those, but after a long day of work and a short commute, I look forward to laughing at a clumsy female-lead who has problems much more pressing than my real-life deadlines. The stories make my life look easy in comparison, but what really matters is that I fall asleep with a smile and an entertaining scene in my head to inspire my dreams at night.

My Top Chick-Lit Recommendations:

  1. collage 1The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
  2. Skinny Dipping with Murder by Auralee Wallace (ongoing series currently consisting of three books)
  3. One for the Money by Janet Evanovich (ongoing series currently consisting of 23 books [Love the books, but I recommend skipping the movie])

You don’t have to stick to high-culture’s unwritten rules! You can admit that your taste ranges on a large spectrum that includes authors like Ken Kesey, Jane Austen, George Orwell, and Janet Evanovich! Join me in being honest about loving romantic comedy novels and you will be happier for it.


There you have it folks!

What do you do to keep happy when you’re by yourself? Do you also love dogs, puzzles, and chick-lit? Let me know!

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Couch Cushion for One Please: The Chore of Cooking Alone

When you marry a pilot, you need to realize that you will be on your own at times and that at those times you will still need to eat.

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Eating alone leads me to eat in fron of the TV and this cheeky monkey likes to remind me that I am not actually dining alone!

Eating alone is one thing (and am I really eating alone?), but cooking alone is another – to me at least.

My husband Chris is definitely the chef in the house, he loves to cook and admittedly he makes cooking fun. We both really enjoy the time spent together, I like to peel and chop so I almost always do prep while he cooks at the stove. With great music, a glass of wine, a dog wagging her tail, and the company of my spouse, cooking dinner is made into a cherished time for us each day. However, while he’s away it definitely feels like a chore.

I was recently speaking to a friend’s mother who lives by herself and she agreed with me. She and I easily fall into a certain mentality, the mindset of taking care of one’s self seeming less important. It was so nice to talk to someone who relates to this odd concept that often makes me feel less like an adult. When doing a bit of research, I came across a short article by Dana Velden labelling this attitude as the “Why Bother” Syndrome. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in these feelings of dining disinterest. 

I recognize the signs of indifference and try to combat them by forcing myself to cook healthy meals. The meals that I cook are reasonably boring, but they are my ‘go-tos.’ Almost every night I eat baked chicken breast, couscous or rice, and raw vegetables (carrots and cucumbers). I also eat smaller portions than when my husband is home so that I can make the meal extend into two meals – leftovers are heaven sent when you’re cooking for one.

I know that this sounds extremely unglamorous, but it’s the truth. To avoid falling into patterns of eating chips or cookies for dinner I make routine meals that sustain me, take little effort, and are cost efficient.

CaptureOccasionally I treat myself or merely want to change it up, and when I do, I look to Pinterest. You can check out my food board here, we have started pinning more gluten free recipes since my husband was diagnosed with Celiac approximately one year ago – this is also why I sometimes indulge in pizza while he’s away!

What are some ways that you motivate yourself to cook interesting meals by yourselves?

Have any links to recipes that are quick, easy, and delicious? Let me know!

Blog Break: Doggy Daycare Distractions

I’ve been watching my mom’s two dogs along with my own dog Summit this week. Chris had to go back on shift so it’s three dogs and a baby (I’m the baby because it’s so much work). It took me twenty minutes to read through a one page job description the other day, so this week’s blog post is cancelled and I will be writing again next week!

The vet guesses that Summit (my dog the St. Berdoodle) is somewhere between 2 and a 1/2 to 3 years old. Deeks is my mom’s almost 2-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog and Kensi is my mom’s recently adopted 1-year-old poodle. Summit is a little more mature than the two house guests, but YEESH, these two toddler-like dogs are a lot to handle. Luckily they’re all also sweet so as mad as I get at them, we make up by the end of the night with pets and cuddles (too bad all that love won’t fill the hole in the backyard).

So until next week, I will continue to post lots of dog-filled photos on mine (@cassythemusicalfox) and Summit’s (@summit.the.sweetheart) Instagram. May your house be less muddy than mine.

-Cassy

PS. Here are some photos from the last few days and a video of breakfast time:

Valentine’s Day: Cheap Dates and Quality Time

As Valentine’s Day is fast approaching (February 14th is this coming Tuesday), you may still need to come up with an affordable date idea. If we broke the bank to celebrate every holiday throughout the year, we’d be broke ourselves.  

Yes, you can absolutely splurge a little on an expensive dinner out, but if you’re looking to save money this year maybe you can try some of the following five activities:

  1. Instead of spending money on typical Valentine’s products, mutually decide on an at home activity that you could invest in.

16299381_1291067520951162_1872430606541810506_nThis year Chris and I bought a new boardgame that we can play with just two people (up to six) called Pandemic. We had a night recently when we became more familiar with the rules so that we can really enjoy it on Valentine’s Day. Romance can mean different things to different people, and to us in our first year of marriage (third year of living together), our best-friendship is a big part of our love. We embrace our friendship by making sure we will both have fun – we hang out. If you’re on a smaller budget I suggest checking out the games section of Value Village, I’ve found some great games there for under $5.00!

  1. Find a recipe on Pinterest.

the_best_of_dean_martinIf you have the time, cooking together can be a lot of fun. Chris and I often like to put on a playlist that works well with our meal. For example, when we cook pasta I like to put on my Dean Martin album, or sometimes we just put on a 90’s Spotify playlist to sing and dance to. You will either share pride over your delicious meal or laugh at what bad cooks you are which will make for a funny memory – it’s about the quality time you spend together more than it’s about the quality of the food.

  1. Write a love letter.

Chris and I have done this a few times for past Valentine’s Days as well as anniversaries. It costs nothing and makes you feel really good about each other. This is the kind of gift that takes a little thought and effort, but goes a long way. Writing each other letters is also a good practise to keep up healthy communication and remind one another why you’re together. Don’t be afraid to add some humour into it with inside jokes, love letters don’t have to be all serious (they’re meant to make you smile).

  1. Borrow a classic romance movie from the public library.

Sometimes Netflix just doesn’t cut it, especially if you’re like me and have watched basically every romantic comedy on the list. When that happens, you can check out this incredibly useful resource that exists in most cities called the library. You can even put things on hold or find out which branch has which DVD via the good ol’internet – this is better than Blockbuster. My local library carries modern movies as well as many older classics, including a personal favourite: Roman Holiday. Watching a movie on a comfy couch (not necessarily the big one with dust bunnies), having the ability to pause for bathroom breaks, and not paying outrageous prices for snacks are all good reasons to avoid the movie theatre this Valentine’s Day.

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  1. Explore a local art gallery.
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Hand Embroidery I made of the RMG last year.

Want to actually leave the house? Many cities have art galleries with free or donation based admission like The Robert McLaughlin Gallery (RMG) in my hometown or the Station Gallery one city over. I strongly encourage people who “don’t do art” to try this date idea, I think you’ll be surprised at how much you might enjoy yourself. Galleries are fantastic places to walk (healthy) and talk (healthy for your relationship). You can see how similar you are or just how much your tastes differ. Chris and I also like to make fun of the odd piece, again an art gallery doesn’t have to be a strictly serious environment – have fun!


These five ideas are simple and affordable, some also allow for comfort which is a huge plus in my books. Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be all about extravagant gifts, it should be about celebrating your love for each other by spending time together and creating positive memories.

Let me know what some of your plans are in the comments!

Christmas Tree Trimming: Nostalgic Newlyweds

Decorating the Christmas tree is one of my favourite traditions and I look forward to it every year. Depending on my husband’s overseas work schedule, I have done it both with and without him over the last few years. I’m really lucky that he’s home for the holidays this year so I only had to wait until December 8th to decorate.

I appreciated that Chris wanted to participate in the tree decorating tradition, he seemed just as excited as I was. He made us Old Fashioned’s (we love bourbon) and I put on a Christmas record. A good friend of mine gave img_9725me A Charlie Brown Christmas: Vince Guaraldi Trio on Vinyl as an early birthday present and I’ve listened to it all the way through approximately five times already! For some reason, the slight crackle of vinyl makes me feel cozy, a similar feeling to having fireplace lit in the winter.

As the needle followed the grooves, I took a sip of my drink, and lit a candle that smelt like a balsam fir. It officially sounded, tasted, and smelt like the holidays – I was blissfully happy. We lugged out our fake tree and box of decorations from under the basement staircase and let Summit have a whiff of Christmases-past.

Approximately three Christmases ago, Chris and I purchased our first tree together. We bought a 6ft tall pencil tree, my dad thinks that it looks funny and weird, but we think that it is perfect for us. The small tree fits into our space and is quirky enough to suit our family. That first tree year, we had a Christmas

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Chris standing beside our nearly finished tree this year.

party where we asked our friends to bring us ornaments to decorate our new tree with. We were so happy with the outcome: an eclectic mixture of homemade, outlandish, store-bought, and traditional decorations that contribute to its unconventional nature. Each guest was also given a homemade ornament from Chris and I – a lot of work when you make 43 of them!

Back to 2016: Chris, Summit, and I enjoyed a quiet night of decorating. This is the first year that Chris and I are officially husband and wife for Christmas so I made us a wedding ornament and also a fun Eric Andre themed ornament (tried my hand at wood burning for the first time and loved it). The best thing about having had an ornament party is that every year we are reminded of the friends and family in our lives. Each ornament has a backstory and is associated with a familiar face. Unwrapping each trinket leads to talking about the loved one from which it came and this process really adds to the nostalgia that comes with the tree tradition.

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Top: Our stockings hung with care (temporary stocking until we print a photo of summit). Bottom left: Daq’s stocking. Bottom right: Daq and I at my mom’s in 2012.

Aside from ornaments, we also pulled out our Christmas stockings. I took a minute or two to cry when I held Daq’s old stocking that would now be handed down to Summit. She was a truly wonderful friend who I still miss very much. The mourning process is long and unforgiving, but I was lucky to be a part of Daq’s long and happy life. Chris and I, however, are excited to spoil our new fur-baby this holiday and have been taking her to the now snowy dog park twice a day. Life is all about change and making the best out of what you have – we do our best!

After turning the room lights down, Chris drank some eggnog with bourbon and I had some baileys in my hot chocolate. As if in a film, we excitedly watched snow start to fall out of our back window. We talked about how much we still love our eccentric tree and about the possible future trees we may purchase if we move into a bigger space someday. Isn’t it beautiful that sharing the tree decorating tradition with my husband not only reminds me of happy memories from the past, but also sparks romantic thoughts about the future? It’s who you’re with that matters most; fake or real, the tree itself shouldn’t affect the experience – a reflection of what Christmas is really all about.

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Summit’s Safe Place: One Month Adopted Home Update

Yesterday, Monday December 5th, marked my one month anniversary with our newly adopted dog Summit (See her Instagram account @Summit.the.sweetheart).

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Summit and I on our 2nd day together.

In a previous blog post, I explained the process of grieving my late dog Daq and finding Summit online. To summarize, Summit is a 2-year-old St. Berdoodle (Saint Bernard/Poodle) who was rescued when she was pregnant with 11 puppies. Her rescuers in the US sent her to foster parents who ran a Portuguese Water Dog breeding business and were familiar with handling the impending puppy situation properly. After finding homes for the puppies, the breeder then set out to find a home for mommy-Summit. When I saw her photo online, I had a weird feeling that told me she was right for us and I expressed this in an email.

Like all rescues, Summit has a colourful past that contributes to present issues, but she is the biggest sweetheart. It is believed that she was abused because of her fear of meeting new people. She loves playing with other dogs and has zero anxiety about her furry friends (even when they are strangers).

Summit has come such a long way in a very short time.

photo-2016-12-05-9-54-27-amWhen I first brought Summit home, I was excited, but it was hard because she didn’t trust me enough to let me hug her and cuddle her the way that you want to when you get a new fur-baby. The sweet girl had never gone up and down stairs before so she was limited to staying on the main floor. I decided that I would sleep on the couch that night so that she wouldn’t be alone – I think this really helped our initial bonding.

She seemed to be picking things up really quickly! On the second or third day, she was learning what her dog bed was and even showed interest in wanting to go upstairs with me. One day when I was about to jump in the shower, I saw her little head poke up from the landing! She had come that far, but then immediately forgot how she had gotten up there and couldn’t figure out the rest of the steps (she had this thing where she didn’t understand that she needed to move her back legs). I paused what I was doing and helped show her how to climb up the stairs on four legs (I had been doing this for days like a little animal). I was an extremely proud mama when she made it all the way up and discovered more of the house.

Summit had not only never used stairs at the age of 2, but she had also never seen a TV, nor did she know basic commands like sit, lay down, stay, etc. She was housebroken, but

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Summit watching an animal documentary.

with moving to a new environment she did leave me a couple stinky presents in the house early on. By the end of the first week she had conquered the stairs, was cool with the weird moving pictures in the living room, and had even officially mastered the art of sitting on command!

Week two included visits from more family and friends (lots of practice at meeting new people), but Summit especially loves playing with her friend/my mom’s dog Agent Deeks. These two are so infatuated, they love playing, cuddling, nuzzling, grooming, humping (we continually break them up) – they just can’t get enough of each other. After a week and a half of bonding time, it was hard to let go of my control, but I let her off leash on a woods-walk with mom and Deeks.

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Summit and Agent Deeks.

With her friend at her side it was more likely that she’d stick with him, she did such a good job and had so much fun! By the end of that week she had learned the lay down command and was growing even closer to me.

Week three was fun because Summit and I went on a road trip to see my sister who lives four hours away. My sister has a Bernese Mountain Dog named Dude (brother to Deeks), a German Sheperd named Sidney Prescott, and two cats named Rafi and Taco. Summit was fast friends with her cousins, especially Sidney who seemed to be ecstatic to have a girlfriend since she was always surrounded by males. The dogs had a ton of fun and I can’t wait to see them reunite for the holiday season.

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Summit and her cousins Dude and Sidney.

This last week has been nice, Summit seems completely at home now.

  • photo-2016-11-21-3-00-10-pmShe loves:
  • Looking through the front window
  • Standing on the backyard deck to guard her kingdom
  • Napping on her bed all day
  • Going for walks to Poke-stops
  • Playing with her dollies
  • My made-up songs and dances in the kitchen
  • Cuddling with me in bed
  • Playing with other doggos

This month of so many firsts has been hard work that has already proven to be well worth it and I can’t wait to share more of these experiences with her fur-daddy. Chris has been away for five weeks and is coming home in a couple days – he will finally get to meet the fur-baby that he has grown to love through the constant receival of unfiltered photos and videos each day. I can’t imagine how excited he must be.

We are so lucky that we found a new dog to share our love with and to spoil this Christmas. She still has a lot to learn and so do we as new puppy-parents. She is two, but has so many firsts that dogs her age would normally have already experienced that we are going through puppy stages and also getting used to such a playful girl compared to our gorgeous old 12-year-old labradoodle (we still think about her every day).

Dogs, like people, aren’t perfect and it is often the imperfections that we grow to love most. Do you have a rescue dog and have some helpful anecdotes to share? Let me know and give them a kiss for me!

More Pictures from this past month:

A Festive Front Door Facelift: How to Redo a Wreath

I put our Christmas wreath together a couple of years ago and was happy with it back then, but I knew that I wanted to give it a facelift this year.

This project only cost me $10.00, here is the before and after:

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I used the existing wreath, gold ribbon, and green sprigs from the first design. I set aside the bronze ribbon to be used when wrapping presents or making ornaments this year. The berries had once been a deep burgundy, collage-onebut over time they faded to purple and chipped so they found their way to the garbage.

After bringing the wreath back to its naked state, I thought about what I might want to do next. I knew that I wanted a more simplistic design with classic colours, but what to actually do? This can be an intimidating question when staring at a blank wreath and lacking confidence in crafting. My biggest recommendation is to just try because practice and making mistakes is how you stumble upon your own creative greatness. To quote the great Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”

Here’s how my process went…

I covered my dining room table in a fitted sheet to protect the wood from potential wreath scratches and any ‘shedding.’ I then laid out my new materials, a classic plaid ribbon and some new red berries. An important step is to put on a holiday film in the background to
help you have fun with a more festive atmosphere. If you’re looking for a less cheesy-Christmas-special feel, I recommend the Australian comedy series A Moody Christmas – it has a follow up season called The Moodys that is less holiday oriented too (these can be found on Netflix Canada).

collage-2Like most women in their mid-twenties, I am an active Pinterest user (here is my DIY Holiday board) and had done some research on wreath styles and DIY bows. I decided on a more simplistic bow – the bow tutorial that I took inspiration from can be found on the Mommy Suite site. The only changes that I made to the tutorial were doubling the bow ribbons, my use of pipe cleaners (I recommend using a colour similar to your ribbon [I clearly did not]), I needed to double the length of the bow knot (from 4” to 8”), and a staple for extra support.

After I had completed my bow, I set it to the side while I weaved mini lights through the frame of the wreath. I had already owned these battery-powered mini lights from my DIY wedding earlier this year. I found them for a really great price on Varage Sale! If you’d like to include lights in your wreath facelift I suggest that you hunt on your local buy and sell websites to find deals near you too.

collage-3The pipe cleaners that I used for the bow actually came in handy to keep it secure, I was able to weave another pipe c. Since this is front door decor, I thought that it would be best to make sure gusty winds don’t blow any pieces away! I weaved a pipe cleaner through the back of the bow (under the pseudo knot) and tied it to the metal frame to keep it secure.

The fun part was next! Placing the sprigs and berries around the branches is similar to garnishing a plate of food that you’re going to be proud of! I bought more berries than I needed because I split them into smaller pieces – I ended up only using two bunches. With a ton of leftover material, I plan on having more crafty fun this season.

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Overall, I am very happy with my updated wreath. I’ve been feeling nostalgic about past Christmases and I love the classic Christmas colours that add to a cozy environment. The wreath will welcome our friends and family into our home during the holidays – now I’m proud of that first impression!

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I hope this post may have inspired you to do your own overhaul or even start from scratch. If you are thinking about taking a stab at it, here are some more DIY wreaths to fuel your yule!