Paintings at the Pastry Peddler

Today’s blog will be a brief one, but an important one (to me at least).

Photo 2017-08-03, 7 01 17 PM.jpgAs I’ve mentioned in the past, I’ve always thought that I’d go to post secondary school for art and become a children’s book illustrator when I was… well the age I am now. Instead, I chose a different route, but I tried to promise myself that art would be an ongoing hobby or possibly more if I tried hard enough.

After my teenage years, I practised art a little less – this made me lose some of my artistic confidence. At the age of 26, I have now regained the confidence that I once had as a 17-year-old aspiring illustrator and have been putting myself out there art-wise. What does that mean? Before landing my marketing job, I had been taking a number of custom illustration commissions! I loved being creative again and pushing myself by trying new techniques. Then I contacted a shop about displaying my work.

Photo 2017-08-03, 6 59 34 PM.jpgThe town of Millbrook has a delightful café called the Pastry Peddler with a unique Bike shop on the second floor. I’ve often admired the building for it’s beautiful interior architectural structures like the gorgeous old staircase at the back of the building that leads up to Frog Cycles. The hallway from the café section to the washrooms, as well as the back staircase, features different artists each month and this month I’m lucky enough to be displaying a collection of my own work!

I created a handful (maybe a little too many) of hanging layouts ahead of time and am happy with my final choice. I’m proud of myself for this small accomplishment, we should allow ourselves some personal pride on occasion. It’s not an art gallery show, but I’m putting my art in front of the public-eye – putting a part of myself on display to be judged. Art is personal and I know mine won’t be for everyone, but if it makes one person stop to take a double look (one that doesn’t read as “ew, gross”), I’ll be a happy girl!

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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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Throwback Thursday: 1 Month From 1 Year

One month from today marks Chris’ and my one year anniversary (married… it’s unfortunate that the four years together pre-marriage get thrown aside for tracking)!

This meant that today’s throwback thursday post was an easy choice. The above photo was taken the moment after Chris and I had officially been declared husband and wife. I had just finished crying after going second in reading our personal vows and Chris had kissed the bride. We walked back up the aisle to a major Chris song (that I also like) called You Make My Heart Beat Faster by The Distillers, you should give it a listen and then take another look at the featured photo above. We had so much fun at our wedding and it was very us – thrifty and quirky!

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Another one of my favourite photos from our wedding!
They say that the first year of marriage is the hardest, but I wonder if that’s changed since people have started living together more commonly as unmarried couples. Chris and I had two years or so in the house before we got married so it’s not like we needed to get used to each other or were learning about each others’ habits. Our wedding was less like a new beginning to an adventure and more like the third chapter in a novel that has already built a foundation to build a story around.

Wherever we are in our unwritten novel, we’re doing really well. We are just as in love as ever, but what’s more important is that we’re still best friends who watch comedy

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Photos were taken by friend/singer/photographer Caitlin Currie.
specials while drinking bourbon or play board games competitively together. We have fun and appreciate our time together – we also know that no ones perfect and that honest communication is key.

We’ve known each other for almost five years now and expect to continue to learn from our shared experiences (especially mistakes). Just because we’ve been married for a year doesn’t make us experts, but who’s to say that we’re not doing it right? We’re doing what’s right for us and that’s all I hope my loved ones do for themselves too! 

Making Memories for Mom’s Birthday: How to DIY Update your Grandmother’s Furniture

Mother’s Day came and went this year and I still didn’t know what to get my mom for her birthday. Her birthday is June 8th so I often know what I’m getting her by mid May and have combined Mother’s Day and birthday gifts together to get one big gift in the past. Then one day her gift fell into my lap (not literally, I did not give her trash that was just floating by in the wind), an aunt figure in my life messaged me to see if I was interested in a table that my grandmother had once given her. She told me that my grandma had given it to her to refinish, but she had never gotten around to it and was now downsizing. I immediately knew that I wanted to refinish it for my mom’s birthday!

Some people think that DIY-ing is really intimidating, but you get better with practice! I’ve refinished other pieces in the past so I was ready to jump right in after I found the time and the materials to get it all done. I also thought this would be a great opportunity to show readers how easy it is to create a thoughtful gift for a reasonable price.

Here is the before and after:

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This table was left pretty natural, so luckily for me there was very little sanding to do. I barely roughed up the surface and wiped it clean before applying the first coat of paint.

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Remember to wear your mask when sanding and spray painting!

If you’re working with a piece of furniture that has been painted or stained previously, you will need to do a lot more sanding (I have a hand sander that is very HANDY [pun intended])!

 

I had two options: I could spray paint or brush/roll the paint on. Since I was short on time (with working full time now), I opted for spray paint. I purchased Chalk Paint brand because it has a great reputation (spray and traditional forms) for covering furniture surfaces well so much so that the company often claims that heavy sanding isn’t required! My mom has recently started updating some guest rooms in her house so I already knew that a white accent table would work well with her designs.

Two coats of white spray paint later, I brought the table into the house for a special treatment. The table already had heart cut-outs on the legs so the old-fashioned Golden Girls vibe would live on no matter what updated paint colour I chose to use. I wanted to go with that 90s-Florida-theme and keep my Grandma’s memory alive within the table (weird? Who cares). Plus, my goal is almost always to make my parents tear up with each gift I get them (I’m not always successful, but I have fun trying). To make the table even more special I decided to decoupage the top with a collage of photos of my grandmother.

I’d had a large folder of photos of my grandmother on my laptop from when she had passed two years ago and we made photo boards for her celebration of life. I browsed my collection and chose my favourites, then I arranged them in a word document. I printed the photos in black and white at home on white cardstock (this is important because the heavier paper allows the decoupage to work without ruining your images). I sat and cut each photo out while watching Frasier and then rearranged them into a collage that I was happy with.

This next step is a good one: TAKE A PHOTO OF THE COLLAGE! I referenced this photo multiple times during the Mod Podge stage, like referring back to the box lid of a puzzle.

There are several varieties of Mod Podge finish you can buy, but I’m partial to matte (I also already had some in my craft box). I removed and placed the top layer of photos to the side while I began adhering photos that would be overlapped later. Mod Podging is really easy. You take a foam brush, dip it in the jar, paint it on the furniture surface directly under where you want your image and place the photo on top. You then paint another thin layer of Mod Podge on top of the photo you’ve just place down. After you refer back to your reference collage photo on your phone, you prepare to repeat these steps many times with the remaining photos. I sprayed a clear coat onto the rest of the table (avoiding the collage) and was happy that it was all starting to come together.

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Here’s the finished collage!

If I had Mod Podged a piece of fabric or wallpaper that was one large sheet, the table would still be level, but the layered collage made it so that the surface had become slightly uneven. This, and the desire to protect the photos, inspired me to get a small pane of glass cut for the table top.

Most local glass cutting businesses were open from 9-5pm which made things difficult with working during the day, but I managed to find an incredibly accommodating company in Ajax, Ontario called ALL Glass and Mirrors who not only cut a pane for me over the phone, but they cut it for me within fifteen minutes of me phoning and charged half the price of local competitors (SERIOUSLY RECOMMENDED)!

Photo 2017-06-07, 5 41 19 PMThe completed project cost me approximately $50.00 (2 cans of white spray paint, 1 can of clear coat, 1 cut and polished pane of glass).

We got together for my mom’s birthday dinner last night and I was so excited to give it to her! We went out for dinner and then when we were leaving I had her stand near our crossover with her eyes closed. I pulled the table out and set the glass on the top and told her to open her eyes. I explained that my aunt May had asked if I was interested in a table grandma had given her and that I refinished it for her. We looked, smiled, and laughed at some of the photos in the collage and she said “I’m going to cry.” She didn’t, but I’ll get another chance someday.

waterboy gif.gifI hope that this project inspires you to DIY your next gift and feel free to ask me any questions! Don’t forget that Pinterest has amazing links to tutorials and you can Google/Youtube just about everything these days! To quote The Waterboy… “You can do ittttt!”

When Can I Jump In? The Post-University Employment Struggle and Being Bad at Double Dutch

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Me, confident and hopeful on my graduation day.

One year ago, I had finished my 93-page undergrad thesis, passed all my exams, and was excitedly waiting to cross the stage to accept that rolled up blank piece of paper that symbolized my Bachelor of Arts degree in the next month. I was also applying to jobs and enjoying some fun life moments like attending my bridal showers and making DIY decorations for my upcoming wedding.

 

I started my job search in February 2016, I had hoped that just maybe I would be that exception in today’s society – maybe I would get a job in the industry out of university!

No, I was not an exception.

I didn’t go to university right out of high school and I was graduating at age 26. While some of my peers were afraid of what was coming next, I was chomping at the bit to jump into a career in the communications field. The thing is that there was never a good opportunity for me to jump, it was Double Dutch skipping all over again (I’m really quite terrible at that game). Entry level jobs didn’t seem to exist and online job applications meant that I was just a faceless number to potential employers.

Time passed and I had gotten a handful of interviews, but they were far and few between. I always felt confident about how the meetings went and knew that I could handle the jobs, yet someone with more experience would always win out in the end. When thinking about that all too common interview question, “what is your greatest weakness,” it was clear to me – my greatest weakness was that I hadn’t been given a chance yet. How was I supposed to get the necessary experience to land a job without landing a job?

Scrolling through Indeed listings, most openings required 2-5 years of experience in the communications industry. I often came across the specific requirement of paid experience which meant that unpaid internships weren’t being valued either. I was doing everything right according to people that I spoke with and articles that I read when looking for advice.

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A screen shot of an advice article I had been reading approximately seven months ago that I posted on Instagram.

Then one day, a few weeks ago, a university peer posted a promising message about how she had managed to get a job closer to her house and wanted to pass along suitable resumes to her employer as they were looking to fill her position as soon as possible. I quickly messaged her letting her know of my interest and then began designing a fun custom resume that I spent a couple of hours on. I mirrored design elements of the company’s website, even screen-capturing the site to ensure colour matching (thank you eyedrop tool) and including brand related imagery. I felt really good about my resume and my peer sent it to her connections.

Not too long after the resume submission, I got a call from the PR Manager and she expressed how excited she was to bring me in for an interview – she loved my resume! Like so many interviews before this one, I went in with my head held high and the confidence in myself, knowing that I could rock this job. Arriving very early, I spoke with the office manager and one of her coworkers about our love of dogs and felt like I would fit in at the office. The interview itself was nothing like my previous ones, the Founder and PR Manager were interested in getting to know my personality and we barely discussed the position.

I left feeling really great, I had a positive connection r2d2with both interviewers and I gave it my all to show my eccentricity. I mean that I really gave it my all and I’m not just saying that. In the interview, I did chimpanzee noises, I showed them the difference between that and my gorilla impersonation, did my

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Remember, Elaine’s dance is all about the kicks and the thumbs.

R2D2 sound (the one that he makes when he goes flying), I did the Elaine dance (from Seinfeld), and I talked way too much about pop culture. I made them laugh quite a lot and the Founder of the company implied that I would be getting a second interview.

 

That weekend, I received an email from the PR Manager with an assignment to complete. Chris is currently away for work, and luckily, I didn’t have much planned so I dedicated approximately eight hours of my weekend to hitting the assignment out of the park. I had fun designing visual content for hypothetical social media posts, answered questions about target marketing toward millennials and centennials, as well as thought critically about which trendsetting online presences could gel well with the company. I managed to send the assignment back within 24 hours and I was feeling fantastic. I hoped that everyone else would slack off and be way off base (it’s a competitive job market which brings out an ugly side).

The PR Manager loved my work. We scheduled a lunch meeting for the following week as a second interview and she asked if the company could use my May the Fourth visual content on their social channels. I was ecstatic, but I still didn’t get my hopes up. Fast forward to the second interview, I found out more about the job, met with the designer who I would often work with, and hoped they didn’t think that I talked too much. An hour and a half went by, we parted ways and It felt promising.

 

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Please watch Kristen Bell’s happy tear reaction when she found out that she was going to meet a sloth.

The next day, this past Tuesday, I got an email with the job offer. I cried almost immediately. They were happy tears of relief that I didn’t know I needed until that moment. This past year has been so incredibly hard, sure, I’ve been applying to jobs in pyjamas on my couch, but the emotional rollercoaster was exhausting. I texted and called my close inner circle to tell them the news, finally I had something good to share about this painful process and I wanted to shout it from the proverbial rooftops. I had to wait all day to share the news with my husband (his mornings are my nights as he is working in Kuala Lumpur), but when I did, it finally felt real. That night, I had the best sleep I’ve had in a long time.

 

 

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My second interview outfit with some red and black Smoke’s inspired plaid!

I start my new job this coming Monday and I cannot be more excited. I am officially the full-time Marketing Coordinator of Smoke’s Poutinerie Inc. and I am confident that it’s the right place for me. Lucky job application number 108!

 

The moral of the story is, that it is so hard to get a job these days even when you graduate with the top grades in your class and know that you can do the job. Our parents didn’t go through what we’re going through in order to start careers so we look to each other for advice, sympathy, and validation. I am here to validate what you’re going through. Your time of post-graduation unemployment may be one of the hardest times of your life, especially when OSAP comes calling after six months and you start paying the monthly interest to maintain your mountainous debt at it’s current peak.

What I learned during this year:

  1.  Looking for and applying to jobs is itself a full-time job
  2. Custom resumes can catch an employer’s eye, but sometimes you do the work with no result because life is unfair
  3. You will deal with jealousy, it’s hard to watch your peers get jobs when you’re struggling, but try to remind yourself of all the good stuff going on in your life too (writing this blog often helped me do that)
  4. We all need the job so try not to hate whoever gets it
  5. Sometimes you need to cry, our current job market is difficult and stressful – your tears are warranted
  6. Depending on your loved ones does not make you a failure, it means you’re lucky to be loved, accept the help
  7. When you start to lose your confidence, keep applying and fake some self-assurance
  8. Keep track of online application deadlines so that you don’t miss out on an opportunity
  9. Take a break when you need to, it can be super overwhelming and you deserve a day off
  10. Most employers will not accept tangible copies of your resume and cover letter at all anymore, my attempts never helped me get any further
  11. There are always other perfect jobs for you out there even if you don’t get this one
  12. Don’t burn bridges because you never know who might pass your resume along to the right person
  13. Pet a lot of dogs – best piece of advice I can give you, they help destress me a lot

My story was a long one, but a fruitful one, and I hope that my honesty validates your own personal experiences. Getting the job feels amazing, but it in no way negates how terrible my year of unemployment was. Be angry, be sad, feel all of the emotions that come with constant rejection and minimal finances, chumbabut use those emotions to fuel your efforts in applying to jobs. As Chumbawamba once said, “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you are never gonna keep me down,” make that song be about you (Did your family also order their CD from Columbia House, but only really listened to that song?).

Why You Should Follow More Dog Accounts on Instagram

(Scroll down for my top 6 favourite Instagram accounts [3 humans and 3 canines])

Photo 2017-04-06, 12 29 58 PM.pngInstagram is hands down my favourite social media network. I use it far more than any other platform and it tends to make me happy. Not only do I share positive moments in my life with my own followers, but I take in great snapshots and funny captions of those who I follow. In my opinion, this is how it differs most in comparison to Facebook or Twitter.

My Facebook newsfeed tends to fill up with generic memes, commonly shared stories, or rants both for and against topics that are controversial. As the Twitter feed updates, I’m led to articles of varying importance and I generally learn all my local news here. Both Facebook and Twitter definitely have their benefits, but they are more likely to expose me to depressing or upsetting content. Instagram is (largely apart from sponsored posts) curated by me, for me and I keep it feeling pretty light.

Photo 2017-04-06, 12 30 07 PMI technically run two Instagram accounts, one for me (@cassythemusicalfox) and for our dog (@summit.the.sweetheart). Before our last dog passed, my personal account was filled with photos of our dog Daq and I followed many other dog accounts. Daq had such an incredible personality that I loved sharing her with the Insta-universe, but she was an old girl and I didn’t want to create an account for her only to have to close it after she inevitably died. It was then no question as to whether or not I would start a dog account when we adopted Summit – she would rule the world… I mean approximately 300 followers on Instagram.

Having two accounts is actually very helpful to me. The dog account allows me to follow hundreds of animals online with zero shame and they all do one thing: they make me happy. Like real life dogs, Insta-doggo accounts are very loyal, it’s a faithful online community. Seeing those slobbery smiles doing pretty much anything keeps me feeling good and maybe it would help brighten your day too. Take a break from photos of your friend’s lunch and search for a cute canine going on an adventure.

So, who are three of my top humans and doggos to follow on Instagram? (Feel free to look through accounts I’m following through the Instagram profiles as well because it was really hard to choose only three of each)

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Account: @grumpyandgeeky
Followers: 12,700
Species: Human

@Grumpyandgeeky seems like a fun guy (not to be mistaken with a fungi) who posts a lot of ‘nerdy’ pop culture content. He has access to a ton of the newest and nerdiest merchandise that you will see and possibly then want to buy for yourself. He’s a man of good taste and he also occasionally posts pics of his dog which I 100% support!

 

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Account: @koda_and_moo
Followers: 809
Species: Dogs

Koda and Moo are St Berdoodles (just like my fur-babe Summit), they are brothers who have the best smiles and take frequent naps. Not only are they handsome unique looking bros, but they also give back to the community – Koda and Moo are actually therapy dogs! Sometimes they have Instagram posts featuring these two doggos making people happy offline out in the real world which then in turn makes me happy when clicking that like button online.

 

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Account: @shaundowneyart
Followers: 8261
Species: Human

Shaun Downey is a Canadian artist who is from my hometown, but currently lives in Toronto with his wife (she is another of my favourite artists [@kellygraceart]). His work is incredibly stunning, the colours are gorgeous, the details are

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My Shaun Downey print in the bedroom beside my lingerie chest.

meticulous, and his depictions of fabric textiles blow me away. Every piece by Shaun Downey stands on its own as true beauty and when you think that you have a found your favourite, you will discover his next painting. I was also lucky enough to win a print of Shaun’s last year and I love the way that it brought my girly nook together.

 

 

 

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Account: @dog_wears_hat
Followers: 1520
Species: Dog

I’ve been following @dog_wears_hat for a long while now and they are one of my all time favourite accounts. Every photo and every caption is perfection in a way that the account doesn’t take itself too seriously. This dog, Ol’ Bluey, is a star. I can only hope to look half as good in hats as Ol’ Bluey does because he totally owns it. His serious faces, that might be referred to as Ol’ Bluey-Steel, are the greatest and I hope you check them out!

 

sarahkbenning computer shotAccount: @sarahkbenning
Followers: 402,000
Species: Human

Sarah K. Benning is a talented hand embroidery artist that I happened upon during a time of needlework research. Her work is often intricate and amazes me, she was one of the first embroidery artists to inspire me to go beyond traditional hand embroidery styles and combine it with modern concepts. She has approximately 400,000 Instagram followers who all love her work, but if you can beat the rush, you can purchase your own Sarah K. Benning hoop art off of her Etsy store.

 

waitingdogstoronto computer shotAccount: @waiting.dogs.toronto
Followers: 4296
Species: Dog(s)

This account pretty much posts what you’d expect: dogs waiting to come home; dogs waiting outside the store; dogs waiting for a treat; dogs waiting at the window. The account really makes you realize what a patient species they are and they don’t even have cell phones to look at Instagram to pass the time! It’s a fun account that lets me see a good variety of dog breeds in a nearby city centre (because this is a priority when you are a crazy dog lady like me). You can also submit photos of your waiting dog by tagging them!

 


There you have it folks, a little glimpse into the behind the scenes of my Instagram priorities. What are some of your favourite accounts? What types of curating do you do? Does it make you smile? I hope so.

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!

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!

Experiencing Mystical Landscapes in a City Centre

(I did not take photos of the paintings and the ones I am using do not do the colours or texture of the real things justice – this exhibition is a must see)

cropThis past Tuesday, Chris and I had afternoon plans in Toronto so we decided to make a bit of a day out of it. We live approximately an hour away from the city and don’t go downtown very often. I am someone who really loves her hometown and usually visits small town antique stores rather than busy city boutiques – this only makes my treks to Toronto all the more special.

Since late October, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) has been hosting an exhibit called Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, Van Gogh and more. I hadn’t been to the gallery in over five years and was so excited to see the temporary collection, I was also thrilled to be going with Chris who had never gone before. We caught a train into the city just before 10:00 am and did a crossword together for the majority of the ride.

Fun Fact: I love crosswords and keep a pen in my purse just in case I happen upon one.

When we arrived at Union Station, we went upstairs to the Pilot Coffee stand where Chris bought me a hot chocolate (a child at heart) and a coffee for himself. We took our warm drinks and headed to the subway to save time. We rode the University line to St. Patrick and walked the short distance to the AGO.

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Chris and I pre-Mystical experience.

After getting our tickets and checking our coats, we climbed the stairs to the Mystical Landscape exhibition. We chose not to opt-in for audio headsets; although the audio files are educational, I find that they can take away from the viewing experience. Instead, Chris and I moved to the paintings at our own pace, viewed them in our own order, shared discussions, and read the descriptions of pieces that we liked.

The spaces were dim with picture perfect gallery lights that highlighted the masterpieces that were hung on the wall. It was incredible. The rooms were packed with art lovers, listening to their audio sets, and taking in the different forms of expression. I was so excited to see pieces that I had once studied in art history books displayed right in front of me. As soon as

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Vision of the Sermon (1888) – Paul Gaugin

we walked in, I saw Paul Gaugin’s Vision of the Sermon (1888) to our left and couldn’t wait to see more. The first room really started the collection off with a bang, there were famous paintings that I recognized every few feet. Claude Monet pieces were outstanding, I hadn’t imagined them to be so large! as a fan of impressionism, I couldn’t get enough of the colourful shading in person, you could really see the flecks of warm colours mixing with the blues and purples to represent

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Haystack, Sunset (1891) – Claude Monet

shadows – no use of black. Two of Monet’s haystack paintings were there and were a favourite of mine, but they also had some water lilies and two of the Rouen Cathedral series (allowing us to see his practise of painting the same building at various times of the day for light and colour study).

One section featured four or five different artists that depicted scenes from World War I (WWI) – Chris deemed this the Battlefield 1 display. My favourite WWI themed painting was Frederick Varley’s Gas Chamber at Seaford (1918) and Chris’ was Felix Vallotton’s Verdun (1917). It’s always fascinating to see artists’ drastically diverse interpretations, as well as how subjective viewer’s tastes are. I really enjoyed seeing which pieces Chris liked and thought about how great it would be to study a person’s psychology based on artistic preferences. If this already exists, please lead me to a link for further reading!

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Left: Gas Chamber at Seaford (1918) – Frederick Varley | Right:Verdun (1917) – Felix Vallotton

Without a doubt, the most anticipated and most enjoyable painting to see was Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night over the Rhone at Arles (1888). It was incredible to stand mere feet away from the colourful textured strokes

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Starry Night over the Rhone at Arles (1888) – Vincent Van Gogh

that are much more beautiful in person than they are in any art history textbooks. I pointed to the man and woman in the bottom right corner and told Chris that they were us and we should paint our dog Summit in. We made sure that we really allowed ourselves to take the piece in because it’s quite likely that we’ll never get to see it in person again.

If you are in or near Toronto before February 12, 2017 (the last day of the exhibition), I strongly encourage you to see Mystical Landscapes. You will not be disappointed, it was truly exceptional.

Other favourites (see below) between Chris and I were: Henri Sidaner’s Moonlight, Bruges (1900); Eugene Jansson’s Dawn over Riddarfjärden (1899), Edvard Munch’s The Sun (1909); Lawren Harris’ Decorative Landscape (1917); and Georgia O’Keeffe’s Red Hills, Lake George (1927).

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Moonlight, Bruges (1900) – Henri Sidaner
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Dawn over Riddarfjaren (1899) – Eugene Jansson
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The Sun (1909) – Edvard Munch
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Decorative Landscape (1917) – Lawren Harris
Georgia O'Keefee - Red Hills
Red Hills, Lake George (1927) – Georgia O’Keefe

Struggling with SAD-ness: Blue Monday and Maintaining Mental Health

(Today’s featured image/header is a self-portrait painting I did in highschool when I was 16, acrylics on canvas)

As “Blue Monday” has come and gone this week, I think about the significance of maintaining one’s mental health.

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Blue Monday formula above.

The term Blue Monday was actually coined in 2005 by Sky Travel, a company looking to boost sales for destinations with warmer temperatures. It is believed that Sky Travel hired a university lecturer to come up with “a pseudo-mathematical formula to pinpoint the most depressing day of the year: he combined weather, debt, time since Christmas, motivation levels, the need to take action, and time since New Year’s resolutions were made.” There is no actual scientific evidence that the third Monday in January is the most depressing day of the year, but maybe that’s okay.

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Self-portrait I painted as a teenager when I was feeling down.

Although Blue Monday is somewhat of a recent notion, it doesn’t make it any less of an annual tradition – people still celebrate Valentines Day, Labour Day, and in Canada we now have Family Day in February! As time passes, people will likely start to care less about the history and more about the positive associations and memories that come with Blue Monday. The label encourages people to put effort into their happiness and check in on one’s mood. Sometimes being reminded that other people are also experiencing hard times can make someone feel better – feel less alone. Mental health is a difficult thing to measure in quantifiable terms, so finding scientific evidence of the most depressing day of the year would prove to be difficult as well.

 

Seasonal Affective Disorder
“Weather often affects people’s moods. Sunlight breaking through clouds can lift our spirits, while a dull, rainy day may make us feel a little gloomy. While noticeable, these shifts in mood generally do not affect our ability to cope with daily life. Some people, however, are vulnerable to a type of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. For them, the shortening days of late autumn are the beginning of a type of clinical depression that can last until spring. This condition is called “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” or SAD.” – Canadian Mental Health Association

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) acknowledges what is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which could realistically be connected to the origins of Blue Monday. Approximately 10% of Canada’s population is affected by the reduction of sunlight in our winter months. This means that Sky Travel’s creation of Blue Monday was capturea brilliant PR move – a quick solution to combat SAD is to hop on a flight to an all-inclusive beach resort and soak up some rays. However, taking a last-minute vacation isn’t in the cards for everyone, especially after an expensive December.

Like the capitalist society that we are, other corporations have jumped on board the Blue Monday bandwagon. Discounts, sales, or one day deals actually help us afford to treat ourselves, even if it’s something small. For example, I got an email from Cineplex last week informing me that my Scene points would be worth double (get a movie ticket for half the amount of scene points) for one day only, for Blue Monday.


collage1.jpgI asked my mom if she wanted to come see
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story with me (second time for myself, first time for her) and she was an obvious yes. We ate dinner at home, picked up some grapefruit coolers for after the movie, and went to check out of reality for a couple hours at the theatre.

We did girls-night right:

I think that it’s important to live a balanced lifestyle, or try to at least because I don’t know anyone who has actually mastered this art. We all have a lot going on and you need to remember that as amazing as other people’s lives may look on social media, they’re not perfect either. That’s why this particular capitalist-created day of the year isn’t all that bad. Embrace the concept of taking care of yourself, there are many affordable (or even free) ways to actively work at keeping happy. Start a pinterest board that you can go to when feeling down, one of things that make you happy as well as ideas of free ways to cheer yourself up!

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Sacchan the mysterious and overweight japanese dog from my favourite video.

What are some small things that you do to make yourself smile and maintain your happiness? For me, I look at an excessive amount of dog photos and videos. I’ll finish this week off with my current favourite dog video, enjoy!