Throwback Thursday: Kensington Market Memories

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The photo of my mom that Facebook reminded me of earlier!

Facebook’s On This Day feature loves reminding us about things we don’t always want to think about. Frequently, they remind me of my dead dog, my dead grandmother, or to change the privacy settings to “only me” on a lot of old photo albums, but today was different!

Today’s On This Day photo was from a seven-year-old Facebook album with photos of a day trip my mom and I took in 2010. At 19, I had never been to Kensington Market and was vintage-clothes-obsessed so I knew I had to go. My mom and I took the Go-Train into Toronto and explored the Kensington Market streets together (my mom brought her digital camera [neither of us had smart phones yet]), getting smoothies, browsing retro jewelery collections and racks of vintage dresses. That day I bought a 1960’s dress, a 1940’s turquoise hat, and a tie-dye Twiggy print tshirt (I still own the last two).

I remember this day quite well and it’s because my mom and I had such a great time! I’m lucky to have a mother who I also consider a friend. I feel like we’re even closer now than we were seven years ago and it’s probably thanks to adventures like these – I appreciate our time together (even if this appreciation is amplified in retrospect!).

Take a look at the rest of the album below:

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Kickin’ Back in Kincardine: My Canada 150

I had an excellent CANADA150!

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Summit looking fab in a borrowed Canada bandana.
Last Saturday was Canada Day which meant that I got to enjoy an extra day off this past Monday too! Here’s a glimpse into my long weekend fun:

Chris dropped me off at a co-worker’s house last Friday morning; she wonderfully helped us out by driving me into work so that Chris and Summit could pick me up on the way out of town for the long weekend. The three of us (dog included) crammed into the car with all of our things (dog bed included [she’s very spoiled]) and set forth on our mini-vacay.

Traffic was surprisingly not as horrible as we thought it would be! It was more than usual, but we still got to our destination, Kincardine, Ontario, within approximately four hours. We stayed with my sister, brother-in-law, and their many animal companions: Dude the Bernese Mountain Dog, Sidney Prescott the German Shepard, Taco the lean grey cat, and Rafi the collage 1munchkin cat. Summit was very excited to see her fur-cousins and we decided to walk downtown Kincardine to see the end of the car show and get some ice cream. The car show had mostly ended, but we enjoyed a walk and some ice cream creations from Dairy Queen under a nice sunset. After a long day of working and sitting in the car, the guest room pillow was my new best friend.

Saturday morning, we got up and got ready to see the Kincardine Canada Day parade. We drove down and I almost immediately regretted not bringing Summit to the parade, but was also incredibly excited to point out and pet many patriotic doggos that were in attendance. The parade was really lovely! It wasn’t too long, many community organizationscollage 2 celebrated, my favourite town mascot was in the centre of it all (he’s a lighthouse), the famous hockey player Paul Henderson rode in a horse drawn buggy, and then everyone in attendance joined in behind the parade and headed toward the water. At a certain point, we got to the end and realized our best bet was to walk back the same direction we had come. collage 3.jpgThe problem was that many other people were still parading down the street toward the water so we were walking against the traffic. My brother-in-law insisted that this was terribly bad luck (in a superstitious way) and that people were giving us dirty looks – he did this for my benefit, to try to make me paranoid – he really is my brother). We made it out alive and un-scolded by paraders.

The four of us decided to take the dogs for a walk nearby in the woods, this was perfect for Summit who would have missed the wooded dog park walks that she so enjoys every day. By the time that we got back to the house, my dad, stepmom, and step-dog-sister Lucy were arriving to my sister’s as well for Canada Day festivities. We had a BBQ, relaxed in the backyard and walked back downtown to get drinks.

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My sister and brother-in-law at the Erie Belle.
We sat on the balcony facing the waterfront at Erie Belle Fish & Chips, had drinks, and shared stories for an hour or so.

The water looked so nice that we walked passed the docks and along the beach. Our party became a mini parade, marching one by one in the tide while families played in the sand and water around us. I smiled when I saw the big blue chairs that are a novelty to me every time that I see them – they never stop being fun! We took some photos as a family and a friendly fellow Canadian offered to take a full group shot as he watched us struggle to fit into a selfie. Our bodies collage 4began to ache and we got a taxi van back to my sister’s house halfway through the walk home.

We hot-tubbed and ate appetizers in the backyard until the late evening. Our cab driver hilariously dropped us off at/in the end of the parade and we jumped out quickly so that he could drive in reverse back down the road to get out of the way of the approaching tough-looking marching band in some serious kilts. We laughed and merged with the crowd to applaud and appreciate the band. The town then scattered to find and claim the best lookout spots to see the fireworks. As the sky started to darken, the air got colder and my blanket-like sweater became a sweater for two (my husband and I basically became Turk and JD from Scrubs). The fireworks were really incredible! I hadn’t seen fireworks like that in so long, I felt like a kid during the finale shots that totally blew me away. It was a

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Top: Chris and I wearing A sweater. Bottom: Turk and JD from Scrubs as “Multi-Ethnic-Siamese-Doctor.”
really fun experience to share with my family – especially my dad and sister who I remember watching fireworks with on a blanket in the grass as a kid.

Adult life can be hard sometimes, but I love those moments that remind you that you can still experience significantly happy moments similarly to the way you did as a kid – the ones that make you appreciate your life and you know that you’ll probably look back on this exact moment in another twenty years. What I loved about my Canada Day weekend was that it was spent with family and was very inexpensive (Haha)! Seriously though, Kincardine, like many other Canadian cities, provided a fantastic, accessible, public celebration that they should be proud of!

Happy 150th Anniversary Canada! And thanks Kincardine!

How did you celebrate? What part of Canada did you get to appreciate this year?

 

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!

March Break Day Out: An Artsy Aunt on a Budget

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Zoey roaring in front of some pretty wall art!

March break is coming to an end, but you still have tomorrow or next year to plan for!

My niece, Zoey, is approximately seven and a half years old and was off school this week for March Break. I decided that I would take her on an afternoon outing in town. If you are also able to have the time off, there are plenty of things that you can do with your young ones for a very low cost in Oshawa. Today we went to the Robert McLaughlin Gallery (RMG), our local art gallery that is a favourite of mine.

Budget Breakdown:
-Two 80 page sketchbooks and a pack of crayons = $10.75
-Wendy’s lunch for two = $11.74
-Downtown parking = $1.75
-Suggested art gallery donation = $5.00

Total afternoon adventure = $29.24
(Keep in mind if you already have sketch materials and pack your own lunch the day could be $6.75!)

I don’t entirely remember my first RMG visit (I think I was a preteen), but you can never start appreciating art too early. Zoey has always shown an interest in art, we have coloured and drawn together since she was able to hold a crayon. Now that she’s in grade two, art is her favourite subject in school and I love that we can share experiences together in Oshawa’s artistic community.

collage 1To start our adventure, we needed some fuel so we stopped at Wendy’s for lunch! Kids are easy when it comes to food and taking them somewhere fancy will likely only lead to them not liking what they have to eat (although I must say I was impressed with the newly renovated modern decor, Wendy’s is classier than I remember). We talked about what was happening in school and Zoey danced in her seat to the popular songs playing on the radio that I didn’t know. Zoey had assured me that she could finish a small vanilla frosty after her happy meal and I didn’t tell her “I told you so” when it was still 4/5ths full at the end of it all.

Some Wendy’s Wisdom:
At one point, a group of teenagers were having an odd amount of fun near the Wendy’s trash cans and I asked, “What are these kids laughing at?” to which Zoey replied, “They’re teenagers, that’s just what they do… they laugh at nothing” – she is wise beyond her age.

collage 2After we parked, we took photos with my favourite statue that sits just outside of the gallery. Zoey was really excited to go in and as she ran up the outdoor ramp I told her about some art gallery etiquette. She was delightfully well behaved the whole time with no running, touching, or yelling and she compared gallery etiquette to rules in libraries. The RMG is technically free, but they suggest a $5.00 donation which Zoey happily inserted into the contribution box in the lobby. Steve, the security guard, was friendly as usual and we began our self guided tour.

I was so happy that the Durham Reach exhibition was still installed so that I could show Zoey works of art by local artists including pieces created by a handful of people that I Photo 2017-03-16, 12 42 01 PMknow personally. As we moved from piece to piece in the first room (Alexandra Luke I Gallery), I admired that Zoey already seems to have a definitive idea of what she does and doesn’t like in terms of art style. She tended to like paintings that used bright colours, were pretty, fun, interactive, and she also liked the sculptures that suspended from the ceiling. She did surprise me in how broadly her taste extended with certain pieces that I didn’t think that she’d appreciate, but she’d say “oooh I like this one.”

In the second room (Alexandra Luke II Gallery), we decided to get out our brand-new dollar store sketch books and try to draw a multimedia statue that was set up. We each drew different characters in the piece and I really loved her drawings. I had seen the upcycled structure a few times before, collage 3but had only noticed that they all had erect penises when we were drawing all the details – Zoey thought it was funny, but it didn’t bother her. The same room showcased an interactive wooden triangle installation that Zoey really wanted to play with. I made a dog and she made a fish, we both loved all the colours.

Zoey wanted to draw a piece made up of stacked painting studies and a ceramic globe in the third gallery space (Isabel McLaughlin Gallery). As we were drawing, a large group of kids in the gallery’s March Break day-camp came through and were running, touching, and making a lot of noise. Zoey commented on how bad they were being and I counted myself lucky that she was sitting, drawing, and having a good time being calm!

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Photo 2017-03-16, 1 43 11 PMWe went downstairs to look at Gallery A and were lucky enough to meet an in-house artist who was working on casts to make pots for a new project. She explained the process to Zoey and even took a look at some of her drawings that she had done upstairs. We climbed the steps once more and headed into the last room of our tour (R. S. McLaughlin Foundation Gallery). She liked the metal salmon that had a working crank that made the body move as if it was swimming. Zoey also found many of the pieces in the room to be a bit scary and we quickly moved on to those that were less dark. Zoey enjoyed her time at the RMG so much that she didn’t really want to leave. We stayed in the activity room near the back of the gallery for another half hour or so, drawing and enjoying the sunlight.

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We eventually collected our things and headed to the car. It had been a quiet and art-filled afternoon that was good for us both.

I saw my niece smile a lot today… and that means the world to me.

Our Art:

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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
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Red Hills, Lake George (1927) – Georgia O’Keefe

Where the Sidewalk Ends: Shel Silverstein Poetry Collection or Location of the Metal Box of Doom?

This blog entry has nothing to do with Shel Silverstein… but is about how I hurt myself just passed a sidewalk.

Fun Fact: Sometimes crazy things happen to me/I happen to them.

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Took this shot on my flip phone circa 2010. The staple actually broke through to the other side where my nail was.

Throughout the years, I have found myself in some quirky or even less than ideal situations. These scenarios range from the romantic to the painful and equate to a decent non-existent screenplay for a Rom-Com. I’ll save funny romance stories for another day, but here are two examples of my personal slapstick comedy:
1. I once got half of a toothpick stuck in the heel of my foot for 45 minutes.
2. I accidentally staple-gunned two of my fingers together in art college.

Getting hurt isn’t actually as funny as it looks on film, it only becomes funny to the victim after one month. This is my allotted time period of grieving, approximately one month (give or take) after the incident you will have told the story enough times that it’s almost like you’re recapping a bad sitcom. Time actually does heal the embarrassment and when you start looking at it as if it happened to someone else – it can be hilarious.

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The albino from The Princess Bride knows all about pits of despair.

So, what happened to me today, Monday January 2nd, 2017? I fell into a small pit of despair – a metal box of doom (this would be a decent band name by the way).

I took Summit for a walk along our usual route, this includes some playtime at a nearby park before we head home. We had stopped at the park and were wandering the soccer field when I suddenly had an idea.

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Summit at the park we stopped at pre-incident.

In my very cookie-cutter suburban neighbourhood there is a small farm that didn’t accept the buyout for the land when the houses were being built. Chris and I often take the street that the farm sits on and I like to admire the animals. They mainly have sheep, but they also have some cows, horses, and (most importantly [one of my favourite animals]) a donkey. I thought it might be fun for Summit to see the animals so we crossed the street toward the fence.

The sidewalk ends in an odd place. Instead of ending the sidewalk at the corner of the street, it continues for another 15ft or so alongside one of the houses. The farmland is very clearly fenced off starting behind the aforementioned house’s backyard, approximately 15ft passed the end of the sidewalk. Summit and I casually walked through the snow toward the farm fence, but we realized very quickly that none of the animals were out. We turned to head home, but before we got back to the sidewalk I fell.

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Remember when Jenifer Lawrence tripped up the stairs at the 2013 Oscars?
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Baymax, from Big Hero 6, struggles with stairs too.

You know that feeling you get when your body recognizes that it’s about to fall up/or down the stairs? Multiply that by at least 10 to understand the surreal moment that I experienced. The snow beneath my left foot disappeared and I started to fall straight down. My right leg stayed above ground and I quickly pulled myself up, but not before banging my left leg up a bit and twisting my right knee.

My first thought was, “the ice is breaking!”

My second thought was, “this cannot be a pond.”

I had taken a wrong step on a metal lid that was covered in snow. This underground box was level with the ground and had been covered by about 4 inches of white camouflage. I suppose my weight was on one side of the lid

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My metal box of doom.

and it tilted open to let me fall through. The box was probably only about 3ft or 4ft deep and seemed to contain some electrical wires. The box itself wasn’t all that scary, but slipping into it was.

In shock, I took some photos and planned on calling the city to shut it properly when I got home. I walked the 15-minute route home in more like 25 minutes. The city people said that they would look into closing it properly so that kids don’t get hurt. I am officially resting after a hot shower and am alternating ice pack positions. The pain isn’t so bad and I’ll likely only have minor bruising with some strained muscles, but what a crazy afternoon!

For now, I will add this to my list of weird adventures that if filmed would have been hilarious (if anyone caught it on tape, please contact me and we will try to win money on Americas Funniest Home videos). Everyone else, you should take this story as a life lesson to explore less – suburbia is downright dangerous.

where-the-sidewalk-endsPS. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein is my favourite book of poetry! I definitely recommend borrowing it from the library if you are unfamiliar with Silverstein’s fanciful writing style and humorous illustrations.

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:

Home (Shopping) for the Holidays: Ordering Gifts Online

Christmas is less than 40 days away – how are you prepping for it?

Thinking and purchasing gifts for your loved ones can be intimidating, but with technology these days you can be comfortable and even drinking a glass of wine during the process! It’s still November so shopping in stores is pretty doable, but December is closing in fast and so are those grumpy shoppers. I suggest that you avoid the lineups and checkout online instead.


History and Numbers

Online shopping has actually been around since 1979 when computer and electronics innovator Michael Aldrich invented the original concept in the United Kingdom:

“In 1979 he connected a modified domestic television via a telephone line to a real- time multi-user transaction processing computer. He marketed the system from 1980 onward and sold mainly Business-to-Business systems.”

Fast forward to 2016, and online methods have obviously advanced quite a bit and, if you haven’t already, so can you!

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Big Commerce Infographic.

According to Big Commerce, “96% of Americans have made an online purchase at some point in their lives, and four in five (80%) have done so in the last month alone.” The statistics sound high, but when you think about it, a lot of people that you know probably shop online – my husband and I definitely do. Although this shopping trend may be associated with younger generations, people of all ages are discovering the benefits for themselves.

Big Commerce’s infographic on age demographics shows that the percentage of shoppers decreases with age, but that it is not just millennials who are sidestepping department store lineups:

Laura Stevens, of the Wall Street Journal, discussed the results of UPS’s annual online shopping survey earlier this June. She explained that for the last three years the percentage of what online shoppers are buying has increased – this year they made approximately 51% of their purchases online.

I hope that these numbers help to ease reader’s minds who may have been nervous about online shopping. If you are on a secure retailer’s website that has positive reviews (always read reviews), then you, like millions of other people, will likely have a safe and enjoyable shopping experience.


Connecting to Christmas

So why am I writing about this today? It’s a great time to shop online for Christmas.

 

As a rule, I like to give myself at least 14 days in advance to allow for unforeseen circumstances with postage. That’s the one thing about purchasing gifts online – waiting for them to arrive can be nerve racking if you have never ordered before. think-geek-free-shipping-over-75Most retailers provide multiple shipping options, but these can add up quickly for the sake of convenience. You’ll find that many sites promote special deals where you don’t have to pay for standard shipping if your virtual-cart total hits their target price – if you do all your shopping in one spot, this will be perfect for you! Mid November means that you have plenty of time to wait for ordered gifts to arrive.

If you’re reading this before November 28th then you’re in luck! Now you can really think about what items you want to purchase and plan ahead. Some of the best deals are approaching with Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales between November 28th-December 1st. Canadian stores have also started participating in cutting prices for these traditional days over the years which has been nice for Christmas shopping. When you’re purchasing presents online during these sale days, you won’t find yourself in physical brawls which is an added bonus (unless you fight over the laptop with a family member)!

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Even Amazon.ca is advertising Black Friday sales!

Another great site to shop on and save money with is a family favourite in our household – Amazon. You can find items at a lower cost year-round and their search-engine-esque system makes it easy to find what you’re looking for.


Shop Local-Globally

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I’m a big fan of the “Think. Shop. Buy. Local” movement in which people support artisans within their communities instead of shopping in department stores. Look for advertisements about craft sales, Christmas fairs, and other local events with hardworking vendors to shop at this year.

Check out The LivingRoom Community Art Studio’s Handmade with Heart Arts and Crafts Marketplace this Saturday the 19th if you live in Durham Region, ON, Canada!

With technology, artisans are now selling beautiful handmade items online! I really love sites like Etsy because the reviews on sellers allow you to feel confident when purchasing unique and personalized items for your loved ones. In the past, I have ordered: a hand carved Lord of the Rings sign from Mississippi, US; an engraved pocket compass from Turkey; an engraved tie clip from Wisconsin, US; and a lot more.

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You can find items from almost any niche fandom and your recipient will be lucky enough to own a one of a kind product (or limited edition).


So what do you think, do you like to shop online? Maybe give it a chance this year so that you don’t have to stress about finding a parking spot or waiting in line behind customers yelling at innocent cashiers at the insanely busy mall.

Two more interesting infographics from Big Commerce:
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The Gift to Thrift: $8507 Wedding Budget Breakdown

(Scroll to the end to see screenshot of my Wedding Wire Budget)

I first started this blog by briefly introducing the internet to my August 2016 wedding. As I said then, my fiancé and I are really proud of how much money we saved by doing the whole thing for $8507.00. Today I thought that I’d breakdown the budget for you and give you some helpful tips when planning your own wedding for under $10,000.

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Tip #1: Before you start, buy a ‘coupon holder’ from the dollar store.
I used this to organize all of my receipts and the companies’ business cards – it was extremely helpful.

Our wedding was in Brooklin, Ontario Canada. We looked for venues within the Durham Region that weren’t typical wedding venues so that they wouldn’t come with that dreaded wedding price tag. Since our wedding was to host approximately 75 guests, smaller venues were an option and we actually found quite a few that were less than the one we ended up with. We just fell in love with the community centre’s modern architecture and windows.

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Our venue was the Brooklin Community Centre and Library, multi-purpose room.

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Tip #2: Sign up on Wedding Wire’s website.
I actually accidentally got started on the American version of the website rather than the Canadian one, but it worked out fine. Either site is recommended because of how helpful they are. Wedding Wire hosts multiple online services in one place. I personally used the budget tracker, personal wedding website, RSVP counter, and vendor reviews.


Three Highest Costs

The main chunks of our wedding budget went to catering, venue rental, and alcohol.

  • Catering = $3,393.68      
  • Venue Rental + Insurance = $1,215.57    
  • Alcohol = $890.00 (after returns)

Our catering price was actually approximately $2000.00 above what we had initially planned for. Chris and I are pretty laid back and had actually wanted to hire a local pulled pork place and use fancy looking paper plates. Due to ‘objections’ to our super casual dinner plans from both sides of our families we reluctantly upped the budget to get a caterer with better quality serving ware. This is one of the only things that we budged on to please our parents. What I’m saying is, if you’re up for a really casual dinner, you can get yours for about $2000.00 – just do your homework locally!

Our venue rental went through the city of Whitby’s permit coordinating services which was made more difficult by employees switching positions halfway through planning (the first woman was a joy to deal with and the second was not). They provided the tables and chairs without any added price which was great too, our caterer had linens.

We probably bought close to $2000.00 worth of alcohol for the wedding. Chris wanted to be overprepared and if you get help from an LCBO employee that has worked with a bride and groom in the past, they will help you buy the right amount and right size of bottles to help make returns a lot easier. We were very happy that people drank quite a bit, and we didn’t run out of anything. Our bar tender (from the caterer) worked hard that night, yet we still brought back half of what we bought!

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Tip #3: Feel lucky.
Yes, I won my wedding gown, BUT (and this is a big but) someone was going to win and it could be you. The wedding dress doesn’t have to be a big price listed on your wedding budget. You should go to every boring/tiring bridal show you can to enter their contests. Even if you don’t win your gown, there are a ton of other options to save money here. With accessories and alterations, my ‘free’ gown cost me just under $500.00 which was my dress budget before winning anyway.

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I had planned on wearing a gorgeous gown (colourful or not) from an expensive dress store like Melanie Lynn, Laura, BCBG, or The Bay. Do we really need to wear white on our wedding day? I think not. I would have had just as much fun in a bright emerald green dress.

I had also considered buying a used wedding gown – I’ll be selling my own once I get it dry-cleaned. Women only wear these things for one day! ONE DAY – that’s nothing! I wear vintage clothes from the 1960s that have been worn many more times than these gowns that need new homes. Adopt don’t shop applies to both dogs and dresses!


Biggest Cost Savers

Four of our biggest cost savers were using grocery store flowers, not hiring a DJ, having a friend do the photography, and having nimble fingers for DIY projects.

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Have you heard of the cost of flowers for a wedding? Too much to spend on things that cannot be reused. I pre-ordered the flowers that I wanted for my wedding from Sobeys to be ready to be picked up on the morning of the wedding. Our flowers cost $158.28 – total, for centrepieces, bridesmaid bouquets, and one bridal bouquet. We arranged them ourselves and the guys really didn’t care about having boutonnieres. It’s all about considering what is actually important to you.

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One of my favourite photos from the wedding: Chris and I after the ceremony, walking out to Beat Your Heart Out by The Distillers.

We asked one of our best friends to help us coordinate the music that I had carefully downloaded for the night. We used our iPad to have a dinner music playlist, a dance playlist, and separate areas for important cued songs including those used during the ceremony, first dance, father-daughter/mother-son dances, etc. My only suggestion here is that you use a computer with iTunes instead of the iPad. The tablet device didn’t provide the option to fade into songs which as a perfectionist bothered me. Our closest friends and family enjoyed themselves and danced a bunch! My step-mom was actually impressed enough to ask me to provide the music for her parent’s 50th anniversary this past October.

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This is a personal favourite of mine

When we started looking for photography I wanted to ask people that I knew first. Amazingly, after asking my friend Caitlin Currie how much she would charge, she offered her services to me for free out of kindness and friendship. She did us a massive favour and we love our photos, we wanted to give her at least a little something though so we gave her $200.00. What we love most about our photos is how candid some of them are or the way that they look real compared to how overly Photoshopped some wedding photos are these days. They are us and she did a wonderful job.

Things that I did myself/with the help of friends and family:

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  • Cut and assembled paper decorations (bunting and paper airplanes on yarn)
  • Made our cake topper (Dollar store dinos with crafty clothes)
  • Partially personalized bridesmaid gifts (hangers and embroidered makeup bags)
  • Invitations and Guest Coaster favours (Used an easy editing site called PicMonkey.com and then used my own designs when ordering them off of Vista Print’s website when they were half price)
  • Candy Bar bags (bought brown paper bags from the dollar store and stamped 100 of them with mom)
  • Grey table runners with iron on hems (Thank you Heather Luckhart for holding the scary iron)
  • My makeup

 

Tip #4: Thrift shops, thrift shops, and more thrift shops.
When I say this, I don’t only mean storefronts, but also wonderful resale apps like Kijiji and Varagesale. I bought so many of our decorations used and for half or less of their original price. Varagesale became a personal favourite of mine because of their glorious Holidays-Wedding category in which users consistently posted barely used decorations from their own weddings. Often times, you have a large gap between getting engaged and getting married, the key is to always be on the lookout for deals and to convince your fiancé that a wedding item storage room is necessary (half of our office was dedicated to this).

So with a ton of hard work on not only my part, but the efforts put forth by my friends and family, we were able to keep our wedding under $10,000! We loved our special day without spending the price of a house down payment and are happier for it!

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Last bunch of Tips:
#5: Don’t have one set image of how your wedding should be.

#6: Things don’t have to match to work – we used an assortment of different sized glass vases for flowers.

#7: Pinterest and budget blogs are your best friend for DIY ideas, have confidence in yourself.

#8: What matters is that you enjoy your wedding, stop trying to impress people by going big.

#9: Let parental figures have the occasional win, but this is your wedding, they already had theirs and I bet they wanted it their way too.

#10: Have fun. Things will never be perfect, that doesn’t exist. Your attitude is really important in creating one of the happiest days of your life.

 


Finally, here is a screenshot of my Wedding Wire Budget page:

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