Friday, July 30, 2010

breaking the silence

This morning, on my commute into work I had a change of heart. I was looking forward to writing about my exciting weekend plans and the great deal I got on my upcoming white water rafting adventure, but, after seeing this article on page four of 24 Hours, I felt very strongly that there was something else I needed to talk about. There are so many inspirational people in the world and I believe that highlighting their dreams and accomplishments pushes us all to make a difference, no matter how big or small, and inspires others to do the same.

Michael Schratter, an elementary school teacher and local social columnist, has big plans for this upcoming year. Through an amazing journey in honour of raising funds and awareness for mental illness that will see him biking around the world, Michael hopes to break the silence and create positive conversations surrounding a topic that seems too taboo to talk about. On August 1st, Michael will begin his 40 000 km Ride Don’t Hide campaign across 6 continents to bring awareness to mental health issues. Not only is the fact that he will be riding an incredible distance something worth talking about but the fact that he himself suffers, and has suffered since he was 13, from depression, anxiety and related mental health issues, makes him all the more courageous and certainly an inspiration to me.

Ride Don't Hide

It’s inspiring to see people put their ‘normal’ lives on hold to take part in a challenge that not only is a physical battle but also a mental one, as tough issues take center stage and force the world to take a closer look at it’s self. There are so many tough topics out there that often don’t get the attention they need causing so many to suffer in silence. Having the courage to talk about it is such a step in the right direction.

Whether you support Michael’s campaign or any other cause close to your heart, I know we all can make a difference in the lives of those around us, even if it’s as simple as lending an ear or being a friend.

Who inspires you?

PS...a big hello to all of you who have jumped over to my blog from Dancing Branflakes! Thanks for stopping by, I hope you have a good time! I couldn't be more excited that Tiffany chose to feature me today! Challenge yourself to jump high, have fun and take a will make you smile!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

shiny happy people

According to this feature from Forbes on MSN, I can happily report that I am living in one of the happiest countries in the world. With Costa Rica taking the top spot for happiness and Panama following in the number three spot, Canada was awarded silver as the second happiest country within the Americas and I think that gives all us Canucks a little something extra to smile about. Add to it the fact that my country is sandwiched between two tropical tourist destinations and it sure does make me proud to be living where I am.

While I don’t live in the happiest city in Canada - that award has gone to Montreal, having been ranked number two by Lonely Planet – I do have to agree with Lonely Planet’s US Travel Editor, Robert Reid. He says “ can find happiness anywhere you go...” and I’m positive he’s right! If you ask me, happiness is subjective. It means different things to different people for different reasons so to claim that my city may be happier then yours seems only to be a matter of opinion. I enjoy where I live, I enjoy the people around me and I truly enjoy my life. But I think that there are hundreds of places that I could live that would provide the same level of happiness that I experience in my current city. I think my happiness has more to do with what I make of my surroundings than the actual city, or country, itself. I’m sure if we all ranked the places we’ve been in terms of what city made us smile the most or what country we thought was the happiest, we’d be giving out awards to a lot of different destinations. Either way, I’m going to keep smiling…not only because Canada is a happy country but, more importantly, because I have lots to be happy about.

Do you live in a happy city? How do you measure happiness?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

no such thing as a free lunch

Every once and awhile, I like to give up sweets. I have a huge sweet tooth and an incredible amount of will power but every so often, the sweet tooth prevails and I get to the end of the week feeling like my stomach has taken a wrong turn into Candy Land. This time, when I decided to give up sugary goodness for a month, my sweet husband decided he'd support me and sign up for thirty days without treats as well. At two weeks in, the cravings haven't got the best of us yet but temptation reared it's ugly head in a very surprising way. While making his way through the grocery store, my husband wandered by the end of an aisle where cake mix and icing were on sale for 88 cents each. While sales always seem to catch his eye, cake and icing never go unnoticed either and I’m sure it tortured him a little inside to know that he wouldn’t be having any cake anytime soon. However, I was surprised that instead of complaining that my health kick was causing him to crave cans of icing more so than before, he commented on how ridiculous it was that a box of cake mix and a can of icing (plus the eggs, oil, milk, water etc.) could be purchased for the crazy low cost of about 3 dollars. Compare this to a healthy dinner for a family of four...chicken, vegetables...and you're talking a 30 dollar meal for most people. The treats all of a sudden don't seem so tempting just for their taste but instead for their cost as well! How unfair!

How crazy is it that for a tenth of the price of a well balanced meal, a family of four could each eat a quarter of a cake? I'm sure I've thought about it before but when cutting out sweets, you're forced to look at food in a different way. It makes me feel truly lucky that I can afford to eat well. It makes me feel lucky that I can choose healthy foods for their nutrition and not worry about tomatoes costing more than Twizzlers. But it also makes me wonder...does it become a toss-up for some people? Why save a few pounds when you can save a few bucks? How unfair is it that not only do the things that are the worst for us health-wise seem to taste the best and coast the least? I knew that cans of icing would catch my husband’s eye but the fact that it was because of price and not taste certainly says a lot.

Just some food for thought. What are your thoughts on sweet treats and how cheap they can be?


Friday, July 23, 2010

(your name here)

Receiving mail is always a pleasant surprise. Who doesn’t love a handwritten letter or a brown-paper wrapped package? Considering that I am excited to see just about anything addressed to me, I was beyond excited about the package that showed up in my mail box last night.

About a month ago, I stumbled across The Sketchbook Project. It’s an awesome project with a really simple concept that allows artists from all over the world to have their work displayed in a travelling exhibit. You sign up, they send you a sketchbook, you fill the sketchbook any way you like, you send it back, they put it in an exhibit and they travel the exhibit around the States.

The Sketchbook Project: 2011

Two weeks ago, after finally deciding that I was worthy enough to be a part of such a cool project, I signed up, selected the “(your name here)” theme and hoped that when my sketchbook arrived, I’d be able to produce something cool, creative and perfect for the project.

And last night, my amazing sketchbook was waiting for me in the mailbox! I tore it open pretty quickly, flipped through the blank pages dreaming of all the images I’d have to create to fill it, admired my new library card and then tucked it back in it’s packaging for safe keeping until I put pen to paper. I don’t know when they started this searching out of sketchers for their exhibition so I might be a little behind on jumping into this project but I am so looking forward to getting it started. I think it’s a fantastic way to engage artists from all skill levels, all over the world, and all types of styles - stimulating the art community one sketchbook at a time!

For any aspiring, established or wannabe artists, there is still time to be apart of this artistic concert tour – you have until October 31st, 2010 to sign up! And let me know because I would love to follow along.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

driving along in my automobile

Summertime to me means road trip time. There is really nothing like packing up the car, making sure you’ve got some good treats and great music and preparing for the long road ahead. Depending on the company, I personally think road trips are a fantastic way to vacation. Getting to your destination becomes half the fun! And I don’t think I’m alone…Marta has posted some of her most helpful tips for how to road trip in style. My personal fave? Bringing socks to cuddle up in after kicking off the flip flops! I thought I was the only one!

I’ve always dreamed of just getting in a car and driving, not having a plan, not having a destination and just making decisions on the fly about where to go. It would be so freeing to not worry about getting through traffic or getting somewhere ‘on-time’. I always picture my road-trip-to-wherever-life-takes-me beginning on a hot summer day in an old red convertible, with my hair blowing in the wind and the perfect tunes blaring on the radio. I want to drive without a worry, close my eyes, put my finger on a map and just find a way to get there. I want to come to a T in the road and have to choose right or left, not knowing what lies behind either turn.

Road trips offer a different perspective for exploring. They allow you to show off your ability to recognize license plates or to count blue cars as the speed by. I think what I like best about road trips is spending quality time with my fellow adventurers. While there may be several downsides (raunchy reststops and a little road rage!) I really feel they are suited to summertime travel.

Do you love to road trip? What are your tips for a successful road trip?

Monday, July 19, 2010

survey're beautiful

Good news (I think!) for all you 31 year old women - you are currently at your most attractive according to this Maclean’s article!


While this article didn’t seem to be all that informative or scientific, I can definitely tell you that I feel more attractive now that I did when I was 18 or 19. I don’t know if it has more to do with the way I look or the way I feel but I do know that I am much happier with myself now than I was when I was awkwardly making my way through my first year of university. Considering I am still not at 31 and apparently I have several years before my beauty is at it’s best, it does give me another reason to get excited about getting older.

I think you have to take stats like these with a grain of salt but I do have to agree with the 70 per cent of respondents that defined beauty as being confident. I think the confidence factor is what makes us more attractive as we age. It’s not the fact that we are getting older, and therefore, more beautiful, but the fact that we are more comfortable and confident in our skin. We know how to present ourselves to the world in a way that we are proud of. We have given up on trying to impress others and instead focus more on making ourselves happy. This healthier attitude may have something to do with how attractive we appear to the outside world. And maybe as we age, we are more able to express our inner beauty on the outside. I know society tends to tells us that beauty is defined by certain measurements but in my opinion, beauty should not be defined by a number – by age or weight or size – but instead by a feeling. And no matter what society tells us, beauty will always be defined differently. So whether you’re 18 or 31 or 65, I hope you feel beautiful.

Is there a certain age at which you have felt most beautiful? How do you define beauty?

Friday, July 16, 2010

blast from the past

I really cannot wait for Saturday night to come. I’m always excited about Saturday’s, they happen to be my favourite day of the week, but this Saturday is special because I will be kicking back in my car with a seat full of snacks at the drive-in movie theatre! Kids running around in their pajamas, couples wrapped in blankets in the back of trucks, two (or three!) movies for less than the price of one and, most importantly, dancing sweets encouraging me to visit the snack bar. The number of drive-in theatres has sharply declined over the years since their introduction in New Jersey in 1933 but being in the open air, getting cozy, watching a couple movies and not having to worry about what stranger might shush you if you have something to say is quite the treat.

With how fast technology is advancing, it’s no surprise that certain things from the past are on their way out. Having a drive-in to go to in my area makes me happy and only reminds me of other classics that I love.

Jukeboxes are fading away but I cannot help wanting to hear it play every time I see one. Flipping through the list of records, using the big, sticky buttons to select the song, hearing the record drop…all things that I wish I got to experience more often! Coin operated, fancy lights and colours and the sweet sound of oldies that float through the air. It all makes me think I should have been born a few decades earlier!

And diners! I imagine it’s more common to see a diner than a jukebox or drive-in movie theatre but there’s something about the stainless steel outsides, red-topped stools, cushy booths and waitresses in white that seem synonymous with eating out back in the day. I think I could go for a milkshake right now!

What classics do you crave?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

simple smiles: i like everything

First of all, how cute is this little girl?! I cannot get over her adorable curls and the way she pumps her little fists!

What a way to start the day! Don’t you think life would be a little bit better if we all woke up feeling this way? If I could wake up and tell myself how great my life is (which, by the way, is pretty great!), I think it might put me in a pretty awesome mood.

I think what I like most about this video is not how my heart melts to see such cuteness but instead it is the amazingly innocent way that little children think. It makes me want to be little again and not have to stress about all the seemingly difficult issues that have to be dealt with on a daily basis. To wake up and be happy about everything in your life, to truly like all the little things and remind yourself how wonderful life is, to really believe that you are lucky to live the life you live; it’s such a gift to have that mentality. It’s the way I wish I thought more often. Thank you to this adorable little girl for reminding me that there are so many fantastic things to like in my life.

I can't imagine many of us jumping up on the bathroom counter and listing all the things we like about our life... but do you have your own daily affirmations? What do you like about your life? What puts you in a good mood to start your day?

Monday, July 12, 2010

seeing yellow

It finally felt like summer had arrived on the West Coast this weekend as I indulged in several sports related activities – cheering on the home team at a baseball game, hoping for some straight shots at the driving range and staying in to socialize through the Spain’s successful soccer win. I’m a huge sports fan and I thoroughly enjoyed all of this weekend’s activities but one thing really rubbed me the wrong way in the World Cup final. And I think I should point out before I go on any further that I am not a huge soccer fan and, by no means, am I an expert on what is and what isn’t a penalty or how soccer should be played at its best. However, this year’s World Cup final saw a record 14 yellow cards given out by the referee – more than twice the previous record! I don’t think referees have an easy job but I also can’t get past the fact that some of the video replays we watched showed terrible displays of unsportsmanslike conduct as players tripped over the air in agony, giving the impression that a kick of the ball was actually a kick of their shins. And maybe these players were indeed too physical for the sport and should have backed off on their aggressive antics. Either way, fourteen yellow cards sure felt like a lot to me. Considering it was an edge-of-your-seat-until-the-end kind of game for most fans, it’s unfortunate that yellow cards can beat out gold cups when it comes to grabbing headlines.

Any soccer fans out there? Was it bad officiating or just bad play?

Friday, July 9, 2010

you snooze, you lose?

With the weekend beginning in only a few short hours, I am looking forward to one very important thing…sleeping in! I can’t tell you how much I hate to hear my alarm go off every morning. It always comes too soon and I wake up thinking that my clock must be broken because there is no way it is already six in the morning. Although I can’t remember what time I woke up in high school or how it affected my day, I’m sure I would have wanted an extra few minutes of snoozing to keep me awake during some of my snore-worthy classes. I guess that’s why I found this CBC article so interesting. A study performed at a Rhode Island boarding school found that 30 more minutes in the morning produced happier, healthier and more alert teens. While the study may have had some limitations, I won’t argue that I would love an extra thirty in the morning to hit that snooze button.

I wonder if the same could be said for adults…are we getting up too early and depriving ourselves of sleep to try and make the most of our days in the office? Would we have more productive days if we just got a little more shut eye instead of trying to make up for it on the weekends like I am about to do? (Saturday morning sleep in, here I come!) I could go for a later start time and few minutes shaved off my day so that I can get home to my family at the same time…all while taking a little better care of myself and paying more attention to what I’m actually doing in a day. But only if my pay didn’t change, of course! Think they’ll go for that? Come in later, don’t stay longer and get paid the same amount? I don’t think I’m in a rush to bring this great idea up to my boss just yet…

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

scene it: knight and day

So I’m no movie critic but as comedian Dane Cook points out, we all seem to be when it comes to watching previews, or in my opinion, when we’re watching any movie.

I thought I’d give it a go as a critic after watching Knight and Day starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz this past weekend. While I can’t say it was an amazing movie and suggest you run out and see it, I do think it’s worth watching. As a date movie, it was perfect. Corny, yes, but enjoyable for both me and my husband. Tom Cruise ran around with his hand on the trigger of his gun, shooting up more than his share of the secret agents who were not-so-secretly stalking him. All this action was just enough to distract my husband from the cute love story and innocent antics of Cameron Diaz. Her sweet smile and her small-town thinking were enough to keep me watching; wondering what was going to happen to her next. A little too much action in movies and I tend to zone out, wondering about what I will wear the next day or how long it would take to run and get some more snacks. But this mix of action and comedy, cluelessness, a little love and extreme situations had me pleasantly engaged and surprised. It’s cute.

I think leaving the theatre smiling is a good thing so hopefully renting this one will leave you curled up on your couch with a smile on your face.

Seen any good movies lately? Got any movie reviews?

Monday, July 5, 2010

sizzle boom bang

I often can’t decide how much I really like fireworks. I tend to “ooh” and “aah” as the beautiful colours sizzle and sparkle and light up the sky but I always come away just a little bit disappointed. There’s something about going to see fireworks that gets me excited…and maybe it’s just the idea of going out with something to celebrate, laying out on a blanket staring up at the dark sky. But when the fireworks are finished in a flash and I’m fighting traffic, I sometimes wonder why I even bothered to come in the first place. One thing I do know for sure is that I can never get a good photo of the fabulous pyrotechnic pulses that seem so artistically planned but chaotic at the same time. With Canada Day and the Fourth of July having just passed, I definitely should have written about this before the two days of celebration…but when holidays and extra days off work come around, I find it hard to buckle down to the computer! However, thanks to Jo-Anna of Bucci Photography who was thinking ahead, these 11 tips from Photojojo for capturing the sparklers in the sky will certainly help for future firework photo success.