December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve

Let's get the countdown started. Raise a glass and welcome in 2013!

Photo Credit: The 36th Avenue

December 30, 2012

Pin of the Week: Tea Time

Sometimes there is nothing better than a great cup of tea. When I was completing my Masters degree I would often come home from a long day of lectures, teaching, and grading papers to retire to a comfy chair with a hot cup of tea, where I would spend hours reading that week's seminar articles. I honestly don't think I would have gotten through those long nights without a soothing cup of almond tea. So imagine my complete disappointment when I came to the end of the box and could no longer find this tea in the store. It was as though it had been discontinued without warning. I even had my mom, the most ruthless and thorough shopper I have ever met, on the hunt but to no avail. It's been two years since then and I had abandoned my search and resigned myself to the fact that almond tea must no longer be made. But to my absolute delight when I opened my Christmas present this year, it became clear that my mom had finally been able to find this delicious tea after all! Such a simple pleasure...

Photo Credit: Love Quotes & Phrases

December 27, 2012

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

It has been such a long time since I have been inspired to pick up my camera and take pictures of anything. You may recall my failed attempts to photograph on a daily basis as a source of inspiration when I tried to complete the September Photo a Day Challenge; this clearly didn't work out well. So it was a pleasant surprise today when I saw my dog frolicking in the snow, and my first urge was to grab my camera.

You may remember my dog, Nala from my previous post about rescuing her from a shelter. She is a Husky-German Shepard cross, so naturally she loves to be outside in the winter. There is nothing that she loves more than snow, so when she realized that we had gotten about 6 inches of snow overnight, she kept begging to go outside and play in the backyard all day.

I was inspired to take Nala's picture today as I thought her blue eyes looked amazingly blue against the white of the snow. Also, she has the most expressive looks on her face when she is playing, and I thought it would be great to try and capture some of them. I am not sure how successful I was at doing so, but it was a god attempt nonetheless.

In the event that you want to take a better look at these pictures or want to check out some of my previous photography, please take a look at my Gallery by clicking on this link or using the side tab above.

Photo Credit: This & That

December 26, 2012

Boxing Day Shopping

Arguable one of the biggest 'holidays' in Canada, Boxing Day is a revered day for many, myself included. I haven't participated in Boxing Day shopping for the past few years, but I got back into the swing of things this year. My mom and I used to go Boxing Day shopping together each year when I was in high school and university, but in the years since I have moved out the tradition has sadly gone by the wayside. Desperately wanting to hit up the mall for the endless discounts, I convinced my husband to join me early this morning. His only stipulation? We had to be at the mall before the stores opened, to ensure that our shopping experience would be as quick and painless as possible.

You don't need me to tell you again how much of a morning person I am not. I dread mornings, and I will admit that even though I was pretty excited about going to the mall and actually shopping, a small part of me actually considered telling my husband to forget about it, in favour of sleeping in. But I knew that if I slept in I would always be wondering "what if.." about the potential deals I could have had. So I had him look up the mall hours and I begrudgingly agreed to set my alarm clock so that I would be ready to head to the mall at 7:30am this morning.

I got up with less trouble than predicted {probably because I was excited haha}, tossed some clothes on and pulled my hair into a ponytail. I chose to fore go makeup. And I am thus proud to report that I was in the car and we were backing out of the driveway at 7:29. It was a promising start!

But my good feelings were short-lived, as when we got close to the mall all we could see was rows upon rows of cars. Walking inside the mall was no better; several stores had line-ups that were 50 feet deep or more. My husband and I were both bee-lining for the same store {RW&CO} - as rather than try and guess size or style my mom had given us each gift cards, knowing we love the clothes there - but we were giving each other worried glances ever hundred feet, when we encountered a new and seemingly larger line-up outside a store. When we finally reached the hallway where RW &CO is located, our panicked looks increased. All we could see was a massive line, approximately 4 people wide and 50 people deep, snaking from the middle of the hallway where RW&CO is out and down the hall. It had appeared that out worst fears had come true: My husband would be miserable waiting in line, and I would be miserable knowing he was miserable.

Part of me wondered if perhaps we should turn around and wait until tomorrow to shop, as most of the sales are week-long, though the merchandise is often picked-over after the first day. But it would have a been a compromise between his hatred of shopping and my desire to score the best deal. We didn't stop though, and we kept walking towards this large congregation of Boxing Day shoppers. Walking, and walking, and walking... and before we knew it we were past the line-up, but not yet quite at RW&CO. It seems that the line-up was for another store, and other than a few people milling around out front, there was no one waiting in line for RW&CO! We stood out front and when the doors were unlocked we calmly walked in; and we walked away with some awesome steals afterwards. My husband got some dress pants and I scored myself a gorgeous silk blouse for $22. And better yet, I am waiting on a phone call to confirm the availability of my size for my purchase of a $45 navy blue, button-down and belted pea coat that originally retailed for $189.

The moral of the story is that my husband was right, and earlier was better. Though we were obviously not early enough for some stores, we were right on time for RW&CO, because as time went on the number of shoppers in the store increased, and the line-up for the cash register grew and grew. But we were able to get in and out fairly quickly: From the time we left home until the time we returned we were only gone for an hour and a half. Not too bad for Boxing Day!

Photo Credit: Marie Claire Blog

December 24, 2012

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas

...Well maybe not. But I was definitely that child who asked for the most obscure presents from Santa growing up. Looking back now, I honestly have no idea how my parents were able to accommodate my random and often illogical requests, in order to keep up the magical facade of Santa.

The most ridiculous thing I think I ever asked for was a pink and white polka dot elephant. If you have ever watched the classic Christmas special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, you will likely remember that the Island of Misfit Toys. In case you don't I'll quickly refresh your memory: Rudolph and his friends travel to the Island of Misfit Toys, where they meet several toys that are classified as defective and thus are not fit to be handed out by Santa Claus. One of these misfit toys was a pink elephant with polka dots: I am still not clear on whether the pink colour or the polka dots were the defect in this toy, but perhaps it was both. Nevertheless, as I love elephants and I felt sorry for this little one, I asked my mom for Santa to bring me this little misfit elephant for Christmas, as I thought it should be loved and I wanted to rescue it. Please bear in mind that I was about 3 or 4 years old when this happened, and I had not yet quite grasped the difference between TV and reality.

So in order to keep the magic of Santa alive my poor parents were tasked with scouring the local malls and toy shops, trying to find a toy that most likely didn't even exist. Needless to say, they were unable to find this pink polka dot elephant. So instead, on Christmas morning I woke up to find a gigantic stuffed pink elephant under my tree, accompanied by a story from my parents to explain why the elephant I received was lacking white spots. The elephant was bigger than I was, and I was completely flabbergasted by the sheer size of it that the lack of polka dots was a non-issue. I was just so pleased that Santa had brought me a near-perfect misfit elephant that the smaller details didn't even matter.

Even though my parents were unable to find exactly what I had asked for, they found the near-impossible: After all, how many gigantic pink elephants have you ever seen? They aren't exactly a common item. But my parents were able to find something just as good as what I had asked for, and they were able to keep the magic of Christmas and Santa alive and well in our home that year, {and for many more}. Thanks mom and dad, your efforts to find me the perfect gift were and are appreciated!

Photo Credit: Telus {on Twitter}

December 23, 2012

Pin of the Week: Christmas Presents

I hope you all have finished your Christmas shopping by now. Best of luck if you still have to face the mall and the throngs of mad shoppers!

Photo Credit: Patterson Maker // KiKi LIC Photography

December 22, 2012

Christmas Sugar Cookie Recipe

Growing up, it wasn't Christmas unless my brother and I 'helped' my mom make and decorate sugar cookies and gingerbread men. Though I have yet to make gingerbread men on my own, I have kept the tradition of baking sugar cookies alive and well in my own house. Obviously my cookies never turn out looking as great as the ones pictured above, but the taste is for sure the same {if not better!}. Here is my sugar cookie recipe, in case you want to try this tradition in your home at the holidays:

Christmas Sugar Cookies

Yield: Approximately 40

1/2 cup white or brown sugar {I used white}
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt {I use sea salt}

1. Cream together sugar and butter. Once mixed, beat in the vanilla, eggs, flour, baking powder, and salt.
2. Chill the dough 3 to 4 hours before rolling.
3. Preheat the oven to 375F.
4. Roll out dough and cut cookies into desired shapes. Place cookies on a greased/lined cookie sheet.
5. Bake 7 to 12 minutes {I think I cooked them for 10 mins, just keep an eye on them to figure out the best time for your oven}.

** Please note that this recipe is from The Joy of Cooking, page 772.

Photo Credit: Fan Pop

December 21, 2012

Just Saying...

Photo Credit: Love Quotes & Phrases

Down With the Sickness

I'm sorry for the lack of posts this week, it's been crazy. I have lots going on both at work and in my personal life, and it has consumed all of my time. In addition, I woke up this morning with a brutal cold. So please don't expect much from me for the next little while - I am sleeping as much as possible in order to get over this cold in time for Christmas! Chat soon.

Photo Credit: TransGriot

December 16, 2012

Pin of the Week: Red Plaid Scarf

Recently I have been searching Pintrest for cute winter outfits that would be suitable for work and for the weekends. In my search I came across the above image; though I am not normally a huge fan of plaid, there is something about this scarf that I just love. It looks so warm and comfy, but it also has some character to it, ans I think that's why I like it. So if any of you are looking for any list-minute Christmas presents, this is a subtle hint...

Photo Credit: Breakfast at Yurman's on Tumblr // Simple Style

December 15, 2012

The Ultimate Christmas Playlist

Photo Credit: Ron Edmondson

December 14, 2012

A Little Bit of Perspective

I had a horrible day today. From the second I awoke and realized that I had slept through my alarm clock, it seemed like nothing went right. My debt card didn't work at Starbucks, my mirrors on my work car weren't working properly, I had a huge problem at work... the list goes on and on. I had planned to tell you all about it in a post tonight; I figured that I would be able to write about my day in a way that would be humorous and entertaining for you, which would hopefully allow me to laugh it off.

This was until I heard about the Connecticut shooting.

I can't even begin to fathom what the victims and their families must being going through right now, but I know that my bad day isn't even comparable. I feel a little guilty for even thinking that my day was bad, as there are clearly so many more awful and horrific events occurring in the world, far beyond the annoyances that I experience in my little bubble. My heart breaks for the mothers and fathers in Connecticut who will not be able to hug their children and tuck them in to bed tonight, or ever again. For the families of the staff members killed. For the family members of the killer, who will forever struggle to strike a balance between the horror of his actions and the grief of his death. My heart breaks again to know that life will never be 'normal' for those directly affected by this tragedy, and they will spend much time and energy trying to make sense from a senseless act.

For those of us who vicariously experienced today's tragedy through major news outlets and word-of-mouth, there is little we can do to assist those harmed by this act. We can include the victims and their families in our thoughts and prayers, and we can perhaps make a financial contribution if the means are set up. But one of the biggest contributions we can make it to learn from this experience, and move forward from it knowing that our ability to prevent future actions of this nature is strengthened. Currently there are several people on Twitter calling for an overhaul of US gun legislation; though a review of related policy and legislation is often called for after an act such as this, the lessons we take away from this tragedy as individuals don't have to be so grand in scale. Personally, I know that the next time my alarm clock fails to wake me, my debt card doesn't work, and my day just doesn't generally go the way I planned, I won't freak out. Today's occurrences have proven to me that it isn't worth it to worry about the little problems in life, as things could clearly be worse.

Photo Credit: The Change Blog

December 12, 2012

12th of the 12th of the 12th

I don't have much to say today, but I wanted to make a quick post to commemorate today's 12-12-12 occurrence. Twelve is not a favourite number of mine, but it is worth mentioning as this is the last date of this nature that my generation will ever see.

While I was searching for an appropriate image for this post I came across many websites in commemoration of the 12-12-12 date. Most of these websites marked this date and called for celebration of the numerical significance; others simply discussed the mathematical pattern associated with dates like this. Apparently several couples got married today. To me, this was simply another day in the life. Did you do anything special to mark today's sequential date?

Photo Credit: Mashable

December 11, 2012

"Merry Christmas...?"

When I was in high school and in university I held a few different retail jobs. Around Christmas time we were all encouraged to wish our customers various holiday-based pleasantries, starting around the beginning of December. Given that I celebrate Christmas I would wish my customers a "Merry Christmas" as they cashed out and left the various stores I worked at. I never remember ever getting a second glance or an offended remark back; those customers that I wished a Merry Christmas too often replied by repeating what I had said, or they would wish me some other form of holiday pleasantry as they continued on their way.

But apparently what I had been doing was causing quite a stir, though I had no indication of any problem. Apparently, the use of the phrase "Merry Christmas" was {and may still be} considered as exclusionary and ignorant in a retail setting. Though we were encouraged to acknowledge and recognize with our customers the fact that a big day of celebration was upon us, we were discouraged from using the word "Christmas". In fact, we were encouraged to use the term "Happy Holidays" as this was seen as being the most inclusive way of phrasing our wishes of holiday cheer.

I am all for inclusion, but ironically, something about this struck me as a little offensive: It was not the fact that I celebrate Christmas, but rather it was the fact that I was being censored. At a time when people were wishing each other pleasantries to emulate the spirit of the holiday season, I was being told exactly how I was to do this; which, in my opinion, dictated how I was to celebrate and enjoy the spirit of the season myself.

I am not going to take this as far as I could, as one could probably argue that this was a form of religious discrimination, as Christmas is a Christian-based holiday. But being that I wasn't {nor am I currently} very religious, this was not my concern. My concern was the fact that at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what I said, it was the thought and the spirit behind my words that carried the essence of the holiday season, and what that means to each of us. I am not - nor would I be - offended if someone wished me a "Feliz Nevidad" or a "Happy Hanukkah  or a "Joyeux Noel". The words are not the issue here. The thought and the spirit intended in the words are what really matter, and I think that most people understand that and would reciprocate those thoughts and feelings, even if they don't celebrate the holiday mentioned.

The holidays are not about political correctness or semantics; they are about family, and happiness, and peace on Earth. They are about good times, good drinks, and great food. They are about everything good and positive in the world, everything that should be celebrated. So that being said, have yourself a Merry little Christmas, however you choose to celebrate the season!

Photo Credit: WeHeartIt // Shimmer Like Gold

December 9, 2012

Pin of the Week: Sapphire Nail Polish

You should all know by now that I am obsessed with nail polish. I can't seem to get behind this 'nail art' phenomenon that's currently all the rage {yet}, but I love nail polish nonetheless. Though I don't mind a good sparkle, shimmer, or metallic now and again, my absolute favourite kind of nail polish is a cream polish. I also tend to love heavy colours - the more punch they pack, the better.

This pin of the week is the gorgeous nail polish colour featured above: OPI's Sapphire in the Snow.  I love rich purples but I have always felt as though they are kind of tacky in a nail polish colour, until I saw this one. Though the picture does not do the colour true justice, in reality this colour goes on thick and dark and tends to look more black then blue/purple from far away. However, despite the black look there is a nice subtle purple that remains visible which seems to make the darkness of this colour less pungent; even though it is a bold colour, it has almost a sense of neutrality to it. Similar to the straight black nail, I think that Sapphire in the Snow is a nice variation on the theme.

Photo Credit: Yacking About Lacquer

December 8, 2012

The Top 10 Christmas Movies of All Time

There is nothing better then spending a December afternoon snuggled up under a blanket watching a Christmas movie, {spiked} hot chocolate in hand. There are so many Christmas movies to choose from, and conveniently there are many TV channels that air them frequently throughout the holiday season. I am currently working on building my holiday DVD collection, so I was recently thinking about the movies I must have in order to make my collection complete. Here are my top ten favourite Christmas movies of all time, from good to best:

10. How The Grinch Stole Christmas
The most-recent remake of the original Christmas cartoon. I am not the biggest fan of Jim Carey's films as his style of humour is not my type, but who can resist his wildly funny facial expressions, and his sweet little dog dressed as a reindeer?

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas
This movie is Tim Burton's creativity at its finest. Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, discovers Christmas and tries to recreate it for the residents of his town. But he doesn't quite get it right...

8. Miracle on 34th Street
Sometimes dreams come true if you believe in Santa Claus.

7. The Muppet's Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens' a Christmas Carol as told by Jim Henson's Muppets. What could be better?

6. Scrooged
Yet another re-telling of the classic Charles Dickens story, this one a little less tame than the last...

5. The Holiday
More of a chic-flick than a Christmas movie, this movie only makes the list because it takes place over the Christmas holidays, and it is super cute. And also because I want Cameron Diaz's entire winter wardrobe in this movie.

4. The Santa Clause
Tim Allen, in true Tim Taylor fashion, is the cause of an accident which kills Santa. Though this sounds awfully morbid, the movie is actually hilarious {as all of Allen's accidents tend to be}.

3. Die Hard
Not really a Christmas movie, but this is one of my favourite movies and it takes place over Christmas, so it earned a solid spot on the list.

2. Home Alone
This is classic Christmas movie material. Enough said.

1. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
It's not Christmas unless I have watched this movie an insane amount of times both before and after Christmas day. Watching the Griswold family blunder through the holidays makes us each feel a little more reassured about our own crazy families and our weird Uncle so-and-so's...

And honourable mention goes to: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. I didn't realize until very recently that this is not a Christmas movie, but rather the holiday in question is the American Thanksgiving. Which seems a little silly, but given that American Thanksgiving is celebrated later in the year and thus there is snow on the ground in the movie {whereas in Canada there isn't snow at Thanksgiving}, I always just assumed that poor Steve Martin was trying to get home for Christmas with his family. A great movie nonetheless.

What are your favourite Christmas movies?

Photo Credit: Modoration

December 6, 2012

Battling My Alarm Clock

No matter how early I go to bed in the evening, I am always exhausted in the morning. Every morning I fight the snooze button for an extra five more minutes, and even if I get another precious few winks of sleep, I always feel like I have lost the battle because inevitably, I have to get up. And once I'm finally up and out of bed I realize that I have lost yet again; due to my precious few more minutes under the covers I am now in a rush in order to get to work at a reasonable time, and I probably won't have time to straighten my hair or have breakfast.

The fact that winter is here only compounds my hatred of my alarm clock and all that it represents. Not only is it so dark out that when the shrill beep sounds I can't see to put one foot out in front of the other, but it is so cold out that I don't even want to move my feet out from under the blankets. Let's be honest here: All I want to do is turn off the alarm, close my eyes, and let the warmth of my cocoon of blankets lull my back to sleep. But I can't do that, if I want to keep my job - and we all know how much I love my job. So I just have to grin and bear it, and continue to fight the good fight against my ever-annoying alarm clock. And in those precious extra five minutes that the snooze button provides, I'll be dreaming of Saturday morning...

Photo Credit: The Guardian UK

December 3, 2012

The Plight of the Curly-Haired Girl

I'll divulge a little secret to you all: Though I normally wear my hair straight, I naturally have very curly hair that I straighten the life out of on a daily basis. When people learn of this, they often ask why I go to the trouble of straightening it, as curls are so beautiful. But if they could see my natural curl they would understand: I am not one of those people blessed with ringlets curls, or curls that are uniform. Instead, I was born with hair that tends to frizz and the curls are uneven on my head. My curls are typically much tighter on the underside and around my face, but on the top level of my hair the curls are much flatter and tend to even be somewhat straight. Thus, I end up with a gigantic frizzy Brillo-pad of a mess that makes it look like I didn't comb that morning. No amount of combing or product will make this better. So even though I am contradicting nature, it is actually easier for me to straighten this mess than it is to try and tame it.

If I want to wear my hair curly, it sadly is much better looking if I flat-iron it and then use a curling iron to get the kind of curls that I would be willing to be seen in public with. I know my way around a flat iron really well, but I am still working out the kinks with my curling iron - no pun intended - so to curl my hair {and have it look good} is no easy feat. I figured that there must be an easier way to do this, or there would at least be some tips or tricks that would make it a little less time-consuming, and I was right. Here is what I found after consulting the ever-resourceful Pintrest:

Some Like it Dirty, Some Like it Clean:
Each of the various websites/blogs that I consulted had their own take on this rule. Some writers swore by the need to have dirty hair in order for the curls to hold, while others recommended that the hair should be clean. As a personal preference, I don't like going out with day-old dirty hair. So I typically wash my hair on the day of, but leave it to its own devices for a few hours before attempting to curl it.

Always Face South:
I never really considered this before, but the direction of your curling iron will influence the kind of curls that it produces in your hair. It appears that the general consensus of many sites is to hold the curling iron so that it is vertical and facing the floor. This will help to make sure that each strand of your curls looks uniform and that there are no weird angles or pieces sticking out when you're finished.

Start in the Middle of the Strand:
Thanks to Ashley of Little Miss Momma for this tip. Apparently if you start to curl your hair in the middle of the strand, working up toward your scalp and then down towards the roots, this will help hold the curl longer. This is a little tricky to do, but practice makes perfect!

Count Backwards from Ten:
The amount of curl that stays in your hair is dependant on the amount of time that you hold the curling iron in your hair. Though this idea seems rather intuitive, I previously didn't know how long to hold the iron on each strand for the desired effect. According to Rachel at Pink Peonies, holding the iron for a shorter period of time will create a more wavy effect and will be more casual, while holding the iron on for a longer period of time will result in a more defined and formal-looking curl. I would suggest holding the iron for about 5 seconds on your hair in order to produce a wavy look, and try about 10 seconds for a more defined curl. But remember, holding the iron on your hair for too long many cause damage, so make sure you don't hold it there for too long!

Hairspray is Inevitable:
I am not a fan of hairspray, as I feel like no matter the hold level it make my hair feel crunchy and dried-out. However, in order to make your curls stay, this product appears to be required. I am currently a fan of light-hold hairsprays {though not on windy days}. My current favourite is L'Oreal Professional Infinium Lumiere Force 4; I normally but this at my salon but I am sure you can purchase it at the drugstore as well.

To all of my curly-haired readers out there, do you have any other styling tips or tricks to add to this list?

Photo Credit: Chloe Rose Boutique // The Sun is Up

December 2, 2012

Pin of the Week: Homemade Christmas Garland

I found this picture on Pintrest and thought it was an awesome idea for a simple and cheap Christmas decoration. I don't currently have kids, but I think that this would be simple enough for children to make, as it is pretty straightforward and doesn't require a lot of skill. In order to recreate the above, you will need: Brown card stock, a pencil, scissors, a single hole punch, ribbon, and Christmas-shaped cookie cutters.

I traced the shape of the cookie cutters on the card stock, and then cut them out using the scissors. Once I had all of the shapes cut out, I used the single hole punch to punch a hole into the top of each cut-out. I then threaded the ribbon into each of the hole, and spaced the cut-out shapes approximately 2-3 inches apart, for the entire length of the ribbon. Tie off each of the ends in a bow and hang.

Photo Credit: Meisi Photography on Flickr
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