Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Happy Holidays!!

We here at Provoke would like to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

Looking forward to sharing more with you in 2009!

Until then,
Kristyn & Jessica xx

Favorite Books in 2008

This list will work a little differently seeing as we’re not quite on top of this area as we wish we could be – just not enough time! Our list will consist of our favourite books that we’ve read in 2008 not necessarily what came out in 2008.

Last but not least here are our favourites:

What were your favourite indulgent this year?

Friday, 19 December 2008

Best Of 2008 - Music

I can’t believe it’s that time of year again already. No I’m not talking about the Christmas festivities, I’m talking about the ‘best of’ lists being compiled by bloggers around the globe as we speak. There are so many categories to go through (I’m pulling my hair out just thinking about them…), here at Provoke we’ve decide to tackle 3 – books, music and movies our favourite indulgences. I’d like to start with music.

I find it hard to even narrow down the albums let alone the songs I like so I hope you’re not expecting exact songs as that would be virtually impossible for me to do.

Okay here we go, in no particular order my top 20:

Check back with us Monday for our favourite movies

Monday, 15 December 2008

Those are Somee Cards!

Photo Credit: NOTCOT

I love cards. In fact, they are my favorite part of every gift. Chances are, I already have your gift picked out, and I am just struggling over which card to buy. Sure, I can go to Hallmark or the Dollar Store and pick you up a sappy birthday card. Or even a funny one..tho I must say..it wont be THAT funny. In the spirit of giving, and being green, I introduce Some e-cards

I know, I know, an e-card? Really?? Ok, you can STILL go out and get a REAL paper card for your next gift. But I promise you, it won’t be as thought provoking or hilarious as the cards you find on this site. In fact, they have cards for every, and I mean EVERY occasion.

Warning: This site is a TAD addictive and may just inspire you to send others cards for no reason. Awww how thoughtful!
Just be careful to double check who you are emailing the card to. After all, you don’t want this one going to your CEO.

Monday, 8 December 2008

When did ambition stop?

As kids we dreamed of being astronauts, inventors and actors. We were always trying to be better as we strived to get A’s, make the track team or score a part in the school play. We had wild imaginations, ambitious dreams and the desire to be whoever we wanted to be.

What happened? Did we finally wake up and realize our dreams were too unrealistic to be reached? Did we decide to give up on those aspirations? Or did we just settle into the humdrum boring day to day life that was comfortable and easy?

I ask because I don’t know. This past year I have been awfully restless, wondering what is the cause of my lack of ambition. I can’t think of the last time I set a goal and achieved it. Or the last time I learned something. When is the last time someone recognized you for something you accomplished? Not lately? Because you probably haven’t done anything except, eat, work, sleep and shop.

We fall into these routines trying to make ends meet without realizing we aren’t meeting any ends. What has changed since we were kids? We think we are busier. But are we? I was in school from 9-5 every day and I had swimming or some other sport twice a week and skiing on the weekends. I had crazy school projects that involved mapping out India or designing my own apartment. I had social obligations (sleepovers and birthday parties) as well as chores around the house. If I was able to watch 90210 (the old and better one) on Wednesdays, it was a good week.

I don’t think we are busier now, we just aren’t as motivated. We say we don’t have the time or energy. Yet we also lack the desire. The desire to learn a new sport. The desire to do well in a new subject. We are scared to step out of our comfort zone and accept that there are tons of things we could learn to do everyday.

When you ring in 2009 and you are looking for resolutions for the New Year. Sit down and make that list. You know…the list that you have had in your head since you were five years old. The list that included trips to Australia, knowing another language and owning a purple unicorn. Ok, maybe not the purple one. Start small and don’t put off tomorrow what you can start working on today. Give yourself the gift that kept you young and energetic, the gratification of accomplishing something.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Staying Healthy During Flu Season

As the temperature decreases and we’d rather be inside by a log fire, the ugly and infamous flu season kicks in. We’re all pretty familiar with the ‘joys’ of having the flu but it seems every year before it starts I forget exactly how baldy these germs can effect our lives. Example in point: My boyfriend has been pretty sick this week struck by hot and cold flashes, weakness, coughing, sore throat, runny nose and sneezing. Diagnosis, the flu! Poor guy has been in bed and drinking more liquids that I drink in a week. I’ve been pretty good – making him soup and tea constantly and checking his temperature. Giving him medication every 4 hours as instructed. But now that we’re living together it not only affects him but me as well (I know, woe is me, he’s the one in the pain…I know, I know but hear me out). As he lays awake sneezing, coughing and blowing his nose I’m constantly awaking up, tossing and turning, trying to get back to sleep. End result, we’re both exhausted.. I’m trying desperately not to get sick, which brings me to my next point (the meat of this article if you will)…how do you stay healthy while those around you are sick? I’ve devised a list (I love lists, can you not tell?) of the basic things that I do. So here we go…

1. Getting enough sleep I usually try to sleep for at least 6 hours a night but mostly I get my dose of 8. This helps your body’s restoration process (mainly affecting your immune system and metabolism) and memory processing.

2. Eat your Fruit and Vegetables Your parents were right, it’s important your body has the nutrients to fight any external germs. The rule of thumb is 5 portions a day. My trick is to have a bottle of fruit juice at work that I'll have in the mornings. Try Innocence Juice, they’re packed with goodness and account for 3 portions/glass.

3. Get the Flu Jab I was against taking these but my doctor insisted I take it (funny story, as I was persisting that I didn’t want it, she got my mother from the waiting the room to weigh in her influence, while discussing it w/ my mother my doctor poked me with the needle….). I’m glad she did as I haven’t had the flu (knock on wood) for 3 years now. I get it every year.

4. Stay Active. We never want to do anything in the winter, there’s loads of excuses – too cold, too far, too much hassle etc…but it’s important that we still keep our bodies active, doing physical activity for at least an hour/week. Join a team, or try a winter sport. Whenever I feel the cold coming I head straight to the gym and sweat it out.

What do you do?

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

More Bark For The Bite

My aunt makes this every year and despite all will power I just can’t get enough of it. Its quick and tasty and will be a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Plus the pieces are easy to share with all.

White Almond Christmas Bark
  • 1 cup Almonds; whole
  • 8 ounces White chocolate; chopped
Spread almonds in a single layer in shallow pan. Place in cold oven; toast at 350 degrees 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted. Cool. Melt white chocolate in top of a double boiler over very low heat. Remove from stove, and stir in almonds. Drop by heaping tablespoons onto waxed paper. Refrigerate until cool and hardened. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Keeps up to 2 weeks.

Serves 12

Monday, 1 December 2008

Put Me In Your Closet….NOW

Talk of a recession and possibly a depression in the near future has caused us all to be a bit more frugal. Do we really need that new pair of shoes? Maybe we will wait for that cashmere sweater to go on sale. When looking through my closet this past weekend, I found some gaps in my wardrobe that I keep filling with similar items. Yet, I haven’t managed to get the STAPLES of my wardrobe in place. Here is a checklist of items that you should splurge on or save up to get within the next year. After all every girl needs….
  1. Yep you guessed it: A Little Black Dress. Nothing crazy or too sparkly. A simple elegant black dress that can be thrown on in 5 minutes for a cocktail party, worn underneath a blazer or jacket for a funeral or work function.
  2. A tailored Trenchcoat. Burberry? I don’t think so, at least not for me anyway. A nice fitted trenchcoat will take you from April – October or for Londoners like Jessica….pretty much all year long 
  3. 4 Belts (flashy, trashy, skinny and fat) - sorry you will have to use your imagination on this one ladies.
  4. A Long Light Knit Cardigan (black, beige or grey) to throw over a tank-top with jeans, to use as a shawl at a wedding, you get the drift.
  5. 3 Pairs of Boots (well four if you want!). One pair of long black/brown leather dress boats, knee high. One pair of casual boots and either a pair of flashy rubber rain boots or pair of slouchy ankle/low rider leather boots.
  6. A Full Length Wool Coat – white, red, black, brown or grey
  7. A Shorter Bomer Jacket - leather or suede
  8. 3 Scarves. Wooly and warm, sleek and sophisticated and one that looks like it came out of the Queen’s closet
  9. A Well Tailored Pair of Dress Pants. Grey or black
  10. 4-6 Casual Dress Tank-tops
  11. 2 Pairs of Jeans that make your ass look great. One light blue, the other dark
  12. 2 Blouses. One white shirt blouse (think male style) and one feminine blouse preferably with a bow tie neck)
  13. A Gold or Sliver Shimmery Sweater
Ok that’s a good start, if you are able to add a couple casual tops and a pair of cords/casual pants to the mix. By rotating through these items you’ll have enough clothes to last you months. Spend more on fewer items so they last longer and you can always give away/sell old clothes to make room for your staples.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Business Cards: How Important are they?

Answer: Very!

I’ve been with my company for nearly 3 years (in December) and I still don’t have business cards, even after countless attempts of pleading my case. Apparently I wouldn’t need one because I don’t have many meetings with external people– we have suppliers that we’ve been using since the dark ages, so why spend the money they say. This is true, I don’t usually meet new suppliers (my boss does) however when I do I’m left without a card to swap, in an awkward sort-of-way. I’m not the only one mind you, about half of all my coworkers don’t have one either. Why? Why would a company not spend a few hundred (not even) to give every employee their own business card? It’s a small gesture that signals that you’re part of a team and we’re proud to have you with us. But by not having a business card I feel left out and unsupportive. It’s the small things that make a difference and this is just one tiny thing that can be easily resolved with minimal costs exchanged for high moral.

For anyone in a similar situation may I present Moo Printing. They’re brilliant. They have mini and standard sized cards (among other things that they print) that you create yourself. You can either upload your own images for the front or choose form a wide range of designs that have already been created. You decide what info you want to have on it and that’s it – literally your card has been created. How easy was that?

Don’t feel left out at your next business meeting, be prepared.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Tis the Season…

With Halloween behind us and the holidays fast approaching, I am slowly starting to make wish lists and think about what to get those around me for Christmas. It is so satisfying to be able to buy things for those that I love. Whether it be a GPS for my Mom who ALWAYS manages to get turned around, or a life for my roommate, who is so desperately searching for one. Isn’t it great to shop for and help others?

What about those who have no one to buy for? I am not necessarily talking about the homeless man you see every morning outside your work. Nor am I asking you to give money to another charity. I am talking about random acts of kindness that may not seem like a big deal to you, but hopefully will restore people’s faith in human kind.

For instance, the next time you are at a Tim Horton’s or another fast food drive thru, pay for the person behind you. Say What? You heard me…Well imagine the joy you would experience if when you went to pay for your coffee, you found out it was ALREADY paid for by someone you don’t even know in the car ahead of you. It only costs a couple bucks. But it can really make a difference in someone’s life.

The next time you are wishing for a new iPod (because you know..your last two are wayyy tooo old fashioned!) or a better and faster cell phone, wish again. Maybe you are being greedy..but who am I to judge? When you are buying or dreaming of gifts this year, think about others…the global impact in terms of waste of your new iPod. If everyone bought a new iPod this year, where do you think all those OLD ones go? Its ok though,I mean...that junk isn’t in YOUR backyard..right? Try to separate what you what from what you NEED. Not just for greed’s sake, but also to minimize the impact on the environment and your pocketbook.

Treat a friend to a random meal around the holidays for no particular reason. Or maybe package up some of your old favourite books and magazines and drop them off at a women’s shelter or an old folk’s home. You don’t have to know someone to give them a gift this year. In fact, you are really just giving the gift to yourself. There is no BETTER feeling than instilling joy in others and not feeling bad about the money you spent or where all the wrapping paper is going to end up.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Chocolate Indulgent: SO Worth It!

I’m not sure if all our lovely readers have heard of Ococoa. They make ‘the’ ultimate chocolate peanut butter cup!! I couldn’t keep this find to myself, I’ve already ordered a box, I was so excited – peanut butter, chocolate…other yummy ingredients, how could I resist. Check out NOTCOT’s review. How cute is that? They come in a freezer bag (how practical, yet posh). I love everything about them. I guess you all know what I want for Christmas (and will be giving; be prepared!)

Monday, 17 November 2008

Put Me In Your Suitcase: Packing Tips

So the easy part of planning your holiday is done – booking it, but now you need to decide what to take!! Nothing is worst than the feeling of not having anything to wear (or not liking what you brought), not having enough room for everything or forgetting something fundamental to your happy holiday. I do a lot more traveling now that I live in UK and I must say I’m getting better at packing. I’ve come up with a few tips that help me and hopefully will eliminate your problems as well:

1. Toiletries: it’s such a hassle caring around your full size bottles of shampoo or body wash and those ‘travel size’ bottles can really add up ($). That’s why I use reusable plastic contains from Muji (can also be found at Wal-Mart and Shoppers Drug Mart) bringing all my favourite supplies. I use these for my Shampoo and Conditioner while these are perfect for my face wash and cream. Not only will you save money by using the products you already have and love but they’re compact and take up little room PLUS it’s better for the environment (always a bonus!)

2. Folding: When I was backpacking a few years ago I discovered the simplicity of ‘rolling’ my clothes and never looked back. Not only do you get more space in your suitcase by doing this but your clothes stay wrinkle-free. Perfect!

3. Clothes: Here’s the big one. How do you plan for anything without taking everything? Easy, always take an umbrella, sunglasses and bring clothes that can easily be layered. Black, white and tan go with everything and can be interchanged with any outfit. Bring clothing that can be worn with most of what you’ve brought (ie. white tank top can be worn with pants, skirt, shorts etc…). I always tend to bring one of my favourite outfits that might not necessarily be practical but makes me happy (and I know I'll wear). Scarves are so in at the moment and can make any outfit a little dressier.

4. Pills & First Aid Kit: I don’t usually get sick on trips (knock on wood) but I’d like to be prepared. I have a little Ziplock bag filled with the usual remedies: ibuprofen, antihistamean, Gravol & Imodium. Along with Band-Aids, alcohol wipes and antibacterial cream. I tend to keep these in my travel bag always, that way I know I have it every time I travel.

5. Eye wear: I once went on a week long trip to a tropical island and completely forgot my glasses then during a (very) drunken night LOST my only pair of contact lenses….what fun a week without seeing that was! Don’t let this happen to you. I now make a point of placing an extra pair of contacts in my toiletry bag just in case I forget my glasses.

6. Reading Material: I always love a good book, but on short flights (and with limited luggage space as the case may) magazines are ideal and can be left behind once you're finished with it.

What are your travel packing tips? Fill all us jet-setters in!


Roommate Corner

You haven’t matured. You haven’t grown up, you have just displaced. You may think you have overcome difficulties and improved your situation in life. Trust me, you haven’t. You have just replaced one thing with another. Displacement does not progress make. You haven’t found a pastime. You have just found a boyfriend to occupy your time. You still don’t like your job. You just found a new position that distracted you from what you really hate about your job. Cleaning your boyfriend’s house for no reason doesn’t make you a kind or helpful person. It just makes you pathetic and helps distract you from the truth. Plus, shouldn’t you be cleaning our place? Oh yes, that’s right, you don’t have time for that. You don’t have time to offer to cook my dinner or buy any food for me. I guess that’s because you spent all your money on someone who you have to justify yourself to. Don’t worry; I am not jealous or upset. I am bewildered. I guess all the time you have been spending trying to please a man so he will love you has displaced the very method behind your madness. You have lost who you are, what you do and what you could be. I hope you and others like you find their way. I hope you learn to live your life and stop looking for ways to please others. You can please others all you want, but that is an endless quest. It’s hard to be happy when your happiness is based solely on the opinions and expectations of others. It’s exhausting. Isn’t it? Oh Rhonda…..

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Orange & Carrot Muffins

Is it just me or do you finding it a lot harder waking up in the winter too? I know the added hour is ‘suppose’ to make it better but lately I find myself struggling to get out of bed. I’ll press snooze several times then actually turn off alarm (a dangerous move!) and go back to bed. Even my boyfriend tries to help. He’ll open the curtains to let some ‘light’ in. When that fails he’ll give me a little nudge then pull off the covers…god I hate that, it’s always so cold! But alas it works and I finally drag myself out of bed. I’m pathetic I know. But wouldn’t it be great to have something yummy once you’re up? This is where these muffins/scones come in. The texture is more to that of scones (even though they called muffins) and with oranges and carrots it’s sure to brighten your day.

What you'll need:
75g butter, melted
2 oranges, juiced and zested
1 egg, beaten
100g carrots, peeled and grated
300g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
100g caster sugar
½ tsp cinnamon

1. Heat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with squares of baking parchment (or I use silicone muffin cups and they work just as well), pushing them down to make little cases. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl with a pinch of salt. Whisk together the wet ingredients with the carrots then stir this into the dry ingredients, but don't overmix - it's better if it's a bit lumpy.

2. Spoon into the muffin tin and bake for 20-25 minutes until risen.

Recipe taken from Olive Magazine

Monday, 10 November 2008

Wee Fitter?

Ok I did it. I fell into the Wii hype. Well… we did. By us, I mean my boyfriend and me. He bought it. I played it. And boy, did I enjoy it. I tried to be skeptical and play devil’s advocate. I wasn’t about to be pulled into the never ending downward spiral of video games. I wasn’t going to go down that slippery slope from playing one game to spending my Friday nights in my living room glued to my TV screen.

Wii proved to be fun, stimulating and highly entertaining. Wii fit was the highlight of the device, as it made me feel a tad less guilty or lazy for playing. I quickly created a Mii character under my name (my virtual character had a profile of my weight, age, height and BMI). After completing two balance tests, I eagerly awaited my Wii age. Fortunately, Wii Fit thinks I have the body of a 21 year old. My boyfriend (aged 26) was not so lucky…Wii thinks he is about 42. Sorry I couldn’t help but laugh. Anyway I went through the routine of aerobics, strength training and yoga. I was surprised at how quickly the time went and how fun it was. Lunges that seemed easy yesterday at the gym were painful as I strived to keep my center of balance in the small yellow circle. Just when I was about to give up and finish for the day, my progress had unlocked more exercises…sooo addictive.

Anyway, I skipped yesterday as I got (fake) busy. When I returned this morning to play…my instructor KNEW I had skipped a day…grr. I was MILDLY lectured and questioned as to why I missed a day of fitness. Guilt brought me to the Wii game and guilt forced me to continue more and more exercises until I was quite tired. It may not be the equivalent of a gym workout. In fact, Wii fit is highly criticized for its actual health benefits. I am not sure as to how helpful it is yet. However, it does serve to get me (and my 42 year old boyfriend) off the couch. It motivates you to relieve stress, work your muscles and tone your core (thereby improving your balance, posture and muscle tone). I recommend trying it out before you buy it as it may interfere in your life a weee bit more than you thought.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Ohhhh My Head

Today has been a rough day. I’m not asking for sympathy or anything (just sharing), lord (and my coworkers) know I did this to myself. You see, last night was spent entertaining business clients over from America. And you know what? I genuinely had a good time – they were friendly, funny and enjoyable. In fact I didn’t want the night to end. And so enters the numerous glasses of wine, half a hamburger and fries later (definitely not enough food!) and I woke this morning with the worst mid-week hangover EVER!

After reluctantly dragging my ass out of bed I stumbled down the stairs to make some toast. Yes, bread will help my queasy stomach. Next step, liquids, I need to refuel. I still didn’t feel well but had to get ready for work. Several times on the tube I thought I would need to get off….but luckily I made to work without to much of a struggle. Did I mention I had a conference call with two major companies at 11am? Oh yah, I forgot too. Luckily (or not) Outlook was kind enough to remind me. I did bring in a lunch (soup and salad) but put it on the backburner for Monday as I needed something a little less healthy – Chinese! Finally I felt HUMAN again.

Now I know most of the (medical) causes for hangovers. And today I’ve experienced most of the symptoms - dehydration, fatigue, headache, nausea, weakness, sensitivity to light and noise, erratic motor functions and lack of depth perception (check, check and oh um check!). But what I really want to know is what helps you get through your worst hangovers?

When I was living in Dublin, most of my Irish friends would eat chocolate bars and drink Lucozade (similar to Gatorade/Poweraid). I always find bread, water and Advil (oh and greasy Chinese food) really helps me. Fill me in, because I never want this to happen again but just incase I need a backup plan!

Have a great weekend and take it easy with the drink.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Bonfire Night

I hope all our readers had an excellent Halloween. Unfortunately for me the holiday isn’t celebrated to the same extent as it back home here in the UK. Don’t get me wrong there are still loads of (drinking) parties but I suspect it’s not as fun for the kids. I bet it has to do with the whole knocking on strangers’ doors asking (or begging, however you look at it) for candy, that somehow doesn’t equate here. Not to fear though we do have another holiday that follows closely behind Halloween that is fun for the whole family: Guy Fawkes Night aka Bonfire Night

It all started on the eve of November 5 1605, when an assassination plot of King James I of England failed and its conspirators were caught. You see the Royal Family (and consequently most of parliament) at that point was Protestant and the Catholics wanted a change. The plan was set in motion a year earlier by Robert Catesby who commissioned Guy Fawkes, an explosives expert with military experience to prepare the explosives that would have been used to destroy the Houses of Parliament. Unfortunately (or fortunately, however you look at it) the plan was disclosed and stopped before Guy Fawkes could set fire to his explosives on the night. He, along with the other ‘terrorists’ were hanged, drawn and quartered.

Back in the day effigies of ‘Fawkes’ (who became the most well known of the conspirators) were placed on bonfires (hence it being known as bonfire night) on the anniversary of his capture however now it’s a little more civilized and more family friendly….firework displays are set to music and candy apples, mulled wine and hot dogs are enjoyed by all. But why do we celebrate this holiday? Is it because Fawkes and Co were caught and the Royal Family and the establishment saved OR is it to honour his attempt at overthrowing them (a la V for Vendetta)? I guess it’s to each their own….All I know is that tomorrow night I will be enjoying some candy apples while I feast my eyes on some lovely fireworks.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Fruits of A Passion

You may wonder what the above two people have in common or what they are doing together on our webpage. One man, Barack Obama is leading the US election and may be the first African American President. The other, Warren Miller, is a skier and famous movie producer/creator of Warren Miller films. Both men have achieved great things in their respective realms.

Warren Miller’s true passion and greatest love is to ski. Realizing he needed to make a living, he decided to turn his passion into a profession. With no money and no equipment, he dreamed of filming movies of him and his friends performing ski tricks on the hills of US resorts. Warren went from sleeping in his car and eating whatever he could to get by to owning his own film production company that has successfully produced ski and extreme sports films for over 50 years. Skiers and other athletes dream of being in a Warren Miller film. People of all ages have been discovered and launched their career by performing a stunt in one of his many amazing films. Warren was able to realize his dream and the dreams of many other athletes by sticking to his passion. As he grew older, Warren’s passion for skiing translated into other passions. His passion for the environment, his passion for athlete development…and last but not least..his passion for entrepreneurship. Warren oversees his foundation that specializes in the development of future entrepreneurs from all walks of life. Warren has inspired people from all over the world for his ability to follow his dreams and foster the dreams in others.

Barack Obama has been busy inspiring others for the majority of his life. Coming from modest means, he was able to get an Ivy League education and be elected to the US Senate. How’s that for achieving dreams? Running for US President has had many challenges that haven’t fazed Obama. He stands apart from past presidential nominees for his ability to reach beyond politics and inspire citizens to be the best that they can be. People who normally did not pay attention to their leaders in the past, are standing up and taking notice of this man who instills a feeling of hope and passion in all. Whoever thought that in spite of all the economic turmoil and chaos in North America, citizens would be hopeful of their future president? Voters are turning out in record numbers…Republican states are turning blue. History Is being made as we speak not just because of Obama but because people are believing in themselves and their abilities again. No matter what the result may be, this US election will be one for the record books; mainly due to one man’s ability to inspire an entire nation. And the craziest thing is…he isn’t even done dreaming. Oh the fruits of passion!

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Halloween Caramel Sauce

So it’s getting near that time of year. Whether its Halloween sweet cravings or the colder weather…all of us are reaching for more and more snacks these days. I am never one for replacing chips with carrots or celery….However, there are healthier ways to treat your sweet tooth without feeling guilty later. Here is a quick and yummy recipe that makes you feel a little less guilty about the pound of caramel sauce you just ate.
Feel free to add cookie crumbs or chocolate bar bits to curb your cravings:
• 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese (room temperature )
• caramel sauce
• 1/2 (11 ounce) package toffee pieces
• 4-5 green apples, cut into slices
1. Spread cream cheese on platter.
2. On top of cream cheese spread caramel dipping sauce.
3. Sprinkle toffee bits on top of caramel sauce.
4. Serve with green apple slices.

And that's ONLY 3 Weight Watchers Points....just in case you're counting (PHEW!)

Religulous on a New Earth

Rarely do I combine two wonderful reviews in one article. However, my views on life and the future of our world were changed for the better this past week because of the movie RELIGULOUS and an insightful book called: A NEW EARTH.

Relgulous is a new documentary in theaters starring comedian BILL MAHER. Educational and also hilarious, this movie opens your eyes to what you might have already known: we DON’T have the answers to everything or anything for that matter. Yeah, no kidding! We don’t know anything. However, this movie also asks, if we don’t know everything about the past, our future or religion for that matter, then why do we pretend to know? I could go on and on about why this movie is profound and informative in so many ways. I chose to comment on the most central message of this movie: WE SHOULDN’T PRETEND TO KNOW WHAT TOOK PLACE IN THE PAST, AS THIS ONLY SERVES TO ENCOURAGE IGNORANCE…the results of such ignorance (as illustrated in this movie) are wars, political upsets and overall everyday conflicts as humans try to coexist in a world where our past (or our supposed beliefs of the past) serve to divide us more and more.

A NEW EARTH is a book written a couple years ago by Eckhart Tolle. Eckhart seeks to explain the reason behind most human behavior and why evil can exist in a world full of good intentions. This book has nothing and everything to do with the central message in RELIGULOUS. According to Eckhart, we believe and think what we do to reinforce our ego. It is human nature to feed our hungry ego thereby saying and doing things to make us feel better about …yes…you guessed it….ourselves! Through becoming more aware of our constant need to make ourselves feel good, we become more open minded and able to work with others.

If we DON’T know all the answers and we will never know…then why pretend? Pretending that we are being watched over by a GOD and that we were created and chosen by a higher being helps us sleep at night. It gives us (false) reasons and excuses for our actions. Above all, it reinforces our EGO, our need to feel superior and better. The majority of problems in our world stem from our need to say one religion or view is BETTER than the other…we are better than you…we know more than you. But are we better? Do we know more than others? Or as Eckhart reasons, is this just an act of the EGO? Is it fair to say Religion and similar beliefs were created to reinforce the evil inside of us? Perhaps if we became more AWARE of others viewpoints and our own need to be the best (or have the best ideas about creation) then maybe we would be able to see the good in others or their ideas and actually ACCOMPLISH something.

Oh and by the way…go see RELIGULOUS and read A NEW EARTH …if anything your eyes will be opened to how much you really don’t know or have been pretending to…scary!

Friday, 24 October 2008

Shopping Ban: Do we Need It?

On the train back to London last Sunday I read an article in the Observer Magazine (my favourite supplement) by Samantha Weinberg. She had decided to give up shopping for a whole year, purchasing items only when strictly necessary. This got me thinking. You see I had just spent the weekend visiting a good friend in York consisting of shopping, eating out, gossiping and drinking wine. To be honest I was pretty proud of my purchases, I had bought a couple of books I had my eye on for a while at charity shops, a pair of new jeans for more than half the original price, a lovely new turtleneck, that fits me in all the right places and a fantastic leather bracelet (for my inner Goth-side). So why did I care so much about this article? I didn’t feel bad about my purchases. It’s true some people over indulge…but I hadn’t. I rarely spend money on unnecessary things, not so much for the environment (as was the case that sparked Weinberg’s quest) but rather I like saving (I’m a prude like that). Plus the things I do buy I really like and only replace when it’s essential. In fact, with basic things like t-shirts & sneakers I get a little attached to my old ones and it’s hard to let go…worn in shoes are so comfy. So what was it?

I’ve come to the conclusion that the main reason is society’s need to overindulge! That’s right, you heard me correctly. Why we do we need these ‘quests’ in the first place? Like most things in life – food, drinking, exercising, TANNING (!) people over indulge to the point that we need to give ourselves goals in order to refrain from doing something we already know we shouldn’t. We’ve had it easy for a while, the economy has been good. Very good. But now, everything is changing and people are starting to realize that we can’t continue the way we have been in the past. I’m no preacher, god I reward myself when something great happens in my life (or even if something bad happens, to cheer me up) but I’m not greedy. Point: take it easy because not all of us can end up like the Shopaholic.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Social Blunders

We have all been there, some of us, more often than we would like to admit; foot- in- mouth disease. Ever heard of it? Well it’s this very phenomenon that inspired this article. Why do we say the worst things at the worst times? What were we thinking? More importantly, how do we recover? I didn’t realize there was so much information about this topic on the internet. I guess I am not the only one who seems to commit social blunders or be a victim of one. Should I start a support group?

I wish I could come up with a guide to overcome/apologize for social blunders. However, I don’t have any idea of where to start. So I decided to write about what ALWAYS makes me feel better: other people’s mistakes

You think getting drunk on the weekend and calling your friend’s “white trash” was bad…here are some situations that might make you feel better:

Tom Cruise on Oprah’s couch:
In 2005, Tom Cruise became the object of public ridicule after he jumped atop a couch on the Oprah Winfrey Show to profess his love for his now-wife, Katie Holmes. In 2006, Paramount Pictures ended its 14-year relationship with the star, and many blame the split on Cruise's very public relationship, embracing of Scientology and condemnation of psychiatry.

Ashlee Simpson's SNL appearance:
Ashlee Simpson was scheduled to perform two songs on Saturday Night Live in 2004. She performed one without incident, but when the wrong track started for her second song, viewers heard Simpson's voice before she raised her microphone to her mouth -- revealing she had been lip synching. Simpson's camp cited acid reflux as the reason for her lip synching, but the event still dogs her reputation.

And some not so memorable quotes:

'Whenever I watch TV and see those poor starving kids all over the world, I can't help but cry. I mean I'd love to be skinny like that, but not with all those flies and death and stuff' - Mariah Carey

"Smoking kills. If you're killed, you've lost a very important part of your life," - Brooke Shields (during an interview to become spokesperson for federal anti-smoking campaign)

"I have opinions of my own, strong opinions, but I don't always agree with them" George Bush

"I think gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman"
– Arnold Shwarzenneger

'So, where's the Cannes Film Festival being held this year?' – Christina Aguilera

Wow! I hope that made you feel a little less self conscious about your blunders than before. If not, here is a youtube video that shows a selection of mistakes by none other than George Bush..happy viewing

Friday, 17 October 2008

Put me in your Suitcase: Copenhagen

The story goes that the largest island in Denmark, Zealand; was created when the godess Gefjun and her 4 strong oxen were plowing land in Sweden (given to them by the King Gylfi) that the earth was loosened by the deep and wide plows then thrown out into the sea, thus creating the lake Lögr in Sweden and the island which homes the happiest city in the world: Copenhagen. This past weekend I wanted to find out why this city was given the prestigious title.

To get oriented I always like to take a walking tour however in this case I’d definitely recommend taking a boat ride down the canal, it’s about an hour long and they leave every half hour from Nyhavn giving you the best views of the city and surrounding islands. Also, using a bike is a great way to cover a lot of land in a short time. Bike lanes are clearly marked on all roads and there are lovely paths which hug the canal leading to the Little Mermaid (which is in fact little!). They can be rented from the information center near the central train station (leaving no excuses).

Food always makes me happy, so how did Danish food measure up? You ask, well not to shabby. Danish pastries are heavenly, if you’re lucky enough to get them right out of the oven (like myself) they would melt in your mouth…mmmmm! The traditional Danish lunch is smørrebrød which is an open-faced sandwich of usually fish or warm deli meats, on rye bread. I had a yummy smoked salmon one at café Sorgenfri. If you start to feel a little peckish in between meals there are plenty of hot dog stands around worth trying. A hole is punctured in the bun (length-wise) then filled with your choice of condiments completing the treat is the long skinny ‘dog’ which is then placed inside leaving a bit hanging out for show.

Copenhagen gains points for their vast array of attractions from Tivoli Gardens a huge amusement park with an impressive garden, hotel and grand restaurant. Built in 1843 it is the oldest amusement park which is still intact. To the handful of castles scattered all over the city. I ventured to the Rosenborg Castle, once a summer home for the royal family and boasting the crown jewels and memorabilia from past generations of the monarchy. Don’t forget about the art galleries and museums, most of which are free or have specific days which allow free access. Oh and the Carlsberg Brewery.

Speaking of beer, Charlie’s Bar is a great hidden treasure tucked away from the high street where you can relax and unwind after a long day of sightseeing. The owner refused Carlsberg’s demand to stock their specific beers that it sought the best from the rest the world. Now a vast of wonderful ales and lagers from the around the world are provided on tap.

With friendly smiles and warm welcomes everywhere we went it’s hard to criticize the city’s title. Along with great food, yummy beer and a vast amount of things to do I can see why they were given it in the first place (well, that and the fact that the government pays YOU to go to university…just maybe that helped!).

Monday, 13 October 2008

Ear Candling

Ever get the feeling that you have pressure built up in your ears? Have you ever felt like people around you can see the wax in your ears even if you Q-tipped yourself all morning? You are not alone. Being an open organ, your ear is susceptible to all kinds of bacteria and wax buildup that a Q-tip will never reach. Think about it, there is just a thin layer or hair (cilia) protecting your ear from the outside world. Is your ear getting itchy just thinking about it? Mine is.

I have heard of ear candling before however I was never brave enough to try it. My aunt swears by this old ritual wherein a lit candle is used to draw out the residue/wax in your ears. There are various techniques that vary in safety depending on what is lit (the candle or the wick) and where the candle is placed. The procedure costs about $25 for 45 minutes (you switch ears halfway through). Your ears are drained of everything and anything that has called it home for years. Apparently, this procedure feels amazing and leaves one astonished at what came out of their ears. Candling experts claim it cures everything from wax buildup to sinusitis and vertigo.

I went to a local spa to find out more about ear candling. I was told it is a very safe procedure that is even performed on babies. I was reluctant to book an appointment after doing some research and reading the following articles here and here.

Do the cons outweigh the pros? I guess I will have to read more and make an informed decision. I do know one thing. Ever since I have heard about this procedure, my ears have been aching to try it out. Hopefully I didn’t pass the urge onto you. Until next time…

Friday, 10 October 2008

Productive Suzie

Sitting in front of a computer 8 hours a day, everyday could make anyone a little unenthusiastic. With the world happening out ‘there’ while we’re stuck in ‘here’ it’s no wonder we reflect on what we could be, if we only applied ourselves…a little more. Dreams of traveling the world, hobnobbing with celebrities and eating the finest delicacy sweep into our mind. Why can’t we have that life? Of course you can. So why then are most of us dreamers instead of doers? Why can’t we find the motivation to break the routine chain of office life and live the way we want? The answer is pretty easy because we’re scared. It’s not a bad thing to be comfortable (I’m one to talk) in our routine. Some people don’t like change but for those of us who just need a little push I’d like to introduce a great movie that I’ve recently (if 4 months ago counts as recent) seen and a witty novel (again read this a year or more ago) that might just do the trick.

Man on Wire:
This is an inspirational documentary about French tightrope walker Philippe Petit and his daring high-wire routine across the newly built World Trade Center twin towers in 1974. I was lucky enough to attend one of the first screenings in London followed by a Q&A with Philippe and the director. After the viewing I felt like I could conquer anything. When my boyfriend and I returned home, my boyfriend who had been neglecting the gym and feeling guilty about it for a week decided that right then and there he was going to change that…he went for a run, a long one.

Then We Came to an End
Fine this book might not motivate you to drastically change your life, but its witty collective narrative presented in the ‘we’ format simulates the boredom that’s often present in the workforce. And ponders the question: Is there life after the ‘office’? You can read an excerpt here. After reading this book I actually started to enjoy my office life and paid more attention to the idiosyncrasies that made ours different.

What helps motivate you?

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Spanx giving?

Ok, more like Spanxforgiving. But who cares right? You only have one day (well not if you count Christmas or Halloween) to indulge and pay the price later. Here is a great recipe for Sweet Potato pie courtesy of All Recipes. Sweet potatoes are packed with nutrients and aren’t nearly as bad for you as say...Aunt Abel’s apple pie with 5 cups of sugar. Either way give it a try, you won’t be disappointed:

• 1 (24 ounce) package Simply Potatoes® Mashed Sweet Potatoes
• 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
• 1 (5 ounce) can evaporated milk
• 1/3 cup Better'n Eggs
• 1 tablespoon melted butter or margarine
• 1/2 teaspoon ground pumpkin pie spice
• 1 (9 inch) refrigerated pie crust (from 15 ounce package)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. In large bowl whisk or stir together all ingredients except pie crust; mix until well blended.
2. Unroll pie crust; press into 9-inch pie pan. Crimp edges as desired. Pour sweet potato mixture into pie crust. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean, covering crust with foil if it browns too quickly. Cool completely. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Monday, 6 October 2008

The Greatest Gift of All…The Gift of Gratitude

We are so busy. Aren’t we? We rarely take the time to step back and think about where we are, what we want and more importantly, what got us here? Being female, we are prone to self-criticism, doubts and other negative thoughts. When something goes wrong, we are the first ones to get disappointed, frustrated and pessimistic. How many of us sit back and really think about how awesome our lives are? When we are in a slump, we rarely remember the great things that surround us everyday. At the risk of sounding more and more like Oprah, I encourage you to think about the things you should be grateful for.

When my life took a turn for the worse a couple years ago, many friends were around to offer guidance, a shoulder to cry on, or their words of wisdom. Looking back, I can say that everyone was as helpful as they knew how to be. My friend Becky took another route. She had an idea of what I had been through and decided to pass onto me a gift that she had received during a similar time in her life: Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude by Sarah Ban Breathnach

I know many of you have heard about this book or other types of books about gratitude on Oprah. They all seem to follow “the Secret” way of thinking. I don’t claim to endorse any of these books or their ideals. I can only speak of my personal experience with gratitude

The idea of writing in a journal the things that I was grateful for or appreciated everyday seemed cheesy. Moreover, it seemed like an insurmountable task. What the hell did I have to be thankful for? I was angry and alone. But therein lays the problem. I was so busy feeling miserable and pessimistic; I never took the time to experience gratitude. Something, some urge, forced me to pick up a pencil and write down even the smallest joys of each day. This became a ritual for a year and a half. (Unfortunately, Becky’s book only latest a year, so I began to write on lined paper). Some days I found the list easy to compose, other days, it was a struggle to think of anything that made my life happy. But I persisted.

My life soon became better and I started to be more optimistic about my future. I never thought writing in a book everyday and taking that extra time to reflect would have such an impact. I have recently started to feel the same way I did two years ago. I feel lost and alone with many problems that have no solutions. I have since realized that I haven’t taken the time to be grateful for those things around me. I just keep digging myself into a deeper hole of negativity when I think about all the challenges I am facing and the rut I am stuck in. So I have begun writing down everyday what I love about life. I will keep you posted on my progress…but something tells me I already know the outcome. When you are truly grateful for what you have, you have no room for negativity. You believe in yourself, your future and the gift of gratitude…a gift that keeps on giving. (want some wine with that cheese?)

Friday, 3 October 2008


In case you haven’t been to bluefly.com, I suggest you drop by. This site has awesome sales on apparel, handbags, accessories and even housewares. The best part of all, is that you can search by designer, colour, category etc. BCBG dresses for $40, Gucci sunglasses for $130...the list goes on and on. You are guaranteed to save 30-75% off regular prices for designer items. There is also a section called fly paper or fly tv where you can check out info on fashion and bluefly updates. You will not be disappointed!

Angry Annie: Walking, how hard could it be?

From the age of 2 we learn one of the most fundamental human instincts: walking. Why then, is it that most of my big city frustrations come from people who can’t walk properly? There are ‘silent’ rules or walking codes if you would, that I assumed (my fault I know) that everyone knew. I’m going to make it a little easier on everyone and just go over the basics so hopefully all of us (both slow and fast walkers, because we’re of a different bred) can coexist on the busy city sidewalks.

Eyes: It’s important to keep your head up and eyes looking ahead. I know some people are a little self-conscious but honestly no one is paying attention to you, they’ve got other things to worry about (harsh? maybe. True? definitely!) With your head up and eyes looking straight ahead (doesn’t need to be all the time, especially if you’re with others but for the majority of the time, yes please) you can easily see obstacles that could potentially be in your way – man on his blackberry, woman playing with her iPod…

Walk Right: Stay to the right of the sidewalk when walking. Think of it like you’re in a car, slow-pokes stay to the far right so the fast walkers can over take you. Please don’t swerve back and forth oblivious to the poor chap behind you trying to get by, it’s very annoying!

Stopping: Please for the love of god don’t stop in the middle of the sidewalk! People are trying to get places, if you must stop just pull over (either side will do). This leads me to my next point….

Entering/Exiting a Shop: Why do people choose the doorway to stop and wait in? Do you want to get run over? No, I didn’t think so why stand there. The thing to is, go outside and wait for your significant other, bff, or whoever, on either side of the entrance, not in it.

A couple days ago a co-worker read an article aloud that went a little something like this: the average person spends 4 years walking behind slow people. 4 years? Man that’s a huge chunk of my life. Just think about what you’ve accomplished in the last 4 years…..Now, I don’t know the particular source and boy do I wish I had the actual article because that is living proof that we all need to step it up a notch and pay attention when we walk.

What are your pet peeves of sidewalk crowders?

Monday, 29 September 2008

Fashion forward?

They say that fashion is cyclical. Blow the dust off your Mom’s skinny belts and wide leg trousers from the 60-70s and you are ready to walk down the runway in 2008. It’s true…I wish I knew enough to save my Moms patent leather rain coats or pastel overcoats for my twenties. Why does style history repeat itself? Are we not creative enough? Are we short of good ideas and must look to the past?

Well …sort of. Also, fashion as some of you know follows the times. When “times” are good…fashion is colourful and flashy. Think the Roaring 20s. However, when times are tough..break out the sophisticated blouses, the high pants and the pencil skirts. For fashion week this year, designers are usually sticking with safe colours for more conservative looks. Or..they are filling the runways with bright hues displaying optimism and the hope for a better economy (fingers crossed).

Either way you look at it, since the early 1900s, fashion has always forecasted up and down turns in the economy. (Note to reader: I am not telling you to listen to Michael Kors over Mr Greenspan). However, it’s wise to pay attention to fashion trends as they are sure to indicate our future spending cycles.

Apparently, there weren’t many famous faces in attendance at Fashion week…another indicator that times are tough. Keep one eye on the runways this year ladies, I am not the only one who is noticing, “the times..they are a changin”:

Saturday, 27 September 2008

I Enjoy Ads

When I was living in Ottawa I would wait every year for the ByTowne theatre to run that years recap from the Cannes Lions Festival showcasing the winners and runner-ups, these were the best of best in advertising all rolled up into a nice 2 hour feature - Basically my heaven. My cheeks would hurt and stomach muscles would ache but my spirits were high. High because there were people out there that made me think, made me laugh and most importantly did so in a minute or less. Oh those clever people.

Here’s one ad that I’m enjoying (at the moment). I’d like to show you the latest installment of the Citroen Robot…

Friday, 26 September 2008

My Favourite Day in London

London is such a HUGE city with loads to do and see that it is extremely hard to get (or be) bored. Upon further inspection, after my first year of living here I realized I hadn’t even scratched the surface of seeing all of London; don’t get me wrong, I went out (in fact almost too much) but I would end up at the same places, doing the same things. So I made it my goal to go somewhere new, every weekend. Whether it be a museum, art gallery or area of London less travelled, it all made the cut. With my A-to-Z in hand I hit the streets in search of the ‘true’ London.

Even after all my weekly adventures one of my favourite ‘days out’ still remains one of my earliest discoveries: The Southbank. It’s a perfect way to get a feel for the city if you’re a visitor but because it’s also constantly changing w/ events and festivals taking place all the time by the Thames it draws the locals as well.

Starting at London Bridge Station you can have lunch and explore London’s oldest market: The Borough Market (warning: do not go on a full stomach, you’ll want to eat, lots). This is where the naked chef shops for his ingredients. Make sure to bring your own bags so you can load them up w/ exotic beers, yummy olives, scrumptious cheese, warm bread along with fresh fruits and vegetables locally grown.

Once your belly is full, it’s time to walk it off, along the Thames. With stunning views of St. Paul’s, the London Eye, Big Ben and London Bridge it’s easy to see why hoards of tourists come from far and wide to explore this place I call home (for the time being anyway). On a nice day, beer and Pimms stalls line the walkway and with plenty of green spaces it makes for the perfect time to rest and talk about what you’ve seen.

Need a little bit of culture? No problem, walk a little further and you’ll hit the Tate Modern. One of my personal favourites, it holds modern classics by Rothko, Andy Warhol, Picasso, Matisse…oh the list could go on.

Once you had a look around, continue walking along the Thames walkway towards Waterloo station. You’ll pass a skating park where amazing athletes draw in the crowds daily. They’re all so fearless; you wouldn’t catch me trying to flip my bike in mid air!

A little further down the path is a great (HUGE) outdoor book market…this is where I can spend hours collecting novels. I always have a few waiting to be read but that never stops me from collecting more.

If at all you get hungry the path is lined with coffee shops and restaurants. Once you’re finished head to Waterloo Bridge and head home.

Without fail this day always makes me happy. If you ever decide to head to London for a holiday and are looking for the perfect day out, drop us a line and what you like to do and I’ll do my best to sort you out.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Recipes Jo mamma never told you about: Banana Bread

Last I told you that saving your bananas would come in handy, well here's the perfect recipe to turn them into a masterpiece. It's simple but perfect, and I've been making it since University.

What you'll need:

  • 3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
  • 1/3 cup of melted butter
  • 13/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 & 1/2 cups of flour

The best part about this recipe is that you don't even need a blender. Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a mixing bowl blend the butter into the mashed bananas with a wooden spoon. Then mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour the mixture into a buttered 4x8 inch loaf pan and bake for 45 mins - 1 hour (depending on the oven). Cool on a rack for 10 mins. Once cooled remove from pan and slice to serve.


Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Are we Agents of Change?

One of the truest quotes I ever heard regarding marriage was told to me by a friend’s father. “Women marry men hoping to change them. Men marry women hoping they won’t change”. Coming from a man who is happily married for over 25 years, I really couldn’t dispute this quote. The more I thought about it, I realized there is a lot of truth to this statement. Why do women feel that they can change people? Why can’t we just leave well enough alone?

It’s easy for me to ask such bold questions. I do not claim to be removed from this statement. I too, feel the need to adapt, tweak and modify people in my life. Throughout our relationship, I have taught my boyfriend to be more assertive, confident and stylish. I am not as bad as some girls..mainly because he does stand up to me. For some reason, women don’t always accept people for who they are, rather, they fall in love or friendship with people for who they could be. This rule doesn’t apply to all situations or all relationships. However, I do think there is a difference between men and women when it comes to this matter. Most men become involved in relationships with people for who they are. When asked for advice or guidance from a friend, most men are reluctant to say much at all. My boyfriend has had a positive impact on me. In a lot of ways over the past 3 or so years, I have become a better person while knowing him. I have to say, his greatest impact on my life, has been instilling confidence in me for who I am, right now.

Sometimes I wonder if we are setting ourselves up for disappointment or failure when we seek to change others. When I look at the people in my life, I automatically think of ways I could help them. Often my motives are altruistic, wanting to make them smarter, more attractive or more employable. For a long time, I thought I could boost the confidence of my roommate, increase her self pride, and have her choice in partners reflect that. What was I thinking? I am not that smart. I am not that influential. I am not her and I am not you.

I have wasted a lot of effort over the past years trying to help the helpless. I now realize they weren’t so helpless. They were just content. What’s wrong with that? The next time you are out with your partner, your family or friends, think about why you ever wanted to change them in the first place? Were you really looking for that change within yourself?

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Doing Your Part

Going Green doesn’t have to break the bank. The little things we do from day-to-day could be the most damaging to this planet we call home. Here are some easy tips that hopefully you’ll find painless to implement but will make an impact…

1. Bring your own bags shopping. Here in the UK most of the grocery stores will either reward you for bringing your own bags (store points) or in fact charge you for using theirs. Right, so you don’t want to bring in your wrinkled old, smelly bags back to the store, fine, I get you. Plus we’re women and we need to look stylish, at all times. RuMe bags are reusable and durable but don’t compromise on style. And if that wasn’t enough, they fold up to fit perfectly in any handbag.

2. Pack your lunch using Tupperware instead of plastic bags. Have you seen the different types of Tupperware cases that are out there? Gone are the days of leaking salad dressing and smelly tuna purses. If you don’t bring your lunch to work but go to fast food joints bring a Tupperware with you and ask the cashier to place your order in it. A friend and co-worker would do this all the time. We’d go to Subway and she’d whip out her container and get them to pack her sub in it – brilliant!
On a similar note (but oh so similar) why not bring a travel mug to your favourite coffee house instead of using their cups?

3. Go paperless on your bank/credit card statement and utilities bills. Most companies allow its clients to view their accounts online…just make sure to check it regularly!

4. Unplug your stuff when you’re not using it. Here in the UK we have on/off switches for the sockets making it a lot easier to save electricity. Also, make sure to take your stereo, PC or TV off stanby when you’re out

5. Save your fruit….most people feel the need to throw out their soon-to-bad fruit but these can easily be placed in the freezer for a later date when you have the time to make that perfect banana bread (a recipe will be coming soon – so no excuses…watch this space), apple cake, peach cobbler etc….

6. Start a reading group (not to be confused with a Book Club). We all want to stay in touch so why not gather some of your friends w/ similar interests and share subscriptions – For example if Kristyn and I were to do this she’d probably get Economics and Times while I’d get Vogue and Cosmo then we’d swap mid-month. If you’re not keen on starting a ‘group’ just pass it on – give your mag to someone on the subway, family or friends.

Have a green tip? Go on share it with us

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

A pit-bull with lipstick on

Have you paid any attention to the US election these days? Well if you reside in North America, you cannot help but catch some of the gossip out there. It has been inspiring watching this election progress as more and more young people become motivated to vote and serve their country. I was slowly beginning to think that the U.S was REALLY going to do something good for a change. I had hopes (like many outsiders or residents of different countries) that American voters were going to finally see past biases and bullshit, past party lines and CNN gossip. I am starting to think I was very wrong.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t write anything in this blog about the US Election. Hasn’t there been enough coverage already? However, being a women’s blog, I had to comment on the Sarah Palin issue.

We have come so far as women since we fought for the right to vote. We now are closer to earning the same wages as our male counterparts. We have proven time and time again that we can balance our work and private lives. Yet we seem to want more. Do we want everyone in every corner of the earth to rally behind us as we surpass every man on earth? What happened to just being equals? Why do women feel the need to keep hammering the message to the rest of society that we are better?

It’s ignorant and egotistical to even talk about one gender being better than the other. What are we teaching our children or our neighbors about us when we are constantly trying to one up the other? This is the very issue that may let Sarah Palin slip right into the White House. She is a heartbeat (a 72 year old man’s faint heartbeat) away from the most powerful office in the world. She may get to that position not because she is smart, experienced, credible or worthy. She is FAR from any of those things. She will get the position because she will ride on the coattails of those before her. She will plead to the women vote..the vote that says..its OUR turn for the White House. After all..we CLEARLY deserve it.

It makes me cringe the way she uses her gender and her role as mother to get the women vote. “Hey..look at me..I am a mother”. Yes…well…. if you were that great of a mother..you wouldn’t be parading your kids around. You would know that they shouldn’t be in the limelight to serve your selfish wishes. If you actually KNEW about foreign affairs, health care and the economy, you wouldn’t need to play up your gender and talk endlessly about being a woman. You wouldn’t have to “lean” on your gender to get the sympathy of others. The worst part of all is that women are eating this shit up. They are so blinded by her gender, they can’t see her for the redneck lying conservative that she is. Her only presidential-like quality is that she is tough. She likens her tough hockey mom personality to a pit-bull with lipstick. When you talk about being a pit-bull with lipstick on…educated women such as me don’t buy it. After all, as my mother says, “if you have to talk about it so much, you don’t got it”

Sarah: When you start talking tough on issues (instead of about lipstick) and have something ELSE on your resume besides small town mayor and mother of five, maybe then, and only then, the rest of us WOMEN will take interest.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Does a Higher Price Tag = Better Quality?

Last weekend my hair straightener broke (for the second time! Grrr). I like to think that I’m not a very vain person but this was devastating – mainly b/c I had already blow-dried my hair before finding out which then left me with fizzy BIG hair and no tools to tame it. My warranty had expired and I was left to fend for myself. After much deliberation I hesitantly bought the best of the best (as far as hair straighteners go) a ghd ceramic hair straightener.

It finally arrived on Wednesday and I couldn’t be happier!! It’s beautifully designed, works like magic, not only in that it can straighten my hair in seconds but that it gets rid of my fly-aways as well. Also, did I mention it heats up the minute it’s turned on? Oh it does, there’s no more waiting around for this girl. Now that I’m a happy camper this got me thinking, why didn’t just buy it in the first place and save myself the hassle? Well I know the reason, the price tag. I couldn’t justify spending £100 (that’s $200 for you lovely Canadians) on a hair straightener.

Price is a very important aspect to any item’s ‘marketing’ campaign. A product or service’s price can determine the consumers’ perceived value for the item rather than the actual value. If something is marked too low we don’t want to buy it for fear of it being ‘cheap’ or poor quality. And if it’s over priced we’re not willing to pay for it because we don’t want to get ripped off. The pricing game is a tricky business…

A higher price doesn’t necessarily always mean good quality but where do you draw the line? This is where price comparison sites like Money Supermarket come into play. It’s a great way to feel the marketplace before you buy those higher ticketed items. Know the market before you spend your hard earned bucks. Read reviews and make sure what you’re buying is good quality – most online stores like BestBuy and Amazon have readers’ reviews.

My mother always said you can buy something that’s cheap but if it’s not good quality then you’ll end up spending twice as much in the long run. And you know what she’s right (she’s very wise my mother), and now my hair will reap the benefits! My wallet on the other hand…..

What Your City has to Offer

I wouldn’t call myself boring. My life is anything but a routine (right?) However, I always manage to do the same thing in the city every day or weekend. I take the great city of Toronto for granted and never manage to visit any of the city’s breathtaking sights. I had the pleasure of taking my boyfriend’s cousins from Germany around Toronto and Montreal/Quebec. I was excited to once again go up to Mont-Tremblant and spend a day swimming in the fresh clean lake. I couldn’t wait to eat on one of Montreal’s many patios. The Toronto portion of the trip was not at all on my list of priorities. Yet the city was somehow able to sneak up on me and force me to open my mind to its possibilities. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with Toronto all over again. It doesn’t hold a candle to Berlin or other cities in the world that have so much to offer. However, Toronto has come a long way. And she has quite a base of attractions to build on. I drive past the CN Tower every day, taking its amazing height for granted. This past week I was standing at the highest point of the CN Tower a tourist could venture, and it made me realize how breathtaking the tower is. Moreover, I stood with my jaw dropped at the Toronto skyline view at night. Brief visits to Centre Island and Casa Loma, the ROM and the AGO forced me to see Toronto through a tourist’s eyes. It wasn’t fair of me to condemn a city that I hadn’t really explored since my field trips in elementary school. Watching the amazement on the eyes of my tourist friends as we navigated our way through Toronto, made me appreciate all the city has to offer. Even though my German friends spoke no English, many Torontonians managed to communicate with them in an exceptionally friendly manner. Have a love-hate relationship with your city? Maybe its time you re-explored it through a tourist’s eyes. After all, beauty is truly in the eyes of the beholder.

Kristyn xo

Monday, 8 September 2008

Recipes Jo mamma never told you about

Summer is coming to a close, yet I still seem to have tons of fruit lying around my house. I always wonder what to do with extra bananas or berries. My father is famous for cutting up strawberries and serving them with a bit of salt and balsamic vinegar as part of a salad or dessert. Don’t judge until you try it!

For the not so adventureous..here is a recipe courtesy of npr on a recent trend in cooking…grilling fruits:

Grilled Fruit (Serves 6)

2 ripe bananas
2 ripe peaches
1-pound container of strawberries
1 stick of butter
Tablespoon of sugar

Peel the bananas. Rinse the peaches and strawberries; pat dry. Slice the peaches into quarters (make sure they are big enough to put straight on the grill). Cut off tops of the strawberries.
Place the strawberries on aluminum foil. Sprinkle with sugar and wrap. Put some butter on each banana and on each peach slice.

Shopping was easy...until I met you

If you can identify with my article, or better yet, my RANT on women and guilt, here’s another issue you may be able to relate to: guilt and shopping. I am pretty sure I just shuddered at the fact that I used them both in the same sentence. New Rule: One should never feel guilty for shopping. Yet, women ALWAYS feel guilty for our small (or not so small) indulgences. There was an article this month in Chatelaine about how women feel guilty for shopping for themselves. But when it comes to dropping a Borden or a Benjamin on their friends or family…NO PROBLEM!

I couldn’t agree more. Why are we feeling guilty for buying things for ourselves? We work hard and that means we should play hard. C’est correct??. Ok, but there are times when we CLEARLY have to buy for other people. Unfortunately, there are some people that have everything, or some that are just too picky. Here are some gift ideas that I have used in the past....feel free to add to my list:

  1. Magazine Subscriptions – a year’s worth of Vogue for your fashion victim best friend or a Food magazine subscription for your mother in law…the gift that keeps on giving (especially if it means, next holiday, your MIL’s chicken has some juice to it!)

  1. Maid for a day – go to Molly Maid and get your loved one a day or a fixed dollar amount of cleaning..redeemable whenever…while you are on the site…buy yourself one.

  1. Lessons/Classes – Is your friend an aspiring artist? Does your boyfriend need French lessons to be promoted at work? Whatever the class or lesson may be, consider enrolling your friend in a course at a local college or agency. Some community centers offer discounted lessons for citizens of that municipality. If you and your friend are short on quality time, enroll together.

  1. Trip Bucket – Do you have a Jessica in your life? Someone who frequently travels all over the globe? Put together a bucket for their next destination. Travel books, travel containers, maps and phone cards are all great ideas to get you started. Sorry Jessica, this is NOT what will be arriving on your doorstep on the 16th of February.

  1. Designer for a day – Whether it be interior decorating, or personal style..everyone needs help now and then. There are some websites where you can solicit professionals to spend a day with your friend and give professional help/advice. Ok, some might take it as an insult, so tread lightly. Either way, its an idea for those that have everything.

  1. Gift Cards – This isn’t the traditional gift certificate idea. Ok, maybe it is..but just a little. Forget clothing and music certificates. How about gas cards, CAA memberships, Aeroplan/Airmiles donations or gift cards for dinners, resorts and plays. It may seem like an easy choice, but take it from me, not many people would turn down a gas card right now.

The best part of all these gift ideas, is that they enhance your friend’s life. You can buy your father another sweater, or your nephew another video game. For those that are trying to discourage unwanted materialism, these ideas are speaking to you.

Kristyn xo

Friday, 5 September 2008

Angry Annie…but not all the time

I thought I’d share something that I actually enjoy about the commute to/from work. I know can you believe it? It’s true there are some things I actually enjoy, even look forward to. Don’t get me wrong they’re not life altering or anything major like that just simple (little) things that make me smile and really a smile can sometimes be all it takes to change this angry Annie into her normal loving self again.

I live in between two tube stops – Clapham Common and Clapham North. I usually grab the tube in the morning from Clapham Common, the reason is simple, it’s less busy (don’t get confused in thinking there aren’t many people on the platform or that the train itself isn’t busy because it is, oh it is. It’s just that it’s less busy, that’s all). I don’t dare try to get on at Clapham North as I’ve heard horror stories of having to travel backwards in order to actually get on a train (these people do not go to Clapham North anymore). But when I return home I get off at Clapham North (because it’s actually closer to my house); and it is there that I find my smile again. First off they play classical music (lovely!), secondly they always have a new ‘quote of the day’ listed on a board so you can read it while you’re going up/down the escalators and thirdly one of the gates literally makes the noise ‘woohoo’ when you’re entering the station!! How could that not make you smile?

What makes you smile during the hectic commute to work?

Rommate Corner: Cleaning a Foreign Concept

Dear Rhonda,

You can tidy your room ALL you want. You can organize your books by first letter, last letter or colour. You can even change the pictures in your lame picture frames. But that does not a clean room make. When did tidying become cleaning? If I can trace my name in the dust around your bathroom sink, I probably won’t stay long enough to admire your book collection.

Why do you always talk about how you can’t handle the mess? Is it because your personal life is so disorganized and messy? Ok, that jab was unfair…but seriously, I don’t get it. Have you no idea where or what the vacuum is? I am only left to guess that your Mom or Dad never made you clean the house, well aren’t you lucky?? Its time to call in the reinforcement….the backup so to speak……Mama's Helper…to pick up where jo mamma left off.

Love always,

Kristyn xox