Friday, December 28, 2012

2012: My (rapid fire) Year in Review

Once again, Divulge with Dani has outdone herself by coming up with the idea of a year-in-review blog post. And, to make it nice and straight forward for us all, she's even assembled a smattering of questions to help us along.

Here is my summary of the year 2012:



1) What did you do in 2012 that you have never done before?

There were plenty of "firsts" for me, not all of them positive, so I'll try and list some of the more pleasant experiences:

- I attended a Major League Spring Training baseball game in Phoenix this Spring and also traveled to the Dominican, Turks & Caicos, Curacao, and Aruba for the first time this Fall.

- I was the maid-of-honor in my BFF's wedding and had the pleasure of organizing a bridal shower and stagette for her.

- I joined Pinterest and learned how to make my own soap. LOL.... okay, well, the soap part is a lie, but I really did join Pinterest.

Truth.




2) Did you keep your New Year's Resolutions and will you make more next year?

No, and of course.




3) Any major life events happen in your life?

Sadly, our little dog Mickey passed away in March.




4) Where did you travel?

Oops, I should have read the list of questions before I started replying because I've already given part of this away in #1. Nonetheless, I was lucky enough to travel to the following locales this year: Phoenix, the Grand Canyon, Texas, Florida, Dominican Republic, Turks & Caicos, Curacao, Aruba, plus various small towns throughout Alberta. (Including Drumheller, which is one of my favourite places in this province.)




5) What did you lack in 2012 that you would like more of in 2013?

The willpower to stick to a healthy lifestyle and the patience required when raising a two year old.




6) What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory?

March 28 - this was the day our little Mickey left us.




7) What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Hands down, it was getting my daughter to overcome her extreme fear of strangers. That, and getting her potty trained. I can't tell you how many sleepless nights I spent worrying about these two things, and I'm infinitely relieved to have helped her overcome these hurdles. (Sure, she's still terrified of public washrooms.... but aren't we all?)




8) What was your biggest failure?

Again, lacking the willpower to stick to a healthy lifestyle. 




9) Did you suffer injury or illness?

No real injuries here (knock on wood), but I did seem to be sick at least once monthly. I'm sure it has something to do with kids being disease carriers, plus my lack of natural immunity..... you know, thanks to that unhealthy lifestyle I mentioned.




10) What was the best purchase you made?

Portable DVD player that kept my daughter entertained and potentially saved us from being kicked off one of our many international flights.




11)  What things/people inspired you the most?

I can't think of any one person or thing at the moment.... but, generally speaking, I admire people who somehow manage to remain happy and optimistic in even the worst of times. This is something to which I aspire.




12) What things/people disappointed you the most?

Truthfully, I'm disappointed most in myself. I am my own worst enemy, and I need to start taking care of myself again so that I can create a happy, healthy home for my family.




13) Where did most of your money go?

1. Mortgage    2. Daycare     3. Travel       4. Our new fence




14) What did you get really excited about?

My daughter's Christmas Concert in the school gym of her daycare. I was beyond excited to be there that night, despite the fact that she all of a sudden turned people-shy and refused to perform, haha.




15) What song will always remind you of 2012?

Rolling In The Deep - by Adele ....simply because it's great to work out to, and it was on repeat on my iPod for many sessions on the treadmill.



16) Compared to this time last year, are you....?
·         
       - Happier or hardened? (A little of both, depending on the subject matter.)
       - Thinner or fatter? (Fatter, sadly.)
·         -  Richer or poorer? (If we're strictly speaking in a financial sense, then poorer, LOL.)



17) What do you wish you'd done more of?

Exercising and spending QUALITY time with my family.




18) What do you wish you'd done less of?

Eating.



19) What was your favourite TV program? Least favourite?

Favourite show on TV this year was Flashpoint, and I'm so saddened that the series has come to an end.



Least favourite show? Wow, I don't know. Probably that Toddlers and Tiaras show on TLC. I've never actually seen it, so it's not fair of me to judge.... but the commercials alone really anger me.




20) What was the best book you read? Worst book?

The best book I read was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. I brought it with me everywhere I went, simply because I didn't want to set it down.



In terms of the worst book I read, it would probably be Unsweetined by Jodie Sweetin, the actress who played Stephanie Tanner on Full House.

Now, please don't misunderstand me here -- this book was an incredible read, and I enjoyed it very much. But it also painted a very ugly picture for me involving drug and alcohol addiction, and it just boggles my mind to know everything Sweetin has been through.






21) What was your favourite song/album/artist? Least favourite song/album/artist?

Even though I listen to CFCW country radio, my favourite song was Rolling In The Deep by Adele..... and a close second would be Springsteen by Eric Church.

I don't have a favourite album of the year, but Eric Church was probably my favourite artist for 2012.

Least favourite song.....? Well, there's this tune (if you can call it that) by a local Canadian country artist, and it's titled Train Wreck. In my opinion, the song is a train wreck unto itself. I have to mute the radio every time it comes on at work.




22) Favourite film of this year? Least favourite?

I only visited a movie theatre once this year, on Mother's Day (my ONE evening off, LOL). We saw The Lucky One, which was the film adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks book. Naturally, I preferred the book, but given that I didn't see any other films this year, that one has to be my favourite by default.




23) What is one thing that would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

To have been healthier. Full stop.




24) How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?

Fashion? That's funny. Basically, if it fit, I wore it.



25) What kept you sane? 

My family. (Even though they're also often the source of my stress, I would have fallen apart without them!)




26) Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Fancy the least?

There's no denying I have a celebrity crush on Sergio Di Zio. His smile is infectious!



And, although I'm still a big fan of Brad Sherwood, I admit some of his Twitter comments regarding religion have been a big turn-off for me. (It's his account, and he can say what he wants, so such is life.....)




27) What political issue stirred you the most? Stirred you the least?

Admittedly, I've really shied away from watching the news this year and have turned a blind eye to many of the issues that made headlines. Is that an ideal way to live? Of course not, and I need to do better to become more informed in this next year.

So, in terms of the political issues that stirred me the least? Umm, it would have been ALL OF THEM. 

(haha, I made a funny there at my own expense....)




28) What news story did you like the most? Hate the most?

Oh, wow, again, I didn't really watch the news this year...... but I'd have to have been living in a hole to not hear about the shootings at the Connecticut elementary school a few weeks ago. That was a devastating event, and yet it brought to light that many of those teachers were heroes that day.



29) What sports moment did you like the most? Hate the most?

Pretty much everything from the London Olympics made for wonderful sports moments this year.

My least favourite moment came recently when the New York Mets traded away their Cy Young winner, R.A. Dickey. Foolish, foolish, foolish.




30) Favourite Blog (other than yours)? Blog Post (other than yours)?

Hmmm, I believe this was summarized in one of my previous entries here.

In terms of a favourite post, a friend of mine sent me a link to Rachel Martin's blog, and my favourite entry was this one in which she wrote a letter to her fellow moms who feel like they're failing. This blog post made me cry, as I could relate to it 100%.

I printed it out, and it now sits laminated on my dresser at home.




31) Favourite Blog Post (of yours)?

Ahh, my love affair with Nintendo and Super Mario Bros. still makes me laugh, even though it highlights the fact that I'm a bad parent. (See my post entitled: Super.)




32) Who is your 2012 Person of the Year?

That would be my husband. He works two jobs, volunteers at our church, and is out of the home for an average of 60 hours/week.... yet he still manages to remain upbeat and take it all in stride. (Most of the time anyway, haha.)





33) Who do you miss?

Plenty of relatives and friends have passed away over the years, so I guess I just miss the moments that could have been.




34) Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.

If you're fortunate to have everything you need and a few of the things you want, then you're better off than most other people in this world. Take nothing for granted.





35) Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

"Oh Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun - please shine down on me."

- as sung by my daughter during our daily drive to daycare. :)




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All right, head over to Divulge with Dani to read about her year in review.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Friday's Top Five - Things for which I am grateful


I tend to be a bit of a Debbie Downer. It's true, I know this about myself, and it's something I need to work on constantly.

So when Divulge with Dani suggested we share our thoughts about what we're grateful for this Christmas, I thought it was a brilliant idea. If nothing else, it should at least give my thousands hundreds tens five readers a break from my chronic complaining.


Friday's Top Five - Things for which I am grateful:

5) Holiday Classics

Like most everyone else, I love and look forward to the timeless Christmas shows featured on TV year after year, and it has extra meaning for me now that I can share them with my daughter. It just boggles my mind to know that she can watch the same Charlie Brown Christmas special as I did when I was a kid.


But my favourite 'classics' don't just involve television: Candy Cane Lane, which features several city blocks all lit up in festive holiday lights each year, is another staple for which I am grateful.

We're lucky enough to live near this neighbourhood, and though it's only been open for a week this season, we've already been through it four times so far. My daughter has a new-found fascination with Christmas lights, and it's just so much more enjoyable seeing these displays with her in tote. (Which is why we keep going back again and again and again....).


4)  Free Healthcare

While it's true that nothing in life is truly free, I do feel completely blessed to live in a nation where healthcare is considered our birthright.

By no means is our system flawless, but we're all guilty of taking it for granted.

I don't want to get into any political debates -- this isn't the time or place for that -- but I simply can't imagine having to pay out of pocket for something as basic as seeing a doctor when I'm sick.

As mentioned, I have a young daughter who brings home all sorts of maladies from day care, and I also have an aging mother who is requiring increased time and attention from health care professionals. And, quite frankly, I believe that if we were living anywhere else, we simply wouldn't be able to afford the care they require and deserve.


3) My Job

For all the complaining I do (and, yes, I know it's a lot), I am utterly grateful for the fact that I'm employed.

Don't get me wrong, if we won a super-sized mega jackpot lottery, I would eventually stop working (full-time anyway) and would devote my time to just living, but I know there are thousands of qualified, skilled workers who would give anything to take my place in the workforce.

And, as an added bonus, I do actually like my job.

Well, on most days anyway. But don't tell anyone that I admitted to this out loud. Ahem.



2) My Health

Oh boy, where to begin? I am probably at the unhealthiest I have ever been in my life, and yet I'm so grateful that things aren't worse.

In my teens and twenties, it was all about vanity for me. Of course I wanted to look good and maybe, just maybe, meet someone with whom I could share my life.

But these days, my focus has turned to my health, mostly because it isn't just about me anymore. I don't know if I mentioned it before (ha!), but I have a young daughter who needs her Mommy to be healthy.

What would happen to her if I wasn't here? The mere thought scares the crap out of me, which is why I need to stop taking my health for granted.



1) My Family

It's been a week now since the horrific and senseless shootings took place in a Connecticut elementary school, and it will only be a matter of time before the media attention dies down and the victims' families are left to mourn on their own...... but the agonizing pain and the void they're feeling now will always remain. And, sadly, Christmas will probably always be a reminder of this tragedy for them.

I think we've all tried to put ourselves in those people's shoes, wondering how we would react or deal with the fact that our loved ones are never coming home..... and it's just so devastating to even think about.

One of the few positives that immediately surfaces out of tragedies such as this is that the rest of us outsiders are reminded of just how lucky we are.

We still have our families.

Regardless of how horrible things can sometimes feel for me, I am truly blessed to me able to come home each night to a family that loves me unconditionally, flaws and all.



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That's it for this week. Leave some comments and head on over to see what Divulge With Dani is grateful for this week.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Friday's Top Five - Least Favourite Christmas Carols

Let the Christmas Crazy continue!

At first I thought choosing my top five favourite Christmas carols was difficult, but this week's task of selecting the five I hate the most is proving to be almost as impossible.

Why? Because I LOVE CHRISTMAS CAROLS.

Yes, much to Divulge with Dani's chagrin, I'm one of those dorks who loves the fact that certain radio stations do nothing but play Christmas music for several weeks leading up to the big day.

In fact, in my office at work, I have the luxury of tapping into one of the many un-interuppted holiday radio stations online so that I can listen to the joys of the season during my full work day. All day, every day.

(And, yes, I'm sure that everyone who enters my office is mortified. But, frankly, that's how I roll.)

So, as I was saying, given that I love this music so much, it was fairly difficult for me to come up with five songs that I hate...... but here goes!





Friday's Top Five - Least Favourite Christmas Carols:

5) Sleigh Ride (by SheDaisy)

Let me clarify: I do actually really love this song. But I loathe the SheDaisy version.

I'm sorry, ladies, I know you are talented and have great vocals, but you've ruined all that is good and warm about this tune.

To put it into perspective, I would prefer listening to the Disney Sing-A-Long version of Sleigh Ride with Mickey Mouse and Scrooge McDuck over the awful SheDaisy version any day.



4) Santa Baby (by Madonna)

I'm torn over this song. I don't really hate it, per se. I actually kind of like it.... except for the fact that Madonna's done a cover.

I can't really put my finger on why I dislike having her sing this song, but I think it has to do with the fact that I find her to be more smutty than sexy, and this tune just perpetuates that notion.

It makes me feel icky when I hear it, and for that reason I simply cannot tolerate it among the gems of holiday radio.





3) Wonderful Christmastime (by Paul McCartney)

Paul McCarney recently played a couple of concerts here last week and, the way the media was telling it, this was the second coming of Christ.

To which I, of course, stood up and said to my husband, "I don't really get what's so great about him. Or The Beatles for that matter."

(Okay, okay, I get that I'm in the minority here, but please don't send me hate mail. I do like some songs by The Beatles, but for the most part I'm certain they were high on LSD during a lot of their writing sessions.)

Ahem, anyway, back to this Christmas song: I just don't like it.

It gets stuck in my head to the point where I just want Christmas to be over already so that I can go another year without being subjected to this tune. (If you can even call it that.)



2) Please Daddy, Don't Get Drunk This Christmas (by Alan Jackson)

I don't even know where to start with this song.

It is so incredibly sad, and I know it's a story that needs to be told because there are undoubtedly multiple families that will endure this same situation over Christmas, but still. That doesn't mean I have to enjoy listening to it on the radio.

If anything good could come from this horrible song, I hope it's that someone who is a chronic drinker will hear it and decide that the booze just isn't worth it.

(That's really the only reason I can think of as to why Alan Jackson would choose to remake this John Denver "classic".) Ugh.



1) Last Christmas (by any and all artists who dared to record this irritating display of "music")




So, it should come as no surprise that I hate this song. With a passion.

Both Divulge with Dani and I have REPEATEDLY expressed our dislike for this Wham! song and all versions thereafter.

There are, like, only 15 words in the entire song, and it's so horrible that it's almost funny. (Almost, but not quite.)

I get that this song is about heartbreak, and, believe me, I've been there and have drowned my sorrows in more than my share of break-up songs..... but this one just has no place among the beloved Christmas carols of the season.

I mean, really? We go from Anne Murray's "O Come All Ye Faithful" to THIS disgrace of a song?!?

It has NOTHING to do with Christmas.

It just repeats the same line over and over again.

And it sucks.

To make matters worse, Taylor Swift has a version out on radio, which means that this song will continue to live on for years to come on both pop and country radio.

Thanks a lot, Taylor. Thanks a lot.

...... Somebody please pass me the holiday nog .......


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All right, that's it for this week. Head on over to see what Divulge with Dani has come up with as well. (I'm pretty sure we'll have the same #1 pick, haha.)



Thursday, November 29, 2012

Friday's Top Five - Christmas Carols

Divulge With Dani and I are back, and we're ready to unleash our Christmas Crazy on you!

Dani has chosen the impossible task in that we're going to declare our love for the top five Christmas carols of all time. OF ALL TIME!

How can this be done, you ask? Well, the short answer is, it can't. There are just too many beautiful carols, too many festive carols, too many carols that take me back to a time of innocence in my youth........ so how can I narrow it down to just five?

I suppose all I can declare is that, right here and now, these are the five carols I'm holding dear in my heart.



Friday's Top Five - Christmas Carols:

5) Nuttin' For Christmas (by Sugarland)

Generally speaking, my favourite tunes at Christmas time are those of a religious nature. Jesus is the reason for the season, after all.

But every now and then I hear a song on the radio that reminds it's okay to have a little fun and not take the world so seriously all the time.

I dare you not to smile a little and remember what it was like to be a kid at Christmas time when you listen to this music.





4) God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman/We Three Kings (by The Barenaked Ladies & Sarah McLachlan)

This is my favourite version of these two songs, and it's also one of my favourite Christmas collaborations as well, featuring The Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan.

(I think the only other collaborators I put ahead of these artists in terms of Christmas carols is Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, simply because nobody does Christmas better than Dolly and Kenny.)

Anyway, have a listen to this piece of audio, and I guarantee you'll be tapping your toes and singing along.




3) Belleau Wood (by Garth Brooks)

The Battle of Belleau Wood took place during the First World War, and this song puts a face to the soldiers on BOTH sides who were there and fighting during Christmas.

I could ramble on about how touching this is, or I could just let you watch the video below and see for yourself. (Note: the actual music doesn't start playing until just after the 2-minute mark, but it's worth the wait.)




2) Mary Did You Know (by Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd)

While I prefer Kenny paired with Dolly, Wynonna Judd singing with Kenny is a close second in my books, especially when it comes to this carol.

THIS is what Christmas is all about, and the lyrics paint such hauntingly beautiful imagery in my mind that I feel compelled to just stop and reflect whenever I hear this song.





1) What Child Is This (Greensleeves) (by Carrie Underwood)

Even though I've chosen the Carrie Underwood version of this hymn, you really can't go wrong with any of them. This song is just that beautiful.

In fact, even without the lyrics, I still can't get enough of this tune..... and that might explain why we have the front doorbell on our home set to play this music whenever anyone presses the buzzer.

(And, yes, we ring it ourselves at least three times daily, just to watch our daughter dance.)




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All right, that's it for this week. Head on over to see what Divulge with Dani and (potentially) Juice with Junior have come up with as well.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Five Life Lessons I've Learned From My Toddler

I stumbled upon the below blog post this morning while reading an email from the Yummy Mummy Club. It struck a chord in me because A) I, too, have a two-year-old at home, and B) there are a lot of valid points in this post to which I can absolutely relate.

Whether you're a parent or not, this is certainly worth the read:


The Five Life Lessons I've Learned From My Toddler







Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday's Top Five - Guilty Pleasures

Whether you're willing to admit to it or not, we all have our own dirty little secrets. Here are the top five I'm willing to discuss online.


Friday's Top Five - Guilty Pleasures:

5. World Wrestling Entertainment

Admittedly, I haven't actually watched wrestling since the year 2000, but my ears still perk up when I hear mention of Road Dogg  or Jake "The Snake" Roberts.




I never was a wrestling fan for the sport aspect of it; for me it was all about entertainment. As in, this was my soap opera, and I watched it for the story lines.

Who doesn't love a riveting tale of good vs. evil... especially when it involves chivalrous (yet bad-assed) hard-bodied men in spandex?? (It sounds ridiculous, I know!)

Even though it's been over a decade since I last watched a match, I still scan the wrestling gossip section of the Edmonton Sun each week... and, yes, I do feel a little weird doing it.

But that's why it's considered a guilty pleasure, right??


4. Nutella and peanut butter

I have a love-hate relationship with food and will try anything at least once. But this is one decadent treat that I've sampled over and over and over (and over) because it's so yummy.

You take a spoonful of Nutella and place it in a bowl. Then you take a spoonful of peanut butter and place it in the same bowl.

And then you sit back and indulge.



I try to trick myself into thinking this is a semi-healthy way of eating Nutella and peanut butter, simply because I've eliminated the carbs found in bread..... but who are we kidding here? This is the definition of sinful.

Even my husband, who has the sweetest sweet tooth of anyone I know (think: Will Ferrell in Elf) seriously frowns upon this treat of mine.

And I'm sure he'll now be even more horrified to know I've revealed this secret online.


3. Bargain hunting

I refuse to pay full price for items unless absolutely necessary.

If Canadian stores allowed for coupon stacking and "Double Coupon Days", then I would totally quit my job and become an Extreme Couponer.



I have to be honest, though. I actually HATE using coupons.

It's a pain to search them out and organize them... and don't even get me started on the anxiety I feel each time I go to the checkout and feverishly watch the clerk as she scans my items and coupons, living in fear that something might go amiss.

But I do it because it saves us money. Full stop.

(As an aside, I'm sure these clerks are dreading the day I qualify for a senior discount... because, by God, I will insist upon it every time!)


2. Extreme AirMiling

Similar to the above, collecting AirMiles can also be a real pain in the butt.

But, again, I do it because it saves us money.

More specifically, I do it because it's allowed us to fly virtually for free for the last eight years.

And THAT, my darlings, is indeed one of my greatest pleasures.





1. Real Housewives

I've mentioned it on here before, and it's worth repeating: I'm a Real Housewives junkie.

There have been multiple spinoffs of this reality series in various cities (Atlanta, Beverly Hills, New York, Washington DC, Vancouver), but the only ones I pay attention to are the Real Housewives of Orange County and the Real Housewives of New Jersey.

The OC girls make me want to improve my life (in the same what that watching GI: Jane with Demi Moore makes me want to get fit).

And, frankly, the Jersey girls just remind me of my own Italian family. (You know, minus the millions of dollars that is!)



Admittedly, I've only been able to catch a handful of episodes on TV this year.... but that's why they now have episode summaries online.

Ha, yes, even if I can't tune it, I can still get caught up on their goings-on and hopefully still live a little vicariously through these spoiled delightful millionaire ladies.

Gotta love it!



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All right, that's it for this week. Head on over to see what Divulge with Dani and (potentially) Juice with Junior have come up with as well.






Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cruise control

"Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. 
Explore. Dream. Discover."
- Mark Twain - 

In May of last year, I chronicled the ins and outs of taking our baby with us on a Caribbean cruise, and I also vowed that we would do it again as she got older.

Well, she's older, and we did indeed do it again.



Last month we embarked on another cruising adventure and, let me tell you, it was INFINITELY easier this time around now that she's a toddler.

Our daughter is only two years old, but she's already been to 10 countries, traveled on 2 cruise ships, and taken 13 flights.

What a stark contrast from me; I didn't go on my first flight until I was 23 years old and paid my own way on a family vacation to Disneyland.

In the last eight years, though, I've more than made up for lost time, having visited the following destinations:
     
Mexico            Antigua                    Honduras                      
Bahamas        St. Kitts                    Belize
Puerto Rico    St. Lucia                  Turks and Caicos
Barbados       US Virgin Islands      Dominican Republic
Aruba             Dominica                  Cayman Islands
Curacao         Florida Keys

Never had I dreamed that I would be visiting so many tropical locales on a semi-regular basis, but it's all thanks to cruising.

Once upon a time, I thought cruise ship vacations were only for the rich and well-to-do, but we're living proof that this is simply not true.

Sure, cruising is not necessarily for everyone, and of course it has it's downsides as well. But, for the time being, our cruise vacations have been a wonderful blessing for our family and have allowed us to visit destinations we otherwise could never afford.



Saturday, October 20, 2012

Regal - A Canadian Tradition



Half-price shipping at Regal until Oct 29! Woot!!

If you live in Canada, Regal will deliver your purchases right to your door for only $2.50.

Please check out my site below.

http://jmcgowan.shopregal.ca

Many thanks -- and happy shopping!!




Monday, October 15, 2012

You like me! You really like me!

Okay, maybe it's just Sonya from Swashbuckler's Tales who likes me, given that she's nominated me for the One Lovely Blog Award!

Many thanks, Sonya! You flatter me.


Without further adieu, here are my Top 3 nominees for said award:

Divulge With Dani - a humorous blog filled life stories and personal reflections

De Facto Redhead - witty blog about fashion, food, family, and thrifty finds

Juice With Junior - cleverly written and undeniably funny blog about his life and daily musings


And now, seven random things about me:

1. When I was three, I fell out of a moving vehicle being driven by my brother, and he ran over my arm.

2. I have a girl-crush on Robin Meade.

3. It wasn't until I was 17 and in university that I learned the proper pronunciation of infrared. And I still to this day have trouble with cojones when I see it in print. Ahem.

4. If there's one punctuation mark I tend to overuse, it's my beloved comma.

5. I'm a morning person through and through.... unless it's a morning where I have to go in to work.

6. My beverage of choice is, and always will be, water.

7. I'm a newspaper-reading junkie, and my day isn't complete unless I've read both local papers.


There you have it -- seven things about me that you've never asked about, yet I felt compelled to share anyway.

Check out the other blogs, as they're all excellent reads!


Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday's Top Five - Vacation Destinations

As I write this, I’m en route to Houston with my family where we’ll then move on to Ft. Lauderdale and visit with my sister’s family before eventually boarding a luxury cruise ship and sailing the Caribbean. Shortly after our adventure ends, Divulge with Dani will embark on her own vacation with her husband. So, given that we’ve each got travelling on the mind, we present to you this week’s Top Five.



Friday’s Top Five – Vacation Destinations*


* I have intentionally excluded any locations in Alberta (where I’m from) and New York (where my husband is from). Just tryin’ to not play favourites, y’all.


5) Southern California

Yes, it’s hot and crowded there, but it sure is fun to visit. While I’m not a big fan of L.A., it is something everyone should see once. (Read: Mann’s Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood sign, etc.) The bigger draw for me is Disneyland/California Adventure in Anaheim and, of course, the San Diego area further down the coast. If you’ve never seen the Pacific Ocean before, then this is a beautiful place to start.

In a word? SoCal is breathtaking.

[And, as an added bonus, for those looking for a bit of adventure, San Diego is directly across the border from Tijuana, Mexico. Word to the wise: this ain’t no classy Mexican resort, yo. But it is a place I’ve dared to visit twice, and I mercifully made it out alive and can cross it off my bucket list.]





4) Washington, D.C. and area

I’ve been to over half of the US states, and Washington, D.C. is certainly one area in the US that I’d like to visit again. The time I spent there just wasn’t long enough, and so I’d like to do some more exploring.

The beauty of DC is that it borders multiple states so, on any given day, you can visit several places in a matter of hours. And, while there exists a multitude of national monuments and museums along the National Mall, my favourite place is Arlington National Cemetery. (Yeah, I’m one of those geeks who visits cemeteries while on vacation.)

For me, though, the best part of DC is that it is this highly important megacity, home to the White House and the Pentagon, and yet there are no skyscrapers. The city has intentionally passed a law that states no infrastructure can be taller than or mask the beauty of its national monuments. Finally – a city with its priorities in line!

Others can rave about New York or Los Angeles, but my major city of choice is Washington, D.C. Though I could never live there -- simply because the traffic alone would drive me batty -- it truly is a beautiful, vibrant, historic city that everyone should get to encounter at least once.





3) Grand Canyon

This place sure didn’t get its name for being mediocre. Rather, the term “Grand” is a bit of an understatement as it certainly doesn’t do the area justice.

On my first visit to the Grand Canyon, our Contiki tour guide insisted we all line up blindfolded so we could be lead to the South Rim viewpoint and see it all at once, rather than gradually viewing the sites as we walked up. When we all removed our blindfolds, the view in front of us was stunning and overwhelming and, frankly, almost looked a little fake because it was so surreal. I kept thinking it almost looked as though the background was superimposed into the Arizona wilderness.

On that trip, Divulge with Dani and I were lucky enough to take a helicopter ride over the canyon, which, as you’d expect, was an absolute thrill. I left there thinking that this was a place I definitely wanted to return to in the future – and, luckily enough, I had that chance earlier this year with my mom, husband, daughter, and sister-in-law. After years of raving about this place to my family, I finally got to see their expressions as they, too, slowly approached the viewpoint of the incredible South Rim.





2) Penticton, B.C.

The first time I visited Penticton was with my brother’s family at age 11. I remember when we first crossed the border into British Columbia and just being in awe of the sheer natural beauty of the Rockies. The sights, of course, became even more spectacular as we proceeded further into BC and finally reached the Okanagan valley – a stunning oasis that reminds me of Southern California, but without all the excessive traffic and smog.

And while I have family throughout BC (Kamloops, Kelowna, and Vancouver), my favourite place remains Penticton. It is the quintessential summer playground for western Canadians, as there is no greater way to spend a hot afternoon than floating down the Skaha Lake canal that links it to the Okanagan.

Shortly after our wedding, I finally brought my husband out there for a week of fun. And his response to the sights and sounds of Penticton?

“I wish your family had settled here instead of Edmonton.”

‘Nuff said.





1) The Caribbean

It’s no secret that I come from a family that’s addicted to cruising. And, given that I’m writing this en route to the Caribbean Sea, how could I not choose the Caribbean as my favourite vacation destination??

I’ve almost seen it all -- from the Florida Keys to the coast of Venezuela and everywhere in between, the Caribbean is a sight to behold. It’s hot and humid, and my hair always frizzes to unspeakable standards (think: Monica on Friends), and yet I still come back.

The frozen north feels worlds away, and it’s nice to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and just enjoy being on Island Time.

Hopefully the picture alone says it all.




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That's it for this week. Head on over to see what Divulge with Dani and (potentially) Juice with Junior have come up with as well.



Monday, September 17, 2012

Super


It was Christmas 1989 when I received one of the coolest gifts an 11-year-old could have gotten that year: a Nintendo Entertainment System.

That’s right; we’re talking the original Super Mario Bros. video game with the Duck Hunt bonus, complete with a gun that was ready to take out some clay discs and a gaggle of waterfowl.

In a word? Awesome.


I was a typical girly-girl growing up in that I loved my Barbies, but at that age, nothing held my attention more than my Nintendo. I played it non-stop, much to my parents’ displeasure, since we only had one TV and I was now monopolizing it with my obsessive game playing.

Once I (soon) conquered the original Super Mario Bros. and it no longer presented a challenge to me, I made the natural transition to Super Mario Bros. 2 and eventually 3 – all within a two-year-span.

My personal gaming claim to fame came one dreary Saturday in the fall of 1991 when I sat in front of the television and played Super Mario Bros. 2 ALL DAY LONG, only pausing to eat and occasionally use the washroom. (Go play outside, you suggest? What 13-year-old should be doing that? Ahem.)

On that lonely Saturday, not only did I complete the entire game, but I did it without warping ahead (i.e., I intentionally played every single level without skipping any), and I didn’t die even once. Seriously. My avatar was the Princess, and she and I totally kicked some Birdo butt.


I remember being elated but also going to bed that night with the worst headache. When I closed my eyes, I could still hear the game’s theme music and see the different levels progressing in my mind. It became very clear that both my health and my sanity were at stake, so I opted to take a break after that and momentarily walk away from my video game addiction.

Luckily, this wasn’t difficult for me to do, given that I was getting older and having to work harder to maintain my grades in school -- which, of course, meant giving up whatever free time I once had after classes let out.

Fast forward past high school, university, marriage, and becoming a mother, and you’ll see that I never did fully regain that free time I once enjoyed at the end of the day. But then a few weeks ago, my husband and my 18-year-old nephew (who’s been living with us for over a year since he moved here from Florida) decided to set up my beloved Nintendo once again. (Yes, I’m a borderline hoarder, and I still have my original Nintendo and all its games.)

Twenty-three years later, and it still works wonderfully.

So. Totally. Awesome.

My husband and I began playing this past Friday night after we put our daughter to bed, and we quickly lost track of time, going to bed ourselves long after midnight. (Given that my usual bedtime is ideally around 10pm, this was practically an all-nighter for me.)

It was so much fun to be engaged in Mario’s exploits again that we continued playing on both Saturday and Sunday nights as well. Everything was going smoothly until we heard our daughter cry out from her room Sunday night.

I want Mommy. I need to go pee.”

Conscious of the fact that she is a master at stall tactics and will say anything, ANYTHING to get us to come up to her room at night, we were sure this was a ploy on our daughter’s part. But could we take the chance that this was a bluff and just let it go?

No, we could not. Our daughter is newly potty trained, and to ignore her request to use the potty would be an absolute parenting fail.

So my husband dutifully went upstairs to tend to her needs while I, naturally, continued playing video games.

Ten minutes later I heard a very excited, “Hi, Mom!” from my daughter and a less than enthused, “She did NOT have to pee,” from my husband as they both walked down the stairs toward me.

Okay, so it was now 11pm, and our daughter was up. Should we stop what we were doing and instead read to our daughter or somehow coerce her back into a deep sleep? Ummm, no, that’s what GOOD parents would do! Instead we opted to keep playing on the Nintendo while she toddled around and half-heartedly played with her own toys.

(See above regarding ABSOLUTE PARENTING FAIL.)

About 30 minutes later, my daughter finally turned to me and said, “Mom, I need to go to sleep,” as she began making her way back to the stairs.

Our video-game trance was broken long enough that both my husband and I finally got off the couch and lovingly escorted our super-awesome daughter back to bed. We figured she deserved at least that.

(But then we giddily proceeded back downstairs and continued our Nintendo game where we left off. SCORE!)

Moments later, my nephew returned home from his night out and proceeded to go straight to bed himself, given that he had to work early the next morning.

(Dang, the KIDS knew their limits and were trying to get some sleep that night, whereas we – the supposed adults – would have happily stayed up all night with Mario and Luigi.)

What’s wrong with us?” I finally asked aloud. “We’re 34 years old! What are we doing?”

Yeah, I’m sorry in advance that tomorrow is totally going to suck for us at work,” my husband replied.

And, yet, we continued on, deciding to pack it in more than an hour later. (Okay, that’s a lie. The truth is we ran out of lives and had no choice but to turn off the Nintendo.)

As we tidied up downstairs, my husband commented that we should bring our video console with us on the Caribbean cruise we’re taking this weekend.

Think about it – we have three At Sea days. What better way to spend those days than playing Super Mario Bros. in our suite......?!

On that note, if we end up returning from our vacation in paradise still looking pasty and white, then you know what happened.

Curse you, Mario Bros.! Curse you for being so delightfully addictive!


Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday’s Top Five - Things I Love About My City (Edmonton)

True dialogue:

Me: I think I better write about something positive this week for fear of being lynched on the bus.
Dani: Agreed. But it’s pretty hard to lynch someone on the bus when they’re standing between two backpacks.

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Despite the fact that I’m obviously more unhappy than I am pleased with my city, there certainly exist certain aspects that I do love about Edmonton and that help make this place somewhat bearable for me.

It’s funny, because each week in the Edmonton Sun newspaper, the Sunday edition features a 20-questions-style interview with a local celebrity, and one of the questions is, “What’s the best part of Edmonton?” And nine times out of 10, the interviewee will respond with, “The people.”

Which I, of course, have always thought was a total copout of an answer and proof that they just couldn’t think of anything else nice to say. (That, and they’re also attempting to suck up to local residents and mere mortals such as myself.)

But the more I’ve reflected on this issue in the past week, the more I’m able to understand where they might be coming from.

By no means do I feel Edmontonians are superior to the residents of any other major city -- but if you ask me what keeps me living here despite my obvious hatred for the climate ¾ of the year, then my response is: family and friends. That’s it. If not for them, I probably would have bailed a long time ago.

Regardless, there do exist a multitude of more tangible entities in Edmonton that are truly wonderful and should be commended.



Friday’s Top Five - Things I Love About My City (Edmonton):

5) The abundance of playgrounds.

This is something I never really appreciated until earlier this summer when my visiting-from-the-US mother-in-law made the simple observation that, regardless of which direction you turn when leaving our house, you will encounter some type of children’s playground within a few blocks. And this isn’t unique to our area, either, as it’s true of virtually every community in town.

And the added bonus is that many of these playgrounds are also equipped with a spray park. Yes, a complimentary, open-to-everyone SPRAY PARK!!

These days we can’t drive or walk anywhere with my daughter without her noticing a playground and announcing, “Oooooh. A Park. I want to go to the park. I want to go down the slide. Mommy, I want to go! MARINA WANTS TO GO NOW!!”

Okay, so the child obviously enjoys going to the park. (And boy does she hate it when it’s time to leave.)




4) The Edmonton Public Library.

I’m sure this isn’t unique to just Edmonton, but our local public libraries have some truly fantastic resources available for children and families.

My daughter was one of those naturally shy babies who was essentially afraid of everyone outside of our immediate family. The symptoms started when she was only three months old, and I remember being near tears in the pediatrician’s office as I tried to speak with him about this over the sound of my daughter’s terrified screaming (you know, as I also tried to gently hold down her flailing limbs so he could examine her).

I asked if this was something that would get better and if she would soon grow out of her fear, and his response was, “Not necessarily. Some kids are just shy, and that stays with them into adulthood. That’s who they are.”

Meanwhile, everyone else with an opinion was more than happy to tell us we suck as parents and this was all our fault. (Okay, nobody actually said that to us in so many words, but as a stressed out / sleep-deprived / hormonal new mom, that’s how I took it.)

So, shortly before my daughter turned one -- and once I had put on a brave face and just sucked it up myself – we began taking her to the library each week after work in an effort to help her interact with other families in a calm and fun setting.

The first day was a challenge, as could be expected. We attended a “Daddy & Baby” class in which dads and their little ones sit and read books or sing songs in a somewhat organized setting. She had no interest in the other dads or babies there – in fact, she panicked if anyone else even looked at her – but it was a start.

As she got older, we later began attending the “Sing, Sign, Laugh and Learn” classes that not only did the things mentioned above, but they also taught us to communicate via sign language -- a fantastic tool for when your toddler needs something but just doesn’t have the words to articulate it without having a fit.

We continue to attend these weekly sessions still today, and the progress she’s shown is remarkable. She loves her teacher and the other kids (as well as their parents), and she even talks about them by name when we’re at home. (“Tomorrow is Saturday. I go to library class on Saturday. I go to see Marcus and Stas and Katherine and Taylor and….”)

She’s become a fearless little super star at the library who loves to sing, dance, and perform with everyone else. Total transformation from the first day there when we had to virtually drag her in.

Oh, and did I mention that all of these classes are free? That’s right, FREE.

Libraries. Totally. Rock.

(Meanwhile, back on the farm, my daughter is still terrified of the pediatrician and will only enter if I haul her in kicking and screaming, but I digress.)




3) Vicinity to diverse landscapes.

Feel like spending the day in the Rocky Mountains? Then just drive west for a bit.

Want to go to the beach? Wizard Lake is a mere 45 minutes away.

Or are desert landscapes more your preference? Then Drumheller is a must.

The beauty of living in Edmonton is that you don’t necessarily need to fly out to a full-fledged all-inclusive resort to feel like you’ve escaped the city and gone on vacation. There are a number of quick-escape day trips you can take – although the only problem is that once you’ve started exploring each locale, you quickly discover that you wish you had more time to just relax and enjoy the scenery.

In other words, one day is not enough!

I think a lot of people head out with the intentions of it just being for the day, but then they quickly find themselves calling in sick for work the next day. (I’ve never done this, per se, but I have no doubt that it occurs. Ahem.)

It’s so nice to have the option of what type of panoramic views you’d like to enjoy on any given day, and I’ve said all along that if only there was an ocean nearby, then Alberta would have it all.




2) Non-stop summer festivals and tourist destinations.

Whenever out-of-town family and friends express interest in coming to visit us, our response is always, “Wait until summer.”

Yes, the frozen tundra does actually thaw for the summer months when we’re able to enjoy some spectacular weather and, moreover, there’s ALWAYS something to do.

We love the convenience of bringing guests to visit West Edmonton Mall – and the novelty never wears off for visitors – but it’s also nice to show them the outdoors via one of our many local festivals.

Without fail, there are always back-to-back events taking place in the summer. From the fireworks display on Canada Day, to Klondike Days and A Taste of Edmonton later in July…. Plus the Heritage Festival in August and the multitude of nearby farmer’s markets throughout the city – I just love it all.

Plus, as an extension of point #3 above, there’s always something to see just outside of the city as well. We frequent the Devonian Botanic Garden each summer, and this year we even ventured out to the Prairie Gardens & Adventure Farm in Bon Accord -- which is now my daughter’s new favourite place simply because they have GOATS and CHICKENS and a CHOO-CHOO TRAIN.

It just doesn’t get any better when you’re a kid. (Or an adult, for that matter!)




1) The River Valley.

If I was a local celebrity responding to the Edmonton Sun’s 20-questions-style interview, I would readily declare that the River Valley is by far the best thing about Edmonton (in my opinion, of course).

This is an excerpt about it taken directly from the Edmonton Public Library’s website (Hey, Library, did I mention that you totally rock?!):

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River Valley - Edmonton:

- The valley was formed by post glacial erosion over 20,000 years ago and has been eroded by the river to form terraces, meanders and flats. The valley is 60 metres deep from clifftop to river and varies in width from 1 to 1.6 kilometres

- Early settlement around Fort Edmonton was located in the valley and along its upper banks

- In 1907, Edmonton's city council recognized the benefits of preserving the river parkland

- In 1915 the Provincial Government adopted Frederick C. Todd's report which recommended protection of the River Valley environment so that Edmontonians would be provided with a contiguous recreation and open space system.

- The North Saskatchewan River Valley and Ravine System encompasses an area of 7,425 hectares (18,348) acres which is mostly designated for recreational use. That is 12 times larger than New York City's Central Park. Edmonton's river valley the largest stretch of urban parkland in North America

- The valley system includes 14 ravines, 22 parks, over 100 kilometres of trail and four lake systems

- There are 58 kilometres of paved trails, 39 kilometres of granulated trails, 28 kilometres of pedestrian trails, 7 kilometres of equine trails, and 48 kilometres of ski trails

- The valley also includes: 2 ski hills, 6 golf courses, 1 driving range, 29 day campsites, an equine centre, 25 reservable picnic sites, 2 outdoor pools, 70 staircases, 95 viewpoints, 6 toboggan hills, 58 minor bridges and 5 major bridges

- There are 39 facilities in the River Valley as well as major attractions such as Muttart Conservatory, Fort Edmonton Park, the Valley Zoo and the Kinsmen Sports Centre
--

It’s true. I love the River Valley and wish that I could visit it every day. In a way I guess I sort of do, in that I’m fortunate enough to pass through during my daily commute to and from work, travelling across the river and passing the equine centre listed above.

It really is beautiful to see, and for a few moments you can almost forget that you’re in the city at all.

Danielle and I have long been huge fans of the River Valley, and we often escaped to one of the many ravines or trails for hours on end during our youth. (You know, because there was no Internet back then, and we didn’t have cars or boyfriends or any other place to be at the time. Ahem.)

MacKinnon Ravine and Laurier Park were our most-visited areas, but we also occasionally frequented Mackenzie Ravine, which links the two regions.

Jo’s Note: We only went down into Mackenzie Ravine a couple of times because, frankly, bad things happened to us whenever we ventured that way. I’m sure it had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the fact that we were UTTERLY UNPREPARED for the hike and were armed with nothing but our flip-flops and a water bottle, but I digress. If nothing else, at least we always managed to keep Lindy, my always faithful companion, safe from being mauled by circling coyotes.

(Okay, we don’t have proof that they were actually circling us, but we suspected as much.)


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All right, that's it for this week. Head on over to see what Divulge with Dani and (potentially) Juice with Junior have come up with as well.

Sept 15 @ 10:15pm - My husband has again decided to weigh in on the subject matter as well, so please check him out at Wayward Yankee.





Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sitting Still Is Killing You


Dang, maybe I should be grateful for having to stand on the bus each day after all.

Check out the below article, courtesy of the YummyMummyClub.ca

It will scare you into throwing out all your chairs.

Sitting Still Is Killing You




Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11 Eleven years later

I intentionally wasn't going to comment on the significance of today, but then my friend Diana (who is originally from Maryland but occasionally has a mean Carolina drawl) said something that I felt compelled to share. Here is her story:

"I remember I was in shock for many days afterwards, like everyone else. Cell phone towers being jammed, all the channels on TV either "Down until further notice" or showing news footage, not hearing any planes outside for days (aside from F-16 fighters in the sky the day of). None of that made it seem real. What DID make it seem real? Jon Stewart's first show back, September 20th. It was the first time I heard him completely candid, open, honest, and emotional, and it was at that point I realized it happened and I couldn't pretend that it didn't anymore. Seeing one of the people I rely on to bring happiness and joy to millions break down into tears really jarred me. So, with that being said, here's my "I remember" 9/11 post of the day."

---I wasn't able to embed Jon Stewart's video clip, but you can watch it here.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Friday's Top Five - Things I Hate About My City (Edmonton)


One of my biggest pet peeves is people who are chronic complainers about everything under the sun, yet they never take action to attempt making the situation better. (Don’t like the policies of your current government? Then make a phone call. Write a letter. VOTE!!)

But today I’m taking a step back and becoming one of those people who just vents for the sake of blowing off steam. (Sadly, I know I won’t feel any better for ranting… rather, all this will serve to do is increase my blood pressure and lower my life expectancy, but I digress.)

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Top Five Things I Hate About My City (Edmonton):

5) Public transit and its users.

Given the lack of parking spaces in this city (thank you, piss poor city planners) and the unaffordable cost of driving and parking my vehicle in spaces no where even close to my work, I have no choice but to take public transit each day.

In a lot of ways, it really is the more convenient option for me personally because of my extreme lack of patience for traffic and drivers fiddling with their hand-held devices, but it sure is a pain in the ass most days.

My major issues with public transit and its users in the City of Edmonton are threefold:

a) There are not enough buses or trains travelling frequently enough to accommodate all of its users. I work on a busy post-secondary campus and, for 8 months out of the year, I don’t get to sit down on either the bus or train. It is standing room only (not just during peak hours), and often times there are people left behind because there just isn’t enough room for everyone. So incredibly frustrating. And also a reason many people are often late for class or work.

b) All bus stops should be equipped with a somewhat roomy and somewhat clean shelter to protect its patrons from the elements. Yes, I repeat, ALL BUS STOPS. I won’t rant about our climate (yet), but it’s ridiculous to me that the majority of our bus stops are out in the open. People die here and lose limbs from exposure. While effective indoor heating systems would be ideal (and also expensive), wouldn’t it at least make sense to have mandatory shelters at all stops to at least shield people from the unrelenting and unforgiving prairie wind?

I won’t lie, in my 20 years of riding public transit, there’s been more than one occasion where I’ve been waiting for my (late-arriving) bus and just haven’t been able to tolerate standing out there in the open for a minute longer. So I’ve turned around and just gone home. (Sorry, but life’s too short to be hopping on the spot and waiting for the bus while the tissue on my fingers and toes freezes and slowly dies.)

c) I have a problem with backpacks. And people who are so absorbed in their own little bubble that they have no awareness of anything happening around them. As stated, I work on a busy campus, and my coworkers and I are all in agreement that post-secondary students are by far the most oblivious transit riders we encounter. (Note: this was a problem when I was a student myself, and it hasn't improved since then.)

I've been THIS CLOSE to telling a few of them this week that, unless their backpacks or Coach purses also paid transit fare, then they should kindly remove them from the seats and allow actual paying customers to sit down.

Moreover, I've also been tempted to pull some of their earphones out of their ears and force them to look around a bit and realize that there are senior citizens STANDING next to them. In other words, pull up your pants and do the right thing by giving up your seat. (Is common courtesy a lost art these days??)



4) Urban sprawl & cookie-cutter houses.

Last week my family and I drove out to the ‘burbs to pick up a used children’s kitchen set from a family advertising it online, and we were dismayed to see how much the city has grown in recent years. Where there was once beautiful greenery and natural landscapes less than five years ago, there are now multiple strip malls and an endless scene of cookie-cutter houses. (Cue Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” here.)

Sure, there are jobs in the city, which means families are constantly moving in and needing a somewhat respectable place to live, but do these new neighbourhoods all have to look the same? Couldn’t the City have hired a designer who is capable of exercising some free thought? (No, because that costs money.) For that matter, couldn’t our city bylaws at least be modified (or scrapped altogether) to allow for some originality?

I’m not kidding here. All our newer neighbourhoods are reminiscent of the Communist Housing Projects.

The city is now surrounded by rows upon rows (upon more rows) of identical houses and yards. They’re only allowed to have so many trees (of only certain varieties) strategically placed on their properties. And the colour palette for these homes is nothing short of bland and unoriginal.

When my husband and I first purchased our home almost three years ago, we were adamant about living in an older, maturely developed neighbourhood. Yes, it meant we paid a little more money for our smallish, 50-year-old house than what we would have paid for a bigger, brand new home in a newer neighbourhood, but we didn’t care.

At least we can look out the window and see an expanse of green space nearby. At least we have a sizeable yard and aren’t nestled like sardines among neighbouring houses. And at least every home in our area is somewhat unique in its colour/shape/design.

Houses in mature, established neighbourhoods tend to have old-school charm, whereas the products of our city’s urban sprawl have only a severe lack of character.



3) High cost of living.

My mother-in-law visited us from Upstate New York this past summer, and she was shocked, appalled, horrified, dumbstruck [insert your own adjective here] at the amount we pay for our monthly utilities and energy bills.

To give you an idea of what a cruel joke our living expenses are up here, we pay in one month what she pays in six. (Not an exaggeration.)  She flat out told me that, if she were to move to Edmonton, she wouldn’t be able to survive on her fixed income. And that’s the sad reality: Many people already CAN’T survive here, hence our ever-growing homeless and poverty-stricken population.

To top it off, Edmonton isn’t really that nice of a place to live anyway.

There are no mountains to take our breath away. No nearby ocean. And next to no mosquito control.

My sister-in-law, on the other hand, lives in a stunning gated community in the wilds of Phoenix, and her home is a virtual freakin’ mansion, complete with an interior courtyard…. yet she barely paid more for her home than we did for ours.

And it’s in an area of utter environmental beauty. In balmy Phoenix, no less!

So why does it have to be so expensive to live here? Oh, right: We have oil. And we have jobs.

I suppose I could tolerate the outrageous cost of living in Edmonton ONLY if it was a halfway decent place to live. But, for nine months out of the year, it’s really not.



2) Lack of snow removal.

Our present city council is obsessed with wanting to be known as a “World Class City”, but what they can’t seem to comprehend is that they need to first invest in the basics and take care of the city’s needs before handing out millions in tax dollars to a billionaire who’s stating that he’s building a downtown arena. True story. (*cough*Daryl Katz*cough*)

One of those basic needs I speak of is the simple act of removing snow.

As a homeowner, if we don’t shovel the (city-owned) sidewalk on the side of our house within 72 hours of the last snowfall, we will be heavily fined. But for some reason it’s okay for city officials to send out a skeleton crew of workers in a half-assed attempt to clear our roadways of snow…. eventually.

And what they leave behind is even worse: Sheets of sheer ice that makes for deadly and treacherous driving conditions. (It’s no wonder I opt to take the bus instead of trying to navigate the roads myself.)

When my husband first moved here from Upstate New York, he, too, was flabbergasted with the state of our snow- and ice-covered roads and sidewalks. He constantly preached to me about what a perfect, loving, Utopia his hometown is, and about the fact that they’re masters when it comes to snow removal.

No one is allowed to ever park on the street, so our crews are able to remove the snow down to the pavement,” he bragged. “You can see the roads in winter, and there’s no ice at all.

Plus, we don’t even shovel our own sidewalks,” he continued. “Because there are workers who drive through all the neighbourhoods on Bobcats and take care of that for us.”

Naturally, I thought my husband was full of crap and only remembered his hometown the way he WANTED to remember it: as being perfect.

But then we travelled there shortly after Christmas in 2010, and I saw it with my own eyes. MY OWN EYES.

There, not even 20 feet away from me, was a worker on a Bobcat, plowing the snow off the sidewalk in my mother-in-law’s neighbourhood. And there was no snow or ice on the streets at all. Unlike here, where we say a little prayer each time we get into a vehicle in winter, we had no fear of the winter roads in my husband’s hometown.

I hate to admit it, but the place really is a perfect snow-removing Utopia.

And what really gets me is that, without fail, our clueless city council will announce (in December) that we’ve already blown our snow removal budget and should therefore just be happy with whatever we can get for the remainder of the season.

Umm, here’s a helpful hint: We live in Edmonton, the northernmost major capital city in North America. It’s a winter city. If you’ve blown your snow removal budget by December, THEN YOU NEED A NEW PLAN.

C’mon, people, prioritize here. We will never, EVER be a world class city if our government can’t even properly assemble a budget for removing snow. Just sayin'.



1) The weather.

Okay, you knew it was coming.

Someone once asked me about the things I hate most in this world, and at the top of my list was, “Edmonton from October to May.”

As a native Edmontonian, I used to fool myself into believing that I’m hardier than the rest. That no one else on Earth would be able to tolerate the climate in this miserable, frozen tundra, but that I’m one of the few who’s been able to survive, flourish, even.

Well, I’ve finally stopped lying to myself and others. To be frank, I really do hate it here. I would be able to tolerate all of this city’s other shortcomings combined if only we had a more temperate climate.

I’m not saying I want to live someplace where it’s hot year round, but I would certainly be infinitely happier to be in a place where people can’t potentionally freeze to death waiting for the bus. Or suffer heart attacks in their driveways while attempting to shovel the tons of heavy snow we’re burdened with each year.

(True story: During the winter of 2010/11, we had so much snowfall that the last of it finally melted in SEPTEMBER 2011. You know, right before the next winter season was about to begin. Typical.)

From September to October, there’s a chill in the air and a cool wind (of course, that ever-blowing prairie wind) that’s a mere blip of what we’re to endure during winter.... which then virtually lasts from November to April. Six long, dreary, unbearable months.

May is only barely tolerable because of the longer days, but it’s still often cold and wet and mucky out because of the snow melt and the sandy debris left behind. June, July, and August are (usually) wonderfully sunny and warm, but there are too many mosquitoes lurking outdoors that we’re often at their mercy and forced to take shelter indoors.

And then all of a sudden here we are. It’s September again. Blech.


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Okay, so that's my rant. (And, no, I don't feel better for having lost my cool and published my thoughts on this blog. If anything, I do actually feel worse, as predicted.)

I'm sure those of you reading this are openly wondering why we even live here and, frankly, we wonder that, too. Truth is, family is what's kept us here. If not for that, we would have long since bailed on the tundra and gone somewhere more hospitable. At least from November to April.

Regardless, I'm sure you're dying to read about the gems Divulge with Dani and Juice with Junior have come up with, so please leave your comments and head there next.

Adios, and brace yourself -- winter's coming.

9:35am - This just in! My husband just couldn't stay away and has decided to post his opinion as well. Check him out at Wayward Yankee.