Friday, December 27, 2013

Friday's Top Five (Thirty-Six, actually) - Year in Review (2013)

After a short hiatus from blogging, we're back with our second annual year-end review:

1) What did you do in 2013 that you have never done before?

- Visited Jamaica and Haiti
- Cut my daughter's hair (only took me 3 years...)
- Baptized one half of a set of twin boys
- Convinced my mom to go road trippin' with us
- Chaperoned some field trips
- Camped in the backyard
- Walked to and touched the Talus Balls
- Took my daughter trick-or-treating (yes, it was her first time)
- Decided to become a parent for the second time (yikes!)
- Broke my toe
- Discovered a grey chin hair (Seriously.)

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

Depends on how you look at it. I certainly lived a much healthier lifestyle this year than I did in the previous two years..... but, wow, it barely made a dent in the big scheme of things. Gotta celebrate the small victories, though, so my resolution will carry over into 2014.

3) Any major life events happen in your life?

Currently expecting baby #2.

4) Where did you travel?

Ft. Lauderdale, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Haiti, Potsdam (NY), Drumheller, Gibbons, Wizard Lake...... plus brief stops in Houston and Ottawa.

5) What did you lack in 2013 that you would like more of in 2014?

Willpower (again).

6) What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory?

Aside from birthdays and anniversaries, nothing stands out.

7) What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Dropping 10 lbs over the summer. (We won't talk about how quickly I've since gained it back.)

8) What was your biggest failure?

ONLY dropping 10 lbs over the summer and then immediately gaining it back. (I would like to blame the baby for this, but let's be honest. It's all the buffet table's fault.)

9) Did you suffer illness or injury?

I fell down the stairs a couple days ago and broke my toe. It's true that the bigger you are, the harder you fall.

10) What was the best purchase you made?

Snowblower, snowblower, SNOWBLOWER. How did we make it so long in life without previously owning one??

11) What things / people inspired you the most?

Sounds lame, but my Pinterest boards of "Fitness Inspiration" and "Quotes" keep me pretty inspired.

12) What things / people disappointed you the most?

Once again, myself. Yes, this was a better year than last, but there's still tons and tons of room for improvement.

13) Where did most of your money go?

1. Mortgage
2. Day Care
3. Travel

14) What did you get really excited about?

Time off from work just so I could clean and organize the house. Seriously, it's ridiculous how into this I was.

15) What song will always remind you of 2013?

You Can't Make Old Friends by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. Total class acts.

16) Compared to this time last year, are you:

· Happier or hardened?    Happier.
· Thinner or fatter?    Fatter.
· Richer or poorer?    Poorer (in the financial sense only)

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

Exercised. Duh.

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

Eaten less junk.

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

The only shows I HAVE to watch every week (when they're on, anyway) are Survivor and Whose Line is it Anyway.

My least favourite thing to watch on TV this year was Criminal Minds, mainly because I can always pick out the flaws in the characters' logic, and the show also scares me into thinking we're a society of maniacal sociopaths.

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

Best books (for very different reasons) were the following:

- Rosina, The Midwife by Jessica Kluthe
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed
- My War: Killing Time in Iraq by Colby Buzzell
- Lost in America: A Dead-End Journey by Colby Buzzell

Worst book was Hotels, Hospitals, and Jails by Anthony Swofford..... but that's not really a fair assessment at all.

Swofford is a terrific writer (he wrote Jarhead, which was a great book I read years ago before it was made into a movie), so I thought I'd check out his most recent novel as well.

The problem is that I attempted to listen to it on tape, as read by the author. And that was a huge mistake in this regard.

I absolutely love listening to books on tape, but I've learned the hard way that they are only interesting if read by an actor or someone who can put some oomph into their reading.

In this case, it was the author reading his own book -- and his monotone, unemotional voice just bored me to no end. So I stopped listening. And I never looked back.

21) What was your: favourite song/album/artist (and least favourite)?

Favourite album this year was Chief by Eric Church. It's one of the few out there that I can actually listen to on repeat and not get bored. And it just baffles me that he didn't win more awards for it this year. (How he was overlooked for Male Artist of the Year at the country awards is beyond me.)

I don't really have a least favourite album or artist, per se, but a lot of what I heard on the radio this year was pretty cliché and uninspiring.

22) Favourite film this year? Worst film?

Life of Pi was truly outstanding, but only when I saw it for the first time on the big screen. (I watched it again on a flight earlier this year, but it just didn't hold my attention so much the second time around.)

We're the Millers also had me riveted when I saw it in theatres this year.... but it is nothing, NOTHING like Life of Pi, haha.

Worst film was Cloud Atlas. It featured Tom Hanks, which means I should have loved it, but I really didn't.

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

Weight loss. And having to spend less time at work and around coworkers.

24) How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?


25) What kept you sane?

Music, fresh air, and any time that was not spent at work.

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

I'm still fan-girling all over Sergio Di Zio.

And I still can't stand to hear anything about the Kardashians.

27) What political issues stirred you the most? The least?

Umm, all of them stirred me the least. I know there was some fascinating stuff out there, but all politicians just make me sick. And after the results of our most recent civic election, well, I'm just done.

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

I'm a fan of any feel-good news story. (They're few and far between, unfortunately.)

And I hate the latest "celebrity" controversy surrounding Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty. How is that even considered real news? And can't we all just get along, for that matter?

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

The only sport that held my attention this year was the Nugget Olympics, which starred my daughter on a near-nightly basis.

And the most disappointing thing in sport this year was the lowly Toronto Blue Jays. They signed R.A. Dickey and Jose Reyes.... and they still sucked.

30) Favourite blog (other than yours)? Blog Posts (other than yours?).

· Fave Blog: Gotta go with my posse (Divulge with Dani, The Brooding Woman, A Piece of Apple)
· Fave Blog Post #1:  When Your Mother Says She's Fat by Kasey Edwards
· Fave Blog Post #2: Learning From the Loss of Lisa Gibson and Her Children by Andrea Nair
· Fave Blog Post #3: The Gift of Not Giving a Thing by Christella Morris

31) Favourite Blog Post (of my own):

· #3: Myths Debunked
· #2: Things I Would Do If I Won the Lottery
· #1: Roots and Wings

32) Who is your 2013 Person of the Year?

My husband, for leaving a job where he was "a month away from committing a homicide" and coming out much better because of it. Life is just too short to be stuck in a job that truly makes you (and everyone around you) miserable.

33) Who do you miss?

My former self. Will I ever get to feel that way again??

34) Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.

See #32. If you're unhappy with your current situation, then do something to change it. Just complaining about it all the time will only make you more miserable. Get out there and do something that makes you happy. Or at least less miserable.

And the other, more important, lesson is that if you don't have your health, you have nothing. I've heard this phrase all my life, but unfortunately my arrogant younger self just didn't get it.

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

"What will I do when you're gone? Who's gonna tell me the truth? Who's gonna finish the stories I start, the way you always do?"

Life is short, precious, and can change in an instant. Take no one for granted.

36) What do you look forward to in 2014?

A healthier lifestyle and a fuller home.

And a major lottery win wouldn't be too bad, either.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Friday's Top Five - Things I Love About Winter

If you remember, I had an extremely difficult time coming up with five things I actually like about fall, so it shouldn't come as any surprise that I abhor the extremes of winter even more.

To be clear, I will tolerate winter-like conditions from November to December simply because I do believe Christmas wouldn't be the same if it wasn't a white one. But as of January 2nd, I want the white stuff and the chill in the air to disappear.

I don't think that's too much to ask, either, given that summer only lasts two months (if we're lucky).... so why is it that I always sound like such a Scrooge when I slag on winter and just want it to be gone once the holiday season is over?

I just have no use for the long, dreary, miserable weather that occurs from January to (usually) April. No one ever says, "I'm dreaming of a white Easter," so I think I'm vindicated in my frustration over our winters that never end.

But, from November to December, I'll admit that winter is okay....but only for that short term.

Friday's Top Five - Things I Love About Winter:

5. The Outdoors

Provided I'm lucky enough to be indoors, nestled by the fireplace and sitting by the front window watching the snow come down, then I guess it is nice to sit back and admire the beautiful scenery of winter.

But as soon as you ask me to A) shovel, B) drive, or C) walk through the cold, snow, and ice, then all bets are off.

Maybe I would appreciate the beauty of it more if I was an outdoor winter-enthusiast. As in, maybe if I enjoyed ice skating or skiing, then I would rejoice at the sight of this wintery wonderland.

I used to be one of those people who was more likely to go for a jog in winter than in summer, but I'm several years removed from being that person. Now I just watch those people run by our house as I think to myself, "That's what I should be doing...."

But I don't. I've wimped out in my middle age and would rather be warm inside, only leaving the house if it's required of me.

However, if the weather is just right -- as in, if there's no wind and it's not too cold outside -- then I do truly look forward to going for brisk walks in the neighbourhood and pulling my daughter in her sled.

She's young, loves the snow, and doesn't have a Grinchy heart like me.

4. Christmas Craft Sales

We have more Christmas artifacts than we have room for in our house, and yet I still attended a local Christmas craft sale last weekend.

Thankfully, I didn't buy anything, but it was still enjoyable to walk around and see everyone's goodies -- plus my daughter got to visit with Santa, so that was an added bonus.

I guess it's mostly just the feeling of coziness at these craft sales that I like so much. It's kind of like being at a farmer's market in summer.... except you're indoors, lugging around a giant parka, and chatting with the elderly vendors (who are all wearing knitted Christmas sweaters with blinking Christmas lapel pins on them.)

Pure awesomeness.

3. Candy Cane Lane

As a kid I always took for granted how lucky I was to live mere blocks away from our city's Candy Cane Lane. But these days we're sure to take advantage of our proximity and visit it multiple times for the few weeks that it's lit up in December.

Last year alone we went down it at least a dozen times and managed to see something different on each visit that we'd missed before. And my daughter just loved all the lights, too.

I have such respect for any household that puts in the effort to beautify their home and spread the joy of Christmas each year, whether they live on Candy Cane Lane or not.

Admittedly, our phobia of cold weather prevents us from going all out and decorating our home outdoors, but with a little motivation, I'm sure my husband would turn our home into the Griswald residence. Much to the chagrin of our neighbours, I'm sure.

2. Christmas Carols

It's true, I've already started listening to Christmas carols on my computer at work. Coworkers be damned.

My favourite of all the carols are those with a religious theme, but of course the kids tunes are fun, too. The day I'm looking forward to the most this winter is December 13 when my daughter's day care has their annual Christmas concert / potluck in the school gym.

She's been practicing daily -- hand signals and all -- which is why I will do the smart thing this year and record it all on my phone.

You know, so we can watch it again in March when it's still cold and snowy out.

1. TV Specials

Earlier last week, A Piece of Apple posted a link on her Facebook wall that featured the 2013 Holiday TV Guide -- so that people like me could plan our schedules around what festive special is featured on television on any given night.

Some of the featured shows are relatively new, while others are childhood favourites of mine that I'm thrilled to watch with my daughter now -- thus carrying on the tradition of watching too much TV at Christmastime. Ahem.

I actually couldn't wait for these specials to start, though, so earlier this month I borrowed A Charlie Brown Christmas from the library for her to enjoy. (Cue Charlie Brown's desperation: "Does anybody know what the meaning of Christmas is all about?") Total classic.

And then just last week I watched a made-for-TV Christmas movie called Anything But Christmas, which features one of my favourite actors, Sergio Di Zio. This movie actually aired for the first time last Christmas season, so I'm happy to report that it, too, will become an annual viewing tradition for our household.

I guess that's what I love most about holiday TV; the featured shows always have a warm fuzzy feeling to them -- revolving around family, love, and togetherness -- and they're a tradition that I look forward to every year.

That's my list for this week. As per usual, check out my friends' blogs for their take on the same subjects: Divulge with Dani, The Brooding Woman, and A Piece of Apple.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday's Top Five - Things I Would Do If I Won the Lottery

For the last two-and-a-half years at work I've been involved with an office lotto. There are about 17 of us who pay our monthly dues with the hopes that one of our sets of numbers will come up big and then all of us could just retire and live off the fat of the land.

Or something like that.

The reality is that, unless you're living in the US and are lucky enough to win one of their $400 million powerball jackpots, you're probably not going to be able to retire off your winnings.

Because, let's face it, $1 million just doesn't stretch that far these days.

But believe me when I tell you my husband and I have spent plenty of time daydreaming about what we'd do if we ever hit the big time -- as in, the $400 million big time.

Friday's Top Five - Things I Would Do If I Won the Lottery:

5. Share the Wealth

Yes, everyone of us could all use a helping hand in the form of extra cash...... but you always hear those stories about how winning the lottery ruined people's lives and relationships and, frankly, who wants that?

Which is why I think this would be the part I'd struggle with the most -- not because I don't want to help others, but because I don't want long-lost friends and relatives coming out of the wood works and expecting a handout..... only to then have them blow the money on something ridiculous that they don't even need. (ie, booze, drugs, VLTs, late night parties, and Hummers)

Having said that, of course we would still donate to more charities and help out the people we're close to, but obviously we'd have to be careful about how we went about doing this.

4. Self Improvements

I already colour my hair, wax my eye brows, and go for the occasional spray tan, so why not up the ante and treat myself to a little something extra, am I right?

In a perfect world we'd all be shaped like Barbies and have a metabolism that would allow us to consume ~3500 calories a day.... but, of course, that's just not my reality.

So, I would start by calling up Oprah and asking her advice on what to look for in a personal chef and personal trainer.

Once those lifestyle changes are taken care of, I would then look to some artificial enhancements. Or reductions, to be more precise.

I have a fear of going under anesthetic and also of suffering the possible dangerous side effects of cosmetic surgery, but, let's be honest here. If I had enough money to pay for all sorts of procedures, I would at least pick up a brochure and seek an initial consult to see what they're all about.

(That doesn't mean I'd be brave enough to go through with any major procedure, but I would at least consider it anyway.)

This is my fantasy, yo. Don't you judge me!

3. Travel with Multiple Homes Abroad

I find it to be so stressful to always have to plan our vacations, book time off work, ensure our documents are in order, then pack all our belongings into suitcases that weigh a ton........ only to be delayed at customs and then crowded into economy seating and forced to endure all the usual travel-related nightmares that go along with this.

But, if we were rich, I have a feeling that a lot of this stress would be alleviated. Plus, we'd have our own jet, yo!

And why just own a house in one place when you can have a house in 17 different locations??

Now, by house, I'm not talking about having a mansion in every corner of the earth. I literally just mean a regular house. Something with a couple of bedrooms and a decent kitchen so that we could escape to wherever our hearts desire and not have to worry about finding a hotel or a family member to mooch off of.

I'm thinking we definitely need a home in upstate New York, so that we'd no longer have to stay with my husband's family each time we visit.

Then we'd also need a place in Florida near all the cruise ship ports because, I mean, really. Who wouldn't want the convenience of having a Florida home near the ports?

I also want a place in Arizona so that I could escape our miserable winters in the middle of February.

And something on the Okanagan is also a must, along with a boat and a view of the vineyards.

Then there's the mountains - I would love a cozy hideaway in the Rockies near Jasper or Banff.

Plus we'd need a cabin not far from home -- maybe along the shores of Wizard Lake.

And naturally we'll want to see the sites of Europe on occasion, so a small Italian villa would probably suit us just fine.

Oh, crap, I forgot about Australia. And Africa. And South America........ okay, maybe we do need a place in every corner of the earth. But, again, just a house... not a mansion! (Who wants to try keeping a mansion clean, anyway?)

I feel as though I've been to a lot of places already, but the reality is that I really haven't. There's so much of the world that I haven't seen and am curious about. (And what a gift to give my daughter, too.....)

Don't worry, we'll make her have a paper route in all of the 17 neighbourhoods we'd like to live.

2. Home Improvements

Even though we'd have homes around the world and would be able to travel on a whim, we'd still just live in the house we have now. But we'd improve upon it.

I want a kitchen that would allow more than just two people to stand in it at one time.

And I want more storage space (and a freezer!) so that I could stock up on food items and basic toiletries without worrying about running out or having to grocery shop every few days.

And a couple of walk-in closets would be nice so that I'd no longer have to jam my clothing into overstuffed dresser drawers.

Plus a jacuzzi off the main bedroom would be a nice place to retreat after a long day. (Wait, I'm rich.... what is this "long day" you speak of?)

We'd also need a couple of extra bedrooms and maybe someone to clean the floors more regularly (my least favourite of all household chores).

As for the outdoors, I want to move the house forward a little so that we'd have less space in the front and more in the back........ you know, so we could build an in-ground swimming pool, complete with a pool boy to do all the maintenance and also mow our lawn/shovel the snow.

And, as has been our dream for many, many years, we would require a wrap-around porch on our home. Complete with a screen to keep out the mosquitos.

(Yes, we really have put a little too much thought into this.....)

1. Do Whatever the Heck I Want

It's true -- if I won the lottery, the thing I would look forward to the most is being able to have a flexible schedule to just do whatever I wanted.

Even though I'm one of those people who thrives on structure, I admit I'm burnt out and need a break from the daily grind. (Who doesn't, right?)

I'm so tired of the routine of each day -- whether it be a work day or a weekend -- as it seems we always have something scheduled that needs to be done.

And during those rare moments when I'm relatively caught up and have some quiet time, I often feel anxious and as though I need to take advantage of that time and do something -- you know, organize our photo albums, alphabetize our CD collection, wash all the curtains in the house, or just do something else equally neurotic.

And I can't even tell you how many mornings I've woken up when it's been so beautiful out that I hated the fact I had to spend it at work instead of just going for a walk or something.

What a way to waste the day -- you know, being stuck at work and then feeling too tired afterwards to enjoy the evening.

But if I was a bazillionaire, then I'd never be faced with that outlook again. And having that sort of freedom to do anything would be glorious.

That's my list for this week. As per usual, check out my friends' blogs for their take on the same subjects: Divulge with Dani, The Brooding Woman, and A Piece of Apple.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Getting to 40 below

For those of you who live in the greater Edmonton area but don't own a snow blower, I sympathize.
I spent a lot of my time on Kijiji this summer noticing just how many people had snow blowers for sale. Many of the sellers included the phrase "used only once" in their description, which blinded me into thinking that, if we purchased a snow blower ourselves, it probably wouldn't get much use and we'd just be back on Kijiji next summer, trying to sell it to someone else.
What a fool I was.
It's funny how summer tricks you into thinking that winters here aren't so bad after all. We don't get much snowfall anyway, right? And it hardly ever blows back in our faces when we try to shovel a clear path to get out of the house.
Though it's not officially winter yet, it definitely feels like it now that we've had our first winter storm of the season. It certainly is beautiful out, but it's not much fun to drive in, and I'm not exactly a fan of shovelling either.
But, this storm is hardly a surprise to anyone, which means we can't just hermit ourselves in the house.... well, not for too long anyway.
Free sleigh rides today at a local community hall's Christmas craft sale. That's my kid in the purple jacket, freezing her arse and admiring the horses from afar.
Late last year I heard about something called the 40 Below Project, in which local writers were encouraged to come forth and submit their best poems and/or short stories about winter in Edmonton.
And, though we're not exactly fans of winter, my husband and I each submitted an original short story with the hopes of maybe being published in the anthology, which was released just a few weeks ago.
Sadly, we were rejected.
And, to add salt in my already gaping wound, one of the authors who did end up having a piece published is a local writer who also rejected another piece of my writing, which I had submitted to her for a separate (non-winter-related) anthology.
So now when I think of the 40 Below anthology, I feel as though I'm being slapped in the face with a double dose of YOUR WRITING SUCKS AND DOESN'T DESERVE TO BE PUBLISHED.
Ahem. But I'm okay, honest.
Regardless of my hurt feelings for being rejected by two separate anthologies, I still went out and purchased 40 Below. And then I proceeded to read it from cover-to-cover in less than 24 hours.
This is the perfect book for anyone who has ever had to endure a frosty Edmonton winter.
My favourite aspect of many of the stories in here is just about how personal they are. The writers really do open up and share a piece of their lives with the readers, and the great thing is that we can all relate to much of what they're describing.
One of my favourite stories in here was written by an immigrant who described his first time seeing snow in our frozen city. His account is both breathtakingly beautiful and devastatingly heartbreaking at the same time.
And I know there are thousands of other immigrant families in the city who can sympathize with every scenario he described.
So, even though I truly do dislike the extremes of winter.... and even though my writing just didn't fit in with this particular anthology..... I still believe, without a doubt, that no Edmonton home should be without this book on their coffee table.
After all, today is the perfect day to stay indoors and do some reading.
Once you're done with all that shovelling, that is.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday's Top Five - Things in my Purse

I remember back when I was a kid it wasn't uncommon for my large Italian family to attend an average of three weddings each summer, which of course meant that we also had to attend the associated bridal showers beforehand.

Back then, one of the more common bridal shower games was the "What's in your purse?" game. The host of the party would go through a list of sometimes-ambiguous items and, if you were lucky enough to have that item in your purse, you would have to run up to the front to claim a prize.

As a kid I lived for this game and began stocking my little purse with unusual items (read: a deck of cards or a photo of my dog) in anticipation of playing this shower game.

These days, however, the contents of my purse are far more ordinary and boring, and I'm sure I'd easily lose this game if I had to play it again.

Friday's Top Five - Things in my Purse:

5) Cinnamon Gum

I take the bus to and from work each day, and I always live in fear of having someone strike up a conversation with me at a time when my breath may not be at it's freshest.

Soooooo...... enter my beloved cinnamon-flavoured gum.

I know I'm not painting a pretty picture here, but come on. We've all been in that situation where we're uncertain of our breath and would prefer to wear a face mask to shield the other person from our halitosis.

But that would just be weird, which is why I always carry some gum with me.

4) Feminine Hygiene Products

No woman wants to be caught stranded somewhere without one of these lifesavers in her purse.

'Nuff said.

This counter is every pubescent girl's worst nightmare.

3) Staff ID Card

Not only does my ID card get me through secure doors into work each day, but it also allows me to ride the LRT trains for free from South Campus to downtown.

Not that I ever go downtown..... but if I did, then, you know, it would be free. Ahem.

Students on campus have a similar card, except theirs is far more valuable in that it allows them unlimited access to everywhere the trains go, PLUS the regular ETS buses.

Wow. Given that a regular adult bus pass is $90 a month, I could save over $1000 a year if only my staff card had the same privileges as those of the students.

Now I know that students are required to pay approximately $300 into this feature, and many of them complain about it simply because they never use public transit...... but I would be more than happy to take their place in this regard if it meant I could have unlimited access to transit.

But that's a rant for another day.

2) Phone

How did I survive for so many years into adulthood without a cellphone? Obviously it's a convenience in life for me to have a cellphone, as it's certainly not always a need, but still.

Once upon a time, when I was a kid, my mom used to always ensure I at least had a quarter on me so that I could make a call from a payphone in case of emergency. But these days I'd be hard-pressed to tell you where you could even find a payphone.

You just don't see them on street corners anymore, so I guess things are shifting to the point where you almost do need a cellphone on you, otherwise you have to ask to borrow someone else's.

And that's always a little awkward, am I right?

1) Daytimer

Yes, I'm one of those people who becomes completely lost if I've accidentally left my daytimer at home.

I'm not spontaneous at all, and I tend to panic a little if I don't have every little thing perfectly scheduled and penciled in, which is a little insane, I know. But it's how I function, yo.

Plus, I'm old school in that I prefer an actual paper-and-pen daytimer over the electronic versions.

Don't you judge me!

That's my list for this week. As per usual, check out my friends' blogs for their take on the same subjects: Divulge with Dani, The Brooding Woman, and A Piece of Apple.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Friday's Top Five - Favourite Charities

One of my friends from university once told me that she almost never donates to "people" charities, simply because they seemingly get the most attention and there will always be someone else willing to donate to them anyway.

Animal-based charities, on the other hand, usually receive less funding overall -- or so she reasoned -- which is why that was where most of her money went.

Regardless of a person's rationale for giving, it seems that most people are set in their ways and already have a select few charities to which they only donate.

And while I know that there are so many worthy causes in need, it really is difficult to give to everyone who asks..... so I guess I've got to choose my favourites, too.


Friday's Top Five - Favourite Charities:

5) World Wildlife Fund Canada

Traditionally, this is the animal-based charity that we tend to donate to most regularly.

Every Christmas I gleefully anticipate the arrival of the calendar they send us in the mail, as well as the various sets of notepads, stickers, address labels, and Christmas cards that have become a part of their arsenal.

I'm not sure what portion of their donated funds goes into producing and distributing these freebies that they send to people, but I imagine the charity must be doing fairly well given it's high profile.

4) Poppy Fund

It's that time of year again -- as soon as Halloween's over, citizens across Canada don a lapel pin known as the poppy. And although we always have a few of these lying around from previous years, we of course still donate again and get a new one.

This is one of the earliest charities I remember donating to as a kid, when our school teachers would walk around the classroom with a donation box for us to toss in our coins.

And this is also one of the more common charities that gets ripped off each year when some lowlife swipes a donation box at the mall or somewhere. Deplorable.

3) Food Bank

This is another charity that, although you can (and should) donate year-round, one of it's busiest times of year is during the Christmas season.

I genuinely look forward to driving down Candy Cane Lane each winter and making the mad rush out of the car to drop a bag or two of items into one of the bins lining the road.

And, let's be honest, it's easy to find some decent items in every home that can be donated to this cause. Chances are you won't even miss them when they're gone, so there are no excuses not to donate.

It's a Christmas tradition, yo.

2) Children's Miracle Network

This charity certainly has evolved over the years, but my fondest memories of it come from when I was a kid growing up.

Back in those days of fundraising, local TV and news celebrities would pre-empt regular television programming to host an all-night telethon that went on for nearly 24 hours.

They featured local entertainers, feel-good stories, and a few tragic ones as well, all with the hope of tugging at your heartstrings so much that you would pick up that phone and make a pledge.

Plus, every now and then it was a local sports celebrity answering the phone, too, so that was always an added bonus.

I also particularly enjoyed when they would take a break from the local programming and pan to the live feed coming out of southern California. Nine times out of 10, their version of the telethon was being hosted by Marie Osmond, John Schneider, and Merlin Olsen -- three of my favourite celebrities from the 80s.

Yes, these are the things I remember from my childhood.

1) Canadian Cancer Society

Raise your hand if you, or someone you know, has been affected by cancer.

Yeah, that would be EVERYONE.

A former employer of mine once made the bold statement that every one of us is eventually going to die of cancer. You know, unless a heart attack or motor vehicle accident gets us first.

Sure, he was just making a broad generalization, but the sad reality is that he's probably not that far off.

No one is immune, not even our pets, and this is why many researchers focus their attention on finding a cure for cancer, or at least a better form of treatment.

So, naturally, this is another charity to which we always feel compelled to donate.

Plus, it's also the reason I like daffodils so much.

Okay, so that's my list. Head on over to Divulge with Dani, The Brooding Woman, and A Piece of Apple for their take on their favourite charities.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Friday's Top Five - Childhood Toys

As many of you already know, I tend to get attached to inanimate objects and end up holding on to items for far longer than I should, simply because of nostalgia.

And items such as my favourite childhood toys are no exception to this rule. Actually, they seem to be tailor-made for this rule.

But back in the late spring of 2005, I finally came to the realization that I needed to get rid of some of my old toys out of necessity. (Read: I was running out of storage space for them, and I needed the money.)

So we had a garage sale..... and I've regretted it ever since.

I remember thinking at the time that it would be great to keep those items forever and then one day pass them on to my daughters, if I ever ended up having any.

And, of course, that was the clincher. What if I never had a daughter? Or any kids at all? I never really liked kids very much anyway, so that thought is what sealed the deal for me. I just plowed ahead and got rid of almost all my beloved childhood items.

Fast forward five years later almost to the day and, of course, I gave birth to a daughter. Hindsight's a real bitch, but I digress.

Friday's Top Five - Favourite Childhood Toys:

5) Doctor Kit

Yep, this item was sold at the garage sale. It still had all it's pieces and was in near-mint condition, but I never gave it much thought until my daughter was born and became HYSTERICALLY AFRAID of doctors. Well, of all people, actually, but this behaviour was most stressful when it came to her doctor visits.

(During one particularly nerve-wracking visit, she even peed on me. And whenever the doctor tried to listen to her heartbeat, he always commented that the only thing he could hear was screaming. Oy.)

As much as I always wanted to lock myself up like a hermit and never leave the house again after those visits, I came to reason that the more appropriate response was to help my daughter somehow overcome her irrational fears. So we went to Toys R' Us and bought a newer version of the doctor kit for her.

And it's all right, I guess -- she certainly loves giving everyone check ups and is fairly fearless in that she now marches into her doctor's office and strikes up conversations with random strangers in the waiting room -- but, of course, my beloved Fisher Price kit just seemed a little more sturdier to me instead.

It's true that they just don't make toys to last like they used to.

4) Sesame Street / Cabbage Patch Kids Figurines

I at least had the good sense to hold on to these toys. My reasoning at the time was A) they're small and can be stored in a shoe box, and B) if any kids stop by my mom's house, she can pull these figurines out for them to play with.

And I was right. Not only did these items bring me years of joy as a child, but they continued to entertain many generations of younger cousins who visited my mom's house after that.

Plus, my daughter has now taken a liking to them and plays with them whenever at my mom's as well.

Phew! I knew I was justified in keeping them.

The Cabbage Patch figurines were all purchased at Zellers and K-Mart when I was a kid, but the Sesame Street figurines were collectibles that came from a local gas station.

Back in the '80s, gas stations used to regularly sell various forms of collectible items, like the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics glasses that we have in our china cabinet and, of course, these little Sesame Street figurines.

If I remember correctly, a different figurine would be released every few weeks, and you couldn't buy them anywhere but at this chain of gas stations.

I was never able to get all the pieces -- too much demand for certain characters, I guess -- but my daughter doesn't seem to mind that it's not a complete set.

3) Mickey Mouse Record Player

This is the one thing I most regret having sold at the garage sale, simply because we sold it for less than $5.00.... yet I'm now seeing the same item being hawked on eBay for over $100.


And, the truth is, I really did love this old record player and spent hours in my room listening to my Mini-Pops record and my Disney's Merry Christmas Carols.

I suppose my record player was for me what the iPod is for today's young kids. And, yeah, it still boggles my mind that kids in elementary school have iPods these days, but I guess I'm just old school.

I know for fact that my daughter would have LOVED this record player. The child loves dancing and singing along to music, but she always has to ask us to put on one of her CDs for her.

Whereas this record player was so simple and easy to use that even my three-year-old could have mastered it.

I repeat..... Doh.

2) Cabbage Patch Dolls

I haven't heard any horror stories, but I'm sure my family must have been among those grown-ups caught up in the mad dash to purchase a Cabbage Patch Doll for all us kids one Christmas in the mid-80s.

As a child I was oblivious to the stress that parents felt in securing this item that year, but I knew it was a special gift that cost a lot of money at the time, so I took excellent care of my doll for many years thereafter.

And, yes, I still have that original doll, plus a second one acquired years later, in storage at my mom's..... not too mention all the clothes my mom used to knit for them, too. We're talking a HUGE wardrobe collection here.

(Some things you just can't part with, yo.)

My daughter has plenty of toys to keep her busy right now, so I don't think she's quite ready to be introduced to my beloved dolls just yet.

Plus, she's not yet capable of taking care of her toys to the same level as I was, and I don't want them ruined. (Am I obsessive? Yes, yes I am.)

1) Barbies

Ah, Barbie. She's never shied away from controversy regarding body image, and she remains to this day one of my favourite toys.

When I wasn't being babysat by the television as a kid, I was playing with my Barbies.

The beauty of this toy, like the Cabbage Patch Dolls above, is that I didn't need to have any friends over in order to play with them. Sure, it was always fun to play with other kids, but I was more than happy to sit there for hours, just brushing my Barbie's hair and changing her clothes by myself.

And, yes, I was incredibly spoiled in that I had dozens of dolls to play with. Most of them were the less expensive, knock-off versions, but it didn't matter.

I loved them! And all their super-cool accessories!

I mean, what little girl wouldn't love escaping into Barbie's world?

She had a corvette! And a motor home! And her own gym!

(I'm pretty sure many of the Real Housewives of Orange County subconsciously aspire to be just like Barbie, but that's an issue best saved for their therapists.)

So the question I'm sure you're all wondering is, did I keep my Barbies or did they get sold at the garage sale?

The answer is: BOTH. I kept most of the actual dolls and hand-made clothing, but the houses and a lot of accessories were all sold.

Like I said, we needed the money and the storage space, so something major had to give.

But there's still plenty left so that I never have to buy my daughter any new Barbies at all as she gets older. (Much older, that is. No Barbies for her any time soon!)

That's my list for this week. As per usual, check out my friends' blogs for their take on the same subjects: Divulge with DaniThe Brooding Woman, and A Piece of Apple.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday's Top Five - Easy Simple Recipes

It's no secret that I love food, especially if it's been made my someone other than myself.

That's rarely possible, though, so I'm constantly adding to my recipe collection with the hopes of discovering some new, healthy, easy-to-make meals that I can whip up in no time.

Obviously, not all new recipes I've tried recently have been a hit. In fact, some I've sworn to never make again, no matter how enticing they sound.

But then there are some other recipes that seem to have withstood the scrutiny of family and friends, and are so easy to make that I'm almost ashamed to admit how little I had to do to pull them off.

Here are some of my go-to favourites... and, yes, three of these five have been featured as the CFCW Recipe of the Day at some point or another. (Don't you judge me for being a CFCW junkie.)

Friday's Top Five - Easy Simple Recipes:

5) Low-Cal Berry Cobbler

1 box of white cake mix
2 -12oz. bags frozen fruit (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc.)
1 can of Diet Sprite or 7-up

Place frozen fruit in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Add dry cake mix over the top. 
Pour soda slowly over cake mix (may need more than 1 can if there are still dry spots). 
Do not stir the cake mix and the soda or you'll get a cake-like topping.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.

4) Easiest Oatmeal Cookies Ever

2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup of uncooked quick oats (or instant oatmeal packets, any flavour)
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1 tsp ground ginger (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a non-stick cookie sheet with cooking spray.
Combine the mashed bananas, oats, and ground ginger in a bowl.
Fold in the chocolate chips.
Place a tablespoon of the mix on a cookie sheet.
Bake 15 minutes. Makes 16 cookies.

3) Smoothies

2 cups frozen fruit mix
1 cup pina colada juice
1 cup coconut water
1 tsp hemp hearts
1 tsp chia seeds

Add all ingredients, in the order listed above, into a single-serve Magic Bullet.
Blend until smooth.

2) Bean Casserole

1 package of chopped, cooked bacon
1/2 cup each of chopped onion and pepper
1 cup chopped celery
2 cans baked beans
1 can mixed beans
1 can black beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can chick peas
1 cup ketchup
1 cup brown sugar

Combine all ingredients in a roasting pot.
Cover and bake in oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
Tastes even better the following day, so you may want to make this in advance and then just warm it up.

1) Salsa Chicken

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (as many as you need)
Salsa (whatever kind you like)
1/2 cup brown sugar

Place the chicken breasts in a baking pan and cover completely with salsa and brown sugar.
Bake at 350 for about 30 to 40 minutes until the chicken is done.

That's my list for this week. As per usual, check out my friends' blogs for their take on the same subjects: Divulge with Dani, The Brooding Woman, and A Piece of Apple.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday's Top Five - Movies I Have Watched Repeatedly

I remember when I was back in 8th grade and had a sleepover at my sister's house. Her friend was over, and we rented the Kevin Bacon movie Tremors. The film was so entertaining that, upon completion, my sister's friend looked at me and said, "Let's rewind it and watch it again!"

(This was back in the day when you could still easily rent movies, and VCRs were the norm. Be kind and rewind, y'all.)

At the time I remember thinking how great it was that there existed another human over the age of five who reveled in watching the same movies over and over again, just like me. It was fantastic.

And while the only things I tend to watch on repeat these days are Dora the Explorer episodes, I do often wish I could just relax one night and do nothing but watch one of my favourite older movies.

And, by older, I of course mean something from the 80s.

Friday's Top Five - Movies I Have Watched Repeatedly

5) A Few Good Men / The Fugitive (tie)

Even though these are both terrific movies, the sole reason I've seen them so many times is because they're constantly being aired on TV. Seriously. As in, at any given time on any given weekend, one of these films can be found airing somewhere on cable.

It used to always be TBS that played one or the other on rotation each weekend, but lately APTN has also made A Few Good Men a part of their regular schedule as well.

(I guess the fact that Demi Moore is 1/16th Cherokee was enough to qualify this movie as containing sufficient Aboriginal content for APTN.)

Regardless, it's worth watching again and again for no other reason than to listen to Jack Nicholson's "You can't handle the truth" monologue. It continues to give me goosebumps, despite having seen it at least a million times. (Only a mild exaggeration.)

4) Crazy Heart

This movie is the newest of all my selections this week, as it first came out in theatres back in 2009. I just love Jeff Bridges, and he was the perfect choice for the lead in this film, completely capturing the life of a has-been country singer performing in small town bars and bowling alleys.

Aside from his outstanding performance, there are two other things that make this movie memorable for me: the spectacular New Mexico scenery, and the music.

If you like country music even just a little bit, then you'll love the rawness of this movie. It's definitely a toe-tapper.

Do yourself a favour and at least watch the trailer below. I guarantee you'll want to then come over and watch the movie with us.

3) Up

There's a meme circulating on the Internet stating that the first 10 minutes of this animated movie is still a better love story than the entire Twilight saga. And it's so true.

There's next to no dialogue in the first 10 minutes of this film, but it will break you.

And once you make it passed those emotional scenes, you'll just laugh non-stop for the remainder of the movie. I loved it so much that I actually paid to see it twice in theatres, which is extremely telling, given that I hate paying full price for anything even once.

2) Forrest Gump

Similar to A Few Good Men and The Fugitive, this is another movie that seems to always be on constant rotation somewhere on cable. Which is perfect, given that it stars two of my favourite actors, Gary Sinise and Tom Hanks.

This movie has everything - you can watch it any time of year, given that it features historical scenes from all seasons, and it will make you both laugh and cry... sometimes at the same time.

Plus, the soundtrack alone is enough to take you on a whirlwind tour of history with all of its rollercoaster emotions in tote.

Hard to believe this movie came out nearly 20 years ago, as it really was ahead of its time and tells a story that is relevant still today.

1) Christmas Comes To Willow Creek / A Smokey Mountain Christmas (tie)

I can't even tell you how much I love these two movies. Back when I was in elementary school, these two films were made-for-TV movies that aired on CBS during the Christmas season and I, of course, recorded them onto a blank tape with my beloved VCR.

The first film was partially filmed in Canada (which elevated its level of coolness, in my opinion), and it starred Tom Wopat and John Schneider. Yes, this movie was just one more reason for me to love the good ol' Dukes of Hazard boys once more.

The second film featured Dolly Parton going back to her Smokey Mountain roots and eating squirrel stew while spending Christmas in an old log cabin with a bunch of poor orphans. You know, exactly the way Christmas SHOULD be spent.

Each of these films has a terrific soundtrack (if you're a country music fan and also enjoy Christmas carols, that is), and I've watched them so many times over the last 25+ years that I'm actually afraid to fast-forward through the commercials for fear that the VHS cassette tape might break for good.

But, let's be honest here. Watching some of those old holiday-themed commercials from the 80s are actually part of the draw for me. Just like the movies themselves, the commercials take me back to a time of innocence, when my biggest concern was whether or not I'd get hit with a snowball from my friends during our walk home after school.

Good times.

That's my list for this week. As per usual, check out my friends' blogs for their take on the same subjects: Divulge with Dani, The Brooding Woman, and A Piece of Apple.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday's Top Five - Myths Debunked

You know when you believe something to be the absolute truth, but then someone pulls up some facts for you and sets the record straight?

Yeah, that's happened to me on more than one occasion, and it's incredibly humbling. Or hilarious, depending on your perspective.

Friday's Top Five - Myths Debunked:

5) The ear canal leads to your stomach

When I was maybe five or six years old, my older sister and I were eating sunflower seeds while watching Magnum P.I. or Simon and Simon or some other 80's TV show equivalent. I got up to get a drink and -- for some reason known only to a five-year-old -- I placed a sunflower seed in my sister's ear as I walked away and gave her the instruction not to touch it.

I came back a minute later and, of course, the sunflower seed was gone. She told me it fell down her ear and was now in her stomach where it would probably grow into a sunflower plant.

I was horrified and couldn't stop staring at her ear.

How did it fit down there? How did it feel to have a plant growing in her stomach? And how was it that she could act so nonchalant about the whole thing?

I told all my friends and teachers about this the next day at school and continued to share this story every year thereafter until about 7th grade when it finally dawned on me out of the blue that, maybe, just maybe, the seed never made it down her ear after all.

Maybe she took the darn thing out herself when I wasn't looking!

I was officially mind blown by this revelation. And also extremely grateful that I figured it out on my own before reaching university.

Just goes to show that kids will believe anything, ANYTHING, you tell them. Which means I should probably stop telling my daughter that her tongue will fall out if she continues to stick it out at me.

4) Weight loss / maintenance is the same in all people

I had a friend in university who always brought these big, elaborate lunches to school and often had a chocolate bar for dessert each day, yet she barely weighed 100 lbs. A reasonable person would look at her and declare that, if I began eating exactly like her, then I, too, would weigh as little as she did. I mean, she must have been doing something right, right?

Well, not exactly. The truth is, if I ate like she did, I'd probably weigh more than I do now.

This girl was incredibly active and fit, had a high metabolism, and was blessed with some incredible super-human genes.

I, on the other hand, have no metabolism at all. Of this I'm convinced.

So, while it's not fair that she's half my size and can eat whatever she wants, that's just the way it is. Much to my chagrin.

3) WWE wrestling is real

I still remember when I first became enamored with wrestling as a kid in the 80s. Back in those days, it was still referred to as the World Wrestling Federation, and I always looked forward to their Saturday Night Main Events on NBC.

Even back then it was like a soap opera for adults, except that I was a little kid who believed it all to be real.

Would the Hulkster be able to overcome evil in his match against Andre the Giant? Would Macho Man Randy Savage succeed in rescuing Miss Elizabeth from Ravishing Rick Rude's clutches? And how did that referee not notice that Bam Bam Bigelow was totally just cheating there?

I can't even tell you how disheartened I was to learn wrestling wasn't real. It was like finding out about Santa all over again.

I so badly wanted to believe all those athletes were who they said they were and not just a bunch of bulked-up wannabe actors.

But what's even more shocking than the fact I believed all these storylines to be true is that Hulk Hogan is the only person of all those listed above who is still alive.

2) Exhausting your child guarantees she'll sleep better

For most of the summer, my husband took our daughter to half a dozen parks each week in an effort to tire her out. And, when that wasn't possible, he instead conducted what he calls The Nuggett Olympics, which is a timed event consisting of a series of obstacles in our home. Like the park, it's designed to wear her down in the evenings.

Now that my husband is teaching two nights a week, I'm on my own in terms of exhausting our daughter and then putting her to bed on those nights. So one evening in September, when it was still warm enough and light enough to be outside after work, my daughter and I went for a walk around Laurier Park.

We walked to the swing set and slide and played there for a bit before stalking investigating the largest Pileated woodpecker I've ever seen. Then we ran through a large field, counted all the picnic tables, and walked off the beaten path to get to the river.

While there, we picked rocks, splashed some water, and waved at rowers that moved swiftly passed us in the water. Then we turned around, walked back up the hill, and retraced our steps back to the car.

On the way back, my daughter stopped walking and just knelt down in the grass for a while, declaring that she was too tired to go on.

Yes, I thought to myself. This was a good sign that she would just collapse when we got home and go straight to bed. And, in theory, that's what should have happened, too. But, of course, it didn't.

Instead, we got home, performed the bedtime routine, and then got into bed..... but that's not where my daughter stayed.

Rather than falling fast asleep from exhaustion, my daughter proceeded to execute every stalling tactic known to man in an attempt to stay awake and keep me from falling asleep, too.

This went on for two hours, yo. TWO FREAKIN' HOURS.

I still don't really know what I did wrong. More often than not, working a child to the point of sheer exhaustion should do the trick.... but not always.

Turns out there are just no guarantees when it comes to three-year-olds, no matter how badly I want things to work out as predicted.

1) Mean girls learn their lesson and grow up to be nice adults

I was pretty lucky back in grade school in that I mostly managed to go unnoticed and stay out of harm's way from the plethora of bullies that lined the halls of my junior high school.

(Read: I was kind of like the token quiet castaway on Survivor who manages to fly under the radar for most of the game and then somehow make it to the end without having actually done anything. Yeah, that's how I like to roll.)

But, like I said, there was no shortage of bullies or Mean Girls back then, and I vividly remember thinking to myself that one day they'd grow up and realize what jerks they were, and they'd be forever remorseful for this and vow to teach their children to behave differently.

Turns out, I was completely wrong in this regard. Bullies don't grow up to be nice.... they just grow up to be adult bullies.

I know it's completely unfair for me to paint everyone with the same brush, as I'm sure it's possible for some people to actually grow up and mature into thoughtful, responsible adults.... but, frankly, 9 out of the 10 people I've encountered are exactly the same as they were back then.

And what incentive is there for them to change, anyway? Being a Mean Girl is part of what got them everything they wanted, so why alter that behaviour now?

I read this blog post last month, and it really struck a chord in me. The author is absolutely right in that, not only do Mean Girls not change their spots, but they also teach this behaviour to their children.

The thought of my daughter having to endure the wrath of their offspring is enough to make me want to keep her living in a safe, happy bubble forever. That's right. FOREVER.

But I guess that's just the quiet, reserved junior high girl in me coming out. Guess I didn't change my spots either.

That's my list for this week. As per usual, check out my friends' blogs for their take on the same subjects: Divulge with Dani, The Brooding Woman, and A Piece of Apple.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Friday's Top Five - Favourite places to visit in Edmonton

It's true that many of us yearn to escape the places we live to go in search of greener pastures elsewhere, whether it be during a permanent move or on a short vacation.

Meanwhile, in this neverending quest for something better, it's easy for us to miss all the gems we've been blessed with right here in our very city. So, even though the weather has changed and summer's now over, there's still plenty to see and do around town this fall.

Friday's Top Five - Favourite places to visit in Edmonton

5) Farmer's Markets

Who's crazy about Farmer's Markets? THIS GIRL!

Sure, I'm always tempted to buy more food than our household can reasonably consume. And, sure, I feel the need to take home every little handmade trinket or piece of jewelry I stumble upon. But it's a Farmer's Market, baby!

These markets have actually been going on all summer long but, as Divulge with Dani mentioned in last week's post, there's a plethora of fresh veggies to be had now that the harvest is upon us.

Plus, with another magical Christmas season just around the corner, many markets will move indoors when the snow falls and will feature tons of decadent baked goods and seasonal crafts.

As a kid, those are the very things I used to live for, and it's great that these markets are available here in some form year-round.

4) Valley Zoo

Open 364 days a year, the Valley Zoo is another of Edmonton's great resources. Sure, it can't in any way be compared to the bigger, more expansive version down in Calgary, but it's still a great place to go for a stroll on a Sunday afternoon.

I volunteered here on and off from 1997 until 2006 and was lucky enough to go behind the scenes and help care for the animals alongside their keepers, so this place will always have a special place in my heart. Which is why I just can't stay away!

In this upcoming week, my husband and I will help chaperone our daughter's day care class on a field here, and I'm pretty sure I'll still have the most fun of anyone in attendance.

3) Devonian Botanic Garden

Located on the outskirts of west Edmonton, the Devonian Botanic Garden is another place to which I hold personal ties. Having worked here as an interpreter in the Nature Interpretation Program from 2001-2002, I always try to come back at least once a year to retrace the steps I used to take with school children in tote each day.

And though summer time in the gardens is my favourite time to visit, thanks to all the flora in bloom, some would argue that fall is actually when it's at it's most beautiful.

Feel free to decide for yourself, but you'll have to hurry as it's only open to the public until Thanksgiving each year.

2) Telus World of Science

To me, this place will always be known simply as "The Science Centre", because A) that's what it is, and B) I hate the evil empire of Telus. But I digress.

Regardless of it's unfortunate corporate name, this building houses some remarkable educational exhibits and a gift shop in which I always end up spending too much time and money.

And exactly how many IMAX shows have I seen here over the years? Almost all of them.

(Wait - should I be proud of this or ashamed...? Depends on who you ask, I guess!)

Since the exhibits here change regularly, the scenery is always fresh, so to speak. Plus, the centre is located relatively close to us, as we drive by at least once every week, so it's not as though we need to wait for a special occasion to head out and visit.

As our daughter gets a little older, this is definitely one place where we'll happily purchase a family membership so we can visit any time we want.

1) Sir Wilfred Laurier Park

Yeah, I know I sound like a broken record, but I really do love this place.

When I was a kid, long before anyone in my family had saved enough money to purchase cabins out of town, this is where we'd assemble for family picnics.

(I distinctly remember one particular outing in which I was following my cousins down a very steep embankment and nearly ended up in the river. Doh.)

I'm happy to report that I've had nothing but good experiences here, aside from that one time when I was an awkward pre-teen.

Lately I've been coming here every few days to help increase my daily 'steps taken' count -- weather permitting, of course.

You see, I'm a big wimp. I hate the cold, snow, and wind, and the only thing I dislike about Laurier Park is that it's largely inaccessible in winter for someone of my wimpy nature.

Maybe if I took up snow-shoeing or cross country skiing then it wouldn't be so bad.... but, let's be real. I'm not about to do any of those things, so I guess I'll have to push through and take advantage of the park for as long as it's still tolerable to me.

For all you winter enthusiasts, though, this is definitely a place still worth visiting once the snow begins to fall.

Okay, so that's my list. Head on over to Divulge with Dani, The Brooding Woman, and A Piece of Apple for their take on the places they love most in Edmonton.