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Friday Five – Mac’s Mural, Wonder Pens, Shrimp Rolls, John Williams and Nutella

Friday Five – Mac’s Mural, Wonder Pens, Shrimp Rolls, John Williams and Nutella

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Friday Five…5 things that are bringing me bliss this week!

1. Mac’s Mural and Neighbours Day

A couple of weeks ago in the Friday Five, I posted about this blank wall outside my neighbourhood Mac’s store.

And here is what it’s been transformed into this week!!

This is the result of combined efforts of Waterloo Regional Police, Mac’s Convenience Stores, street artist MagicFinga WonG, and the local community.


You can check out more pictures and videos of the work in progress, and yesterday’s reveal on the Williamsburg Community Association Facebook page.

The project was finished just in time for Neighbour’s Day this Saturday!  Don’t forget to check out what’s happening in your ‘hood for this city-wide annual celebration!

2. Wonder Pens

This family-run company in Toronto, Ontario specializes in specialty fountain pens and stationery supplies; a very narrow niche market, that some could say is falling by the way-side with the advent of all things digital.  But there is popular return to “pen and paper”, calligraphy, and traveller’s notebooks (see my Friday Five post on my favourite Chic Sparrow notebooks).

My latest addition to my traveller’s notebooks meant shopping for some size specific accessories.  While other online retailers like Amazon and Etsy will usually fit my needs, in this case, Wonder Pens is not only less expensive, but much quicker than waiting for shipments from Japan.

But what makes Wonder Pens amazing is their attention to detail, and good old fashioned customer service.  When was the last time you got a hand-written thank you note for your business?

I invite you to check them out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and if you’re local to Toronto, they also offer workshops in calligraphy, letter writing and more!

3. Vietnamese Shrimp Rolls

Our summer weather is about to get HOT this weekend.  I find it always makes for a struggle when looking for meal ideas that don’t involve the stove or the oven.  We love the barbecue, but sometimes even that seems like too much effort when the temperature outside soars.

A few weeks ago I came across this recipe on Facebook, and thought I’d give it a try.  I had all the ingredients on hand except mint, so I just made a quick trip to the grocery store.  We keep frozen, pre-cooked shrimp in the freezer, as it makes a quick protein to add to salads.  Just dump about half the bag in a bowl of cold water and thaw for a few minutes.

I have made a similar recipe before, but this one also included a tip for rolling the rice noodles in romaine first.  It made rolling everything in the rice paper soooo much easier!

While they do take a bit of effort, and patience, I think the results came out pretty good!

My finicky boys weren’t fans, but the rest of the family enjoyed them.  I will definitely make these again.  They would make a great addition to a pool party or get-together with friends!

4. John Williams tribute

Harvard University’s recent commencement ceremony included a special tribute to composer John Williams.  If you’re not sure who John Williams is, check out the video, and see how many of the songs you recognize!

5. Nutella Cafe

We’re pretty big Nutella fans in our house.  I am a bit ashamed to admit that most jars don’t last long, and rarely see anything other than a spoon.  So we are totally on board with this new cafe Ferrero is opening in Chicago, celebrating all things Nutella!!

Now, there is a Nutella cafe in Toronto, but it’s more of a “grab and go”, not the dedicated chocolate hazelnut establishment Chicago welcomed this past week.

Definitely adding this to my list of places to visit in the windy city!

Well, that’s it for this week’s edition of the Friday Five!  What’s been great in your world this week? Leave a comment below, or find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

 

 

 

Friday Five – Wonder Woman, Lego, Pottery, Neighbours Day and a Ventriloquist

Friday Five – Wonder Woman, Lego, Pottery, Neighbours Day and a Ventriloquist

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Friday Five…5 things that are bringing me bliss this week!  It’s starting to feel like summer, and we’ve got a jam-packed weekend ahead of us!  PA Day movie, Lego, getting outside and enjoying the beautiful weather!

1. Wonder Woman

I have very fond memories of my childhood.  Raised in a family of all girls, my mother made sure we believed we could do anything, be anything, that boys could.  Now that I am a mother, I may have two boys who are all about superheroes, but I’m still raising them with the same principles, that girls can do anything.

In that vein, I was stoked to take them (and my mom) to see Wonder Woman today.  And I want to love this movie, I really do!!!  But I have to say, it was just good.  It started out really great!  Diana the child is fiery, precocious, adorable.  Gal Gadot is perfect in this role, fierce, yet kind.  The storyline and the scenes of the Amazon tribe of women, wonderful.  And I like Chris Pine and his character Steve.

Something just sort of unraveled in the ending, and I was left missing something.  I do think the reviews I have read so far are pretty on point.  The movie is inspiring, certainly for little girls who so desperately need some mainstream female idols, and I think it will still accomplish that.  But as a true fan, I wanted just a little bit more.  I’m hoping a few more viewings, maybe when it comes out on Blu-Ray, will do the trick.

Did you see it yet?  What are your thoughts?  I’d be interested to know!

2. Lego Fidget Spinners

Today is a PA Day for the boys, and I’m always on the lookout for stuff to keep them busy, without their electronics.  Luckily this week, Lego posted on their Facebook page instructions for a few different Lego Fidget Spinners!  Pretty sure we’ll be able to scrounge up the pieces to make these today!  I’ll post pictures of what the boys come up with, and I’d love to see your creations too!

3. Waterloo Potters Open House and Seconds Sale

Celebrate Summer with Waterloo Potters Workshop!  They are hosting their annual Open House and Seconds Sale this weekend, June 3 and 4.   Located in Waterloo Park, at the Eby Farmhouse across from Lion’s Lagoon, this is our opportunity to tour the workshop, catch a demo of pottery being thrown on the wheel, and let the kids play with clay.  You can also shop the pottery “seconds” that have been donated, with all proceeds benefiting local children’s charities!

4. Neighbours Day

This annual City of Kitchener event happens the second Saturday in June, this year on June 10.  Free events and activities are happening all over the city, as part of the “Festival of Neighbourhoods” initiative…garage sales, BBQs, sports, movie nights, outdoor activities, cooking demos and more!!  You can check out what’s happening near you or host your own event!

My family is looking forward to playing soccer with the KW United Football team, Food Trucks and Movie Night at Max Becker Common in Williamsburg!  What is your neighbourhood up to?

5. Darci Lynn

Check out this audition video from America’s Got Talent.  Darci Lynn is a 12 year old ventriloquist, not your ordinary, everyday talent!!  It’s pretty clear she wow’d everyone, including the judges!

Well, that’s it for this week’s edition of the Friday Five!  What’s been great in your world this week?   Leave a comment below, or find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Friday Five – Food, Drink, and all kinds of Art

Friday Five – Food, Drink, and all kinds of Art

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Friday Five…5 things that are bringing me bliss this week!

1. LCBO Food & Drink Magazine

Our household eagerly awaits the release of every issue, and the Early Summer edition is now available.  Chock full of recipes, entertaining ideas, new products and recommendations in wine, beer and spirits, I usually read it cover to cover!  This one was no exception.  I’m already planning to try making the Pumpkin Seed and Chili Crusted Fish Fillets on the cover.  There is also some interesting takes on shandies and sangria recipes that caught my eye.

You can grab a copy of this free magazine at your local LCBO, or read the digital version online (or download the app to read on your device).

P.S. Our latest shopping trip (to grab the magazine, of course!) netted many of the new coolers!  So far I’ve tried Cabana Coast Refreshments Moscow Mule, and Goslings Dark & Stormy, both featuring ginger beer…very yummy!  It’s shaping up to be a great summer on the patio!

2. Elspeth Mclean

This Australian artist, who now makes Canada’s west coast her home, has gained the title of viral internet sensation for her Mandala stones.  Each one is individually picked from the beach, and painstakingly painted, dot by dot.  The results?  Stunning!

You can check out her creative process in the video below.

The only way to get your hands on one is through her Etsy shop.  They are only released once a month, with a prior announcement, so you know when to be ready…they disappear within minutes!  As the artist herself puts it…”good things come to those who wait (and keep trying)!”  In the mean time, you can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

3. G&G Signature Designs

This local husband and wife team in Baden make custom hand-painted signs and home decor.  They also offer DIY Sign Workshops!  You gather up a few friends, pick a project design, and they bring the party to you!


Check out their designs on Facebook, and contact them for more information!  I think one of the Canada flags might find it’s way to my backyard fence!

4. Red House Patio Party Giveaway

I’ll admit, this Waterloo restaurant has been on my “must try” list for quite some time, but I hope to get there and do a review soon!

In the mean time, check out this awesome giveaway!


5. StreetART at Mac’s

See this empty wall?  This is the Mac’s store in my neighbourhood.

What they are about to do with it is just awesome.  See below…

“Waterloo Regional Police Service, in partnership with Crime Stoppers of Waterloo Region and Mac’s Convenience Stores, are calling on the community to help take part in an exciting new project entitled StreetART at Mac’s.

This project, to be completed in June, is an opportunity for police to work alongside youth in our community to build positive relationships while helping prevent crime.

On June 5, youth are invited to come out to a Kitchener Mac’s Convenience Store, located at 192 Activa Avenue, to spray paint an outdoor wall with professional street artist, Magic “Finnga” Wong. On June 6 and June 7, Wong will work his magic to create a beautiful mural that reflects Waterloo Region. On June 8, during the kick-off to the annual Waterloo Regional Crime Stoppers Conference, participants, media and community members will be invited back for the reveal.

Other services that have taken part in this program, including the Toronto Police Service, York Regional Police Service, Peel Regional Police Service, Thunder Bay Police Service, Barrie Police Service and Ottawa Police Service, have reported a noticeable reduction in crime at their mural locations.

During the month of May, Waterloo Regional Police will be accepting submissions of drawings, sketches and paintings from members of the community that depict what Waterloo Region means to them. The winner will have their picture included in the mural. You can tag us with your sketch on Facebook (@waterlooregionalpolice), Twitter (@WRPSToday) or Instagram (officialwrps).
You can also e-mail your submission to Cherri.greeno@wrps.on.ca.

The funding for this initiative is being covered through an educational study grant from Harvard University.”

You can check out the short documentary on the StreetART program here…

I can’t wait to see the process and the final product for the project at my local Mac’s!

Well, that’s it for this week’s edition of the Friday Five!  What’s been great in your world this week?   Leave a comment below, or find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

 

Friday Five – Blue Mountain Getaway

Friday Five – Blue Mountain Getaway

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Friday Five…5 things that are bringing me bliss this week!  Something different again this week.  For Mother’s Day last week, I spoiled myself with a couple days getaway up to the Blue Mountain region, alone, sans kiddos.  I thought I would share with you my top 5 from that trip, with lots of pictures!

Now, I have to begin with a caveat…I am not really an outdoor adventure type of person.  No zip-lining or mountain climbing, no sailing or off-road biking.  Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time outside, and I enjoy hiking, scenic lookouts, soaking up the sun, listening to the birds. But the usual adventure activities that tempt people to the Blue Mountain region are not what draws me there.  My bliss is in the quiet, the sounds of nature, slowing down to enjoy the view.

This is my second annual trip to Collingwood, and I repeated many of the things I did last year, for exactly the same reasons…bliss!  I’m really thinking retirement would look good up that way.  I could spend spring, summer and fall exploring everything there is to see and do, and then rent out my place to some snow-loving adventurers for the winter, while I escape to warmer climates!

So, without further ado, here is my top 5 things I love about Blue Mountain region!

1. Thornbury

Follow Grey County Road 13 north, through the picturesque Beaver Valley, right to the lake and you’ll end up at Thornbury Harbour, just one of the sights in this small town.

Bliss at the beach!

I did spend quite a bit of time with my toes in the sand, just enjoying the perfect blue sky, listening to the waves lapping at the shore, collecting a few rocks, and taking pictures.

Little River Park at Thornbury Harbour
Boats getting ready for summer!

The Georgian Trail, a 34km long hiking and biking trail that runs from Collingwood to Meaford, passes right through Thornbury, along the lakefront.  While I was there at the beach park, a group of senior women were just loading up their bikes after a cycling excursion.  I also spotted a few fishermen where the Beaver River meets Lake Huron, and just a bit further upstream is the Thornbury Fishway, a “fish ladder” that allows trout and salmon to “jump” upstream to spawn.

But this charming little town also boasts a surprising number of restaurants and shops.  Some of my favourites…The Cheese Gallery, Sincerely Yours Boutique, and Loft Gallery.  It was really hard to narrow down the choices of where to go for lunch.

2. Miso Hot

My craving for sushi won out when it came to lunch picks, so off I went to try Miso Hot in Thornbury.  This fusion restaurant blends Korean and Japanese favourites for a unique take on Asian cuisine.

Miso Hot, 21 Arthur St, Thornbury
Simple, yet elegant space, featuring local artwork
Bulgogi Lunch Bento Box

The lunch special options, served bento style, are an incredible value.  Served with miso soup, green salad and choice of 6pc sushi roll, it is the perfect combination, especially for folks like me who have trouble making up their mind!  I chose a true fusion, the Bulgogi Lunch…Korean style sliced beef stir fried with veggies and sweet marinade.  I paired it with the spicy crab roll, and a serving of hot sake to drink.  A second lunch ordered to go, the Maki Lunch, 8pc Dynamite Roll and 6pc California Roll, served as an excellent dinner later that night!

3. Craigleith Manor Bed and Breakfast

Located in a quiet neighbourhood minutes from Scandinave Spa, Blue Mountain Resort and the town of Collingwood, with direct access to the Georgian Trail behind the property, Craigleith Manor Bed and Breakfast is the perfect home base for your getaway.

Upon arrival, you are encouraged to treat the home like your own.  Automatic keyless entry with your personalized door code allow you to come and go as you please. Hosts Guy and Craig do make an effort to greet guests in person, depending on time of arrival, to give you a tour and answer any questions you might have.  Gracious and knowledgeable, it is clear how much they take pride in their business and providing the ultimate guest experience.  They have exquisite decorating taste and attention to detail!

The main floor is open and spacious, with a two-story entryway.  Here you’ll find a cozy reading corner with desk, and a library of information on local attractions and restaurants (each one taste tested by your hosts, who are happy to help make dining reservations for you).

Two-story entryway with library of local attraction info and restaurant menus

The living room, complete with fireplace, sectional sofa and elegant chairs, invites you in, with soft jazz music playing in the background throughout the day.  Guests are encouraged to cozy up by the fire with a glass of wine, read a book or enjoy a magazine.  Large picture windows and sliding glass doors look out over the beautifully landscaped backyard and deck (which are scheduled for even more enhancements this year).

The kitchen and dining room round out the main floor space. Guests are encouraged to use the space for dining outside of breakfast hours.  Real dishes and cutlery, as well as wine glasses and placemats are offered.  There is also a microwave, and a guest fridge off the kitchen.  As a solo traveller, I don’t dine out often, so this was a welcome luxury for my take-out dinners or enjoying wine and cheese al fresco on the deck at sunset!

Dining room
Open and modern chef’s kitchen

Speaking of dining, the breakfast here is an outstanding feature included in your stay.  Each night a menu is left for you to mark your selection for the next morning, including your preferred time.  Locally sourced ingredients, and home-made touches abound in the ever-changing selections, including hot and cold options.  Each dish is skillfully prepared by your host and chef Guy, and beautifully presented.

Sample of morning breakfast options
Breakfast bar with fresh coffee, juices, yogurt, home-made granola, fresh fruit salad and jams
My breakfast…eggs my way, maple bacon, homefries, and toast

This adults-only accommodation has three rooms, impeccably decorated with modern and luxurious touches.  Ensuite bathrooms feature in-floor heating, bathrobes, and all the essentials.  LED TV with cable, Netflix, and Wi-Fi mean you’re never without technology.

My second visit was just as blissful as last year, and I again chose the Birch Suite.

Super comfortable queen bed
Modern ensuite with spa-like feel
A little humour for your reading pleasure
Flat screen LED TV smartly hidden in the closet
The view from the aptly named Birch Room

Although my 2-night stay was short, it was the perfect way to kick back, relax, and enjoy the quiet solitude offered at Craigleith Manor.  I hope to keep making annual (or more frequent) visits to the area, and when I do, you’ll find me here…

Season 2 of Sense8 on Netflix, after a day at the spa

4. Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain

In keeping with my theme of quiet relaxation, you just can’t beat a day at Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain.  Nestled on 25 acres of land, surrounded by trees, you are invited to relax in the heart of nature.  The premiere experience is the Scandinavian Baths, following a circuit of body warming, cooling and relaxation.  There are a number of different options for each around the property, including hot baths, eucalyptus steam room, saunas, cold plunge pools, solariums, hammocks, and muskoka chairs.

While the baths are the main draw, it can get quite busy, with long waitlists, particularly on weekends and holidays.  One way to guarantee your spot is to book a massage with one of the Registered Massage Therapists on site.  A variety of massage services are available, including couples massage, hot stone, and of course, swedish relaxation.  Access to the baths is included (as well as bathrobe rental), and reservations can be made up to 4 months in advance.  If you have extended health benefits coverage through your workplace, you can claim your massage, making your day at Scandinave free!

Silence is the rule, so talking is discouraged.  You also won’t find any wi-fi, and cellphones are not permitted.  The spa is open year-round, giving you the opportunity to enjoy nature in all it’s splendour; spring, summer, fall and winter!  A bistro in the main building provides light lunches of sandwiches, salads, beverages and snacks.

One word of warning…bring sunscreen!  The spring sun caught many people (myself included) off guard, and after a day spent soaking in the baths, enjoying the great outdoors, you might find yourself a little sunburnt!

5. Harbourview Park

At the water’s edge in the town of Collingwood, you’ll find Harbourview Park.  The eastern end of the Georgian Trail, this community park boasts many features, sure to tempt those of all ages and walks of life!  A boardwalk trail winds through the park’s tranquil wetlands, where you can spot an array of wildlife.  The Arboretum, a botanical park with several species of trees, bushes and plants is surrounded by winding trails, both paved and natural.  You can find many hikers and bikers enjoying the scenery.

My stop was the Collingwood Labyrinth, an 11-circuit walking path modelled after the famous Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth in France.  This peaceful walk promotes rest, relaxation and reflection.  A perfect end to a blissful few days away!

Well, that’s it for this week’s edition of the Friday Five!  I hope you enjoyed my favourites from the Blue Mountain region. Have you travelled to the area?  Got any favourites you’d like to share?  Leave a comment below, or find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Friday Five – Charity in honour of Mother’s Day!

Friday Five – Charity in honour of Mother’s Day!

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Friday Five…5 things that are bringing me bliss this week! This week I am doing something a little different. In honour of Mother’s Day coming up this Sunday, and since I struggle with what to buy for my mom, I thought I’d share what I did this year…a donation in my mom’s name!

Here are five worthy causes that have crossed my path recently, that I believe in and support. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many of them directly relate to moms, kids and families. Please consider donating to one of these, or share your favourite causes that are close to your heart in the comments below.

1. Kenya Spare a Camera

Meet my friend Norm, a former Kitchener native who now makes his home in California.  He’s the one in the middle, surrounded by those adorable, smiling faces!

In 2010, he had the opportunity to spend a month at Cura Orphanage in Kenya, home to children who have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS.  While helping to raise much needed funds for the orphanage, he also shared his photography hobby with the children.  He came with donated cameras and taught them the basics of photography.  Most had never seen or used a camera, some had never seen pictures of themselves before!

Check out these beautiful images captured by Norm, and by the children of Cura.

Another visit in 2011, and it’s hard not to feel the emotion in this reunion…

Norm is off on a jet plane again, headed for Cura this week, donated cameras in tow, and I can’t wait to see the pictures and posts from this trip!  You can follow on his website, Kenya Spare a Camera, or Facebook group.

I encourage you to read Norm’s post from Mother’s Day 2011, and please consider making a donation.  And if you have any old cameras you’re not using, consider donating those too!  They will definitely be used to capture the bliss found in this remarkable place!

2. Charity: Water

I’ve posted about how much I am enjoying the audio book version of Danielle LaPorte’s White Hot Truth (release date May 16!), and I am so happy that proceeds from the sales of the book are going to two important charities; V-day and CharityWater.org.  Check out the video by clicking on the link above.  See how you can help change lives with clean water, especially this Mother’s Day in honour of moms.

3. Mary’s Place

Mary’s Place is YWCA Kitchener-Waterloo’s emergency shelter for women and families, located in downtown Kitchener. Homelessness is the only criteria for shelter.  While cash and gift card donations are always welcome, they also maintain a wish list of non-monetary items that are accepted and used for the programs.  You can also donate online here.

4. Help for Finding Joy

Rachel Martin is the single mom of 7 behind the popular blog Finding Joy, one of my favourite bloggers, and in some ways, the inspiration for Little Pockets of Bliss.  A few weeks ago, she went through the horrific experience of a fire that completely gutted their minivan.  Luckily they all managed to escape, though Rachel did suffer burns to her foot during the ordeal.

I think losses from a fire hit home for me, as my “real world” job is 911 operator for the fire department.  I handle these calls, knowing that I’m talking to someone in what is, perhaps, the worst moment of their life.  While all that truly matters is that everyone gets out safe and sound, after it’s over, the material losses are still pretty devastating.

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up, to help with medical bills and the cost of replacing her van.  Due to the age of the van, the replacement value will not be much towards the cost of a new vehicle for 8 people.

5. The Strong Oaks Woodshop

My mom picked this cause for my donation in her honour, as my Mother’s Day gift to her!  She came across this post, shared by one of our favourite children’s book authors, Ben Hatke (check out his website for more info on his art and books like Julia’s House for Lost Creatures, and Nobody Like a Goblin).

Again, a devastating fire has claimed everything this company worked for.  While insurance will cover the cost of replacing the building and tools, their specialty is working with reclaimed wood, something you can’t just go pick up at the hardware store.  And while they are waiting to rebuild, their employees and their families will suffer from the lack of work.  Check out the video story of this amazing company and it’s people.  Strong indeed!

Well, that’s it for this week’s Friday Five! From my mom and me, I’d like to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day!  How are you spending the weekend?  Got a great charitable cause you would like to share? Leave a comment below, or come find me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!  I’d love to hear from you!

Friday Five – Holy Guacamole, Young Studios, Guardians Vol 2, Backfire Effect and Little Wonders

Friday Five – Holy Guacamole, Young Studios, Guardians Vol 2, Backfire Effect and Little Wonders

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Friday Five…5 things that are bringing me bliss this week!  Celebrating Cinco de Mayo with Holy Guacamole Fresh Mex, Young Studios Art, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 review, Backfire Effect, and Little Wonders.

1.  Holy Guacamole Fresh Mex

 

This local, family run, mexican food business specializes in “fresh food as fast as we can”! Started five years ago in downtown Kitchener, Holy Guacamole Fresh Mex now has six locations in Kitchener-Waterloo, making it convenient to get your taco or burrito fix!  The “fresh” in fresh mex is key, and here ingredients are just that;  salsas and guacamole are made daily from in-house recipes, meats are sourced locally and cooked in store, veggies are chopped and prepared fresh always.

They recently had the unfortunate experience of having their Facebook page hacked by some not-so-savoury individuals , and had to start fresh (see what I did there…savoury…fresh…pun-ny!).  In true style though, they kept it light and humorous…

Make sure to follow their new page, and if you haven’t tried them yet, or it’s been a while, why not plan a visit!  Today, Cinco de Mayo (May 5) is a great day…

I’ll be there for dinner…take-out of course, because the margaritas will be flowing at home!  Happy Cinco de Mayo!

2. Young Studios

Another interweb find that is rockin’ my art world is Adam Young.

Underwater creatures to date 🐙#polarbear #killerwhale #anglerfish #jellyfish #hermitcrab #turtle #octopus #whale

A post shared by Artist: Adam Young (@young_studios) on


This artist from Newfoundland has truly captured the “down east” spirit that I know from my childhood vacations.  The rich, vibrant colours, coupled with seaside and underwater animal themes is just plain awesome!  Check out his work, and be sure to enter in the draw for a print of his new work “Two Quilts”…although my mom has her eye on this one!!

3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Three generations went to see Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 last night…my mom, my oldest boy and me.  We were eagerly awaiting this sequel, as the original has been a household favourite since it first came out.  I was especially hopeful for an equally smashing soundtrack…you might recall me mentioning our spontaneous dance parties in the living room in a previous edition of the Friday Five (and my apologies for no #GrootDanceBomb video…the boys staunchly opposed recording video evidence of said dance parties).

Feeling a bit disappointed this morning as I write this review.  I was really expecting to download an awesome soundtrack, but the songs were less than memorable (interesting to note, my mom liked the music in this one better than the last…a generational thing?)  We all agreed that the movie dragged a bit, and that the best, most humorous scenes were already in the previews.

There is definitely a concerted effort to develop the characters and delve into more of their backstories in this film.  It wants to be a movie that tugs on your heartstrings, but sadly, it felt forced and fell short (and for someone who cries at the drop of a hat, there was not a tear shed last night).

The bright light was definitely Baby Groot, who stole the show!  Those huge eyes and expressions easily made for the funniest and most memorable moments…I mean, really, who can resist that face?!?

Are you going to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 this weekend?  Let me know your thoughts!  Did you like it?  Better or worse than the original?

4. Backfire Effect

I’ve seen this one quite a few times in my Facebook newsfeed this week.  It’s an interesting read, and certainly fodder for a lot of conversations.  This one is the “clean” version, without all the swear-y bits (although I personally like the swear-y bits…you can find that version here).  Thoughts? On the swear-y thing, or otherwise!  Lol!

5. Little Wonders

Had a little visit down memory lane this week, watching Disney’s “Meet the Robinsons” with the boys.  The movie came out way back in 2007, when my oldest was just 4 years old, and I was pregnant with his little brother.  Shortly thereafter, our family changed, due to divorce, and we became “me and the boys”, the three musketeers (another story for another time).

This song was, and still is, somewhat of an anthem for us.  My oldest knows the song by heart, can identify it from the first few notes when we are out and about and it happens to come on the radio or in a store.  “Mom, it’s our song!”

I tear up every time, but yep, it’s our song!  Pass the tissues…

Well, that’s it for this week’s Friday Five!  What was blissful in your week? Leave a comment below, or come find me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!  I’d love to hear from you!

Friday Five – Chinese Food, Disney, Mother, Art and Nasa

Friday Five – Chinese Food, Disney, Mother, Art and Nasa

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Friday Five…5 things that are bringing me bliss this week!  From chinese food to Disney, motherhood and art, there were so many inspiring things to share with you this week!  Enjoy!

1. 126 Chinese Restaurant

My family is always on the hunt for good Chinese food, and I think we have tried every local restaurant over the years.  Yes, I do mean “Canadian” Chinese food, but that is how I was raised.  I can recall fond memories of Christmas eve at the Tien Ho Inn, or neighbour get-togethers at the Waikiki restaurant.  We always had sweet and sour chicken balls, bbq pork fried rice, almond guy ding, and of course, egg rolls.

There have also been adventures over the years…a traditional Szechuan restaurant in Quebec, where we struggled to order from an unfamiliar menu, or a surprising octopus dish in Toronto that I am still haunted by decades later. My tastes have diversified as I’ve grown up, and I now enjoy a bit more spice, or noodle based dishes.  Octopus doesn’t scare me quite as much, although I still can’t bring myself to eat it, even the tentacle-y bits of calamari.

Last Saturday my father suggested ordering in Chinese, and so began the hunt for which restaurant we would try.  I recalled seeing 126 Chinese Restaurant in my Facebook feed, and a friend had raved about it, so I suggested we try it.  A quick 15 min drive to pick up our order, although I have heard that delivery is quick and reliable too.  While the restaurant doesn’t have great curb appeal, the close proximity to hotels, motels and nearby expressway makes it appealing for take-out.

I was warmly greeted when I entered the restaurant, and while paying for my order, she asked how I was enjoying the beautiful weather.  A nice touch, when it seems I’m encountering less and less “service” lately.  We ordered our traditional fare, plus beef and broccoli, and the house lo mein (for me, the only spice lover in the house). Even after stopping on the way home for McDonald’s for the boys (I know, but I’m still working on their Chinese palate), the food was still piping hot.  Veggies were all fresh and crunchy, and the flavour was spot on for our “Canadian” tastebuds.

The spread
Beef with Broccoli
Chicken with Vegetables and Almonds
Chicken Balls, large chunks of chicken, not overwhelmed with batter
BBQ Pork Fried Rice
House Lo Mein, shrimp, chicken, pork, and not too spicy

I think we have found our new go-to for Chinese take-out!  Give 126 Chinese Restaurant a try and let me know if you agree!

2. Disney Vacation Planning

 

Mickeys Not-So-Scary Halloween Party 2014

I’m dreaming a little bit this week, although I have no current vacation plans, so it’s a bit bittersweet.  But I’m also breathing a sigh of relief, as the 2017 Free Dining promotion was announced, and I am not a part of it this time!

In a former life, I moonlighted as a travel agent specializing in Disney vacation planning. While I thoroughly enjoyed helping my clients plan their vacations, educating them on the best ways to tour the vast expanse that is Walt Disney World, or sail the high seas on Disney Cruise Line, I did eventually have to give it up.  Being a single mom with a full-time job elsewhere, priorities reigned supreme.  Promotion time for Disney means hours spent on the phone to adjust client bookings.  Tireless travel agents from all over go the extra mile to get this deal for their clients.

One such agent is Cindy Dennis at Pure Magic Vacations.  She has been vacationing at Walt Disney World since she was a child, and now with her own family.  I had the privilege of calling her my client on more than one of her Disney vacations!  We have now become friends, and she is the travel agent, helping others plan their vacations!  While she specializes in Disney destinations for Canadian travellers, she also plans vacations to other popular Florida destinations, and beyond!  Her travel and planning experience gives her a great advantage when helping plan everything from transportation and accommodations, to dining reservations and touring plans.  There is never any extra fees for her services, and it can save you countless hours of research and stress!

Thinking about a Disney vacation?  Contact Cindy and she can help you navigate the “World of Disney”, helping you plan the vacation of your dreams!

Email: cindy@puremagicvacations.com

Facebook: @cindyatpuremagicvacations

3. Mother with Carrie-Anne Moss

Some may know Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity, from the famed Matrix movies.  Or more recently from her television work on the series Humans or Jessica Jones.  But where I most intimately know her from is her personal offerings on Annapurna Living, a website designed by her to inspire and uplift women.  I have been an ardent follower since the beginning.  What I have received is so much wisdom and guidance in my own journey as a woman, mother, spiritual seeker.  While most of the offerings are from Carrie herself, she has also gathered a group of other amazing women, all with stories and experiences to share.

One of the best gifts I ever gave myself was enrolling in Mother two years ago, for Mother’s Day of course!  Carrie-Anne Moss has partnered with Natalie Christensen, writer and parenting coach, to deliver this four-week course that “cultivates intimacy, self-discovery and connection” in motherhood.  Words cannot describe how much I gained from the wisdom here.  It has made me a better mother, more patient, understanding, and forgiving, mostly of myself.

I whole-heartedly encourage you to check it out, and join me as I revisit this course, it’s teachings, and all the women of Annapurna Living!  The course is only offered once a year, and starts May 1!

4.  Tim Bengel Art

This showed up on my Facebook feed, and I was in awe.  Watch for yourself and see.

5.  Nasa Free Library

How cool is this?!?!

“NASA officially has launched a new resource to help the public search and download out-of-this-world images, videos and audio files by keyword and metadata searches from NASA.gov. The NASA Image and Video Library website consolidates imagery spread across more than 60 collections into one searchable location.

https://images.nasa.gov

NASA Image and Video Library allows users to search, discover and download a treasure trove of more than 140,000 NASA images, videos and audio files from across the agency’s many missions in aeronautics, astrophysics, Earth science, human spaceflight, and more. Users now can embed content in their own sites and choose from multiple resolutions to download. The website also displays the metadata associated with images.”

Well, that’s it for this week’s Friday Five!  What was blissful in your week?  Let me know!

 

Friday Five – Mindfulness, Frappuccinos, Sunflowers, Baby Groot and Nugget Boy!

Friday Five – Mindfulness, Frappuccinos, Sunflowers, Baby Groot and Nugget Boy!

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Friday Five…5 things that are bringing me bliss this week!  This week I’ve got some bliss from around town, around the web, and as far away as Hawaii!

1. The Nourished Life

It’s inspiring when you can connect with like-minded, soulful people, who live life to the fullest, finding that balance between being a parent, and working or running their own business.  A perfect example is Angela Higgins, founder of The Nourished Life.  I’ve been a client of design, nutrition and reiki, but now I am blessed to call her friend!

Angela recently launched her brand new gorgeous website, The Nourished Life.  Combining her background in interior design, Feng Shui, nutrition, mindfulness and reiki, Angela offers complete coaching to help you live a healthier life…mind, body and home!  One of her current offerings is Mindful Kids, available now in Waterloo, with plans to expand in Kitchener and Cambridge.  You could even host one in your own home!

Contact Angela for all the details!  Check out the new website, her blog, where she shares tips, recipes, and more, or follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

2. Starbucks Unicorn Frappucino

No, it isn’t a rumour, or a figment of your imagination.  It’s real. Fleetingly.

According to Starbucks, “The Unicorn Frappuccino® Blended Beverage is a colour-changing, flavour-changing, sweet and pleasantly sour spectacle, here for just five days: now through April 23.”

In the name of the blog, I had to try it.  It looked like so much fun (albeit a sugar-induced coma just looking at it)!  Timing was good, as I was planning to spend some reading time at my local Chapters/Starbucks while the boy was at cadets.  I was forewarned in the afternoon that it might not be as sparkly and sugar laden as advertised.  My mama messaged me a pic of hers, with #trenchmouth.  Inside joke in my family, but point taken.

Arriving at Gateway Starbucks, there was a pretty decent line-up of people, and upon closer inspection, a line-up of cups waiting for unicorn fraps to be made.  A good sign??  When my order was ready, I held up my cup and asked the barista how things had been and how many of these she had already made today.  Her answer, “I’ve only been here an hour, but it’s been A LOT!”  I get the distinct impression the smile might have been a little forced.

Here is my tall unicorn frappuccino, lactose free, with whip (because…whipped cream)

I thought it was a pretty good approximation to the media photos, especially considering how many they were churning out!

So, verdict?  A bit of disappointment.  I expected more flavour from the purple sweet cream base, more along the line of the cotton candy frap from a few years back.  A little further in, and the blue drizzle started to mix in, the drink got overwhelmingly sour.  I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who thought this, as evidence from the puckered expressions all around me.

You have to applaud Starbucks marketing on this one though.  For something that likely isn’t going to be added to the menu, nor likely to be ordered a second time, advertising it for a limited time (plus the deluge on social media) made for some pretty long lines and myriad of orders on an otherwise unremarkable Thursday in spring.  Kudos to you Starbucks!

It was a fun and colourful adventure.  And come on, unicorns, so there’s that.

3. Sunflowers on Maui

Anyone who knows me, knows I have a slight obsession with all things Hawaii.  And because I can’t visit as often as I would like, I tend to feed my obsession with social media and Hawaii based blogs.  Lately my Facebook and Instagram feeds have been popping up with sunflowers on Maui, like this one from A Maui Blog.


Now, I don’t recall seeing huge fields of sunflowers on my last visit, so some further investigation was required.

Turns out, this field in Maui’s central valley is the work of Pacific Biodiesel.  The 115-acre area is the largest biofuel crop project on Hawaii, on land formerly used for sugar cane production, an industry that shut down production on Maui last year. While there has been big job losses, the huge smoke clouds from cane burning won’t be missed!  It’s nice to see something bright and cheery in it’s place!

If you want more of the science and technology behind it, you can find all the details here. Lots of people are sharing their own pics of the sunflower fields.  A quick search of the web using #mauisunflowers, and you’ll find some amazing shots! What a great way to bring a sunny pocket of bliss to the world!

I miss the sugar cane and pineapples and all, but these sunflowers are way more photogenic. #mauisunflowers

A post shared by Todd Kawasaki (@kawasakiphotography) on


4. Groot Dance Bomb

Guardians of the Galaxy is one movie the boys and I watch over and over and over again.  The soundtrack is on all our devices, and there is spontaneous dance parties in the living room on occasion.  Let me tell you, we are stoked for GG Volume 2!!

So when I happened upon this…

…I am already planning our own video!!  Baby Groot and all!!!

Marvel and Disney are teaming up to do some goodwill, or Groot-will.  For every like or share of this Groot Dance Bomb video between now and May 5, they will make a donation to plant a tree!  Up to 250,000 trees! Better yet, make your own video and post it with the hash tag #GrootDancebomb, and they will donate too!

Watch my Facebook page for our #GrootDancebomb video, coming soon!  And don’t forget to check out Guardians of the Galaxy 2 when it hits theatres on May 5!

5. Nugget Boy

I’ve been following this crazy story for a while now, just because it’s so much fun!  16-yr old Carter Wilkerson from Reno, Nevada decided to ask Wendy’s on twitter, how many retweets would it take for him to get a year’s supply of chicken nuggets.  Wendy’s reply?  18 million.  Apparently, challenge accepted, and Carter is already up to 3.2 million retweets!


But not so fast, Carter! Ellen DeGeneres is the current record holder for retweets, with the famous Oscar selfie pic.  And she ain’t having some nugget boy take her record away!

But leave it to Ellen to find a solution…help a kid out on his nugget quest, while maintaining her record, and bringing smiles to ever more of the world!

So that’s it for me this week!  What was blissful in your week?  I would love to know! Leave a comment below!

Friday Five – Happy Easter!

Friday Five – Happy Easter!

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Friday Five…5 things that are bringing me bliss this week!  It’s the Easter long weekend here for us, and I’m lucky to be off the whole weekend with the boys.  We’re hosting my parents, sisters and all the cousins Sunday morning for Easter brunch and a mini Easter egg hunt in the backyard.

1. Easter Memories

Easter egg “hunt” 2010

Every Easter brings memories of Easter 2010.  The spring weather that year was warm enough for us to have an outdoor egg “hunt”. There’s not a whole lot of landscaping in our little yard, just two skinny trees, so no real hiding places.  Easter morning dawned, and after the excitement of baskets from the bunny we proceeded outside to hunt for eggs.  Right away my little boy exclaimed “I found a egg!”, holding up his prize for everyone to see. A few seconds later “Look, I found ‘nother one!” and “Look, ‘nother one!”.  Louder and faster each time!  Not hard, when the eggs were just scattered across the lawn.  All of the adults were watching from the deck, doubled over, dying with laughter at the cuteness overload.

I can’t wait to do it again with my nieces and nephew this weekend.  Hopefully we’ll get more of the same exclamations and squeals of laughter!  I’m certain there will be lots of chocolate and jelly beans consumed, and I am fully prepared for the sugar coma to come!

2. City Cafe Bakery

City Cafe Bakery

It’s been too long since I’ve visited City Cafe Bakery, so my mama and I decided a trip was in order!  We visited the original cafe at 175 West Av in Kitchener.  There are two other locations at 50 Ottawa St S and 499 Lancaster St W. Unfortunately, the location in Cambridge had to close it’s doors recently, and I’m sure they will be missed.

City Cafe has a very loyal following of regular customers who flock to their locations, some daily, for the fresh baked bread and croissants, or bagels and pizza baked in an open wood-fired oven.

The heart of the operation, the wood-fired oven
Fresh baked bread, bagels, croissants and more in the open cafe

You won’t find a cash register, nor debit or credit card machine.  Cash only, dropped into an old bus fare box, on the honour system, makes take-out quick and easy.  (If you need change, the staff will be glad to help)  Just grab a bagel, slice and pop in the toaster yourself, pour your own coffee, pay for your purchases and you’re on your way!

Cash only honour system

We chose to dine in, slow down and enjoy the coffee (supplied by my favourite Baden Coffee Company). Perfect with buttery, flaky croissants, slathered in cream cheese and raspberry jam, or nutella.  The dining area is small, but cozy, with vintage, quirky decor, and the signature black and white checkered tables.  In warmer weather, there is also bistro style seating out front, and the open windows help make the space feel much more open and airy.  You’ll sometimes find people reading, writing, or just catching up with friends.  The mood is always light, fun and comfortable, the perfect neighbourhood hang-out.

Yum!
Checkered tables and chairs, and a vintage feel, welcome you to slow down and enjoy!

If you’re local and you haven’t checked out City Cafe Bakery, or if it’s been a while, be sure to stop by soon!  Croissants would be a great addition for Sunday brunch, just sayin’.

3.  Malala Yousafzai

This week, Malala Yousafzai, the human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, became an honorary citizen of Canada. I watched the live broadcast, and have to admit, through joyous tears and laughter, I was very proud to be a Canadian in that moment.

In her address to parliament, she spoke of the heroism of Canadians, our commitment to helping refugees, while our neighbours close their borders.  She challenged Canadians to do more to advance the global rights of women and girls, specifically the right to an education.  This is something I strongly believe in, and it was a good reminder.  It was also a good teaching moment for my boys.

While her speech was incredibly moving and inspiring, she also drew moments of laughter from the house.  Giving thanks for her honorary Canadian citizenship, she noted that she still requires a visa to visit, but that would be a conversation for another time.  She also made mention of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his affinity for practicing yoga and tattoos, and that her friends were more interested in his looks, than in her receiving the citizenship!

To learn more about Malala, her work and her vision, and to support this worthwhile endeavour, visit her site here.

4. It’s a Necessity

photo credit Necesse Photography

For over a year, I have been following the blog It’s a Necessity.  Here you’ll meet the Stolz family, Genevieve, Eben and their adorable girls, Arias and Ellia.   They document their adventures living on their sailboat, the Necesse, for the past seven years, cruising around the Caribbean, side trips to exotic destinations, or visiting family in Canada. All this while raising their two beautiful girls and making a living. It’s hard not to live vicariously through their blog posts.  With a knack for writing engaging articles full of travel tips, product reviews, and gorgeous photographs, Genevieve documents their life while inviting readers to dive in and live their own adventures!

While I don’t know them personally, I found myself crying along with them in the latest post, Leaving Our Current Life Behind.  They have sold the beloved Necesse, packed up and boarded a plane, leaving St. Thomas behind.  It wasn’t exactly sudden…a post a year ago listed different ideas they were considering and asked reader’s advice about what they should do next. Yet the overwhelming emotion of actually saying goodbye to Necesse, and leaving the island behind, it seemed to come too soon.

But new adventures are already shaping up for this family!  Currently riding the waves kiteboarding in El Cuyo, Mexico, they are off to explore more of this world.  Who knows where they will end up next, but I will be eagerly following along from my laptop here at home!  You can find them on Facebook, and Instagram in between blog posts.

 5. The Fate of the Furious

Yes, we just returned from seeing The Fate of the Furious, the eighth movie in the Fast and Furious franchise.  I could use the excuse that I am the mom of true “boy’s boys”, the kind that love action/adventure, fast cars and blowing stuff up.  But truth be told, I am a big fan of the movies myself.  And really, who can argue watching Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, and Jason Statham all in the same movie??  These are 3 of my top 10 favourite hotties!!

From the previews, we all knew it would have to be something big to make Dom turn on his family to work for bad guy Cypher (played by Charlize Theron, who is a serious bad-ass in this role btw!!!), and it did not disappoint.  The best part in my opinion though? Dame Helen Mirren. ‘Nuff said.

Reviews from my boys?  A solid 8/10.  Not the best of the franchise, but still thoroughly enjoyable.  It’s not hard to please these two though.  Fast cars, a few laughs, explosions and popcorn, and you can count them in every time.

Well, that’s it for this week’s edition of the Friday Five!  From our house to yours, we wish you a Happy Easter!  Hope you are enjoying the long weekend with friends and family!

What was blissful in your world this week?  Leave a comment below!

 

 

Friday Five – All the senses blissed out this week

Friday Five – All the senses blissed out this week

Welcome to another edition of the Friday Five…5 things that are bringing me bliss this week!  This one will be quick, as it’s a PD Day today, so my kids are home from school, and we are planning to spend some good quality time together (well, they are planning to play video games…I’m about to be the mean mom and make them turn it off)!

All the senses are blissed out this week…audio book and music for the ears, photo challenge for the eyes, leather smell and feel, and endless coffee for the tastebuds!

1. Danielle Laporte’s White Hot Truth

White Hot Truth – Danielle Laporte

I’ve been following Danielle Laporte for a little while.  I am a fan of her Truth Bombs, that she’s Canadian, and she tells it like it is, no apologies.  Her new book is White Hot Truth – Clarity for keeping it real on your spiritual path – from one seeker to another.  While the book is not officially released until May 16, 2017, if you pre-order it from select retailers, you can download a copy of the audiobook right away!  You can also join the White Hot Truth Book Club on Facebook, no book required.

I have been listening in the bath, in the car running errands, in the kitchen while I’m cooking.  And I’m finding I want to go back and listen again!  Loads of talking points, thinking points, points that make me laugh or shout out loud “So true!” or “No kidding!”  While I can’t wait to get the book in my hot little hands, listening to Danielle read it out loud, as if directly to me, is some pretty powerful stuff.  Thoroughly enjoying it, and I highly recommend getting your own copy (because I’m not lending mine out for a while!)

2. Rising Appalachia

Rising Appalachia

Music is something I am finding more and more that brings me bliss.  It can reflect my mood, or change my mood, depending on what I’m listening too.  Spotify is my favourite player…for $10/month, I can search, save, listen and create my own playlists.  “My Zen” for writing in my journal or meditating, “Mellow” for when I’m creating art or want to relax, or “Good Day” for the songs that lift my spirit and make me dance around the house (usually in the bathroom, singing and grooving along).

A group I came across this week, after listening to an interview with Alexis Cohen, for her Art Medicine Masterclass, is Rising Appalachia.  Sisters Leah and Chloe, along with their band, have created music that is soulful, folk, acoustic, rhythmic, with a touch of magic and mystic.  I am instantly in love, and have already save their music to my Spotify playlists.

3. April Love 2017 challenge

April Love 2017 – Susannah Conway

It’s not too late to join in on Susannah Conway‘s photo challenge April Love 2017.  It’s “an invitation to explore self-love, self-care and self-compassion in a community setting”.  There is a Facebook Group you can join, post on Instagram (#AprilLove2017), or post on your own blog (comment with a link below so I can follow along).  You can participate as much or as little as you like.  So far I’ve only missed one day (Day 4. Noon, because night shift=sleep), but I am really enjoying not only capturing and posting my own pictures (check them all out on my Instagram), but seeing everyone else’s interpretations of the same prompts!

4. Chic Sparrow

Last year, I fell down the traveller’s notebook/bullet journalling rabbit hole.  If you’re saying “what?” then I invite you to google, but be forewarned.  There may or may not have been hours (and hours…and hours) lost on multiple Pinterest boards, YouTube videos, and websites visited.  I eventually took the plunge and ordered my very first traveller’s notebook from Chic Sparrow.

And then I ordered another one.  And another.  And another.  There is a support group, and luckily a buy/sell community too.  So I have sold a few of my acquisitions in my search for the perfect, functional, beautiful notebooks that fit me and my needs.  I am now down to just these three, my journal (Wide Creme Black Beauty), my on-the-go notebook (Personal Creme Brulee), and my research/courses/blog planner (Wide Tri-Fold from an older era).

My Chic Sparrow traveller’s notebooks

Although I haven’t compared a lot of traveller’s notebook makers, I absolutely love Chic Sparrow.  Their customer service is second to none, quality and attention to detail is superb.  But the smell and the feel of the leather…divine!  People think I’m weird because I keep sniffing and squeezing my notebooks.  Lol!

…And I might have just ordered another.

5. Waterloo Potters Workshop Spring Sale

For my local fans, the Waterloo Potters’ Workshop semi-annual sale is coming up soon, April 21-23, at the Waterloo Memorial Rec Complex (it goes back and forth between here and Rim Park for the fall sale, so be sure not to mix them up…as I have done in the past).  Over 40 potters display their creations for sale, and there is so many beautiful pieces, it is hard to know where to look first, or to pare down your purchases!  Die-hard fans know to get there early for the best selection.

My favourite mugs were bought at the sale a few years ago, which I use daily for coffee, tea, and this week golden milk!

My favourite pottery mug!

That’s it for me this week!  What’s blissful in your world?  Leave me a comment below!