Friday, December 30, 2011

It Was the Best of Years, It Was the Worst of Years

In many ways this year was very tough - career frustrations and the loss of someone close to me gave me a lot of stress. However, many good things happened this year too, and when it comes right down to it, I think it's best to focus on the positive. So, I thought it would be great to make a list of the 'best of' moments from my year. I hope you all have a few fun and fabulous things to put on your own list!

January
1. First skate on the Canada Games Oval
2. Visiting Sue the T-Rex

February
1. 1st Geocaching event (Fortress Louisbourg)
2. 1st Oscar Party (rosewater whoopie pies!)
3. Free Joel Plaskett concert in Grand Parade, thanks to the Canada Games
4. Brazilian Carnival
5. New job (event planning!)

March
1. Girl's weekend at White Point Beach Lodge (bunnies, board games and beach)

April
1. Learning how to salsa at Club Caliente
2. Easter weekend trip to PEI with the boy (also our 6-month anniversary!)
3. 1st Yelp! Halifax Elite party at the Atlantica (reconnecting with old acquaintences)

May
1. Making my 1st quiche (Mother's Day!)

June
1. 1st Geocaching challenge (Nova Scotia Provincial Parks)
2. Discovering Deadman's Island
3. Greek-fest!
4. Tom Selleck siting in downtown Halifax

July
1. TeamBuy Halifax 'Choose Your Own Adventure' blog challenge
2. Free Jazzfest tickets and discovering Harry Manx and Sisters Euclid
3. Softball tournament fun with the boy's colleagues
4. Riding a bike for the first time in...a LONG time (Bike and Bean!)
5. Wedding of a University friend
6. New cat!

August
1. Wedding of my childhood best friend
2. Halifax Beerfest!
3. Exploring McNab's Island
4. Hike at York Redoubt (1st visit!)

September
1. Long-weekend trip to Cape Breton - Whycocomagh, Highlands National Park, Meat Cove
2. Elton John concert in PEI!
3. 1st visit to Oaklawn Farm Zoo

October
1. Road trip to New England (Maine, New Hampshire, Salem, Boston)
2. Me and the boy's 1 year anniversary
3. Visit to Luckett's Vineyards
4. New job!

November
1. Meeting Nicholas Brendon at Hal-Con Sci-Fi convention

December
1. Visit from my brother and his husband (all the way from New Zealand!)
2. Who knows?! There's still 1.5 days left in the month :)

January 2012 onward...
I guess we'll see :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Special Delivery

This past weekend, the boy and I took a little trip to Bide Awhile animal shelter. No, we didn't go to pick out a new pet (although I would love to adopt every cat in the place - alas, I can only handle one cat at this stage in my life), but to make a special delivery.

I decided, since there really isn't anything I need or want (and I don't like my friends and family feeling pressure to find something I will like/need), instead of birthday gifts I would accept donations of pet stuff this year. I got a few things from generous friends and bought a few things myself, and we took it all over to the shelter on Saturday.


A bag of cat litter, a litter pan, some toys and food may not seem like a lot but this kind of stuff is really valuable to a shelter like Bide Awhile - they depend so much not only on monetary donations, but on donations of supplies. They not only need to feed the cats and dogs and provide beds for them, they also need supplies to keep the office running, to clean and disinfect cages, and distribute much-needed medications. Most people wouldn't think of packages of paper, bleach and facecloths as important items for an animal shelter, but they are often needed just as much as the usual staples.




After we made our delivery, we stopped into the 'cat room' to get/give some cuddles and play with the kitties up for adoption. The Director of the shelter was there talking to another visitor, and pointed out something really fascinating about one of the cats - it was born a hermaphrodite! i.e. with both male and female reproductive parts! He said in 25 years it was only the 2nd he had ever seen. I thought that was so interesting, and an important lesson considering the cat looked like any other in the room, yet had its own special (hidden) characteristics. Of course, it is sort of a moot point now since he/she is both spayed and neutered, but interesting just the same!

The aforementioned little guy...erm, girl...erm, cat
It's a cliche, but it really does feel good to help out those in need at this time of year...well, at all times of the year actually. I have decided to take a donation to the shelter twice a year if I can. I figure it's the least I can do.

Is there a particular group, charity or cause in your community that you really care about? Consider make a special delivery to them sometime. You never know - you may just make someone's day...and learn something fascinating!




Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bouquets of Sharpened Pencils

Remember when I entered this contest to win $500 in books from Chronicle? Weeeeeell, alas I did not win. Again. What can I say - I'm not very lucky I guess.

Ah well, there's always next year! And congrats to the winner! Besides, that's not all they wrote because - as a thank you for participating in the promotion - Chronicle is giving a great discount on book orders:


up to 35% off + Free Ground Shipping
Enter HAULIDAYS at checkout

Go forth and purchase books at a discount! For some reason this statement makes me think of Joe Fox - "I sell cheap books! I do! So sue me". (completely off-topic but You've Got Mail is one of the cutest movies ever).

Speaking of books, I sorta found out about one of my big Christmas gifts a little early...


AHHHHH - that's right, baby. It's a Kobo Vox e-reader (for my American friends, this is basically the Canadian Kindle - the Canindle?). I just love the concept of these things - I love having hundreds of books and magazines and newspapers right at my fingertips with no wasteful piles of paper and ink (or sagging, space-sucking bookshelves). I take the bus every day and always have a book with me to read, so this thing will definitely get some use. Very handy for the morning commute.

Ok, so it's not really a surprise but my mom had to tell me I was getting it so she could make sure to get me the one I wanted. And this is my big gift - I find now that I'm no longer a kid (well, at least not in age) I am more interested in getting one main gift every Christmas than piles and piles of gifts. It's more about quality - i.e. getting one gift that will be really useful to me - than quantity - i.e. getting as many gifts as possible. Last year I asked for a Tassimo coffeemaker. Next year I'll probably ask for a vacuum or something similarly lame.

So, what are you asking for for Christmas? Do you have an e-reader? If so, what do you think of it? What are your thoughts on e-books vs. paper books?

Happy Haulidays, all! Only one week away (as hard as it is to believe).

Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Haulidays (take two)



One of my favourite gifts to get for Christmas (well, anytime really) is new books. I especially like books that teach me about quirky things I didn't know before. Chronicle Books publishes a lot of books like this - I love perusing their site and checking out their new fun books. There are so many of their books that speak to my passions and interests, I could EASILY spend $500 in one-go.


Speaking of spending $500 in one-go: Last year I entered the Happy Haulidays contest to try and win $500 of books - alas, I was not successful but it was still fun to shop around and write the post, so I thought why not do it again?!

The cool thing about the contest this year is that they are not only awarding one lucky blogger AND one lucky commenter $500 in books, but they will also donate $500 worth of books to the winner's chosen charity! Cool, huh?

If I were to win, choosing a charity to receive the donation would be tough because there are so many organizations that I think are deserving. But if I had to choose, I would probably split the $500 donation prize between my two best friends, who both teach elementary school. One works as a resource teacher in a school in my city, and the other teaches a kindergarten class in Cold Lake, Alberta. They both work so hard at their jobs, and they are always spending their own money on much-needed supplies for their classroom (I'm sorry, but whoever says teachers make too much money and get too much time off have NO idea what their job actually entails) so I would love to help them buy some educational and fun books for their kids (like perhaps this one, or this).

I feel that fostering a love of reading and learning at a young age is so important, and it makes me proud that my friends are helping so many students do this. A few hundred dollars worth of books would be a great help for them. I'm not sure if this technically counts as a "charity" but I think they are deserving.

Behold my list of chosen books (I think it's safe to say I would have no problem spending $500 on this site. No sir). If you like what you see, don't forget to comment below for your chance to win too! And stay tuned  in case we win! Happy Haulidays, y'all :)


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Christmas Kiss

I admit it, I'm a bit of a Christmas freak. I'm one of those dorks that gets really excited about silly things like parades, peppermint treats and holiday drinks at Starbucks. And it's hitting me hard this year - as soon as November 1st rolled around, the sugarplums started dancing through my brain and they only spin faster with every passing week.

One of my favourite things about the holidays is Christmas music! There is something just so comforting about Christmas songs, am I right? They are so timeless - they harken back to the past but can also be interpreted in so many different, fun ways they continue to also be modern in an odd way.

It is sort of a give-in nowadays that any artist who has sold any respectable number of records has to make a Christmas album, which is great and all, but lets be honest this means that many of them are warmed over cheese-casserole - booooring and predictable.

However, I recently downloaded a couple of albums that are anything but boring. They both have a really retro, vintage feel - one more folky and one more swingy/jazzy - and feature singers with super-rich, warm voices that manage to be delightfully 'crackly' and soft at the same time. Both contain some of the most recognizable Christmas tunes ever sung, but they also feature a few that I have never heard before. I have been lucky enough to see one of them in concert here in Halifax (she lives here in fact!) and the other stars in one of my new favourite tv shows (it seriously cracks me up to the point of snorting every week).

#1 A Very She & Him Christmas
This is the one with the more "folky"sound I described before - there is a lot of acoustic guitar and ukulele, which is awesome! It's a little bit vintage country, a little bit Hawaiian luau and I kind of like that! It feels very June Carter and Johnny Cash Christmas to me. Most of the songs on this album have a quieter more relaxed feeling, perfect for listening to while sitting in front of a fire with a hot toddy.
*On a completely unrelated note, I want to steal Zooey D's hair - as noted in my YKYLF post here. Second completely unrelated note - are you watching New Girl yet? If not, you need to do that, like, yesterday!*


Every time I listen to this song it ends up stuck in my head all. day. long. You've been warned.

#2 It Snowed, Meaghan Smith
Meaghan is a singer originally from Ontario but now calls Halifax home - I went to see her perform with Symphony Nova Scotia earlier this year and fell in love with her 40's style voice and music. Her songs have this great old-timey swing feel to them - lots of horn. They make you want to boogie. Her Christmas album has a couple of original songs (one that is really not Christmasey at all in fact, which is an odd addition, but kind of refreshing at the same time). I can't wait to put this on while we put up the tree and decorate at my mom's on Saturday.

I think Christmas Kiss is my favourite so far - SO ADORABLE! Alas, I am not able to find it online anywhere (although you can listen to samples here), so you will have to settle for Silver Bells (which sounds like a pretty good compromise to me!). *P.S. I want to steal her outfit from this video*



For the next 6 weeks, it's all Christmas songs all the time, baby! Just not Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time - god, that song's annoying. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Stay Crafty, My Friends

Found here
I have always been a creative person. When I was a kid, I spent an inordinate amount of time in my basement making things - drawing cartoons and fashion sketches, painting rocks, making crafts (don't worry, I did have friends). I was always one of the "artsy" girls in school - always first in line for any artistic extracurriculars like art clubs and fashion shows.

I do not have many regrets in life - I believe we do the best we can with the information we have at the time - but one major thing I am not happy about is the fact that I seem to have lost this part of myself. Well, not lost - I would still say I am creative (I am pursuing a freelance career in writing, so that's something) but just not in the same way.

I don't have the same passion and freedom of expression that I once had. I think a combination of increased life stress and responsibility (and therefore limited time) has doused that creative fire I once had. I have so little spare time sometimes that I often just want to use it to 'veg' and relax, not to sit and paint or make a craft. I hate this. I hate that I have become such a responsible adult that I have lost touch with my creative side.

Since I do feel a little bit of this creative fire still burns, I think I could find that passion again. I think I could find that drive to create again if I just dig hard enough, but sometimes I wonder - is it really possible to get back something that you have lost touch with (seemingly) so long ago? Is is really possible to go back to who you were, grab a little piece of it, and bring it into the present? And even if I can do this, would I be able to produce anything that is actually worthwhile, or am I too out of practice? Sometimes I wonder why I should even bother when it seems to be so much work, but if it is something I feel this disappointed about losing, isn't that a clue that it is something that I truly love?

This is something that I have been thinking a lot about lately, I suppose because the past few months have been particularly stressful ones in my life and I have been searching for relief and emotional therapy wherever I can find it. This, in addition to my issues with obtaining a permanent career forcing me to consider 'alternate' sources of income (hence the push for paying writing jobs) as well HOW exactly I want to bring in money...can I settle for a job that pays the bills, or do I have the confidence to go for a career that is built upon my passions?

I would love to join the ranks of these talented and creative gals with their Etsy shops and their cute, crafty projects. I feel like I could join them but I am not sure how, or if I have it in me. What would I even offer customers? What do I have a talent for that others would be attracted to enough to pay money for? Furthermore, where can I find the time to put the necessary effort into building such a career?

I suppose this post is just sort of a general musing about the state of my life at the moment and my fears and questions surrounding it, but I would love for those of you out there reading this who do own a creative business (full or part-time) to weigh-in! How do YOU do it? Do you think you can re-light a creative fire?

In conclusion, allow me to give kudos to those of you who DO run your own creative business, whether you make a living from it or not. You had a passion and you went for it and that deserves praise. There are so many, like me, who are either too scared or too lost to go for it (or who are not even sure they DO want it!) so you should be really proud of yourself.

Designers, artists, and generally crafty and creative mavens of the world - I salute you.

*Update: Check out this cool contest I just found out about today, related to this post -  'If You Could Start a Crafting Business Tomorrow What Would It Be?' 1 lucky grand-prize winner will be able to discuss their business idea with Ilasco in a 30-minute phone conversation! Plus she/he will receive a copy of Craft Inc. The 4 runners-up will also receive a copy of Craft Inc.

**Read the comments below the contest post to get some amazing business ideas!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Permission to Suck

Damn, did I ever need to read this post yesterday. I had pretty much the worst day ever at work (being yelled at over the phone by a rude and conceited professor is super-fun), and was feeling pretty down on myself when I noticed this article linked to my friend's Facebook wall. It came at the perfect time, and contains a whole lotta truth - truth that we do not acknowledge enough. We are all so busy trying to do-do-do and be perfect at everything that we forget we are human and make mistakes sometimes and that this is normal. Or at least I do this - TOO much, in fact. And sometimes I need a bitch-slap up the side of the head to remind me to cut myself a little slack. I figured if I benefited from reading this that lots of other people would too, hence the sharing.

Preach, Ash. Preach.*

(Source)

It’s okay if…you’re drowning in self-doubt.
It’s okay if…you don’t know where to start.
It’s okay if…you started, but want to stop.
It’s okay if…you sometimes mix up your priorities.
It’s okay if…you didn’t say the right thing.
It’s okay if…you really fucked up the first time around.
It’s okay if…you fucked up the second time around, too.
It’s okay if…you’re overwhelmed.
It’s okay if…you get down on yourself.
It’s okay if…you’re worried everyone knows more than you.
It’s okay if…you don’t have enough self-confidence.
It’s okay if…you’re secretly afraid that people will laugh at you.
It’s okay if…you question your own capabilities.
It’s okay if…you spent all weekend doing nothing but watching movies.
It’s okay if…you sometimes suck.
It’s okay if…you sometimes really suck.
It’s okay if…you haven’t reached your potential yet.
It’s okay if…you’re not sure that you ever really will.
It’s okay if…you sort of resent the people doing better than you.
It’s okay if…you sometimes think they’re full of it, too.
It’s okay if…you didn’t respond to that person’s email.
It’s okay if…you just don’t fucking feel like it today.
It’s okay if…you have no idea what to do next.
It’s okay if…you do know what to do next…but still can’t seem to make yourself.
It’s okay if…you just couldn’t find the time this week.
It’s okay if…you don’t want to do it the way they say you should.

None of it matters.


Because…

YOU ARE TRYING.

And as a matter of fact, you’re doing a wonderful job.

Just thought you should know.


*By the by, if you have not seen or heard of Ashley's website, The Middle Finger Project, you need to get over there like YESTERDAY and gobble it all up because it is amazeballs

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mo Money, Less Cancer

I never used to like mustaches. Or any facial hair for that matter. That was until I started dating someone with a beard and 'stache. I never thought I would date someone with facial hair honestly, but I guess people change. Finding the perfect match for you will do that to a person, I guess (cue either "aw"'s or barfing).

And if I wanna stay with my guy, I pretty much have to be ok with facial hair because he's slightly obsessed with it. I swear to god he'd walk around looking like Pancho Villa every single day if that was socially acceptable. He thinks mustaches are the coolest things ever.

I not only am a new convert to mustaches because of my man, but also because of the clever and fun Movember campaign. Now that we are officially into Movember month, I am seeing posts and hearing about guys I know growing 'staches for a good cause and that makes me happy. Not necessarily because there will be hordes of men walking around town all month looking like 70's porn stars, but because they are doing it for a good cause (or at least most of them are, I hope).

Regardless of my love-hate relationship with facial hair, I can definitely get behind a campaign that uses humour, satire and silliness to raise awareness and money for an important cause. Lets be honest - most men get all squirmy when you talk to them about their health and how they have to take care of themselves - so it's great to see so many of them getting on board for men's health. The genius of the campaign is that it gets men on the men's health bandwagon without actually making them talk about the things that make them squirmy. The squirminess is all wrapped up in a funny, competitive and hairy bow!

But what about women? What can we do? We can't grow mustaches (ok, that's debatable for some, I suppose). But we can still help the boys fight cancer, and have our own fun in the process.

Observe:



Like she says: "Cancer is a real a-hole".
It's tough sometimes, but we all have to do our part.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hidden Gems: Blackboard Poems

I am starting a fun new post series here on the blog and I'm calling it "Hidden Gems":

See, I have started to notice lots of neat but barely noticeable things around my home city and I want to share these with others so that they can enjoy them, too. It's so easy to focus on the big, popular, shiny things and celebrate those, but sometimes it is the small, unknown things that are the most interesting.

I like to seek out these "hidden gems" not only in my hometown, but also in other places I travel to. I like going to the back-alley stores and restaurants, the less-trodden (but most beautiful or well-preserved) streets and paths - the places where locals go and the things that locals love. These "hidden gems" are what make a place truly unique, and reveal the most about the character of a place also.

What can I say - I am an explorer at heart!

For my 1st "hidden gem" in Halifax, I wanted to post about a cute display that I walk by every day on my way home from work. For privacy reasons, I won't say where exactly it is, but I am sure anyone who lives around my neighbourhood or has explored the side streets there has seen it:


Excuse the crappy Blackberry photo

This blackboard is nailed to the front of this porch, and it always has some kind of poem or saying on it. The current selection is Walking the Dog's Shadow, by Deborah Brown. Apparently this is also the title of a book of poems by Brown (as you can see if you click the link above). It talks about pondering thoughts such as grief, within the metaphor of walking a dog on a leash.

Personally, I don't so much care what poem is listed on the board, just the fact that there is one there is lovely enough. It is a nice pick-me-up on the walk home - there is the anticipation of what will be written there next, and what it will make me think about for the rest of my walk. I think it's nice of the person who lives here to share such works with the people that walk by. Art is meant to be shared with whoever is open enough to take it in.

Do you know of a person, place or thing that you think is really cool but is not very well-known? Are there little pieces of paradise in your city/province or in cities that you have visited that are off-the-beaten-path, but you think everyone should know about them? Well, I want to post about them on Gathers No Moss! Email me, tweet @KimHumes or leave a comment and I'll share it in an upcoming post!

Here's to celebrating the little things! And exploring off-the-path to find them!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Yelping It Up

One of the many places on the Internet that I attempt to compose my regurgitated thoughts into (semi)coherent posts is Yelp.

Have you heard of it? Of course, "yelp" is the sound a puppy makes when you step on its tail. It is not to be confused with "yep" (ok, Dave?). But Yelp is also a website - one where anyone can post reviews of pretty much any business they like so that they can either warn the masses about them, or spread the word of their awesomeness. A guy I know from University is the Community Manager here in Halifax, and I have to say he has made Yelping here so much fun by putting together some great meet-and-greet events, starting great discussions online, and coming up with fun challenges like these.

Anyway, at some point in the last 5 days or so I believe I must have fallen on my head - I say this because on Friday I signed up for the 30 Day Yelp challenge, which requires participants to write one review a day for the month of October.

I'm not sure what I was thinking either. I guess I was sucked in by the promise of a fun party at the end, and the excuse to get my butt out to some businesses I have been meaning to try but have been too lazy to get to yet.

I just hope this challenge doesn't go the way of NaBloPoMo (i.e. down the toilet). It is Day 4 though, and I am still on it!

I have written 4 reviews so far (DUH - it is October 4th):

1. Starbucks Coffee in Dartmouth Crossing - this is my favourite Starby in the city - their service is hands-down the friendliest.
2.  Mary Brown's - a "meh" fast-food fried chicken place which I only visited because they were giving away free sandwiches all day long.
3. Second Cup in the Killam Library atrium (Dalhousie University) - my office for my last job was in this building so I would go here for my morning fix every day. I have met the friendliest woman in the world, and her name is Sharon (tell her I sent you).
4. Pipa Restaurant - I visited this Portuguese/Brazilian place on my bday back in December...and got horrible food poisoning (but, believe it or not, I don't give it a horrible review!).

Who knows what tomorrow will bring! What culinary adventures I will have - good and bad.

I hope all of you out there who read my reviews (all two of you, including my mother I'm sure) realize that it's all for you - I am putting myself at risk of injury and obesity every day this month all in the name of public service. Well, that and because I love food. And writing. And writing about food. And drinks, too...

 Who am I kidding?! This is the best challenge ever!

Wanna follow along with me? Check out my page at khumes.yelp.ca (or click on the widget in my sidebar).

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Piano Man

I think everybody has a list of concerts in their mind - you know, the bands or performers that you just HAVE to see live before you die (or in the case of many bands that I love, before THEY die). I am no different, and I recently was lucky enough to be able to cross one of mine off my list!

On September 15th, my mom, sister and I drove to Prince Edward Island to see...

ELTON JOHN!

He actually played a concert in my home city of Halifax not that long ago, but unfortunately we were unable to get tickets. We were really disappointed that time and figured that was that. So, when I heard that he would be coming back to Atlantic Canada, there was no WAY we were NOT going to miss out again. 

Unfortunately, we almost didn't go at all! We endured quite the SAGA of ticket ordering: Back in July, both my mom and I got on the computer and the phone as soon as the tickets went on sale, but neither of us could get through. The system was SO frustrating because you would refresh and refresh, finally get in to the ordering page only to be promptly kicked off. Long story short, neither of us got through and, again, we thought that was that.

Then a couple of weeks later, a 2nd Summerside show was announced and we were elated to have a 2nd chance, so we did the same thing all over again, only this time my boyfriend also went online to see if he could get tickets for us. After an hour of trying - SUCCESS! He finally got into the system and was able to order 3 tickets for us. We couldn't believe our luck and started to make plans for a hotel room and such.

So, a couple of weeks before the concert, we were getting antsy because we had yet to receive our tickets in the mail. My boyfriend decided to call the box office to double-check on our order. Well, it's a good thing he did because he found out that they actually had NO tickets for us! They informed us that their online system had experienced a "glitch" wherein hundreds of incorrect ticket confirmations were sent to people that did not actually have tickets. My boyfriend got an email confirmation and his credit card was charged and everything. The box office informed him that, to deal with the problem, they had reversed the charges for all the people affected by the glitch and that basically was their way of informing people...

*crickets chirping*

Yeah, I know. The worst thing is, we stumbled upon an article in a PEI newspaper that discussed the issue and actually quoted a gentleman that DID get a phone call from the venue telling him about the problem! So, obviously this place had called SOME people but not all. Obviously not the best way to deal with a major customer service issue!

What. A. Nightmare. 

An angry phone call to the manager later and we ended up grabbing some tickets that the promoter had apparently just released the day before or something. And the best part is, once we arrived we realized our seats were even closer to the stage than the original "fake" tickets we had! So, it all turned out for the best, but it was a really annoying experience and a huge lesson learned - take it from me, kids: ALWAYS check on your tickets if you order them online!
Anyway, the important thing is we got there.


What was great about the show was it's simplicity - it was literally just Elton and the piano, with some lighting. There was no pyrotechnics or crazy outfits or back-up singers/dancers - no elaborate production. This was so refreshing and made the show feel very intimate - more like being in a small club or lounge. 


He played all my favourites (of course), and played some amazingly complicated piano riffs that blew my mind! His voice definitely sounds deeper and a little more raw now than it used to, but still great.

He played for 2.5 hours NON-STOP! Aside from taking maybe 2-3 breaks to say a couple of words, he never stopped playing or singing. I was amazed at his energy!


Thank you, Rocketman, for helping me cross a very big "to-do" off my life list!

Monday, September 26, 2011

TeamBuy + American Apparel = Happy Canadian Fashionistas

Two things that I love very much in this world are deals and fashion. So, you can imagine how excited I was to see TeamBuy's latest offer:
And HOW cute is this outfit, I ask you?!
That's right, fashion-forward Canucks; TeamBuy is offering an exclusive coast-to-coast coupon for $25 off at American Apparel. If you purchase the deal between Monday, Sept 26th (TODAY!) and Sunday, Oct 2nd you will receive a $50 credit for only $25, to use online OR in-store at any location across the country.

American Apparel offers great basics for men, women and kids, so we felt like this would be a valuable feature our customers would enjoy. There is something for everyone,” said Ghassan Halazon, CEO of TeamBuy.ca. “Plus, we have more savings to share; anyone who downloads our new iPhone app will receive $5 in TeamBucks to use towards any offer they like.”

(Too bad I don't have an iPhone *sadface*)

What I love about TeamBuy is they offer great deals for a variety of goods and services that are actually stylish and useful - including awesome restaurants, activities and (as in the case above) fashion. It's not all tanning and teeth-whitening (I think we can all agree we have seen enough of those, non?).

I find the older I get, the more I get into basics; tried and true pieces that I can mix and match into a variety of outfits. I am on a budget, so clothes have to be versatile! As much as I love to shop, I don't have the time or money (or closet space, alas) to buy a new outfit for every occasion! A foundation of basics is the best way to get the most mileage out of your wardrobe. I love me a bright colour and a graphic print, but you have to have neutrals to ground them, and AA has some of the best basics going. Here are some of my current desirables:

Leggings - I LOVE these things, I don't care what anyone says - so comfy and a great leg slimmer (which is something I need since I am a midget with "muscular" calves - can I get an amen, real ladies?)
Red henley shirtdress - I have one similar to this in chambray and I love it. It's very polished looking but also relaxed - great for the office or the weekend. Plus, I love the pinkish-red colour

I love all the great coloured jeans/pants that were on the fall runways, and I'd love to get a pair for myself. I have a red pair already, so would love to get a cooler-coloured pair like this teal. Again, SO versatile!

My other fav would have to be that camel cape in the above photo - so cute! Great for the crisp but sunny Fall weather. I also love their Multipacks, which are a really good idea. I think we have all found a piece that we like so much that we buy one in every colour, right? Well, buying a multipack is a great way to get one of every colour/type all together. Easy-peasy (and cheaper). Um, hello?! That's the whole point of basics, right?

Hmmm, methinks a TeamBuy purchase is in order...and a shopping spree at AA!

So, what the heck is TeamBuy?
TeamBuy.ca encourages users to save cash as they enjoy all that their city has to offer. The site gives TeamBuyers the benefit of buying in bulk without actually having to. Each feature depends on a minimum number of buyers signing up; if the buy is successful, a Team Ticket is sent by email within 24 hours to those who purchased. If the target number of customers is not reached, the buy is not made available and no one is charged.

TeamBuy.ca is a Canadian-based team-buying website that launched in Toronto in October 2009. The site secures impressive savings by using team-buying power, giving users the benefit of buying in bulk without actually having to. Each feature depends on a minimum number of buyers signing up; if the Buy is successful, a Team Ticket is sent via email within 24 hours to those who purchased. If the target number of customers is not reached by midnight, the Buy is not made available and no one is charged. TeamBuy.ca is currently available in Brampton, Calgary, Durham Region, Edmonton, Halifax, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Mississauga, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Winnipeg and York Region.

The TeamBuy.ca iPhone app is available through the iTunes Store and iPhone’s App Store. In addition, a mobile-friendly version of TeamBuy.ca can be accessed from any mobile phone with browsing capabilities. Each of these versions enables TeamBuyers to search, buy and redeem features on the go.

For more information, please visit www.teambuy.ca

For all my Hali-fine peeps - TeamBuy Halifax Twitter and Facebook:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Big Day Downtown, Part 2: Try Something 'Moo'


Anyone who knows me knows I love a challenge. So, when the Downtown Halifax Business Commission invited me to participate in their 2nd Big Day Downtown promotion, I couldn't wait to jump on board since I had so much fun last year. I was particularly intrigued by the special twist in this year's theme - Try Something New.

As someone who is always trying new things, I thought it was going to be tough to choose. I decided, since last year I spent my $100 on a bunch of little things, that this time around I would try blowing my entire budget in one place instead.

When I thought of "splurgey" things downtown that I have never done before, I immediately decided I wanted to go out for dinner at a fancy-ish restaurant (Why are you looking at me like that? On this blog, words like "splurgey" and "fancyish" actually exist. Deal with it). But not just any fancy-ish restaurant - a place I had a) never been before, and b) that specializes in food I would not normally eat or have never tried before.

My choice: CUT Steakhouse.


Ok, I realize you carnivores out there are wondering what is so "new" and  "unknown" about eating at a Steakhouse, but the thing is I am NOT a carnivore. I am not a vegetarian either but I am probably as close to being one as you can without actually bestowing the title upon yourself. I like meat, but I am not a huge fan of red meat and do not eat it very much. I try to stick to chicken and/or fish. Considering this, I have never (are you ready for this?) ordered a steak in a restaurant in my entire life.

I know. It's true though. And I have EATEN steak before, just only when it was served to me at other people's homes. I have never made myself one and I have never willingly ordered one for myself.

I have nothing against steak, it just isn't something I am drawn to for some reason that I cannot definitively explain. There is some psychological discomfort for me in eating animals that I think are cute (e.g. cows, sheep, deer, rabbits, and babies of those species in particular - and hence why I have no problem eating chickens or fish - they are not cute. And, yes, I suppose cows aren't particularly cute either, but don't ask me to explain my psychological hang-ups! I don't understand them either!)

Anyway, this is why I chose CUT:

Fancy-ish/expensive restaurant? CHECK
Place I have never eaten before? CHECK
Place that serves food I do not normally eat? CHECK

So, off we went! We were seated at a great table by the window where we could look out on the sun going down and see the sparkly white lights on the trees in front of the building on Lower Water come on after dark.


Our first impressions were pretty much what we expected - very sleek, modern decor and stylish, sophisticated servers (I almost feel bad calling them that because it seems almost beneath them, but I have no idea what their actual titles are). We felt very well taken care of from the moment we walked in - our server helped us decide on drinks (I had a Berry Tom Collins - delish! Very fresh and made with my fav Bombay Sapphire). Then she offered to bring out a tray displaying the various cuts of meat they feature.


As someone who is not a huge meat-eater, I can't say I was super-excited about having a tray of dead-cow slabs laid out in front of me, but I was intrigued so we asked her to bring it out. Even though it was a tad gross, I still found it informative. Since I am not familiar with steak, I had no idea what the difference was between each cut so it was great to have her explain this. (I only wish I got a picture, but I was a tad distracted by the dead animals - sorry, readers).

I decided on the local 10oz striploin and the boy got the Delmonico. The steaks come on their own and you order sides separately (which is one reason why I could see the budget getting out of hand). We decided on asparagus with hollandaise sauce, sweet potato au gratin and two sauces (bernaise for me, horseradish for him).


They brought out two appetizers to enjoy while we were waiting - a plate of veggie sticks with some kind of goat cheese dip, and a bread basket with two kinds of butter (one with maple). Both were delicious and presented very stylishly. The dips were both very flavourful. The steaks came out surprisingly quickly, and after a few minutes the server came right back and apologized for the sides taking longer and as a result they would be no charge! We weren't even anxious yet by that point as we had only had our steaks for about 5 minutes, so this was completely unexpected.


My steak was great - very juicy and tender - but it still wasn't my favourite part of the meal. My sauce was absolutely delicious and so were the sides. The asparagus was cooked perfectly (which is REALLY hard to do - trust me, I have tried at home and it always come out soggy) - a satisfying crunch but still tender. The sweet potato was whipped to perfection and felt like fluffy orange clouds in my mouth.


The portions were surprisingly large, too, considering we were sharing everything but the meat. I probably would have been fine with only a 6oz steak, as it turns out, because I was completely stuffed by the time we finished. We were planning on getting dessert but just did not have the room (to be honest, their dessert menu did not look like anything special anyway). I was quite disappointed we could not even find the belly-space to fit in some delicious cheese from their ala carte...well, cheese cart. I have never eaten anywhere where they have brough you a cart full of cheese as an aperitif! And WHY this is the case, I will never understand because it's a genius idea if you ask me.

On the way out, they capped off our night with a sweet surprise by giving us a small, homemade banana nut loaf to take home (which we promptly ate up the next morning and very much enjoyed). Any place that hands me free desserts on the way out the door is a "must-visit" in my book!

Our total bill (two cocktails + two steaks + two sides + two sauces) came to approximately $120 (not including tip) which I thought was pretty good considering the quality of the service and food.

I am glad I went outside my comfort zone and tried something new. However, I am sorry to say I am not a converted carnivore after my experience at CUT. While, I appreciate that a steak cooked properly can be an enjoyable meal, it just didn't turn me on enough to pull me away from my usual chicken/fish/pasta preferred trifecta. I will probably still stick to white meat most of the time.

I do, however, appreciate the fine ingredients and obvious skill that goes into making the dishes at this restaurant. I also appreciate the friendly and helpful service we received without pretention. I only wish I could afford to eat at such restaurants more often (then again, when it doesn't happen often it kind of makes it more special, no?).

Thank you SO much to the Downtown Halifax Business Commission for allowing me to have this experience - and for encouraging people to have new experiences in downtown Halifax period!

*All photos from CUT website or taken by me

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Give Back to Get Back

 Thanks to Walgreens for sponsoring my writing. Help Walgreens help others! Visit their Facebook page here to learn about their charitable partners and decide which cause Walgreens will donate to with a quick vote.
Found here
One of my favourite things to do in my spare time is to give back to my community. Sometimes this can be hard to fit into a busy schedule, but it is important to keep in mind that helping your community doesn't have to take a lot of time.

Also, giving back doesn't necessarily have to be done on a large scale. Most of us realistically cannot give that much, no matter how much we adjust our schedules. Something doesn't have to be big or earth-shattering to make a difference.

Do you want to get more involved in your community but are not sure where you should start? Think about these points:

1. Determine what exactly you have to give: Do you have any special skills that you could use to help some person or organization? e.g., Are you a web or IT guru? Perhaps you could offer help with web design or maintainence. Are you really great with kids or a particular subject? Think about offering babysitting or tutoring.

2. Make use of your existing network: Think about the people you interact with on a daily basis - e.g. family, friends, co-workers. Are they involved in a cause or is there a community project that is close to their hearts? Offer to help! Or maybe they know of a great project that is short on resources, or a particular person who needs some support.

3. Start small: It can be easy to bite off more than you can chew when you really want to help out. We can easily be overwhelmed by all the things that need support. But you are not Wonder Woman; you can only do so much and you can't solve every problem by yourself. Focus on one issue or one person to start, and set a "giving goal", e.g. I will commit 2 hours per week to this, or I will commit 3 hours every 2nd weekend - whatever works for you! You can always take on more later if you like, but it is unfair to commit to something only to back out later because you are overwhelmed.

I have participated in my community in many ways - I have volunteered at local events, served as the Editor of my local SPCA chapter newsletter, and I retweet/share any local causes or people that I think are doing great things. None of these things take a lot of my time, but I get back in satisfaction 10x what I put in.

When large, socially responsible companies, such as Walgreens, put time and money into giving back, it makes it easier for little ol' me to do it too.

Don't forget to help Walgreens help others! Visit their Facebook page here to learn about their charitable partners and decide which cause Walgreens will donate to with a quick vote. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

Friday, September 9, 2011

There She Goes Again...

What?! It's the weekend again! Yes, I love 4-day weeks. Just when you think it's Thursday - surprise! It's Friday and time for two days of relaxation (ideally)...

Man, have I ever been looking forward to the weekend. I had so much on the go this week, I am physically and mentally exhausted. I feel like I have been spending all my free time trying to check to-do's off my list but I am only accomplishing a fraction of what I would like to! Frustrating. How does time become so fluid sometimes? Just slips through the fingers like water leaving you wondering where it went...

Anyway, some exciting (and slightly scary) things coming up:

Found here
* Tonight the boy and I are having dinner at CUT Steakhouse and I am really excited! It is a pricey place, where I would never normally be able to afford to eat, but because I am doing it as part of my Big Day Downtown promotion, $100 of my bill is covered! The whole idea behind the promotion is to do something new; something you have never done before and I will explain why I chose CUT on the blog next week. So check back for some sure to be mouth-watering photos and prose!

Found here
* Tomorrow I think we are going blueberry picking again in the Valley - the berries from our first trip earlier this summer are all gone and we want some stock to stick in the freezer for the winter. Fresh blueberries all year round FTW! I think we are also going to visit the Oaklawn Farm Zoo and maybe toodle around some other neat events in the Valley if there is anything going on. Any suggestions, NS folks?!

Found here
* I have a job interview (FINALLY!!) for a position at my alma mater - Mount Saint Vincent University. I am really looking forward to it because it has been a while since I have had an interview (I feel like I have been applying to millions of jobs but not getting anywhere), and it sounds like a really interesting job. It's only part-time, which is really not ideal, but I can't afford to be picky at this point. Also, I don't necessarily mind working two part-time jobs, as long as it's not too complicated logistically. And I have been taking on a lot of new, exciting writing projects, so if I can have the time to write part-time and get at least one foot out of the 9-5 game I will be pretty excited! I do still have to eat, however. Stay tuned...

Next Wednesday is my last day at my current job so I am getting a little desperate since I do not have anything else lined up. Not that I don't welcome a little break, but my wallet and I can only handle not working for so long.

* On a happier note re. my last day at work - on Thursday my mom, sister and I will be traveling to Prince Edward Island to see ELTON JOHN in concert! Ah, I'm so excited!! He is one of my favourite musicians - I love all of his music - and I've always wanted to see him live. We had a little glitch with our tickets earlier this week and we thought for a minute we wouldn't be going after all, but all is well now. I will probably do a little recap of that on the blog too, so you can look forward to lots of gloating and gushing from me (not even gonna sugarcoat that).

WORD TO YOUR MOMS. Found here
What are you up to this weekend?! Any exciting upcoming plans?!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Mmm, Fresh Biscuit!


Photo by Me
Hey all! Check out my post on Hip Urban Girl about an awesome boutique in my city called Biscuit. I was lucky enough to interview the owner, Wendy Friedman, a few weeks ago and I was really impressed with her passion for the small business and fashion sectors (and her knowledge too - she's been doing this for a long time!). One thing I thought was really cool about her is that she was raised a Shambala Buddhist and this is basically why she moved to Halifax in the first place, because this is the international HQ for Shambala Buddhism! Cool, huh? Betcha didn't know that...

IMHO we have great shopping here in Halifax (good enough to rival bigger cities like Toronto and Montreal) so I am always excited to showcase some of these businesses to a greater audience. I am looking forward to writing about more hip, urban and passionate businesses here in my city! 

Thanks goes to Lisa and Wendy for taking me on as a new writer and being open to all my ideas!

Stay tuned for more articles about food and drink, shopping and activities in Halifax from a HUG perspective!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Who Do You Think YOU Are?

Wow, I have been gone from the Blog for a bit - sorry blog buddies! I am still here, although just barely. Things have just been a bit crazy the past couple of weeks and (I am not going to lie) I have been feeling overwhelmed. Some things had to be put on the back-burner for a little bit - ah, such is life!

One thing I missed since I was away this past weekend was the Ancestry.ca free search weekend. Normally you have to buy a subscription to access their records, but for this past weekend only you could search around for free!

Found here
Researching my roots is something I have always wanted to do but can never seem to make a priority. And since I'm on a tight budget, buying a subscription to something like this is just not in the cards. I really wish I had been home so that I could take a quick look around - who knows, maybe I would have found something interesting about my family!

My roots are sort of muddled and I really don't know anything about them at all - my mother's mother is my only living grandparent (and I honestly don't get along with her very well), is from Newfoundland originally and has an English maiden name and married name (Clancey/Walton). My mom has no siblings, and I do not even share her name anyway. I have my dad's last name (Humes) but have no contact with my dad or anyone on his side of the family. The only person I would be able to contact (and would feel comfortable doing so) is my aunt in Ontario and she isn't even my dad's biological sister (she was adopted). My dad's dad died when he was a teenager, so I never met him and his mother died when I was a little kid.

See? Where to start?

My mom would know bits and pieces about my dad's side but not much of anything solid to go on. I have a lot of questions about where my name comes from (it's sort of a strange name that you don't hear often, but you do hear "Hume" - no "s" - so there must be some connection there). Some say it's obviously English, others say it's obviously Scottish or Irish. I really have no idea. I have always felt a bit of a disconnect from my origins; no real solid connection to a particular place or people.

Not that I am not a whole person without an awareness of my roots, but it is something that would be nice to know. I have a very small family and I love the little family I have very much, but sometimes I long to know if I have more connections to greater things; important people, places and things in history.

Perhaps one of these days I will get serious about researching my ancestry and find out more about where I come from, but for now I am happy knowing where I was yesterday and where I will be tomorrow (well, most of the time).

Have you ever researched your ancestry? What did you find out? Where are your roots?

FYI there are lots of great genealogy resources for Canadians here. Ever seen the show "Who Do You Think You Are?", where celebs look back through their ancestral records to uncover fascinating connections to world events? Very interesting - check it out! I had actually only seen the American version before now, but will make sure to check out the Canadian one too.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Give a Little Bit

Have any of you seen this commercial yet?



It makes me laugh every time. The first time I laughed because of the silliness of it, especially the pregnant woman's line "I'm going to name my daughter after you". But the next couple of times I saw it, I still laughed but I was also intrigued by the website advertised at the end of the spot. I decided I had better check out Peopleforgood.ca as soon as possible to find out what it's all about.

Well, am I ever glad I did!

The mission of People For Good is as follows:

"And our goal is to make the world a better place, one good deed at a time. It may sound ambitious but it’s easier than you’d think. In fact, you could help make the world a better place right now. Just by doing something nice for someone. Rest assured, we’re not asking for money, we just want you to donate a little generosity." from here

You can sign up through their Facebook page and become part of the movement yourself. Not sure what you - little ol' insignificant you - can do to help someone else? Check out the Good Ideas page and you will see that it only takes one small thing to help another person feel good. To make their day even. These are things that ALL of us can do and they only take a few minutes.

Think about it - what are the things that tend to make your day? I mean, sure, big things such as getting a promotion, getting engaged, buying a home can make you feel pretty awesome. But so can the small things - the things that happen when you least expect it and (as the commercial tagline says) don't happen very often. 

It could be the smile and personal greeting from the barista at your daily morning coffee-shop (I get "Good morning, Kim" every morning at Second Cup and it really starts my day off nicely), someone holding the door open for you, or getting up to the drive-thru window to find out the person ahead of you paid for your food/drink (this actually happened to me one time at Tim Hortons and - WOW. My mom and I were so touched and surprised we still remember it to this day, years later). 

Or it could be something even smaller, such as finding that top you have been searching for for weeks, a cuddle from your cat, surprise flowers (for no reason - which I experienced just last week - lucky me :D) or a Facebook message from an old friend you haven't heard from in a while. 

I remember in Junior High a friend of mine and I were hanging around downtown Halifax and we spontaneously decided to put money in a couple of meters that were close to running out. It's not like we ever saw that person and got a thank-you from them (they probably didn't even take a second glance at the total) but we felt SO good. 

Think about what would make you feel really good and try doing that for someone else. When you are walking around, be aware - look around you at the other people and what they are doing. You never know when you going to see someone who looks lost or who drops their wallet on the ground. I think far too often too many of us walk through life with our heads down, not acknowledging our fellow human beings and that's too bad. It is especially mind-boggling that this happens when doing nice little things for people feels as good as it does. You would think more people would do it more often.

Anyway, I'm not trying to get on a high horse here - I'm just as guilty as most for being self-absorbed. But that's why I joined this movement - maybe it will give me a little boost of confidence to do more small things here and there. This is not a new idea for me anyway - as you can see, I wrote about good deeds, aka. random acts of kindness, before on this blog. All my opinions and thoughts from then still apply now! It's just time to jog my memory.

So join People for Good and do a good deed  today - just one is all it takes. 

*Update: Further to this, check out ImprovEverywhere's latest project - getting New Yorkers to Say Something Nice*