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*

Thursday, August 18, 2011

And I Just Can't Hide It

Found here
Sooooo I am excited about a few things right now. Wanna know what?
* The new Sephora store that just opened in Halifax - because the 'Fax is a smaller city, we are not first in line when it comes to getting "cool things", like stores, concerts, etc. However, that is slowly changing - we got H&M last year, and some Targets are coming in the next couple of years, and Sephora is the newest in a line of great chain stores we are FINALLY getting. My mom and I visited last night and were really impressed with the service. I have been in Sephora's elsewhere, including New York City, but there is something about having one at home. I love not having to order awesome makeup and hair stuff ONLINE, and therefore being able to try it before I buy!

* A new blog challenge I am participating in with the Downtown Halifax Business Commission! It is another (not exactly the same but similar) instalment of the Big Day Downtown I did last summer, and I can't wait. I am going to a reception to get the details, and meet some cool local bloggers I haven't had the chance to chat with yet. Stay tuned!

* Further to the above two points, I am excited about another new addition to the Halifax scene - The MiddleSpoon Desserterie & Bar! I have been hearing lots of buzz about it, and will get to visit and see for myself at the DHBC reception! I'm always up for anything dessert-related.

* I am interviewing a local boutique owner tomorrow for a web article I am writing. This boutique is actually one of my favourite in the city, and the article is hopefully the start of a regular collaboration with this website so I'm looking forward to it.

* I am meeting with an editor of a local magazine Friday about an article possibility. It is my first meeting with a major editor, so I'm really nervous, but I really believe in my idea and can't wait to dive into it. I just hope he agrees! Regardless, the meeting is a precedence-setter for my life.

* The boy and I are going hiking and geocaching on McNabs Island this weekend! The island is open to the public for camping and exploring but you are not allowed to have fires and there are no facilities so it's definitely an "off-the-grid" experience even though you are in the middle of one of the busiest harbours in the world. It is officially a provincial park (along with nearby Lawlors Island) but is managed by the Friends of McNabs Island Society - only in Nova Scotia lol.

* I am getting together with a friend tomorrow night who is in town from Alberta. I am hoping we will get to see Horrible Bosses because I have been hearing great things about it. For those of you that don't know, Kevin Spacey is my future husband - feel free to make fun - I will just ignore it and keep on loving my man and working on making him mine.
I'm also going to see The Help with mom next week - I can't wait because I really enjoyed the book and am always curious if the movie can live up to the paper story (this is rare).

* Speaking of books, I am currently reading Little Bee by Chris Cleave and the prose is beautiful! There is still a lot of the story that I am in the dark about because it hasn't unfolded yet, but I am really enjoying it so far. I am constantly fascinated at the vivid, colourful characters that authors can come up with! He has another book called Incendiary that I'm now curious about...anyone read it? If I like an author I always like to read their other works.

What are YOU excited about right now??

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tasting and Travelling at Nomadic Foodie

Hey y'all! I am guest-posting today over at Nomadic Foodie. I LOVE this blog - I mean it's about food and travel (two of my fav things) - what's not to like?! Check it out here and please let me know what you think. I hope it opens people's eyes to the awesome foodie and tourism culture we have here in Halifax and Nova Scotia. 

Not to be confused with this Beerfest.

What are you tasting and where are you travelling this Tuesday?

Photo by the boy (on my camera)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Blueberry Fields Forever

One of the great things about living in Nova Scotia in the summer is the abundance of delicious and fresh local food being grown only an hour from the city. So when the boy and I were looking for something fun (as we are often wont to do) one sunny afternoon post-swim, we thought:

"We should go blueberry-picking!" (ok, so maybe we have a weird idea of what is fun, but what can I say, we're dorks at heart)

This is how we ended up at Blueberry Acres.
Blueberry Acres is a U-Pick blueberry farm in Centreville, NS. We arrived on Natal Day, late afternoon, unsure if they would even be open, but luckily we arrived to find the fields open for business!

The "Blueberry Express", aka an air-conditioned bus, picks you up at the main building and drops you off out in the field where a worker will choose an good area for you to pick from. This place is HUGE, so the bus makes it so much more convenient. We arrived early in the season so there were still quite a few bunches that were not quite ripe, but there were still enough blue, fat ones to fill our box.

I could not believe the SIZE of these babies! HUGE, just the way I like them (read into that what you may). I am surprised we even filled our box we ate so many in between picking (teehee). It was a super hot and sunny day, and it was actually nice to be there early in the season because it was not crowded at all. There were only a few other couples picking so it was very quiet and peaceful. Apparently if we had gone a couple of weeks later, there would have been 10 times the people!

When we got back and weighed our haul, it came to about 8 pints, which cost us $16. For those of you not good at math (I feel your pain) , that's approximately $2 a pint. For those of you who don't buy bb's in the grocery store (at least around where I live), a pint of bb's there will easily cost you twice that, so I think we got an amazing deal. 8 pints is a TON for two people to share, even if you eat a cup every day!

In fact, the week after we picked them all, I made TWO BLUEBERRY PIES. That's right. TWO. I have never made a pie in my life so I was concerned they would turn out disgusting, but I have to say they taste pretty darn good! I cheated and bought pre-packaged Pillsbury crust, which I am not proud of but it saved me so much time. I looked up a random, basic BB pie recipe online and used that as a guideline and the filling is quite tasty. I think for my next venture, I may try a more ambitious recipe, but for my first time I just wanted to keep it simple. 

Here is the recipe I used for the filling, in case you are interested:

For each pie


  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 cups fresh blueberries
  • Teaspoon (approx) of maple syrup
  • Few drops of lemon juice
Basically you just toss everything together in a bowl, pour it in the crust in the pan, making sure the layers are even (as I mentioned, I used Pillsbury pie crust - each box comes with 2 crusts, 1 for the top, 1 for the bottom). At 425 degrees, mine took about 35 minutes to bake, even though the recipe I referenced called for 50 minutes (!). The syrup and lemon juice were not in the recipe, but I just threw those in to see how it would taste - not sure it made a difference but I like to think it added a bit of flavour (the berries we picked were pretty flavourful on their own, though, so I wouldn't recommend adding too much and messing with that).

Know what the best part is? After I baked, I divided the remaining berries up so that the boy could take some home and I could freeze some, and they filled 2 margarine container-sized tubs. and two large tupperware containers! I gave the boy half, and I have been eating them on my cereal every morning now for about 2 weeks and I have barely made a dent. If I freeze one of my two containers, I would say I will still have enough to last me until Winter rears it's ugly-ass head.

Maybe they will be getting low just in time to go apple-picking! Mmm apple pie...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

It's Only the R-Word

Retard (as defined here): noun, a person who is stupid, obtuse, or ineffective in some way: e.g. a hopeless social retard.

I had an entirely different blog topic lined up for discussion today, and I threw it out the window the minute I read this post.

Rob's post further stewed thoughts that were already in my brain about the same subject ever since I caught the above PSA on tv last week (featuring Jane Lynch and Lauren Potter from Glee). The campaign is called Spread the Word to End the Word and I think it is one that everyone should be discussing. As the campaign website states:

"When they were originally introduced, the terms “mental retardation” or “mentally retarded” were medical terms with a specifically clinical connotation; however, the pejorative forms, “retard” and “retarded” have been used widely in today’s society to degrade and insult people with intellectual disabilities. Additionally, when “retard” and “retarded” are used as synonyms for “dumb” or “stupid” by people without disabilities, it only reinforces painful stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities being less valued members of humanity." (from here)

I think it is safe to say that we have all, at one time or another, used the word "retard" or "retarded", either to describe a person or circumstance. I admit it - I have certainly used it in the past as a way to describe something as ridiculous. I am not proud of that. It is never a word I have been proud to use - I have always stopped myself briefly when I felt it getting ready to leave my mouth and sometimes would adjust my speech. But sometimes I would let it slip out anyway. It's not like I ever received retribution from anyone for using the word. It has become such a normal descriptor in our language that even I, someone who is intimately connected to a person with an intellectual disability, can say use it with barely a second thought.

That's right - I have a family member with an intellectual disability. My sister to be exact, and she has Down's Syndrome. Since my sister is five years older than me, there has never been a time that she has not been in my life, so to say that I am comfortable and supportive of people with disabilities is an understatement.

However, even if you are accustomed to living with Down's or a similar condition that closely there is this sense of discomfort. A sense that you are different from other people with "normal" siblings. That when you tell people about your situation, there inevitably arises a wall between you and them; a wall of misunderstanding, maybe mixed with a pinch of pity or perhaps even respect.

I don't want pity or extra respect because of my situation and neither does she. I just want to be seen like every other family. I want my sister to be seen as a person - a sister, a daughter, an employee, a human being - not just a condition. Not just a face or body shape, a voice or an attitude. Not an IQ level or a community services charity case.

When we go out to the mall or out to eat, I want the people (kids AND adults) who see that she is different but are not sure why to stop staring at her (newsflash: she notices and it makes her uncomfortable). I want to live in a world where she can have the things she so desperately wants - to get married, to have kids, to go to University - things that my mother and I know she will never have, but can't bring ourselves to admit as such. I want to live in a world where she isn't relegated to "special" groups (even though these groups provide wonderful support and resources for her that I am very grateful for), special times, special places, special tasks. A world where she isn't "special", she's just normal.

Sometimes I even want to live in a world where my sister is not so high functioning, so that she wouldn't know that she is different.

But we don't live in that kind of world. We live in a world where my sister is considered "different" and is treated as such by those who don't understand. We live in a world where the word "retard" is used for Hollywood punchlines that make entire theatres erupt into snorts of laughter. Racial slurs are no longer considered acceptable, so why is this? As Sue and Becky say in the video, it is hate speech no matter who it is directed to. It is just as shameful to refer to someone as "retard" as it is to refer to someone as "nigger".

This isn't a perfect world, and it won't be anytime soon. I don't necessarily want it to be either. But, we can make small changes. We can start to think about the context and true meaning of words before they leave our mouth. We can take a moment to stop and wonder whether or not the word we want to use is appropriate and change our language accordingly. I know that I am going to start doing this more, and I will encourage others to as well.

Think about it. A word may be a small thing to you, but it could be a very big thing to someone else.

I know one thing - I will NOT be going to see The Change-Up. Now, I am not some close-minded person who cringes at offensive movies - I am actually very open-minded, believe in pushing the envelope in culture, and am not very easily offended. But I also feel it is possible to go too far. It's too bad because the movie looked funny from the previews and I really like the actors in it, but call me crazy - I would prefer to not hear the comment "this one looks a little Downsy" in person (reading it offended me enough).

I also am not suggesting that you don't go see it - I am not about to start a "Boycott The Change Up" campaign or anything. But if you must, I will encourage you to do one thing - when you hear Ryan's character's comment about the baby, please don't laugh. I realize that might be tough, but think about how tough it is for someone who actually lives with Down's every single day. Then you might not think the comment is so funny.

As Rob says in his post: "'Downsy'"? That's vile. If you laughed at that, please go live in a hut somewhere, far far away from actual human people."

Learn more about the STWTETW campaign at r-word.org. Support the campaign by following them on Twitter or liking their Facebook page.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

It's a TeamBuyer Life for Me: Part 2

Missed Part 1? Read up here! I was really looking forward to Part 2 of my adventure because it involved something I have always wanted to do: whale watching. Yes, I grew up in Nova Scotia and have never been whale watching. I know, crazy right? What can I say, just never had the opportunity!

Anyway, the boy and I finally did and we headed down to the waterfront on a Sunday morning armed with our TeamBuy coupon! Luckily, the weather was beautiful - bright and sunny - and really, that is half of the enjoyment of the experience. This is one activity you do NOT want to do on a foggy day.  

Me and Theodore Tugboat! Views from the boat as we sailed out, and me and the boy
I was really impressed with the staff on the boat - from the moment we left the wharf they provided friendly commentary about Halifax and its marine heritage. They told us facts I didn't even know about (yes, as I already said I grew up here)! The whole trip really made me look at my city with new eyes - literally, because it is rare to see it from that view in the water, and figuratively through all the little-known information I picked up. 

For example, I had no idea that George's Island was the home to a variety of snake species, including one that cannot be found anywhere in the world! Weird, huh? Especially considering it is an island...I mean, how did the snakes get there? Maybe I'm a dummy, but that was my first thought. (For those of you that have no idea what George's Island is, you can find out here). They also told us that the largest lobster ever caught was found just off our coast in the 1970's - he weighed in at a whopping 44 lbs! Eek. They also brought up a lobster trap at one point and told us interesting facts and stories about lobsters and their history in NS, and fed some seagulls on the way back. 

It was nice that they offered distractions other than the whales because we did not actually see any. Not one. This was disappointing, but honestly I had heard from a couple of friends that they had not seen any whales either so I expected it. However, considering other people told me they did not see whales either, I am guessing actual whale sightings are few and far between on these tours and that is pretty bad considering that's the whole point of the tour.

We did see the backs of a few porpoises, so the watching was not entirely wasted, but the periods where the staff were not providing commentary or activities were sort of boring. If it were not for the beautiful day, which allowed us lovely views of the shore and other boats to enjoy during staff breaks, this boat ride would not have been worth the cost. I realize you can't conjure creatures from the deeps at will, and whether or not whales show themselves is completely up to luck for the most part, but for $40 I would be expecting to see more than I did.

Various views of the land from the boat
It was cool to see the city from the water, and the entire coast outward to the sea. It was a new perspective, which is sometimes nice. The top photo in the collage below is the main part of the Halifax waterfront (and probably the view you see most on postcards for the city - you can see part of the MacDonald Bridge on the right side). The glass-front building in the middle photo is our new Farmer's Market, which is a beautiful building! The whole Seaport area is great for shopping and walking. As you can see in the bottom photo, there was a huge cruise ship in dock the day we went to sea - since Halifax is such a major port, we get a lot of cruise ships visiting here.

The sky looked beautiful with big fluffy white clouds and bright, vivid blue. I took lots of photos of the sky!

Even though we didn't see any whales, it was still an enjoyable boat ride for a summer afternoon.  I would recommend Murphy's for the great staff alone. Just don't take this tour expecting to see whales because you will probably end up disappointed.

*All photos by me

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

It's a TeamBuyer Life for Me: Part 1

I was recently asked to participate in a fun promotion to celebrate the one-year anniversary of TeamBuy in my home city of Halifax. Nicknamed, "Choose Your Own Adventure", the idea behind the promotion was to spend a "day in the life of a TeamBuyer" by visiting two local TeamBuy partnering businesses using a special coupon, and report back on the experience. There were some great options for food and fun, but I narrowed it down to two things I had never done before but have been intrigued by for a while. 

The first part of my adventure included waffles with fruit and drinks at Ray's Haus cafe. I am not going to lie, even though TeamBuy pretty much had me at "waffles", I did not have high hopes for this place because it is only a few months old and I heard less-than-stellar reports from others who had visited. However, I still tried to go in with an open mind.

I visited Ray's on a Saturday morning around 11am, not sure if they would even be open (could not find any hours for them online, including on their facebook page - I wrote on their wall asking but no one got back to me - NOTE to businesses - don't use social media if you're not going to USE it, know what I mean?)


Anyway, the entrance to Ray's looked a little weird - you have to walk up a cement ramp, which makes you feel like you are heading into a parking garage, and the cement patio area outside looked a tad messy with various pieces of furniture and wood strewn around. This was disappointing, because the patio area is huge and (I think) has great potential. The way it is now, the potential is being wasted, especially since it is mid-summer and therefore prime patio weather. Their location sort of works against them in a few different ways (not in a main cafe district, placed between apartment buildings and an office building above a concrete parking area, a bit tucked away from the front of the street, right down the street from another German-style cafe) but sprucing up the outside to make it more inviting might help counteract that.

I was pleasantly surprised when we entered, as the inside looked much better. The decor has a warm and cozy feeling to it - one corner with a couple of couches looked like a particularly great place to sit and read with a coffee. 

Check out his page here
The place was deserted and we were momentarily confused, but someone soon appeared and apologized. He was very friendly and took our orders promptly. We had a coupon for waffles and drinks so we didn't have to choose from the menu and frankly I was sort of glad. The "menu" consists of vague items written on poster board pieces pasted over the counter, and I hate to be mean but it was not very professional looking. The writing was small and hard to read - I realize professionally made signs are expensive, but what about a chalkboard? I know I am nitpicking, but with today's readily available technology, I really don't understand why businesses use handwritten signs. Type something up, for goodness sake! It doesn't have to be art-school-worthy! Just readable and clear.

*again with the ranting - I'll shut up now and get to the waffles

The waffles we had were...not bad. The presentation was good, and the whipped cream with bits of chocolate sauce on the side added a nice sweetness. They were nothing to write home about, but not bad either. They were a bit heavy for me because I felt quite full after only one, and the texture was a bit tough. Not sure if that is due to the batter or the way they were made. It felt more like dessert than breakfast, and I think given the time of day I was looking more for the latter. My coffee, however, was quite good and had a very intriguing name - Highlander Grogg. I was impressed that they had their own House Blend.

The whole experience was...nice, but kind of lackluster. The guy was really friendly and we felt welcome, but there was something missing in the food department. My opinion is pretty matched by others I have talked to about Ray's and from these collected thoughts I have concluded that it could be very much improved either with time or by making some small changes. Improving their cooking techniques, and changing their focus from waffles/food to coffee are a couple of changes I might suggest. I definitely see it as more of a coffee shop/gathering place than a german waffle place, so marketing themselves more in that direction could be beneficial. I feel it might even do well with a license (The Wired Monk is a place I think does this really well here), especially considering the potential patio space.

I'm not a business-person, but that is just the "vibe" I get. I think they have a great start but need a little more tweaking. I always like to cut new places some slack because sometimes it can take trial and error to get the "kinks" worked out. I will try Ray's again in the future and hope that they have polished up a bit.

Thank you so much TeamBuy! Stay tuned for Part 2 of our adventure...whale watching!

I wish I could say I took this photo on our trip, but alas it is from here. Come back later for the whole story!