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.*


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.



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.


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