May 31, 2012

Little things I'm Loving

It's been a trying couple of weeks. I'm not going to get into all the gory details, but let's just say it's been pretty not great. And things don't exactly look up in the near future. That's why it's exactly the right time for a gratitude/love list. Won't you join me? Post your own in the comments or on your own site.

Here are some of the things I'm loving right now:

Apple Blossom Weekend: The Apple Blossom Festival is a yearly event here in the valley, and it's kind of a big deal. Although this year might lack some of my regular traditions, there's still Fireworks tomorrow night, parades on Saturday and general fun to be had by all. I took some vacation that has resulted in a four day weekend, so that's also something to put a little spring in my step.

Hearing this song on the radio this morning:

It's time to go old school. Yo.

(also, is it just me, or is this Hi Res version of that video a little unsettling? I like my 90s faded and slightly out of focus, thanks)

My husband, my kitty and my hound: They bring a lot of happiness to my world. I couldn't possibly say enough on this point, so I'll quit while I'm ahead.

Wildlife sightings: Birds in my bird feeder (and at my new hummingbird feeder!), chipmunks and pheasants my my front lawn and deer right across the street. It's been a busy spring in my neighbourhood!

Cheese: Who doesn't love cheese? That's an instant pick me up right there. Feeling blue? Eat some cheese.

Nicki Minaj: Like the rest of the world, I'm pretty obsessed with Nicki Minaj. There are a bunch of songs that I absolutely hate, aside from the parts that feature Nicki Minaj. Like this one:

Man do I ever hate this song. As I said though, except for the little bit with Nicki Minaj. To be fair though, I probably wouldn't hate it at all if it wasn't for the "L U V MADONNA" part. My hatred for it makes me a little crazy. The rest of the song is actually pretty ok.

Ok, Example two:

I just found this today. I'm generally not a Mariah Carey fan, but I find her tolerable most of the time. Overall, this song is pretty stupid. But then there's that part....

New recipes and kitchen experiments that work out: Cajun Mac and Cheese, slow cooker wrap filling, empanadas...Nothing to make you feel accomplished like new recipes that turn out excellently.

Fixing up my garden: Just about everything in my garden in perennial and very low maintenance, but my garden was a bit of a mess. Until last weekend. Old, dead plant parts cleared away, pulled out some weeds and added some new top soil - now it's more beautiful sanctuary, less recently abandoned house where the weeds are just beginning to reclaim their territory.


Want more? Of course you do!

You will find yourself singing this all day now. You're welcome.

Have you ever been in this situation
Where you lost your keys and your mobile phone?
Oh Where me keys?
Oh Where me phone?
Oh Where me keys?
Oh Where me phone?

Speaking of Brittan's Got Talent...:

That was a lot of videos, I know.

Random stuff: The colour teal, wine, world history, reading, sunshine, LifeHacker, Pinterest, My favourite co-workers, snuggling.

...I'm feeling better already.

May 25, 2012

Douglas Adams: Parrots the Universe and Everything

Got an hour? Douglas Adams gave this talk at UCSB just before his death. In it he talks about the species of the world and the future of humanity.

Charming and informative, it's worth giving up an hour of your time.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Chapter 3: Towels

Do You Know Where Your Towel is?

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.
More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have "lost". What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in "Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There's a frood who really knows where his towel is." (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.
                                       -Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Today is a day to show tribute to one of my favourite authors ever: Douglas Adams. Eleven years ago he passed away suddenly. Since then, fan have chosen this day to honour him.

How exactly? By carrying a towel, of course! So, if you're a Douglas Adams Fan, I should expect you have your towel with you. Full sized bath or beach is best (and most useful) but if you're a little shy like me and have never celebrated before, maybe dip your toes in with a tea towel in your purse. It's the thought that counts, right?

I'm not yet brave enough to take this to work with me.

If all else fails just remember:

May 24, 2012

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Random Riggs

Book Description:
A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

Do you ever read a book that you've wanted to read for a really - really - long time, and then when you finally read it you're completely under whelmed?

This book was like that for me.

It started off really excellent. I enjoyed the back story and the characters. I really liked the photographs that were included - they really added to the story, and I loved that they were real vintage photos. I liked right up until the action started.

The adventure/perilous part - all the running around in the rain and then the thing at the lighthouse - I just found myself more than a little bored. It should have been very exciting - exciting things were certainly happening! - but it wasn’t. This went from being a book I hardly put down for two days to one that I had to force myself to pick up.

When it ended, I thought, Is that it? Really? It just kind of...ended. I know it was supposed to leave me wanting more. I guess I did, but not in a good way.

On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful, I'd give it a Meh. I was truly excited to read it, and was pretty disappointed.

Above All

 “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.

             — Nora Ephron

May 23, 2012

I've been spending some time recently looking into personal branding. I don't know what exactly it's going to mean for me, but the idea, although not new, is interesting.

May 22, 2012

No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog

No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog by Margaret Mason

Book Description:
Tired of filling up your blog with boring posts? Take the next step and get inspired to create something unique. Author Margaret Mason shows you the way with this fun collection of inspirational ideas for your blog. Nobody Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog is a unique idea-book for bloggers seeking fun, creative inspiration. Margaret gives writers the prompts they need to describe, imagine, investigate and generate clever posts. Sample ideas include:
  • Writing a serial novel
  • Conducting unnecessary experiments
  • Creating your autobiography
  • Public eavesdropping
  • And much, much more
I've been wanting to read this book for several years now. I don't know why, but I just never really got around to it. The longer I waited, the less I felt it would be useful to me. Not because I didn't need help and inspiration for my blog posts, but because I thought the advice would be less relevant than it once was.

This book was first published in 2006. A lot has happened to the internet in the last six years. Blogging has evolved since then, hasn't it?

But really, it has and it hasn't. This book is really written for personal bloggers. People who post about their lives and what not. That, and people like me, who post about, well, anything really. I found a lot of the advice and prompts helpful and inspirational. It added a bunch of stuff to my idea file, for sure. I don't think it would be all that helpful to someone who has a super niche or a business blog, though. Unless you're really good at thinking outside the box. In which case you probably don't need this book, because you've already got all the ideas you need. And also I hate you a little bit.

On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful, I'd give it a Good. It's definitely not for everyone, but it is well written and I, personally, found it useful.

May 20, 2012

Insurgent (Divergent Trilogy, Book 2)

Insurgent by Veronica Roth 

First of all, I want to point out that this is book two in the Divergent Trilogy. If you haven't yet read Divergent, you should check out the review I wrote a year ago. Actually, no. I've gone ahead and googled "Divergent Review" for you. Pick any of those and read them. The one I wrote was terrible. Or just go ahead and skip the review reading and just get your hands on a copy and read that sucker. It rocks. That's all you really need to know about it.


Back to Insurgent.

Book Description:

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.
Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.
New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth's much-anticipated second book of the dystopian Divergent series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature. 

Generally speaking, sequels are rarely as good as the original. There are exceptions, but Insurgent wasn't one of them. To be fair though, Divergent is one of my top five favourite books ever (Although that list would now have The Hunger Games in spot four, pushing out The Zombie Survival Guide), and it's a little hard to live up to that.

That isn't to say Insurgent wasn't incredible.

The character development in this novel is excellent. Tris is pretty broken after the events at the end of the first book. The right amount of broken though. All of the strength she gained is still there, but she's also dealing with a lot of grief and guilt. She makes some pretty questionable decisions. We get to see a lot more into the real Four, who is now mostly refereed to by his given name Tobias - which I am not really a fan of. The name itself is fine, It just doesn't suit him. When Beatrice Prior joined her new faction, she became Tris. And, sure, she is still Beatice, but the name just feels wrong on her now. Just as Tobias feels wrong on Four. I got used to it, but I didn't like it.

Lets talk about the Tris/Four relationship for a minute. In Divergent, it was HOT and STEAMY. It was also sweet and innocent. Four is all broody and mysterious. Tris is a little clueless about boys. I loved everything about it. In Several times you wanted to sit one or the other (or often times both) down and say, "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!" It's secrets and lies and arguments and...just really frustrating. I get it though. Tris is, as I said, broken. And, also, still a bit clueless about boys. Only sixteen, and grew up in a faction that barely held hands let alone anything else...yeah, I guess she has every reason to be clueless. And Four...well, he has his own set of issues, not the least of which a pretty terrible childhood. Add to that the stress of all of the THINGS that are happening in their world. Big, scary, horrible things. Contrary to some of the less positive reviews I've read, their relationship makes sense at this stage. That being said, I saw what I hope was a glimmer of things turning around for them in book three. I really hope that's the case - that their relationship grows into something deeper and less frustrating.

The ending is what really pulled things together for me. Not the just-before-the-ending part. The part just before the big cliff-hanger-plot-twit reveal was expected and a little more than cliché. But the final bit, the cliff-hanger-plot-twist - excellent. Just exactly the kind of thing that makes you not want to wait until Fall 2013 for book three. Even if you end up hating the sequel, you will still want to read the next one because of this ending. So fantastic.

 On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful, I'd give it a Quite Awesome. Not as good as it's predecessor, but worth reading if you've read the first one.

But, seriously, you can buy Divergent from Amazon by clicking here. Yes, that is an affiliate link, but even if it wasn't I'd still be telling you to go there to buy it. It's incredible, and the paperback is just 10 bucks. If you have 10 bucks, like YA literature and dystopian futures, I am ordering you to buy this book and read it. If you haven't already. Because otherwise that would just be silly.

82 Year Old Tries Pop Rocks for the First Time

Damn it, now I want pop rocks.

May 19, 2012

Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior

Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior by Leonard Mlodinow

I received this book through Goodreads First Reads. 

Book Description:

Leonard Mlodinow, the best-selling author of The Drunkard’s Walk and coauthor of The Grand Design (with Stephen Hawking), gives us a startling and eye-opening examination of how the unconscious mind shapes our experience of the world and how, for instance, we often misperceive our relationships with family, friends, and business associates, misunderstand the reasons for our investment decisions, and misremember important events.

Your preference in politicians, the amount you tip your waiter—all judgments and perceptions reflect the workings of our mind on two levels: the conscious, of which we are aware, and the unconscious, which is hidden from us. The latter has long been the subject of speculation, but over the past two decades researchers have developed remarkable new tools for probing the hidden, or subliminal, workings of the mind. The result of this explosion of research is a new science of the unconscious and a sea change in our understanding of how the subliminal mind affects the way we live.

Employing his trademark wit and lucid, accessible explanations of the most obscure scientific subjects, Leonard Mlodinow takes us on a tour of this research, unraveling the complexities of the subliminal self and increasing our understanding of how the human mind works and how we interact with friends, strangers, spouses, and coworkers. In the process he changes our view of ourselves and the world around us.
 Your preference in politicians, the amount you tip your waiter—all judgments and perceptions reflect the workings of our mind on two levels: the conscious, of which we are aware, and the unconscious, which is hidden from us. The latter has long been the subject of speculation, but over the past two decades researchers have developed remarkable new tools for probing the hidden, or subliminal, workings of the mind. The result of this explosion of research is a new science of the unconscious and a sea change in our understanding of how the subliminal mind affects the way we live.

Employing his trademark wit and lucid, accessible explanations of the most obscure scientific subjects, Leonard Mlodinow takes us on a tour of this research, unraveling the complexities of the subliminal self and increasing our understanding of how the human mind works and how we interact with friends, strangers, spouses, and coworkers. In the process he changes our view of ourselves and the world around us.

This book...I didn't love it. I have no idea why (and, based on what I learned, probably wouldn't be the real reason anyway). I found the subject matter interesting. The writing style wasn't difficult to follow. It had some very charming anecdotes - I esspecially liked the one about the tortoise. I just found it hard to get excited about reading it. In fact, I made a lot of excuses not to read it, even though once I actually picked it up I quite enjoyed it.

On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful, I'd give it a Good If You're Into That Sort of Thing. If you aren't into the subject matter, skip it. 

May 18, 2012

Boozy Popsicles

I am calling food trend of the summer - Booze Popsicles.

No, I will not call them Poptails. Booze Popsicles, Boozy Popsicles, Booze-sicles, even. I hate the term POPTAIL. Sadly that seems to be the term that has exploded all over the internet.*

I know Boozy Popsicles have been around for ages. Like, before the internet even existed. But this year they seem to be popping up everywhere.

The greatest thing about them is that they can be super fancy or super simple. Oh, well, I guess the greatest thing about them is actually they they are popsicles combined with delicious alcohol. But the second greatest thing is how versatile they are. That's me holding the ever so simple (but oh so tasty) raspberry vodka and lemonade booze-cicle. Click here and you'll find just a sampling of some of the more fancy versions.

...and yes, I did buy those popsicle molds just so I could make boozy popsicles. I got two packs (each makes 4 popsicles) at Canadian Tire for...I forget how much. They weren't expensive. Then I dumped half of the first batch into the bottom of my deep freeze. Because I'm slick like that.

Happy Friday, everyone! Here's to the weekend!

*I will probably give in and start calling them poptails. But I wont be happy about it.

May 17, 2012

Why I Hate Job Interviews

Today, I had the least terrible job interview I've ever had.

...That's not to say that it went excellently. I was awkward and stammery. I didn't say half the stuff that I planned to in my obsessive prep work. I didn't ask enough questions at the end. If I get an offer, it will be only through some sort of divine intervention, I'm sure. And I don't believe in those sorts of things.

Before every interview I have, I not only pour over the company's website, but I also re-read all of the job interview tips I've read a thousand times before. Say this, don't say that, ask these questions...Is it just me or does the whole thing seem completely disingenuous? It's like you have to trick the interviewer into believing you're the best fit for the job. It all just makes me feel kind of smarmy.

Interviewers have it tough, I know. They have a stack of resumes, and a bunch of candidates that all (or at least most) could do a pretty excellent job. And you have to pick just one, and hope the choice was right. I just wish it didn't seem to be about who can follow the interview rules the best.

Although, maybe I'm just bitter because I keep going on interviews that continue to not go anywhere.

May 16, 2012

TEDxHalifax - Jason Pelley - Reversive Innovation

More from TEDxHalifax! Reversive Innovation - Basically is the idea that we can innovate by going backwards. That is, by doing things the way they did them in the past, but in a new way, can be innovative.

May 15, 2012

Benefits of Failure

Remember the two benefits of failure. First, if you do fail, you learn what doesn't work; and second, the failure gives you the opportunity to try a new approach.
                                          - Roger von Oech

May 13, 2012

Wisdom from my Mom

In honour of Mother's Day, I'm going to share a bit of wisdom my Mom passed on to me a few years ago. 

My mother, father and I were on my way to my Grandfather's house in Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia. On pretty well every highway in Nova Scotia, you pass by a lot of farms. One particular farmer's field we passed was full of large fuzzy creatures that were not horses or cows.

"Are those llamas?" I asked.
"No," my mom replied, "They're alpacas."
"Huh," I thought aloud, "I'm not sure I know the difference between a llama and an alpaca."
"Oh that's easy," my mom said, matter-of-factly, "llamas are ugly and alpacas are cute."

Thanks a lot Mom, that really clears things up, I thought. Although later when I googled "Llama" and "Alpaca", she wasn't wrong.

1. Llamas, 2. alpacas

Happy Mother's Day to all the Moms out there. 

May 12, 2012

Nomination Grand Pré

Grand Pré, NS has been submitted for nomination as a World Heritage Site to UNESCO. It has a rich history and is one of the many places in Nova Scotia that deserves to be shared with the world. It was featured in the videos I posted about Nova Scotia wines, and here are a few more videos about the wonders of Grand Pré.

...And, what the hell, another one about wine.

So, help spread the word: Grand Pré, Nova Scotia is a pretty incredible place and should be a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Click the logo for the official site of Nomination Grand Pré

May 10, 2012

TEDxHalifax - Jonny White - Psychologically, We are our Stories

Two things I love: Nova Scotia and TED talks. This is an incredibly interesting talk from TEDxHalifax from media psychologist Jonny White about the way we tell our own story and the stories we experience through media.

Dogs in Hoodies

I need a pick me up, how about you? I'm not having the best week. Know what makes me smile? Dogs in hoodies.

1. Doggz in da hood, 2. Norton's Hoodie, 3. Hoodie, 4. I'm too cool!, 5. chick., 6. Emmy Lou, 7. Stylish Pup, 8. Watson and his hoodie, 9. juicy, 10. dog hoody, 11. little red riding pug, 12. Murphy "the beagle" Deegan, 13. Sammy The Corgi

May 9, 2012

National Lost Socks Memorial Day

Today is traditionally a day of mourning. For it is today that we pay tribute to all the missing socks, eaten by the dryer or misplaced forever, only to leave their mate behind -  forgotten in a drawer or destined to become a dust rag.

Today is a day to take a moment to remember those socks. How they kept your toes warm on winter days.

...or you could just do what I do.

Mismatched, but not forgotten

May 6, 2012

The Zero Hour Work Week

I just finished reading The Zero Hour Work Week, a free ebook by Jonathan Mead. I downloaded it, I'm going to say about 6 months ago, and since then it's been on my hard drive gathering digital dust. I'd like to say that I've just been too busy to read it, but that would be a lie.

Basically, it's a book about how, if you're doing something you really love and are passionate about, and people will pay you for it, work isn't really work at all. Leading to a Zero hour work week. It's not a new concept, but it is an interesting one. The book is well written and filled with personal stories from people who are, right now, being "paid to exist", so to speak.

For me, the book was less about new information (there really weren't an new bits of advice or knowledge that I didn't already know), and more about inspiration. A kick in the pants to maybe start doing more to get myself out of my miserable, dead end job.

All in all, it's an interesting read and not long, complicated or time consuming. On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful, I'd give it a Totally Worthwhile. You can download it too, if you'd like by following this link.

May 5, 2012


Coldplay's tribute to Adam Yauch. Hollywood Bowl, 4 May 2012.

Adam Yauch, rapper and founding member of the Beastie Boys, died on Friday after a three year fight with cancer. He was 47.

May 4, 2012

Goodbye, Dearest Penny

Today is a historic day. The Royal Canadian Mint will make Canada's last penny today in a ceremony at 11am at the Winnipeg plant.

The mint will continue to distribute the coin to financial institutes untill the fall, but this will be the last Canadian penny made. Ever. Isn't that a little sad?

To toast the end of the humble penny, I can think of no better drink the the Penny. Head over to Sloshed! for the story of this drink and the full recipe.

Goodbye, Penny. 

May 3, 2012

May 2, 2012

Always Know What To Say - Easy Ways To Approach And Talk To Anyone

Always Know What To Say - Easy Ways To Approach And Talk To Anyone by Peter W. Murphy

Free kindle books almost always fall into two categories. One - Not horrible but I'm Glad I didn't pay money for it and Two - Oh God, I think my Brain Might Actually be Bleeding.

...thankfully, my experience has mostly been in the first category.

This is a first category book. It's kind of like reading a serious of mediocre blog posts. A lot of solid advice that is either very obvious or in the easier said then done column. Filled with a smattering of exclamation points so that you know that this is all very exciting information!

I think I would have had more positive things to say about it, were it not for the exclamation marks. There's a thing about exclamation marks in non-fiction. They should be used very sparingly, if at all.  Too many and they make the information seem silly and not to be taken seriously.

At the end, it asks that you don't dismiss the book as obvious and too simplistic. Sorry, but a lot of it was just very, very obvious. Although, I agree, it wasn't too simplistic. Learning to talk to people doesn't need to be complicated for most people, it just takes practice. (excluding, of course, people with social anxiety disorders, obviously).

On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful, I'd give it a Not Horrifically Awful. You could find the same info, probably less annoyingly written, with a quick google search. But the book is free, so...yeah. Reading it wouldn't be a complete waste of time and wont cost you any money.

May 1, 2012

Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?

Happy May, everyone! How about start out the month exploring an interesting idea: Do schools kill creativity?

It's an interesting concept, isn't it? Rings pretty true with me. Do you agree?