Monday, January 31, 2011


I love traveling, be it for a couple of weeks, a few days or just a weekend. It is my dream to visit as much of our world as possible before I kick the bucket, and any opportunity to visit a different town, city and country is eagerly seized without hesitation. Although I’m hardly what someone would call a globetrotter, I have managed to visit a few places, some within driving distance, some by plane, some more exotic than others, some just simple getaways. I’ve ventured to a little over half a dozen cities in the United States, a couple of European countries, four ‘blessed-with-abundant-beaches-and-sunshine’ tropical regions (three in the Caribbean) and almost a dozen different towns and cities in Canada. My travel itinerary to date is nothing to brag about, but it’s not too shabby, either.

Most of the places I’ve had the opportunity to journey to have left quite an impression on me, mostly positive. But then how could they not since the trips taken are vacation-oriented, where daily routines and responsibilities are replaced by spontaneous fun and ample relaxation. But aside from that obvious fact, for some it’s also been that ‘extra something’ that makes them a tad more memorable.

My two kids walking along the beach in Maine.
For example, I discovered that Maine has an amazing bookstore for avid readers like me and oodles of places to eat lobster – two things that register high on my ‘favourites’ list. New York City was the first place I’d ever been to where a restaurant employee warned me about hanging my purse on my chair – something I always do back home but (apparently) something that no one in their right mind does there (unless you want your purse to disappear). The weekend spent in Ottawa, Ontario was one of the most fun-filled I’ve ever spent with my husband as we toured the museums and local restaurants. And the one in Ste. Agathe, Quebec was one of the most romantic since it was our first one we spent together – before we got married. Ahem.

Moving along...

In Dominican Republic I was served shrimp the size of lobster by night, and lifted up into the air by giant tidal waves that tossed me several feet across the shore by day. It was an exhilarating and daunting experience, to say the least. Jamaica, on the other hand, didn’t serve mammoth-sized shrimp or offer tidal wave joy rides, but it was plagued by drug abuse and corruption. The entire island reeked of marijuana, and children as young as 7 or 8 were trying to sell us drugs. Sad.

Mexico was the first all-inclusive trip I’d ever taken, which I learned from day one was the only way to go. For a whole week, all I needed to carry around with me was my room key (and my husband). Greece, a country so rich in history, left me in awe with its ancient sites, stunning sunsets, heavenly beaches, clear blue skies, energetic night life, hillside villages, blue-domed churches, abundant olive groves, wealth of monuments - and on and on. And even though I only spent one day in London, England (stopover before heading to Greece), it was long enough to see a few of its famous landmarks, such as Buckingham Palace, and to get a general feel for the city.

Niagara Falls, Ontario
When I visited Niagara Falls in Ontario, a place I’d often wondered what all the fuss was about, I expected a glorified waterfall that I would roll my eyes at. Instead, I was humbled and astonished by one of the most remarkable forces I’d ever laid my eyes on. After only a glance, I understood why this exceptionally powerful water torrent is considered a natural wonder of the world. It truly is extraordinary. Dominican Republic was where I played blackjack for the first time (after only a few minutes of coaching outside of the casino) – and won enough rounds (and cash) to pay for the entire week’s meals. Cuba had the most breathtaking white-sand beaches that you can sink your feet right into, not to mention the cleanest, bluest, warmest, oh-my-god-you-can-see-right-to-the-bottom beaches I’ve ever dipped a toe in.

White sand beach in Cuba

Ducks swimming nearby in Plattsburgh, NY while hubby proposed.
It was in Boston, Massachusetts where I saw the overwhelmingly-popular sci-fi film, Star Wars, the year it was released, in Cape Cod where I learned how to swim (albeit a little), in Iowa where I experienced my first (and only) 4th of July celebration (fireworks included), in Toronto, Ontario where I (queasy of heights) stood on the top floor of the world’s tallest free standing structure (553.33m / 1,815 ft., 5 inches), in Ausable Chasm, New York where I spent my first weekend away from home as a young adult (first trip with no parents!) and in Plattsburgh, New York where my husband (then boyfriend) bought an engagement ring and proposed beside Lake Champlain a few hours later as two ducks (a couple) swam nearby.

Hershey, Pennsylvania
An Amish home.
In the summer of 2008, we stuffed our faces with chocolate in Hershey, Pennsylvania as we toured Hershey’s Chocolate World, and learned about a culture very different from our own in Lancaster as a guide escorted us through the rooms of an Amish home open to tourists and explained their simple way of life. After Pennsylvania, we visited Washington, D.C., one of the most incredible places I’ve ever been to, bursting with exciting attractions and memorable places to visit (museums, galleries, monuments, memorials, parks – most of them free!), and an assortment of shops and restaurants. And after we exhausted ourselves with all that sightseeing, we were in serious need of some relaxation, so we headed a little further south and plunked ourselves down in front of the Atlantic Ocean in Virginia, Beach, an a-ma-zing-ly magnificent – and popular - vacation spot with miles of beaches and hundreds of hotels, motels and restaurants along its oceanfront. Oh, what a place.

Washington, D.C
Virginia Beach
That was the last vacation we took. In April of 2009, we bought our home and traveling to far-off destinations was put on the backburner as expenses increased. For the past two summers, we’ve only ventured to towns or cities that are close enough for us to be able to return home at the end of the day. But that’s okay. I am grateful for all the places I’ve been able to visit up until now, and perhaps one day, I’ll have the opportunity to see a little more of the world, once again.

Do you like to travel? Where have you been? And if you’re not Canadian, have you ever traveled to Canada?

Sunrise in Virginia Beach

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Furry Best Friends

In my next life, I want to come back as a cat and live like this...

My cats are so spoiled. I hope they know how good they have it around here.

Well, at least they get along very well.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Saturday Silliness

Time to laugh out loud with an assortment of jokes...

The State Trooper

A Florida senior citizen drove his brand new Corvette convertible out of the dealership. Taking off down the road, he pushed it to 80 mph, enjoying the wind blowing through what little hair he had left.

“Amazing,” he thought as he flew down I-75, pushing the pedal even more.

But looking in his rear view mirror, he saw a State Trooper behind him; blue and red lights flashing and siren blaring.

He floored it to 100 mph, then 110, then 120. Suddenly he thought, “What am I doing? I’m too old for this,” and pulled over to await the trooper’s arrival.

Pulling in behind him, the trooper walked up to the Corvette, looked at his watch and said, “Sir, my shift ends in 15 minutes, plus today is Friday. If you can give me a reason for speeding that I’ve never heard before, I’ll let you go.”

The old gentleman paused then said, “Three years ago, my wife ran off with a Florida State Trooper. I thought you were bringing her back.”

“Have a good day, sir;” replied the trooper.

Mourning The Death Of A TV Star

It is with the saddest heart that I have to pass on the following news about a great American icon..

Veteran Pillsbury spokesperson, The Pillsbury Doughboy, died yesterday of a severe yeast infection and complications from repeated pokes to the belly. He was 71.

Doughboy was buried in a slightly greased coffin. Dozens of celebrities turned out, including Mrs. Buttersworth, the California Raisins, Hungry Jack, Betty Crocker, the Hostess Twinkies, Capt'n Crunch, Mr. Goodbar, The Tidy Bowl Man, and many others.

The graveside was piled high with flours as longtime friend, Aunt Jemima, delivered the eulogy, describing Doughboy as a man who never knew how much he was kneaded, always rose to the occasion, but whose later life was filled with many turnovers. He was not considered a very smart cookie, wasting much his time on half-baked schemes. Despite being a little flaky at times, he was considered a roll model for millions, even as a crusty old man.

Doughboy is survived by his second wife, Play Dough. They have two children and a bun in the oven. The funeral was held at 3:50 for about 20 minutes.

Old Ain't Dumb

A strong young man at a construction site was bragging that he could out do anyone in a feat of strength. He made a special case of making fun of one of the older workmen. After several minutes, the older worker had enough.

'Why don't you put your money where your mouth is,' he said.

'I will bet a week's wages that I can haul something in a wheelbarrow over to that building that you won't be able to wheel back.

'You're on, old man,' the braggart replied. Let's see you do it.'

The old man reached out and grabbed the wheelbarrow by the handles.

Then, nodding to the young man, he Said,

'All right, Dumb Ass, get in.'

And finally...

Amazingly Simple Home Remedies

1. Avoid cutting yourself when slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold the vegetables while you chop.

2. Avoid arguments with women about lifting the toilet seat by using the sink.

3. For high blood pressure sufferers: simply cut yourself and bleed for a few minutes, thus reducing the pressure on your veins. Remember to use a timer.

4. A mouse trap placed on top of your alarm clock will prevent you from rolling over and going back to sleep after you hit the snooze button.

5. If you have a bad cough, take a large dose of laxatives. Then you'll be afraid to cough.

6. You only need two tools in life: Wd-40 and duct tape. If it doesn't move and should, use the Wd-40. If it shouldn't move and does, use the duct tape.

7. If you can't fix it with a hammer, you've got an electrical problem.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Stromanthe Sanguinea Tricolor

Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful jewels of the tropical world, the Stromanthe sanguinea ‘Tricolor’ (Triostar) is one of the few Stromanthes available for indoor gardening. And although its popularity has risen steadily over the past few years, its deep-rooted reputation as being too difficult for the average grower has only slightly declined. I won’t dispute this and tell you that this plant is easy because I agree that the ‘Tricolor’ can be quite challenging if its needs are not fulfilled.

Originating in Brazil, Honduras and Costa Rica, Stromanthe sanguinea ‘Tricolor’ is a member of the Marantaceae (Maranta) family, and like all its cousins, craves high humidity. This is an essential need that should not be compromised. The plant will deteriorate rapidly and become very unsightly if the air is too dry; the tips and margins of its leaves will brown and dry to a crisp, and spider mites won’t hesitate to move right in. If humidity is too low in your home, remedy the situation by adding a humidifier nearby, by placing the plant on a pebble tray filled with water, by double-potting and filling the spaces in between the containers with moist peat, by grouping plants together to form a microclimate with higher humidity or by growing the plant in a room naturally higher in humidity.

Use an airy, quick-draining soil and keep it evenly moist during the warmest months of the year. Allow it to dry slightly between each watering session, and then water thoroughly. During the cooler months, water carefully to avoid rot; allow the soil to dry out a little more. Regardless of the time of year, never let the medium dry out completely at any time.

Switch to hydroculture for an alternative growing style. Conversion is fairly quick with few signs of stress. You can transplant the entire plant by rinsing its roots free of soil and potting it up in clay pellets. Or you can scrub the roots completely free of soil and place the plant in a glass of water until new roots develop. Once the water roots are formed, transfer to the clay medium.

Avoid direct exposure to sunlight, which will damage the leaves and cause them to fade, and place your plant in bright light to intensify the dramatic variegation. Medium to low light is tolerated very well, but some of the variegation may be lost. Average room temperatures are ideal throughout the year; keep your plant away from cold drafts.

If the plant is healthy and actively growing, feed with half strength food for foliage plants every 2 – 4 weeks. Clean the foliage every now and then to keep it dust and pest-free; wipe the top and bottom of the leaves with a damp cloth or sponge, or rinse them under a running faucet. Give larger plants a shower in the bathtub.

Stromanthe sanguinea ‘Tricolor’, with its exotic looks, turns heads in the greenhouse and melts away any doubts about trying one’s hand at it. But be forewarned: if you don’t fulfill this lovely plant’s needs, it won’t be long before it becomes very unsightly and ends up in the big compost in the sky. So if you’re going to pick one up, be prepared to care for it properly.

Do Ferrets Use Litter Boxes?

Yes, ferrets can be trained to use a litter box, but they will never use it the way a cat does. In other words, while a cat will go looking for its litter box no matter where it’s sleeping, playing or hanging out in the house, a ferret won’t. If you don’t have a litter box in the same room where the ferret is playing, it will use a corner as its toilet. I have read a case about a ferret that would go running to its cage to use the litter box in there, but this is extremely rare. When it comes to a litter box, the ferret’s motto is: “Out of sight, out of mind”

If you want to learn more about litter-box training for ferrets, click here.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Today's Trivia - Animals

Time for some more useless but interesting information about animals...

- At birth, a panda bear is smaller than a mouse.

- A hedgehog's heart beats 300 times a minute on average.

- A group of kangaroos is called a mob.

- A group of geese on the ground is a gaggle. A group of geese in the air is a skein.

- A group of frogs is called an army.

- A Giraffe has the same number of bones in its neck as a man.

- A giraffe can clean its ears with its 21-inch tongue.

- A full-grown bear can run as fast as a horse.

- A dragonfly has a lifespan of 24 hours. (Sad...)

- A crocodile always grows new teeth to replace the old teeth.

- A cow gives nearly 200,000 glasses of milk in her lifetime.

- A completely blind chameleon will still take on the colors of its environment.

- A chicken will lay bigger and stronger eggs if you change the lighting in such a way as to make them think a day is 28 hours long!

- A chameleon's tongue is twice the length of its body.

- A blue whale's heart is the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. (Wow...)

- A blue whale's aorta (the main blood vessel) is large enough for a human to crawl through.

- A bird 'chews' with its stomach.

- A baby octopus is about the size of a flea at birth.

- A baby eel is called an elver; a baby oyster is called a spat.

- 7,000 new insect species are discovered every year.

- A species of earthworm in Australia grows up to 10 feet in length. (This totally freaks me out...)

- A snail can sleep for three years. (So can my husband...)

- A shrimp's heart is in its head.

- A rodent's teeth never stop growing.

- A rat can go without water longer than a camel can.

- A rat can fall from a five story building without injury.

- A queen bee uses her stinger only to sting another queen bee.

- A polar bear's skin is black. Its fur is not white, but actually clear.

- A moth has no stomach.

- A mole can dig a tunnel 300 feet long in just one night. (Impressive...)

- A marine catfish can taste with any part of its body.

- A male baboon can kill a leopard. (Very impressive...)

- A lion's roar can be heard from more than five miles away.

- A Koala Bear sleeps 22 hours of every day.

- A killer whale's heart beats 30 times a minute under water, 60 times a minute on the surface.

- A kangaroo cannot jump if its tail is off the ground.

- A jellyfish is 95 percent water.

- A hippo can open its mouth wide enough to fit a 4 foot tall child inside!

- A tuna fish can swim 100 miles in a single day.

- A spider's silk is stronger than steel.

- A woodpecker can peck twenty times a second.

- An albatross can sleep while it flies.

- All the pet hamsters in the world are descended from a single wild golden Hamster found in Syria in 1930!

- All species of beetles are edible. ( way...)

- After eating, a housefly regurgitates its food and then eats it again! (Oh, gross...)

- According to scientific studies, a rat's performance in a maze can be improved by playing music written by Mozart.

- An elephant's tooth can weigh as much as 12 pounds.

- An elephant trunk has no bone but 40,000 muscles.

- An eagle can attack, kill, and carry away an animal as large as a small deer. (Wow...)

- An ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sweet and White Potato Spears

This potato recipe from Kraft is easy to prepare and de-li-cious!

Sweet & White Potato Spears

What You Need

1-1/2 lb. (675 g) sweet potatoes, cut into spears
1-1/2 lb. (675 g) baking potatoes, cut into spears
1/2 cup Kraft Calorie-Wise Zesty Italian Dressing
1/4 cup Kraft 100% Parmesan Light Grated Cheese
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Make It

HEAT oven to 375°F. Toss potatoes with dressing.

SPREAD onto lightly greased baking sheet.

BAKE 30 min.; turn potatoes over. Bake 30 min., topping with cheese after 25 min. Sprinkle with parsley.

Original recipe can be found here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

I’m An Early Bird

I really enjoy the tranquility of the morning hours, so I’m up quite early every day. During the week, primarily while the school season is in full force, I hop out of bed around 5:30. On weekends and pedagogical days, and during summer vacation and various other holidays, I may sleep in until 7:00, but I’m often up by 6:30. And if I’m absolutely, devastatingly exhausted and in desperate need of some extra sleep, I may lounge in bed until, oh, about 8:00 or so, sometimes 8:30. No joke. I consider staying in bed till 8:00 sleeping in. Really.

It wasn’t always like this. In my younger years – especially the teen and early adult years – it took tremendous effort to drag my sorry torso out of bed each morning to get to school or work. I swear to you that it was literally physically painful to be up before 10:00. So would I ever have gotten up at 5:30 or 6:00 AM in those days? Voluntarily? Over my dead and decomposing body. Such an act was unthinkable. Barbaric. Absolutely psy-cho-tic.

Well, obviously all the psychological phobias and physical discomforts associated with waking up in the early morning hours dissipated over time since getting up as early as 5:00 or 6:00 is now a joy rather than a nightmare, and easy to achieve. I imagine that becoming a mother and being forced to get up for those 2:00, 3:00 and 4:00 AM feedings contributed to it, as did waking up week after week, year after year to get the kids ready for school. Working at jobs that started very early in the morning also forced me to crawl out of bed helped me get used to getting up at the crack of dawn. One such job that comes to mind had me punching in at 7:00 in the morning, five days a week. Imagine that.

And although some of you – like my husband who can easily sleep till noon (and even later) when he’s off from work – may think I’m off my rocker by voluntarily getting up before the birds rise on days that I don’t have to, I say “Hmpf...” I personally wouldn’t change a thing. I love the morning hours. The city is still asleep and it’s delightfully quiet. I pour myself my first cup of coffee and start a brand new day.

What about you? Are you an early riser? Or do you prefer to sleep in?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Favourite Garden Plant

With its stunning foliage and ease of growth, Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’ quickly became one of my favourite plants in the garden soon after I planted it.

It can spread quickly, beyond where you desire it, so choosing a planting location carefully is important.

I look forward to it coming back this spring with its gorgeous leaves. It’s one of the most eye-catching perennials in my garden.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday Silliness

This week, humor comes in the form of pictures. Enjoy.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.