Sunday, August 25, 2013

Favorite thing #26: Festivals (Part 1)

Its been awhile since I updated. Not out of a lack of exciting times in Nepperville, but moreso just from us being plain old being busy and enjoying life. Hard to believe summer is almost done and time is slowly creeping towards another school year (dare I count the days?). Our summer has included a trip out to Vancouver for a memorial for my Grandma and a time to reconnect with family and friends. Then we spent a few days basking in the Kelowna sunshine.  Beyond that little getaway, we made a point to stick around and enjoy a full Edmonton summer for once. Every other year that we have lived here, we have gone home to the Island for some portion of the summer, which in some ways is too bad as Edmonton summer's really are the highlight of the year. Or at least that's what we tend to think about, a lot, in the middle of the cold, long winters.

So this year we made a point to get out to as many Edmonton festivals as we could, especially ones we had not been to yet. Did you know that Edmonton is considered Canada's Festival City (or at least, that's how Edmonton refers to itself)? There seems to be something going on every single weekend of summer.

The first festival we went to was the Edmonton Street Performer's Festival. We only stayed for a short while, but there were so many different acts, all going on at the same time, there was definitely something for everyone. We happened to stumble upon this fellow. And him setting up and building this contraption seemed to actually be a part of his show, as people started to gather and watch and wait...
Once he was done, he came and sat down in the crowd and he said he loves this part now when people walk by and look into the centre to see what we are all sitting around staring at. Funny guy.
His big schtick? Catapulting a cabbage from his little contraption, onto his head. And this is how he makes his living. And yes, that's pretty darn impressive.
Ta da!!!
There were also stilt walkers strolling about, which was neat to watch and a hit with the kids. Although it was incredibly awkward to watch one of them fall over (not pictured). Seriously. Ouch.
The other big hit of the day was me getting the kids their first Sno Cones. Not that I'm actually much of a Sno Cone fan (I think the entire thing is just a big American conspiracy to make them look tasty, like American's actually enjoy them, all so they can sell more Sno Cones to the unsuspecting public), but it seemed like a significant milestone. So Mom bought and the kids enjoyed (and Mom tried hard to not think on all the flavoured corn syrup her children were ingesting).
A trip downtown is always fun and it was neat for the kids to see the water feature thing in front of City Hall. Sometimes people will wade in here, but on this day, it was surprisingly cold, so we just watched the fountains.
Our next big city event we went to was Pets in the Park which is held at Hawrelak Park. It was amazing to see all the people come out, in droves, along with their pets, which were mainly dogs, but we did happen to see the odd other creature, including these guinea pigs being strolled around in this little contraption.
The first thing we watched was a guy demonstrating his sheep herding Border Collie. Pretty impressive stuff. This dog was on it!
Next we went over to check out the Lure Coursing. Similar to the stuff you see on the racetrack where the dog is chasing the fake bunny (or whatever that thing is). They had some Greyhounds racing, which was really cool to watch, although anyone could pay $5 and have their dog give it a go. We figured why not? Pallie's fast. She likes to chase things. So here she is, waiting in line for her turn, nearly bursting from excitement (not that she knew she was racing, just the entire doggy-filled event had her wired).
Well, Pallie was perhaps a bit too excited because on the first turn, the "lure" went one way and she went the other. There were dogs all around the orange fencing, so she trotted off to say hello. Hehe. But when she did run, she did pretty good, but was terribly distracted.
After that we just strolled around and enjoying meeting all sorts of new dogs and visiting some of the booths. And of course, what's a festival without some good eats? So here is Gabe enjoying Mom's new favorite festival treat, a frozen banana on a stick dipped in chocolate. Genius! Frozen, yummy, but still fairly healthy.
All in all, it was a fun day and an event we will definitely go to again.
We thoroughly enjoyed both festivals and will likely return in years to come. And a highlight of both festivals? They were completely free! What a geat way to spend an afternoon. I still have a few more festivals up my blogging sleeve, but those will have to come another day.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Favorite Thing #5: Adventures

As a kid I remember climbing most of the trees around our house and spending hours in them. Once I got wheels, as in a bicycle, I made my way all over our neighborhood. I spent most evenings and weekends cruising around on my bike. Once when we were visiting my Grandparents down in Washington at their RV park, my Grandpa pulled out an old moped. I was officially in love. I was probably 13 at the time. I thought it was the greatest thing ever. That is, until I got a speeding ticket. Apparently the speed limit was 15mph and I was doing about 35mph. Oops! I got pulled over by one of the campground security guards and I even got a little ticket. Legendary stuff really, a speeding ticket before I even had my license!

Once I got my first car, a brown 1984 Pontiac Sunbird (which I paid my uncle $800 for), I cruised all over Vancouver Island. I mean who doesn't drive for 2.5 hours to wish their friend a Happy Birthday and then drive home an hour or so later? Or the time Rob and I took the car out to Bamfield, a remote little town, only accessible by logging roads. That was our first day trip together and I'd like to think it was fairly memorable. Partially due to the fact that it was our first day trip together and partially because the car would stall whenever it felt like it or the brakes would go. You know, memorable things like that. 

As I've aged (if you can call being 31 "aged"), I have tried to keep my adventurous spirit alive, but toned it down somewhat (for example, the brakes on our van work 99.99% of the time). Now even just a day trip to a new town is something I enjoy. Trying out local coffee shops, restaurants or seeing the sights that the locals see makes my day. Of course, these establishments and/or experiences aren't always the best, but they certainly leave you with stories to tell. 

My most recent adventure was to Yellowknife. It was an adventure of a lifetime and I cannot wait to return. Yellowknife has held a special place in my heart since I found out that it is where my birth Mother was born. My adoption reunion journey has been incredible, but I felt like this trip really brought the entire experience full circle. While most of the family there I have already met, I found it incredibly moving to be in the place where my people come from. Its so hard to explain. It may be the significance First Nation's people place on the land or maybe its just me, but I really felt a strong connection to the land. There was a familiarity in it. Which is odd considering my Mom never grew up there, but my family has lived there for many generations, so it is our land and that is what I found significant.
The town is unique and quirky and quaint. The housing is so different than anything I've ever seen. No two houses are the same. And the color, oh the color. I imagine when you have 8 months of winter, you might need a splash of color from time to time, so this tends to show up in the buildings and it is incredibly fun. As my Aunt said, it is a town of character.
I realize that I visited during the summer, which is only a partial picture of what life in Yellowknife really is like, but I loved the sunshine. Living in Edmonton, I certainly notice more sunshine in the summer months that living on the Island, but the difference was significant. Needing sunglasses at 9:00pm at night is something I could totally get used to. 
And the water. There was water everywhere! Lakes all over the place, three main ones right in the town. So many opportunities to be outdoors. Edmonton has no water source that you could actually swim in, which we really notice in the summer. Growing up on Vancouver Island we always had 4 lakes within a 20 minute drive, not to mention a river and the numerous beaches. So Yellowknife felt like a perfect mix of the two places. The unending Prairie skyline and lakes everywhere.
 Of course, I loved seeing the town and the sunlight, but what meant the most to me was seeing my Aunt's and Grandparents and cousins. They have always been incredibly gracious and welcomed me with open arms. So visiting Yellowknife and being welcomed into their homes and sharing their meals was so special. Although I loved the adventure and the opportunity to see the land where my people come from, I had a few "wow" adoption moments during my time there. 

At my Grandma's birthday celebration, we were flipping through a photo album and looking at old family photos. It hit me that this is MY family album too. I'm not just an observer listening to the stories behind the photos. These photos are of MY people. That really moved me. Then as we were all sitting around the fire, people were talking and sharing stories and laughing (so much laughter in this family), I realized that I this is not just some random gathering of strangers, this was MY family. When I've met them previously, we usually meet at a neutral location like a local restaurant in Edmonton, so  I had never been a part of their day-to-day lives. This experience was so different. I got to see how they live, where they live and how they interact with each other every day. I began to see the unique family dynamics and realized that I will begin to make my own place within the family.

The morning after the birthday celebration, I was telling my Aunt about my aha moments with the photo albums and she said, "Makes you wonder which pictures you would have been in." Well, geesh, that really blew my mind! Of course, I am not in a bitter or regretful place. I don't really ask the what if question, nor have I ever. I am happy with my life and where I have ended up, but I suppose in some ways it is interesting to ponder. I know that my life would have been drastically different. That line of thinking led me to think what if I had never pursued this? What if I would have left it alone and never had the opportunities to meet all of these amazing, loving, gracious people? How would I be different not receiving the love and acceptance they have extended to me? For the most part, their lives would essentially be unaffected, but it grieved my heart to think that I never would have had the opportunity to know them or spend this past weekend with them.
Of course, I know, not all adoption reunions end up like this, with an amazing group of people on the other end of those "what ifs." But it's how mine has ended and for that I am so unbelievably grateful.
“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” — Thornton Wilder

Monday, May 13, 2013

Favorite Thing #73: Functional Closets

OK, so here's the thing, I am a strong believer in having functional closets. Like seriously. If it could be a religion, I would probably join. It just makes so much more sense to have a closet be functional, rather than a pile of stuff jammed behind a door. Now I am slowly working to practice what I preach in this department. We now have 3 out of our 5 closets re-done. Apparently its a small obsession of mine considering I have posted about closets so. many. times. on this blog. Oy.

June 2011 was my first attempt at a re-do on the front closet. Then there was that time in July 2009 when we re-did the linen closet. Or in June 2009 when Abbi's closet got an overhaul. Yup. I think its safe to say I have a closet obsession.

Now if you will recall, our front closet has had some decorating love over the years, each attempt getting it closer and closer to being what I wanted it to be. But to be honest, considering the picture below is what we started with, I'd say anything was an improvement. The top of our teeny little shoe rack wasn't even functional after that time Rob tried to use it as an ahem, foot stool. Hence why pretty much all of the shoes are just piled on the floor. Ick.
Plus, I knew when people came over, they would be really curious about which cleaning products I used, so I was being really courteous by displaying them for all of our guests to see. So thoughtful of me.
Ugh. Anyway, needless to say, it was a sad scene.

Not to mention the prison gray paint color that dominated my front entrance.
But after a weekend of some hard work and lots of finicky stuff, we finally got the front closet up to par and I am no longer ashamed of this little hole in the wall. Not only is it functional, but it is terribly pretty!

Seriously. I am IN LOVE. This is precisely what my front closet needed.

So first off. I must say I am a big fan of mistints. A mistint is a tin of paint that was either mixed incorrectly or the wrong finish or just plain not up to the customer's standards. Most home hardware type stores sell them. I have seen them at Lowes, Home Depot, Canadian Tire and Rona. AND its where my paint hoarding obsession began. I mean really, who can pass up a tin of paint for $1.25? Well...maybe you can, but I certainly can't. And the best part is that the color is almost an exact match to the kitchen paint color, which meant I could save the leftover kitchen paint for any future touch ups. Even better, this paint was a dream to work thanks to the primer and paint in one! Plus, I still have a little bit leftover to do any touch ups in the future.

The first step was figuring out of a way to maximize the space above the ClosetMaid Cubical storage units, so we picked up some white shelving and a few brackets and installed them. These shelves mean that we can now store both of our gym bags up there, plus our yoga mats, plus Rob's lunch bag, plus a few little extras. I am amazed how adding one little shelf increased the functionality of this space so much. 

The ClosetMaid unit really is a genius invention. I was able to pick up two more of the brown bins so it now looks complete, only took me two years to finally get on that, eep! It is honestly unbelievable how much storage these little units provide. I thought I would post a few pictures of just how much I can store in these little suckers. They are worth every penny! One of the top bins is full of dog items such as leashes, brushes, nail clippers, etc. The the other bin is just random stuff that I have to return to a store or to a friend. Below those is a bin of plastic grocery bags, reusable shopping bags, an entire bin devoted to my scarf collection and one more bin for my winter gear (toques, mitts, hats, etc). Beauty.

The lower unit is devoted to kids items. So we have a unit of outdoorsy summer stuff, chalk, toys, hats, sunscreen. Another bin full of sweaters for the kids. One for splashpants and outdoor gear. Then they share a mitten/toque drawer. And then a bin for each of their shoes. Seriously amazing right? So much stuff, neatly stored in such a small condensed space. Its my happy place.

Because Rob had to adjust these units to fit into this space, we are not able to use bins in the end cubbies. Regardless, it works perfectly to store all of my cleaning products. I suppose if a guest was really curious what products I used, they could still check it out, but at least it looks a lot more tidy and discreet than it did before.  
Next, we needed a more functional shoe rack. After our first epic shoe rack fail, we had two bamboo racks, double stacked, but over time pieces broke and they were barely standing upright (and no, Rob did not attempt to use these ones as a shoe rack). So those had to go. My cousin had given us a white shelving unit quite awhile ago now. It was in Gabe's closet. But recently I was in Value Village and found the exact same unit...for $12.99. Um, hello shoe rack fate! So we started out with three units looking like this (there is a third tall unit that is not pictured here). I saw the potential. The husband grumbled...

Thankfully, with a little (not-so-subtle) influence from the wife, he was eventually convinced. Carpenter husband to the rescue! He shortened the units and added a few shelves to make them more functional. We even made the spacing between the shelves on one side a bit higher to accommodate his shoes. Talk about custom made!

About a month ago I had picked up this large woven basket at my fave MCC thrift store for $5. I wasn't exactly sure what I was going to do with it, but like paint, its rare that I can pass up a good deal on a basket. Thankfully this basket found a perfect little home. Its the perfect width and depth. Basket love! It now houses the kids backpacks.

OK, so I am honestly most excited about these three little flower hooks. I picked these up years ago. I think for 10 cents each at a garage sale. I loved them, but again, had no idea what I was going to do with them (there's a bit of a theme going on here...). Fast forward a few years and voila, they have found a happy little home in my front closet! The spacing needs to be readjusted, but I put putty over the screw hole and painted the centres to match the wall color. They add a little fun to this space! They make for excellent purse and umbrella storage. Plus, if Rob ever decides to take up the man purse, he'll have a hook waiting for him. 

In terms of coat hooks, we had a total of 8 hooks going on previously, but it got quite cluttered once it was all filled up because they were so close together. This was the perfect opportunity to put to use some hanging apparati that I had also scored from my cousin's house. I am a fan of pure white trim and moudlings, so I added some white paint to spruce these up a bit.
 Rob had to reinforce them as they were not meant to be used for such heavy items, but with a little putty and paint and man love, they look like they were made for this space! I was also able to hang some cute art that I had picked up at Bargain Shop years ago now. I love the sentiment of these and have been meaning to hang them somewhere. This turned out to be the perfect spot for them!

The final touch for this space was finding something that we could hang on this white panel on the outside of the closet, above the bi-fold door. We are now discussing putting in a faux transom window here with an old barn window frame, but in the meantime, this "N" that I picked up at the thrift store for 50 cents with a splash of white paint works perfectly!
So there you have it, a front closet makeover Nepper-style. We are thrilled with this space and its always so rewarding to see a space that used to cause grief and frustration turn into something that is user friendly AND pretty!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fabby Finds of Late!

A few weeks ago a friend posted a rant on her facebook wall. She was saying how she noticed how whenever a woman posted a picture of herself the comments were always the same, "You look beautiful," "HOT stuff!" and "Hubba hubba." Her point was that we shouldn't be focusing on the external beauty, rather we should say things like "Gee, you are a great person" or "I'm so glad you're my friend" or "What a smart cookie." 

I do get her point. Compliments are currency amongst women. Our interactions often include compliments about our appearance or our fab accessories or our  hairstyles. The problem here is that by placing so much emphasis on external beauty, we lose touch with what's inside. Things like our intelligence, our character and personality. Important stuff. But at the same time, I like to look hot, I know when I look hot, and well...when I post a picture on facebook, do I post the frumpy picture of myself? Um, no. I usually pick the super hot ones for a reason.

- If I wanted compliments on my intelligence I guess I could post a picture of my GPA (7.78, thank you very much, although it should be noted I am going to school be to a Social Worker, not a Biochemist). Or that time I figured out just how much my DIY Deodorant cost (seriously, that was intense math!).

- If I wanted people to compliment my character, I could share about the time I went back with that thing that fell under the kid in the Costco cart and paid for it. Or how I faithfully recycle toilet paper rolls. Or that I sometimes shovel our (fully capable) neighbors walkway just because its the nice thing to do.

- If I wanted compliments on my personality, well, I guess I could just be nicer. Or bake people muffins or cookies or something. Maybe send out notes regularly, to remind people of just how nice I am. Or post pictures of kittens and butterflies on my facebook wall (that would do the trick).

OR...I could just post a picture of myself from time to time, that I really like, that I look great in and enjoy the compliments.

So the same goes for my thrifting. If you've been reading this blog, you know I love thrifting, but what else do I love? Sharing my super duper thrifting scores! It makes the effort feel worth it. I mean of course, my scores won't necessarily be your thing, but its also nice to have your awesome deal sleuthing appreciated from time to time. Lately, I have been spending a bit more on certain things, but they are also items that I will likely own for a long time or I simply just love.

Wanted Boots. Regular Price: $59.99. Thrift Price: $9.99.
 Roots Hoodie. Thrift Price: $14.99
(I love, love, love the Sherpa wool-lined hood and the wooden buttons).
 American Eagle Leather Buttefly Belt. Thrift Price: $6.99.
(And I imagine looking at this picture may be just as awkward for you as it was for me to take a picture of my crotch).
Blue Satin and Cream Linen Throw Pillow x 3. Thrift Price: $2 each.
 Thank you Note Cards. Thrift Price: 30 cents.
 Asics Running Shoes. Regular Price: $159.99. Thrift Price: $74.99.
(This was my second trip to the Sport Mart Going Out of Business Sale. Now everything is 50% off).
Things I love, things I need, all for great prices. That makes me one happy thrifty lady! And really, who doesn't love a compliment? Whether its based on their new outfit or your wit or your ability to score a great deal, I say, let 'em roll!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Favorite Thing #34: My Juicer

So did you know that I juice vegetables and fruits almost daily? I've been at it for over a year now. Yup, I'm just full of surprises aren't I? Below is my beloved Braun juicer. A whopping $11 at the Nanaimo Sally Ann Thrift Shop. One of my best thrift shop purchases, ever.
 What got me onto juicing you ask? Well, it was this documentary, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead
 I've mentioned this film before on my blog. It really was a great documentary. Whether or not you are actually looking into juicing, its an eye opening look at what has happened to the health of America. Joe Cross found the solution to his own health problems and obesity through a medically supervised 60-day juice fast. The results are stunning.

And this is a total aside, but as I was looking for the documentary image on my computer I stumbled upon this one. Seriously, Damn You Autocorrect really does give me a good case of the giggles...
ANYWAY...ahem, as I was saying. I love my juicer. Oh right, next question, why do I juice? Well, I'm no doctor, but I figure getting in all that veggie goodness, in liquid form, has to be a good thing. And yes, I realize I am not getting the pulp/fiber the same way I would be if I actually ate all the vegetables I juice, but seriously...have you eaten this today?
This is actually a pretty basic juice as I have to head to the veggie store in the next few days, but these are the key ingredients of every juice I drink. Its A LOT of veggies, so no, I don't usually eat that much in a day. And here's another random secret about me, I don't like citrus fruits, at all. Like to sit down an eat an orange...yeah, not gonna happen. Blech. So through juicing I get all that vitamin C goodness that I am missing out on and I will add in the occasional grapefruit slice. Sometimes I will mix it up and include some of the following ingredients:
A handful of Spinach
1 Stalk of Kale
1 Stalk of Celery

Plus, have you ever eaten that much ginger (bottom right) like raw? ever? Yeah, me neither. So I figure there has to be something to getting that much gingery goodness. I had to start small at first, because it really packs a punch, but now I'm up to about a 1.5" chunk without really noticing. And speaking of ginger, here's a word to the wise. If you by-chance happen to be sent to the store to pick up a 1" chunk of ginger for your wife, please don't come home with this...
Apparently in all of my husband's 37 years, he was not aware that you could actually break chunks off the ginger root. No, no, instead you are required to buy entire BRANCHES of the stuff. Oy.

At the end of it all, this is what my juice ended up looking like today. Very orange, but I also don't have spinach and kale, which usually adds a lot of green. Yum.
What's the taste like you ask? Well, honestly, today's was like a zesty orange juice. We once made a green drink and Rob agreed with Dr. Oz (or was it Oprah...) who said it tastes like a cup of fresh. It literally does! Usually I find including apples and carrots adds enough sweetness to make just about anything tolerable. That said, I only do it because I enjoy it. If I despised the taste it and had to gag it down, it wouldn't be worth it to me.

The prepping of the veggies and the cleaning of the machine is a bit of a hassle, but I figure the rewards are worth it. Usually the entire process takes me 10 minutes start to finish (prepping, juicing, cleaning), so really not a huge chunk out of my day. Its usually my later morning drink as I need my coffee first thing. 

I do it because I feel better when I do. I can't really explain it beyond it makes me feel less bleh. I can physically feel when I haven't been juicing, I just feel weighed down. Plus, I think because I juice, I end up eating less throughout the day. It is by no means a meal replacement, but it certainly fills me up for a good hour or so. 

What is the cost? Well, I've never sat down and figured it all out per glass, but it certainly adds up depending on where you buy your veggies. You have to think I am using an entire apple, an entire orange, 1/3 of a head of romaine, etc, etc. Thanks to the great prices at H+W Produce here in Edmonton, I can keep up with my daily juicing as well as buy our regular fruits/veggies for around $30 every 10-14 days. Below is my receipt from last week. Like honestly, the prices and the quality are phenomenal!
 There you have it folks. A little known fact for your day...
I ❤ juicing.

If you are interested in learning a bit more about juicing, here is a great article/podcast I found on Dr. Joseph Mercola's website (although I have zero idea what he is talking about when he says Carb type or Protein type).

PS. And if you hadn't noticed, I added an update to my Soft Shell jacket post. Turns out, a few days later, I ended up finding the same jacket for $17.62 cheaper than the uber crazy sale price I had paid. Um...ahmazing!