If You Were Me and Lived in...Middle Ages - Book Review

I'm so honored and excited to review If You Were Me and Lived...in the Middle Ages by Carole P. Roman for you today. This book is volume 6 in the If You Were Me series, an absolutely amazing series for young scholars.

What I love about this book is the glimpse that readers get at what life was like in the Middle Ages. The illustrations in this book are lovely, whimsical additions to the story and form a great jumping off point for discussion with your young ones. They compliment the story without being over bearing.

Young readers are gifted with the opportunity to learn about where they might live, the food that they might eat and the clothing they might wear (to mention a few) if they lived in the Middle Ages. The book doesn't shy away from new words, and features a glossary that gives definitions, and provides a pronunciation guide too. This is so valuable for young readers, and really makes this book compatible for many age groups. Both my eleven and ten year old daughters were enthralled with this book, especially my eleven year old who often daydreams about living in another time. This book encourages learning without making it seem like you're getting a history lesson.

I find that If You Were Me and Lived...In the
Middle Ages really takes into account the importance of developing reading comprehension and provides parents with many opportinities to engage in meaningful conversation with their children. Its a great introduction to history and and can help pave the way to further exploration.

This book is the perfect addition to your home library, as well as any classroom, with additional value for home schoolers. You can buy this book, as well as other books by Carole P. Roman through Amazon!

☆ I received a promotional copy of this book in order to facilitate my unbiased and honest review. As always this review is comprised of my honest experiences and has not been influenced in any way ☆

2-in-1 Ionic Hair Straightener Brush Review

Hello friends! I am so excited to be given the opportunity to review the 2 in 1 PTC Heating Ionic Hair Straightener Brush by Tec. Bean. Hair straightening brushes hit the market awhile back and every time a friend posted about them I was like, "I need to try that!" But I was worried that the brush wouldn't work as well as we needed it to. For those of you familiar with the Optimistic Beauty Family we are a family a girls. It can take us seemingly forever to get out the door in the morning (and let me tell you, it seems to take even longer when we're running late!). Anything that we can do to shave a couple of minutes off our time leaving the house is a great thing!

The results are in and we absolutely love this brush! It works surprisingly well, and I am 100% sold! I am not joking, or exaggerating at all when I say that we were absolutely shocked at the results we got as we were using the brush. Beyond my wildest expectations for sure!

One of the most interesting aspects of this hair straightening brush to me is that fact that it utilizes Ionic technology to help lock in moisture and reduce frizz. I have to completely honest that up until I received this straightener brush I had never even realized that ionic technology was a thing. The manufacturer recommends that after plugging the device in you push the button for ionic first, brush through your hair, and then after you've completed the process proceed to straightening your hair. I was thoroughly impressed with the defrizzing process, and think its absolutely the bees knees!

Included in the box are the straightening brush, instructions and a heat protecting glove. I found that the heat protecting glove wasn't necessary, though it is definitely nice to have, especially if you have younger children who will be using this product.


In side of the brush bristles are tiny little heating plates that do all the heavy lifting. I was absolutely amazed at how quickly I was able to straighten my hair, and my youngest daughter's hair. We both have naturally wavy hair, and this brush worked wonders for us. I was thoroughly impressed with the fact that my hair stays straight all day long, even with the humidity that plagues us in the summer months. With use of the Ionic function and then straightening my hair looks great, super shiny, and healthy which makes me jump for joy. I love doing my hair, but I find that finding the time to do it in the morning can be a struggle. This brush really does make my life so much easier.

My oldest daughter has lovely, unruly, and tough to tame hair (sorry Tala, but your hair has a mind of its own!). The brush while it did definitely straighten her hair, the process took much longer than it did with Malie and my hair, and the end result simply wasn't as straight as it would have been using a straightening iron. With all honesty though, it can take upwards of 20 minutes to have significant results with a straightening iron, and even then her hair tends to bounce back within a few hours anyway, so I'm not exactly surprised that her hair fought back so hard.

While Tala's hair didn't come out as straight as it would have with a straightening iron it did come out very smooth, very shiny, and did not look burnt like a straightener can tend to do to your hair. Also missing? Those little heat ridges that tend to pop up at the top of your head! With the quickness of the process I can't help but believe that this straightener brush is much better for your hair and the condition of it. Being able to straighten my hair in a couple minutes in the morning is a huge plus for this busy Mom.

The digital display on the brush is easy to read, and the brush itself is very user friendly. The brush has a top temperature of 230 degrees Celsius (446 degrees Fahrenheit), with the lowest temperature being 150 degrees Celcius (300 degrees Fahrenheit). The instruction guide gives you recommended temperatures for use on different types of hair, including bleached, dyed, or thick and super curly hair which is super helpful in ensuring that you aren't damaging your hair.

I am super impressed with this Hair Straightener Brush, and am so thankful to have had the opportunity to try it out! You can buy your very own on Amazon.ca. Don't forget that with Amazon Prime your order ships for free!

What is your favourite way to shave time off of your morning routine?



*I received this item at a reduced price/for free in order to facilitate my honest and unbiased review. All opinions expressed are my own, and have not been influenced in any way*



Where have all the good shows gone?

Pet Peeve. When network executives decide a show isn't well performing and subsequently cancel it, with no warning, and so the story line is left hanging. This drives me crazy. Recently I've noticed a trend in this happening, especially with shows on Netflix. Picture this, you get all cozy, find a show on Netflix, binge watch it, and it just ends. There's no closure. Its cruel and unusual punishment.

Case in point. The Returned. An A&E show based on the French version, Les Revenants. The story follows residents of a small town who died many years ago and have suddenly started reappearing, and catalogues the confusion and hurt that results from their return. The returned have not aged at all, and attempt to rejoin their lives, even though their loved ones have moved on without them. The main character Camille (played by India Ennega) is a twin, and it is fascinating to see her interaction with her twin sister who has since grown up. The Returned also features Rhys Ward who I consider to be one of the most underrated actors on the scene right now. He was genius as Atom in The 100, and did not fail to deliver in his role as Adam in The Returned. Plus he's a Canadian so that makes him even more awesome! Anyway, you get to episode 10 and something huge in the town is about to happen, something that will have major repercussions for the residents, and the show just ends. There isn't any more. Yes, you can watch Les Revenants on Netflix, subtitles necessary for those of us not fluent in French, but the story line arc is different, and wasn't as enthralling as that of the A&E version. As an added plus The Returned was filmed in Squamish, BC, so it was awesome to be able to see all the landmarks that are so familiar to me!

Terra Nova is another example of show ending suddenly. It was an amazing show, a science fiction/fantasy show where residents of the year 2149 travel through a portal to prehistoric earth in order to try and save man kind. The story line takes place is an alternate universe, complete with dinosaurs, and all of the dangers that come with that time period. While the residents of Terra Nova think that they are helping build a sustainable future, big bad oil has their hand in the mix and there is an ulterior motive, and the residents of Terra Nova need to fight for survival, and to preserve their new home. Unlike The Returned, Terra Nova did make it through the first season of the show, and we did end up with some closure, but we will never know what is in the badlands as executives decided that making the show was too expensive, and not justifiable with the ratings of the show.

Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23. Can we just take a minute to reflect on the comedic genius of James Van Der Beek who plays himself in this show?  Amazeballs! The show follows a naive small town girl, June, as she moves to New York City and her world collapses around her. In desperation she finds  roommate Chloe (the B---- in Apartment 23) and their two worlds collide. James Van Der Beek is Chloe's best friend, and his Dawson's Creek fame provides so much comedic material the show could have continued on much longer than it did. ABC simply decided not to air the final episodes of season 2, leaving far too many questions at the end of the season. Luckily the final episodes are available on Netflix (though the episodes are out of order in season two which makes for some confusion about the story lines).

Have any of your favourite shows been cancelled too soon? Please share!

Oh yes I did

I posted a picture of myself wearing a bathing suit on the internet, and immediately I sat here going, "did I seriously just post a picture of myself wearing a bathing suit on the internet?" And well yes I suppose I did, and I won't apologize for it.

I realize that my body shape doesn't fit within the societal definition of perfect. I am not a size 2. But the picture is amazing, and it fulfills the need that I posted it for. It isn't a political statement, or a form of protest against unfair beauty standards, it simply fit the post I was working on.  I needed a post from our trip to Puerto Vallarta and it just happened that we spent the majority of our time in bathing suits on the beach, or snorkeling, boat riding and swimming with dolphins (yes, we swam with dolphins, yes it was an amazing educational experience, and yes I realize many are against dolphins in captivity).
When I sat down to think about it, I had to wonder what I was really worried about. The picture was posted on my Facebook page previously and there was no negativity from my friends demanding that I take it down. There were no reports of anyone losing their eyesight, or needing counselling after viewing the picture. In fact the picture, as well as others from our trip, was well received.

Why would the opinions of random people on the internet who I've never even met matter so much? And in reality it doesn't. There will always be haters. I am a work in progress. I will always be a work in progress, and I'm okay with that.

We had a great trip to Puerto Vallarta, and our photographs commemorate the memories that we made as a family. Bathing suit or not the pictures are awesome and I'm tired of feeling ashamed of my body.

To all the haters out there, I'm not listening.

Travel Bucket List

Over the past two years my girls and I have had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places. The travel bug hit us on a trip to Puerto Vallarta and the desore to travel and see more of the world hasn't let up since. Whether we're travelling in Canada, the US, into Mexico or hopefully to another continent its a great way for us to make memories, and grow as people. Experiencing different ways of life changes you. After returning home you are not the same person that you were when you left.

While we have done some travelling there
On Broadway in New York
are just so many more places that we would like to visit. This post contains our bucket list of trips, and will be revised from time to time as bucket lists tend to do. As we travel destinations will be marked off our list, and as our horizons grow new destinations will be added.

I hope that this post can serve as inspiration to you! Both as a list of possible destinations, but more as proof that you can travel. Families, single parents, childless couples, and yes, even those of you who are unattached.

Visited:
Puerto Vallarta
Ixtapa
New York, NY
Vancouver, BC

Dream Destinations:

Roswell, New Mexico! - I know, I know. But we are awfully obsessed with aliens and visiting Roswell has been a dream for myself and Malie since well before the travel bug bit us.

Montréal, Quebec - definitely a trip to make once in our lifetimes...especially as I have a daughter in French Immersion!

Atlantic Canada - aside from having an Auntie who lives on the East Coast, I feel drawn to the archaeological and historical site of L'Anse Aux Meadows! The first viking settlement in Canada. What an amazing opportunity it would be to visit it.

Australia - a dream trip for all three of us. My girls dream of visiting the Sydney Opera House!

Mayan Riviera/Cancun - as an anthropology/archaeology student visitong the Mayan Riviera is a huge must go trip for me! Visiting the ruins and immersing in the culture would be the most amazing oportunity of my life

Los Cabos - I have a feeling that I was born on the wrong end of North America! Mexico is a location that I could visit over and over and feel more at home each time we go there

Japan - Cherry Blossom Festival. Need I say more?

Europe! - my dream would be to spend time traveling around Europe!  Plus my dance monster (I mean lovely girl) dreams of the Royal Ballet! How amazing would it be to spend the summer there while Tala attends the summer program at the Royal? So amazing!

You Guys Make My Heart Soar

Yes! One of those weepy, emotional posts.
Its hard to believe that its been 8 years, 885 posts, and today a milestone of views hit. While many others would celebrate at 100,000, 150,000 or the similar, today I celebrate 111,111!

As a blogger the road has been paved with many ups and downs. There have been amazing giveaways, posts outlining my pride as a parent to two amazing girls, and posts outlining the struggles that I face as a single parent, and as a human. We have travelled, we have celebrated, and we have lost.

One of my favourite posts in the past year outlined an unselfish deed by my then nine year old, Miss Malie. A post that quite to my surprise, and to her delight drew attention from her favourite artist, one Bif Naked.

Today I would like to say thank you for giving me a platform in which to have a voice, and share my view of the world. I look forward to many more stories shared, I have a list seemingly a mile long with ideas for posts.

If you have any suggestions for blog posts that you'd love to see please leave me a comment!!!

Top Picks - Musical Theatre Solo Songs for 12 and Under

Tala performing Broadway Baby
As the summer draws to an end the inevitable happens. Young dancers are drawn back to the studio, unless of course those dancers are like my oldest who never really left the studio for the summer.  With the return to the dance studio comes the onslaught of solo and duet choreography. Tala has already managed to finish choreo on a solo and a duet, and is starting choreo on two more solos this week (my poor pocketbook I know!).

Tala as Mary Poppins
Solos are a great way for the young dancer to build up their confidence and perfect their craft. Quite often with the one on one time with their teacher technique will progress rapidy, and as added bonus they have the opportunity to learn new tricks too!

Many studios like to leave song choice up to the dancer as they feel that the dancer needs to feel connected to their music to perform their best. Yet picking a song can be daunting task, especially for a Musical Theatre solo!

This list features my favourite musical theatre solos for kids under the age of 12! I've left out songs like My Favourite Things (Sound of Music) and Tomorrow (Annie) and instead added lesser used songs from the same show. I also focused on songs that give young performers a lot to work with as far as characterization.

1. Castle on a Cloud - Les Miserable
2. Shroeder's Song - You're a Good Man Charlie Brown
3. Naughty - Matilda
4. Maybe - Annie (this list wouldn't be complete without a song from Annie!)
5. Born to Entertain - Ruthless
6. Alone in the Universe - Suessical, the Musical
7. Higher - Allegiance
8. Les Poissons - The Little Mermaid
9. I Have Confidence - The Sound of Music
10. I'm the Greatest Star - Funny Girl

Hopefully these songs give you some danspiration!

Did I leave any of your favourite songs off the list?

Colouring - Not Just for Kids


Growing up I was always in awe of the mad colouring skills of my Auntie. She would always happily sit down with me and spend hours colouring. This was always my favourite time, though I had a sense that colouring was for kids. As an adult I now firmly believe that colouring isn't just for kids, and with the ever growing selection of colouring for adults lining the shelves in stores like Michael's, Chapters, London Drugs and Save-On Foods, I am evidently not the only one.

Colouring fulfills a couple roles within my life. It is a stress reliever. I work at a high stress job and its nice to have a couple minutes to colour a picture in between calls. While stress relieving, this process means it takes two or three days to finish colouring a single page. Despite the length of time it can take to finish a piece, I know that there are days where colouring helps me through those difficult calls.

The second, and most valued aspect of colouring for me falls into the same realm as my Auntie colouring with me all those years ago. Colouring together has quickly become a family activity that allows us to relax, share stories about our days, funny anecdotes, and share our creations with each other. Our time spent colouring together is extremely special, and a time that I look forward to everyday.

We started our family passion at Christmas time and it quickly blossomed. We now have a dozen books we work from, though one of our favourite projects included colouring binders with Sharpie Markers. The binders we found at Staples. Its just so much fun to create a binder from scratch, and to have it personalized with your own preferences. It was surprising though how many times going back and looking at each others binders how closely our designs matched!

My current favourite book is Taste of Home, COLOR that I bought at Michael's for $7.99. Its a magazine version, and I like the smaller size of the book as I can easily tuck it into my purse with some markers for colouring on the go. If you're shopping at Michael's done forget to check out the weekly coupons for even more savings!!!!  I am also a fan of Amazon for colouring books. The prices are phenomenal, and if you have Amazon Prime the free 2 day shipping makes it even better!

It may seem silly, but in my opinion, colouring is here to stay. Friends and family reading this post, be warned! You'll probably find a colouring book under your tree from me this year!

iZombie Obsessed

With the world captivated by the zombies of The Walking Dead its refreshing to watch a show that takes a genre that (let's face it) has been overdone and puts a new spin on it. A crime solving zombie who eats the brains of homicide victims to solve their murders? Yes please. Its like bringing Criminal Minds and The Walking Dead together.

The series is based on the comic books iZombie created by Chris Roberson. A set of comics that are on my wish list! The main character Liv Moore (played by Rose McIver) was scratched by a zombie at a boat party and was forced to leave her residency as a heart surgeon for a job at the morgue where she could have easy access to brains.  Along with flashbacks from the owner of the brain, Liv also takes on parts of their personalities too which lends to interest of the show. The protrayal of Liv by McIver is the entire reason this show is as amazing as it is. That's not to say that the other actors involved in the show aren't brilliant (because they are) but the performance by McIvor stands out.

Her adorable sidekick Ravi is the only person who knows her secret in the beginning and well he's just as cool about zombies as we all think we'll be (in my head I'd totally be Michonne, but in reality I'm probably more of a Sophia).

Along for the ride, Liv's ex fiance, Major, her best friend Peyton and of course her partner Detective Babineaux of the Seattle PD. And resident bad guy Blaine a zombie who has a penchant for making things worse for all involved!

Any Vancouver viewers are in for a treat as the show is filmed in Vancouver. Its always neat seeing landmarks you've been to!

iZombie is currently available on Shomi so its the perfect excuse to beat the heat and binge watch a show this weekend! If you're not already a Shomi subscriber you can get a free 30 day trail to boot!  Season 3 will return to the CW mid season...which is cruel and unusual punishment!


The Dress

Last year during a particularly hard time for my family we ventured into the mall looking for a dress for my then ten year old to wear to a funeral. After checking close to a dozen stores she finally found a dress that she was happy with. It was the last dress of that style, and in her size too, it was like fate had brought them together.

The dress clutched in her arms we headed off to the change room where the associate takes one look at my daughter and sneers that there was no way that dress was going to fit her and that she should find something else. As my daughter's face crumples close to tears, and my mouth drops, I ask myself "did this associate really just say that?"

I slowly regain control of the situation, pick my jaw up off the floor and tell the associate that she'd like to try the dress on any way. Now of course she could have just smiled and said sure! or right away! But no, of course she didn't. She responds:

"Go ahead, but its not going to fit"

My daughter tries the dress on and low and behold it fits her perfectly, like it was made for her. She comes out and everyone starts complimenting her on the dress and she beams. You see, she's at that delicate age where she's beginning to develop her sense of self. She doesn't need to be told by a complete stranger that her body is imperfect in anyway. It is no ones business, and body shaming a child is just despicable.

We buy the dress, because quite honestly the dress was perfect and the rest is history. I didnt give the dress incident much thought until this past weekend.

You might be wondering why a year later I would bring even bring this dress up at all.
This dress, a full year, and 5 inches of height later, made another appearance at an event this weekend and low and behold the dress still fits like it was made for her. The dress that the associate was so adamant wouldn't fit my daughter still fits (albeit much shorter!) perfectly.

And so these past couple of days I've given a lot of thought to "The Dress".  Perhaps if we hadn't been in the process of grieving last summer I would have been more capable of processing my thoughts on this incident immediately. As it was I launched a complaint with the manager of this big box store, but we all know how far those complaints go. I wish that I had told the associate that she shouldn't talk down to little girls, women, boys or men like that. We are all bombarded by images we see in media everyday. Bombarded with what advertisers and marketers consider to be the ideal body shape. Do we really need to put each other down in the process? The delicate body image developing in young girls at this age is far more important than trying to show your dominance. In fact, regardless of the age of the person in question, the most important opinion that matters is their own.

I am her mother. I have been buying her clothing for her entire life. I know what size clothing my daughter needs, I don't need someone acting like my ten year old doesn't deserve the right to try on a dress that she's carefully selected to wear while paying her respects to a lost family member. I realize that we had somehow neglected to wear our matching "in grieving" shirts and so it was probably difficult to realize that it was a tough time for us. But I also realize that we should have been treated with respect regardless of what our current circumstances were, it shouldn't matter that we were grieving. The associates interaction with our family was completely unnecessary.

It is my hope that this post in some way helps even just one person who doesn't fit within what is depicted as beautiful in our society. Please know that you are beautiful, or handsome, or sexy as hell, and follow your heart. Wear what you want to wear. The only opinion that matters is your own. I am continuing to teach my girls that same lesson, while trying to remember those words when I look into the mirror too.

Poke obsessed

POKEMON! The break out hit game of the summer has hit our household with a vengece and we are loving it!

It appears that much the same as cell users being either team Apple or team Android (team Android all the way!) you either play Pokemon Go! Or you don't. There's been much hoopla surrounding the game and jokes about how the game is the start of the zombie apocalypse as we become glued to our devices wandering aroung fighting in gyms, collecting Pokemon and visiting Poke Stops.

One of the coolest aspects of the game and the physical fitness benefit in my books is the process of hatching eggs. You collect eggs along the way and once you place them in an incubator you have to walk, 2, 5 or 10 kms to hatch them! For a society that struggles to stay active any added incentive to get out there and get those 10,000 steps in is a good thing. Sure, its part of a game, but physical activity is physical activity, and chasing Pokemon sure beats watching TV or playing XBOX and Playstation all day.

The thing is that for many the game has
become a social phenomenon. My girls and I play while out and about and it is a social experience. A shared game that includes lots of excitement and exercise too! Walking around we meet other players and we greet each other and go along our way. We meet up with friends to go hunting, and team up to take on gyms. One of my best friends and I send screenshots of our newest captures and our evolved Pokemon to each other comparing our stash.

Gorgeous view while out catching
Pokemon!
We spend way more time outside exploring new places we've never been before. This past long weekend we ventured down to the waterfront after dark and I was shocked by the vast number of people hanging out catching Pokemon. No less than 100 people camped out near a series of three lures set up, and even more people wandering the ocean walk hitting up the stops for more Poke Balls. I was not prepared to see that many people gathered for a game! It was totally surreal!

Naysayers insist that the game is dangerous and increasing our addiction to our electronic devices but this Mommy disagrees! Its a fun way to get out and get active and well maybe Miss Swift said it
best: "haters gonna hate..." (you totally just sang that didn't you?). Playing the game requires a lot of strategy, and learning on the go as you need to level/power up your Pokemon while balancing the need for stardust and candies. You receive stardust as you capture Pokemon...and the candies come from capturing pokemon but also from transferring your extra guys yo the professor. Your Pokemon need to be as strong as you can make them to do battle, but if you focus on just one guy you'll leave yourself weak in battle as your top 6 strongest Pokemon come to the gym with you.

TELL ME
Are you Poke Obsessed? Which one us your favourite?

Neighbours you suck

And the award for the worst neighbours evwr goes to mine! I realize that its a rather big award to be handing out but this past weekend I was absolutely mortified by my neighbours. Here's my story.

I wandered outside on Saturday to put up a string of lights on my tree that I was meant to review. Half way through as I was minding my own business a wasp landed on my foot. No big deal right? I mean usually they would just fly away if you move. Not this wasp. He decided to take shelter in between my little toe and the toe beside it. And then decided he wasn't a fan of his locale and starting stinging my in between my toes and on my toe.

Instant pain and instant panic as I'm allergic to bee and wasp stings. I collapse to the ground, screaming bloody murder, writhing in agony as the wasp goes to town on my poor toes until he ends up being squished to death by my flailing toes. As I'm lying on the ground still screaming in pain as my foot immediately swells and I feel an asthma attack coming on not one the three sets of neighbours that were outside at the time even bothered to ask me if I was okay or offer assistance.

So I drag myself up off the ground, limp towards my house, up the stairs as my foot continues to swell and I'm becoming increasingly dizzy and nauseous. Get in the house and get the attention of my girls who were singing and dancing in the house with a friend and couldn't hear me outside. Thankfully the girls jump into action knowing that I'm allergic and bring my inhaler and the benedryl. I don't have an epipen as I don't get anaphylaxis. We wash my foot, apply ice and I lie down.

Check out the awesome instant swelling. Yuck! 
3 days later and the swelling in my foot is starting to go down. But seriously neighbours. There was obviously something wrong. What if I had cut myself and was bleeding out as you watched from your patio? Or if I did suffer from anaphylaxis?  Someone screaming in pain and collapsing should be cause for concern.

Do we live in such an apathetic society where we can just look the other way to avoid being inconvenienced?

Downright Criminal with a challenge!

School supply lists are really getting to be insane. Yes, I realize that perhaps I am being overly dramatic but I'm in shock at the amount of money we are being asked to shell out to a third party who will be supplying school kits to my youngest daughter's class this year. $51 for the base kit!!! And that price tag doesn't even include all the extras that are needed, items that if you purchased them all would add an additional $29.35 to the price tag. That's a grand total of $80.35.

The supply list includes:
14 duotangs
2 packs of pencils
1 pack of pencil crayons
1 portfolio
1 pkg of 150 piece refill paper
2 boxes of Kleenex
5 blue pens
2 red pens
1 fine tip black marker
1 ultra fine tip black marker
2 white erasers
12 key tabbed exercise books
2 40g glue sticks

Now, all my Frugal Mama's and Papa's out there know that us Frugalista's can do a way better job at buying the above noted supplies at a fraction of the cost.

THE CHALLENGE SHOULD YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT!
And so I challenge you to share in the comments your child's school supply list, and how much you spent! If you have the option to buy a kit, please share with us the amount you save over their prices too!!!

Grade 4 Math Book - the same
one we had when I was in
Grade 4 - 26 years ago!
I will of course be keeping an eye on the sales, and will share my results too!!!!

My oldest daughter by comparison is required to bring $30 to school on the first day of school, and all of her supplies will be provided for her throughout the school year. I just don't get it!

I realize that as I spend a pretty penny on dance, and because we travel, complaining (venting!) about the cost of school supplies is hypocritical of me in some ways. But in the end it is my frugality that allows me to support my girls, and give them the opportunities they want like dance and travelling. I don't disagree that having proper supplies for school is important, and I certainly agree that schools are under funded, but I cannot justify spending $51 on something I can buy for a fraction of the price elsewhere! I am eternally thankful for the school system that we have, and that through a combined effort at home and at school Malie can produce the level of work shown in the picture below!
Malie's Salmon Life Cycle Project! Hand painted!

Eat Local - Farmer's Market Edition

A small step in the direction of sustainable eating is the decision to eat Local. Not only are you avoiding the carbon footprint from trucking your food in, and the processing that goes into foods sold in the grocery store, but you also gain control of knowing where your food is coming from, and how it is grown.

One of my favourite ways to enjoy local foods is to head into my backyard and raid the raspberry bushes and cherry tree, unfortunately one cannot live on raspberries and cherries alone. Which is why I can also be found at the local farmers's market once a week picking up a selection of delicious locally grown produce, meat and eggs.

The eat Local movement pops up from time to time, and while some dismiss it as a fad, I do agree that it definitely has its merit. The decision to eat local is a lifestyle choice, and families from all walks of life can be found wandering around the market, exploring all of the various products available.

We are fortunate to have moved from an area with a very short growing season to Vancouver Island where we have access for locally grown produce for much of the year. We have some great shops who stock local produce, and when shopping in the supermarket those are the products that I gravitate to. While I enjoy the access in the grocery store it's also really fantastic to have the opportunity to buy direct from the farmer and cut out the middle man.

The one downside to eating fresh, locally
grown produce? It tastes so good it's hard to keep the fridge stocked, and you get used to the flavour and have a hard time going back to store bought varieties! My girls and I are obsessed with the amazing goat milk feta cheese made by The Happy Goat from Duncan, BC! The flavour is simply amazing! If you happen to be in the neighbourhood of the Happy Goat or the Beban Farmer's Market make sure you grab some!


BC FARMERS MARKET NUTRITION COUPON PROGRAM
I am fortunate to live in Beautiful BC and have access to the BC Farmers Market Nutrition Coupon Program. The program utilizes community partners to provide individuals and families with access to $15 in coupons every week to head out to the market to stock up nutritious food (in Nanaimo our community partner is the Nanaimo Foodshare). This week's collection is shown above! Delicious fresh blueberries, snap peas, cherry tomatoes and a beefsteak tomato.

The program runs from the beginning of June to the end of September, each week you show up, get your coupons and shop, shop, shop. The coupons are valid for any fruit or vegetable sold, plus meat, eggs or dairy products ($9 in coupons are usable on only produce, while the remaining $6 can be used on anything in the above categories).

It's not too late to get on board, as the waiting list allows you to show up at set hours and receive unclaimed coupons. If a participant misses two weeks in a row they forfeit their spot. 

You can read more about the BC Farmers Market Nutrition Coupon Program here.

Do you shop at the Farmer's Market? What is your must have item?

You Should be Travelling

Sunset in Puerto Vallarta
For children growing up in this generation one of the most important lessons we can teach our children is respect of other cultures. (Note...when I use the refer to culture I am referring to learned and shared traditions and beliefs common within a group of people). We live in an increasingly global world and an understanding of how other people live is paramount in ensuring children grow up knowing that not everyone is the same, and nor should we expect them to be. How much fun would it be if everyone wore the exact same shoes, pants and shirts? One of the ways that I choose to instill this belief in my girls is through travelling. I choose to pinch pennies day in and day out so that we can have the opportunity to make memories versus owning more and more things.
Family Photo taken at Allegiance, on Broadway, New York City

My oldest daughter is in French Immersion and will be travelling to Montreal during the next school year with her class as part of the grade seven send off. I am so jealous! And so I was really surprised when she told me she didn't want to go. We spent some time talking and it turns out she's really apprehensive about travelling without me, but is slowly warming up to the idea as she understands the importance of travel. 

The girls and I have a bucket list of places we want to travel to, and form memories in. Japan, Europe and heading back to Mexico top our list of must see destinations, and I cannot wait for our next adventure. We're trying to decide if we want to head off for a couple weeks in Mexico this winter, or head down to California for a quick getaway, or if perhaps we should hold off until next summer and head off to Europe or Australia! At the same time heading to the East Coast of Canada is a trip we must take at least once, and the draw of the Great Wolf Lodge is undeniable! 
Family Photo taken at the Hidden Beach in Puerto Vallarta

Donkey Riding at Las Caleta's in Puerto Vallarta
Our trip to Puerto Vallarta was absolutely amazing two years ago, and New York was an absolute blast in December! Memories of snorkeling and going to the Hidden Beach at the Marieta Islands, and riding donkeys and zip lining at Las Caleta's are memories that will remain with us for the rest of our lives.

The same is true with our memories of watching the amazing Lea Salonga and George Takei in Allegiance on Broadway, skating at Central Park and celebrating New Years 2016 at Coney Island.

Yes, we came home with trinkets from our travels, but the memories are what are the most important part of the trip.

I'm not going to lie. I was absolutely terrified the first time I brought the girls on vacation as a single parent. There were so many unknowns that I spent many hours going over every single option possible, every possible scenario. But in the end, I am so glad that I got over my fears and took the plunge.  Our lives are better as a result!

Do you travel with your kids? What is your dream destination?

Butt out

As a parent the dangers of peanut and nut allergies are well known. From the day my girls started daycare for the first time peanut butter and snacks with nuts have been off the menu. While the world focuses on preventing allergic reactions due  to nut exposure, one serious issue has been overlooked, the danger of second hand smoke.

Eight years ago I had a bout of pneumonia and my lungs never bounced back, and I now live with asthma. While for the most part my symptoms were well controlled, for me the major triggers for an asthma attack are cigarette smoke and fire. Last year with all the forest fires burning in our area it was a really rough summer! While avoiding fallout from a fire is practically impossible, avoiding second hand smoke should be an easy feat, but it is anything butt (pun intended).

I totally get that there are regulations in place to keep walkways and public places free from second hand smoke, but who is enforcing those rules?  In BC there are rules that prohibit smoking within 5 meters of a bus shelter, but how can anyone expect those rules to be enforced when the bus drivers themselves smoke at the bus stops? There is nothing worse than taking shelter from the rain while waiting for the bus, and having to share the space with someone puffing away like their life depends on it with no consideration for the other people in the shelter.

Bad Bunny! No smoking!
I was just on a University campus that has very strict policies about designated smoking areas. Apparently those policies are not strict enough as there were cigarette butts everywhere! I took the picture to the left while on campus, and while the bunny is super cute, the general effect of the picture is lost with the cigarette butt in front of the bunny.

Local shopping centres have signs up all over the outside of the building, yet it seems that no one enforces those bans as every time I walk out the doors I am hit with a wall of cigarette smoke. Why?  Why is no one enforcing these rules?

Instead of having clean air to breathe I'm looked at like some sort of crazy person, potentially contagious as I struggle to breathe and in a panic locate my inhaler, prime it and take a puff. Don't mind me here, enjoy your cigarette!

While parents everywhere struggle to find safe snack options for their children's lunches, the majority of smokers feel that their ability to enjoy their cigarettes is paramount to the health and well being of those around them. How is this fair? Asthma can be extremely dangerous, and there is nothing worse than not being to breathe. Not only that but when you smoke around someone its like you're forcing them to smoke as well. The numbers of non-smokers being diagnosed with lung cancer is increasing, due to second hand smoke.

My asthma has recently gotten worse due to prolonged, forced exposure to second hand smoke (long story, thankfully it has been dealt with) yet my new inhalers come with a price tag of $102 every two weeks. That's $2400/year just to be able to breathe.

We need to share the air, much like children need to share their classrooms, and shouldn't we all have a vested interest in protecting those around us from the harmful effects of second hand smoke?

The Father's Day Battle

Every Father's Day a battle brews on social media, as the validity of wishing single parents, wearing both the Mom and Dad hats should have the right to be wished a Happy Father's Day.

Every Father's day I watch with trepidation as the battles get out of control as those on both sides go to war over the day. As a single mother I can't help but feel a little bit attacked seeing the horrible things people say about single parents and how wrong it is for single Mom's to steal the day away from all the Father's in the world. I have no problem sharing Mother's Day with the Single Dad's out there.

As a full time single Mother, working a full time job, full time student, dance Mom, and the one solely responsible for my household, cooking, cleaning, tackler of that never ending mountain of laundry, the one who comforts my children when they're sick or hurt, helps them with their homework, the one who brings them for haircuts, doctors appointments and dentists appointments, the one who ensures that they get to and from school safety and on time, I disagree with the naysayers.


But maybe, just maybe, we need to move away from single days of appreciation. Why is it only one day a year that we celebrate Mom or Dad? I argue that we should be celebrating our loved ones everyday. Why wait for that one day a year to show our parents that we love them?

Don't get me wrong. I have an amazing Dad, and I sing his praises from the mountain top regularly. I don't know that I could do even half of what I do without my Dad. He is my rock. Because of the important role he plays in my life, and my girls' lives I make sure to recognize him on a regular basis, not just once a year.

While in reality, the odds of me enticing the world to move away from once a year celebrations is slim to none, I still believe that people wishing single Mom's a happy Father's day is a fair thing to do. It is showing appreciation for the work that that person does. In a day and age where we are fighting for equal rights for all gender why do we continue to celebrate a day that divides the two sexes?

And further to that.  How about instead of getting upset about a post on Facebook, or a tweet message wishing single mothers a Happy Father's Day you just scroll past?

Everything is Better When its Free, Birthday Edition

This post is just a wee little bit selfish as I round up all the best surprises for free birthday goodies. My 35th birthday (there, I said it!) is coming up next month and so soften the blow I'm looking forward to having the most fun possible, for the lowest price!


Beauty/Health
One of the free gifts that I'm looking forward to the most is from Sephora.  I adore Sephora!  Just last week I popped in for a free makeup tutorial to perfect winged eyeliner.  Current offer listed on their website is a free mini-set from Fresh or Mark Jacobs Beauty!  While I totally need  a new facial routine as (*sob*) I'm starting to notice my youthful glow is disappearing, I'm leaning towards the Mark Jacobs sample set!

While at Sephora you can book your full makeover, free when you buy a $50 giftcard!  Or ask them to focus on one area of your routine for free!

The Body Shop offers members of their Love Your Body Rewards Program a $10 credit on their birthday. This equals the cost of the card so basically it becomes free!  You also receive 10% off your purchases, in store and online, by using this card for a year. If you're a fan of the Body Shop its totally worth it!

Food and Drink
Starbucks offers users a free drink on their birthday through their APP, available on Apple and Android systems!

Booster Juice offers Booster Nation members a free Booster Juice on their birthday.

Boston Pizza offers members a free dessert on their birthday!  Sign up here. As an added bonus - sign up today and get a free starter when you spend $10! Options include Boston's Pizza Bread, Cactus Cuts or Yam Fries.

David's Tea's Frequent Steeper program gives you a free brewed tea on your birthday! You can sign up here

Denny's offers you a free breakfast original grand slam on your birthday! No sign up required, but make sure that you bring your ID!

The Keg also offers a free dessert on your birthday! No sign up required :)

Menchie's Frozen Yoghurt - $5 off your order. Monies will be added to your account 2 weeks before your birthday, and will expire two weeks after. Sign up for a smileage account here.

New York Fries offers a free medium fries on your birthday through their Loyalty Program, Fry Society! App is available for android or apple devices!  Sign up here!

Red Robin's Sign up for Red Robin Royalty account and get a free burger on your birthday!

Are there any awesome deals that I've missed?  Please let me know!


10 things you need to know about the Optimistic Beauty

Just for fun here's a list of things you didn't know you needed to know about the Optimistic Beauty!

1. I am terrified of snakes and spiders and well any sort of creepy crawlies.

2. Everytime I walk past a bunny I exclaim "Bunny!" I equate my outbursts to Amy Farrah-Fowler's excitement over her tiara from Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory. No I'm not exaggerating. This happens a lot as my town is overrun with them. While in New York in December I felt compelled to do the same thing with rats! And iguanas in Mexico!
Adorable bunny on campus. What's not to love?
3. I can code! Hooray for python! Plus I'm pretty proficient in HTML and Java. Awesome sauce for geeking out.

4. While we're on the topic of geeking out I once competed in a Magic the Gathering event and tied for first!

5. I spent the day today working directly with human remains, determining sex and age and that my friends is freaking cool!

6. My feet, ankles, knees and hips are pretty much shot after going on Pointe way too young :(

7. I went back to university in my 30s! If I can do it so can you!

8. I totally believe in aliens! And zombies. And ghosts. And sasquatch! My philosophy? If someone believes in it and knows it to be true then it's true.

9. I am obsessed the The 100 show on the CW! If you haven't seen it yet you're seriously missing out! Head on over to Netflix and binge watch the first two seasons and the beginning of season 3. You'll be hooked!

10. While we're on the topic of television...I am obsessed with zombies! I just finished binge watching iZombie on shomi! Omgosh! How did I not see this show sooner?

Hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my world!

The Struggle of Post Secondary as a Single Parent

While incredibly rewarding, being a single parent attending school full time can be a struggle. Being the only parent at home, with no family nearby to rely on when parental duty calls, the full onus falls on you. This was my reality this week when an outbreak in my house resulted in an entire week of missed classes for this Mom.
Malie and her Ricardo Cat - he
rarely leaves her side when she's
sick - his diagnosis? Not well!
Monday afternoon my youngest arrived home from school seeming fine. By 5 pm she was curled up on the couch with a high fever, headache and upset stomach. A dose of children's Advil and some Mommy snuggles later she was off to bed for the night. The next morning she was even more feverish and complaining of a headache and a sore neck. I called into the school that she wouldn't be in and they advised to bring her to the clinic right away as there were some meningitis like cases being reported at the school. Off to the clinic we went and the doctor couldn't confirm or deny that she has this mysterious viral meningitis mimicking virus or not. But she is told to stay off school for at least 48 hours with a long list of symptoms to watch for and commands to go straight to emergency if any of them show up. Fortunately none of the symptoms popped up, which means her little body either fought off the virus like a champion or she had a completely different virus.

While she is on the mend it is one of the hardest parts of attending post-secondary as a single parent. The balancing act is precarious at times in a single parent household. The stark reality that there isn't anyone else there to step in and cover for you while you run to class for an hour and a half weighs heavily on the mind at all times.

I was asked earlier this year why I spend as much time on the weekends as I can tackling homework assignments and the truth is that I do so to protect against moments like these. If I can focus and get the weeks worth of assignments out of the way before the week gets started I am providing myself with a safety net. As all parents know children can be unpredictable. Working ahead allows me to ensure that assignments are completed on time and if something pops up like an unexpected trip to the clinic that I'm not falling behind. With all honesty, having a sick child at home this week meant very little time to work on assignments, and when I did have time to work on assignments it was hard to focus.

While the balancing act is tedious, attending post-secondary can be a very rewarding experience. It
sets a good example for little ones as they watch their parent succeed and strive towards a better life for their families. Both of my girls are adamant that they will continue onto post secondary education themselves, with my youngest wanting to follow in my footsteps and study anthropology.

My best advice for all parents (not just single parents) attending post-secondary education is speak to your professors about the parameters of your family needs. In my experience many professors are understanding of parents attending school. Work ahead and keep track of all assignments that are coming up. As a parent it is much easier to do a little bit at a time instead of tackling a large project at the last moment.

Through a lot of planning, and cooperation our family makes our system work for all of us.

I want to know - how do you ensure your success in school?

On This Day

Facebook's "On This Day" notification tool has its benefits and disadvantages. While I love looking back on the good times, sometimes Facebook brings back memories that can twinge the heartstrings. 

Today's memory is a happy one though. Four years ago the lovely Ms Bif Naked was in Prince Rupert playing at the Idle No More Rally. The entire day was amazing as I'm a huge sucker for group events where a community comes together. I'm the one who tears up hearing the Canadian anthem being sung.

Bif Naked's music has long been a source of strength for me, providing the soundtrack for my life. Music is my lifeline. My girls through my own passion for her music have also acquired a love for her music.

On this day four years ago the girls had the opportunity to meet their idol, and even had the chance to hang out in her dressing room with her.

In this interaction the girls and I learned that celebrities are just like us. Yes, they are more famous then you or I, but they're still normal people.

As part of an assignment for school I am evaluating the way social media has changed the way in which we interact with celebrities. We now have the opportunity to directly interact with our idols in the virtual world, and opportunity that shows us that those that we place on pedestals are just like the rest of us.

Smithsonian Magic Rocks Review

I love science. I mean I really, really, love science. As a result I am always on the lookout for new ways to incorporate science into the lives of my children. I imagine that sometimes the girls would much rather have a "normal" Mom, but where's the fun in that?  As noted in my article Single Parenting During the Holidays one of my favourite ways to bring science into our lives is through gifts.

Under the tree Tala found the Smithsonian Magic Rocks kit from her little sister. Purchased at Michael's for $13.50 this kit was the perfect price for a sibling gift, and fits well within our Christmas theme of gifts that can created on Christmas day to fill in our day.

Due to the excitement of her mannequin doll and scrap pieces of fabric the mad scientist portion of the day was delayed until after supper. It truly amazes me how happy a gift that cost $7.50 can make a child, but in the end it really isn't the cost that matters, the thought and energy is key.

The Review

The concept of the Magic Rocks kit is fun, you add chunks of the minerals, growth compound and hot water to the mix. The "rocks" grow to varying lengths, and while the instructions note that they grow up to four inches long, our experience saw rocks growing to about half of that.
The First Batch, one hour growth time


The actual box that the kit comes in is very large, while the kit inside is disproportionate to the size of the box. Not going to lie, we were a tad disappointed with how small the kit was. The box is definitely deceiving!
First batch, 6 hours in, time to change the water and add the second half of the rock growth

The kit itself is easy to grow, and requires very little care aside from adding the second half of the minerals cubes into the water to complete the growing process. After the rocks have finished growing you drain the water and keep the container filled for the underwater rock garden.  The kit comes complete with four different colours, and an outerspace themed background for the container. The colours, along with the background add an extra special touch to the crystal garden.

The Finished product - 12 hours growth time

Disaster Strikes!

During the earthquake on December 30th our underwater rock garden took a spill which caused a complete and utter breakdown of the garden. Perhaps if we had been at home during the earthquake the garden would have been somewhat salvageable. By the time we arrived home two days later everything had dried out completely and all the crystal formations had been destroyed.

Very disappointing as the garden itself was very neat to look at, and was a great addition to our kitchen display.

In the end, the kit did what it advertised to do. Quickly grew an underwater rock garden. It was colourful and easy to do, and provided a good baseline for the girls in regards too understanding the difference in how different crystals are formed. A slightly larger kit would have been awesome! And perhaps the ability to choose different backgrounds as well would be nice. I can't help but think that the kit itself would have lent itself exceptionally well to a mermaid theme. In all actuality, my desire for other background options could have very easily been solved by printing one out myself.

Disclosure

** Please note that this is an unsolicited review. The product was purchased on our own, and all comments within this post are 100% my own.

Being Offline



Sleepy Bunny

The Offline Challenge

When I first heard about my assignment requiring me to be offline for four days I was dismayed at the thought of it. While I've gone off social media on my accord previously, going fully offline by force was not a pleasing thought. I have online classes, work and assignments that have to be completed on the computer. Yet the actual experience of being fully offline was more pleasant than anticipated.

While this particular assignment was in relation to my Anthropology of Virtual Space class I encourage everyone to take the time to go offline at some point. Decide how fully you'd like to go offline.  Is the never ending barrage of text messages driving you crazy? The pressure of social media got you down?  Drowning in emails, or firmly attached to the television or gaming? Think you cant live without Netflix? Go offline and see what happens. Pick one, or a couple or all of them and go for it! What do you have to lose?

Not being online for the week, and not being a prisoner to my phone and computer gave me the opportunity to reconnect to nature and enjoy my natural surroundings. I was surprised to spot a hummingbird in January, and was thankful to have had the opportunity to take the picture shown below of the little guy!

Observations

Hummingbird
I spent way more time on the phone. Something that would take a 5 second text message usually turned into a 20 minute long phone conversation. And while time consuming actually talking to people on the phone was a refreshing departure from the impersonal world of texting.  I plan on calling people more often, in a world of disconnection it's nice to have that personal touch.

I had to be much more organized with my time to ensure that we got places on time.  Having to use a paper bus schedule is less time consuming, but also requires knowing exactly where you're going and what bus goes near there. Thank goodness we have a small comfort zone and have only 5 main destinations!

I actually find it nice to be off of social media. And truth be told being offline turned into an inside joke where I could easily day oh gee sorry I can't I'm offline as my go to reason for copping out.  I plan on dedicating one day a week to going off social media. Interesting enough the world didn't stop rotating when I stopped checking my Facebook throughout the day. Going off social media for a day will be a nice break and a chance to recharge.

Prior to going offline I took the weekend to work ahead in all of my classes to allow me to go offline fully. I plan on continuing this trend. No more missed deadlines for this girl!

The hardest part was being separated from the goings on in the world.  My house doesn't have paper delivery so I went without news for the four days which was so strange. I rely on digital editions of my favourite papers to keep up on what's going in the world.  Being offline and not knowing what was going on outside of my immediate circle was stressful!

You can read my pre-offline ramblings here.