Just Being Mallrats...

Lam had been asking, for weeks, to go Downtown to have lunch at the mall, walk around the other mall, and visit the Millennium Library. There was no school on Friday and the weather was too chilly to hit the playground, so I grabbed the kids and my camera and headed for our city's fair downtown district.

Now, for a millisecond, I thought "hey, I should run some errands while I'm downtown", but I wanted this to really be a day of fun for me with my kids. We could be crazy, funny, weird and wild. I want them to know that, like Daddy, Mommy can be fun too... in a more orderly, scheduled and "inside voice" way, of course. :)

Besides, I learned very early on that, if I had errands at the mall, I should NEVER do it with the kids in tow. Take heed, soon-to-be parents, even the most well-behaved kids occasionally turn into monkeys on caffeine at the mall. My kids are angels (heck, their farts smell like flowers) and, for the most part, do what they’re told, but expecting them to follow me like little Children of the Corn on the rare mall trip is just nuts. So, no errands.

This was the perfect day to try out the new photo tips I learned from Karen, whose blog I've recently found and come to really love reading. The malls have skylights and it was a bright day - perfect ambient lighting for no flash action shots. I was quite pleased with the results. :)

I had tofu curry and honey garlic chicken at Little Bangkok Thai while the kids chose muffins for lunch. The kids loved the various skywalks and tunnels between the Downtown malls, throwing coins in the fountains, and running around the center court with a new friend. The afternoon came to a close with borrowing some Daniel Cook DVDs from the library and - the ultimate treat - picking up Daddy from work.

It was a GREAT day! :)

MEM: The Great Home Purge of 2008

Image: "Power Poufs!" by decor8

I mentioned a while back that my sister-in-law and her husband are staying with us for a week. Well, they've confirmed that they'll be here on May 8th, giving me 2.5 weeks to get this place decluttered and in tip-top shape for guests.

They'll be staying in the kids' toy room, so we have to move some old toys out and move the futon from the family room there. One of the couches from the living room will go into the family room where the futon was, leaving room for shelves to be moved around in the living room. And yes, it's as complicated as it sounds!

Add to that the fact that we still have Roomie's old stuff from his Mom's house as well as boxes of unknown content strewn about that were rescued from last summer's water heater crash-and-burn in the basement.

Writing it all out now makes me just want to pitch all our stuff in the nearest BFI dumpster. But that's just not earth-friendly now, is it?!

So, for the next two weeks (actually, I started last week already!), the My Earth Monday assignment is to declutter responsibly, with as little as possible going into the landfill. I'll be recycling, reducing, and re-purposing. Here's how:

- old toys: non-cloth toys go to the Children's Hospital, stuffies go to Goodwill.
- kids' clothes: to friends with small kids, the consignment shop, and Goodwill.
- adult clothes: to Goodwill.
- kids' furniture: to consignment shop.
- everything else: to Goodwill.

If you can suggest any other place where this stuff is much more needed, please let me know!

When all is said and done, I'll be monitoring what comes into this house much more carefully to avoid any new clutter catastrophes!

It takes a lot more work than the easy grab-and-dump I was tempted to do, but isn't our Earth worth it?

It's All About You!

Image: "Dave Wants You" by Chris Owens

Today's post is all about you! For this week's 52WoC task, I want to know about YOU, my dear readers, the clever folk who come and read my pearls of wisdom. :)

So, please tell me...

1: Who are you? What do you like to be called? (Feel free to be creative with that second question.)

2: Where are you from? Which country do you live in?

3: What is your favourite colour?

4: What is your favourite song?

5: How did you find my blog?

Bonus Question: Do you have a blog? If so, please let us know the url, and we'll come visit!

Please give us your answers in the comments. Can't wait to hear from you!

Poll Results: My Favourite Place on Earth

Image: Hawaii Faves by Dan Zen

Happy Earth Day!
Last week's poll asked if you've been to my favourite place on Earth: Hawai'i. More specifically, I asked which Hawaiian Islands you've visited. Sadly, most of you have never even been to one!

My 4 months living as a local in the fine town of Hilo on the Big Island, getting to know the people and the places, were among the most idyllic and enriching in my life. I highly recommend it as a vacation spot, especially if you get out of the "tourist-y" spots and make the time to visit the historical monuments and heritage sites. You'll be pleasantly surprised.

Now, we all have our preconceived ideas of The Islands. Before I moved there, my views were limited to hula dancers, beaches, and luaus. But there's so much more!

Here are my list of the top 6 things that surprised me about Hawai'i... maybe they'll surprise you too...

1: Aloha Fridays
Fridays are a special day where the Aloha Spirit is celebrated. Men don their best Aloha shirts, and women dress to the nines in their sundresses and muu-muus. Whatever you wear, it must have a tropical Aloha pattern. And everywhere you go, you hear the It's Aloha Friday song on PA systems and speakers.
My husband has continued this tradition of wearing his Aloha shirt on Fridays here in Winnipeg.

2: Cockroaches
These dudes are EVERYWHERE! They're big, and they fly! When I moved there, Roomie had already duct taped every opening he could find to keep them out, but once in a while, one STILL found a way in. You could find them on your toothbrush in the morning, in your bedside glass of water, and in empty pop cans. Yuck...

3: Largest Cattle Ranch
Bread is expensive in Hawai'i because many ingredients have to be imported. A loaf could cost $4CDN. But a quality lean 2 inch steak could also cost just $4CDN because beef doesn't have to be shipped in. Why? The largest contiguous ranch in the US is in Hawaii. The Parker Ranch has about 480,000 acres of land.

4: Oh, the aromas!
The Hawaiian Islands are ripe with the scent of flowers, beach, coconut and ocean. But don't breath too deeply! My husband occasionally complained that, during his bike-ride to work, tempted by a whiff of something sweet and beautiful, he would inhale deeply only to catch a smell of animal manure, rotting vegetation, or animal carcass, when the wind would shift. Lovely.

And I'm not talking about the email kind! Hawaiians love this canned pork product. All Hawai'i McDonald's have added it to its breakfast menu; Hawaiians developed a Spam sushi (which you can get at 7-Elevens); and there's even an annual festival in Waikiki called Spam Jam. Many call Spam the "Hawaiian Soul Food".

6: Most Observatories
Hawai'i contains the world's largest collection of telescopes and scientific observatories in the world. They are all on the summit of dormant volcanoes. My husband worked at one on Mauna Kea. He took me on a tour. It was cool. :)

Okay, it's Earth Day. Get out there, and enjoy your little corner of the world!

My Earth Monday: Celebrating Earth Day

Image: Atlas, it's time for your bath by woodleywonderworks

Tomorrow is April 22nd, the 39th Earth Day!

If you're an old pro at doing the green thing, you probably already have plans to celebrate in a big way. But if you're a novice but want to do something quick and easy for the day, try these:

1: Walk, cycle, or take public transit to work, instead of taking the car.

2: Buy nothing, or if you need to buy something, head over to your nearest health food store or organic grocer, and purchase the eco-friendly version.

3: Plant a tree.

4: Make your meals using only locally grown produce.

5: Go vegetarian for the day.

6: Have an Earth Hour.

7: Wear earthy colours such as green, brown, rusty reds, terra cotta oranges, and deep sea blues.

8: Collect all of your raw vegetable waste (ie. banana peels, onion skins, apple cores, etc.), and give them to a friend who has a compost bin.

9: Change one or more of your light bulbs into energy efficient bulbs.

10: Go to one of the many Earth Day celebrations in your city. Check online for festivities near you. In Canada, go to Earth Day Canada.

11: Recycle everything!

So, what are you doing to celebrate Earth Day? Do you have any ideas you can add to our list?

It's Aloha Friday! v.II

It's Aloha Friday - No work till Monday!...

It's another Aloha Friday, so let's swig some mango juice, dig up that kalua pig, grab the hula sarong & aloha shirt, and celebrate with a sweet mix of topics...

1) A big THANK YOU to friend and fellow bloggista Jami at Bionic Beauty for nominating me for a Blogger's Choice Award in the Hottest Mommy Blogger category & Best Blog About Stuff category :)
Some people don't get excited about awards, but I do! Frankly, the hottest mommy thing has me blushing a bit, but hey, it could be an award for best trepanation technique or best merkin design (both of which I DON'T have on this blog, by the way), and I'd take it! :)
So, please head over there and vote for me!... because we all know I deserve it. Okay, just kidding ;)

2) It appears that I may have been channeling when I wrote No More Plastic Water Bottles, the My Earth Monday where I ditch plastic water bottles for an aluminum SIGG bottle.
You've all probably heard by now about stores pulling all bottles made with BPA or bisphenol A, a plastic chemical with links to potential long-term risks of breast and prostate cancer. These are baby bottles and workout water bottles, including brands such as Avent and Nalgene, among others.
Makes me thankful my little ones went from breast straight to straw/sippy cups.
Be sure to look through your plastics and look for the recycling triangle with a "7" in the center... those are the ones you need to get rid of.
Go. Do it now. I'll wait...

3) My SIL and her hubby are coming to stay with us for a week next month. They are very nice people, and I want their stay to be a comfortable and pleasant one. But that's not going to happen if I don't declutter this joint! I'm going to have my hands full these next few weeks getting rid of stuff and rearranging furniture. This is the push I need to get me off my complacent bum and get things done. I'm really looking forward to it!

4) I need to stop eating yogurt... I'm becoming addicted again. :)

5) I swear my son is Hermes Conrad. Over the past few months, he's been making me fill out forms, talk through an intercom, and understand his cross-referencing scheme with catalogues, item numbers, and his birthday list (which is tacked on the fridge). And he does a mean limbo! :)

6) Meanwhile, my daughter is becoming quite the little daredevil. I bought both kids big fluffy floor pillows, and I know this weekend will mainly consist of me trying to stop her from launching herself off chairs onto the big pile of pillows... and other potential pointy things underneath.

So, what are your plans for this weekend? Are they as exciting (or nerve-wracking) as mine?

Poll Results: Cell Phones - Never Leave Home Without 'Em

Image: Samurai on a Cell Phone by rumpleteaser

This week's poll attracted only 5 voters. I'd like to think my regular visitors just didn't know to look for it. :)
The Weekly Poll is new, but it's a permanent feature, so be sure to look for a new poll every week in the sidebar, every Tuesday.

This week's results didn't surprise me at all. All 5 voters considered their cellphones a must-have, never-leave-home-without-it item.

I would've voted the same way. If I'm out with the kids, I like to know that I can call Roomie or 911 in case of emergency, or if I'm out with the girls, I like to know that Roomie can reach me for any "Help, Mommy!" event.

Do you remember a time when we DIDN'T have cell phones? I don't. How did we arrange meet-ups with people on the fly? How did we call our spouses that we'd be late for dinner because we're stuck in traffic? Did we really run to the nearest pay phone only to find we had no quarters? Yipes!

If you have a concern or two that have kept you from getting your own cell phone, I've complied 5 Cell Phone Myths and their explanations.

Myth: You can unlock a car with a cell phone.
False - Unlocking your spouse's car door from home through your cell phones doesn't work because the only thing sent through is the tone of the button being pressed not the radio frequency needed to actually open the door.

Myth: Cell phones cause plane crashes.
Inconclusive - In 2003, the UK's Civil Aviation Authority ran some tests with simulated cell phone signals in a chamber on the ground, and found the signals interfered with the equipment. However, these results were never replicated in a running aircraft. Flight attendants will still make you shut down your stuff at takeoff and landings not only to err on the side of caution but to make sure laptops and cell phones don't go flying in an emergency stop.

Myth: Cell phones cause explosions at gas pumps.
False - Cell phones do not emit enough static electricity to ignite fuel vapours. This rumour was circulated in 2002 and stated that Shell warned of 3 instances of cell phone caused explosions. Shell has since claimed it was a hoax.

Myth: Cell phone signals disrupt hospital equipment, killing patients.
False - In a study performed by the Mayo Clinic in 2006 involving 300 tests, 2 cellular phones with different technologies from different carriers and 192 medical devices, no problems were encountered whatsoever. They encourage hospitals and clinics to alter or remove bans on cell phones.

Myth: Carrying a cell phone in your pocket will affect sperm count and cause male infertility.
True - sort of. An Ohio study divided 361 men based on the degree of their cell phone use, and although they have yet to test for other factors such as drug usage, occupation, etc., there was a correlation between low sperm count and high cell usage.

My Earth Monday: The Done List

Image: Its Future is in our Hands by aussiegal

You may have noticed when I announced the launch of My Earth Mondays that I gave no end date. My Earth Monday is forever.
Plus, it's not just tasks for us to complete. It's green gadgets, eco stories, and earthy photos I find to share with you to help raise awareness of the world around us.

The "My" part of the title is not just for me. I named it that way so you can all take ownership of this planet and to encourage you to feel you can take part.
This is why I'm so pleased at the comments and emails saying "okay, I'll try that too!" and "hey, have you done this?" Your participation means a lot.

This week, instead of a task, I'm sharing with you the list of green things I already do. I've sent several replies to visitors saying "I already do that. Do you have any other suggestions?", so this should help if you want me to try something out that I've never done before. And maybe this list can give you ideas to add to your list.

So, do you do any of this stuff already? What is on your green list?

Here's my green list:

1. Use a programmable thermostat to automatically turn down the heat at night.
2. Compost.
3. Made all my bills electronic. (I tried to do my phone bill, but they still snail mail me my bill - must call them today.)
4. No smoking.
5. Use wind-up flashlights.
6. Use rechargeable batteries for digital camera.
7. Use cold water for laundry.
8. Use a natural laundry detergent.
9. Enforce a shoes-off-at-the-door policy.
10. Recycle everything that can be recycled.
11. Use reusable bags instead of plastic grocery bags.
12. Use towels at least 5 times before changing them.
13. Growing indoor plants.
14. Use Method dishwashing liquid.
15. Use Norwex cleaning cloths and water for everyday cleaning (diluted dishwashing liquid for heavier dirt).
16. Properly dispose of my used batteries at a local hazard waste depot.
17. "If it's yellow, let it mellow..."
18. Pick up litter when I spot it.
19. Continue to reuse our ugly fake Christmas Tree and reuse our favourite ornaments, instead of buying new Christmas decorations.
20. Have occasional "inside days" when we don't go out and spend money.
21. Drive a fuel efficient vehicle.
22. Own one vehicle for family use.
23. Live centrally where every convenience is in walking distance.
24. Xeriscaping the front yard.

That's all I can think of...Okay, now you!

Results of Last Week's My Earth Monday: Switch to Natural Bath Products...

My new favourite body wash is Desert Essence Organics' Green Apple & Ginger Body Wash. It was not drying, lathered nicely, and had a scent that was vaguely reminiscent of the watered down martinis my friends and I used to down every Payday Friday in the late '90s. I should get harmzie or myrtle to smell my arm... maybe they'll recognize it! :)
They contain "NO parabens, NO Sodium Laurel/Laureth Sulfates, NO Phthalates, NO Artificial Fragrances or Colors, NO Silicones, NO EDTA, NO Glycols and NO Petroleum based ingredients". They are cruelty free and are completely biodegradable. Very nice.
$8.99 for a 237ml tube.

I LOVE my new hair products! I went to my local VitaHealth market and bought the Rejuvenating Shampoo and Conditioner by Green Beaver Company. I even used it on the kids when I gave them their bath last night. My (and the kids') hair is so bouncy! I am more than pleased. They were about $8.99 each for the 325ml bottles. It's not drugstore prices, but it's worth it... oh, and it's a Canadian company using wild and organic Canadian ingredients.

What's Your Makeup Lingerie?

All my makeup fits in a small Kama Sutra Honey Dust tin... with room to spare. No, I don't have much makeup. Not anymore, at least. In my 20s, I experimented a LOT. I lived in Hawaii (you can get stuff in the US you just can't get in Canada) and Vancouver BC (you can get stuff in Vancouver you just can't get in Winnipeg) at the time. My bathroom counter was lined with every skincare and cosmetics line you can imagine!

But when I hit my 30s (and once again living in Winnipeg), I realized that sinking half my paycheque into an RRSP (registered retirement savings plan) rather than the local M.A.C. counter would probably be better for my future. Around this time, I started to adopt a more natural look, just enhancing what I already had.

Thus evolved what my friend Jen at Mythbuster Beauty calls my "makeup lingerie".

What is "makeup lingerie"?
It's the bra and panties of the face. It's what you would never leave the house without putting on first, just in case you run into an old high school rival or the ex who dumped you, or heaven forbid, you get hit by a bus (hope you have clean underwear on too!).

So, what's YOUR makeup lingerie?

Here's mine:
  • mascara - Avon Astonishing Lengths waterproof (black) - and my lashes must be curled!

  • brow gel - Rimmel Style & Shine

  • tinted lip balm - Aveda (coco plum)

  • tinted moisturizer - PF Organic wear (Natural to Tan) - used as concealer around the eyes

  • Okay, now you! :)

    The Sun Comes Out and the Snow Boots Come Off

    It'll be 9C today, if the weather people are to be believed, and since it was warm enough yesterday for Mini to forgo wearing her jacket, I figured we should start to make the transition to spring outerwear.

    So, I went into the bowels of my home and brought up the spring/summer jackets and shoes. They all still fit for the most part, except for Lam's rain boots. Too small. Bummer, really, because his not wanting to wear his snow boots to school anymore was actually the catalyst for this event. Again, bummer.

    Mini, on the other hand, is in rain boot heaven. Her yellow boots finally fit, and she's been wearing them around the house. "Look, Mommy, my boots fit! I'm a big girl, right?!"

    You know, it's transitions like these - going from winter to summer and vice versa - that frustrate me. We now have two sets of outer wear in our closet because Winnipeg weather is very fickle until about, oh, June, when it allows us to put our parkas in storage.

    Meh, I should just stop complaining. It's getting warmer, and the snow drifts on my front yard are melting. Happy happy. :)

    Friends south of the equator are experiencing their seasonal transition too.

    So, are you all suited up for the new season? Not yet? Have been for weeks already?

    My Earth Monday: Switch to Natural Bath Products

    Image: Light Showers by jurvetson

    Welcome to another My Earth Monday! Yippy!
    As you can see from the title of this post, this week's challenge is to switch to natural bath/shower products.

    This is strictly stuff in your bathroom. I'll be tackling cosmetics and other grooming products in a future My Earth Monday.

    We're running out of shampoo and conditioner in this house, plus I need some bath wash - which I prefer over bar soap - so, if I'm going to go out and get new stuff, I might as well get the good stuff!

    It's no secret that many of today's drugstore bath and shower products are loaded with harmful chemicals that are known carcinogens, irritants, hormone disruptors, and poisons. Some examples of those found in personal care products include:

    Sodium lauryl sulfate -
    This stuff, found in shampoos, conditioners, bath and body washes, and kids' bubble bath, actually cleans by corrosion. It interferes with the skin's ability to self-moisturize, and has been linked to cataracts in adults and eye development in kids under 6.

    Propylene Glycol -
    This stuff, found in shampoos, lotions and deodorants, is known to cause musculo-skeletal damage, liver damage, and thickening of the skin.

    Diethanolamine (DEA) -
    Used as an emulsifier in shampoos and conditioners, it is a known carcinogen.

    And that's just 3 ingredients! For more, check out the list at Healthy Living International .
    Be sure to check out the ingredients in the shampoos, conditioners, and soaps you have at home right now!

    Don't forget, the harmful chemicals that don't get absorbed into our bodies get washed down the drain and into our rivers and lakes causing harm to other living things!

    So, this week, I'll be shopping around for a natural alternative to shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. If you want to join me, you can:
    1) swap these items in your shower too.
    2) choose one shower item to change... maybe the one that you're running out of right now.
    3) do all that and swap out even more stuff like your body lotion and deodorant too.

    Let me know if you're in!

    Wanna Try?

  • The natural store at drugstore.com [aff]
  • Bath Petals
  • The House of Aromaticz

    Results of Last Week's My Earth Monday: No More Plastic Water Bottles...

    I went to Aviva St.Vital to get my SIGG bottle, and it's perfect and beautiful. See?

    It's lightweight and has a wonderful leakproof cap. We didn't go out again after that shopping trip, because Lam got sick the rest of the week, so I didn't get to test drive away from home, but I foresee a flood-free bag in my future!

    Hope you did well too. :)
  • The Blog Star Awards

    For this week's 52 Weeks of Blog Community assignment, I give a blog star award to 3 fabulous women whose blogs have made such a difference in my life.

    So, without further ado, I present blog stars to...

    * Jami at Bionic-Beauty.com
    * Mrs.Mogul at mrs.mogul - big city mama & pop culture addict
    * April at April's CR Diary

    Bionic-Beauty.com -
    I found Jami's blog through Jen's Mythbuster Beauty a few, very short months back. I was first struck by the simple elegant design of her blog, but her honesty, candidness, and how she reaches out to her readers keep me coming back with each new post. A fellow geek, she's become a friend who brings out my fun girlie side by sharing her fun girlie side, and that's really cool!

    mrs.mogul - big city mama & pop culture addict -
    I don't remember how I found Mrs.Mogul, but I'm glad I did. I describe her as my "pop culture crack dealer". I visit her every day for cool stuff, her angle on the latest in celebrity happenings, and a peak into her fun world.

    April's CR Diary -
    I've been reading April's blog for over a year now. A smart and gutsy woman, April's efforts in maintain her good health have helped me in my own CRON practice. Her posts are insightful, candid, and have taught me to be fearless in the pursuit of good health my own way.

    Many thanks to you! You and your blogs have changed my life for the better. Please keep it up!

    Who's On Your Freebie List?

    Image: The Cradle-Robbing Martini Marauders 1999

    Whenever my girlfriends and I get together for a Girls' Night Out, we always talk about the latest versions of our freebie lists.
    The revelations usually take place just after dinner. We're relaxed, enjoying dessert, a little buzzed, and primed for some laughter and the inevitable swooning. It's one of my favourite times of the evening.

    If you've watched Friends, you'll know what the "freebie list" is. For those who don't know, the freebie list is the list of famous people you can bed with the permission of your significant other, if you are able to lure them to your lair in the first place.

    I'm sure, for a group of smokin'-hot babes, my girls and I would all have a decent chance with the dudes on our lists - if only we'd move to Hollywood, choose the guys that were still alive, and not have to invent a time machine to hook up with the hotties in question. Yes, I'm looking at you, sly and myrtle! "Sean Connery but only in Darby O'Gill and the Little People", indeed! Pfft!

    Ross' laminated list had only 5, but we increased our lists to 10. For this post, I'll only reveal my top 5.

    So, how about you? Have you made your own list? Who's on it?

    Okay, without further ado, here's my Top 5...

    Gerard Butler
    My #1, this dude's appeal is that he's not a pretty-boy. Smart and funny, Ger would make a one-night-stand entertaining in more ways than one.
    It's rather disturbing that, in some pictures, he looks eerily like Roomie. I mean, fantasizing about a guy that looks just like your spouse shows such a lack of imagination. But it also means I'm married to my fantasy guy. :)

    Eric Bana
    He was hot in Troy... well, who wasn't hot in Troy?! But he was truly the apex of hottitude in that movie, outshining even Brad Pitt, to me at least. Harmzie might disagree. :)

    Olivier Martinez
    Restaurant bathroom scene, Unfaithful... just watch it and you'll understand. :) Kylie's a lucky girl. He's also known as the Brad Pitt of France... do you see it? I do... a little.

    Richard Dean Anderson
    He never did anything for me as McGyver, but as Jack O'Neill in Stargate SG-1, wow. He rocks that black t-shirt when he runs. :) Once again, the humour is a big factor.

    Requires no justification, n'est pas? :)

    Okay, now you! I can't wait to see who's on your lists!

    123 Book Tag

    Despite being sick in bed, my friend Shai rescues me from today's writer's block by tagging me for the 123 Book Tag, so here goes...

    1. Pick up the nearest book of at least 123 pages.
    2. Open the book to page 123.
    3. Find the fifth sentence.
    4. Post the next three sentences.
    5. Tag five people.

    1. Pick up the nearest book of at least 123 pages

    I choose one of favourite erotica books, Bella's Blade by Georgia Angelis (Black Lace).

    2. Open the book to page 123

    Okay, check.

    3. Find the fifth sentence

    Hang on while I wade through the torrid smut... okay, here we are.

    4. Post the next 3 sentences

    Her many curves assaulted Dan's senses and he moaned, wondering whether it was possible to die of embarrassment and whether she could see him swelling hard in his breeches. 'Come in, by all means.'
    She did and suddenly he wondered whether that had been a mistake.

    5. Tag 5 people

    Like Shai, I don't feel entirely comfortable about tagging people. I don't want anyone to feel obligated to participate, especially if they look at this kind of thing like a chain letter. But I will be tagging: Mrs. Mogul, Jen, Amy, Arturo, and Zandria.
    If you choose to do the tag, let me know! If not, that's okay too - just consider this a bit of link love!