Friday, 27 November 2015

What to do in Edmonton: Christmas Edition

'Tis the season folks and it's actually starting to feel like it. The snow earlier this week and the fact that I actually bought a Christmas present have certainly helped. We're also going to be putting up the Christmas tree and get the outside lights up this weekend and that'll really make it. 

Edmonton is always a great city with a ton going on and Christmas is no exception, there are so many fun activities happening over the next month that are worth checking out. We will definitely be hitting up some of the events so I thought I would put together a list of what we're hoping to get to. 

Always a classic Christmas tradition that is great for the whole family and is in support of a great cause (University Hospital Foundation). It's running from now through Sunday at The Shaw Conference Centre. 

It's not Christmas without a viewing of A Christmas Carol, whether you're watching the Muppet's version on TV or catching the live theatre show at the Citadel. If you've never seen it at the Citadel you really should, it's a great production and tickets start at only $30. Shows start on November 28th and run until December 23rd. 

Here's a free event that seems to get better and better every year. The action starts on December 11th and will go right through Christmas until January 3rd. If you've never been before you can find Candy Cane Lane on 148 Street between 100 Avenue and 92 Avenue. Make sure you bring along a donation for the Food Bank and dress warm, it's way better to walk than drive! 

The Telus World of Science is going to be bringing some of your favourite Christmas movies to the big screen. You'll be able to catch A Christmas Story, Elf, Love Actually, Polar Express, and The Grinch who Stole Christmas. Check out the link above for showtimes and to buy tickets. 

Lights at the Leg
The Alberta Legislature grounds always put on a great display of lights and music. Bundle up and grab a cup of hot chocolate and go from a stroll around the area, it's a great date night! The lights go on December 3rd and there's performances at 12pm and 6:30pm daily. 

Head on down to the zoo between December 4th and 13th and check out their Christmas light displays. Tickets are only $7.50 for the grown ups and $5 for the kiddos. They even have a family night on the 8th and then a date night on the 13th...great time with or without little ones!

Craving some great holiday tunes? Get your tickets to the annual Singing Christmas Tree at the Jubilee enjoy the great set-up and fantastic music. The show is running December 17th to 20th with afternoon and evening shows available. 

This is a bit of a side note but if you're a fan of Christmas lights you should check out this Edmonton Journal link, they're going to be updating it with the best decorated houses around the city. 

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Holiday Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers

Ok folks, this will be the final entry for the holiday gift guide series and it ends with my favourite part. I really, really love stockings and they are the best part of opening presents on Christmas morning in my book. I actually like to do some pretty decent little gifts in stockings and then cut back a bit on the bigger, under the tree presents. I think this is better since you're not stuck with a bunch of knick-knacks that are going to end up getting trashed. 

What do you guys think, are you fans of stockings?

This post is a bit different as I'm just going to list out a bunch of my picks for stocking stuffers instead of linking to a bunch of specific stuff. 

Practical items: toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, post-its, travel size shampoo/conditioner

Tech: headphones, USB hub, cell phone case

Kitchen: spice mixes, vegetable peeler, ice cream scoop, coasters

Kid stuff: silly putty, hot wheels, temporary tattoos, kinder surprise, lifesaver book (classic!)

Girlie things: candles, hair ties, make-up, hair brush, jewellery, bobby pins, hand cream

Boy stuff: cuff-links, ties, shoe shine kit, swiss army knife, beef jerky

Warm weather gear: mittens, toque, scarf, hand warmers

Miscellaneous: chocolate, socks, gift cards, mini liquor bottles, magazine, chapstick, key chain, puzzle, scratch tickets

I hope these past few days have help you check off some people on your list and that you're now one step closer to being prepared for Christmas. I always love it when the shopping is all done, so much less to stress about! 

You can check out the previous gift posts herehere, here, here and here

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Holiday Gift Guide: Little Things

For part four of my holiday gift guide series we are going to focus on all those other extra little gifts you need to pick up for neighbours, colleagues, friends, etc. Unless you're really close with your neighbours or co-workers you need to go a little more generic with these gifts but obviously still want them to be awesome. Here's some easy winners in my book. 

1. Cute Plant Pot: How cute would this little planter be sitting on your office mates desk? You'll need to pick up and pop in your own little plant but it's pretty easy to find a little succulent like the one pictured (even Home Depot has them). 
2. Socks: The bf is a total sock guy and he always ends up with a bunch of crazy pairs stuffed in his stocking every year and it's a fun way to show off some personality when you have to wear boring work gear all the time. 

3. Rocky Mountain Soap Sampler: I'm a fan of Rocky Mountain Soap products and this gift set would make a fantastic (and reasonably priced) gift for a friend or a Secret Santa gift exchange. The vanilla candy cane soap in this is one of my favorite scents of all time. 

4. Mug warmer: At an old office I worked at we had mug warmers like this and they were so great since we didn't spend a lot of time sitting at a desk. If you're buying for someone who's in and out of meetings all day or just takes forever to get through a cup you should seriously consider one of these. Not exactly glamorous but super practical. 

5. Fancy pen: You know how there's always that one pen that everyone in the office fights over? You can remedy that and give someone their own special pen and if you want to splurge you could even get it engraved! 

6. Chocolates: Who doesn't love chocolate? Always a win over the holiday season and works for pretty much everyone. These Sweet Georgia Browns from Purdy's are absolutely delicious, they're like super decadent Turtles and are the bf's mom's absolute favourite. 

7. Coffee Table Book: I'm obsessed with Humans of New York, I think it's such a great idea and the stories can be so inspiring. Everyone has at least a few coffee table books and I think this would be a nice addition to anyone's collection. 

8. French Press: Have a coffee snob lover on your list? A personal sized french press would be a nice thing for them to keep at work to have the best cup of coffee possible. This one even comes in fun colours to make it a little more unique. 

9. Oil & Vinegar: These oils and vinegars are so yummy whether you use them for cooking, salad dressings or just plain old bread dipping (the best). This little sampler set would be great as a hostess gift or for anyone who loves to cook. 

We're coming to the end of this series so hopefully you're inspired and have all your shopping done ;) If that's the case I may hate you a little as I still haven't started! I'll be doing one more post on stocking stuffers so keep an eye out for that. You can find the previous gift posts for guys, ladies, and kiddos. I also did a post on DIY gifts if that's more your jam. 

Monday, 23 November 2015

Holiday Gift Guide: The Kiddos

For part three of this little gift giving series we are going to look at great gifts for kids. Now, as most of you know, I don't have any kiddos yet but certainly have a few in my life who I buy presents for. That means that this wont be a list of the hottest toys of the year, that's way out of my wheel house, but instead is (mostly) a list of things I would buy for my friend's littles. There are a couple of bigger ticket items that don't exactly fit this theme, unless you're a super spendy gifter, but I think they are great classic gifts that would get a whole lot of playtime.

1. Kendama: If you're like me you've probably never heard of this but I've been told it's a trendy game for older kids and you learn to do tricks and what not (sort of like how yoyo's used to be popular). It sounds kind of fun and I like that it's a classic toy that is at least somewhat active (you wont find any video games on this list).

2. Lamb Rocker: I had a rocking horse when I was a little one and I LOVED it, I would seriously rock away on it for hours and this adorable little lamb from Costco is so cute and looks way comfier than my old wooden one. I think any little lady would be thrilled to find this under the tree on Christmas morning.

3. Jenga: Now here's a classic game that everyone can enjoy. It takes a certain amount of coordination but for any older kids on your list I think Jenga is such a fun option. Plus it promotes family fun which is always great. I just hope your family isn't crazy competitive like some I know ;)

4. Flannel shirt: You know I love a flannel and this one for boys is super cute. Sure clothes are a bit of a lame gift for kids but hey, their parent's will appreciate it! Zara has some really cute stuff for kids and the quality is great.

5. Wagon: You know how when you were a kid and the one thing you really wanted because it was the coolest, most fun thing was that classic red wagon but you never actually got one and it still kind of haunts you? No, well I do! Buy your kid a wagon folks ;)

6. Winter dress: How perfect would this little dress be on Christmas Day? Same point above that clothes aren't exactly the most exciting gift but oh well, it's how I get my adorable kiddie clothing fix without actually having to have kids. I also just realized this dress is plaid...I think I have a problem.

7. Dollhouse: I had a way less cool dollhouse than this and still thought it was the greatest thing ever. This is definitely a splurge but if that's what you're going for I don't think anyone will be disappointed with your choice. Think of it as an investment, I'm positive it will get a ton of use and last for years.

8. Lego: Really, what is more classic than a case of Lego. It shocks me to see how many ridiculous Lego sets there are now a days, whatever happened to just sitting down with a bunch of blocks and letting your imagination build away. I'm all about confusing instructions here.

9. Books: I think books are great and instilling a love of reading at a young age is so important. Again, not the most exciting gift but also again, the parents will appreciate a book over a noisy toy any day. Book are a go to for me and I almost always include one whenever I'm gift giving to kids.

Need some more inspiration for others on your list, check out these past posts for guys, gals and DIY and keep your eye on the blog for more to come.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Holiday Gift Guide: The Ladies

Here we go with part two of my holiday gift guide and today we're focusing on the ladies. Some of these items are things that I own and love and a couple have made it onto my wish list for this year (here's hoping Santa is reading this post).

What are you lovely ladies hoping to find under the Christmas tree next month?

1. Philosophy Rollerball Trio: I'm not a big perfume wearer but I'm actually asking for this set this year as I'm trying to change my ways. I like the rollerball application as I don't find it as overwhelming as a spray and I've heard really great things about Philosophy scents.

2. Adult Colouring Book: These books are new love for me and it's one of my favourite things to do while I'm catching up on some TV. I find I get bored easy when the TV is on and colouring is so much more relaxing than always being on my phone. Pick up one of these books and some pencil crayons for just about any ladies you have to buy for. My mom is also hooked and I think is on her third book!

3. Pretty Watch: This one is a carryover from the guys post but I think a watch works equally well for the gals. We've gifted watches to my mom and to the bf's sister with happy responses. I stumbled over this Etsy listing on Pinterest and really love the wood face. Not a Canadian Etsy shop this time but I think the price is still super reasonable.

4. Clinique Sonic Brush: I got one of these as a gift for my last birthday and it has done wonders to my skin. I've never tried a Clarisonic but the Clinique version works so well and is quite a bit cheaper that I think it's a-ok. This is one of those gifts that a lot of people wont splurge on for themselves but will love you for gifting it after they get a chance to try it out.

5. Sephora Lash Stash: I love, love, love this set and I've received it the last couple of years. Sure it's a bit of a splurge (especially since I usually use drugstore mascara) but it's so fun to try out some luxe products and the small sizes are perfect for travel. This is a sure bet for any beauty buffs on your list.

6. Mittens: I'm a mitten girl through and through (my fingers always freeze in gloves, is that weird) and I had to get a new pair this year and these were the ones. They were way more than I was planning on spending but it was not easy to find a decent looking pair of mittens that didn't look like they could be used to climb Everest.

7. Wallet: My mom absolutely LOVES these cute, patterned wallets. I'm buying her one for the third time this Christmas. Again they are from an American Etsy store so the exchange rate is killing me a bit this year but it's the only thing she's actually asked me for.

8. Flannel Shirt: This is a thrifty gift but I've got three of them and they are my favourite shirts this winter, I practically live in them. I love the pullover style but they do have a classic button down version, but go for the boyfriend fit, so cute and comfy!

9. Druzy Earrings: Need something a little fancier for a special lady? Jewelry is always a good bet and these earrings are handmade, unique and oh so pretty. I'll take this rose gold pair pretty please ;)

I hope this helps you guys out with your Christmas shopping! There's a couple other posts up with some DIY Gifts and Gifts for Guys and there will be more to come this week.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Holiday Gift Guide: The Guys

Sorry for being a little absent around here this week. I did end up coming down  with that cold so my brain has been a little on the foggy side. Who knows what kind of incoherent chatter wouldn't have ended up here! Anyways, I'll try to up my game next week ;)

I'm going to do a quick series over the next week for holiday gift ideas. I haven't started Christmas shopping at all yet and am feeling the pressure so if you're in the same boat hopefully this will help inspire some great ideas!

First up today we've got gifts for the men in your life. I think most of these could work for spouses, Dad's, friends or even co-workers (the whiskey stones at least). All of these are things I've given in the past and have gone over really well. If you've got other suggestions add them in the comments below, and help inspire us all to get shopping!

1. Nice watch: I have bought watches for quite a few people in my life as gifts and have received one too. I think they work so well as gifts because it's not the kind of splurgy gift people usually like to buy for themselves.

2. Whiskey stones: Have someone in your life who enjoys the odd adult beverage? These whiskey stones make a great stocking stuffer or  you can package them up with a nice bottle of their drink of choice or even some new glasses.

3. Electric razor: Not exactly the most glamorous gift but it is something your favourite guy will use almost daily and, as the bf has assured me, electric razors are so much better than normal razors.

4. Leather wallet: Another one of those things that you don't really want to spend money on yourself but is nice to have a good one. I know my guy like to have the smallest possible wallet so this card holder with a money clip fits the bill perfectly.

5. Toiletry bag: I don't know why these are always called shaving kit because really, what guy has that much shaving stuff. I have always known them as travel kits or toiletry bags but whatever you call them, they make a great gift.

6. Nice underwear: It seems like my theme for this is to spend money on things your guy wouldn't usually spend money one, but hey, whatever works. Earlier this year the bf bought a pack of these underwear when they were on sale and he's sold. Plus, the red ones are even Christmas-y.

7. Funny tee: I know, I know, another tee is probably the last thing you want to add to your guys wardrobe but you know they love them and Busted Tees is a great place to look for funny designs. Another great place to look if your guy finds puns hilarious is Threadless.

8. Sunglasses: Everyone looks great in a classic pair of aviators so why not pick up a pair as a gift. They are also a nice gift that comes in a small package so if you're travelling for Christmas (like us) they wont be hard to pack.

9. Custom Cufflinks: If you've got a guy that has to dress up for work then cuff links can make a sweet and unique gift that can be stuffed in a stocking or wrapped up with a new shirt under the tree. I'm loving these monogrammed ones from Etsy that are made in Canada.

If you need some more gift ideas check out my previous post on DIY Gifts and keep an eye on the blog this upcoming week as there will be more to come!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Why NOT to Get Mortgage Insurance

If you've ever applied for a mortgage you'll know that they always offer you mortgage insurance and I'm hear to tell you (or remind you) not to get it. If you're on the other side and are a first time home buyer then even better, as you'll be armed with the info before dealing with the bank.

Now don't get me wrong, insurance is  important, especially when it comes to covering your debt but there is a better way of doing it.

Your bank will have you pay a monthly premium to cover whatever is outstanding on your mortgage (hence 'mortgage insurance'). Sounds great right, but let's just think about that for a minute. You are going to be paying the same premium every month for the life of your mortgage but your mortgage is going to keep shrinking, so you are basically paying the same amount for less and less of a payout. Plus, the payout goes straight to the bank so you have no control over it. Not so great now huh?

Instead you're going to want to look at getting some term insurance for an amount that will cover your debt. A term life insurance policy will more than likely be cheaper than mortgage insurance, the payout will not decrease and that payout will come directly to the beneficiary who can use it for whatever they want. The term insurance will also stick with you for as long as the term whereas you will need to reapply for mortgage insurance anytime you move your mortgage. Cheaper, guaranteed payout amount and no need to renew if you change mortgage holders...lots of positives!

If you already have mortgage insurance you should be able to cancel it at anytime with no penalties. Definitely get some term insurance quotes, get that in place and then cancel your mortgage insurance to ensure there's no gaps in your coverage.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Credit Cards: Best Bang for Your Buck

In the market for a new credit card and want to make sure you get the best possible deal? Here's a look at some of the best cards in the Canadian market and what makes them so great. You'll first want to decide which category will work best for you. If you carry a balance you'll want to go with a low rate card but if you're pretty good at paying them off every month you'll want to start reaping those rewards. If you travel a lot you should look at a card that pays out in travel rewards, otherwise a cash back card is likely the best option. 

Best Low Rate You should try as hard as you can to not carry a balance on your credit card but if you absolutely must (I get it, things happen) you should look into a low rate card. Even paying a small annual fee can be worth it if you carry a balance. The TD Emerald Visa will cost you $25/year but you'll get an interest rate as low as 4.2% depending on your credit rating. Just remember, if you're paying off your card every month don't even consider a low rate option, move right on down to something rewarding.

Best Cash Back If you spend a lot on your credit card but are on top of paying off your balance it can be worth it to fork over some money for a fee card because you'll likely make it all back and then some. The MBNA World Elite Card will cost you $89/year but can get you 2% cash back. The interest rate is 19.99% though so pay off those balances (yup, I'm a broken record). Another good option if you spend a bit less is the SimplyCash Card from Amex with 1.25% cash back and no annual fee.

Best Travel Rewards The best option for travel really depends on what airline you prefer to travel with as the cards for specific airline rewards tend to be a better value than others (like Airmiles). If you like Westjet you'll want to look at the Westjet RBC World Elite Mastercard for $99/year. If your in the Air Canada/Aeroplan club you should look at either the Amex Gold Rewards card.

Best Retail Rewards If you're not much of a traveller you can instead earn rewards to use at places you spend money. The PC Financial World Mastercard will earn you PC points to save money on your grocery bill. If you shop at Superstore (or other Loblaws stores) and already collect PC points this no fee option might be a good choice for you. Another good option, if you're a Rogers customer, is the Rogers First Rewards Mastercard. This is another no fee option that can earn you money off your phone bill. The Scotiabank Scene Visa is also a good option if your a frequent movie goer but they did just increase the number of points you need to get into imax or other premium movies so keep that in mind.

If you want more details on these or some other good options check out this article from Moneysense.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

My Faves: Books Edition

Today on the blog I'm going to give you some of my all time favourite reads. I'm a pretty avid reader and certain books have stuck with me and I come back to them time and time again. I'm also always on the hunt for great new recommendations so if you've got any must reads let me know in the comments.

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
This is a bit of a tough one because it's not exactly an enjoyable read but I do think it's a very important read. Tackling the subject of dying is very easy but Dr. Gawande forces the conversation and makes you really think about what will be important at the end of life. Everyone should read this book and hopefully it can help initiate a conversation between you and your loved ones because, as is shown through the stories in this book, communicating what you want is key. 

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed This is a new one to me, I actually just finished reading it but I thought it was really great. It's actually a compilation of articles from an advice column that Cheryl Strayed wrote as 'Sugar'. It's not exactly your typical advice column as she kind of takes a tough love approach but I found so many of the articles relevant. She's a great writer and her messages are pretty inspiring.

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. DunbarThis one's a bit old now but I read it again fairly recently and it doesn't feel dated. The two authors tackle a bunch of different social issues and use their insights into economics to give some reasons to figure out why things happen. Even if you think you would hate a book about economics you should give this a shot, the authors are really funny and you'll even learn a little something. Plus, if you really love it there's a second book and a podcast. 

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa DiffenbaughI got this book as a gift a couple of years ago and had my doubts, let's be honest, the title is horrible but trust me, it's great! It follows Victoria Jones who ages out of the foster care system and finds herself alone and on the streets. It's really a story of her struggle and how she connects with people through (you guessed it) flowers. For this one, don't judge the book by its cover you just read it. You can thank me later ;)

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls Funny, touching and a little dark, this book is a memoir of Walls' somewhat dysfunctional childhood and how she was able to become tough and self sufficient both in spite of and because of her family. I didn't have a tough upbringing (pretty much the opposite in fact) but this didn't make the book any less enjoyable to me and I still found so many things I could relate to. It really speaks to Walls' talent that she was able to bring so much humour into what must have been some pretty awful moments in her childhood. I've read some great books, but I would have to say that this is my favourite book I've ever least so far. 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen I feel a little lame adding this classic to the list because everyone knows about it but I've read it more times than any other book and always enjoy it. I sometimes have a hard time getting through the classics but Jane Austen's writing is so good, and not at all challenging to read (like say Dickins). If you've never read Pride and Prejudice you really should, and sure it's old but it's also amazing how the trials of love never really change. 

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Your Investment Options

If you're just getting into investing one of the first things you need to understand are what options are available to you. It's important to have an emergency fund setup and easily accessible (I suggest a high interest savings account) but when you start an investment account it should be for longer term goals like buying a house, your kids education or retirement and you want that money to work for you. I'll breakdown some of the most popular investment options to help give you a better idea on what will work for you right now.

GICs are the ultimate in safety when it comes in investments because they guarantee your return. Now this sounds great but the return you get (especially right now) is going to be low; think 1.50% on a 5 year GIC. The concern with such a low return is that your money may not beat inflation, which means your're actually losing money in the long term. The other concern is that most GICs are locked in so you can't get access to your money if you need it before the term is up.

Now onto more complicated matters...bonds. There are many types of bonds but they are all basically debt investments where you loan the issuer money and in return they pay you back your principal with interest. Bonds are usually a low risk investment but it really depends on the type of bond you buy and the trustworthiness of the issuer. You can get government bonds (think Canada Savings Bonds) or corporate bonds that could be backed by very solid companies or those in financial trouble. Wit
h that said, even if a company goes under, bond holders get paid out before stock holders which makes them inherently less risky.

Stocks are a riskier option but they are also where you can earn the highest returns. High risk, high reward right? When you buy stock in a company you essentially buy yourself a little (or big I suppose) piece of the company. Now stocks don't always have to be high risk but there is, of course, always some amount of risk. Even the biggest and most successful companies can loose you money and they often aren't the ones that will have big increases in returns. It can be fun to get into trading some stocks but it is always important to have a lower risk portion of your portfolio to pull you through rough market conditions. 

Mutual Funds You can buy a mutual fund that covers just about any part of the market, whether it be a specific risk level, geographical region or corporate sector. Now, mutual funds will cost you and you need to make sure you understand all the costs involved, but I think they are a good option to help you maintain a diversified portfolio. The guys and gals that run mutual funds are good at their jobs and have all possible research, analytics and models available to them to help them succeed. Stock picking can be fun as I said, but you just aren't going to have the time or resources to do the job they do so I'm OK paying them to do that for me. If you're just starting out funds can also be a way to get into a few sectors of the market with smaller amounts of money.

Index Funds and Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) Index funds and ETFs are created to mirror an index (such as the S & P 500) which basically means they hold the stock positions used in that specific index. Like mutual funds, they are a good way to diversify your account but they won't cost you as much because they simply buy what's in the index and so aren't actively managed. Just remember that while you won't do any worse than the index, this doesn't mean you are always going to have positive returns. The markets aren't always up and can sometimes be a lot.

Hopefully this helps you understand some of the different components you can use when you start investing. Let me know if you have any questions.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Dresses for the Holidays

The Christmas season always brings lots of opportunities to dress up and celebrate and on the blog today I've got some recommendations from my absolute favourite dress store. It's called Boutique 1861 and is based in Montreal but you can also shop online. They offer free shipping in Canada with purchases over $99 and, since it's Canadian, you don't have the worry about the exchange rate or duties. 

I have found the quality of their dresses to be fantastic and the prices are super reasonable. Here's a few of my picks that would work perfectly for the holidays.


Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Saving Series: Handmade Gifts

Christmas is always such an expensive time for us. I love buying, wrapping and giving gifts, and even though we don't have a huge family to buy for it still adds up so fast. We also don't have many kids to buy for so it's mostly parents, siblings and friends who can be hard to buy for since they always seem to have everything. This is when I turn to some easy (but still awesome) handmade gifts that people really seem to like.

Here's some things that have made my DIY list for the season.

1. Tile Coasters - I haven't tried this out yet but I will be (I'll let you know how it goes). I looked through a bunch of tutorials and this one sounds the best and makes the coasters water and heat resistant. You can use patterned scrapbook paper or even your own pictures for these coasters (Instagram pics would work great since they're already square). 

2. Crochet Slouchy Beanies - I am addicted to making these right now and will be giving them to everyone this year. I only learnt how to crochet last year and taught myself from you tube videos so don't feel intimidated, it's easy! These beanies are cute and really comfy, I pretty much live in one of mine every weekend. My favourite yarn for these is Caron Simply Soft which can be found at Michael's (make sure you grab a coupon).

3. Color Blocked Wood Vases - These vases are so cute and simple to make. I think they would make fantastic hostess gives with some fresh flowers in them. You can go with festive colours or keep it a little more neutral to match anyone's decor. Or change up the pattern and go with thinner stripes or even a chevron pattern instead of the colour blocking. 

4. Twenty Minute Totes - Have a sewing machine at home? These totes would work up super fast and would work great as reusable gift bags that can be used over and over. The gift bag that keeps on giving ;)

5. Marbled Clay Ring Dishes - How pretty are these little jewelry dishes? I think these would be perfect for any ladies in your life and they look unique and pricey! The tutorial sounds easy enough but I have zero experience dealing with clay and I have some doubts mine would be so nice and bowl-shaped. But hey, if it does work out...awesome, and if not I guess I'll have a misshapen jewelry dish for personal use. 

6. Boozy Hot Chocolate Mix - Here's a super easy (aka last minute) gift that would be great for neighbours, co-workers or teachers (or maybe not it acceptable to give booze to teachers? Probably not...). Anyways, you could make a bunch of these really fast if you need something quick. 

7. String Art Map Panel - This one isn't so much a tutorial as just picture inspiration but it's easy enough to follow. You could do a province (or state as shown) or do a country or pretty much anything else you can come up with. I also think it would be cute to do a star (instead of a heart) in the middle and mark off the location of a meaningful city. A piece of wood, some stain or paint, nails and some string...can't get much easier than that and you didn't even need to be an artist. 

8. Infused Olive Oils - Flavoured olive oil is so popular right now and its really simple to mix some up for yourself or as gifts. Get some cute little bottles, good quality olive oil (try Costco) and some herbs and you can whip up some little gift sets in no time. 

Let me know how it goes if you try any of these or if you've got other great DIY gift ideas. 

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

To Tip or Not to Tip?

What do you guys think about tipping? When do you do it and how much do you give and what makes you tip a lot or a little?

I feel like I'm a pretty generous tipper in most situations but sometimes i kind of hate how so many places now prompt for tips....I'm looking at you Starbucks and your annoying phone pop-ups.

I've been a server/bartender in the past so I know that it's a tough job and you definitely depend on tips, so because of that I almost always tip about 20% (unless the server is straight up rude). Lots of things can happen that are completely out of your servers hands, so as long as they're polite and try to make up for it I think they've done their job.

What about food delivery? We actually hardly ever order food, pizza once in awhile but we live central and are so close to so many great restaurants that usually we'll est out or go pick something up. From what I do know, lots of places now charge a delivery fee so I definitely take that into account when tipping the driver. I'll still usually give them something, $5 maybe.

I also tip for spa type services like haircuts, massages or when I get my nails done but less, usually around 10%. If I'm paying $50 for a haircut and it takes about an hour I figure that's pretty expensive, but I get that there are overhead costs and that's not all profit.

Now, what about all those places (like Starbucks, Booster Juice, etc.) who all hassle us for tips now. For places like that I very rarely tip, and if I do its usually a $1 or less. I figure that tipping is for really great service, and how exemplary can your service be in the 30 seconds of contact we have when I'm pulling through the drive thru. Sorry but no.

Am I totally offside on any of this? Let me know your thoughts and if it also annoys you with all the tip requests.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Awkward Moments at the Nail Salon

I'm a bit of a nail salon junkie. I can't handle long nails so I've never had fake nails before but I do like to have them polished. I'm also horrible with my nails and am lucky if regular polish lasts more than a day without chipping so every 2-3 weeks I go and get done up with some gel polish.

I always go to  fairly cheap place where they'll fix me all up for $25 and it's great but always feels so awkward. Am I the only person who walks into a nail salon and all of a sudden loses all sense of a back bone? Let's just say that I am not a pushover in normal ever day life, but there, it's like I'm transformed into a total people pleaser.

Let's take a minute to discuss some of the worries I have while sitting in that less than comfortable rolling chair...

There's one girl at my regular place who I really prefer but I will always take who I'm given, even if she's sitting right there. I've been lucky and had her the last few times so maybe now we're bff's.

And, now that we're bff's. She has taken to recommending a color for me and apparently I can't say no. She's had good picks so far and it saves me from picking, so all good I guess?? Here's to hoping I don't walk out with neon green nails next time! 

It seems like every time, no matter who does my nails, they do something in a different order on one hand and I pretty much panic that the nail polish is going to just fall off right away. This has never actually happened but I cannot stop the crazy. 

When she's doing my nails I always feel like we're awkwardly holding hands and try so hard to keep my fingers from resting on her hand.

Anyone who has ever been in a cheap nail salon knows that the girls all talk to each other in another language and I am that person who thinks they talk about me. I completely get that I am just not that interesting, and let's be honest (and extra judgey), when I'm at a cheap nail salon at 3 pm in the afternoon I am usually the most normal looking person in there.

Better yet is when they attempt a conversation and you cannot follow it all so you just nod and agree, even when it becomes so clear they are asking you an actual question.

Then there are the super awesome people you encounter. Some of my favourites: the old guy in for a pedicure who must not have washed his feet in the last year (that poor, poor girl), or the lady who must be shooting for the world record for longest nails ever (how do you do anything with those!?), or the lady who talks to you the whole time and tells you your nails have character (what does that mean and thanks...I think).

Well that's my rant, feel free to share your stories and make me feel a little less crazy!