In Honour of Canada Day: 15 Crazy Facts About Canada You Didn’t Know

Happy 150th, Canada! This year marks a big anniversary for our great nation, and while not all Canadians will be celebrating, the majority of us will be sticking Canadian flags on every bare surface we can find and admiring the fireworks with our friends and families. I’ve compiled a list of 15 fascinating facts about (I mean, ‘aboot’) Canada – feel free to use these tidbits to impress your fellow Canucks this weekend.

  1. Our national motto is “A Mari usque ad Mare”, meaning “From Sea to Sea”.
  2. Canada is the second-largest country in the world, second only to Russia. Many Canadians insist that it’s also the second coldest country in the world, second only to Russia.
  3. The coldest temperature ever recorded here was -63C (-81.4F) in the Yukon. See what I mean? Brrr!
  4. We’ve created overpasses for wildlife. In Alberta’s Banff National Park, there are a number of curved highways and tunnels covered in greenery which allow animals such as bears, moose, deer, wolves, and cougars to safely cross highways instead of wandering onto the road and causing collisions. Neat, eh? Read more here.
  5. The North American beaver is our national animal.
  6. About 75% of the world’s pure maple syrup supply is produced in Canada. Yum!
  7. During the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, our athletes set two records: most gold medals won by a country during a Winter Olympics and most golds won by a host country during a Winter Olympics. That’s definitely something to brag about!
  8. Canada has about 1400 airports, the largest and busiest of which is Toronto Pearson International.
  9. In Saskatchewan, hoodies are called “bunnyhugs”. Aww.
  10. About 30% of Canada’s land mass is covered in forests.
  11. Canada is home to nearly 60% of the world’s polar bear population.
  12. The name “Canada” is said to come from the Iroquioan word kanata, meaning “village”.
  13. British author A. A. Milne fashioned the beloved Winnie the Pooh after a black bear cub he frequently visited at the London Zoo, who was named “Winnipeg” by the Canadian soldier who donated her. The soldier’s hometown was, of course, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
  14. Montreal is the the fourth largest French-speaking city in the world. Ooh la la.
  15. Residents in Churchill, Manitoba often leave their cars unlocked during the winter to provide shelter for pedestrians who might encounter polar bears.

Happy Canada Day!

This Earth Day, Here Are 7 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Environmental Impact on Earth

On April 22nd, 1970, after witnessing the devastating effects of a massive oil spill in California, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson successfully inspired 20 million Americans to march and demonstrate until environmental protection became a part of their country’s political agenda. Since then, April 22nd has been celebrated as Earth Day every single year. Today, it is a global event aimed at educating people from all walks of life about how we can help create a healthy and sustainable environment. (First and foremost is to reduce, reuse, and recycle.)

Whether we know it or not, each of us has contributed in some way to climate change, air and ocean pollution, and environmental degradation. According to wired.com, “In 2014, plastic grocery bags were the seventh most common item collected during the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup, behind smaller debris such as cigarette butts, plastic straws, and bottle caps.” Those are likely some of the items each of us throws away on a weekly basis, and that’s something we need to change. The following is a list of ways to reduce your environmental impact on our planet!

1. Use travel mugs and reusable water bottles instead of Styrofoam, plastic, and paper. 

This is one of the simplest tips on this list to adhere to. You can find affordable travel mugs and BPA-free water bottles at Walmart, Costco, or your local grocery store. Globally, we create so much pointless plastic and paper waste that ends up decomposing in landfills and oceans. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw away an estimated 25 billion Styrofoam cups per year (around 82 cups per person). That means there are literally millions of pounds of Styrofoam and plastic debris floating around in our oceans, which pose a very real risk to the health of marine life. Bonus: many coffee houses, such as Starbucks, will reward you with a $0.10 or $0.20 discount on drinks when you bring your own mug or tumbler. Starbucks even sells an environmentally-friendly, reusable cup for $2 that is an exact replica of the brand’s traditional paper ones. 

2. Carpool, walk, bike, and use public transportation whenever possible. 

This isn’t an option for everyone, but it’s worth making the effort if you do have access to a bike, shared car, and/or public transportation. You’ll cut down on the amount of pollution you produce and may even get to your destination more quickly. If Canadian and Americans (roughly 372 million of us) carpooled, biked, or took the bus every other day, we’d make a noticeable difference in the amount of emissions our countries would produce. 

3. Switch your plastic grocery bags for reusable ones. 

You can find these bags everywhere (try Walmart or your local grocery store). Whether they’re made of cotton, straw, or recycled materials, you’ll be reducing the number of plastic bags you throw away each year that end up negatively impacting marine life or taking decades to decompose in landfills. 

4. Lower your water and energy usages. 

You might be surprised at how much of a financial and environmental impact your household’s energy consumption and water usage have. These are a few ways to reduce your water and energy bills: only run the laundry and dishwasher at full capacity and during off-peak hours, don’t leave the water running while you brush your teeth, take faster showers, fix leaky faucets to save wasted water, turn off the lights when you leave a room, only turn on the heat and air conditioning when necessary, buy energy-efficient light bulbs, and unplug electronics from the wall when they’re not in use.

5. Pack waste-free meals, picnics, and snacks.

As noted in tip #1, it is incredibly important for each of us to reduce our amount of Styrofoam, plastic, and paper waste! Rather than packing breakfast or lunch for yourself or others using Cling Wrap/plastic wrap, paper napkins, and plastic utensils, use Tupperware, real cutlery from home, and basic cloth napkins that can be tossed in the laundry when they get dirty. Reusable food containers (such as Tupperware) can be used in any situation, from bringing home food after a family get-together to packing away leftovers at a restaurant to storing your entire take-out meal. (The last two sound a little extreme, but a quick Google search proved that they’re good ideas that help cut down on waste.) 

6. Upgrade to energy-efficient home appliances.

Look for home appliances such as dishwashers, air humidifiers, and refrigerators that are emblazoned with the ENERGY STAR logo – this means they were built to reduce energy consumption and money spent on said energy. (Products become ENERGY STAR-certified when they reach high levels of energy efficiency.)

7. Eat local, or go vegetarian if you’re really committed. 

The idea of eating locally is that food that is grown, produced, and manufactured locally (usually within 100 miles) doesn’t have to travel very far to end up on your plate, thus reducing the amount of emissions produced in preparing your meal. Restaurants have caught on to this trend and often have tasty “farm-to-table” or “sustainable” menu options. You can take further action by becoming a vegetarian, which is not a new lifestyle choice but has garnered tons of support in recent years as research shows that it results in fewer emissions produced per person. Find out more about eating locally here and more about becoming a vegetarian here

Why Do So Many of Us Take Family For Granted?

Admit it: more than once, you’ve been forced to plaster on a smile when a family member announced they’d be dropping by. You had planned catch up on work or relax with a new book, and you just know your sibling/uncle/parent will inevitably get on your last nerve. Or perhaps you’re groaning at the thought of attending yet another family get-together with extended relatives from out of town. It’s okay – we’ve all been there.

But wait a minute. Is it okay? Whether immediate or extended, your family is just that – your family. They share your blood, they have the same parents or grandparents or cousins as you, and they likely grew up with you or raised you. They’re the ones who will be there for you no matter what. So why do we ignore them and treat them like second-class citizens?

I think one reason is that, unfortunately, we see that behaviour around us all the time. Think about it – how many movies have you seen where the main character humorously complains about their family? How many times have you heard the expression, “Too bad you can’t choose your family, but thank God you can choose your friends?” I’ll tell you: too many times. (Even hearing it once is one too many times. It’s a cruel expression.) We hear our friends and family criticizing relatives and think it’s normal for us to do the same. Perhaps it is normal in our society, but that doesn’t make it right.

Another reason is that we know they’ll always forgive us. My grandmother, for example, is a sweet little lady who my family and I often describe as “overly helpful.” The problem is that we focus on “overly” instead of “helpful.” When she voices her opinions on our personal choices or insists that her recipe is better than ours, she’s not trying to control us; she’s trying to help us. Even though we sometimes forget this and don’t give her as much attention or respect as she deserves, she doesn’t hold that against us. She knows we understand that she wants the best for us, and therefore she remains supportive, loving, and mild-mannered. She’s also the only grandparent I’ve ever known, and if you’re in a similar situation (i.e. if you have only one cousin or sibling or aunt), you may understand the need to treat that person with extra love and care because they’re extra special to you. It’s something I try to remind myself of each time I talk with her.

Many of us assume that we have decades of exasperatedly sitting through family get-togethers ahead of us. Sadly, life is often cut short and people are subsequently left with regret. So, if you ever catch yourself thinking about a relative in a negative way, do yourself a favour and reevaluate your reasons for having those thoughts. Are you frustrated about something else and taking it out on that person? Are you secretly jealous of them for being further along than you in life or work? Do you have unresolved feelings towards them for something that happened in the past? Maybe you’re subconsciously looking past their great qualities and only seeing the not-so-great ones. Whatever the case, you’ll feel so much better if you change your negative attitude towards them. Chances are, so will they!

Happy International Women’s Day!

Hello, readers! How are you celebrating the women in your life today? 

International Women’s Day is a wonderful yearly reminder of the strength and resilience of the women who gave us life, raised us, and overcame numerous obstacles to get where they are today. Those of us lucky enough to come from families where women are wholeheartedly celebrated, supported, and encouraged to succeed have been given extraordinary role models; we can learn so much from the triumphs of our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and sisters. 

This day is particularly important in 2017, which, just 9.5 weeks in, has already seen worldwide marches and protests against the sexist comments and bigoted views of Donald Trump. Today, the organizers behind the Women’s March on Washington encouraged women around the world to go on strike in a “one-day demonstration of economic solidarity…recognizing the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system – while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequalities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity.” Go, ladies!

You can check out some awesome history and facts about International Women’s Day here. Thanks for reading! 

In the Spirit of Family Day, Here Are 5 Meaningful Ways to Help Local Families in Need

For those of you who may not know, Family Day is a statutory holiday in February that occurs in certain Canadian provinces. As the title suggests, the holiday was created so Canadians could spend the day at home with their families instead of at work or school. It’s a cute concept, right?

I spent the long weekend enjoying time with my family as we soaked up the unexpected sunshine and had a barbecue for the first time since October. As we ate, however, I couldn’t help feeling sad for those people who were unable to gather with their families this past weekend. We often forget that so many Canadians come from broken homes, live below the poverty line, and/or are homeless. According to Canada Without Poverty, an estimated 1 in 7 Canadians are currently experiencing conditions of poverty. That’s not okay.

Here’s a quick list of how you can help families in need. Remember, every little bit counts…

  1. Make a donation to a Canadian charity. Whether you can spare $25 0r $250, this is one of the simplest ways to make a difference. Here is an excellent list of the top-rated charities and foundations across the country – they’ll put your money to good use.
  2. Donate your old clothes, toys, books, and furniture to those who would cherish your used items. Ideally, this is something you should already be doing! We all have old items sitting around and collecting dust. Torontonians can check out this list of where to donate and which organizations offer free pick-ups.
  3. Volunteer. Try local homeless shelters, Indigenous groups, soup kitchens, poverty organizations, and social justice foundations – they’re often searching for more help.
  4. Get involved. Become an advocate for a charity, foundation or organization that helps eliminate poverty, such as Make Poverty History Canada. Sign petitions and help spread messages of how we can help eradicate poverty in our country.
  5. Take action. You can sponsor a refugee to come to Canada and reunite with their family, you can protect trafficked persons in Canada, you can build homes for homeless families…the list goes on!

There are so many ways for you to roll up your sleeves and help make a difference in the lives of those in need. Don’t forget to ask your family and friends to get involved with you – you’ll be able to enjoy time together while joining forces to ease the burdens of other families. Thanks for reading!

Don’t Get Angry About Donald Trump’s Presidency – Get Educated!

Well, folks, the thing we never thought would happen has just happened. This morning, American businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, and not many people are happy about it. 

After the nation made the progressive decision to elect Barack Obama as president in 2008 and again in 2012, a certain amount of excitement and hope surrounded the 2016 election: was America finally going to elect a female president? The numbers were close, but ultimately, the people of the United States made the mind-boggling decision to elect a man who appeared completely unqualified to lead the most powerful country in the world. 

Even Canadians (such as myself) know that Trump was one of the least popular presidential candidates in U.S. history. Examples: Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the 2016 election against him, despite losing the presidency. Multiple world-famous performers declined invitations to perform at his inauguration ceremony. His vulgar and shockingly offensive comments about women and minorities kicked off protests and marches in at least 60 countries. Frustratingly, many Americans – women and minorities included – still support both him and his agenda.

If you’re angry, devastated and/or thoroughly confused about Trump being elected, my advice is to educate yourself and others about local and global issues that will be affected by his presidency. Think climate change, women’s rights, immigration, LGBT rights, international trade and relations, etc. Once you know the facts, let others know what his being elected actually means. Find out his plans (or lack thereof) to resolve society’s most urgent and important issues. Reread his latest speeches and learn more about who he has appointed to his cabinet. Knowledge is power, friends! Use it wisely. 

Architectural Digest’s Style & Design Tips for December 2016

This month, the magazine explores the Obama family’s modern White House style, shows us how to display artistic sculptures in our homes, and gives examples of how lush greenery can compliment both architecture and personal style.

I hope you all had a happy and festive Christmas! Now that the excitement of presents and Christmas dinner has come to an end, many of us are coming up with our New Year’s resolutions and making personal goals for 2017. A common goal for the new year is to renovate or redecorate certain spaces (i.e. bedrooms, dining rooms, bathrooms and offices), which is why I wanted to share with you this month’s design tips from Architectural Digest. Even if you’re not planning to redecorate for a while or are on a budget, hopefully this post will help you gain some style and design insight for your future projects!

1. Use “dynamic” artwork and furniture to set the tone for your space.

Display unique photos, paintings, furniture and sculptures in rooms where they’ll have the most impact – think your foyer/entrance, dining room and living room. Whether it’s a photograph displayed in an elegant frame, a colourful painting or portrait, or a funky sculpture or table that really pops, those look-at-me pieces can bring life to small and plain spaces or give modern spaces a more casual vibe.

By the way, sculptures and art can double as furniture if you want to kill two birds with one stone. Check out this stunning Yves Klein coffee table, this Tommi Parzinger studded credenza, this Maria Pergay glass table and this Maria Pergay lamp. If you’re on a budget (or simply not made of money), you can find similar items for less at local housing ware stores like IKEA. They boast an assortment of unique shelves, lamps, storage units, cabinets, tables, chandeliers, etc. If you’re in Canada, you can also try Artemano, Structube, Urban Barn and Leon’s for funky yet functional household items.

2. Copy the Obama family’s White House style by using punchy artwork and earth-toned accents to make a “modern splash” amid a traditional theme, i.e. rich mahogany furniture coupled with beautiful rugs and carpets.

You can see pictures of their home here – notice how the rugs, dark wood furniture and subtle greenery (i.e. small plants or flowers) are a running theme throughout almost every room? This really ties the whole house together, as each room is complimentary of the next one but has memorable accents unique to that room (such as a plush sofa for the family room, breathtakingly beautiful artwork found in dining rooms and entertaining spaces, and antique desks and armchairs for executive rooms). Continue reading