Monkeys and Mountains

Best Gifts for Travelers: Ideas and a Giveaway

The original can be found here: Best Gifts for Travelers: Ideas and a Giveaway. Please read the original.

What are the best gifts for travelers? Here's a list of my top 6, all created by travelers or entrepreneurs, and there are prizes to be won!

Monkeys and Mountains - Adventure seeker and explorer by day, luxury seeker by night

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Posted on 17 December 2014 | 12:49 pm

Indian Country

Cheech and Chong in 'No Reservations'

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Posted on 14 December 2014 | 12:00 am


Novo Pizzeria and Wine Bar Celebrates Its 3 Year Anniversary

There is nothing better than delicious pasta and excellent wine on these cold winter nights. I was recently invited to a family-style media dinner at Novo Pizzeria & Wine Bar to celebrate their 3...

The post Novo Pizzeria and Wine Bar Celebrates Its 3 Year Anniversary appeared first on Hello Vancity.

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Posted on 18 December 2014 | 1:32 am

List Verse

10 Mysteries Of Our World That Science Finally Solved

Scientists have been baffled for years by the mysteries of our world, from giant movements under the ocean to how the oceans themselves originated. Today, we have the answers to some of these questions. Featured photo credit: Pirate Scott 10The Secret Of Death Valley’s Sailing Stones Photo credit: Lgcharlot/Wikimedia Fron the 1940s till recently, the […]

The post 10 Mysteries Of Our World That Science Finally Solved appeared first on Listverse.

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Posted on 17 December 2014 | 3:00 am

The Fur Files

Dangerous Things People Should Probably Avoid

My husband is a smart guy. He knows a lot about a lot of things. I would consider him to be one of those people who is both life smart AND book smart AND good at fixing washing machines. (Ours keeps breaking and breaking and breaking – I’m about to go all “I’m sending a […]

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Posted on 11 April 2014 | 10:13 am

The Gate

Giveaway: Linksys & Belkin home networking holiday prize pack

The GATE, Linksys, and Belkin have a fantastic giveaway just before the holidays officially begin to help you network you home, and get you connected to unique controls for your whole house. Best of all, the prize pack is valued at $610.

The post Giveaway: Linksys & Belkin home networking holiday prize pack appeared first on The GATE.

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Posted on 17 December 2014 | 8:55 pm


Do Black Lives Matter in Canada?

Harsha Walia
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Photo: scottlum/flickr

As events in Ferguson, New York, Oakland and beyond unfold, many Canadians have been quick to distance ourselves from the systemic racism that has plagued the U.S. since the times of the transatlantic slave trade. With most Canadian historical accounts selectively highlighting the Underground Railroad, we overlook the history of enslaved Black people within Canada, de facto prohibition on Black immigration from 1896-1915, displacement of communities from Africville and Hogan's Alley, made-in-Canada segregation laws, foreign policy from Haiti to Somalia, and pervasive institutional and interpersonal anti-Black racism.

The problematic discourse of 'Canada's own Ferguson'

As events in Ferguson and beyond unfold, many Canadians have been quick to distance ourselves from the systemic racism that plagues the U.S. -- but in doing so, overlook anti-Black racism in Canada.

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Posted on 17 December 2014 | 12:28 am

This hungry Kitten

Easy Chicken Shawarma Kebobs

My last post was almost a month ago! Life gets busy sometimes and finding moments to sit and reflect don’t come around often enough. I have been on a journey to better health, and it’s been wonderful! I think we’ve … Continue reading

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Posted on 10 July 2014 | 11:45 am

The cat from Hell

Thankful Thursday!

Yous my furrends is the bestest!!!! Filed under: Cat Behaviour

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Posted on 17 December 2014 | 10:55 pm

The Future Soon

Octopus killing a seagull - THE KRAKEN WAKES

Octopus killing a seagull off Ogden Point breakwater

I love octopuses. Smart, powerful, adaptive, and deadly.

These are the first ever photos of a Giant Pacific Octopus catching and killing a Glaucous-winged seagull.

And they provide two important lessons: One, always carry a camera with you because you may happen upon a scientifically important event. And two, keep an eye out for the unusual.

I loved finding and booking this story for my local CBC morning show, On The Island. 

Take a listen to Ginger Morneau, the woman who took these photos.
Here she is speaking with CBC On The Island host, Gregor Craigie.

And this is where I found this story.

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Posted on 3 May 2012 | 2:21 pm

Urban Toronto

Photo of the Day: Tunnel Vision


With the tunnelling phase of the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension now complete, some photographers are having trouble containing their excitement, which has led to some rare and fantastic images of the concrete-lined tunnels which stretch north and west from the existing University-Spadina subway line. In today's Photo of the Day, which was submitted to the UrbanToronto Flickr Pool by Oscar Flores, we are given an amazing view of one of these complete but unopened subway tunnels.

Photo of the Day, Toronto-York-Spadina Subway Extension, tunnelA tunnel in the new Toronto-York-Spadina Subway Extension, image by Oscar Flores

Want to see your work featured as Photo of the Day? Head over to the City Photos & Videos section of the Forum, or submit your images to the new and improved UrbanToronto Flickr Pool for your chance to be featured on our Front Page!

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Posted on 18 December 2014 | 12:00 am

The Hook (B.C. News)

Falling Oil Prices Could Rock Canada's Politics: Expert (in News)

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Posted on 18 December 2014 | 3:30 am

The Greater Fool

The obvious

Now I’m worried. I write six million tedious words on this blog warning housing is overvalued and Canadians are horny debt snoflers. Nobody cares. Then the Bank of Canada, no less, suddenly agrees with me. People, it says, are paying between 10% and 30% too much for real estate, and household debt is the biggest […]

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Posted on 16 December 2014 | 6:18 pm

Hiking With Barry!

Thank you….

A bizarre series of unpredictable events, both technical and personal, have put me in a position where my only sensible alternative is to suspend operation of this website for an indefinite period of time.  Attempts to resolve technical issues have created additional problems. Thank you for your support and comments over the past 5 years and for following or referencing this […]

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Posted on 12 December 2014 | 8:58 am

Hackers Have Scared Movie Theaters into Not Showing 'The Interview'

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Image via Sony Pictures

The Interview was—spoiler—supposed to be a comedy about a pair of bumbling journalists (Seth Rogen and VICE contributor James Franco) who get instructed by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Now, thanks to the Sony hackers, it's taken a turn for the meta, and will ultimately be remembered as a film that resulted a terrorist threat against the United States.

Since November 14, an unknown person or persons have been leaking Sony's films, private emails, and executive salaries. There are rumors that the North Korean government itself is behind the threat, although officials there have denied them. But the story kicked up a notch yesterday, when the hackers threatened moviegoers who might want to go see the film. Calling themselves "Guardians of Peace," they issued this warning on the anonymous messageboard Pastebin:

We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places "The Interview" be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to.
Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made.
The world will be full of fear.
Remember the 11th of September 2001.
We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time.
(If your house is nearby, you'd better leave.)
Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
All the world will denounce the SONY.

As a result of this over-the-top threat, the world premiere of the film, in LA, was scaled back to the point where reporters weren't even allowed interviews (kind of ironic, right?). New York's premiere was cancelled entirely. Now, rather than risk the unspecified consequences, both Regal and AMC have opted not to show the film. Several smaller cinema chains have followed suit. One, Bow Tie Cinemas, released a statement about the decision today.

"Given that the source and credibility of these threats is unknown at the time of this announcement, we have decided after careful consideration not to open The Interview on December 25, 2014 as originally planned," it read. "We hope that those responsible for this act are swiftly identified and brought to justice.

Of course, making a film prohibitively difficult to see is just going to make people want see it more—it's why people still remember Piss Christ. (This phenomenon is basically the plot of Infinite Jest.) Who knows? Maybe this is a huge publicity stunt by the production company. Sony could probably release this movie on DVD tomorrow and make a trillion dollars.

Maybe that's why not all theaters are cowed by the threats. "If they play it, we'll show it," Tom Stephenson, the CEO of Look Cinemas, told Variety. "Sony has a right to make the movie, we have a right to play it and censorship in general is a bad thing."

UPDATE: According to CNN, Sony just decided to cancel the movie's planned release altogether:

[tweet text="With movie theaters canceling showings of The Interview, @Sony pulls the Dec 25 release of the film, @PamelaBrownCNN reports" byline="— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper)" user_id="jaketapper" tweet_id="545336315613810688" tweet_visual_time="December 17, 2014"]

...and the AP is saying the same thing. Look for The Interview on DVD or Netflix, I guess.

[tweet text="BREAKING: Sony Pictures cancels Dec. 25 release of 'The Interview'" byline="— The Associated Press (@AP)" user_id="AP" tweet_id="545338539505119232" tweet_visual_time="December 17, 2014"]

Follow Allie Conti on Twitter.

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Posted on 17 December 2014 | 5:24 pm

Michael Geist

Government Documents Reveal Canadian Telcos Envision Surveillance-Ready Networks

After years of failed bills, public debate, and considerable controversy, lawful access legislation received royal assent last week. Public Safety Minister Peter MacKay's Bill C-13 lumped together measures designed to combat cyberbullying with a series of new warrants to enhance police investigative powers, generating criticism from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, civil liberties groups, and some prominent victims rights advocates. They argued that the government should have created cyberbullying safeguards without sacrificing privacy.

While the bill would have benefited from some amendments, it remains a far cry from earlier versions that featured mandatory personal information disclosure without court oversight and required Internet providers to install extensive surveillance and interception capabilities within their networks.

The mandatory disclosure of subscriber information rules, which figured prominently in earlier lawful access bills, were gradually reduced in scope and ultimately eliminated altogether. Moreover, a recent Supreme Court ruling raised doubt about the constitutionality of the provisions.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes the surveillance and interception capability issue is more complicated, however. The prospect of a total surveillance infrastructure within Canadian Internet networks generated an enormous outcry when proposed in Vic Toews' 2012 lawful access bill.  Not only did the bill specify the precise required surveillance and interception capabilities, but it also would have established extensive Internet provider reporting requirements and envisioned partial payments by government to help offset the costs for smaller Internet providers.

The post Government Documents Reveal Canadian Telcos Envision Surveillance-Ready Networks appeared first on Michael Geist.

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Posted on 15 December 2014 | 9:57 am

The Tyee / The Hook

Falling Oil Prices Could Rock Canada's Politics: Expert (in News)

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Posted on 18 December 2014 | 3:30 am

Georgia Straight's Tony Barnes accepts Band Aid Challenge to fight Ebola virus

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Posted on 16 December 2014 | 7:40 pm

A View from the Edge

Merry Christmas!

I just want to take this opportunity to thank all of you
for following my blog. I have been blogging since 2005; 3 years on 
another site and 5 1/2 years on this site. I started the blog mainly as a
diary and for my friends and family to keep track of our doings and 
whereabouts when we decided to hit the road in our RV. We got off the
road in April 2012. I have decided to step away from blogging for awhile, if not
permanently. I have many ideas in my head for books, and, in fact, have started
a few of them! I am hoping to spend more time this new year on writing. I
might check in from time-to-time on your blogs; may not comment, but just to
see how you all are doing. I've made some good friends over the years through
blogging, and I know that we will stay in touch.

Have a WONDERFUL Christmas and a HAPPY and HEALTHY
New Year!

Love, Pat

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Posted on 22 December 2013 | 9:24 am

Cottage Country Reflections

Narrows Lock –swans, Canada Geese and Mallards

A cold day, driving about looking for owls! My video camera has a GPS feature and shows me where my photos and video were shot!  The fast running water between the locks means the water is still flowing, and the lake was open for these birds. The water must be deceptively shallow, since the birds were getting food from the bottom.

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Posted on 10 December 2014 | 7:29 am

Steve Paikin

Steve Paikin: The Extraordinary Ordinariness of Politics

I understand why the mainstream media focus inordinately on the daily rites that are Question Period, both in Parliament and in our provincial legislatures.

It is, in one neat 45- or 60-minute package, a tidy summary of the big issues of the day, and how the opposition thinks the government is failing miserably at them.

There is outrage (most of it feigned, but not all of it), some theatre, and every now and then, a few good exchanges.

But it's not what most of the real work of politics is all about. The real work of politics is about solving problems, and almost all of that happens away from the cameras.

Here's a little example:

Hodgson Senior Public School and its two new ice pads.

A year ago, the Toronto District School Board closed a skating rink behind Hodgson Senior Public School, near the Mt. Pleasant and Davisville area of midtown Toronto. The rink was 30 years old, it had sprung two ammonia leaks in two years, and badly needed a facelift. The City of Toronto operated the rink, but the land it was on is owned by the school board. So the rink was shuttered, with no apparent plans to bring it back to life.

The reaction was predictable. Neighbourhood parents and children were mighty upset that their public space was now going away and they intended to raise hell about it.  

Here's where politics comes in. Local Toronto city councillor Josh Matlow heard the parents' ire, and so he convened all the players together: the city, the school board, the local trustee Shelley Laskin, and parents. After some negotiations, a compromise (and the money) was found, and an agreement reached to re-open the rink. Matlow even put all the details of the contract to rebuild the rink on his website. It wasn't cheap, but the fight for limited resources (yes, limited even in an $9.6 billion annual operating budget) is intense. 

Toronto Ward 22 Councillor Josh Matlow celebrates the rink's opening with daughter Molly.  

The new rink's grand opening took place this past weekend. Lots of parents and kids came out of the neighbourhood to enjoy the new digs.

None of what led to the re-opening of the rink happened on camera. There was no preening during Question Period nor any public attempts to shame the players into doing something.  It was just good, old fashioned bringing folks together behind the scenes to solve problems.

On the days when politicians' behavior during Question Period offends you (and most days, it does), or on the days when the cynicism of some politicians' actions just drives you around the bend, it may be worth remembering that most of what happens in politics is not that.

Most of what happens in politics is getting people together to re-open skating rinks after they've been closed for a year.

Ho Ho Ho.

Hodgson School's grand re-opening skating party, December 2014

Read more by Steve Paikin.

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Posted on 17 December 2014 | 8:36 am

Weighty Matters

Why Can't We Just Ignore The Irresistible Bullshit?

I do a lot of interviews with the media about fad diets - pretty much all of which with extremely reputable reporters and news outlets.

I do understand the media's job is to sell media and that fad diets, regardless of their efficacy, sustainability or scientific underpinnings, can fairly be described as newsworthy - especially if wildly popular. I also understand that the public has a seemingly insatiable appetite for entertaining the promise of simple solutions to complex problems. But shouldn't there be a limit to the degree of bullshit a reporter will cover?

Sure, reputable reporters and news outlets generally produce balanced pieces explaining why the bullshit is in fact bullshit, but doesn't simply writing the piece, however balanced it may be, suggest there's a discussion to be had in the first place? That there are two sides to consider?

But if one side is just florid, stinking, hogwash wrapped up in the shiny tinsel of hope and tied with the red velvet bow of marketing, does it really deserve to be shot through the megaphone of a media discussion?

I don't know the answer, but I do know that the bullshit is apparently so irresistible it's bulletproof.

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Posted on 17 December 2014 | 9:54 am

Margaret Wente

Sydney was just another test for democracy

The Aussies kept their heads, just as Canadians did. That doesn’t give us the right to sanctimony at the CIA revelations

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Posted on 16 December 2014 | 7:00 am

Lauren Out Loud

HIATUS: re-launching January 2015

Tweet This Post

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Posted on 24 July 2014 | 2:54 pm

Rants n Rascals

Turning Your Hobby into the Career You Have Always Wanted

  Imagine being able to do what you love and get paid for it?  That’s what millions of people who have hobbies dream of. Hobbies are usually activities that people do during their leisure time — something to fill in the gaps between the time that we spend in the office and at home. Many […]

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Posted on 16 December 2014 | 3:00 pm

Bow. James Bow

The Surprisingly Useful White Elephant (On the Union-Pearson Express)

(The photographer Secondarywaltz snapped this picture on May 22, 2013, of the temporary hoarding placed over the area where the Union station platform of the UP Express would be built, along with its art. This image is used in...

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Posted on 12 December 2014 | 12:01 am

A Toronto Blog

Christmas Light Shows

The holiday season is full of Christmas ornaments and sparkling lights that bring lots of colour to a landscape full of white snow and bare trees. Some go all out on the displays, both inside and outside, and some take it to the next level using computers and tens of thousands of lights. Often these wizards of light also help raise money for charity.

Neighbours may have to put up with a lot more traffic as thousands of visitors come by in the night over the many weeks leading up to Christmas. And people usually do this for a number of years, gradually building up the number of lights over time and adding music played on outdoor speakers or even over the FM radio bands. I remember seeing a picture once of a dazzling display and the neighbour put up a set of lights that spelled out 'ditto' with an arrow pointing to the adjacent well lit house.
We found a couple in the GTA, including the Lamberts Lights, photos at top, (104.9 FM on your radio) which has raised money for the Georgetown Hospital Foundation. Take a drive around your area and keep an eye open for a glowing sky to help point you in the right direction.
Bumbles bounce - the characters from Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer 

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Posted on 14 December 2014 | 10:59 am

Robyn Urbak on Campus

Alberta amends bill, opens door to segregation of gay youth clubs

The amendment stipulates that if a school disallows a gay-straight alliance, the government would create one for students

The post Alberta amends bill, opens door to segregation of gay youth clubs appeared first on

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Posted on 4 December 2014 | 3:02 am

Postcards From the Mothership

Reindeer Rant Redux – and a reindeer rampage!

My bloggy peeps, I have a reindeer-palooza of fun for you today! You might have read the reindeer rant a time or two (or coughninecough) before, but now we have reindeer trivia! And photoshop! And webcams! And even reindeer on a rampage! Oh my. But first, the rant. Because especially at Christmas, traditions matter. Also? [...] Related posts (automatically generated):
  1. Flashback faves: The Reindeer Rant
  2. The one with her annual reindeer rant
  3. In defence of Donder – redux

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Posted on 15 December 2014 | 12:46 pm

David Akins on the Hill

Justin Trudeau’s partisan brain trust on foreign affairs

Today, the Liberal Party of Canada has announced a council  of “non-partisan” experts to provide advice and be a sounding board for leader Justin Trudeau on international affairs issues, from military procurement to international aid to global security threats.  The professional qualifications and accomplishments of the members of this council are impressive but it cannot […]

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Posted on 17 December 2014 | 10:34 am

Dutch Blitz

All I Want For Christmas

… is a day off. I’m windmilling my way through the month of December, as are most of our friends. Why are three months of activities crammed into one month? We’re all working, and balancing kids’ activities, and church Christmas musicals, and school productions, and birthday parties, and year-end demand and it’s all a bit much. […]

© Angella Dykstra 2005-2013 All rights reserved. | Originally published for as All I Want For Christmas.

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Posted on 16 December 2014 | 12:33 am

Nik at Night

The Walking Dead Catch-Up Post!!

So, the last time we posted on The Walking Dead it was rather, um, sweary on my part. And then there’s this book I’m writing on Sherlock(hitting fine bookstores near you in fall 2015) and my deadline was approaching, and between that and a pile of work that suddenly hit Josh’s desk, our back-and-forth chats turned into, “Sorry, I meant to send you something yesterday and I’ll get it to you later today...” “So... by “today” I meant “tomorrow” and now tomorrow has come and I’ll have it to you later, sorry...” and then it was sent, and days went by, and the other person was all, “Sorry, I guess we missed the cut-off because of last night’s episode, should we combine the two?” “Sure, let’s do that, but first... I have this pile of work and a deadline and I’ll do my best but...” “OK, two days later, here’s something...” “Great... I’ll get it to you by the weekend...” “Oh look, the next episode just aired again...”

No end of fun behind the scenes here. But his work let up a bit, and I officially handed in my manuscript last week (November 19 at 10:33pm) and so there’s been a flurry of catch-up this week.

So here’s what we’ve decided to do: Usually we do a 6-part back and forth (which, this season, has more often been a 4-part) and instead what we’ve done is two parts for each episode, covering
            5.05 Self Help (Glenn’s group at the bookstore and sidewalk zombie slurry)
            5.06 Consumed (Carol and Daryl and the Beechcraft van)
            5.07 Crossed (this past week’s first part of the season finale)

Thanks for bearing with us, and I really do appreciate all the emails and messages I’ve gotten over the past few weeks asking where our posts are. ;)

Nikki: So after last week’s curse-filled rant [just a note that I wrote this three weeks ago] about the hopelessness of this show, we had a great discussion about how bleak it’s become versus the episodes that shine like a beacon in the darkness. Rebecca T. had a lot of great points (go back and check the comments of the post to read her thoughts). Like I said last week, maybe it’s the Canadianness in me that can’t accept the whole “there will always be one megalomaniac to ruin it all” argument, mostly because the closest we’ve come to apocalypse in my neck of the woods has been getting dumped with five feet of snow overnight, and that results in every person in our neighbourhood out on the street helping shovel each other’s driveways out and even shovelling the street itself to help other cars come and go — and we also have universal socialized medicine and believe everyone deserves such a thing, and it’s never been much of an argument here, so maybe the idea of a hospital with free medical care being an evil nest of evil just rubbed me the wrong way — but this week’s episode was completely different, and pretty much summed up all the reasons why I love this show so much despite everything. So I can happily say this post will be free of swears. ;)

Before I move on, though, I do want to mention I was chatting about “Slabtown” with my friend Tania, and we were theorizing that perhaps Carol is faking being on that gurney to sneak her way into the hospital and break Beth out. Oooh...

But on to this week’s episode. The writing in this outing was pretty spectacular, and it actually had laughs. No, REALLY, it had laughs. From Abraham announcing he needs “some ass” before bed and Glenn stuttering about the TMI-ness of that comment to Eugene creepily watching from the self-help section of the bookstore — “I consider this a victimless crime that provides both comfort and distraction” — it was so nice to see some levity in the midst of the darkness.

And also . . . bookstore. I think I would have waved the rest of them on their way and just settled in there for the rest of my days. My heart broke harder seeing the books being ripped apart for kindling than it did when the zombies got turned into pink mushy stew on the sidewalk. Remember what the good doctor said about the place of art in this world last week.

And yet it is through the very medium of art — in this case, television — that the story is being told, and as the writers on Lost did, certain things are dropped into the framework as shorthand to tell a larger story. Eugene is reading H.G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come at one point, a book written in 1933 where Wells envisioned history for the next 170 years, imagining a second world war breaking out in 1940 (!!) and lasting 10 years, a dictatorship ultimately rising out of that with religion being suppressed everywhere, and ultimately that dictatorship dissolving through a coup and everyone living happily ever after in a utopia as a highly intelligent, evolved species.

Turns out Eugene’s story that he was going to save the world was about as realistic as Wells’ solution to humanity’s evils.

The big revelation about Eugene was one that maybe everyone else saw coming but I certainly didn’t, and my jaw dropped to the ground when he said it, and then I thought, of coursehe doesn’t have the cure. It sounded ridiculous all along, he never gave any details when anyone would ask, which made no sense because if you have the cure, don’t you need to have a second copy of it just in case? My husband said he’d been suspecting this for a few weeks now but said nothing, so perhaps I was all alone, but Eugene’s big confession, coupled with what it means to Abraham and the meaning of his life — and everyone who died to keep Eugene and his Tennessee Top Hat alive — created a climax in an episode that served as that necessary pause moment we get at least once a season, where we reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going.

Just a stunning episode through and through.

What were your thoughts, Josh?

Josh: When Abraham, Eugene and Rosita first came on the scene, I had somewhat mixed feelings about them. Their corresponding characters in the comics were rather broadly sketched and kind of underwhelming, and I'll admit I wasn't crazy about incorporating them into the group. The decision seemed more a matter of sticking to the source and trying to beef up the ranks after the fall of the prison than it was a genuine effort to enrich the team. And from the comics, I knew that Eugene's story was a lie (provided they stayed true to that detail), so I figured at most their storyline would only serve as a distraction.

What I didn't count on is how much I would like Michael Cudlitz and Josh McDermitt in these roles. The stereotypical 'redneck' portrayal can easily come across as a caricature more than an actual human being, and I don't think that has proven to be the case with Abraham and Eugene at all. The two of them felt very much the opposing sides of a single coin at first, with that stark divide between meathead and egghead, but the less defined parts of their characters have been gradually taking shape, and the reveals of “Self Help” really snapped them into focus as individuals, finally bringing to light their histories and motivations in a way that painted them both as much more human and relatable than before.

For Abraham, the world really ended not when the dead began to rise. It ended when his willingness to do what he felt was necessary to protect his family instead drove them away from him. Perhaps the sight of him beating someone to death with a can of green beans was enough in and of itself to inspire their fear; it seems more likely that he was already prone to losing his temper, and the sight of him channeling that rage to murderous effect, regardless of the premise, only confirmed to his family what they always suspected him capable. Either way, they ran from his violent nature, right to their own ends, and Abraham was left to balance both the guilt he feels over their deaths and the knowledge that the same brutality has now become his most valuable asset.

It is immediately into the wake of this tragedy that Eugene stumbles, terrified and desperate, completely inadequate for the business of staying alive in the new world but savvy enough to know a good opportunity when he saw it, and more than willing to say and do whatever he needed to maintain it. He tells a story and renews Abraham's will to live; suddenly his doubt becomes the staunch mindset and uncompromising attitude we've seen since he first appeared. Meanwhile, Eugene has done everything in his power to stave the inevitable moment when the truth comes out – the moment when his usefulness burns itself out like a candle drowning in its own wax.

Which, of course, isn't true, as Eugene has proven himself useful in other ways besides hand to hand combat. Anyone who has the kind of knowledge that can see a fire started with a used battery and a piece of invisible tape is plenty useful in a post-apocalyptic environment, for any number of reasons. Survival isn't only about who can stab the most zombie brains. But Eugene has no self confidence. We're left to assume this is as much about his life up to the collapse as it is the new state of the world, and he is keenly aware of the cost, as is proven when he recites the names of all those friends who were lost to protect him and the fictional idea of a cure. The guilt has left him haunted, shamed and even more ineffectual than before. I'm anxious to see how his personality changes if he wakes up from the beating he received at the hands of Abraham, to see whether he can use this confession as a springboard to new courage or instead retreats even further into himself.

The Walking Dead has always been terrific at the action and tension but has sometimes struggled with the character work necessary to make us feel more than a gut reaction nervousness about the fates of these people. So far, this season has showed a whole new understanding of that dynamic, bringing us all the same action while tempering it with emotional moments that rival anything else on television right now. The writing has never been better, and I've never felt more engaged and excited as a viewer. “Self Help” was a perfect example of why the interpersonal relationships are every bit as important as the zombies.

And this next part was written several days later, after I managed to miss posting “Self Help” in the proper week and so we decided to combine the two into one.

Nikki: I agree with you that this season has done such a great job with the character studies, and its episodes like last week’s “Consumed,” where we just followed Carol and Daryl, was one such character study. I LOVED this episode. Not only did it do what it does best, where two characters are isolated from the rest and we just follow their story to gain a deeper understanding of them, but it also brought us back around to where we’d left the story at the end of “Four Walls and a Roof” — where Daryl is calling into the bushes for someone to come on out now. We speculated last week that the person he’d be talking to is Noah, and by the end of this episode that’s exactly who it was. However, I was also thinking, as I said above, that I was hoping Carol had been faking her injuries to get into the hospital. Wrong.

And let’s just get it out of the way: we all saw that Lost reference, and it was one of those things where it couldn’t have been by accident. Carol and Daryl see a van teetering on the edge of a bridge, and what do you do when you see something like that? Why, good question, Boone, you CLIMB RIGHT IN THAT PUPPY. As soon as they both got in there I said to my husband, “Cripes, they should have written Beechcraft on the side of the thing... is this a Lost reference?” (Sadly, his memory is short, and he had no idea what I was talking about.) And then I said, “Oh my god is that a Virgin Mary statue on the dash??!!” He remembered that one. Then kablammo, the van goes down, and they somehow survive the fall (RIP Boone) and as they were leaving I’m yelling, “Daryl, grab the Virgin Mary statue, you might want to see what’s inside!!!” Also, when Daryl grabbed that pack of cigarettes — Morley’s — they were the same brand the Cigarette Smoking Man used in The X-Files.

My favourite part of this episode involved Carol and Daryl going to the women’s shelter where Carol spent a night long ago as an abused wife, running from the man who beat her with her daughter in tow. She revels at how much she’s changed since then, a woman who ran from danger, then, afraid of being on her own, she ran back and just took it from a man who betrayed her trust and love, pushing her daughter back into an environment of violence and fear. Now her husband is gone, and her daughter is gone, and for all intents and purposes, that Carol is gone. In her place is the woman who was always there, just below the surface, but who was never allowed to show her face. But what has she lost to get here? She addresses the fact that she comes off as emotionless, but we know that there’s a part of her that can still be hurt, as we see in the brief flashback to her breaking down when Rick exiled her. It seemed like she’d been gone for so long, but you realize in this flashback that he sent her away, and the Governor attacked very soon after, and then she ran into Tyreese. So she didn’t end up being on her own for very long, but it was long enough for her to probably think about where she’d ended up, and be on her own for the first time in a very, very long time. It was within that time she became the new, stronger version of herself.

What I loved most about this scene is that it was a man and a woman together, talking. There’s always been a hope that Carol and Daryl would get together in a romantic way, but their friendship is deeper and different than that. She falls backwards onto a bed and talks to him, and then he does exactly the same thing. There are no strings attached, and no inclination to do anything beyond that. For the first time we see a man and a woman who just truly care about each other, and there’s nothing more to it than that. They are both damaged by their pasts, and stronger in their present. However, where Carol has buried the past in order to move on, Daryl is ready to stop doing that, as we see when the book about how to treat childhood abuse falls out of his backpack. Last season he broke down when he was with Beth, and told her how badly he’d been treated as a child. Now, seeing how strong Carol has become, he seems ready to finally confront that.

Were you getting Pearl Station flashbacks on this one, too, Josh? ;)

Joshua: I've been feeling Lost vibes from this show a lot lately, it seems, from the opening on Beth's eye in “Slabtown” to the regular flashbacks we're starting to see. This episode's periodic scenes with Carol recalling moments of isolation and doubt were just perfect, each one brief and wordless but such deft touchstones for her state of mind in those situations. There was something keenly powerful about each one, and I have to give partial credit to the staging but all the rest to Melissa McBride, whose work has always been amazing on the show but has really turned it up to 11 this season. The depth of communication she conveys with just a simple narrowing of her eyes is phenomenal to me, and I don't think we would find Carol's journey half as compelling without such a remarkable actor shepherding the portrayal.

Good writing sure doesn't hurt, though, and this season's been firing bullets throughout. The part that torpedoed me this week was their run-in with the walker mother and child at the shelter. The whole shelter-as-backdrop situation was a masterful choice anyway, considering both Carol and Daryl's respective histories, but that moment in particular really made it sing for me. Everything about the way it came together was simply tremendous – with the distant sound first bringing them up from their rest and on the offensive, then the tension of their search through the darkened hallways, and then everything shifting when they come upon these two strangers, faceless through the frosted glass but instantly relatable nonetheless. And despite Carol's willingness, Daryl then gently holds her back from going in to 'do what had to be done,' only to go back later while she slept and take care of the job himself. When Carol comes around the corner and finds him gingerly carrying the bodies to where he's burning them on the roof, the look on her face held so much warmth and sympathy and affection for this man – someone who used to be one big raw nerve in a leather vest but is now as important to her as was once her own daughter, and she more important to him than any family member he ever had. What an amazing scene.

It's exactly the kind of rich, nuanced material that, more than flashbacks or anything else, has made me most think of Lost when watching recent episodes of TWD. The portrayals of these characters has grown so well-defined that I find myself caring even for cast members as peripheral as Rosita Espinoza, and our connection to longtime survivors like Carol and Daryl just continues to deepen. It's why Bob's death was so impactful a few weeks back, and it will be why the next deaths will hit so much harder than we're used to feeling here. I have doubts this encounter at the hospital will go very smoothly, and I think major deaths are inevitable in the coming finale. And man, it is stressing me out.

Are you getting that same feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach, Nik?

Nikki: I pretty much always have that dread in my stomach when I watch my favourite shows. Thank YOU, Joss Whedon, for demonstrating to showrunners the sheer power of killing off major characters. Sigh. I agree with you about the zombie mom and child — heartbreaking. We haven’t seen many zombie children, and Carol hasn’t encountered too many since her own daughter became one, and she acted quickly to avert the zombifications of Lizzie and Mika. Considering children would be among the weakest members of society, you’d think they’d be everywhere . . . and in a real zombie apocalypse, I suspect they would. They just know that we viewers simply couldn’t handle seeing that every week. Thank goodness.

And that brings us to “Crossed,” the first part of the mid-season finale. (I’ll just go on record one more time to say how much I hate that invented TV term, but anyway...) After paring it down to small character studies over the past few weeks — Beth in “Slabtown,” then Glenn and Co. in “Self Help,” then Carol and Daryl in “Consumed” — we start leaping back and forth between the group of them, showing how they’re all moving in on one another. Abraham is paralyzed with rage as he sits rigidly on his knees, unmoving (and dude, when he stands up, his legs will be JELLY), while Eugene lies unconscious on the ground and Maggie guards both of them, and Glenn, Rosita, and Tara go fishin’. 

As you said above, Eugene may have been lying, but he knows a LOT of survival techniques that will get them through this, and this week we learn a new one, where Rosita constructs a water filter with stones and a piece of her shirt. (I still remember doing this experiment way back in high school science, and my water was totally muddy at the end of it and I’d clearly done something wrong. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m going down early in a zombie apocalypse.) Meanwhile Glenn and Tara discover fish and seem completely shocked by it. Why? I realize they haven’t exactly been catching many fish throughout the show, but why would a zombie apocalypse mean the fish would all die? Or is his surprise a result of this being a murky swampy river in the middle of nowhere, basically a place one wouldn’t expect to find fish? I will admit, I’d be wary about eating them. How many zombies are lying along the bottom of that river (still moving, since zombies don’t have to breathe but they’re probably stuck in the muck) rotting away while the fish eat pieces of their flesh? Could the fish be zombified? Ew.

I loved when Maggie came up with the makeshift sunshade for Eugene, mostly because I had no idea what she was doing at first. Ladder? Blanket? Is she climbing up onto the roof to sunbathe? That is one smart gal. I feel for Abraham — we saw the flashbacks to his desperate need for a mission and how he believed he was actually going to save the world in all of this — but here’s hoping that his long afternoon of silence might actually make him think everything through for once and realize that Eugene could still be useful for him.

Meanwhile, over in Slabtown, Rick & Daryl and Company are having a hell of a time dealing with the cops. My husband called right away that the dude Noah referred to as “one of the good ones” was actually going to turn on them, but I’m keen to find out how that’s going to play out. What did you think about what was going on there?

Joshua: From the very start, everything about this rescue mission tastes sour to me. As he's making his initial plan, Rick seems far overconfident about the ease with which they can liberate their friends and minimize bloodshed. Daryl and Tyrese both call him out on it, and the plot complicates further with their revised plan to trade hostages. The shot-in-the-air ploy they use to attract attention works well, but they underestimate Dawn's cops, who have a backup man watching from nearby.

It's a mistake that almost costs them both their leverage and Daryl, who narrowly escapes a violent death at the hands of meat slab Licari (and Licari who in turn narrowly escapes a gunshot head at the hands of Rick, thanks to Daryl's quick reasoning). And then, after their initial underestimation, THEY DO IT AGAIN by trusting their three prisoners' integrity, including full faith in their information about Dawn and the situation at Grady. To boot, Sasha's own struggles with the weight of the murder she committed inspire her to isolate herself with one of them in an attempt to 'help' him and instead winds up bleeding on the floor. Now Lamson is on the run, headed back toward the hospital to fill Dawn in on their plans, ensuring they've lost their best bargaining chip and the element of surprise, not to mention possibly losing Sasha from active duty (which will surely mean losing Tyrese, too). The odds are narrowing, and not in their favor.

But maybe things aren't quite as they seem, after all. Maybe Lamson was actually on the level, and he's now headed back to marshal his own troops, planning to use RickCo's posse as the distraction he needs to mount the takeover he's been planning all along. Anything could happen at this point, and that's the beauty of this setup. Next week's half-finale begins with a lot of pieces in motion, and right now we have no idea what to expect. Will these plots converge again, with perhaps others like Michonne (or maybe even Morgan) showing up at the hospital just in time to turn the tide? Or will this prove to be another tragedy from which they might emerge, but only smaller in number and permanently scarred?

In the immortal words of Han Solo, I've got a bad feeling about this.

We've blown through three episodes of recap in very short order, Nikki. I know that's somewhat out of necessity because we've managed to fall so far behind in recent weeks (and apologies to the steady readership for what I promise couldn't be avoided), but I don't want to be overly hasty, either, particularly considering the high quality of this run of episodes. Was there anything else we've missed that you wanted to discuss before we wrap it up?

Nikki: I was glad to see the hospital again; even though that, technically, was our last post on The Walking Dead, it was also four weeks ago now, and it was nice to see the doctor again. I don’t know what Dawn is playing at by giving Beth the key to the drug cabinet. The doctor insinuated that Beth is being played, but Beth goes along with it anyway. But then again, Noah had said that Lamson was on the level and he appears to have betrayed Sasha. I think it’ll be fascinating if, in the final episode, we find out the bad guys might actually be the good guys, and vice versa, and everyone has to question which side they’ve aligned themselves with. That’s the sort of thing The Walking Dead is really good at exploring.

But then again, as you say, it’s a mid-season finale. And bad things always happen in those episodes. Let’s brace ourselves... something tells me our people are not going to come out intact.

Thanks for bearing with us everyone, and again, sorry for the wait.

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Posted on 27 November 2014 | 4:23 pm

Word Grrrls

Could you Get Paid to Write?

It’s a bit dramatic to pick up your first ever copy of The Writer’s Market, which ever year you buy your first one. Suddenly you have taken a step into the world where people write and make money from it. This brings the responsibility of expectations. Paid writers should know how to write: spelling, grammar ... Read more...

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Posted on 17 December 2014 | 5:39 pm

Elfshot - sticks and stones

Completed Dorset Harpoon and other Arctic Tools

Arctic artifact reproductions
Here's a final look at the Dorset Palaeoeskimo harpoon that I've been working on for the past few days.  The harpoon, along with a ground slate Thule ulu and an antler, sinew, and copper-tipped Sicco harpoon head is packed and ready to ship to the Department of Anthropology at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario.  For the harpoon, the endblade, harpoon head, and foreshaft are based on artifacts from the excavations at Port au Choix, while the mainshaft is a spruce version of the Groswater Palaeoeskimo harpoon shaft found in the bog at L'Anse aux Meadows.  Both sites are on Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula.

Dorset Palaeoeskimo sealing harpoon reproduction.  Chert endblade on an antler harpoon head.  The harpoon head fits onto a whalebone foreshaft that is inserted into a spruce mainshaft.  The mainshaft has sealskin lashings.  The harpoon line is sealskin and there is a short braided sinew lanyard fed through the single line hole in the toggling harpoon.

The little Sicco style harpoon head and slate ulu would be at home in a toolkit belonging to the earliest Thule migrants into the Eastern Arctic

You can see the tip-fluting on the chert endblade in this photo and how a thin braided sinew line may have been used to create a secure attachment to the harpoon head.

The ulu is based on an ulu blade with three holes from Labrador that is on display in The Rooms in St. John's.  The original blade is missing it's handle and lashing, so that part of the ulu is based on other Inuit women's knives found in the Eastern Arctic.
 Photo Credits: Tim Rast

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Posted on 17 December 2014 | 8:31 am

Adam Radwanski

What politicians need to learn from advertisers

It is something on which strategists and communications experts with all of Canada’s political parties can agree: They need to get better at online advertising

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Posted on 12 December 2014 | 10:02 am

How to Survive Life in the Suburbs

Evolution of Watson! ~WW

Watson, the Great Dane Pup and new addition to our family, has only been with us for two and a half weeks, and I’m already shocked at the changes we’ve seen in him, and in us.  This collector of lost socks, lover of crumbs, and complete cuddle bug, has helped us create more family time […]

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Posted on 17 December 2014 | 8:03 am

A Peek Inside the Fishbowl

Guess who was shopping at Farm Boy the other day?

I wonder what he was buying? ;) And speaking of Christmas, have you finished your shopping yet? We’re giving away tickets to the Originals Craft Sale over on the Capital Parent website today. It’s an easy win! Check it out.

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Posted on 16 December 2014 | 10:32 am

Dawg’s Blawg

Exciting Ottawa news!

(Ottawa, December 17) DawgNews has learned that Thomas Mulcair will be joining the Liberal caucus in the House of Commons—and bringing most of his MPs with him. “Wildrose showed us the way,” said NDP spokesperson Ann McWrath. “We’ve been in...

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Posted on 17 December 2014 | 11:45 am

Dammit Janet

Public Funding of Fake Clinics in Alberta: The Wrap

We have some catching up to do.

We revealed that public funds from the Alberta Lottery Fund were being handed over to fake clinics and profiled the first lucky fake clinic, Central Alberta Pregnancy Care Centre Society (Red Deer), here.

Part 2 on Medicine Hat Pregnancy Support Society. And Part 3 on Hinton Crisis Pregnancy Association.

We published a letter by Celia Posnyiak asking Alberta Culture about that funding and another asking the mayor of Hinton about its creative additional funding of local fetus freaks through photo radar money.

We heard from the mayor of Hinton.

And now, after nearly a month, there's been a reply by Carl Royan, Director, Community Grants, Alberta Culture, to Celia's letter.

After some introductory blah-blah:

The Community Spirit Program aimed to partner with Individual Albertans who donated monies to eligible nonprofit organizations by providing those organizations wit proportional grants based on the donations received. [Names of three fake clinics queried] met the Community Spirit Program (SCP) eligibility criteria, received donations from individuals [sic] Albertans who supported their activities, and therefore qualified for funding under the program. As you may know, the SCP was discontinued as a result of a budget decrease the department faced in Budget 2013.

Followed by signing-off blah-blah.

Everyone agrees that this response is about what was expected.

Well, heck, when the mayor of Calgary points to the stereotype of Albertans as "hillbillies", who are we to disagree?

And we would never ever pull some central-Canada-superiority shit by highlighting the timely and responsible action of the Ontario Trillium Foundation when it found out it was funding Ontario hillbillies.

So. There's no joy in Hillbilly Land, but that doesn't mean we're going to stop.

In fact, our search of the handy Alberta Culture database that turned up the original three fake clinics was flawed. We used the key word "pregnancy". We should also have used "pro-life" because looky here.

Under the same Community Spirit Program, Edmonton Pro-life Society got just over $23K in 2008/2009.

I'm absolutely sure it fits the eligibility criteria too, which seems mainly to be that these outfits are duly accredited as charities by CRA, the same gang that allows the Fraser Institute to operate as a charity.

From its CRA filings, the Edmonton fake clinic's costs and revenues run about $70-80K a year. And it consistently reports "government funding" of between 10-15% of total income. Rather nice for them.

But in 2010, it reported a whopping 25% of revenue from government.

Now, lest we get carried away and believe the BS that Edmonton Prolife offers anything like accurate medical information about all options, have a look at this.
An abortion, intending to end the life of the child, never has to happen. It is never the only option. So why do people have abortions?

There are many reasons why women or couples decide to have an abortion. An internet search will yield various results, statistics, and percentages, citing socio-economic reasons, not wanting children or any more children, fear of health risks, and many others.Abortion takes an innocent human life, and the gravity of that fact cannot be mitigated, it is important remember that many factors can go into an abortion decision, such as fear, desperation, and ignorance (the person(s) have perhaps become convinced by others whom they trust that the preborn child is not a living human being).

For those people who wish to see Abortion, we provide the following information.This video is not pleasant, but it must be seen. Hundreds of innocent unborn children are torn to pieces every day in Canada because most people simply don't know what abortion actually does. With the exception of the final scene (a second-trimester fetus), all of the video you will see depicts children who were killed during first-trimester abortions.
That's the intro to a link to 4-minute video with a warning that it's disturbing. They don't warn that its also full of manipulative bullshit.

If we had the time, we'd try to investigate where that consistent 10-15% of revenues labelled "government" actually comes from.

But we don't. And it looks like Alberta is fine with its unique "culture."

Next up, we have been informed that two fake clinics in BC also get lottery dough.

Maybe BC will prove a little more enlightened.

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Posted on 16 December 2014 | 3:41 pm

That Artist Woman

Giveaway Winner

Sorry I'm a bit late with the draw.  It was a crazy weekend.

The winner of the "Daily Zen Doodles" book by Meera Lee Patel is Ann-Marie Burgdorf.

Congratulations Ann-Marie and thanks everyone for entering.


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Posted on 1 December 2014 | 10:35 pm

A pretty Life in the Suburbs

Easy No Bake Christmas Desserts

Since it’s almost Christmas, I thought I’d share some easy no bake Christmas desserts with you!  We could all use some easy in our lives this time of year, I’m sure!  These scrumptious recipes are feature from our Holiday Recipes Link Party.  I hope you enjoy them…they’re fast, delicious and perfect for the holiday season! […]

The post Easy No Bake Christmas Desserts appeared first on A Pretty Life In The Suburbs.

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Posted on 17 December 2014 | 9:54 am

Canada's Adventure couple

Dave Chats About his Broken Back and Travel on CBC Radio

Dave had been back in Canada for about three days when the people from CBC Radio Called. "We heard about your accident in Peru and wondered if you'd like to chat with host Wei Chen on Ontario Morning next week?" Dave was pumped full of painkillers and muscle relaxers and would pretty much agree to anything at that point. So a few days later he was sitting in his hospital room talking with Wei Chen of the CBC live about the fall [...]

Read the original post Dave Chats About his Broken Back and Travel on CBC Radio on Adventure Travel blog for Couples | The Planet D.

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Posted on 17 December 2014 | 8:33 am

My New Life in Canada, under the snow!

Daycare-Hunting Hell—Report from the Front

We called more daycare centres—all with interchangeable cutesy names involving “love”, “children”, “wee” or “bear” —booking tours if they didn’t hang up on us. We drove to places well outside our neighborhood, filling up endless forms—“what do you want from a daycare?”, “list the three main ways you want your child to grow”, etc.

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Posted on 15 December 2014 | 9:34 am

Live From Waterloo

WW#353 – Challenge accepted

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Posted on 17 December 2014 | 12:42 am