Welcome to an Awesome Life

If you love coffee and food, and appreciate dry humour and childish antics then we're off to a good start. If you are interested traveling, DIY, home remedies, and random nonsense to you I say: Welcome :-) And I suggest you start by reading About Me to see if you'll want to punch me or not before continuing. I hope you enjoy!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fleas should be Outlawed

Despite the fact that our cats are kept strictly indoors, they have managed to become the hosts of fleas for the second summer in a row. In turn, we are also covered in bites from those little bitey jerks. I have gone the route of Advantage or Revolution in the past which have both worked wonders but even then, it was quite some time before the little pests were done feasting on us. This year, I decided that I would try something a little more natural because I'm trying to weed out harmful chemicals around here. I have spent many hours searching the net for home remedies for flea removal, and have come up with a few remedies that I have been trying:

1) Amethyst. No one really know why it works, but they swear it does. I picked up a polished stone for $1 at Tribal Voices and I keep it in their water dish. I can't say that it's working, but maybe it's helping. It's not hurting, I can tell you that much.
Right in the water dish!

2) Apple Cider Vinegar. Many people swear that this repels fleas, but I'm not sure that I agree. Our cats have been fed ACV in their wet food for the last year as a preventative against struvite crystals and yet they still have fleas. Indy is a very high-stress cat which causes him to develop crystals and ACV will literally break down the crystals within hours. Honestly, it's incredible how it works for that. Anyway, they have always been given Bragg brand but a few months ago, Mike bought another brand that was more cost effective and Canadian (gotta support the local economy!!). I'm wondering if maybe that brand isn't so effective because not only did they get fleas again, but Indy has been having "issues" with his urine again ever since the fleas arrived. I just started them back on Bragg last night because the other kind ran out. Let's see if this helps! I'll keep you posted.
Grab this at any healh-food store or "natural" section in the grocery store. RCSS sells it in town here.
*I should add that I dabbed full-strength ACV onto my bites using a cotton ball and honestly, no more itchies. The bites were driving me absolutely bonkers until I did that. Amazing, no? On your animals (and probably yourself too) you should use a 50/50 ACV and water solution for itching though as full-strength can burn skin.

3) Table salt. No, seriously. I sprinkle it all over the carpet and rug, mush it in with a hand-held broom (a brush will do) and let it sit for a couple of days. Fleas love to camp out in carpets so when you sprinkle the salt on, they try to eat it and the salt in turn dehydrates and kills the flea. And for less than a dollar a box, you can't go wrong.

4) Vacuuming. Lots and lots and lots and lots of vacuuming. I go real slow, letting that beastly machine get as many fleas as it can. Then I do it again. I really hate fleas. 

5) Blue (plain) Dawn dish soap. It's safe to use on animals (you've probably seen the commercials of the oil spill animals) and kills the fleas almost immediately. I have bathed the cats in it twice in the last couple of weeks and you can see the fleas float off, dead, in the bathwater. I also mix the dish soap with water in a small bowl and set it up under nightlights at night. The light attracts the flea and when they fall into the bowl, the dish soap kills them. Perfect. 
Found it at Dollarama of all places!

6) Spring cleaning in August.  So far this week I've taken all small things out of each bedroom and moved every piece of furniture in order to really deep-clean all of the nooks and crannies. I have also vacuumed the floors like mad and I'm only putting back into the bedrooms what absolutely needs to be in there. The less hiding places for fleas, the better. Trust me. Also, every blanket in the house has been washed and the bedrooms are closed off to the cats until the flea situation calms down. I will get this under control! I tell you! 

**UPDATE! Monday, September 3rd: 
7) Diatomaceous Earth. This was most popular home remedy that I came across for dealing with fleas, but this stuff was not easy to find. Everything that I read about it said I'd find it at any garden center. Well - wrong time of year for garden centers, folks! I checked health food stores, pet stores, and what was left of garden centers (Home Depot, TSC, etc.). No dice. Finally, after driving around for a while looking for the farmers co-op that recently moved, I hit the jackpot: for $36 I got my hands on 50 freaking pounds of the elusive diatomaceous earth. As soon as I got home, I got to work generously sprinkling it all over the bedroom carpet and the rug in the office that seemed to be flea-infested no matter what I did. Then, I tossed some more table salt over top and rubbed it in with a handheld broom (make sure you wear a dust-mask and goggles - it's very messy, and you don't want it in your lungs or eyes!). The combination of diatomaceous earth and salt is apparently the most effective because the d. earth is the consistency of drywall dust, and has a microscopic razor-like surface that gets between the armoured plates of the flea's exoskeleton and slices into their bodies which then allows the salt to dehydrate the little jerks much faster than waiting for them to eat it. It all sounds so scientific. Anyway, I did this two days ago and have only seen two fleas since - one was still alive a couple of hours after application and I found the other one in the bedroom today, dead as can be. I want to vacuum badly but since it appears to be working and I do NOT want to spread more d. earth for at least a few days, I shall leave it for now. It's not harmful to have on the floors either, in fact if the cats happen to have worms from the fleas, ingesting a bit of this (ie grooming) it will actually de-worm them. Nice!

*Important note: there are two kinds of diatomaceous earth - food grade and pool grade. Be sure you get the FOOD GRADE, as the pool grade is highly toxic due to the way it is processed!!
Here's to hoping it works!

Have you ever decided to battle fleas without using nasty chemicals? What did you use, and how well did it work?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Hootenannys and Dinosaurs

There were approximate 12 trillion things happening in Peterborough over the weekend. 
I have a hard time deciding what to do when there are very few options, so when I am thrown options such as Hootenannys, exhibitions and concerts, it gets a bit overwhelming. My solution? Pour a vodka and go with the flow. Here is the resulting 'flow':

1) Vodka-Friday-turned-prostar-dinner, created by myself and two of my favourites: 
Kebabs, pre-grill. So colourful and so yum! Yes, this is the only decent-ish photo a got. Fail.

2) In honour of National S'mores Day, I made this: 
PB & J s'more: Jumbo strawberry marshmallow & peanut butter M&Ms on graham crackers, baked in toaster oven at about 300 for 3-4 minutes (watch for marshmallow to puff up and chocolates to go glossy.

3) Johnny's Eh's pulled pork & cheese sauce on a hotdog at Hootenanny on Hunter
I will eat pulled pork on anything. Even a hotdog with cheese sauce, both of which I despise. I have issues...

4) Delicious little box of Naked Chocolate
Right beside an awesome shoe store, S.O.S

Nope, no pictures of the chocolates. Oops.

5) A wicked awesome dinner at a favourite spot of ours, The Favourite Greek. They have amazing feta and hot pepper dip which is especially delicious when mixed with their tzatziki, which then in turn makes a great dip for either warm pitas or any of their souvlaki. Which is also very delicious. All of it. We eat here a lot :-|   Super tasty chicken gyros too... okay... stopping. But go here! Seriously!

6) 2 (so far) failed attempts at a Pinterest DIY project. I am determined to master this one, because it's just way too awesome. 

7) Premiering this fall: Animal Practice, an animal hospital comedy in the style of the one and only medical dramady of House, only with Justin Kirk of Weeds fame (Uncle Andy) as the main character. We stumbled across this gem on Sunday, After watching the closing ceremonies of Olympia 30. Seriously, I think it's going to be an Awesomely hilarious show, check it out! 

8) Lunch at another favourite restaurant of ours, All Star Wings in Vaughan:
Caesar Does Texas wings - our favourite flavour so far
Greek Fries - an absolute must at All Stars

9) A short-but-sweet visit to Canada's Wonderland. We managed to see their new Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit and ride on one coaster before a giant dark cloud moved in and rained us out:

T-Rex & Triceratops - dinosaur classics
They've discovered so many dinos since I was a kid!

And now, I must go attempt to master the DIY I posted... wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Reuben Love

I'd like to think that you can judge how good a sandwich shop is by the level of Awesome in their Reuben. You may agree, you may disagree. No matter what it is to you, in my world that's the straight-up truth.

"What in the h-e-double-hockey-sticks made you want to talk about sandwiches?"

Simple: 2 hungry people, 1 local sandwich shop. Mike had tried this newer-ish deli out a few weeks ago with some friends while I was off on my road trip and insisted that I try it soon, so when we realized that it was well into lunch time and we hadn't yet eaten any food today (I may or may not have filled up on coffee), he suggested venturing to Sam's Place
Sam's Place - Best Dan Deli in Town on Urbanspoon
See what others are saying about Sam's Place!

Mike ordered himself a California Club with a side of potato salad and his traditional beverage, Dr. Pepper. I had to steal a few bites of the potato salad because it's one of my favourite foods and, surprisingly, so few people can make it delicious for my mouth. Well, they have a winner. 
Super-delicious potato salad. Sorry 'bout the fork - I was dodging the hungry man eating his sandwich.
California Club - Avocado, Turkey, Mayo, Cheddar, Bell Peppers, Red Onion, Lettuce & Tomato on Marble Rye, served cold.

 I, of course, ordered the Reuben. I'm ashamed to say it, but I was so hungry and the sandwich was so good that I honestly completely forgot to take a picture of my sandwich until my last bite. But no worries my fellow foodies - I will be going back to have another so I will be sure to add a photo when I do! I would easily give it a 10/10, yes indeed I would. The only complaint that anyone may possibly have is that it's not a mile-high Reuben, which some people swear is the only way to eat them. I disagree with that, and think that it should be the perfect blend of all of the flavours. And, my friends, it was. Ohhhh was it ever. And for that reason, 10/10 it is.

While we are on the topic of Reubens, I should probably toss you this gem, a whole website dedicated to the most amazing burger recipes including "The Brooklyn" (page 24, "The Inaugural 30") which is probably the greatest burger/sandwich creation of all time. I sh*t you not. Yes, we did make The Brooklyn. Yes, it was even more amazing than it sounds.

*Our variation: We used President's Choice Prime Rib frozen burgers (I know - cheating, but they're SO GOOD) and they were probably sprinkled with some seasoning salt and slathered with one kind of BBQ sauce or another. The Swiss Cheese was just whatever our grocery store had, and we used marble rye instead of dark because someone around here really loves fun-looking things. Including bread. Next time, I'd make it with fresh bacon burgers because bacon should always be included. Always. 

In conclusion: if you're in Peterborough or will be visiting any time in the near-ish future, you have to check out Sam's Place. You won't be disappointed. And if you're not ever around here, you had better make The Brooklyn. Or you could just do both. I vote both.

If your love for a good Reuben matches mine, leave a comment sharing where you had the best Reuben and what made it so Awesome!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Mother/Daughter Road Trip Part 5: NYC, Day #2

Our second day in Manhattan wasn't nearly as eventful as the first. I guess that's what happens when you cram a million things into a week - by the end of it you just want to sit and relax. We started our day with every intention of hitting up a few TV filming locations followed by a visit to the 9/11 Memorial, but we pretty much did nothing all afternoon aside from chilling in the Upper West Side... where Gossip Girl - one of my most favourite shows of all time - just-so-happened to be filming the first episode for their upcoming (and final) season. Hmmm.... if that wasn't an invitation to sit and star-watch my afternoon away, I don't know what is. 

And that's exactly what we did. We managed to spot most of the main cast of the Upper East Side's most elite including Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester), Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively), Nate Archibald (Chace Crawford), Serena's new love interest Steven Spence (Barry Watson), and while he was there, we didn't actually get to see my favourite cast member of them all, Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick), due to a stampede of screaming prostitots who were always getting in the way. I may have cried a little.
Found: One Gossip Girl filming location.

Hello, Mr. Watson ;-)

Way too many prostitots snapping photos. I wasn't going to be a creep, but he is too hot to ignore!

After we had our fill of star gazing we hopped back on the subway and headed for Times Square, where we spent the next few hours wandering around finding ways to spend our last hours in Manhattan. Here's what we filled our time with:

1) Honey roasted nuts. If you've ever been to NYC you know that these Nuts 4 Nuts carts are everywhere, especially in Times Square. Unless you're allergic, you absolutely cannot leave the city without buying at least one bag... but I recommend 2 or 3. Or maybe 5. Just trust me on this one. 

2) Street meat. I have never liked hot dogs (not even as a child) but I do love a good sausage on a bun from a street vendor. NYC is rumoured to have some of the best, so we had to give it a go. Maybe it was just the particular vendor that we went to or maybe it was because we have much better street meat in Ontario, but neither of us found it to be anything special. Next time, I'll be sure to do a search before I go so that I can make a real judgement call on the matter.

3) Buying cheesy NYC souvenirs at Grand Slam. This place in right in the heart of Times Square and offers three floors of the biggest and best selection of NYC tourist trinkets. Even better - their prices are actually the best in town. Now you know. 

4) Making sure I had at least one decent shot of the lightshow:
Best angle I could get with all of the people. Seriously, Thursday nights in the summer = INSANITY...better luck next time?

5) At around 10 or so every night, the sidewalks of Times Square become filled with street vendors. There are food & souvenir carts, painters, caricature artists, people dressed up in costumes of all kinds, you name it*. On night #1 mom found an artist that painted the most elaborate NYC skylines using nothing but spray paint, a frisbee, and a few other random items. There are a few of these guys around Times Square, but this one made a real show out of it and always had a crowd of people around him admiring his work. On night #2, this was the one thing that mom wanted and she knew just what she wanted him to paint: NYC skyline with a sunset backdrop. You need to watch this video, of him painting her picture... he is seriously so awesome!
The artist and his creation. So cool! And it only took 6.5 minutes in total!

*Tourist Tip - if you take a picture of anyone performing/looking for attention in Times Square, they DO expect a tip. Be prepared to dart away if they catch you snapping without "paying".

And that about sums that adventure up. While I'm sad to have said goodbye (for now), I am super excited for my next visit which will be for a whole week, and I'll have my very best friend with me! I'm already counting down the weeks (49!!), but can you really blame a girl for being so excited? 

 See you in 2013, NYC!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Mother/Daughter Road Trip Part 4: NYC, Day #1

I love New York City. If I could marry a city, this would be the one. I dream of having an apartment there one day (c'mon lottery!). There is just something about this metropolis that calls to my heart, and I know I'm far from being the only one who feels this way.

I first discovered my love for NYC when I was 14 years old and on a week long trip with my talent agency to compete at IMTA. I could have been famous... the list of alumni includes Ashton Kutcher, Katie Holmes, Jessica Biel and most importantly: The Stifmeister himself - Sean William Scott. But instead I, ever the ping-pong ball, chose to be a sailor instead (more on that some other time). Trust me - I'm not as big of an idiot as I just made myself seem to be! Anyway, I didn't get a whole lot of time to explore between screen tests, competitions, award dinners, etc. but I did get to see a bit. And let me tell you - what I saw made me instantly smitten. I think it was Times Square that really sold me on the city, as did the people. There are so many people, and they are all so different. You really never know what you'll see in NYC. Okay, enough about the past. I'm here to tell you about NYC in 2012. Onwards:

Fast forward I-don't-want-to-talk-about-how-many years later. I had somehow (although I really doubt how hard it was) convinced my mom that The Big Apple absolutely MUST be on our road trip. Logic of drive-time and routes unfortunately made it our last stop but I was ridiculously thrilled to be going at all.

Searching for a hotel in NYC that wouldn't break the bank or put us in the slums proved to be very difficult, just as I'd suspected. I searched for many hours reading hotel reviews, checking locations on maps, cross-referencing with subway stops, and making sure anything that checked out also had all of the amenities that we required. Finally I found what we were looking for at the Queensboro Hotel in Long Island City, Queens. It was a 10 minute walk to the nearest subway station through a residential neighbourhood, and about 12 minutes from the time you walked onto the train and walked off it in Times Square. The room was pretty tiny and the beds were pretty hard, but I paid $109/night and it was clean, felt safe, had in-room wifi, a fridge, microwave and coffee maker. Plus they served free continental breakfast every morning (only until 9am though - too early for us night-owls) and free off-street parking. I would definitely recommend the Queensboro Hotel to anyone willing to sacrifice a bit of time, space and bed comfort. Besides - when you're in NYC the last thing you'll be doing is sleeping or hanging out in your hotel room.

Mom and I weren't sure how much we were going to end up using the subway so we purchased a 7-day MetroCard for $29 each which gave us unlimited subway rides 24/7. As it turns out, we didn't take the subway as much as we thought, we just ended up spending more time in one location for most of the day as opposed to the city-wide tours we intended on having. Whether or not I'd get another pass would depend on how long I were staying for and where I were staying. And as a note - the MTA is actually SO easy to navigate and runs so often that you'll rarely wait more than a few minutes for the next train. It's much more efficient than the horrifying TTC in Toronto.

If you're going to be headed to NYC, make sure you check out the New York Pass, an all-in-one pass to over 70 top-rated attractions. I purchased a 3-day pass for each of us, but I swear you'd need at least a week to do it all (challenge accepted)! It was SO HOT during our entire vacation that this gave us the added bonus of escaping the suffocating heat into air conditioned bliss that wasn't crowded by loiterers that were in every store.

But seriously, enough rambling. Here are some of the things we saw/did on the first full day in Manhattan:

1) When it's nasty-hot, either FDNY or the city (not sure which) does this:
Genius, no?
2) Ripley's Believe it or Not! is always a good time (and free with our New York Passes!).

3) So is Madame Tussaud's New York, right next-door. We got to "meet" the likes of Bob Marley, Princess Diana, Will & Kate, Morgan Freeman, Brad & Angie and many more. Wax museums are actually super awesome (even more so when they are free with the New York Pass). Just sayin'. 

4) Spy The Exhibit is seriously one of the most interesting exhibits I've ever visited. I learned a lot about the techniques that spies, both past and present, use to pass information while keeping their identity a secret. A LOT more goes on around us than we would ever realize. That's pretty badass. Kinda wish I were a spy. Kinda.
*Also free with New York Pass

5) Cake Boss Cafe is pretty disappointing in appearance, but the desserts (at least the ones we tried) are really freaking good. This place is set in a cafeteria-like setting in the basement of Discovery Times Square and is ridiculously overpriced so it's very clear that it's mainly a tourist trap. Not to mention, the staff didn't appear to know how to wipe down a table. However!!!! The Tiramisu and Lobster Tail are SO GOOD (and SO PRETTY). I died and went to pastry heaven, especially after trying the Lobster Tail. Just get it to go if you must :-)
Mmmm Cake Boss Tiramisu

6) After visiting Spy The Exhibit and the Cake Boss Cafe, we came out onto the street to a ridiculous thunderstorm. There was a mad dash for umbrellas, while some people were busting out those plastic ponchos and others were fashioning rain suits out of wet umbrella bags. Cops were playing "bouncers" at some of the bigger stores like Disney just to make sure things didn't get out of hand. It was ridiculous. But it looked cool:
Times Square at about 3pm. Crazy storm made it crazy dark!

7) M&Ms World in Times Square. Need I say more?

8) Olive Garden in Times Square. Delicious peach bellinis and Ravioli di Portobello, so-so salad, tasteless breadsticks, miserable hosts and bartenders and crappy service. Once we got our meals, we didn't even see the server once. No making sure everything was good, no drink refills, nothing at all. We had been finished eating for over 20 minutes before I went to search for someone to get our server to bring us our bill. It was tempting to just walk out but - aside from not wanting to get into trouble - I wanted to take my meal to go for later as I hadn't even eaten 1/2 of it. I would not go back and I would not recommend, mostly based on service and cleanliness of washrooms (they were a hold-your-nose-and-hover kinda deal).

9) The Empire State Building is a must for everyone who visits NYC. The view from 86 stories up is stunning. We chose to go up just because that's how it worked out. Am I ever glad we did. There is just something about city lights at night. Check it out:
*Noteworthy: Had we waiting until the following night, we could have been serenaded by a classical saxophone player who plays every Thursday - Saturday night from 10pm-1am.
Times Square as seen from the Empire State Building. So damn pretty.

And that just about wraps up our first full day in NYC. Hopefully you discovered a thing or two while reading this slightly longer than usual post. I told you I had a lot to share! Day #2 to follow ASAP.

Indy thought he'd help me proof-read (sorry - it's pretty dark). If anything is messed up, it's all his fault.