Jaime brings with her 9 years of blogging experience, and is a mother to 2, a full-time university student, and a dance-mom extraordinaire!
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Friday, February 5, 2016

While incredibly rewarding, being a single parent attending school full time can be a struggle. Being the only parent at home, with no family nearby to rely on when parental duty calls, the full onus falls on you. This was my reality this week when an outbreak in my house resulted in an entire week of missed classes for this Mom.
Malie and her Ricardo Cat - he
rarely leaves her side when she's
sick - his diagnosis? Not well!
Monday afternoon my youngest arrived home from school seeming fine. By 5 pm she was curled up on the couch with a high fever, headache and upset stomach. A dose of children's Advil and some Mommy snuggles later she was off to bed for the night. The next morning she was even more feverish and complaining of a headache and a sore neck. I called into the school that she wouldn't be in and they advised to bring her to the clinic right away as there were some meningitis like cases being reported at the school. Off to the clinic we went and the doctor couldn't confirm or deny that she has this mysterious viral meningitis mimicking virus or not. But she is told to stay off school for at least 48 hours with a long list of symptoms to watch for and commands to go straight to emergency if any of them show up. Fortunately none of the symptoms popped up, which means her little body either fought off the virus like a champion or she had a completely different virus.

While she is on the mend it is one of the hardest parts of attending post-secondary as a single parent. The balancing act is precarious at times in a single parent household. The stark reality that there isn't anyone else there to step in and cover for you while you run to class for an hour and a half weighs heavily on the mind at all times.

I was asked earlier this year why I spend as much time on the weekends as I can tackling homework assignments and the truth is that I do so to protect against moments like these. If I can focus and get the weeks worth of assignments out of the way before the week gets started I am providing myself with a safety net. As all parents know children can be unpredictable. Working ahead allows me to ensure that assignments are completed on time and if something pops up like an unexpected trip to the clinic that I'm not falling behind. With all honesty, having a sick child at home this week meant very little time to work on assignments, and when I did have time to work on assignments it was hard to focus.

While the balancing act is tedious, attending post-secondary can be a very rewarding experience. It
sets a good example for little ones as they watch their parent succeed and strive towards a better life for their families. Both of my girls are adamant that they will continue onto post secondary education themselves, with my youngest wanting to follow in my footsteps and study anthropology.

My best advice for all parents (not just single parents) attending post-secondary education is speak to your professors about the parameters of your family needs. In my experience many professors are understanding of parents attending school. Work ahead and keep track of all assignments that are coming up. As a parent it is much easier to do a little bit at a time instead of tackling a large project at the last moment.

Through a lot of planning, and cooperation our family makes our system work for all of us.

I want to know - how do you ensure your success in school?
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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Facebook's "On This Day" notification tool has its benefits and disadvantages. While I love looking back on the good times, sometimes Facebook brings back memories that can twinge the heartstrings. 

Today's memory is a happy one though. Four years ago the lovely Ms Bif Naked was in Prince Rupert playing at the Idle No More Rally. The entire day was amazing as I'm a huge sucker for group events where a community comes together. I'm the one who tears up hearing the Canadian anthem being sung.

Bif Naked's music has long been a source of strength for me, providing the soundtrack for my life. Music is my lifeline. My girls through my own passion for her music have also acquired a love for her music.

On this day four years ago the girls had the opportunity to meet their idol, and even had the chance to hang out in her dressing room with her.

In this interaction the girls and I learned that celebrities are just like us. Yes, they are more famous then you or I, but they're still normal people.

As part of an assignment for school I am evaluating the way social media has changed the way in which we interact with celebrities. We now have the opportunity to directly interact with our idols in the virtual world, and opportunity that shows us that those that we place on pedestals are just like the rest of us.
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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

I love science. I mean I really, really, love science. As a result I am always on the lookout for new ways to incorporate science into the lives of my children. I imagine that sometimes the girls would much rather have a "normal" Mom, but where's the fun in that?  As noted in my article Single Parenting During the Holidays one of my favourite ways to bring science into our lives is through gifts.

Under the tree Tala found the Smithsonian Magic Rocks kit from her little sister. Purchased at Michael's for $13.50 this kit was the perfect price for a sibling gift, and fits well within our Christmas theme of gifts that can created on Christmas day to fill in our day.

Due to the excitement of her mannequin doll and scrap pieces of fabric the mad scientist portion of the day was delayed until after supper. It truly amazes me how happy a gift that cost $7.50 can make a child, but in the end it really isn't the cost that matters, the thought and energy is key.

The Review

The concept of the Magic Rocks kit is fun, you add chunks of the minerals, growth compound and hot water to the mix. The "rocks" grow to varying lengths, and while the instructions note that they grow up to four inches long, our experience saw rocks growing to about half of that.
The First Batch, one hour growth time

The actual box that the kit comes in is very large, while the kit inside is disproportionate to the size of the box. Not going to lie, we were a tad disappointed with how small the kit was. The box is definitely deceiving!
First batch, 6 hours in, time to change the water and add the second half of the rock growth

The kit itself is easy to grow, and requires very little care aside from adding the second half of the minerals cubes into the water to complete the growing process. After the rocks have finished growing you drain the water and keep the container filled for the underwater rock garden.  The kit comes complete with four different colours, and an outerspace themed background for the container. The colours, along with the background add an extra special touch to the crystal garden.

The Finished product - 12 hours growth time

Disaster Strikes!

During the earthquake on December 30th our underwater rock garden took a spill which caused a complete and utter breakdown of the garden. Perhaps if we had been at home during the earthquake the garden would have been somewhat salvageable. By the time we arrived home two days later everything had dried out completely and all the crystal formations had been destroyed.

Very disappointing as the garden itself was very neat to look at, and was a great addition to our kitchen display.

In the end, the kit did what it advertised to do. Quickly grew an underwater rock garden. It was colourful and easy to do, and provided a good baseline for the girls in regards too understanding the difference in how different crystals are formed. A slightly larger kit would have been awesome! And perhaps the ability to choose different backgrounds as well would be nice. I can't help but think that the kit itself would have lent itself exceptionally well to a mermaid theme. In all actuality, my desire for other background options could have very easily been solved by printing one out myself.


** Please note that this is an unsolicited review. The product was purchased on our own, and all comments within this post are 100% my own.
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Monday, January 25, 2016

Sleepy Bunny

The Offline Challenge

When I first heard about my assignment requiring me to be offline for four days I was dismayed at the thought of it. While I've gone off social media on my accord previously, going fully offline by force was not a pleasing thought. I have online classes, work and assignments that have to be completed on the computer. Yet the actual experience of being fully offline was more pleasant than anticipated.

While this particular assignment was in relation to my Anthropology of Virtual Space class I encourage everyone to take the time to go offline at some point. Decide how fully you'd like to go offline.  Is the never ending barrage of text messages driving you crazy? The pressure of social media got you down?  Drowning in emails, or firmly attached to the television or gaming? Think you cant live without Netflix? Go offline and see what happens. Pick one, or a couple or all of them and go for it! What do you have to lose?

Not being online for the week, and not being a prisoner to my phone and computer gave me the opportunity to reconnect to nature and enjoy my natural surroundings. I was surprised to spot a hummingbird in January, and was thankful to have had the opportunity to take the picture shown below of the little guy!


I spent way more time on the phone. Something that would take a 5 second text message usually turned into a 20 minute long phone conversation. And while time consuming actually talking to people on the phone was a refreshing departure from the impersonal world of texting.  I plan on calling people more often, in a world of disconnection it's nice to have that personal touch.

I had to be much more organized with my time to ensure that we got places on time.  Having to use a paper bus schedule is less time consuming, but also requires knowing exactly where you're going and what bus goes near there. Thank goodness we have a small comfort zone and have only 5 main destinations!

I actually find it nice to be off of social media. And truth be told being offline turned into an inside joke where I could easily day oh gee sorry I can't I'm offline as my go to reason for copping out.  I plan on dedicating one day a week to going off social media. Interesting enough the world didn't stop rotating when I stopped checking my Facebook throughout the day. Going off social media for a day will be a nice break and a chance to recharge.

Prior to going offline I took the weekend to work ahead in all of my classes to allow me to go offline fully. I plan on continuing this trend. No more missed deadlines for this girl!

The hardest part was being separated from the goings on in the world.  My house doesn't have paper delivery so I went without news for the four days which was so strange. I rely on digital editions of my favourite papers to keep up on what's going in the world.  Being offline and not knowing what was going on outside of my immediate circle was stressful!

You can read my pre-offline ramblings here.
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Sunday, January 17, 2016

That's right, you read that correctly. The Optimistic Beauty will be going offline this week. Starting tomorrow, Monday, January 18th, through till Friday morning I will be offline.

Now you may be wondering why on earth would any person choose to go offline? This particular assignment is in relation to an assignment for the Anthropology of Virtual Space class. The class is fascinating, and one of our challenges is to review how our interactions with the world are challenged without the use of digital media.
  • No blog posts
  • No text messaging
  • No social media
  • No repeatedly checking my bank account
  • No emails
  • No computer use for assignments
  • No looking up new and exciting recipes like this one for Eggs cooked in Avocado
  • No searching for the absolute best deals on groceries
  • No online shopping
  • No online gaming
  • No Netflix :(
  • No watching the Season 3 premiere of the 100 (thank goodness for my DVR!)
I'm sure that my list will continue to grow during the week of things that I'll be foregoing for the sake of my educational goals.
Spending "quality" time together
Truth be told, I believe that we can all make due without our electronic devices firmly attached to our bodies. Riding the bus is a huge example of the dependence that we have on our electronic devices, as we forego interacting with strangers by focusing intently upon our devices.

My offline journey will actually unofficially will begin today as I will spend most of the day firmly attached to my laptop in between cooking meals, correcting dance solos, doing laundry and other household activities preparing for the week offline. While my one class requires me to go fully offline for the week, my other classes, including my online journalism class require me to complete assignments using the computer. Fortunately those assignments can be completed before hand, allowing me to keep with my assignment and still maintain my participation in my other classes.

I look forward to sharing my observations with you on Friday after I'm back online.

Wish me luck!
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Living in the western world the Ball Drop in Times Square is an exceptionally common image for New Year's.  When we first sat down and started planning our vacation to New York we quickly settled on New Years in Times Square as a must do activity.  But when we actually sat down to think about it, the being herded into pens for 9 hours to be anywhere close to the ball drop and entertainment, and being blocked from going bathroom, eating and drinking for those 9 hours was a deterrent.  Thankfully through some clever google searching I was able to find another suitable option. New Year's at Coney Island.

New Year's Eve at Coney Island

Coney Island, a short subway ride from Manhattan provides a second option that contrasts the huge crowds and glitter of the ball drop in Times Square.  Free rides, skating, and vendors along the boardwalk provide an amazing alternative for those looking for a more intimate venue to ring in the New Year. For families Coney Island is the perfect place to visit.

Benefits of Ringing in the New Year at Coney Island

  • Smaller crowds
  • Free rides including the Ferris Wheel, Carousel and the Thunderbolt
  • Free skating at the Coney Island Ice Rink 
  • Fire blowing performers
  • Live Music
  • Fireworks
  • Ball drop Simulated in the lights of the Parachute Jump
During our time in New York it was unseasonably warm, which resulted in a very pleasant evening. It was a tad chilly, but nothing a toque and mittens couldn't solve.

Make sure that you head out early if you want to take in the rides. The carousel was definitely our favourite. The long line (it took nearly an hour) to get on the Ferris Wheel was a little bit of a downer, and so definitely make sure you get down there early to be near the front of the lines!

In the end the decision on where to ring in the New Year is up to you, and a decision that needs to be made based on what is best for your family. While the dream was to visit Times Square and see the ball drop with millions of others, I am glad that we decided to change things up. We had a delicious meal at Applebees before walking the block to Luna Park, and had a wonderful family time. Would we have had more fun, or less fun at the Ball Drop in Times Square? Hard to say.

The Carousel at Coney Island

The Carousel was originally constructed in 1906 and has recently been restored to its full glory. There is a huge difference between riding on an old school Carousel versus the newer versions that travel around the country in the travelling fairs. I don't know why, but it just seems so much more magical. If you're in New York I highly recommend a trip to Coney Island to ride the Carousel. Coney Island is open starting weekends in late March, and towards the summer months every day. Check out their website for more information on when the park is open!
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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Central Park draws in over 42 Million visitors annually  (number from Central Park.com).  Owing to the fact that over 300 films have been filmed at Central Park, it is one of the most recognizable landmarks in New York.  It has long been on my bucket list to skate at Central Park and so I knew that during this trip to New York that I simply could not miss out on the opportunity.  An so off to Central Park we went, and I braved the pain on my recently broken ankle as it groaned and complained in my rental skates.

The unseasonably warm winter was not kind to the ice at a Woolman Rink, leaving much to be desired. Despite frequent resurfacing by the Zamboni the ice was pretty choppy. Though to be perfectly honest growing up on the ice in Canada, it is possible that I'm a little particular about ice. I will say that the staff at Wollman Rink did their absolute best to make the best of a bad situation. The cleaning schedule was ramped up so that the ice surface was refinished more often, which greatly reduced the choppiness that could have destroyed the experience for many.

The condition of the ice was not enough to diminish the magic of the experience. Surrounded by hundreds of others who flocked to the outdoor rink with us the experience was definitely worth the price tag. Fortunately there was no time limit on how long you could spend on the ice, which made the price tag worth it.

What really stands out about skating at Woolman Rink in Central Park is the fact that you're surrounded by the city around you. If you go at evening you're surrounded by the beauty of this nature sanctuary in the middle of a bustling city, but also surrounded by the beauty of the lights from the buildings that surround Central Park. The skyline is fantastic.  he contrast of nature with the hustle and bustle of the city is an amazing experience.

The ice was crowded with many first timers and inexperienced skaters taking the opportunity to skate in this iconic landmark.  Due to the vast number of people skating at the same time as us laps around the rink were quite slow and I found myself helping people up from the ice left, right and centre and sharing my knowledge with others.  This added to the experience of the rink as the draw of skating in Central Park is undeniable.

One thing that stood out to me was the presence of figure skates only at the rink for rental.  I hate toe picks! I grew up in hockey skates and so toe picks and me are not the best of friends (to say the least).  I am no stramger to catched a toe pick and going for a spill.  Fortunately, this trip and the slow speed around the rink I was able to avoid the toe pick and didn't fall flat on my face as per my usual (perhaps toe picks and I have called a truce!).

The Wollman Rink in Central Park is open from late October to April giving visitors the opportunity to cross skating at Central Park off their bucket list.

Other outdoor skating options are available in New York, including Bryant Park and Rockefeller Center.  If you have your own skates in tow Bryant Park is definitely the location for you as skating admission is free.  Skate rental at Bryant Park is more than twice of that at Wollman Rink however, so the two end up being comparable in pricing in the end.

Happy skating!

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When I heard that January 14th was Dress Up Your Pet Day I was all in, especially due to my general distaste of January 14th,  Having a fun day to make the day a little bit brighter is always a welcome addition.

My cat is a good sport when it comes to dressing up and regularly wears a green bowtie because he is amazingly fancy.

The real wonderful thing about cats is that they come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. We have three cats, all three with the most amazingly different personalities. Our other two cats want absolutely nothing to do with dressing up. Lewis, the perpetual lap cat, who demands attention every waking moment of every day is perfectly content to dress up in dresses and hats. The girls' collection of doll clothes play a dual purpose and can often be found on the cat as he play dress up with his humans.

Happy National Dress Up Your Pet Day!  I would love to see your photos if you have any of your pet participating in this fun day.

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Sunday, January 10, 2016

A 6 hour airplane flight, plus an hour
and a half on the Subway our first
glimpse of the sparkle that in
New York, NY!
New York is one of those places that morphs into a must go vacation spot. Speaking to friends and family after our trip the fact that we had visited New York for New Years was exciting for everyone.
New York is a place that screams "Visit Me!" at the top of her lungs, while balancing precariously on a tightrope, swaying gently in the wind, strung across Times Square.
Having a young #BroadwayBound dancer living in my house it was the perfect location for us to visit for our 2015 family vacation. Though interesting enough our visit to New York has caused her to amend her destination city to Toronto, Ontario or London, England! We learned that all that glitters is not gold! Yes our trip to New York was magical, and a once in a life time journey, but perhaps our expectations were just too high that there was no way New York could have lived up to them.

Over the next few days I will be making a series of posts about our bucket list trip to New York City. Our trip was a whirlwind, and full of excitement at every turn.

Things to Keep in mind in New York 

Family Selfie in Central Park
New York is expensive! Not just a little expensive, a whole lotta expensive.  While it is known as one of the most expensive cities there are quite a few options out there to help keep the costs down. A friend told me before we left that whatever I thought we needed, to double it.  I can see why!  Being used to the luxury of an all-inclusive resort things add up really quickly in New York.  Everyone is out to make a quick buck and if you're not careful you can be swindled really quickly.

If you're looking to save money on food do not eat in Times Square.  You'll pay substantially more eating for the luxury. You've been warned!  The restaurants are bustling, you spend forever and a day waiting for a table, and because of the huge line up waiting to get in at certain times of the day, your meal feels super rushed.  We ate in Times Square twice out of necessity, but I definitely recommend heading off the beaten track while in New York to save money for more exciting things!

Buying a Metro Card when you get to New York is a definite must if you plan on taking the bus and subway. $31 (plus $1 fee for your new Metro Card) will get you unlimited rides for a 7 days on the bus and subway. Keep in mind though that taking the Express Bus, LIRR and the Air Train  (to and from the airport) cost extra and are not included in your regular pass.

Free Days

Before you head to New York do a Google search for free days in New York City venues. Many of the museums offer admission by donation one day a week,  and some offer admission by donation every day (like the Museum of Natural History).

Little Buddy at the Bronx Zoo
We made sure to visit the Bronx Zoo on Wednesday for free and it was absolutely amazing!  The girls had a great time, and the crowds weren't insane (though in the Summer I would imagine significantly more people visit the zoo).  The Bronx Zoo is super easy to get to on the Subway and the walking route to get to the zoo is very clearly marked.  I highly recommend it!  Being off season when we went many of the canteens and exhibits were closed, though we did still a good assortment of animals who call the zoo home.  Malie was disappointed that the polar bears weren't there, though she was extremely happy to see the red pandas.

The Staten island Zoo and the New York Aquarium also give visitors the opportunity to visit for free once a week.

You ran ride the Staten island Ferry for free and you actually get pretty close to the Statue of Liberty.  If you are on a budget the free trip on the ferry might be preferable to paying $26-50 per person to take one of the tours to see the Statue of Liberty.  One thing to note is that not every ferry has an outside area where you can take pictures easily.  So if taking a photo of Lady Liberty is important to you make sure you get to the outside area early so that you're not disappointed!

Location is Everything in New York

The Tree in Rockefeller Center
Staying in Manhatten is expensive, and so many visitors choose to stay further out from Manhatten.  While the public transportation system is actually amazingly effective, everywhere you want to go takes a significant portion of your day.

Make sure you have a plan on where you're going and what you're planning on doing to minimize your transit time every day!  It goes without saying that the more time your spend commuting to each location the less time you'll have to see other places of interest to you.

I booked our hotel in Staten island as on paper it didn't look too far from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan.  Big mistake for me and my family.  While on paper the trip from our hotel into the city was only an hour in reality it took much longer and at night when all you want to do is crawl into bed and sleep the commute is definitely one that becomes tedious. 

Our hotel, Holiday Inn Staten Island, was very nice, and the staff were absolutely amazing, but for us the location was just too far to make the cost savings worthwhile.  Don't get me wrong, the hotel itself is fantastic and I highly recommend staying there.  Yet the commute to and from the hotel every day is really long and is something that you need to take into account before booking.  The hotel does offer a free shuttle to the Staten island Ferry, however it runs only every two hours, and gets booked up really quickly so make sure that you book a ride early if the shuttle is your preferred mode of transportation!

Final Thoughts

There is far too much to see around New York in a short period of time.  Do your research before getting there to maximize the fun quota while there.  It can be really easy to overfill your itinerary and spend the entire trip running around like a chicken with your head cut off.  If you value your sanity, make sure to come up with a plan that allows you to see the landmarks, and complete the activities that mean the most to you.  The girls and I made a list of what we wanted to do and see, and then worked through that list.  We accomplished everything except for making it to the Museum of Natural History.  Did we accomplish as much as other New York visitors?  Probably not.  But we still enjoyed our time there, and it was definitely a trip to remember.
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Saturday, January 9, 2016

A standing ovation, and nary a dry eye in the audience later, I can say that Allegiance is the Musical Theatre piece of our generation, the must see masterpiece.

As a self-declared geek, George Takei is one of my favourite people on the planet.  When we made the decision to go to New York I knew that not taking the time to see Allegiance would be something that I would regret for the rest of my life.  Not just because of Uncle George, but also because the story is so important for all of us to hear.

I grew up in suburbs of Vancouver, British Columbia, and remember learning about the Japanese Internment at Hastings Park in grade twelve.  After that year going to the Pacific National Exhibition was always bitter sweet to me knowing the horrors that would have been experienced there, with no mention of the injustice being made.  Allegiance brings the story of Japanese Internment to the fore front, with beautiful sings,  amazing choreography and a hint of humour at every turn.

Allegiance follows the life of a Japanese family who are sent to an Internment camp, and shows how the experience at the camp shatters the family.  The cast is absolutely amazing,  and the musical touches on a tough subject with care and delicacy that is top notch.  I simply cannot say enough about how amazing Allegiance is.

My youngest daughter turned to me when George Takei took the stage and excitedly exclaimed, "That's hologramps from Supah Ninjas!"  Supah Ninjas is one of her favourite shows, so seeing one of the actors from the show was definitely a highlight for her.

Before making the decision to see Allegiance I thought long and hard about the age of my girls.  I worried that the subject matter of Allegiance might be too much for their young minds.  Both girls had questions afterwards, but like Uncle George has mentioned previously, open communication with your children is key.  Allegiance opened up the door for open communication, and research into the lives of the Japanese people who were torn from their homes and put into internment camps.

The only thing that would have made the experience more memorable would have been having the opportunity to meet the cast and fill our Playbill with autographs from the cast.

TKTS Booth
We picked up our tickets at the TKTS booth for 50% off and enjoyed the show from row M in the orchestra seating section for less than the cost of sitting in the front row of the balcony at Matilda.  I definitely recommend checking out the TKTS booths for your broadway show needs.  Not going to lie, after enjoying such amazing seats at Allegiance for a great price I felt a little bit like we overpaid for tickets to Matilda.  Keep in mind that TKTS doesn't have tickets for every show, everyday, and the discount can change.  Check out their app for up to date information on the shows available and the discount.  Also, make sure to get there early, and have a couple choices of show to watch.

For More Information on Allegiance the Musical
If you would like to learn more about Allegiance, the Musical check out their website here.

Time is Running Out to See This Amazing Show
Devastatingly (yes I am dramatic) The Allegiance Facebook page has announced that it will be closing the doors on February 14, 2016.  I would strongly encourage everyone to take the opportunity to see this amazing musical before the doors close on it.

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