Wednesday, February 26, 2014

20 something bloggers bootleg awards

I am a 20-something blogger. This means two things to me, 1) I'm in my 20's and I blog, as of this month I'm also over the 25 hump and on my way to 30...but that's the topic of another post. 2) I'm a member of the 20-something bloggers community.

So what does that mean?

It's a network of thousand of bloggers from around the world, from different blogging niches, there's even male bloggers (I thought those were just a myth) all connected only by being 20-somethings! This community was established back in 2007...and I've been a member since 2009 (that's 5 years now!)

Over that time I may not have always been the most active in the forums and or groups, but I love tweeting along with them, writing their weekly blog prompts, sharing my posts, and most importantly finding some much loved blogs to read. They've even set me up with some fun sponsored post opportunities and free swag.

So why am I telling you all this?

Two reasons

1) if you're a blogger in your 20s and you're not already a member, you should be.


2) My blog has been nominated for their annual bootleg award. And this year it's been playing out as a bracket, with head-to-head pairings of some of the best blogs 20something has to offer. And somehow I've made it through 2 rounds and into the quarter finales.

So once you've gone and signed up, or if you're already a member, don't forget to vote before March 1.... for who ever you think is best! And who knows, next year you could be in line to win!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A skating GIF from Lake Louise

This weekend Kevin played in the Lake Louise Pond Hockey Classic, with his team Puck Dynasty. I of course tailed along and took a tonne of pictures, ok only 229 of them, but still a lot for 3 days!

While I'll get some of them up on the blog later this week, I just wanted to share this GIF I strung together from a sequence of pics I took of Kevin playing....that's right this is made from pictures, not a video!

Kind of fun no? The guys made it to the quarter finals, and overall it was an epic weekend! You can make your own GIFs from pictures using this link.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Making our first homemade wine

Making my own wine has been on my to do list for the last 2 years, knowing this, Kevin bought me a groupon for a wine making course for my birthday last year, and last month (just before it expired) I finally got to go check it out. Naturally we went out and bought a wine kit a few days later to give it a try.

California Trinity Red from Wine Expert
 From their website:
An ideal blending of three of California 's most popular grape varieties - Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, coming together to make a perfectly balanced, well- structured dry red wine. Notes of black cherry and coffee complement the smokey, herbal flavours, and hints of vanilla that round out this medium bodied wine , making it highly enjoyable for any occasion. Serve with a roast dinner or barbecued steak.
Sweetness: Dry | Body: Medium-Full | Oak Intensity: Medium
So far, we've found the process to be pretty easy. Here's what we've done so far.
  • Clean and sanitize your equipment (plastic primary pail, stiring spoon, sample thingy and hydrometer, rinse well and let dry.
  • Heat 4L distilled water, add two liters to primary. Add in the bentonite package and mix well to ensure no lumps. Add in the juice (10L), use the other 2L of heated water into the juice package to rinse last of the juice into the primary. Add distilled water to the 23L point. Stir like heck.

  • Check hydrometer reading, recall reading for water is 1.000, reading for you red wine at this stage will be higher than water (because it's chuck full of sugars) as the wine ferments, the sugars will turn into alcohols and the reading will drop below 1. Our reading at this point was 1.093.

  • Sprinkle in the oak packages and stir them under the surface. Once the fluids still (no longer swirling) sprinkle the dry yeast onto the surface. Do not stir. Wine temperature should be between 21 and 24'C at this point, a great temperature for the yeast to activate and get to work.

  • Put the lid on the primary, and seal the hole with the bung and the air lock (don't forget to put some water in the air lock!)
  • The yeast will activate and begin fermenting all on their own over the next 24-48 hours (may take a bit longer if it's colder). For us, by the next morning the lid on the primary was already 'puffed' out by the building gases, and by 24h bubbles were coming through the air lock.

  • Leave you wine alone for the next 5 days, preferably raised up off the ground (which is usually really cold, we've got ours on the bar counter). After 5-7 days check your hydrometer reading, it should have dropped to 1.010 or less. If it hasn't wait longer before moving to step 2. However, don't leave your wine in primary longer than 10 days.
  • At day 6 we checked our wine, I had a good feeling about it, since it had been bubbling happily all week, though by day five the bubbling was slowing down, suggesting most of the sugars had been consumed. Ours was reading an excellent 1.000, as this is less than the minimum 1.010, we we good to move on to step 2: Rack your wine.

  • Racking your wine really just means siphoning it out of the primary (and away from all the sediment and oak chunks) in into a glass carboy. Here's where I have to give a huge shout out to my PhD supervisor and his wife, who gave us their old carboys (good Italian ones, which won't spontaneously shatter on you). You can use an auto-siphon, or do it the old fashioned way and mouth siphon it (Kevin did ours, he says it almost tastes like wine already!).
  • Once it's in the glass carboy, throw the bung back in the top, and the air lock back on. It my continue to bubble, ours still is a bit, or not (but that's ok).
  • Leave it alone, back on the counter, for another 10 days. 

That's it for now, all we can do is wait, and give our wine unconditional love and affection. I really can't get over how truly little effort this process has been so far. May 30-40 min of work on each of the two processing days so far. I'm sure bottling will be a bit of a process, but we'll have 30 bottles of wine to show for our effort, and a 70 dollar investment in the kit. Equipment runs maybe another $80, but since we'll be repeating this process many times I'm sure, I won't count that.

Have you ever made your own wine, beer or cider? How did it turn out? Tell me all about it in the comments, we want to try beer next!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Knitting Corner: Dog Gone Cute Coat

Today I thought I'd show off a little more of my Christmas knitting.

Since I was going to be spending Christmas with Kevin's family, I knew I wanted to make something special to wrap up for under the tree, and a blanket would have taken more time than I had in the month leading up to the holidays. So I thought why not do something I really enjoy, and knit a sweater for their dog Taz.

Besides, this sweater would be special, you see, Taz looks just like a younger version of my own dog Flurry, and when Flurry was a puppy, my Grandmother knit him the exact same sweater. In fact I'd be knitting it from the same pattern, lovingly passed down to me.

The pattern comes from the book Dog Gone Cute, (Leisure Arts #3318) and also has a matching blanket (which Flurry still has and loves!) but for now I just went with the sweater. It knit up very fast, I started and finished the project in well under a week, and turned out just too cute!

So of course I did a photo shoot with Taz, who just loved it, and just in time to keep him warm during January's Polar Vortex!

Taz was a perfect model! The coat fit him great, and the little red buttons look just right. On the back of the coat is a dog bone, dog house and a little white Taz too!

Monday, February 10, 2014

5 tips for embracing your hectic, full, amazing life

Do you ever feel like your days are just running away with you?

Or worse than that, do you ever flip ahead in your calendar only to find nearly every weekend and evening is already accounted for, for weeks on end?

Or even still, do you find your summer filled up with commitments before spring has even arrived?

For the past year, my life has become increasingly 'Full'. And with my 26th birthday only a week away, I've come to terms with this as simply being a matter of adulthood, a fact of life. Especially a fact of a successful, happy, purpose-filled life.

That being said, it is too easy to be swept away as the pages of your day planner fill up and flip bye. Too easy to find yourself exhausted, dazed and confused, unsatisfied on Friday night, wondering where your week has gone.

 Image from A Bowl Full of Lemons, who ran a photo a day in Sept on day planners!

And so I give you 5 simple tips for embracing your hectic, full, amazing life:

1) Schedule Everything. If you don't have a day planner in your purse, a week planner on your desk and a monthly calendar in your kitchen, you're doing it wrong. Oh and if you're like me, google calendar is always open in your browser and constantly in sync with your phone. Set aside a half hour or so at the beginning of every week to populate and sync up those calendars or you will miss things.

2) Schedule Everything! That's right, include your workouts, date nights, shopping sprees with the girls in your calendar. And make them non negotiable, no it's not okay to cancel a dinner date with the boy because a last minute tutoring appointment came up.

3) Let yourself be lazy sometimes. If you are simply too exhausted too wake up that extra 2 hours early so you can hit the gym before work. Hit snooze and skip it. Guilt free. (that's the real trick, try not to let the guilt drag you down the rest of the day, or the snooze won't have been worth it). It's ok to do this every now and then. But don't make it a habit!

4) Leave some blank space. In general, try not to book up every minute of every day. In specific, I like to leave half an hour (minimum) in between tasks and appointments. I try to keep one evening a week totally blank. And one weekend a month with nothing major planned. You need free time, either to do all the little odds and ends things, to casually clean your home, or even just to watch half a season of Archer on Netflix while knitting. Savour the down time, protect it, because it is rare and beautiful.

5) Reflect on your accomplishments. Any time you wonder if being busy all the time is worth it, flip the pages back in your calendar and revel in all the amazing stuff you've done with your time. If you're a grad student like me, be amazed at all the travelling you've done, while working on your thesis, running your Grad association, TA'ing and tutoring, blogging, knitting, cooking and training for races. Heck I even have a social life on top of that! If I didn't keep as many day planners as I do, there'd be no way I'd be half as productive!

How do you manage to juggle the one hundred million little (and big) things that make life so wonderful (and crazy)? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Hopping on the Biggest Loser Bandwagon

So by now we've all probably seen the biggest loser finally, and the predominantly negative response to this season's winner Rachel. At first I wasn't going to write about it, but after leaving a long winded comment about it over at Go Fit Gals, I thought, hmmm I have something that needs to be said.

"I think it’s a huge step to say eating disorder, which to me suggests a long term/chronic, if you will, condition. At the end of the day, she was aiming to win 250,000 dollars through a one day weigh in. Clearly by the semi final she was in great shape, and nearing her ideal weight, but you go home, knowing you’re up against a pair of guys who have the potential to lose a lot more than you do, and maybe you do like every other athlete who has to make weight, and cut at the end. Two weeks from now she may be up 10 pounds, be at a totally healthy weight and be just fine. She is not the first person to show up at the finally looking gaunt, and many of the winners often look ‘fuller’ if you will in their TV appearances even the next day.
That being said, is it healthy to try to cut to your extreme lowest weight for the sake of winning a prize? nope. But its a game show, and to be honest, I’m sure many people in her same position would do the exact thing, drop slightly (remember we’re talking about 0.5 of a BMI pt here) below healthy recommended weight to win, and that does not an eating disorder make.
I hugely respect the message you are getting out, and that light need be shed on the issue of eating disorders. But the quick assumptions and harsh judgements in this case could have huge implications for both Rachel and any other woman who reads them. I can’t think of anything more horrible than to make such a dramatic change in your life, be happy with your body for the first time in years, be unmeasurably healthier than you were before and be faced with the negative feedback, harsh criticism and be suddenly made a poster child for eating disorders."

 I won't post pictures of Rachel, or the trainers faces, and a quick search of #BiggestLoser #Rachel or whatever on Twitter will bring you to uncountable tweets. But here are a few things:

1) I respect the hell out of the Biggest Loser, I honestly find it to be one of the most inspiring things on TV, believe it or not, despite having never been seriously overweight myself, I can honestly say the show was the driving force behind my own lifestyle change to become a healthier more active person. I've written about it here as I described my journey to my first half marathon.

2) It's still a contest, and there has been plenty of fishy play over the years, let's not forget early seasons with immunity and water loading before weigh ins. And don't even get me started about them sneaking Reuben back on this season just to plug his new album.

3) Rachel was one of my favourite contestants all season long, and in a season where it just seemed like some people weren't really committed. I wish her all the best, and that she could somehow erase the past 24 hours and just be proud of her win and not have to face the media/public over reaction that went with it. I hope that she is in a place in her life that includes both mental and physical health.

If you want to go read one of the few articles on the topic that drew some attention to the negative outburst that followed last night's finally, go check out this Huffington Post one.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

-20 in Toronto means Polar Vortex, -20 in Calgary means February

This adorable little alien guy has been floating around the interweb for the past few days (source).

And I must say, he captures my feelings quite nicely. Oh except that this morning I expressed my feelings with excessive cursing, as my car struggled to start, and my rear view mirror, dashboard and steering wheel frosted up, in my car, while I was driving.

How is it that the temperature in Toronto drops to -20 (in January) and it's a polar vortex, while here it will hit -28 tonight (that's without wind chill people) and it's just February. Ok I get it I live in Calgary, the groundhog saw his shadow this weekend, so what else can I expect? Also I suppose we were kind of spoiled by Chinook weather which lasted most of January.

But none of those things made me any warmer this morning.

In other, less freezing cold news.

I took a wine and beer making course last week at the Home Vintner, and Kevin and I are set up to start our first wine on Saturday (I'm seriously excited about this, it's like science and wine, happily married at last). Needless to say, I will make a point to share my first wine making experience on the blog. This will go a long way upping my Italian-badassery, as not only can I cook just like Nana (well nearly) but now I'll be following in my grandpa's footsteps with the home wine making!

Two awesome certificates in one day! Science and wine, heck yes!

Melissa and I went to the free line dancing class at Ranchman's on Thursday night. And honestly it was a huge bust! How it should have gone: hot cowboys teach us how to do the dances, to the songs they play during line dancing on the weekend, failing that just went to clap, shuffle and change directions. How it went: middle aged guy in jazz shoes taught us cruise ship varieties of the dances, to really lame too slow songs from his ipod, while hot cowboys jumped in at the end to show us how we were doing it wrong. Sad thing is? I suspect Ranchman's is paying this guy. If you really want to learn... I say just show up, and have 4 or 5 drinks.

Which brings me to Friday.

Neon Med student party in Banff + Pink Wig + 4 or 5 or who really remembers how many drinks = a great time, and a sleepy Saturday.

Oh and to follow up on my last post, SeaWheeze registration re-opened (and subsequently sold out) yesterday, and Krista and I both managed to get in! So Vancouver in August, here I come!

What have you been up to this past week? How have you been surviving your own personal polar vortex?