April 30, 2014

Colours of Alaska

Alaska is beautiful. I can't say it enough. And if you've read any of my posts or seen any of my photographs of the great state, then hopefully you agree.

From the aqua blue glacier-fed lakes, to the emerald green mountainsides and cotton candy pink evening skies in summer, in a land where Mother Nature is largely untouched, stunning colours are around every corner. 

Here are some of my favourite colours of Alaska (Thanks for this great post idea Nicole.)...

Green: mountains

Blue: glaciers

Pink: fireweed

Red: fall colours in Denali National Park

Orange: red fox

(That's my boy Mac. Isn't he gorgeous? I miss him immensely.)

Do you ever stop and notice the colours around you?

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April 29, 2014

Keeping in Touch

Our family and friends are scattered across the continent, from Alaska to BC, Ontario, Texas and beyond. While keeping in touch with family and friends is priceless, having people you love in more than one place often makes it difficult to keep in touch. And I must admit, I'm not always the best at keeping in touch. (I'm sure I'm not the only one in this boat.)

While I love sending and receiving old-fashioned greeting cards, sometimes a trip to the store or post office isn't always feasible. So how do I keep in touch? Enter the power of technology. Here are some thoughtful ways to show family and friends you're thinking of them, using trusty technology:

1. Simple texts to say hello
Something as simple as a quick text message from a loved one saying hi or asking how you are can really make your day. 

2. Phone calls
The most basic way to keep in touch, but also one of the most personal. I love receiving random phone calls from my sister or calling my grandma just because. Hearing a loved ones voice gives you a better connection. 

3. Start a blog
Moving abroad, or just to the other side of the country? Why not start a blog to keep your family and friends updated on your adventures? Oh hey, that's what I did! 

4. Video chat
Talking on the phone and hearing someone's voice is one thing, but being able to see someone's face makes missing them much easier. By having a video chat with friends and family, I don't feel like I'm missing out as much on the important moments, like missed Christmas dinners and baby's first steps.

5. Personalized digital greeting cards
Why not send a digital greeting card from the comfort of your computer, iPhone or iPad? Treat, brought to you by the same people that created Shutterfly, tinyprints and Wedding Paper Divas, makes sending personalized digital greeting cards through their website and mobile app an absolute breeze. Digital cards start at only 99 cents, and you can even set up reminders and preschedule cards so you never miss a special occasion! It's so simple to send a digital card from Treat: pick a design they'll love, personalize it the same way you would a paper card and instantly send it via email!

Voila, thoughtfulness is at your fingertips.

How do you keep in touch?

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April 23, 2014

Spring Fever

Spring is my favourite season. 

It's never too hot or too cold. 

The sky is always blue, unless it's raining of course.

The birds are always singing, unless it's raining of course.

The air always smells so fresh, especially after a rain.

The grass is green.

The flowers are in full bloom.

The sun is my morning alarm clock.

And it is still up long after dinner.

Long weekends enjoyed with friends and family.

Farmer's markets are back.

Two words: animal. babies.

Need I go on?

And I'm not the only one crushing on spring...

Andi @ ap loves design: I think I start to get excited about spring once daylight savings time hits. It totally changes your attitude when the sun is still out at 8pm as opposed to it being completely dark when you get home from work at 5. I'm also obsessed with gardening. In the spring you can usually find me at the nursery looking for flowers,  or in the yard planting them :)
Etsy  |  Instagram  |  Facebook

What's your favourite thing about spring?

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April 22, 2014

Celebrating Mother Nature

April 22 is Earth Day.

Like Earth Days in the past, Earth Day 2014 will focus on the unique environmental challenges of our time. Today, more than half of the world's population lives in cities. As this number increases, and the bleak reality of climate change becomes more apparent, the need to create sustainability communities becomes more and more important.

Here are some activities that you can do at home to help celebrate Mother Nature:

Plant a Tree
Not only do trees refresh the air by taking in the bad and breathing out the good, they have additional benefits as well - they provide wildlife habitat, improve property value and aesthetic, reduce utility bills, prevent soil erosion and provide sound buffers! 

Conserve Energy
Turn off the water when you brush your teeth, take a shorter shower, wash your laundry in cold water, carpool to work, turn off the lights when you leave the room, unplug electronics not in use.  Not only will conserving energy reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it will also save you $$$!

The 3 Rs - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Reduce waste - bring your own grocery bags next time you go to the store and buy a reusable water bottles. Reuse an item - refurnish an old piece of furniture.  Reduce waste - buy products with less packaging or compost organic waste. Do your part by recycling glass, paper, plastic and other reusable materials. Clean out your closet and donate your unused items to charity!

Buy Locally, Cook Seasonally
Visit a local farmer's market or start your own vegetable garden!  Gardening is a wonderful way to gain an appreciate on how much we depend on Mother Nature for survival. Choose local and organic foods that are in season, and support local farmers.Buying local or growing your own is environmentally friendly and will save on fuel and keep money within the community. Growing your own fruits and vegetables is also a great family activity! 

Get Outside! Get inspired!

There is no other way to get back in touch with nature than to get outside and actually experience its many wonders. Go for a walk, ride your bike, grab your favorite book and a lawn chair.  Get outside, breathe in the air, feel the sun on your face and appreciate this beautiful planet we call home. 

Although Earth Day is a great reminder for all of us to be environmentally conscious, don't let your environmental actions stop once April 23 hits. Make every day Earth Day.

How do you celebrate Mother Nature?

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April 19, 2014

Zucchini Pizza Boats

We've been trying to go meatless lately. We're not ruling meat out completely, trust me, I was born a meat and potatoes kind of girl. It's more that we're trying to save money, and eating meat every night, especially the good stuff, eventually adds up.

Enter zucchini pizza boats... They look like pizza, taste like pizza and you're getting a whole whack of vegetables in one meal!

Zucchini Pizza Boats
Serving size: 2 people (as addition to another meal item)

What you need:
1 medium sized zucchini
tomato sauce
tomoto, sliced
cheese of your choice, shredded (we used a swiss/cheddar combo)
sliced black olives

*Quantity of these ingredients are to your liking.

What to do:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Wash the zucchini well and slice lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out some of the flesh from the centre. Leave about one centimetre around the edges.

Place the zucchini on a tin-foil lined baking sheet (it can get messy). Add tomato sauce to the zucchini. Top with sliced tomatoes, shredded cheese and chopped olives (or whatever toppings you choose).

Bake 20-30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and slightly brown. Allow to cool slightly before you take a bite!

I wish I could show you the final product and its melty-goodness, but they were gone so fast I didn't have time to snap a pic.


Is this a recipe you'd try?

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April 17, 2014

Q & A with the Mr

When I first started this blog, I was afraid to share it with my husband. Silly me thought he would judge me for it. He is in fact extremely supportive of my little space, and little did I know, he actually reads it! (Pretty sure he has Bloglovin' on his iPad.) 

I've seen similar posts floating around blogland this past week and I felt like I needed to jump on board. What better way to get him more involved then to put him in the hot seat. Today also marks nine years that he's been putting up with my shenanigans, so I figure this is one way I can thank him.

Here goes,

What is the name of my blog?
t.o. & fro

What's the meaning behind the name?
Well, Toronto. It's a play on words.

(He has this look when he's not impressed. If you know him well, you know "the look". I got "the look" when I asked this question.)

What do I write about?
You write about your travels, eco-tips, general interest, your life as a 'hockey wife'.

What is your favourite post that I've written?
All of them? I don't know if I have a favourite. Maybe one of your posts about our adventures. Why? Am I being a part of the blog? 

(He just clued in.)

What are some things we like to do together?
You and I? (Made some comment about the state I was in the other night after drinking a bottle of wine that I cannot repeat.) Do I have to answer this?

We enjoy making good food and drinking good beer and wine. We love the outdoors. We like hunkering down on the couch, picking a new series and watching a few episodes at a time.

What do I do while you're on the road?
This year? Or the past three years? The last couple of years you've gone through different stages of "trinket" making. I really don't know. Not much?

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I just like to relax. I have to be mentally and physically sharp during the season, so when I get down time I like to turn everything off and do nothing.

What is the most annoying thing I do?
How much more space do you have? I try to be very neat and tidy and like being organized, and you do not. I like getting rid of everything, you like keeping everything. I like vacuuming and I still don't think you know what that is.

What is your dream vacation?
I don't think I have one yet, I haven't been to enough places. I just want to travel everywhere. But it probably would include a lake and a cabin.

What's your go-to outfit?
My Lulu Lemon dress pants are the most comfortable thing I own.

What's our favourite meal to make together?
I don't think we have a favourite. We like making new things. But if I had to chose, I do enjoy your fettucine alfredo.

What's your drink of choice?
A nice strong IPA, old-fashioned or single-malt scotch.

Anything else you'd like to add?
Just for the record, I didn't know I was being interviewed until half way through this interview.

Happy 9 years to my one and only! (Can I say 9 years, or do you hit a restart button when you get married?)

I hope everyone has a good long weekend. My eco-tip of the week will be back on April 26.

Happy Easter!

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April 16, 2014

Introducing Batty's Bath

Growing up I definitely had my awkward moments, especially 1999-2000... the year of the glasses, braces and thick caterpillars creeping across my forehead. Makes me cringe just thinking about it.

Even though perfect teeth and vision weren't in my favour growing up, one thing I was blessed with was good skin. Throughout elementary school, high school and even into university, I could put whatever crap I wanted on my face, go to sleep without washing it off and not suffer any consequences. I really didn't know how good I had it.

As I get older, my skin has definitely begun to change and is no longer as forgiving. Hormones, stress, the humid summers and harsh winters have all taken a toll on my skin. 

Jamie, aka 'Batty', has her own story about her skin struggles. Growing up with acne, she decided to do her own research to find a solution becoming a 'self-created skin care expert'.  She took her thousands of hours of research and started Batty's Bath, a botanical skin care and soap company based near my stomping grounds, London, ON. Batty crafts every. single. product by hand in her two-room home laboratory, and uses fresh herbs grown with love in her very own garden and other organic and ethically sourced ingredients. All products are vegetarian friendly and certified "cruelty free" by the Leaping Bunny Program & by PETA. This girl is committed to planet-friendy, people-friendly and animal-friendly ingredients.

Some of Batty's current top sellers:

Patchouli & Grapefruit Olive Oil Facial Soap for Acne Prone Skin 
If you often have break outs and are looking for a soap to help you get your problem skin under control - this is the soap for you! If you're looking for a soap to keep your skin clean, controlled, smooth, and soft - This is still the soap for you! ($7.00 CDN)

Patchouli Facial Moisturizer 
Infused with Patchouli Essential Oil, this formula is specifically made for sensitive and problem skin. Patchouli Essential Oil is known for it’s unique ability to combat skin irritations, acne and inflammation. ($12.00 CDN)

Soothing Eye Gel 
Batty’s Soothing Eye Gel is a natural wake me up for the delicate skin around your eyes! It is loaded with skin supporting benefits thanks to carefully hand picked ingredients including antioxidant packed extracts of carrot, coffee, green tea, cucumber, and apple, plus soothing rose hydrosol (floral water) and skin protecting vitamin E. ($11.00 CDN)

Make sure to go check out Batty's Bath for more great products. And while you're shopping, stop by her blog, where she gives a behind the scenes look at the love that goes into her products. Sign up for her skin care videos and inspiring how-to's and you'll receive a coupon for free shipping off your first order!

Find Batty and her fabulous products here:
Shop  |  Blog  |  Instagram  |  Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Pinterest 

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April 10, 2014

Alaska Travel Planning Resources

alaska travel planning resources

Planning a trip to any foreign destination can often be intimidating, especially when that place is commonly referred to as "the Great White North", "the Last Frontier" and my favourite, "Land of the Midnight Sun".

Are you planning a trip to Alaska this summer or in the future? With a bit of advanced research and planning, you'll be better prepared for what you will experience during your Alaska travel. Whether you plan on taking a cruise, going on a fishing or hunting trip, or road tripping it through the great state, here are some of the best tried, tested and true Alaska travel planning resources.

Alaska Travel Planning Resources

The Milepost trip planner is the ultimate Alaska travel guide to highways, roads, ferries, lodgings, recreation, sightseeing attractions and services along the Alaska Highway systems within the state and surrounding Canadian provinces. It shares hidden gems along the roadways and bits of history as you explore the last frontier. It is the best $34.99US you will spend if you plan on doing any driving while visiting Alaska. (This 800-page book was a lifesaver on our 2 week ultimate road trip home from Alaska this past summer.)

alaska travel planning resources
Travel Alaska is the official State of Alaska vacation and travel information website. It provides information on things to do, places to go, where to stay, getting to and around, package tours, planning help and maps of cities, towns, villages, parks and public lands. Order a free copy of the official vacation and travel planner to be mailed to you before your trip!

alaska travel planning resources

Driving to or from Alaska is the ultimate North American road trip, and North to Alaska is designed to offer planning suggestions as to where to go, how to get there, what to see, and what to do. The website includes maps and routes, points of interest, tips, distances and more! Order a free guide to help facilitate your journey and ignite your sense of adventure.

alaska travel planning resources

Alaska.org provides local expert advice for planning your trip to Alaska. From destinations, to things to do, maps, transportation, cruise and land tours, backcountry and more! Order a free copy of the travel planner or check out the Alaska Activity Guide and Activity Map

alaska travel planning resources

This FREE download brought to you by Alaska.org is the official mobile guide to Alaska's best destinations. Whether you're visiting Alaska or live there, The Alaska App is your ultimate interactive Alaskan discovery guide.  

alaska travel planning resources

Visiting the great state with your family? Make sure to check out AKontheGo, the only website dedicated to Alaska family travel. AKontheGO tells the story of Alaska destinations through cultural, educational, and recreational opportunities appropriate for children.

alaska travel planning resources

While there are plenty of other resources available online to help plan your trip to AK and get you better prepared for what to expect once you arrive, these are my favourite and ones I've used in the past.

Have you been to Alaska, or are you planning to visit? What resources do you like to use when planning a trip?


April 8, 2014

Waimea Canyon

Hawaii is to Alaska as Mexico is to Eastern Canada. We knew we needed to go.

Waimea Canyon, on Kauai's west side, is described as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific", stretching 14 miles long, one mile wide and more than 3,600 feet deep. The canyon was formed by a deep incision of the Waimea River arising from the extreme rainfall on the island's central peak, Mount Waiʻaleʻale, which is among one of the wettest places on earth. The name Waimea, Hawaiian for "reddish water", references the erosion of the canyon's red soil.  

Waimea Canyon was a must-see on our Kauai bucket list.

A 10 mile long curving, and sometimes nauseating road, winds its way up to the top of canyon. Several lookout points provide stunning panoramic views of the canyon and the beautiful island of the Kauai and Pacific Ocean. Apparently even chickens live at 3400 feet.

When you're up on top of the Canyon looking over the beautiful island of Kauai, you feel on top of the world. Waimea Canyon is truly a dramatic sight to behold.

We decided to continue our excursion past the lookout and explore Waimea State Park a little more. We picked up a relatively easy trail that took us along the edge of the canyon, giving more spectacular views, and ultimately leading us to a tiny waterfall, where we cooled down before making the trek back to the car. The adventurer didn't skip the opportunity to pull out his binocs...

Being on the West side of the Island, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to stop and enjoy the Hawaiian sunset on the drive back. As we watched the summer sun sink into the Pacific, we were so thankful that we had the opportunity to visit the beautiful island of Kauai.

For more on our trip Hawaii, check this out:
A Trip to the Garden Island - Kauai, HI
Paradise on Earth - A Catamaran Cruise Along the Napali Coast

Have you visited Waimea Canyon?

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April 4, 2014

Chocolate Coconut Chia Pudding

Did you know that I am not a huge fan of chocolate? I know, "how dare her" is what you're thinking right now. Well, when given the choice, 99% of the time I will choose something salty over something chocolatey and sweet. That's 99% of the time. This recipe for chocolate coconut chia seed pudding is that 1% exception.

Chia seeds come from a flowering desert plant native to Mexico. They have been around for 1000s of years and history suggests they were a very important crop for the Mayans and Aztecs. "Chia" means strength, and folklore has it that Aztec and Mayan soldiers used these tiny seeds as a stamina and energy booster. Chia was largely unheard of in North America until a researcher began studying it as an alternative crop for farmers in South America countries about 30 years ago. And yes, these are the same seeds used to grow the grass-like "fur" on those clay figurines we all know as Chia Pets.

chocolate coconut chia pudding recipe

Lately, chia seeds have become pretty popular in the health food department. In their whole, unprocessed form, they are a concentrated food containing healthy omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, finer, antioxidants and calcium. People such as Dr Oz are huge advocates of chia's positive health benefits, including boosting energy, stabilizing blood sugar, aiding digestion and lowering cholesterol. 

Chia seeds can be added to anything - salad, yogurt, granola, etc. and make the perfect vegan, gluten-free and paleo snack or breakfast. But, what I find most interesting about this super seed is that when you add liquid, the mixture takes on a pudding-y form. 

This first time I saw chia seed pudding, I was a little turned off. But, the first time I tried chia seed pudding, my palate was pleasantly surprised. And after trying this recipe, hopefully yours will be too. 

chocolate coconut chia pudding recipe

Chocolate Coconut Chia Seed Pudding
1 serving

What you need:
2 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 c. almond milk (chocolate or vanilla)
2 tbsp. unsweetened shredded coconut
1 1/2 tbsp. honey or maple syrup (optional)

chocolate coconut chia pudding recipe

What to do:
Combine seeds, milk and coconut in mason jar. Seal the jar and give it a good shake. Put jar in the fridge and allow to sit for half an hour. After the first half hour, give the jar a shake so that the mixture does not clump. Place back in fridge until at pudding consistency. When ready to eat, top with fruit, or keep plain, and enjoy! 

Some notes: 
If you don't find the above mixture sweet enough, you can add 1 1/2 tbsp of maple syrup or honey. You can also use sweetened shredded coconut. If you're not a fan of chocolate, try vanilla almond milk. It is just a delicious and nutritious, however, I prefer the chocolate.

Is this a recipe you would try? Do you have any variations?

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April 3, 2014

An Ode to 10 Years

One of the "perks" of changing your last name is getting a new passport, even when you're only a few years into your current one. Sigh. The other day I checked the little box on my passport application that said "10 years". To be honest with you, it was a tough decision between if I wanted my passport for 5 or 10 years. 10 years is a long time.

It got me thinking in 10 year increments...

Where was I 10 years ago?
Ah, spring 2004. It was a memorable one. Steve and I were finishing up our last year of highschool. We had become really good friends, almost inseparable, and I so was naive that I didn't see a potential end to the friendship in sight. His hockey season had come to an end and he had decided to move back to Toronto to finish up his last year of high school and graduate with his friends. It was 10 years ago this week that I didn't know when, or if, I'd ever see or hear from him again. (Little did I kJnow...) 

Clearly this was not 18, but it was still a long time ago.

At 18, where did I see myself in 10 years?
It's kind of ironic, in high school I loved visiting Toronto and one day saw myself wanting to live there. No idea why, maybe because it was just something extremely different, something more "glamorous" from where I grew up. Enrolled to begin my undergrad as a Marine Biology major, that thought quickly changed and I had my sights set on being wherever it was warm and wherever I could be close to the water. Also ironic because I never ever pictured a third of the time between graduating and moving to Toronto would be spent living in Alaska. Then again, I also never pictured I'd start dating that boy a year later and then be married to him eight years after that. So much can change in 10 years.

Where do I see myself 10 years from now?
When I recently asked a gentleman how his day was going, he told me, "It's a good day, I'm still above ground." Yes, somewhat morbid, but also a unique outlook on life. In 10 years I hope that I am still enjoying life as much as I am as I write this. In a perfect world, we will both be enjoying what we're doing and we'll have a happy, healthy family (size of course is still up for debate). Maybe we will, maybe we won't, but the important thing is that we're happy and healthy. Being  "above ground" still might help too.

Long story short, ultimately the passport decision came down to the price, the 10 years was just a better deal. Who cares if I'll be almost 40 and have a picture of an almost 30 year old in my passport. Who cares if I put no effort into the picture and it looks more like a mug shot. (I really wish I had of put more thought into the picture.)

My life is different, yet somewhat the same, from what I'd imagined it'd be at 18. Am I surprised with how its turned out so far? No. I'm a determined person, when I set my sights on something, I go for it. Kind of like landing my dream job, and that boy. Am I disappointed with how it turned out? Not a chance, I wouldn't change one decision for a second. I am so happy with how these past 10 years have gone. Cheers to another 10 years!

What were you doing 10 years ago? 
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?


April 1, 2014

Art Gallery of Ontario

The Art Gallery of Ontario is an art museum located downtown TorontoIts collection includes more than 80,000 works spanning the 1st century to the present day, and at 480,000 sq ft, it is one of the largest galleries in North America.

From what I can remember, I have never been to the AGO. Most people that live in Toronto gasp when I tell them that, so I figured it was about time I check it out. Every Wednesday from 6:00-8:30pm is FREE to visit, so this past week my sister-in-law and I took advantage.

They had historical pieces, such as these...

Art Galley of Ontario Toronto

Interesting pieces where your imagination was required...

Art Galley of Ontario Toronto

And this...

Art Galley of Ontario Toronto

And a really weird installation with taxidermy animals and mirrors, that we obviously had to take a selfie in...

Art Galley of Ontario Toronto

And then there was my favourite, the Group of Seven gallery where we spent a few solid minutes staring in awe. The bright colours and beautiful landscapes instantly transport you to a better place. 

Art Galley of Ontario Toronto; Group of Seven
Art Galley of Ontario Toronto; Group of Seven

This Lawren S. Harris painting that took my breath away and created an instant connection, the one I couldn't create with any of the other pieces in the entire gallery.

Art Galley of Ontario Toronto; Group of Seven

Breathtaking, right? It makes me want to be there. 

For those unfamiliar with the Group of Seven: In the early twentieth century, seven artists committed to exploring the unique character of the Canadian landscape were brought together through art.  Collectively they all agreed that Canada's wilderness needed to be recorded in a distinctive painting style that broke from European tradition. Today, these men are among Canada's most famous artists and their works are not only breathtaking, but symbolize Canada's identity.

While I may not be the most "cultured" when it comes to certain pieces of art, I do know how to appreciate those pieces that can create a connection, like the Group of Seven. 

If you plan on visiting the AGO,

317 Dundas Street W, Toronto, ON

Monday: Closed
Tuesday - Sunday: 10:00-5:30
Wednesday nights from 6:00-8:30pm are FREE!

Adult: $19.50
Senior: $16.00
Student/Youth: $11.00
Child (5 & under): Free

Do you enjoy art? What is your favourite style?

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