October 30, 2014

Facts About Yours Truly

Today is Day 30 of #Blogtober14 (aka blog every day in October), brought to you by Helene in Between and The Daily Tay. Today's topic is "Facts About You".  To play along, check out the daily prompts here.

With the continued growth of t.o. & fro, I always jump at any opportunity to reintroduce myself to my new blog friends. Here are a few random facts about me: 

1.. My husband and I met when we were in grade 11, but didn't start dating until a few years after. 

2.. Before he retired this year, his professional hockey career took us all over North America - Michigan, Florida, NY, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina and Alaska to name a few. While I'm happy that hockey no longer dictates our schedule, I miss it. I miss watching him play and the sense of community it brought.

3.. I grew up on the shores of Lake Huron. From a very young age I have been drawn to the water and the natural world, which led me to pursue a degree in Marine & Freshwater Biology and graduate certificate in Ecosystem Restoration. I studied things like fish, frogs, turtles, birds, mammals and things that don't have a spine, and learned how to tell an oak tree from a maple, how to restore an eroded creek  bank and how to build a snapping turtling nesting site.

4.. I donated blood for the first time last week. I was terrified that I would pass out, but I didn't. In fact, I'll be back in 56 days to do it all over again.

5.. I do not like roasted peppers. Raw, not a problem, but cooked remind me of when I had food poisoning.  Chicken fajitas did me in.

6.. I love to bother him...

7.. And him...

8.. But they make me extremely happy (just look at those faces).

9.. This quote describes my life perfectly. 

10.. It's been just over a year, but I am still getting used to this big city life. Commuting an hour each way on the subway is still strange to me.

11.. I've had glasses since grade 3. Got braces in grade 7. At one point, I had both glasses and braces. Thank goodness my mom suggested I get contacts in grade 8. Can you say awkward phase?!

12.. Outdoor activities, like camping, make me happy. Even if it is raining the entire time.

13.. One day, we will own a hobby farm. It will have chickens, pigs and donkeys. Possibly even a guinea pig or two.

14.. Speaking of small friends, I've owned just about every one a child can own (minus a rabbit and bird) - fish, turtles, cat, dog, snake, guinea pig, rat, hamster, mice, gerbil and more. This girl loves animals. And yes, we had mice when we lived in Alaska. Rocky and Mo, who I rescued from the zoo's breeding program for the snakes and birds. Mo even made the 4500 mile trek home from Alaska with us.

15.. Speaking of Alaska, I miss it at least 5 times a week. I miss my friends, I miss my zoo animals and I miss the beauty and adventure. But at the same time, I am so happy to be able to spend so much time with family.

Learn more about me here:
20 Things
Q & A with the Mr
Him + Her

Helene in Between Blogtober

I haven't been the most dedicated to #blogtober14, but check out my other posts...


October 29, 2014

What Inspires Your Senses? 0.1

The day has finally arrived - the first edition of "What Inspires Your Senses?" is here! If you're not familiar with WIYS, on the last Wednesday of every month, I will challenge you to select 5 of your favorite personal photographs - one that best describes each of your 5 senses: see, smell, taste, touch and hear. As an added challenge, come up with one for the "sixth sense", an open-ended category to interpret your own way. The photos can be ones you've taken recently or those you've dug out of the archives, those you've taken in one location or in several and even those you've taken with a DSLR or on your smart phone. No photography skills are needed, just your imagination and creativity!

Let's get to it...
SEE: Storm clouds rolling off Lake Huron

SMELL: Homemade salsa

FEEL: Love in the air

TASTE: Fresh picked apples

HEAR: Bald eagles playing

"SIXTH" SENSE: Midnight sun nostalgia

Meet your co-host!
Connect with Jamie here:  Blog  |  Twitter  |  Pinterest  |  Bloglovin

What inspires your senses?

How to participate:
1| Linkup your blog post with the photos that inspire your senses.
2| Follow your host (Mar @ t.o. & fro) & cohost (Jamie @ SnapGinger).
3| Link back to the party in your post, either with text or button below.
4| Check out as many blogs as you can to see what inspires others' senses!
5| Share on social media, using the hashtag #whatinspiresyoursenses!

t.o. & fro

Mark you calendar for the next opportunity to linkup on Wednesday, November 26!
Interested in co-hosting in the future? Check this out. 

Link up here:

Linking up with Megan for Inspired Bundle #18.


October 24, 2014

How To Preserve Fall Leaves

I am so happy to live in a place that experiences fall. While it means the weather is getting colder, the changing colour of the leaves makes me happy. Do you wish the colour would last all year long? Me too. 

Recently I've been lusting over these creative dried leaves projects on Pinterest. They are so simple to make on your own, and the perfect way to preserve fall. The important thing to know about this project is that in order to frame a leaf, it must first be dried and preserved so that it doesn't get mouldy.

Here's one way to get started...

how to preserve fall leaves

variety of leaves
heavy text books

how to preserve fall leaves
Like that pic of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford I snuck in there?!
Choose leaves that are relatively flat and not curled, as well as those that aren't spotty, full of holes or bumpy. You will also want those with a low moisture content.

how to preserve fall leaves
Place leaves flat between newspaper. Make sure the leaves are not overlapping. 

how to preserve fall leaves
Place the newspaper with the leaves inside a heavy book. Text books work well. To keep the leaves from curling, you will want a good amount of weight. You can also put more books on top for more weight.

how to preserve fall leaves

Keep the book in a dry location and check after about a week. Make sure the leaves are not rotting. It is best to leave the leaves inside the book for about 1 to 2 weeks to ensure they are completely dry before use.

I plan on framing a few of the red maple leaves once they are dry to add to my future gallery wall. However, you can incorporate them into all sorts of projects, such as this super cool scrapbook I had to make for a plant ID class in grad school.  Super fun and super nerdy. Happy crafting!

how to preserve fall leaves

Have you ever preserved fall leaves? What did you make with them?

October 22, 2014

Rain Rain Go Away Giveaway

I don't know about your neck of the woods, but here in the big city of T.O., Mother Nature has been acting a little crazy. The weather this fall has been hit or miss. Some days, it is absolutely gorgeous. I'm talking sans jacket weather - 50-60F and sunny. Other days, not so much. Warm sweaters, fall jackets, scarves and boots are a necessity. Possibly even a rain jacket and rain boots.

If only every fall day could be like this one, when I took a walk along my parents' beach last weekend...

But, for when they're not and you just have to grin and bear it, I've got a giveaway for you. I've teamed up with 13 other bloggers to ensure you're prepared for the rain, with the chance to win your very own pair of Hunter rain boots! And you even get to choose the colour. Personally, I'm loving the greenish-blue. Good luck!


The giveaway will run from 12:00 am EST on October 22nd until 11:59 pm EST on October 28th. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Prize has a value of up to $150. Entries will be verified, so please be honest. Winner will be contacted via email and will have 48 hours to respond and claim prize before a new winner will be chosen. Use the Rafflecopter below to enter. :)

Don't forget about my new monthly photography linkup, "What Inspires Your Senses?" starting next Wednesday, October 29. For more information, and how you can participate or co-host, check this out.


October 20, 2014

Ring Insurance 101

I will be the first to admit, I am sometimes a forgetful person. Forgetful as in I often misplace things. The motto in our house is "M.T.A.", which simply stands for "move things around". Can't find something? Move some things around and it magically reappears.

While the majority of things that I "misplace" can be easily replaced, like an article of clothing, one thing that I would never forgive myself if I lost would be my engagement ring. To lose something that has so much meaning, and that Steve poured his hard earned money into, would be heart breaking. Which is why, purchasing ring insurance days after getting engaged was a no brainer.

Whether you've been married for years or newly engaged, here's what you need to know about ring insurance...

engagement ring insurance

Engagement Ring Insurance 101

Is it for me?
Yes! Like a house or vehicle, it is important to have appropriate coverage in case of theft or damage. A good policy will cover every potential ring situation from theft, to damage and even dropping it down the sink.

How do I get it?
There are a few ways to insure your engagement ring. Firstly, ring insurance can be purchased as an extension (or "rider") of your renter or homeowner policy. In the case that you don't have renter or homeowner insurance, a policy can be purchased on its own, often called a personal articles policy. Personal articles policies can be purchased through companies that specialize in jewellery insurance or through your own home and vehicle insurance company (i.e. State Farm). 

How much does it cost?
The yearly cost to insure your ring is insignificant compared to its original value, only about $1-2 for every $100 it would cost to replace.  Obviously the cost of the premium also depends on other factors such as the value of your ring, your deductible and even where you live. For most people, you're looking between $100 and $200 a year. Spread over 12 months, that's peanuts compared to its monetary and sentimental value.

How does it work?
When purchasing ring insurance, you will need to provide a receipt for the ring, as well as an appraisal. Since the value of diamond, gold and platinum are always changing, you will need to get your ring reappraised every 2 to 3 years. Chances are the ring has increased in value since it was purchased. If lost or stole, insurance companies will only replace the value they have on file, so if you don't have a recent appraisal you could be losing out.

Other tips?
Make sure to keep your insurance papers and appraisal information in a secure location, such as a safe. When you're not wearing your ring, make sure it has a safe home as well. Chances are the insurance company will do it for you, but you may also want to take photos of the ring for your own records. And lastly, if you move or change your last name, make sure the policy follows you and your information is current. 
If anything, a ring policy will give you peace of mind, and make your husband happy knowing his investment is protected.

October 17, 2014

The Perfect Apple Crisp

Today is Day 17 of #Blogtober14 (aka blog every day in October), brought to you by Helene in Between and The Daily Tay. Today's topic is "I'm an expert at...".  To play along, check out the daily prompts here.

If you ask my husband, he will probably laugh when you say, "Is Mar a good baker?". He will then go on to tell you that the first time I try a new baking recipe, I nail it (true story). But then, because it was so good, I get a little too confident, make a few little tweaks, and then butcher it every attempt there after (also true story). However, he will tell you that one thing I bake really really really well is an apple crisp. I would even consider myself an expert, but there I go being too confident again.

When my sister in law and I went apple picking a few weeks back, we over did it by about 1/2 a bushel. I think the excitement and the atmosphere got the best of us. BUT, lots of apples means lots of apple crisp, and in my house, there have been no complaints.

Today I'm sharing my recipe for the perfect apple crisp. With just the perfect ratio of apple-cinnamony goodness to crust, this recipe will surely be a family, and tummy, pleaser.

easy apple crisp recipe

The Perfect Apple Crisp
Serves: 9 people (6 if you live in my house)

The filling:
4-5 medium to large apples, peeled and sliced
lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg

The topping:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup butter, cold and diced

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Peel, core and slice the apples. Toss in lemon juice to prevent browning.
3.  Add sugar and spices to sliced apples and combine.
4.  Place apple mixture in a 9x9'' baking dish, spreading evenly.
5.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, sugars, oatmeal and cold butter.
6.  Scatter flour mixture evenly over top of the apples.
7.  Bake for 30-45 minutes, until top is brown and the apples bubbly. Broil for 2-3 minutes if desired.
8.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

easy apple crisp recipe

What is one thing you consider yourself an expert at?

October 15, 2014

Coming soon: What inspires your senses?

A photograph is but a moment frozen in time, preserved for the future.  They have the power to tell stories, convey feelings and the strength to move us emotionally. Photographs have the ability to capture a moment that's gone forever, one that's impossible to reproduce. 

I'm so excited to announce a BRAND NEW FEATURE over here at t.o. & fro! If you've been around these parts of the blog world for a year or so, you may remember two photography linkups I've held in the past called "What Inspires Your Senses"? They were so fun that I'm now making them a monthly feature!

what inspires your senses photo linkup

On the last Wednesday of every month, I will challenge you to select 5 of your favorite personal photographs - one that best describes each of your 5 senses: see, smell, taste, touch and hear. As an added challenge, come up with one for the "sixth sense", an open-ended category to interpret your own way. The photos can be ones you've taken recently or those you've dug out of the archives, those you've taken in one location or in several and even those you've taken with a DSLR or on your smart phone. No photography skills are needed, just your imagination and creativity!
If you would like to join in on the fun,
1| Linkup your blog post the last Wednesday of every month, starting at 7:00am EST.
2| Follow Mar from t.o. & fro and our monthly cohosts.
3| Link back to the party in your post, either with text or button below.
4| Share with social media, using the hashtag #whatinspiresyoursenses.
5| Check out as many blogs as you can to see what inspires others' senses!

t.o. & fro what inspires your senses

Get your photos ready - the link up starts Wednesday, October 29!

Interested in co-hosting? Visit my advertise page for more information! 


October 14, 2014

Polar Bear Capital of the World

visiting the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba

Viewing the Polar Bears in Churchill, Manitoba

Three years ago this week I had the privilege to travel to Churchill, Manitoba, polar bear capital of the world. As part of Polar Bears International's Leadership camp, I joined forces with Educators from zoos and aquariums across North America travel to experience these iconic species in the wild, learn about the effects climate change on their habitat and discuss how we, as educators, could use what we learned to educate others and conserve the big white bear for future generations.

When to visit?
October and November are the prime months for polar bear viewing as the Hudson Bay begins to freeze and the bears start moving from their summer habitat inland on the tundra where they have been fasting all season, back to the sea ice to hunt for their favourite food, seals.

How to get there?
Since I was flying from Alaska, it was quite a hike to get to Churchill, Manitoba. In fact, I won the 'award' for the longest travel in our group. 

Regardless of where you are coming from, there aren't any roads into Churchill so you only have two travel options to get there - by air or rail. By plane: Air service is available year round, with two airlines flying into Churchill - Calm Air (who we flew with) and Kivalliq Air. The flight from Winnipeg is approximately 2 hours. By train: Via Rail trains depart Winnipeg for Churchill twice a week, and return to Winnipeg three days a week. The train ride is approximately 48 hours long.

visiting the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba

Where to stay?

We had the privilege of staying out on the Tundra Buggy lodge, operated by Frontiers North Adventures. Our feet did not touch the ground for 5 days! 

visiting the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba

While you can stay out on the Lodge if you are not part of a large group like PBI, the opportunities are limited. Luckily, Churchill's popularity has resulted in a number of options for you to stay in town, including hotels, bed and breakfasts and remote lodges. For more information on the town of Churchill, including hotels, restaurants and amenities, click here.

visiting the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba

How to view the polar bears?
The best way to experience wild polar bears is on an authentic Tundra Buggy. If you are interested in taking a day trip out on the tundra, there are two companies to chose from. Frontiers North Adventures, who operates the "Tundra Buggy" is by far the leading company, and holds the larger number of permits from the Manitoba government. All of their Tundra Buggies are furnished with dual-pane frost-free windows for all of those photography opportunities and contain propane heating systems that closely resemble a cozy fireplace. 

visiting the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba

Tips for packing?
The weather in Churchill can be unpredictable. The year my colleague was there, it was bright and sunny. The year I was there, grey and windy. The year after I was there, snowy. You definitely need to be prepared for cold and snowy conditions, but layers are also key. Musts include a warm jacket and/or windbreaker, thick gloves, warm harm insulated boots, wool socks and long underwear.

Other must sees?
Polar bears aren't the only thing to see in Churchill. Churchill is also known as a beluga-watching hotspot, birders' paradise and one of the best places to experience the Aurora Borealis. There's a chance to see arctic hare, ptarmigan, red fox and arctic fox. 

visiting the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba
visiting the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba

Additional tips for visitors?
Seeing polar bears in the wild is extremely popular, and space fills up fast. Be sure to book your visit far enough in advance.

If seeing polar bears in the wild is on your bucket list, the time to go is now. Even though 60% of the world's polar bears can be found in Canada (Churchill is called the polar bear capital of the world for a reason), with climate change and the melting sea ice, polar bears are loosing their habitat. If we don't reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, 2/3 of the world's polar bears could be gone in our lifetime, by 2050.

visiting the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba

I was extremely fortunate to have been given this opportunity and it still remains high on my most memorable experience list. I highly recommend you check out Polar Bears International. As the world's leader in polar bear conservation, they are doing wonderful things for all Arctic species.

Read my other posts about Churchill:
Part 1: The Beginning of an Adventure
Part 2: Greetings from Churchill
Part 3: Looking Into the Eyes of a Big White Bear
Part 4: Tying It All Together
Part 5: Back to Reality
#thankful project: an experience

Have you ever seen polar bears in the wild? Or, is it on your bucket list? I'd love to hear!

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