Sunday Morning Coffee // 03.30.2014





Sunday Morning Coffee is the place where I sit down with a big cup o' joe and recap the past week's events - from my favourite posts of the week, to the happenings here at t.o. & fro, and even share my "Eco-Tip of the Week" to encourage you to live a more responsible and sustainable lifestyle. So please, grab your Sunday morning poison and join me...

Can you believe tomorrow is the last day of March? We are already 1/4 through 2014! Now if only Mother Nature would get on board with spring.

Steve's last day of the season is this afternoon. I always get so stressed around this time of the year because it means we have to pack up and move some place new for the summer and that next season is usually up in the air. But, despite my occasional breakdown this year, I'm excited to be at home this summer and to see what next season brings us.

This week I:

To be more responsible:
Eco-tip 11. Earth Hour

Yesterday was Earth Hour. You may have heard of it... You know, that one hour a year that the entire world turns off their lights to take a stand against climate change?! 

Millions of people worldwide participate in this symbolic event, including iconic landmarks. Last night, I got to witness the CN Tower in total darkness. Toronto Hydro even tweeted that power usage across the Greater Toronto Area dropped by 6%! And while this hour is more of a visual vote against climate change than an energy-saving hour, it is very interesting to hear how much power this city actually consumes, reaffirming why it is so important that we be more responsible and protect our planet.



So even though Earth Hour 2014 has passed, please take a moment today to think about how important Earth is to you. We only have one planet, you can help protect it.

Did you participate in Earth Hour last night? What did you chose to do for your one hour of darkness?



If you have a good tip for greening your life, or even a photo of your living a more sustainable lifestyle, I'd love to hear about it and even feature it as my "eco-tip of the week" during Sunday Morning Coffee! Please leave a comment below or email me at toandfro21@gmail.com with your tips and photos.

Have a good week!

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Earth Hour 2014

As global citizens, we are witnessing the devastating effects of climate change, and we understand that these impacts are a result of human behaviour that will, without action, only get worse. 

Since 2007, millions of people across the world have rallied together in a symbolic demonstration for action on climate change. It all starts with a simple flick of the lights at 8:30pm on March 29. This hour of darkness is a time to come together to display our commitment to the one thing that unites us all, the planet.

This global phenomenon and the largest grassroots action in history is called Earth Hour.




This year when you turn off your lights, take a moment of darkness, a moment of reflection and introspection, be inspired to choose a future where climate change is no longer a threat. Earth Hour is a chance to step away from our every day activities and think about what is happening to our planet, what we'd like to see in the future, and most importantly, how we can help. For one hour, focus on your commitment to our planet for the rest of the year, and into the future. Why do you care about the planet? Why is making a difference and making a change important to you? 


So, join millions of people across the world who will switch their lights OFF q for an hour on March 29 at 8:30pm, all to raise awareness for the planet. Instead have a candle lit dinner, take  a nap, read a book by flashlight, talk with friends, stargaze, play board games, join a community event, or reflect on the changes you will make this year. The possibilities are endless. 


Whatever you chose to do for the hour, know that hundreds of millions of others across the global will be doing the same. Uniting behind a common goal provides a powerful message that WE CAN make a difference. 

We only have one planet, you can help protect it.

Will you join me?

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DIY Salad Dressings

Do you enjoy eating salads? The key to a good salad is not only what's in it, but also the dressing. It's really what brings the salad together.

It's easy to make your own personalized salad dressings with items you already have at home. The basic ratio of sour, sweet and oil is easily modified and infinitely variable. Once you taste your own homemade salad dressing, I promise you won't be able to get enough. Plus, you'll be saving money and valuable fridge space when you nix the bottled crap from your grocery shopping trips.

They key to remember for any good salad dressing is 2:1:1 - 2 oil, for every 1 sour and 1 sweet. Dijon mustard is not necessary, but helps bind the ingredients so the oil and vinegar don't separate. And might I suggest maple syrup as your sweet. I promise you, the maple flavour is not overpowering.



Ingredients:
1 c. extra virgin olive oil (or canola oil)
1/2 c. any vinegar
1/2 c. honey or maple syrup
1 tbsp. dijon mustard
1 tbsp. any herb
salt + pepper

Directions:
Decide which ingredients you'd like to use, add to a Mason jar, close the lid and shake vigorously until combined.


Simple, right? 

Do you have your own homemade salad dressing recipe to share?

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Getting Hooked


"To my mind, hunting and fishing is the big lure that takes us into the great open spaces and teaches us to forget the mean and petty things in life." 
- Leon Leonwood Bean

Some of the best fish that we have ever tasted we caught with our own two hands. We didn't mind getting down and dirty, if it meant filling our freezer and bellies. Sometimes we were more successful than others, and sometimes I was just more successful than Steve.

One of the best experiences we ever had was catching a salmon and then eating it hours after it was pulled out of the water. Nothing fancy, just a little butter, dill and lemon on the BBQ... Mouth watering. I even got to fillet that baby. 

Alaska has some of the best fishing in the world and is an angler's absolute dream. Fishing is a way of life up there, and we were hooked.

Halibut fishing and shrimping in Prince William Sound


Clamming at Clam Gulch



Salmon fishing in Bird Creek, Ship Creek, Skilak Lake, Kenai River and Kasilof River


Pretty proud of that fish. Between Steve and I, that baby holds the record.


Do you enjoy eating fish? Do you have any memorable fishing experiences? I'd love to hear!




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Sunday Morning Coffee // 03.23.2014


Sunday Morning Coffee is the place where I sit down with a big cup o' joe and recap the past week's events - from my favourite blogger posts, to the happenings here at t.o. & fro, and even share my "Eco-Tip of the Week" to encourage you to live a more responsible and sustainable lifestyle. So please, grab your Sunday morning poison and join me...



Happy Spring! The weather was looking pretty promising this past week, and then I woke up this morning... there was snow on the ground. Really Mother Nature? It's March 23. I'd expect this in AK, but Toronto? Get it together. 

This is March 25 last year in AK... Not too too far off from this year in T.O.


Despite the crummy weather, I'm proud to say that I made it through the entire winter without catching any of the nasty bugs that kept rotating through my work. I thought for sure I was doomed. Thank you immune system. Another perk of working with children.

This week I:

Must reads:

To be more responsible:

Eco-tip 09. Water

Yesterday was World Water Day and I shared some interesting water facts.



Water is something we, as North Americans, all take for granted. Here's the proof: 
  • American residents use about 100 gallons (380 L) of water per day.
  • Nearly 65% of our indoor water use occurs in the bathroom.
  • The conventional toilet uses 18 L of water per flush.
  • The average dishwasher cycle uses over 100 L per cycle.
  • If you drink your daily recommended 8 glasses of water per day from the tap, it will cost you about 50 cents per year.  If you choose to drink it from water bottles, it can cost you up to $1,400 per year.

But did you know, over 1.5 billion people don't have access to clean, safe water?

There are many things that we can do, both at work, at home and in play to be more conscious of our water use:
  • Install water-efficient toilets and faucets.
  • Take shorter showers.
  • Use a reusable water bottle.
  • Water your lawn in the early morning to prevent evaporation.
  • Fix any leaks.
  • Be aware of what you are putting down the drain.
  • Use environmentally friendly cleaning products.

Water is life. All living things depend on water to support life functions. So, whether you are drawn to it like me, or absolutely terrified of it, please take a moment today to appreciate water.

If you have a good tip for greening your life, or even a photo of your living a more sustainable lifestyle, I'd love to hear about it and even feature it as my "eco-tip of the week" during Sunday Morning Coffee! Please leave a comment below or email me at toandfro21@gmail.com with your tips and photos.


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H20


I grew up on the shore of Lake Huron and spent every free second in or around water. Ever since I can remember, I was drawn to the water. This love paved the road I've taken in life, and today, I couldn't imagine my life without water.



Today is World Water Day. So in honour of a resource we could never ever live without, here are some interesting water facts...
  • Waters covers 70% of the Earth's surface.
  • 80% of the Earth's water is surface water, the other 20% is either ground water or atmospheric water vapour.
  • Only 3% of the Earth's water is freshwater, the other 97% is salt water.
  • Water found at the Earth’s surface in lakes, rivers, etc. makes up only 0.3% of the world’s fresh water; 68.7% of fresh water is trapped in glaciers; 30% of fresh water is in the ground.
  • Canada holds 20% of the world's fresh water.
  • A gallon (3.8 L) of water weighs 8.34 pounds.
  • Water makes up between 55-78% of a human’s body weight.


Water is life. All living things depend on water to support life functions. So, whether you are drawn to it like me, or absolutely terrified of it, please take a moment today to appreciate water.

What does water mean to you?


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Driving the Al-Can

The Alaska Canada Highway, or Al-Can, traverses a vast wilderness in a remote expanse of North America, from Mile 0 in Dawson Creek, BC all the way through the Canadian Rockies and Yukon Territory, 1422 miles to Delta Junction, AK.

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On our ultimate road trip home last summer from Alaska, we picked up the Al-Can in Tok, AK on our way out of the great state. Although an exhilarating and ultimate road trippin' experience lay ahead of us, one of the toughest days I've ever had was crossing that border...


Day 2: We spent the night in Whitehorse, Yukon with friends.


Day 3: We had a picnic lunch at Watson Lake, Yukon, spending a few minutes walking through the Sign Post Forest to take in the thousands of other travellers that have been on the same exhilartating adventure as us.


We camped at Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park in northern British Columbia, enjoying a much needed soak in the hot springs.


Day 4: We stopped in Muncho Lake, BC to fill up the tank, a pricey $2/L! The usual turquoise colours of the lake muted by the rain.


We saw wildlife galore - from black and brown bears, to stone sheep, bison, coyote, caribou and more.


We passed the Mile 0 sign in Dawson Creek, BC, stopping to only snap a few shots, give a quick high five, and continue on our 4500 mile journey...


And we can't forget about this little guy, who did the entire ride with us, whether he liked it or not.


Some frequently asked questions:

How long will it take?
Plan on driving for about 5 days, at 7-8 hours each day, with limited stops but plenty of scenery and wildlife to view. Make sure you have a good camera to document the adventure.

Is the road paved?
When the road was originally constructed in 1948, it was a mixture of gravel and dirt. Nowadays it is completely paved. But, that does not mean it doesn't still present its challenges. In some parts it is fairly windy through the mountains and there is no guardrail to hold you back. In other parts the harsh weather and freeze/thaw cycle has taken its toll on the road, with frost heaves creating a bumpy ride that can do some damage to your car if you're not careful. In the summer road construction is ongoing, so be prepared for some stoppages.

What kind of car should I drive?
Whatever kind you want. We saw cars, trucks, suvs, trailers, vehicles pulling trailers and motorcycles. The most important thing is to make sure it is in good shape, including the tires. We took ours for a check up before we left to be sure. The last thing you want is to break down in the middle of nowhere.

Do cell phones work?
Be prepared for some stretches with no cell or satellite reception. This also goes for satellite radio. 

How far apart are services?
Fuel, food and lodging can usually be found in the small towns you'll come across. But be prepared to go at least 150 miles without seeing a gas station. Pay attention to your gas tank and fill up when you see a pump, even if it's to top off the tank. Also, be prepared to pay more for services.

Extra tips:
This road trip definitely requires some planning. If you're feeling adventurous and want to experience the Al-Can for yourself, please invest in the Milepost. This is the bible of all Alaska/Alberta/BC/Yukon/Northwest Territory road trips and marks every stop, including things to see, gas, lodging, campgrounds, etc. 




Do you enjoy taking road trips? What's your most memorable road trippin' experience?


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Linking up with A Compass Rose for Travel Tuesday.

Sunday Morning Coffee // 03.16.14

Sunday Morning Coffee is the place where I sit down with a big cup o' joe and recap the past week's events - from my favourite blogger posts, to the happenings here at t.o. & fro, and even share my "Eco-Tip of the Week" to encourage you to live a more responsible and sustainable lifestyle. So please, grab your Sunday morning poison and join me...



This is my 300th post! Wow, time flies. Here's to 300 more!

This week I:

Must reads:
  • Andi at aplovesdesigns talks about her worries leading up to her craft fair. (In my opinion, she's going to rock it and have so much fun!)
  • Jenn at A Country Girl's World discusses being a humane consumer in the laundry room.
  • Christina at Route Bliss shares some quick tips to improve photos for instant sharing.

To be more responsible:


Eco-tip 09. Peak energy times

This past week I was at a meeting with like-minded organizations and individuals in the tourism industry in Toronto. We discussed our values and how to become more sustainable businesses. Our discussion on the ever-growing city of Toronto and the issues that we'll face in the coming years especially peaked my interest. Last year, Toronto had more cranes in the air than any other city in North America. Condos and other high rises keep popping up, yet the energy supply to the increasing number of residents remains the same. Pretty soon demand is going to be greater than supply and residents may be left in the dark, literally. That's where peak energy times come in...


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Peak energy times are when the energy demand is at it's highest, often during daytime hours when people are working, the AC and heat are running, etc. Off-peak hours are the exact opposite, typically from 7:00pm to 7:00am, weekends and statutory holidays. The goal of the city of Toronto, and I'm sure many others, is to shift the peak energy times to even out the energy supply and demand. Some areas, such as the entire province of Ontario, have introduced the "smart-meter", which utilizes time-of-use pricing, where the cost of electricity is less during those off-peak hours, therefore reducing your electricity bill and creating an incentive to be more conscious of your energy usage.

How to adjust energy consumption during peak times:
+ Set the timer on your dishwasher to run while you are sleeping.
+ Run your laundry right before bed.
+ Turn off all lights and electronics before you leave for work.
+ Turn down your thermostat while you are out of the house.

So do your part, learn when the off-peak hours are in your area and adjust your household activities accordingly. Not only will you be doing your part to conserve energy, help with demand issues, and create a healthy environment, in the long run, you'll also be putting money back into your own pocket.


If you have a good tip for greening your life, or even a photo of your living a more sustainable lifestyle, I'd love to hear about it and even feature it as my "eco-tip of the week" during Sunday Morning Coffee! Please leave a comment below or email me at toandfro21@gmail.com with your tips and photos.


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What is your dream vacay?


My brother and I at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, circa 1999ish. 
Go ahead, make fun of our mad style and the caterpillars crawling across my forehead.





March break (as us Canadians call it) always meant a family vacation. Be it Florida, Mexico or somewhere else a flight away, it was always somewhere warm. The perfect winter break. And while my brother, sister and I may now be "grown up" with somewhat "grown up" jobs that keep us from jetting off to those tropical destinations as a family, I can still dream.

Here are 3 of my dream vacations, in no particular order...

Safari in Kruger Nat'l Park, Africa
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Road Trip to the East Coast of Canada
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Scuba diving in the Galapagos
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Ya, I know those are sharks. Call me crazy, but diving with sharks is on my bucket list. Poor guys get such a bad rap.

Check out these two lovely ladies' dream vacations...

Andi @ ap loves design: My dream vacation would definitely be somewhere warm. Not crazy uncomfortably hot, but warm enough to wear a tank, a maxi skirt, and a cute jean jacket at night. An island would be nice like Turks and Caicos. Hopefully the flight would be fairly quick since I HATE to fly. We would swim with the dolphins, go zip lining, and I know I'm going out on a limb here, but if there was a waterfall nearby I wouldn't be mad at that. I would definitely want to get pampered with a couples massage and some other spa treatment we wouldn't normally be able to afford. And we would eat succulent fresh seafood and drink alcoholic beverages…duh, lol. 
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Jenn @ A Country Girls' WorldMy dream vacation, at the moment, would be to visit southern Africa!  Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa are very high on my list.  I would love to do a Safari and experience unspoiled Africa!
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Now it's your turn,

What's your dream vacay?

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