February 27, 2015

Did You Know? Polar Bears

February 27 is International Polar Bear Day. There's no denying I love the big white bear, so in honour, I'm sharing 15 facts about polar bearsI hope you learn something new and are inspired to to protect this iconic species.

International Polar Bear Day - Polar Bear Facts

15 Facts about Polar Bears

  1. Polar bears live in the circumpolar north, in areas where they can hunt seals on the sea ice. They are found in Canada, the U.S. (Alaska), Greenland, Russia and Norway.  
  2. Biologists estimate there are roughly 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears in the world, 60% of which live in Canada.
  3. Contrary to media portrayal, polar bears and penguins live at opposite poles and would never meet. Polar bears are only found in the north, and penguins are only found in the south.
  4. The scientific name for polar bear is Ursus maritimus, which means "sea bear". It is the only bear considered a marine mammal (dependent on the ocean for survival).
  5. Polar bears' fur consists of a dense, insulating undercoat topped by guard hairs of various lengths. It is not actually white—it just looks that way. Each hair shaft is pigment-free and transparent with a hollow core that scatters and reflects visible light, much like what happens with ice and snow.
  6. Polar bears have black skin and a layer of fat (not blubber) that can measure 4.5 inches thick!
  7. A polar bear has very keen senses of smell, vision and hearing. Heightened senses help bears survive in Arctic conditions.
  8. The polar bear's main prey is the ringed seal. They depend on sea ice for access to seals, hunting by waiting for the seals to surface at an openings in the ice or at a breathing hole
  9. Polar bears' lives are a cycle of feasting and fasting. In the winter, the bears are out on the sea ice hunting. When the sea ice melts, polar bears are forced onto land. With no access to seals, they are fasting on built up fat reserves. When hunting is good, polar bears can eat 100 pounds of blubber in a single sitting! 
  10. Polar bears can run as fast as 40 kilometers per hour—but only for short distances. 
  11. With the exception of pregnant females, polar bears do not overwinter in dens like brown and black bears. Instead adult male polar bears and non-pregnant females remain active throughout the year. 
  12. Mating takes place on the ice in April or May, but the fertile ova do not implant until the following fall. This is called delayed implantation.
  13. Females usually bear two cubs about two months after they enter the maternity den, usually by early January. These cubs weigh a pound at birth, and quickly grow to over 20 pounds in 3 months by feeding on mom's milk.
  14. In May 2008, the U.S listed the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Actciting sea ice losses in the Arctic from global warming as the single biggest threat to polar bears. 
  15. If we do not reduce our green house gas emissions and the planet continues to warm at the current rate, 2/3 of the world's polar bears will disappear by 2050. 

International Polar Bear Day - Polar Bear Facts
International Polar Bear Day - Polar Bear Facts
International Polar Bear Day - Polar Bear Facts

Do you like polar bears? Did you learn something new?

 photo TampF sig_zpsi50j9kbk.jpg

Polar bear facts courtesy of my friends at Polar Bears International. For more information on polar bears or viewing polar bears in the wild, start here.

February 24, 2015

Weekend Getaway to Niagara-on-the-Lake

One of my favourite places in the world is a little pocket in southern Ontario called Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL). Not Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake. Although the two places are close together, they are very very different. One is a tourist trap with pretty well known water falls, and the other is an oasis for those who want the ultimate food and wine experience. Surrounded by Lake Ontario and the Niagara Escarpment, in NOTL you'll find everything from large estate wineries, to medium–size operations and smaller boutique wineries, and not to mention the cutest little town you ever did see. This region is not only know for its award winning grapes, it is also pretty historic, and played a huge role in Canadian history.

I'm probably one of the worst people on Earth when it comes to Valentine's Day - I think cards are a waste of paper, flowers are a waste of money and am not a fan of chocolate. But wine, I can do wine. So, to celebrate Valentine's Day/the last year of my husband's "roaring 20s", we decided to take a little winter getaway to NOTL.

Weekend Getaway to Niagara-on-the-Lake
Weekend Getaway to Niagara-on-the-Lake

Peller Estates Winery

After a snowy and cold 1.5 hour drive, our first stop was at Peller Estates. This large estate winery has been in the family for over 50 years and has won many many prestigious awards for signature products, like Icewine, as well as Chardonnays and Rieslings.

Favourite wine from Peller Estates: Signature Series Chardonnay Sur Lie 2012 ($31.95 / not sold in the LCBO).

Weekend Getaway to Niagara-on-the-Lake
Weekend Getaway to Niagara-on-the-Lake
Weekend Getaway to Niagara-on-the-Lake

Pillar & Post Hotel

We spent the night at the Pillar & Post Hotel, a small boutique type hotel tucked into the town of NOTL. The hotel's original structure was built in the late 1890s as a canning factory, and since has been lovingly transformed into the award winning inn and spa.

Weekend Getaway to Niagara-on-the-Lake
Weekend Getaway to Niagara-on-the-Lake

Trius Winery at Hillebrand

After checking in, we put on our fancy clothes and headed to Trius Winery at Hillebrand, where more tastings and dinner were waiting.  Our visit to Trius was a complete sensory experience - each menu item was perfectly paired with a glass of wine to compliment the seasonal and local food. 

Favourite wine from Trius: Trius Barrel-Aged Chardonnay ($19.95 / sold in the LCBO).

Weekend Getaway to Niagara-on-the-Lake
Weekend Getaway to Niagara-on-the-Lake
Weekend Getaway to Niagara-on-the-Lake

It was declared a "technology free" dinner, but with a few eyes rolls, I was able to sneak a before and after shot. Dinner was delicious. You can't get much better than a 3 course meal with wine pairings.

Weekend Getaway to Niagara-on-the-Lake
Weekend Getaway to Niagara-on-the-Lake

And then, after that many glasses of wine later (plus a few not pictured), we were in bed by 8pm. 

Successful night away in the books.

Where we drank, ate and slept:

Peller Estates
290 John St E, NOTL, ON

Trius Winery
1249 Niagara Stone Rd, NOTL, ON
1-800-582-8412 // 905-468-7123

Pillar and Post Hotel
48 John St W, NOTL, ON
1 888-669-5566 // (905) 468-2123

Have you ever done a wine tasting? What's your favourite wine? I'd love to hear!


February 21, 2015

The Perfect Guy Gift - Beer & Wine 'Cake'

My husband is not the easiest person to buy for. So, this birthday (ahem the last of his 20s ahem), my SIL and I decided to get a little creative with his gift. Taken from the idea of a 'cake' made from diapers for a baby shower, we decided to make our own 'cake' from beer and wine. Aka the perfect 'guy gift'. Here's how...

The middle of the 'cake' was a bottle of wine. In this case, Toasted Head Chardonnay, the husband's fave. The outer part of the cake was made up of 12 cans of craft beer - 8 on the bottom layer and 4 on the top layer. You obviously don't need craft beer, but in my opinion, craft is better. Creating the tiers was a bit of a balancing act, so I put small pieces of cardboard between the layers of cans.   It's also important to make sure all of the cans in the layer are the same height. We only made two tiers, but with a little more support, you could easily add a few more.  We them tied the cans together with ribbon and topped it with a pretty bow. And presto! The perfect gift for any craft beer and wine loving guy (or girl).

Oh, and the 'cake' was a hit. But, didn't get us off the hook from making him a real cake. 

Would your significant other appreciate this gift?


February 18, 2015

15 Things To Know About the Aurora Borealis

I remember the first time I saw the Northern Lights. I was in Grade 8. It was an unusual night, very rare to ever see the lights dancing as far south as Lake Huron. I barely had to leave my own backyard. Fast forward 10 years when we would be living in Alaska and the opportunity to view the Northern Lights was more frequent, but always just as exciting. On nights of high auroral activity, it was not unusual to get a phone call or text in the middle of the night. "Get outside now!", would be all I needed to hear from my friends. Waking up in the middle of the night, bundling up in winter gear and standing on the balcony was all worth the show the dancing lights were putting on. 

At first, it looks like nothing. Maybe just a fog in the sky. But then, as you stand watching in silence, its true colours emerge as it starts to dance across the midnight sky. Standing under that bright dancing curtain of light is a feeling like no other. 

facts about the northern lights

Each year tourists travel thousands of miles just to see the brilliant light shows that Mother Nature creates. Have you been fortunate enough to experience the Northern Lights? Whether you have witnessed this brilliant display or even if it still remains on your bucket list, here are 15 facts to know about the Aurora Borealis...

1. The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, are named after the Roman goddess of the dawn, Aurora, and the Greek term for “wind of the north,” boreas.

2. Italian astronomer and philosopher Galileo Galilei was the first to describe the phenomenon as Aurora Borealis in 1619.

3. The bright dancing lights of the Aurora are actually collisions between electrically charged gaseous particles from the sun that enter the earth's atmosphere.

4. The colours depend on which gas is involved and how high in the ionosphere the reaction takes place. Blue and green lights are formed at lower altitudes while red colour comes from the highest altitudes and are produced by oxygen molecules. Nitrogen produces blue or purplish-red aurora.

5. No two Auroral displays can ever be the same. They are always of different patterns and colours.

6. The lights can also produce faint sounds such as claps, crackles, and static sounds. However, the noise is so rare that hearing it is possible only during times of maximum aurora activity, on windless nights away from other noise sources.

7. Auroras tend to be more frequent and spectacular during high solar sunspot activity, which cycles approximately 11 years. The last climax was in 2013.

8. Auroras follow solar cycles and tend to be more frequent in the late autumn and early spring. October, February and March are the best months for seeing them. The long periods of darkness and the frequency of clear nights provide many good opportunities to watch the auroral displays.

9. The best places to watch the lights in North America are in the northwestern parts of the continent, particularly the Yukon, Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Alaska. In other parts of the northern hemisphere, Auroral displays can also be seen over the southern tip of Greenland and Iceland, the northern coast of Norway and over the coastal waters north of Russia. 

10. In very northern regions, the lights can occur at any time of the day, but we can’t see them unless it’s dark. Usually the best time of night to watch for displays is local midnight.

11. During intense solar storms, the lights become more spectacular and can sometimes be visible as far south as Louisiana, Texas or even Mexico and Cuba.

12. Clear skies are a requirement. Areas that are not subject to 'light pollution' are the best places to watch for the lights. 

13. If you are flying on a night of high auroral activity, make sure to look out your window. The lights have been seen from airplanes. Astronauts on board the International Space Station are at the same altitude as the auroras and see them from the side.

14. The Aurora also occurs in the Southern hemisphere, but is called the Southern Lights or Aurora Australis. These can be seen from high southern latitudes in Antarctica, South America, New Zealand, and Australia.

15. Earth isn’t the only planet with auroral activity. Jupiter and Saturn have auroral ovals on both hemispheres.

Interested in Auroral activity?  The University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute has an app for thatMy girlfriends and I used to follow this app religiously when we were in Alaska. We didn't want to miss the show! 

Have you seen the Aurora Borealis?


February 10, 2015

Gift Ideas for the Outdoorsy Gentleman

My husband would most likely say that I am the most difficult person to buy for. But sometimes, I really beg to differ. Finding that special something for the guy in your life can be quite a challenge. What do you get the man that has everything? The man that loves to be outdoors, but also lives for a good shave and hair cut. Luckily, I've had about 10 years to perfect the gift list for the outdoorsy gentleman. Here's some of my favourite ideas...

gifts for the outdoorsy gentleman

1.  fancy socks  |  2. messenger bag  |  3. thermos/flask  |  4. good pen
5. business card holder  |  6. razor club membership  |  7. whisky glasses  |  8. reusable water bottle

What do you buy the man in your life that has everything?


February 7, 2015

North American International Auto Show

Are you in the market for a new car? The North American International Auto Show, held annually in Detroit, Michigan, is the perfect place to experience the next generation of transportation. It is where the auto world comes together, with more than 500 vehicles on display representing the most innovative designs. 

Despite being only an hour from where I grew up, this year was the first time I visited the Auto Show.  Walking in, the smell of new cars smacked you in the face. The bright lights made all of the new cars sparkle. And you couldn't help but dream about what cars you would buy if you had an extra million dollars kicking around.

inside the north american auto show

I'm not a car girl, but I can appreciate a nice car. So here's some fancy pictures of some fancy cars that I will only afford in my dreams. Until then, I'll have to live with my Kia Sorento, aka my "mom car".

ford mustang
mercedes concept car

An now for my mid life crisis, a matte black Harley. I may not seem like a motorcycle girl, but one day this will be me, despite what my husband says. Suits me, doesn't it?!

Have you ever been to an auto show?

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