Thursday, December 23, 2010

Animals of YouTube sing "Deck the Halls"

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve! Can you believe it? Sorry I haven't been able to blog as much lately - things have been crazy busy here amongst the Christmas parties, shopping, baking, crafting and gift wrapping that needs to be done. I vow to blog more as soon as all the craziness dies down. In the meantime though, this YouTube clip was too cute NOT to share! Enjoy everyone! Hope you all have a very Merry Christmas! :)

- Jennie

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Oh Little Town of BethlahaaaAAAGGGHH!

I caught my crazy cat Tigger attacking the peaceful nativity scene under the Christmas tree. The poor baby Jesus didn't stand a chance against the monster cat paw :( Not only was there no room at the inn, but a giant black and white cat was lurking outside waiting to attack! 

To make matters worse, I found not one, but two tiny plastic reindeer near the litter box. I don't know how they got there, and it's probably best that way. *face palm*

"I can haz a Virgin Mary?"
- Jennie 

Buffy's Back - in Comic Form!

Buffy’s Back to Kick Butt
By: Jennie Nickerson

A pert, blonde, fashion-conscious young woman named Buffy seems an unlikely hero to battle the forces of evil and save humankind. Yet, it is just this girl who continually protects humanity against demonic forces, bloodthirsty vampires and the occasional heinous roommate. Born as Buffy Summers, first in a film created by producer Joss Whedon, then throughout the seven seasons of the TV series of the same name, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this powerful young woman has attracted a cult following around the world. Women like her because she dismisses traditional gendered stereotypes of the passive, helpless female. Men like her, because, well, she looks great in leather pants while holding a crossbow. In general, however, Buffy’s fans have always respected both her supernatural strength as well as her acute sense of responsibility and athleticism. Perhaps this is why, after the program ended in its seventh season in 2003, the hearts of millions who had grown to love and relate to the mystical slayer and her gang of ‘Scoobies’ cried out for more.

It took four years, but finally, Joss Whedon and Dark Horse Comics have given Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans just what they want – more Buffy. Sure, it isn’t coming in TV sitcom form as fans are used to, but this eighth season of Buffy’s many adventures will be captured in a new medium – the comic book. While fans of the show have created Buffy spin-offs via the comic book genre in the past, the difference this time is that this authentic eighth season (which picks up a few years after the last episode of the series left off) is written by producer/writer/director Joss Whedon himself and joined by artist Georges Jeanty.

Released to the public on March 14 2007, the first story of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, entitled, "The Long Way Home – Part One" doesn’t disappoint. There's been a moderate period of time between season seven and season eight, with numerous characters having gone through varying degrees of change. Buffy, Xander, Dawn and a host of recently awakened slayers have moved to Scotland in the wake of their former home, Sunnydale, being turned into a massive crater at the end of season seven. However, a battle still rages on with the Buffy characters, as they continue to fight both literal and figurative demons while attempting to discover themselves and their duties in a new, unfamiliar home. As with the series to date, a major theme of growing up and the hardships that follow still exists strongly within the comic. With all the trials the characters have been through, a sense of adulthood has been forced upon them and it is how they deal with that which creates the drama and conflict Buffy fans are familiar with.

Buffy, herself, has transformed from a veritable loner in the early seasons of the series, to someone now evolved as both field leader and monarch of sorts. Other slayers, much to Buffy’s chagrin, now refer to her as “ma’am” – a title Buffy clearly does not appreciate as the reader can see via Whedon’s excellent use of internal caption narration that offers readers a valuable insight into her mind.

Whedon's most brilliant move in this first issue, however, is his use of Xander, the ‘heart’ of the group and now leader of Buffy's command centre. Buffy describes him as her “watcher”, which is wonderfully poetic as Xander tragically lost his eye by Buffy’s side during battle in season seven. Nevertheless, now Xander watches over Buffy via monitors that give him the ability to see things in a more multiple sense. On a much more superficial note, Xander’s eye patch is a very cool visual which, coupled with a Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D reference, suits Xander’s personality perfectly.

Xander is one bad ass mofo in Season 8!

The tone and dialogue of the comic also stays true to the series, with many little Whedon-esque quips seamlessly blending with necessary exposition and personality. The ‘voices’ of the main cast are replicated to the point where it becomes easy to hear the actors and actresses give life to the excellent artwork. This is wholly helped by the superb art partnership of Georges Jeanty, Andy Owens and Dave Stewart, all of which provide the suitable mood and clarity of storytelling to allow things to breathe, ebb and flow. Certain pages stand out, such as the first encounter with Dawn which is brilliantly laid out to portray what's happening on page without sacrificing the movement and control over time comic books allow. Also, Buffy's internal monologue afterwards, effectively displays her going through a range of emotions and obvious feelings of solitude.

My only concern with the comic book itself is that people reading without any familiarity of the series will most likely wonder what the fuss is all about. To newbies approaching Buffy for the first time, many of the inside jokes and references, as well as the significance of the ending, will be entirely lost on them. They may well shrug their shoulders and carry on unaffected by what they just read, while fans will be champing at the bit for the next issue.

Alas, this is the nature of a season 8. Not many shows on TV reach seven seasons, and Buffy should be allowed a little leeway given the large cultural impact and following it has amassed over the years. It's not going to convert newcomers straight off the bat, but at this stage, for fans who've waited so long to get their Buffy fix after initially thinking we'd seen the last of our beloved ‘Scoobies’, it's a passable flaw because the book isn’t going to be aimed directly at onlookers and the curious.

This may be Buffy in a different shape, but the essence and soul of the series remains – which is surely what many fans have wished for after four long years. With brilliant dialogue and superb artwork, The Long Way Home offers a promising eighth season of Buffy.

One Man's Unique Hobby

I wrote this profile of my neighbour, Ed McQueen, for a piece I was writing while at Sheridan two years ago. I recently uncovered it again and thought I might post it here. Ed's a great guy - still lives a few doors down and keeps up with his odd hobby. I loved interviewing him for this article. Enjoy! :)

           The beady black eyes of the beast seem to peer into one’s soul. Its fangs glisten as it widely grins, sinister and plotting on its long wooden perch, waiting for the perfect soul to steal.

Without warning, the ominous ambiance generated by the gargoyle is broken by the soft chuckle of Edward McQueen, the man who carved the little terror out of a weathered piece of driftwood found floating in a river.

“He’s a creepy little bugger, ain’t he?” asks McQueen as he shyly grins. “One of my Halloween-themed creations. My daughter adores him, but my wife can’t stand the sight of him… he gives her the chills.”

Thankfully, the menacing gargoyle is the only object producing chills in McQueen’s otherwise warm and inviting pale pink workroom. A floral pattern blooms along the walls, and bright yellow curtains edged with lace, hint at a woman’s touch. While the room is rather dainty, McQueen does not appear too out of place wearing faded light blue jeans and a dark green sweater with Canadian geese on it, suspended in flight.

Surrounded by many pictures of family and friends in this modest workroom, McQueen appears as amiable as the room itself. However, one can’t help but notice the only objects that seem out of place in the room – a large bin of wooden walking canes, with the gargoyle fiercely peering out amongst the others.

Since McQueen was a teenager, living with his parents in a small cottage in Bracebridge, Ontario, he has developed quite a strong fascination with wood, and the many objects he has learned to construct from it.

Today, at the ripe age of 46, this fascination continues. One need only take a quick look around McQueen’s house to view an assortment of wooden birdhouses, dolls, train sets, spice racks, and various other knick-knacks that testify to McQueen’s interest in all things wood.

Encircled by such an array of trinkets, it becomes easy to imagine McQueen hunched over his workbench, donning a furry red and white suit and hat, while hastily carving away at his latest wooden toy on Christmas Eve night. A comparable Santa Claus on the small street of Galloway Crescent in Mississauga where he now lives with his wife Mary and teenage daughter Jill, McQueen admits that he enjoys making playthings for his nieces and nephews, along with some other young children on the block.

“When I was young my parents couldn’t afford to buy my brother and I a lot of toys for the holidays,” says McQueen. “My dad would end up making most of our gifts. He would spend many nights hand-carving toy boats and cars for us that we would open as presents. I really admired that about him, and I guess I am trying to be the same type of person for others.”

McQueen’s youngest daughter, 19-year-old Jill, certainly appreciates her dad’s hobby, even if it may seem peculiar at times.

“None of my other friends have a father who hides away in his workroom for hours on end and comes out with odd looking trinkets made out of wood,” says Jill. “It’s cool though, some of the things he comes up with are really interesting and the kids on our street always love receiving free toys around the Christmas holidays. I especially like the walking canes he makes. I know those are his favourite.”

Not only are McQueen’s walking canes his favourite item to carve from wood, but they are also what he’s most well known for within his neighbourhood.

“I met Ed many years ago when he held a garage sale where he was selling some of his wooden canes,” recalls Brian Jones, who lives several houses down from McQueen. “Right away I was impressed by his wood work and I decided to buy a cane for my grandfather who had been searching for one. What struck me about Ed’s canes, though, were the weird figures he carved onto the top of them; some had gargoyles, while others had woodland animals or gnomes. They were really interesting and became a hit with other people in the neighbourhood who wanted one of their own.”

As word of mouth soon spread, the demand for McQueen’s peculiar wooden walking canes increased.

“I would have people I didn’t even know come up to me while I was watering the lawn, asking if my husband could make them one of his canes,” says Mary McQueen. “Ed just couldn’t say no, and over time he began to get quite a long waiting list of people who wanted one.”

It was around this time, with an alleviated demand for his now popular canes, that McQueen conjured up a plan to combine two of his favourite hobbies – woodcarving and skiing.

“I began to charge $10 per cane. With the money I saved from my work, I was soon able to afford a ski trip to Vermont with my family – something I have always wanted to do, but could never really justify spending the money on before,” says McQueen as he proudly grins and retrieves a photo album full of snapshots taken during his ski vacation. “It was a vacation I’ll never forget.”

McQueen attributes both his talent and success with his canes to his ability of seeing normal, everyday objects as creations of art waiting to be imbued with life and personality. While one person may disregard a drab piece of driftwood carelessly floating down stream, McQueen instead discovers a potential walking cane waiting to be retrieved and carved.

This unique way of viewing the world carries on to his woodwork as well. For instance, while people might cringe in fear from the forbidding gargoyles perched atop several of McQueen’s walking canes, he views them in a much more comical light.

“I never intend for them to come off looking mean – but maybe they’re just scowling to scare away any termites,” says McQueen with a large smile on his face. What a great way to think.

- Jennie Nickerson

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Cons of ProActiv

Everyone has seen the commercials on TV. You know the ones I'm talking about - the ones with the fresh-faced, smiling faces of everyday people intermingled with celebrities who once upon a time had blemished skin, but now thanks to a simple product, are all of a sudden flawless and carefree. No, I'm not talking about a commercial for some magical facial cleanser - I'm talking about ProActiv solution. But, from the claims the commercials and advertisements make, it certainly comes across as a miraculous acne fighting product sent from the heavens to wreak havoc on all nasty, unwanted zits.

ProActiv solution offers a lot of promises in it's commercial. For the low price of $19.95 (depending on where you live - in Canada it's significantly higher) ProActiv guarantees a lifetime of smooth, clear and healthy looking skin. By ordering this product you are given a monthly supply of the product, along with a free refining mask, a special bonus booklet and a sample of ProActiv Green Tea Moisturizer. And, if you're unhappy with your purchase, the company claims you can get a money back guarantee if you return it within 60 days. Sounds good!

Celebrities such as: Jessica Simpson, Katy Perry, Avril Lavigne, and yes even Canada's own little ball of joy, Justin Bieber, are all spokespeople for the ProActiv brand. With a demographic of mostly preteens and teens viewing these commercials, ProActiv cleverly utilizes popular pop stars to target the exact audience who would desire this product most. Because, I mean, if Bieber says it's good it must be great, right?


Well, at least in my case.

Nearly five years ago I was up late one night flipping through the channels when I saw "Who's the Boss" star Judith Light raving on and on about this wonderful product called ProActiv that made her skin soft, smooth, and sexy. Then the always gorgeous Vanessa Williams appeared on the screen detailing her embarrassing ordeal with pimples throughout her life. I couldn't believe my eyes. These glamorous actresses suffered the same thing I suffered from? How could these otherworldly beings have something in common with little 'ol me?

Ever since I was a pre-teen I've dealt with the occasional break-out. But as soon as I hit high school my skin became worse and worse. I went to dermatologists to try to find a solution. I changed my diet. I always washed my face after I worked out. I ritually cleaned and changed my pillow case. Any little tip anyone would tell me, I would try. My breakouts became something I obsessed and worried over - to the point where I wouldn't want to leave the house in fear of someone looking at me and shouting out, "OH MY GOD WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!" as they pointed in horror at the ginormous (at least in my mind it was) zit on my nose.

Of course now, looking back, I realize my skin was not nearly as atrocious as I imagined. But, I must admit, that fateful night I saw the ProActiv commercial on TV I knew I must have it asap. I begged my parents to purchase it for me for my upcoming birthday. I fantasized about returning back to school with silky smooth skin, never having to worry about applying concealer on my bad spots every day. I imagined how great it would feel to have completely clear skin for life, never having to worry about if this person or that person is starring at my smile or at my zit.

My parents caved in, and for my birthday I received the treasured package of ProActiv solution - free Green Tea Tree moisturizer and all. The package almost glowed in my hands, as if sent from God himself.

Then I used it.





Actually, horrible is too nice a word to describe my experience with ProActiv solution. Day one into using the product my skin became so soft and silky. I was ecstatic! Such quick results! I went to bed with a huge smile on my face. Then day two I woke up to my forehead being ridiculously oily and gross - along with three new pimples. I had heard people tell me that while using the system sometimes your skin will get worse before it gets better, so I just shrugged this off and prayed day three would serve better results. However, on day three my face was so swollen and inflamed I could barely recognize myself in the mirror.

My skin was BRIGHT red - I'm talking "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" red - and was covered in hundreds of little liquid-filled bumps. Imagine the worse sunburn you've ever had times one hundred, and that is what my skin looked like. My eyes were swollen nearly shut, and, on top of all this, I had a scattering of fresh pimples across my face. I swear, I almost fainted. The itchiness alone was enough to drive me mad.

Fast forward to one week (yes, a whole week!) later and my skin was still angry tomato red, bumpy, and painful. I went through an entire tube of polysporin on my face just to alleviate the fiery symptoms I was experiencing.

I missed out on two birthday parties and refused to leave my house for roughly two weeks until finally the top layer of my skin hardened, crusted, dried up and peeled off. (Yes, this is extremely gross and graphic - but that's exactly what happened!) ProActiv solution literally burned my face off - or, the top layer at least. Suffice to say, after that week I threw the whole skin care package in the garbage.

My heart dropped. Were all those celebrities in the ProActiv commercial wrong?! Could this miraculous product be not all it was hyped up to be? Say it ain't so!

See, what ProActiv failed to warn me about was the fact that, even if you follow the directions perfectly, 1-3% of the population (although I believe this number to be much higher) are allergic to a key ingredient in the formula - benzoyl peroxide. Oddly enough, I had tried acne products before that contained said ingredient with no complications at all.

I immediately jumped onto online forums to investigate if others had had the same experience using ProActiv that I had, and quickly found out I was not alone. Hundreds of eager ProActiv users had purchased this product only to have their clear skin dreams extinguished in favor of numerous allergic reactions and a terrible case of hives.

While this has been my personal experience, I do know several people who have used ProActiv and had only great things to say about the product and their personal results.

As for me, this whole ordeal taught me to be much more cautious when watching infomercials about any product - even when there are recognizable celebrities endorsing these items. What works for one person may not work for another - especially when it comes to skin care. There is no such thing as a "magic" product, despite any promise the company might make.

I realized that in the end, if someone is going to judge me for a pimple on my face, they aren't all that worth my time anyway. I just wish it didn't take a chemically burnt face to get me to that realization!

So be cautious Internet Readers. Even if Justin Bieber claims it's the best thing ever, remember he's getting the big bucks to promote any product they shove in his tiny, munchkin-like face. Chances are, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

- Jennie

(sidenote: for a laugh, check out the Bieb's own personal ProActiv page, right here: click here! )

When Sleep is Just a Dream:

How Students Can get a Good Night’s Sleep
By: Jennie Nickerson

Sleep is as essential as food, air, and water. Yet, even as a basic necessity, students often forego a good night’s sleep when deadlines, presentations, essays and finals creep around the corner. When sleep becomes bumped down on a student’s list of priorities, it can negatively impact their energy levels, alertness and general well being during the day.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry School, young adults need at least seven to nine hours of sleep each night to ensure good health. However, more than 60 per cent only end up getting four to five hours. Findings from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine coincide with this data, as they note that college students are suffering from sleep deprivation, which not only impacts academic performance, but can also lead to irritability, depression and weight gain.

So what's the secret to balancing the demands of school and sleep? In short, there is none. “If you want to function good during the day you just gotta find the time [to sleep] at night,” says Ryan Taylor, a psychology grad student and volunteer at Brock University’s Sleep Research Laboratory in St. Catharines. “There aren’t any secrets to getting a good night’s sleep. You just have to give your body the rest it needs.”

That being said, Taylor says there are tips that college students can take to ensure they get the best night’s sleep possible.

Set a regular bedtime 

Setting up a consistent sleep schedule will help you feel more rested in the morning. “Going to bed at the same time each night signals to your body that it's time to sleep. Waking up at the same time every day can also help establish good sleep patterns,” says Taylor. This strategy should be applied even on weekends.

Cut out the stimulants 

Avoid alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes right before bed. “Caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants and can wreak havoc on your sleep, especially before bed,” says Taylor. While a nightcap will make you feel drowsy and help you fall asleep, studies from the National Sleep Foundation show that it also increases the number of times you wake up during the night, resulting in a less peaceful sleep. Relax your mind Avoid violent, scary, action movies or television shows right before bed - anything that might set your mind and heart racing. “I always find reading a book before bed helps me to relax,” says Taylor. Listening to slow, soothing music or sounds with the lights off may entice the Sandman to your bedroom faster.

Exercise regularly 

Keep physically active during the day, but try not to exercise right before bed. “Going for a jog or playing sports in the late afternoon is actually good for getting a better sleep, but it’s important to not get your blood pumping right before you go to bed because it’ll take longer for your body to calm down,” says Taylor. If you must exercise before going to bed, yoga or gentle stretching routines are the best choice.

Avoid Naps 

Don’t take any naps the day after you've lost sleep. “When you feel sleepy, get up and do something instead,” says Taylor. “Go for a walk, do your errands, or go visit a friend.” While studying, get up regularly (every 30 minutes or so) to walk around your room. This will increase the flow of oxygen to your brain and help you to be more alert.

Don’t pull all-nighters 

Don't wait until the night before a big exam to study. “When you cut back on sleep the night before a test you’ll actually end up doing worse,” says Taylor. Instead, study a few days in advance so you’re completely prepared when the exam day comes. Create a comfortable sleeping environment Avoid a noisy, bright bedroom. “People sleep better in a dark room that is on the cool side,” says Taylor. Close your blinds or curtains and make sure your room is as quiet as possible.

By following these tips, Taylor believes students can maximize their mental capacity both in and out of the classroom.

So go ahead, skip the alcohol, knock off early, and fluff your pillow. There's never been a better reason to sleep!

- Jennie

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Holiday Pet Safety Tips

It's almost that time of year again - when outdoor trees are suddenly permitted in your living room and it's cool if a jolly man dressed in red breaks into your home and eats your cookies. Ah, Christmas. It really is a joyous time for all. But it's important to keep in mind the safety of our animal companions during the holidays, as there are many dangers lurking around that freshly cut spruce tree and the innocent looking mistletoe hanging above the entranceway.

To make sure your pets have as festive a time as you and your love ones, please keep these holiday pet safety tips in mind:

* Many holiday plants can lead to health problems in dogs and cats. Among the plants to keep out of reach are holly, mistletoe, poinsettias and lilies.

* Snow globes often contain antifreeze, which is poisonous to pets.

* Pine needles, when ingested, can puncture holes in a pet's intestine. So keep pet areas clear of pine needles.

* The extra cords and plugs of holiday lights and other fixtures can look like chew toys to pets. Tape down or cover cords to help avoid shocks, burns or other serious injuries. Unplug lights when you are not home.

* Anchor Christmas trees to the ceiling with a string to keep it from falling on pets.

* Do not let pets drink the holiday tree water. Some may contain fertilizers, and stagnant tree water can harbor bacteria. Check labels for tree water preservatives and artificial snow, and buy only those that are nontoxic. Some folks use screens around trees to block access to electrical cords and gifts.

* Pets, particularly cats, can be tempted to eat tinsel, which can block the intestines. Hang tinsel high and securely to keep it out of reach of pets.

* Keep other ornaments out of reach of pets. Ingestion of any ornament, which might look like toys to pets, can result in life-threatening emergencies. Even ornaments made from dried food can lead to ailments. And remember, shards from broken glass ornaments can injure paws, mouths and other parts of the body.

* Put away toys after children open their gifts. Small plastic pieces and rubber balls are common causes of choking and intestinal blockage in dogs. Ingested plastic or cloth toys must often be removed surgically.

* Keep candles on high shelves. Use fireplace screens to avoid burns.

* Holiday guests and other activity can be very stressful and even frightening to pets. It can also trigger illness and intestinal upset. Make sure pets have a safe place to retreat in your house. And make sure they are wearing current I.D. in case they escape out a door when guests come and go.

* Reduce stress by keeping feeding and exercise on a regular schedule.

* Do not let guests feed your pets human food. There are many holiday foods, including fatty meats, gravies, poultry skin, bones, chocolate and alcohol, that can cause illnesses from vomiting and diarrhea to highly serious pancreatitis and other toxic reactions. In addition, candy wrappers, aluminum foil pieces and ribbons can choke pets.

For more useful holiday pet safety tips, visit the following link: click here!  

From my two crazy kitties and me, hope you all have a safe and happy holiday season! :)
My two favourite fluffernutters, Spook and Tigger <3

- Jennie

Platypus Cookies Om Nom Nom

One of my favourite cartoons which features a platypus (not that there is a wide variety to choose from!) is Phineas and Ferb.  If you know anything about the show, one of the main characters is the boys' pet platypus, Perry.

Perry the Platypus in all his glory.

So I decided to flex my culinary muscle and attempt to make Perry the Platypus cookies. I mean, who wouldn't love to sink their teeth into a sugary platypus? Hrm? Well, maybe it is just me. :P

My idea was to use rice krispie treats as the body and find other edible items for extra detailing.  I ended up using vanilla wafers for the beak and sugar wafers for the tail.  Standard blue and green food coloring was also used, as well as Pillsbury Creamy Supreme Classic White icing.

At the end of my venture I successfully produced eight platypi. It took me approximately an hour to ice them all. The rice krispie treats were very delicate, so I had to be gentle with them so they wouldn't break. I cut a sugar wafer in half to have a proportionate size of tail, and I cut the vanilla wafers to form the beaks.  I also used white icing for the eyes.

I would have liked them to come out a little smoother with the icing, but, alas, I'm no Cake Boss. While not exactly what I envisioned, I was happy with my results. I'm hoping that with practice makes perfect! Now, who wants a yummy platypus? 

- Jennie

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cat Nuts Roasting on an Open Fire

And now... to lighten up the mood just a tad...

I really can't wait until Christmas :)

- Jennie

Breast Cancer & My Mom

On March 18, 2010 my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember the phone call from the doctor's office telling her she needed to come in to discuss the test results from her latest mammogram. Right then I knew something was wrong. The doctor never tells you to come in and "talk" if it isn't something serious. My mom went to her appointment and I sat at home worrying about what could be wrong. Maybe it was a benign tumor? Maybe just a shadow on the x-ray? Maybe it was a cyst? It couldn't possibly be cancer, right? I mean, no one in my family has had breast cancer before. My mom was so healthy! It was probably just a mistake - a miscalculation on the doctor's part. I tried to forget about it.

Then she came home. My mom quietly came to my bed room door and told me they found a malignant tumor on her left breast. It was cancer. I was speechless. She went into her room and softly cried in her bathroom. I sat there stunned. How could this have happened? What did this mean? A thousand thoughts and questions raced through my head. I immediately went online to google as much information as I could.

That was then. Today, nearly 9 months later, my mom continues to fight the toughest battle of her life. She has undergone countless tests, two lumpectomies, and, when those didn't succeed in completely eliminating the cancerous tumor that spread like a dandelion in her left breast, a total mastectomy. She has endured monthly chemotherapy sessions which have left her weak, nauseous, and in a considerable amount of muscle pain. She has lost a lot of weight, and her hair (which she used to fuss and preen over so much) has completely fallen out.  My mom's aggressive form of cancer spread rapidly from the first diagnosis. It metastasized from it's original location in the breast through several lymph nodes, resulting in a much tougher course of treatment. Thankfully, after several more tests, the doctors determined it had not spread to any other major organs.

To say 2010 was the worst year of my mom's life would probably be an understatement. She has recently finished her chemotherapy rounds (and happily rang the cancer bell at the end of her sessions), and has now started radiation to combat the cancer. What strikes me the most is how positive my mom has been throughout this whole ordeal. Not once has she broken down and asked, "why me?" Not once has she given up and refused to leave her bed or go to treatments. My mom has remained completely strong, with the attitude that she will beat this disease and she will live a long, happy, healthy life afterwards. Even at her worse, with her beloved blonde hair falling out in clumps and her arms and legs throbbing from the harsh treatments, she still kept smiling and going about her day-to-day activities.

Programs such as Look Good, Feel Better have provided my mom with the tools to improve her self esteem and quality of life while battling with cancer. Other friends and family around me have been so supportive of my mom and my family. It's been a hard time for everyone, but with such love and well wishes from all, I know it makes my mom feel a thousand times better.

I am so blessed to have such an inspiring woman in my life. I know if I was put in the same position I probably wouldn't have half the courage and drive that she has. Life has thrown many curve-balls at my mom this year, but she keeps courageously knocking them out of the park.

I don't know what the future holds for my mom. Each night I pray that she gets well again so she can go back to living a life devoid of pain, frustration and helplessness. She deserves all the best in life and it pains me so much to see her struggling with such a ruthless disease. I won't lie and say I haven't been selfish in this whole ordeal. I want more than anything to have my mom attend my wedding, see my newborn baby, visit my new home and tell me how to properly be a good wife and mother. I want my mom to be in my future for as long as possible, and it breaks my heart to think such a cruel disease will tear her away from all that.

But, since the future is so unknown and unpredictable, I can only say that my mom has been such a huge inspiration for me. She has given me such a positive role-model to look up to and I love her with all my heart. I am so proud of her. If I can only be half the woman she is in the future, I'll be happy. <3

- Jennie

My Awesome Teen Crushes from the 80s/90s

Everyone has them - ridiculously embarrassing (yet awesome) crushes from the 1980s/1990s. These were the guys or girls we pined over in our bedrooms while reading our Big Bopper or Tiger Beat magazines. Their youthful faces adorned our bedroom walls and we wrote fan letter after fan letter in the hopes that just maybe they'll recognize our existence and write us back. It went beyond simple swooning - we fantasized about marrying these fresh faced cuties and becoming Mr or Mrs. Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Or, maybe, that was just me. Still, here's a list of the crushes I used to have as a pre-teen. Don't judge - I know you had them too :P


JTT remained on my bedroom walls for YEARS. That is, until I got mad at him because he never replied to the fan-mail I sent him. I counted down in my diary the days it had been since I sent him that letter... hoping that one day he would respond. Unfortunately after day 182 I gave up and stopped watching Home Improvement altogether. Asshole.


Mr. Jean Luc Picard himself. His booming voice. His unquestionable authority. His insistence that there are not three, but in fact FOUR LIGHTS!!! made me weak in the knees. Make it so, captain. And he did for me! I thought this man was the bees knees. (Please ignore the fact that he was like 50 years older than me... in space age doesn't matter... or... something... XP)


Commander William Riker aka "Number one." That dark mane of hair. That perfectly maintained beard. Who could resist THIS piece of man meat? Certainly not me OR the many ladies of the Enterprise!


In the early 90's I'd certainly let Mr. Gruber get to third base with me ;) ;) ;) He was like Uncle Joey from Full House, but way cooler.


Zack Morris was the cool, bad-ass type of guy that your mother would hate for you to date - which is why every teen girl in the 90s had a poster of him on their bedroom wall (me included.) Oh and AC Slater wasn't too shabby either.


The white power ranger was the sexiest power ranger. I don't care if this guy is a super quadruple x porn star now, back then he was the shizzniz.


I friggen' hate this man now, but back when I was small I watched Mr. Baseball about a dozen times because this man's moustache amazed me to no end. 


This abomination was my favourite Back Street Boy. I didn't care that he was five foot nothing and had an effeminate voice. He really needed to quit playin' games with MY heart.


This street rat was pretty rad in my books. It helped that he sang pretty darn good. Oh, and he had a pet monkey so that's just like 10000 bonus points.


Prince Eric from the Little Mermaid was freakin' amazeballs. I don't know what young girl didn't grow up dreaming to marry this prince when they grew legs and completely lost their voice. It's a small price to pay.


Mr. Conductor from Shining Time Station was magical and sexy, albeit tiny as hell and often unreliable. I fancied the Ringo Starr Conductor better than his replacement, George Carlin (who was still cool, just not AS cool as Ringo).


Kirk Cameron in Growing Pains was so witty and silly and fun to watch. Then he grew up and became a crazy Christian evangelist and began spewing some right wing ideologies that made me believe he was a few french fries short of a Happy Meal.


Oh, Mr. Darcy fell into a pool and I began to drool. Colin Firth is the sexiest Mr. Darcy of all time and you cannot convince me otherwise. EVER.


Sure, he's just a cartoon character from Sailor Moon, but Tuxedo Mask was freakin' sexy as hell. I mean, the man's power was that he threw ROSES at enemies. ROSES! How much more romantic can you get?!


Okay, I admit this was a late 90's crush, but c'mon... Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the best vampires EVER. He's got the whole bad boy (but with a soul) thing going for him. PLUS he doesn't get all gay and sparkle and shimmer in the light. That's friggen lame. Stephenie Meyer ruined vampires for everyone.


I know a lot of people preferred Dylan over Branden on 90210, but I always had a soft spot for this guy. He could have taken me to the Peach Pit any day ;) ;) ;) (I'm so lame.)


I met Jamie Walters (he had the "hit" song "Hold On" back in the day) at a signing at my local mall. I waited for like 3 damn hours to shake this dude's hand. It wasn't worth it. He was really sweaty and gross in person. /dreamsruined.


Pacey > Dawson. Dawson was a whiney, cry-baby bitch and Pacey was the guy that could make any girl laugh. Also, his extensive vocabulary, despite nearly dropping out of every high school class was not only impressive, but also a huge turn on.


Ma$e was cool because before there was Ke$ha thinking she was all original by using a dollar sign in her name, Ma$e was doing it first. His picture resided in my locker for about a year. Mo' Money Mo' Problems, dawg.


What is sexier than a man(?) whose sole mission is to clean up the environment and save the earth? Captain Planet was environmentally sexy.


I hated science as a kid. But Bill Nye the Science Guy made science FUN. And any guy that can make science fun for me is a guy I wanna keep around.


This uncle can do no wrong. He sings, he dances, and he does it all without having a mullet hair out of place.


Don't ask. 

- Jennie

Why the Platypus?

So, why the platypus you ask? Well, it's because when I was around 6 years old I was browsing the stuffed animal section in Toys R Us with my parents when all of a sudden my eyes fell upon the fluffiest, most cuddle worthy animal I have ever laid my eyes upon. He wasn't a duck. He wasn't a beaver. Oh no - he was a PLATYPUS. He had silky soft white fur, a bright orange break and a large beaver-like tail. Now, being 5, I had never been introduced to said creature before. He was new and magnificent and I knew right then and there I had to have him. After much pleading and promising on my part to keep my room clean and be a good little girl, my parents agreed to purchase this perfect platypus for me. I quickly named him Duckles (I guess I still didn't understand this creature was not at least half duck) and I cuddled that darn animal every night for as long as I can remember.

Since that faithful day the platypus has become one of my all time favourite animals. I began collecting platypus dolls, platypus pictures, platypus facts, wrote essays on the platypus for school, etc. There is just something about this shy, odd looking creature that speaks to me. Unfortunately, my Duckles has long since vanished from my bedroom (a terrible accident in the dryer resulted in all his fur being stripped off... at which point I cried until I could cry no more while my mom sneakily threw him in the trash.) But Duckles memory lives on as I try to educate people on how awesome this misunderstood mammal is and how important it is to advocate for the protection of them.

And, hey, isn't the platypus just the cutest, coolest, craziest thing you've ever seen? ;) I definitely think so!

- Jennie