Photos on Monday’s – Good Evening, Toronto!

Here’s a sneak peak at my New Year’s trip to Toronto! I have been absent – and I apologize, but I have good excuses. Re: New Years in Toronto! The restaurants people…. it’s a post all on its own.

But I am back in blog-land with TWO WEEKS until departure for Northern Vietnam. Packing, travel medications and last minute research – stay tuned since I will updating you all as to what I have been up to!!

Good Evening, Toronto

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Help! – Obtaining Visas and the Importance of Travel Insurance

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Six weeks out and these are two of the most important things left to finalize on our SEA 2015 trip To Do list. So I thought I would turn to the blogosphere. I have stalled a bit in the Travel Visa department (briefly) and it’s time to get moving!

The embassy websites can be confusing – at times the same website seems to contradict itself. However, E. finally saved us all and decided to call the embassy, learning that we have two options for entering Vietnam through a major airport.

  1. Visa On Arrival – available to citizens of certain specified nationalities. Requires you to get a letter of approval through a third party agency for ~$15 US. At the gate, you present the letter of approval, passport, proof of onward or return flight, evidence of hotel accommodations and $45 US.
  1. Pre-Approved Visa – Send your passport, passport photos, Visa application and $90 by priority post mail to the Vietnamese embassy in Ottawa. In return, you get one, pre-approved visa.

It seems like the option to choose is the VOA, because it costs a heck of a lot less and I don’t have to send my passport away. But I’m wondering if anyone with experience traveling in Vietnam or South East Asia in general can offer advice on the best way to proceed?

The same applies for Indonesia, although the requirements for obtaining a VOA on arrival for Canadian and Chinese citizens seems less strict. You do still need proof of onward flight. Can anyone clarify that you can obtain a 30-day VOA, and then extend it to a 60-day Visa?

Conveniently, Malaysia does not require Canadians to have a visa to enter the country for up to three months, with option for a two month extension. Hopefully, we are able to see a slice of Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia before heading onward to Indonesia.

Travel Insurance

Besides obtaining the necessary travel Visas, I am also on the hunt for proper travel insurance. Who do you all use? I need someone that also covers in case of diving accidents. I have been looking at the insurance provided as part of PADI (DAN?) While the credit card I use for travel does have some travel coverage, it only covers for the first 26 days, which is less than half of our anticipated travel time in SEA. I also anticipate doing most of the scuba diving that we do in Indonesia, the second leg of our trip. Good coverage for the entire travel period is important. Accidents happen.

If anyone doubts the need for travel insurance, this story about Dave of The Planet D (a travel blog) breaking his back while on a simple errand is telling enough. Imagine being in that situation and not having insurance. Luckily, it looks as though he is going to pull through. For many of us, travel is about pushing ourselves, exploring and taking risks. Not the frame of mind to be in without insurance!

The countdown to departure is fast approaching – January 18th! With Christmas in the middle I know it is going to come VERY quickly. Getting Visas and travel insurance taken care of means only a few things are left – mainly picking up a few essential items, finalizing our itinerary and packing up! After months of saving, talk, research and planning things are really coming together. Can’t wait!

How a latte made me feel like I belong.

There are times when I don’t feel like I fit in as a member of our society. I’m sure that everyone feels this way once in a while. In a time when efficiency, convenience and cost-effectiveness are prized, I sometimes enjoy taking the road less traveled, or at least the longer road. I am coming to recognize this is a trait shared by all of the women In my family.

road less traveled

I don’t own a car, and choose to live in locations where walking, public transit and carpooling are all realistic options. While it is easy to live beyond our means using credit, payment plans and loans, I have always been a saver and prefer to steer clear. I prefer paper books over e-Readers, and I still prefer to do my shopping in a store.

Food is important to me. Creating meals from scratch using whole ingredients, is one of my favorite challenges every day. And much to my partner’s vexation, I am a relentless label checker when it comes to shopping at the grocery store. Slowly I am convincing him to shun the center aisles where the vast majority of processed foods reside. Homemade bread and butter? Yes please. Want McDonald’s? Only if I’m starving. Or searching for drunk food with limited options (because let’s be honest here).

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However, there is so much more to this feeling of ‘not belonging’ than a set of lifestyle choices!

As of Black Friday, Christmas preparations in the northwestern hemisphere are in full swing. For anyone not familiar with this event, Black Friday is the first Friday after American Thanksgiving when retailers open their doors early, run some major sales and get consumers into the Christmas spirit. For most people in this day and age, that means shopping. According to the Wikipedia page, this has been a thing since the early 2000’s.

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Cyber Monday is now also a thing, following directly on the heels of Black Friday. Black Friday sales have been dropping as consumers decide to stay home and shop from their couches, so Cyber Monday attempts to take advantage of this information and catch those consumers too. Spend, my pretties! Spend!

Black Friday in America

Black Friday in America

In recent years, my family has become one of those that decide to stay home! And we skip Cyber Monday, too. Besides a major reduction in the amount of gifts we give every holiday season, we also try to make as many of our gifts home made as possible. Although more challenging, this has been a successful strategy for us. As a result the holiday season is less stressful for everyone involved, and we spend more time focused on family, friends, and food. The holiday trifecta!

For my tastes, Christmas today has become too intertwined with consumerism. I have always wondered how the advertisements that come out around the holiday season make less-privileged children feel. The one where Mom opens the closet, and is buried under a mountain of gifts (Canadian Tire) particularly sticks in my mind. This is not anywhere close to reality for the vast majority of people.

But last night, B. and I stepped out for a quick run to the giant box bookstore, Chapter’s. We stopped at Starbucks, I picked up a chestnut praline latte and we went our separate ways, absorbed book hunters. And so there I was. Standing in Chapter’s with my grande fancy-pants latte, hunting through the Black Friday stacks for a good deal, and humming Christmas music. And you know, I felt like I belonged. And I enjoyed it.

Monday Photo Post – Converge

Hello everyone! Today is the last day of the Fall Colors Photo Contest – I am entry No. 5 so don’t forget to VOTE! But I digress.

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Today’s Monday Photo Post is one taken from my archive of Prince Edward Island photos. It is also my response to The Daily Posts weekly photography prompt, Converge. Taken on a grey day on a beach along the North Coast of the Island, I like the way the lines of the beach, the ramp and the sky all lead together towards to horizon. Looking at these pictures always makes me long for PEI!

+++FINAL of the Fantastic Fall ! Contest+++

Hey everyone! It’s been a quiet couple of weeks @ Year 24 but I am very excited to say that one of my photos is being featured in a Fall Colors Contest, hosted by Puttmann’s Blog! So go check out the Top 5 Best, and vote for your favorite! Mine is Entry #5 – An Early Morning Dive.

Stay tuned for an update this week. It’s overdue, and I’ve got loooooot’s to talk about! Thanks for the feature, Puttmann! 🙂

Monday Photos – The Inco Superstack

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Good afternoon, my fellow bloggers and readers! As I continue posting a new photo each Monday, I find myself getting into the habit, and enjoying the process of finding just the right photograph to post for you all. Thanks for following along and motivating me.

This is a photograph of the iconic Sudbury ‘Super Stack‘ at sunset (I am starting to see a pattern) – the second tallest free-standing chimney in the world. It is also the site of the largest nickle mining operation in the world. Despite being a eternally smoking blight on the landscape… there is something to be said for looking upon the Stack at sunset. It use it as a weather vane each morning unless it is too foggy.

Tasty Things on Thursday’s – Homemade Slow Cooker Chili!

Homemade Slow Cooker Chili

For any readers not coming from Canada or the United States…. we have snow. LOT’S OF IT. So in honor of that I decided to make my first ever chili. It’s the perfect comfort food on a cold day. The best part? It tastes even better the next day.

I have to say it turned out extremely well, and everyone went back for seconds. I didn’t measure anything, since it all went in the slow cooker! Everything here is adjustable to your own preferences. Many of the ingredients I used because they are what I had available in my fridge or cupboard at the time – my favorite way to cook!

Enjoy and please let me know what you think if you try it out! 🙂

Ingredients

Chili Ingredients

1 package ground venison

1 package ground beef (venison is lean so it’s nice to add in some fat)

1 package ground turkey

~2 cups of mixed beans. I used black, white, kidney and the spotted brown pinto kind. (Remember, the beans are going to double in size)

2 medium sized onions

5 cloves of garlic

1 can diced tomatoes (any kind of tomatoes, or tomato sauce will work)

1/2 can of tomato paste (leftover in my fridge)

Chili powder (lots)

Chili flakes

Cumin

Tumeric

Salt

Pepper

Water (enough to cover everything that you’ve loaded into your slow cooker!)

Directions

This is a nice and simple recipe!

Toss all of your ground meat, beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper and other spices right into the bottom of the slow cooker.

Next, chop up your onions and garlic into small, even sized pieces and add to the slow cooker.

Give all of this concoction a big stir, mixing it well together and then add enough water to cover the contents. Make sure your beans are completely submerged!

Put the lid on the slow cooker, turn it to High and walk away! I cooked mine from about 11am-7pm. The longer the better as far as I am concerned, but as soon as your beans are cooked you are ready to rock!

Garnish with sour cream, green onions and grated cheddar cheese.

November 17th is Take a Hike Day!

Take a Hike Day November 17th

Today’s post is short and sweet, so you can get out there and enjoy your weekend before winter really sets in. Every heard of Take a Hike Day?

Read more about Take a Hike Day here!

Long story short, get out there and go for a walk on Monday! Strap on your pack and make it an extra-effective hike. Your body and your mind will thank you. While there may not be any fall colors left in your part of the world, there is still lots to see. This article posted on Parks Blogger Ontario has some great ideas of places to go hiking or snowshoeing during the winter season. Get inspired!