Happy Polar Bear Day!

So all week we've been celebrating all things Arctic as a lead up to today. Today we celebrate all things Polar Bear. Because it's International Polar Bear Day. WooHoo!

I have to admit when it comes to arctic creatures, the Polar Bear is actually low on my list of favs. Right there with Grizzly and Black bears as animals I really kind of hope I never see (especially after seeing The Revenant...) Don't get me wrong, they have become the poster animals for the arctic for some very good reasons - they are very incredibly majestic animals, the top predators in the Arctic which makes them a most powerful symbol of strength and endurance in a harsh environment. Plus two thirds of the polar bears population lives in the Canadian Arctic, I think that gives us a special relationship with the big bears. But as for me, they are best read about and seen in pictures.

Want to see how the Polar Bears are spending their day? Watch the live cam...

What can you do for the Polar Bears? Join the movement. There are tons of ways to help support Arctic causes and spread information. I'll continue to give tips on the blog on little life changes we can all make to lesson our impact, but there is also some great initiatives out there to help make spreading the word FUN - like the WWF's National Sweater Day, Earth Day and Earth Hour! Stay informed


Heart the People of the Arctic

First off, this post is a day late. It just happens sometimes. A weeks worth of posts was a lot of work. Some things didn't get scheduled. But the good news is that means an extra post tomorrow for the Official International Polar Bear Day!

If you haven't seen the documentary This Changes Everything you should go watch it (it's available on itunes, Google Play and Amazon). It's based on Naomi Kleins book of the same name (which I'm slowly getting through...) and it although it's about climate change, it's not about Polar Bears or melting glaciers, it's a tough look at the financial reality and impacts climate change is having on real live people. Really shakes up what you think you know about what is happening to our planet and our people.

This is why I wanted to talk about Arctic communities. In my Canadian travels I haven't been so far North yet, but there might just be a trip to the Yukon coming up this summer, so I've been researching the area the peoples and am really hoping the trip will happen because the area is slowly creeping up to the top of my travel must list! I talked a bit the other day about the Sami, but today we're bring it back to home turf (well my home turf here in Canada) and the effects the warming temperatures are having on their livelihoods. It's already tough to live in the Arctic, what with the insane prices they have to deal with on goods that are shipped up North, the lack of government support and the intense weathers. Now their way of life is being threatened.

- Changing temperatures result in changes to wildlife migration patterns, which in turns results in a decline in the ability to hunt for food. On top of the fact that we are seeing a decline in wildlife populations
- The warming ground results in essential foods thawing out throughout the summer months in traditional food cellars dug deep in the permafrost
- Northern communities rely on sea ice to travel to neighbouring communities to trade goods. With warming temperatures comes less months of ice to safely travel over and less opportunities to trade goods
- Excessive flooding is also cutting off road access to Northern communities, which they rely on to ship in necessities
- An increase in invasive insect species is starting to impact local vegetation

These Northern communities are finding ways to adapt to their rapidly changing environments in creative and inspiring ways (check out this great story about the community of Arviat who built a greenhouse to be able to grown their own vegetables) but it makes me wonder - what could I be doing to slow down the effects on their communities. It's not just about me and you, it's about all of us as one whole community.

This Changes Everything really did change everything for me.

Take a Hike. No seriously, put those legs to good use. Leave the car at home. Try it one day a week. It's an hour/15min walk home for me but I relish those days. Some people I tell consider this a waste of my time. I don't really care about them ;) Walking for me is the best time to let my mind run wild and think out ideas, plus I don't drive so it's a break from the insanity of transit. But if walking isn't your thing, ride your bike, or if you're a car person take transit. One day a week won't kill you.


Winter Camping Part deux

Um, ok. I have a confession to make. Our Winter Camping trip isn't exactly working out as originally planned. We're still going into the forest in a week, but we're just not tenting anymore. Turns out we got access to a Yurt, and if you get unexpected access to a Yurt, you Yurtin' take it!!!

I love Yurts. As much as I was ready to brave the elements in that tent, I am VERY excited to now be setting out on a Winter Yurt Adventure. The last time I was in a real yurt was right on the Arctic Circle and learning all about Sami traditions and yummy foods and meeting some ridiculously adorable reindeer. This time around we'll be in Algonquin Park and if the forecast holds there will be lot's and lot's of snow to frolic in! And Amy's making chilli.

Sami yurt just outside of Rovaniemi, Finland and my Reindeer pal

All Northern Communities are being affected by the warming temperatures in the North right now, but since we're talking Yurts and Sami and reindeer I thought I would touch on this for todays Heart the Arctic post. Nordic and Scandinavian cultures have long been a source of inspiration and wonder for me and that includes the beautiful Sami culture.

The Sami are the indigenous people of the Arctic regions of Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway - also known as Lapland. While traditionally the Sami make their livelihood through a variety of means including coastal fishing, fur trapping, and sheep herding they are most known for reindeer herding. In fact in some of Nordic countries reindeer herding is legally only allowed by the Sami. The Sami people have been roaming and living off the land of the North for well over 5000 years.

When we are talking about Environmental issues in the Arctic and all over the planet, we have to remember that it's not just those fuzzy polar bears at risk. There are thousands of people who's traditional livelihoods are being disrupted as well. Think about how sad the twitterverse gets when Netflix goes down. This is about 10 billion times more important. And since I could go on and on and on about it, instead I'm going to leave you with this little video about reindeer herders and the current situation. PS. No reindeer were hurt in this video despite the snapshot below!

Today's tip... Don't suck up any extra energy. Any piece of electronics in your home or office that is plugged in is sucking up electricity, regardless of whether it is turned on or not. Save some energy and save some money - use a power strip with an off switch or just unplug them all!


The Unicorn of the North

So, yeah ok. We are leading up to Polar Day on Saturday, but I'm dedicating the week to the Arctic so we're totally allowed to talk about my favourite. Narwhals. Unicorns of the Sea. Magical creatures.

To a lot of us, the Arctic seems like this dark mysterious place that no one ever goes to. And for the most part that is correct. It spends a great deal of the year in darkness, which lends to it's mysterious reputation. What the heck does life do there during those frigid sunless days? Do they have secret underground dance parties? That's what I think is really up with hibernating animals! The bears play host and all the other animals pop in and out, getting their groove on, catching up on gossip and letting each other in on all the sweet spots for arctic berries.

But where were we... oh yeah, the magical North! I love the peacefulness of nature, even when all the creatures are chatting away, it never feels noisy and crowded. There's a cohesiveness to it. A unity. A simplicity and innocence to it. The North especially has that untouched, as Mother Nature created it feel. And no where else do you see a more grand example of life and rebirth. Most things literally die out when winter hits and then burst back to life at the first sign of spring. If you haven't watched the BBC's Frozen Planet, get on it. It's on Netflix so I just made it so easy for you! David Attenborough will take you through all the seasons (yes there is more than just winter) of both Poles. There are some seriously outrageous things living in the Arctic ocean. All these crazy and interesting creatures, on land, ice and in the ocean, are at risk right now because of the drastic changes in Arctic temperatures. This past January the North Pole recorded a +4º. IN JANUARY. I am aware that this is one of those freak El Nino years, but that is completely off the charts wrong. Even here in Toronto we have been having some intense temperature swings - the last week saw a temp difference of 52º within a 7 day period. Hm. I don't think our hibernating animals are having much of a dance party this winter. And Mr. Narwhal, well let's take a look at him and see what he thinks.

For sure the most magical of Arctic creatures is the elusive Narwhal. Apparently these guys are the hardest to spot, they are quite shy about strangers, which kind of makes me love them even more. Not that I don't love penguins, but they are total hams! Now, not everyone is familiar with the Narwhals which is partly why I wanted to showcase them today. The term "unicorn of the sea" is quite popular these days, but some people still think they are mythical creatures, not real animals. They are real. So very real. I have to admit I don't think I'd ever really heard of, or at least paid much attention to a Narwhal until I saw the movie Elf. You all totally know that part where Mr. Narwhal comes up to say Bye to Buddy... I love that scene. That was well over 10 years ago. So my love affair is strong with the Narwhal now! I would love to see one in real life, in fact it's right up at the top of my bucket list.  But even if I never lay eyes on one, they'll always be special to me.

One of the things we can all do to ease the Arctic melt is to turn our thermostats down a couple of degrees and engage in some good ol' hygge (don't remember our last chat about hygge.. go back and read all about it here) Put on a nice cozy sweater, curl up with your hottie, but on those silly fuzzy slippers your mom got you and drink some hot chocolate!


It's all things Arctic

I started reading this great book from the library called Dude Making a Difference and a sentence in the introduction really resonated with me.

The problem is that we have lost touch with our resources. We have outsourced everything, and we don't realize how our actions affect the earth and everything on it.

This is something that has been on my mind a lot lately. And I started to notice that there were 2 very common mantras that I was starting to commit to. Patience and Impact. And why I finally decided to get tattooed again.  There are some forms of commitment I'm all for!

I had the symbols tattooed on the inside of my forearms so they would always be within eyesight - if you follow me on instagram you've seen some of the pics of the artwork healing already. Left for the tree and right for the glacier. Symbols only. No words. I know what the images mean to me. Although interestingly not one person has asked me what they mean. For me, if I'm going to permanently ink myself it better mean something important. I know not everyone else feels the same, and that's a-ok too. But since these guys are so symbolic for me I thought I would share them and their meanings with you guys, as we set off on Arctic Week, because those symbols are based in nature for a reason. Which is why we are having Heart The Arctic Week!

International Polar Bear day is this coming Saturday, February 27th, so I thought I'd throw a whole week of Arctic Love here in thunderpeepland. Because we love all things Arctic and snowy and frozen and magical.  And the Arctic is magical, it's a place of true strength and life. Over the course of the week I'll be sharing some stories about why I'm passionate about the region, why it's such a hot debate topic and tips on everyday things we can all easily do to help lesson our impact on the Frozen pole, and of coarse I've got some fun activities, treats and a nice big giveaway to end the week. 

the tattoos are healing nicely!


Give a Girl a Journal

those 2 on the right... that's my super secret diary from high school. everything was life altering during those years!

My friend Christine shared this project with me called Give a Girl a Journal, organized by Jamie Ridler of Jamie Ridler Studios. The goal of the project is to get journals to young girls and to really empower them to use them and to chronicle their journeys through words and drawings or really by any form their hearts desire. You can read all about the project here. You can also read all about Christine's journal journey here.

I was totally in love with the idea. I LOVE journalling and have since I was a young little thing. Most of my journalling is written, just putting thoughts, ideas, dreams and frustrations to paper. I have at least 4 notebooks on the go at the moment. I carry a bit notebook in my pack with me during the day that is my go to thoughts journal - I usually write out frustrations or maybe thoughts I need to work through. I have a journal for all my ideas, be it things I want to do in life or creative project ideas. I usually work out the idea behind a piece before I ever start sketching. This is my favourite stage really, it's where the ideas truly come to life because they all have some sort of story behind them. I have my doodle book, where I usually spend about 10 minutes just random doodling as an ice breaker between day job work day and me + thunderpeep time. Then I have a notebook for stories. Yes, I write my stories by hand first, they go through editing when I type them into the ol' laptop. I love physically writing stories out. Usually in pencil so I don't feel like I have to commit to anything just yet. I also loving planning anything and everything. My daytimer is more of a journal than a traditional daytimer. I use it to plan out projects for thunderpeep, my freelance work, travelling, meal planning, yoga schedule, blog planner etc... for the month and each week.

I'm also a super nerdy trip planner - this is my giant journal from my trip to Finland in 2010

Journalling can mean so many different things, even to one person. It's an incredible resource for self-exploration and creative expression, and giving girls the opportunity to tune into themselves is truly an amazing gift.

When I started thinking about the post I went digging for the old journal I knew I still had (the one you can see in the top image). The one from my most tragic teenage years. Oh my goodness. Re-reading some of those pages was kind of embarrassing, but I'm never one to turn down the opportunity to laugh at myself!


Some more #WeBeTest Love

So you know that I'm participating all month long in the #WeBeTest instagram challenge right? If not you are clearly not paying enough attention to me! (follow my instagram here)

Ok but seriously, yesterday one of our prompts was Fellow TEST fav - showing some Valentines Day love to your favourite team members. I've made quite a few great friends through the team and I've also discovered some incredible artists. How the hell could I just pick one? I decided to showcase some of great things I've acquired from my fellow teammates, but still... you can't help but feel like you're leaving someone out! So I decide to post a few more of my favs here today and links to their shops. You know, in case you wanted to do some shopping ;)


Freebie Friday - Valentines Edition

All you love happy souls, it's finally your time of year. Valentines Day.

I thought I'd help you celebrate your love day with some little love notes. For both of you ;)

The Dirty Little Notes have been out of production for over a year now, but every now and then someone asks me for some. Nothing is ever really gone. Because how could I ever say no to people who just want to get down and dirty?

the original Dirty Little Love notes

So I made downloaded sheet of the 8 most popular sayings which you can download here

(please note that this image is for personal use only, not for resale but feel free to share this post with your lovely friends!)

Happy Love Day!


Giving up the To Go

So I'm going to be starting another regular post here that I haven't quite been able to come up with a name for yet. But that's ok, because we can get started without an official name. I mean, really.

This new section is going to combine 2 things I'm passionate about, that really kind of tie into the same thing. They both revolved around the coolest place on earth. The Arctic. You all know I lean towards the environmentalist side and I always try not to be that preachy type so I've come up with a solution. Most people just have no idea of their impact and think that they have to give everything up at once to make a difference, but there are a million and one little things you can do to make a difference. That's where this feature comes in. Every week I'll share some little thing you can do to lesson your impact on our beautiful planet.

Now the second thing that ties into the section? You've heard rumblings about a trip. An adventure in the works. That involves The Taiga. You'll be hearing that word around here quite a bit and well with each greenie tip you'll be learning a wee bit more about this adventure and this place.

some of my on the go cups! - as much as I love my Vancouver cup, it's all kinds of plastic, might be time to replace that one...

Todays tip is more of a pledge on my part and gentle encouragement for others. I'm pledging to give up to go cups FOR GOOD. It might actually surprise you that I haven't done this already. For the most part yes, I have, I usually make my own drinks. But sometimes I get lazy and grab a to go tea (or latte or sometimes hot chocolate - always with whip) in that horrible cup - I mean I do get up ridiculously early and as much as that is my choice some mornings just fall aprt. Some days I forget to prep and that's when all hell breaks loose. Laziness is the evil to most of our nasty anti-environment doings, and honestly I believe in the practice what you preach philosophy so shame on me for this bad habit. This is my pledge to never again use a disposable cup. Even during Roll up the Rim! Who's with me (or who's already given up to go's for good) Another thing I'm giving up is the restaurant to go containers. Now I know some of my friends are going to roll up their noses at the fact that I might come to dinner with them with my own containers, but you know what, I'm ok with that. Some of my favourite restaurants still use styrofoam containers and considering I almost always have to take some home with me, I am most definitely not ok with that anymore.

Recently I saw this episode of CBC's Marketplace (in rerun) on how the big guys are scamming us with their in-store recycling bins (Yeah I'm looking at you Tims and Starbucks in particular) Don't be fooled by those recycling bins, it would appear that both of these chains toss everything in that bin in the garbage bin. That's just wrong, if you aren't going to actually recycle then don't lie (yes I am aware this is naive thinking) Just own it and let the people decide if they actually want to continue being your customers.

Besides, I have a great selection of mugs, so there are absolutely no excuses. No excuses.


TEST challenge

If you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed some rather personal pics going up. And the hashtag #WeBeTest.

There's a very good reason behind it. My lovely friends of The Toronto Etsy Street Team (or TEST if you will) are doing an Instagram challenge for the month of February. For a number of great reasons. To help bring awareness and promote local Toronto makers, artists and vintage curators, for our followers to help get to know us a bit better and for the team mates to get to know each other. We're a team of well over 1000 members now and that's a lot of people to keep track of. Putting some faces and interests to each other helps us all bond. Happy Happy Joy Joy! Group hug time :) Wow, image a 1000+ person group hug. I couldn't be in the middle of that one. I bet it's in the Guinness Book of World Records somewhere though.

But back to us. You can follow along by searching #WeBeTest on Instagram, and of coarse you can follow me for all the challenge and other thunderpeep fun times. And below is a list of the daily prompts we are all following along with.


February thunderpeep Book Club

It was tight but I just finished Wildwood. Finished it last night. Because January went by really fast.

So, what do I make of the first book in the Wildwood Chronicles. Honestly, I thought I would love it more. It was good, and I will read the other books. But it was missing something. It just didn't have any kind of charming quality. It did have lot's of adventure, and any story with talking animals, and a woodland war should be just my thing. But there you have it. What I did love, were the little illustrations dispersed throughout the book. And the maps on the inside covers. I love those little details.

This months book: The Shining

You might think this an odd choice for February, but I borrowed this from Steff a few months ago and really should be getting it back to her. Plus it seems less creepy in February. Now, I've seen the movie a dozen times, so it's not like I don't know the plot. But everyone tells me this book is just so much better than the movie (and the movie was pretty great) So here we go. Let's hope I can still get lot's of sleep this month...

What about you guys, what's on your reading list right now? If you're on Goodreads we can be friends and share our reads too. You can find me here.


Calling out Bullshit

A couple of weeks ago I was excitedly going on to a friend about how awesome my week had been - not because I'm lucky but because I put good shit out there and it boomeranged right back to me - and after I was finished, she told me I would be a great motivational speaker.

I'm sorry, but what? 1 - I hate public speaking. I am just way too awkward in front of folks to be motivating anyone. 2 - Who on earth would pay to listen to me to go on and on about anything or anything (other than my friends of coarse, because they are pretty great) But really, my blog readers do that every post (and Thank You for enduring my wordy posts all you lovely readers) and I do love blogging (you can kind of see where this is going right?) So... I thought that this could be a fun new regular feature on the blog. Some motivational thunderpeep chats. I do have a brand new take on life that is working out pretty great for me. I’m not talking about sparkly motivational quotes, because Pinterest has enough of those. But positive little nuggets of inspiration to remind us all that life really is what you make it. (ok so that was kind of cheezy, but at least no sparkles) Move over Tony Robbins, thunderpeep is about to take over!

Story #1: I know this person who is not a bad person. They can actually be quite funny and insightful. But they also kind of remind me of Linus from the peanuts cartoons. Or maybe even Eor from Winnie the Pooh. One of those characters that seems to have a grey cloud following them around. They always have some story of someone who has wronged them. Of all the bad luck that seems to only fall on them. How the world is just against them. There is just always SOMETHING!

Well I call Bullshit on all this doomsday. If you never see the bright side of life you're going to grow old and miserable long before you actually hit old age. Yeah, sometimes the world can be a dark and overwhelming place (trust me I'm an environmentalist, it's very easy to get sucked into doomsday thinking) And when you become more in tune with it, it can start to feel like a hopeless place. But that feeling - that is 100% your doing. You let it in. You let it take hold of you. You can kick it's ass to the curb. Shitty shit happens. To all of us. Other people are creeps a lot of the time. But if you just move on, let it go and focus on something better you'll have a much happier day for it. That person who cut you off on the drive in, maybe they legit didn't see you. It happens. To all of us. Maybe they are rushing because they are late for the job interview of their dreams. You just don’t know. They didn't cut you off just to piss you off (and if they did, well that's on their karma why let it bring you down?) Let it go, you and your car made it to work in one piece - why dwell on what could have happened?

And for those people who want to get all up in your happy bubble, the old advice of our grandparents still stands. Kill them with kindness. The world needs more kindness anyway.  We can all learn to be nicer people and maybe one day we won't need these talks.  And honestly if someone is being shitty, because maybe someone was shitty to them, and you just smile at them or hold a door or whatever, you might just make their day better. And they'll pass that on to the next grumpy pants. And then we're all just hugging it out. Ah.... I do love hugs.

Now, because I think my awesome positivity-meter comes from my maternal Grandma, I am dedicating these posts to her. That's a picture of her at the top of the post, on one of her adventures. She was seriously the coolest cat in town. I'll have to tell you more about her in the upcoming posts. I still also have to come up with a name for this feature and of coarse a totally rad graphic, but there's loads of time for that.

Also, since I have taken on this new no bad bullshit attitude, I have to say life has handed me some pretty great rewards. Goodness boomerangs back at ya ;) Oh my goodness I really do sound ridiculous sometimes. Grandma would be so proud!

But I’d also like to say, I’m nowhere near perfect - no I’m serious - and I have shitty days. But you know what. When I have a shitty day, I just own it. And keep it to myself. And maybe I don’t go out of my way to be nice, but I also don’t spread the doom. I keep that shit to myself. Or I have a really good bitch session, in private, with one of those great friends I mentioned. They usually have something they want to unload back, so it all works out. Then we have a drink.

Feel free to post any topics you would like me to tackle in the comments. I'm here for you.


Winter Camping is back on the table.

Oh I can hear the collective "are you crazy" ringing out across the blogosphere. No, I'm not crazy. Neither is my good friend Amy, who is going with me into the cold wild forest.

Why? Why not?

This question just needs to stop being asked.

You can either be miserable and just try to "survive" winter, or you can have fun and embrace it. Be miserable or be cozy and content.

I read this great article last week, on this very topic, looking into why our Scandinavian friends are so happy and thriving during the winter months. The Danish have a word for it. Hygge (pronounced hooga).

"There’s no direct English translation for hygge, but the word evokes both coziness and togetherness. “It’s not just cozy with a blanket and a glass of wine. It’s also interpersonally cozy—so having a few people with you talking about issues and things you care deeply about. Having some candles lit, maybe a nice warm drink in your hand. Feeling safe and content.”

I've definitely been spending more time hanging out with friends, catching up with old friends. It just feels like this is the perfect time for it. Especially with our lack of snow here in Toronto, I haven't been able to get out and build snow forts or make any snow angels, so what else is a girl supposed to do? Well I'm also getting a lot of work done ;)

But we were talking about camping.

After our disastrous camping trip last May (in case you need a refresher you can read that story here) we decided that we needed to really tackle this winter camping thing. We were originally trying to get a trip going back in November, but we couldn't get a date to work. And really, last November was so mild it technically wouldn't have counted. So the first weekend of March has officially been penned into both our calendars. The tail end of winter really, but we figure there will still be some snow so we can snowshoe and some of the parks have even had skating rinks through the forest. AWESOME! We have also done our research. I thought I'd share a couple of things we've learned and then we can all meet back here in March and see how it all turned out.

Keep your clothes for the next day in the bottom of your sleeping bag so they aren't frozen solid when you go to get dressed in the morning!

Invest in those awesome hand/foot warmers, you can get the big pack of disposable ones (like these) or you can go the planet friendlier route with the reusable ones (like these) you just need to drop them in some boiling water to reset them - easy enough in the am when you are making tea!

Use a yoga mat or any mat really, under your sleeping back to have a layer between you and the cold ground. Or you can be like Amy and bring an old Futon mattress (I did warn you that we are older and wiser now, these are the tricks you learn after many camping trips!)

Keep your matches in a metal tin instead of a plastic one. For many reason, plastic being bad, plastic will also crack when frozen while metal will not. And looks ways cooler! Also to note: matches are more planet friendly than a lighter.

This next one is definitely for me. Don't sleep with your face buried in your sleeping bag. I, like most people, do not like having a cold nose and when sleeping in the outdoors, even in the summer, this is a regular thing. But the moisture from your heavy breathing will cancel out the insulating  properties of your sleeping bag. And it gets icky gross. Trust me, your nose will adapt to the temperature.

Don't be shy. Everyone in the tent should huddle their sleeping bags together (or if you're a couple just zip them together ;) This stops any cold air from coming up from the ground between you. All that body heat will only help keep you warm. Amy and I have been friends for so long that this is not a problem!

If you're crafty, or have crafty friends, make your own flannel sleeping bag liner. I've even found a tutorial for you (here) I am most definitely making one. I will be sure to share pics of it on instagram!

Don't hold your pee. I know, no one wants to get up and leave the tent in the middle of the night. But some good news - it's winter, there are no bears lurking in the woods. So you're pretty safe on that front. But seriously, your body is using up much needed energy to keep that pee warm, so just go for it. And if you really don't want to leave the tent, and everyone is on good terms in the tent, just pee in a bottle. No judgements.

Now we're all ready for a weekend of snow fun!

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