Continuing the Conversation on Mental Health

In Canada, Bell’s Speak Out Day was January 25th. If you’re on social media, of any type, you no doubt saw the tweets, posts, and changes in profile pictures to mark this day. So, hands up if you tweeted, typed or brought awareness to the Speak Out Day.

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But here’s the real question; are we advocates for the decrease in stigmatization around mental health every day of the year, or just that one day?   It’s easy for all of us to jump on the bandwagon when it’s the thing to do, when it’s popular and acceptable, but is it a belief that we hold year round?

Mental health issues have long been a source of embarrassment, seen as a default of character and often believed to be something the person could change if they were a “stronger” individual. We know that these are categorically NOT true, but these beliefs are deeply rooted in western society, and are tough to shake.

When we, on days such as the Speak Out Day, call for better services, the end of stigma, and care and compassion for those affected by mental health issues, we are making progress, we are taking steps, but the journey isn’t over.

The fear and stigma still exists. Sharing any mental health issues along the spectrum is a brave task that can, and sadly does, still see some backlash and judgement from family,  employers and even the medical community.

So what’s the solution?

It probably starts with brave steps of those affected, it starts with sharing openly, with challenging the stigma if others try to discriminate against you, treat it as something that is less serious or real than a physical health issue. It continues with awareness and education on the larger societal level, and with family and friends on the personal level.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences sharing and dealing with mental health issues. It’s a conversation we all benefit from hearing and participating in.

Edmonton Family Activities- February 2017

 Ice Castles – Running for the entire month of February 

Hawrelak Park  is once again hosting the ice castles ! A spectacular sight for all ages ! This year it’s a 2 acre handcrafted wonderland ! Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the magical ice castles. Tickets and more information can be found on the official page.

TIPS

  • go on a weekday when the crowds will be smaller
  • go right before sunset so you can see the castles both in the light and the dark
  • dress warmly in layers and choose appropriate footwear for icy surfaces.

Silver Skate Festival- February 10th – 20th -Hawrelak Park

The festival is in it’s 26th year and features culture, arts, recreation and sport ! Snow sculptures, Kortebaan races, skate races and live entertainment highlight the fun !  The festival is free, and a great . More information can be found at the Silver Skate Festival page.

TIP- Ice castles are also at Hawrelak Park during the festival, so you have the opportunity to take in both events in one day !

 

Flying Canoë Volant-February 3/4 – Mill Creek Ravine and La Cité francophone, 8627 Rue Marie-Anne-Gaboury (91 Street)

Keep the kids up a little late and head to Edmonon’s French Quarter for 6 pm to take in the festival based on the legend of the Flying Canoe, and on French-Canadian, First Nation, and Métis traditions. In the ravine, find magical artistic lighting installations and experience Métis jigs/reels, bannock making, storytelling, drumming, horse-drawn carriage, snacks and snow carvings  at Rutherford School. There will be bilingual musical performances children’s activities, and a snow slide. More info can be found here.

 Ice on Whyte Festival- Feb2-5- Old Strathcona

Two winter weekends: January 26-29 and February 2-5, 2017.

A great tradition in Edmonton, this festival invites you to join the fun of International Ice Carving Competition, ride a gigantic ice slide, and learn to carve ice just like a pro. There will be story telling, and special commemorative events in honor of Canada’s upcoming 150th birthday. Cost is $4 for children 2-12, and adults $7. Put on your toque and mittens and head down. All the info can be found here.

  Millwoods Town Centre -Feb 20th

As always, check times and dates for any changes that may have occurred after the publishing of this post. We strive to provide the most updated accurate information. 

Where to Skate in Edmonton & Area

If you are looking to get out and skate, here are some of our top places to do so in the Edmonton area !

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City Hall, Sir Winston Churchill Square.

Castle Downs Park, 153 Avenue & 115 Street.

Hawrelak Park  9330 Groat Road.

Jackie Parker Park, 50 Street & 44 Avenue
Rundle Park, 113 Avenue & 29 St.

Try out the Rundle Park Ice Way Skating Trail. It is a neat experience and is open 10 am until dusk

Outdoor skating for the burbs

Spruce Grove

Strathcona County

Stony Plain

 

Indoor Skating

We recommend the ice at West Edmonton Mall for the pure experience of it. Check times before you go as they vary widely.

If you don’t mind venturing out to the burbs, Millennium Place in Sherwood Park has a beautiful indoor arena that is great for kids.

 As always, check times and dates for any changes that may have occurred after the publishing of this post. We strive to provide the most updated accurate information. 

Dump the NEGATIVE cycle of New Year’s resolutions and still succeed! Here’s how!

Happy much belated New Year ! Have you decided on your New Years resolutions? Feeling good, pumped? Ready to do it? Ready to rock them? Ready to go hard…. aaaand lose steam a month or so in?

This is the cycle of resolutions isn’t it?  It happens, you lose steam and don’t complete tzc_5403these often lofty resolutions?  If you are anything like me, you feel like a failure. You feel like something is wrong with you that caused you not to be able to follow through. You are no further ahead then when you made the resolution, actually, you might be further behind because now you feel guilty, and badly about yourself because you didn’t stick to your resolutions.

Let me tell you, those who brag that they rocked their past New Years resolutions are probably not being totally upfront. Disclaimer, that’s my  not so humble opinion. Because resolutions seem to set us up to fail. Every bloody year. They are too big, too lofty, to grandiose, and are not sustainable.  Dump this negative cycle !

This year I decided I had 2 good approaches to working on the goals I have for myself and my family without the sparkle (January) and fade (February-December) effect

  • Set intentions. Set them in a way that they encompass your goals for the year, and in a way that they allow you some room to modify them as you go along in the year. If you want to lose weight, why not look beyond just the number on the scale and set your intention to  improve your health through

1) participating in physical activity that you enjoy and that fits into your life (rather than the resolution that you will go to the gym 6/7 days a week)

2) will work on nourishing your body with food that supports good health (rather than the resolution I will never eat fast food again)

See the shift in how you look at it? It may seem subtle, but trust me, it’s going to give you more room to succeed this year and minimize feelings of failure and disappointment.20170108_181449

  • Choose a word of the year.  What word would give your life direction in achieving your goals?  Value? ( I have value and will surround myself with people who recognize this. I will value myself enough to…work out, eat properly, take care of myself etc) Is it Brave? ( I will be brave in my choices, I will take risks and reap the rewards) Is it Rebuilding? Is it Tenacity? Perhaps it’s Push or Battle? There are so many options. Perhaps something has been calling out to you, something has been in your heart and will lead you to your word if you listen to yourself. Give yourself some time and space to do so.

Timing- I could have written this the beginning of January, to get you going right away for the New Year, but I didn’t. I purposely waited because there really are no timelines on when we set intentions for ourselves. The guideline of January is arbitrary.

My word of the year is Resiliency. I intend to strive in everything I do to be more resilient. Life has an easy way of getting a person down, and the more you are down, the harder it seems to bounce back with confidence and passion. Resiliency is a tall order, but a challenge that is calling to me.

I would love to hear your thoughts, intentions, words of the year, and comments.

 

 

 

 

 

Edmonton Family Activities -January 2017

A list of what’s happening in Edmonton and area for January 2017. Updated as events are announced, so check back often.

 Ice Castles – Running for the entire month of January 

Hawrelak Park  is once again hosting the ice castles ! A spectacular sight for all ages ! This year it’s a 2 acre handcrafted wonderland ! Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the magical ice castles. Tickets and more information can be found on the official page.

TIPS:

  • go on a weekday when the crowds will be smaller
  • go right before sunset so you can see the castles both in the light and the dark
  • dress warmly in layers and choose appropriate footwear for icy surfaces.

Skate with the Oil Kings– January 15th – Lake Summerside 1-3pmtzc_6133

Bring your skates and your hockey equipment to skate and play hockey on Lake Summerside with 4 Oil Kings players. There will be free hot chocolate and cookies along with autographs and chances to win Oil Kings tickets!

TIP:

Bring something for the players to autograph!

 Deep Freeze: A Byzantine Winter Festival- January 14/15

118 Avenue NW and 91 Street Edmonton

It’s a festival celebrating Ukrainian, Franco-Albertan, Franco-African, First Nations & South American communities celebrating their diverse cultures, and embracing the magic and beauty of winter. You will find cultural games, traditional winter activities such a snow wagon rides, ice skating, mini golf (yes in the winter!) street hockey, giant ice slides and much more !

Dress warm and head out for some fun ! All the details can be found here.

World Snow Day ! 1-4

Strathcona Wilderness Centre 52535 Range Road 212 Ardrossan (just east of Sherwood Park

This outdoor event highlights Alberta’s newest Biosphere. There will be educational activities including meeting an owl, wild life displays, and smores and hot chocolate ! *This event will only run if the weather is -15 or warmer.

 

South East Winter Fun Festival- January 14 1-3

7104- 87Ave NW Edmtonton

The Kenilworth Community League is hosting indoor and outdoor avtivities on the ice trail. There will be curling, skating, sleigh rides, snowshoeing, skating and hockey outdoors, and preschool activities, free photo booth, entertainments, crafts and story time inside.

Lunar New Year’s Extravaganza – January 14/15

West Edmonton Mall

It’s the year of the Rooster ! Edmonton Chinatown Multi-Cultural Centre’s 2017 Lunar New Year Extravaganza will feature a marketplace a showcase of Chinese performers.Unique shopping and a fabulous cultural event will highlight this Celebration of Chinese New Yea.

Ice on Whyte Festival– January 26-29th- Old Strathcona

Two winter weekends: January 26-29 and February 2-5, 2017.

A great tradition in Edmonton, this festival invites you to join the fun of International Ice Carving Competition, ride a gigantic ice slide, and learn to carve ice just like a pro. There will be story telling, and special commemorative events in honor of Canada’s upcoming 150th birthday. Cost is $4 for children 2-12, and adults $7. Put on your toque and mittens and head down. All the info can be found here

TIP:

If you miss going in January, they are also open the first weekend of February.

 

As always, check times and dates for any changes that may have occurred after the publishing of this post. We strive to provide the most updated accurate information. 

 

Photographing Christmas Part 2

Ya know that creamy lovely “blur” of Christmas lights that people get in their photos ?

untitled-5720The photography term for it is bokeh, and you can achieve it!  If you have a dslr camera, this will be your best bet, but a point and shoot may give you similar results.

You will have to experiment with different levels of light to see what your camera is capable of doing. Your results will vary depending on your camera and light levels in the room. Take it as a challenge, experiment with different levels of darkness and see what your camera can do, and what sort of image you like.

  1. Place your subject- probably your children, or in my image above, my Christmas elf, in front of the lights or tree. You want them between 4-10 feet in front of the lights to get that blur (bokeh) of lights in the back.
  2. If you want them in silhouette, keep it dark where they are. Otherwise, if you want to see their dimly lit faces, you should have some light on them.
  3. Set your camera to A/AV (depending on model) which allows you to control the aperture. You will want to choose a small aperture, which is going to allow light in to create this image. You for sure want to be using 5.6 or lower. On my 50 mm lens I can go as low as 1.8 which is nice.
  4. Flash is generally off for these images.
  5. Now line up your shot, push your shutter half way down to get the focus, and snap.

You are shooting in low light in these conditions, which means you need to keep your kids as still as possible to avoid blur. Another trick to help with blur is to steady yourself on something. Rest your arms on a counter or chair, stand against a wall.

Other considerations

If you camera is struggling to capture these dark image with bright crisp looking lights, adjust the light in the room. Open curtains,  turn lamps on, shoot during the day with the Christmas lights on, try different options and see what you can capture.

Know that these images, especially the ones where the room is really dark are a challenge to get depending on your gear. Experimenting  is the best way to capture something cool.

Keep in mind as you try to capture these images, that the lower your aperture the more light you are allowing into the camera, the more you are likely to capture this sometimes elusive bokah. Also know that a steady hand and still subjects does make a big difference. And in the end, know that using a flash is an option, as photos with flash will always be easier ones to capture.

Good luck experimenting ! Hope you get some results that you love. Feel free to share your moments, we would love to see !

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Photographing Christmas-Part 1

It’s almost Christmas ! Can you believe it?  I’ve got some tips for taking pictures on the big day !  Tomorrow i’ll be sharing some information for getting some really cool Christmas pics with twinkly lights and beautiful blurred backgrounds that we all like. But for now, your general Christmas photography tips.

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Step 1- locate your camera BEFORE Christmas morning. Charge batteries, make room on a memory card.

Once you have the basics ready, snap and snap and snap. The beauty of memory cards is that you can delete anything you don’t like.

Try different angles for pictures. Get down low, look down on things, change your position, change your photo !

Think capturing moments. What are the big moments you want images of? Children coming down the stairs?  If so, do you want pictures of them from behind, or would you rather get down the stairs first so you can capture their faces coming down?

Are the details important? Think not just a whole body shot of your child opening gifts, but think close ups of little hands ripping gifts open, stockings hung, important ornaments.

Thinking of traditions, how can you capture the traditions of the season that are important to you? Grandma carrying the turkey?  Grandpa carving it? Kids pulling Christmas crackers apart? Don’t forget these pieces that tell the story of your Christmas.

Think connections. Show images of people together, sitting beside each other, hugging, sharing food. This is your story too.

Mom, hand over the camera and get in photos. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t “dressed and ready”- just get in there.  You need to be part of these images that your children will treasure in years to come. I guarantee no one will care about the pajamas you were wearing or the state of your hair.

AND my very last tip , from years of bad bad images, is no matter what, do not take pictures with a tv in the background that is off. That huge black screen reflects flash, morphs people’s bodies into weird blobs on your photos and does all kinds of nasty things that ruin pics. Don’t do it. Just don’t.