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How Lucky Can Anybody Be?

The Genesis

At a dark, corner table in the Waldorf Hotel two friends (yours truly is one of them) launched a year-long competition: enter as many free contests as possible and see who wins the most. The winner had to treat the loser to a free dinner at the Waldorf.

I was the one who ended up buying dinner.

Yes, after emerging victorious at the end of 2011, I decided to continue entering contests on my own. So far, I have won more than $3000 in cash and prizes.

Follow my winning streak and I’ll share all the amazing experiences I have along the way.

Vancouver Greek Summerfest Win

A week and a half ago I returned from almost two months in Greece. It’s wonderful to come home, but I always feel like I leave a part of me (the Greek part) overseas. However, that’s why it’s great to live in a culturally diverse city like Vancouver. You can always find places and events that help you reconnect with your roots. I was delighted, therefore, to win a $25 gift certificate to the Vancouver Greek Summerfest.

Vancouver Greek Summerfest Serves Up Deliciousness

Vancouver Greek Summerfest
Loukoumades

Greece is famous for its ancient ruins, glorious beaches, and its fantastic food. For more than 30 years, volunteers from  St. Nicholas & Dimitrios Church have been making everything from the famous roast lamb dinner to loukoumades, irresistible Greek donuts in honey and sesame seeds. I enjoyed everything I ate, and it was an added bonus that this year they had drinks like Loux iced tea that I can normally only get in Greece.

A George Michael Impersonator, Greek Folk Dances, and More

Vancouver Greek Summerfest folk dancing
Greek Folk Dancing

Another way I connect to my heritage is through enjoying the kind of dance and music the Vancouver Greek Summerfest presents. It’s interesting to see the various performances and note how the dance and music changes, depending on the region in Greece they originate from. On a lighter note, I was sorry to miss the George Michael impersonator. Fun acts like this, as well as acts from other cultures, are always great.

St. Nicholas & St. Dimitrios: A Place of Serenity

Vancouver Greek Summerfest Orthodox Church
Greek Orthodox Church

Before I leave the Vancouver Greek Summerfest, I always stop in at St. Nicholas & St. Dimitrios. The Greek Orthodox church is a quiet place amidst all the excitement of the festival. The iconography and chandeliers in Greek Orthodox churches are traditionally elaborate. Thus, you need to sit and take it all in. Fortunately, the church has explanatory notes that give you a better understanding of what you’re seeing.

So, you have until July 14th to experience all this for yourself! Swing by and hear some great music, dance, eat, and live a day the Greek way!

Discovering doTerra and Essential Oils

Recently, I won a jasmine touch roller and rollerball clutch from doTerra. For some of you, that sentence makes very little sense. However, when you enter the world of essential oils you learn a new vocabulary, as well as a new way to improve your life.

Starting with a Love of Scent

I started buying essential oils years ago for the same reason many other people do; they want their home to smell nice. Yet, as I’ve experimented with different oil combinations, I’ve realized that scent is much more powerful than I initially thought.

It really does affect how I feel. Citrus essential oils (e.g. lemon, grapefruit, orange, etc.) tend to put me in a happier mood, as well as increase my level of alertness. Other scents, like lavender, help me to feel calmer and more relaxed. These feelings aren’t unique to me, as these oils are known to have these effects when inhaled.

Relieving Back Pain and Migraines

Now, before I begin discussing how I’ve derived health benefits from essential oils, I need to establish that I do not ingest them. Some people do and find that they feel a lot better as a result. Others argue that this is an unwise practice. I can’t comment either way, so I’m simply going to focus on what I’ve experienced aromatically and topically.

doTerra makes a product called Deep Blue rub. It provides a warming sensation when massaged into the skin. I’ve found it gives me tremendous relief when I’m dealing with my chronic back pain. And yes, I’ve tried remedies my doctor and physiotherapist have recommended. However, they were either ineffective or caused skin irritation. Deep Blue, on the other hand, really works and doesn’t have the usual medicinal smell of conventional creams.

I have migraines several times a month. Sometimes, they go away after a few hours, and other times they can last more than a day. To temporarily deal with the pain, I often apply peppermint and lemongrass oil to my temples and back of the neck. They don’t make a migraine disappear, but they can help me get through a bad hour or so until I’m able to take my medication. And sometimes, getting through that hour is really important.

Learning to Just breathe

My final chronic health problem is sinus- and indoor allergy-related. For this, Breathe, another doTerra product has been very helpful. The product is available in various formulations, including a vapor stick, roll-on, and essential oil blend. The vapor stick is similar to Vicks VapoRub. I find both products equally effective when I’m very congested or have a cold. However, I reach for Breathe because it simply doesn’t smell so medicinal. Diffusing the essential oil blend definitely helped me to sleep better and breathe easier, and I ultimately prefer it to the roll-on.

Finding the Fun in Essential Oils

The biggest surprise for me on my essential oils journey has been how much fun I’ve had experimenting with these products. I love discovering new oil combinations that I can diffuse or make into rollerballs. When you join doTerra, you get access to a very active, supportive online community of people. They share diffuser blend and rollerball recipes and online resources that convey important information. For example, which oils are safe to diffuse around pets, which ones shouldn’t be applied before going out in the sun, etc.

So, I’m excited to try my jasmine touch, and continue learning about essential oils. It’s awesome to discover something new that brings you joy, calm, pain relief, and a sense of fun. For me, that’s truly a unique combo.

East Van Panto Localizes The Wizard of Oz

“There’s no place like PoCo. There’s no place like PoCo.” Yes, in The Wizard of Oz, as presented by the East Van Panto, Dorothy lives in a tiny house in Port Coquitlam, not Kansas. She isn’t carried away by an act of God, but instead by a certain burst pipeline. And the wizard, well, you’ll have to come and see what local figure he turns out to be.

So, it’s not Judy Garland skipping along the yellow brick road, but I think that’s just fine.

A Re-imagining of a Classic

Dorothy lands at the intersection of Nanaimo and Hastings and in Vancouver, “the world’s greenest city”. She meets the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion, but they don’t look the way you might expect. Scarecrow is the weed-packed Stoned Crow. The Tin Man is Tin Them, an Eastside Culture Crawl sculpture that didn’t sell, oh and is gender-nonbinary. And, the cowardly lion is still cowardly, but now he’s a B.C. Lion player afraid of the ball.

All these re-imagined characters come with a unique soundtrack too, spanning genres and decades. The songs are also universally well-sung, as the East Van Panto cast has some serious pipes. Christine Quintana (Dorothy) is particularly impressive.

The sets also bring various Vancouver neighbourhoods to life, and the giant Wizard face is truly the standout visual in the show.

The East Van Panto Experience

This was my very first panto, and the participatory nature of the experience was more enjoyable than I expected. It was fun to sing along, shout out, and participate in ways frowned upon at a conventional theater performance.

The only thing that gave me pause was that the East Van Panto allows kids five and up to attend these shows. I think the theory is that children won’t get the more controversial stuff, and will simply enjoy the performance on a level different from adults. I’m not sure I completely buy that theory, though. Some kids are perceptive enough to get at least some of the more obvious things. So, if you’re not prepared to have a conversation with your kids about the green stuff inside of Stoned Crow and the chicken factory smell that puts Dorothy to sleep , I’d give this one a miss.

However, adults, you will laugh and smile. You’ll enjoy the jabs at politicians and the price of real estate, because, hey it’s better to laugh than cry, isn’t it?

Note: I won two tickets to this show and a luncheon that preceded it from the SFU alumni association. This was a wonderful treat, and I sincerely thank my alma mater for it. Read about my last win from SFU here.

East Van Panto lunch

Refresh Market Contest Win

Another day, another craft fair win! Yes, as you may remember I recently won two tickets to Circle Craft Market and had a fabulous time. My latest win took me out to Squamish and the Refresh Market. Many thanks to Miss604 for offering the First Dibs Access contest. The prize included the following for myself and my husband:

  • Early entrance to the market before the public (1 hour before opening)
  • Two cocktails
  • Two goody bags including coffee and wonderfully fragrant bath salts

Refresh Market coffee and bath saltsRefresh Market: A Special Setting

Refresh Market Train

One thing that makes the Refresh Market unique is its location. The event is held in the West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish. Thus, there are many vintage trains and historic buildings that transport you back in time. We went on one of the railway cars, which a fortune teller was using, to see what was inside. Passenger cars with opulent bedspreads, a galley fully equipped with food stuffs like Dainticuts macaroni, and an office with a vintage typewriter; all this made me want to come back and explore the 12-acre site further.

Finds at Delish General Store

Delish General Store Finds at Refresh Market

Delish General Store is always a favourite for me at any craft fair I visit. They always have interesting items you haven’t seen anywhere else. This time, I bought these handbag rescue wipes and used them immediately upon returning home. My purse had been in need of some care and attention for some time. I was really impressed with the results. Quickly and with no mess, my purse has been restored to an almost like-new condition. This product is well-worth the $10 I spent, especially given that there are still plenty of wipes left in the box.

Also, I thought I’d give this stain remover stick a chance. For only $5, I thought it might help restore a couple of tops that have been looking rather forlorn in my dresser drawer. Fingers crossed that the results will make me as happy as the handbag wipes did!

Refresh Market Offers Tasty Treats

Food sampling at the Refresh Market is truly enjoyable. And, of course, we could not resist purchasing a couple of delectable offerings. The first came from another familiar favourite Coconama. Coconama salted caramel truffles Refresh MarketThis North Vancouver company makes Japanese chocolate ganache truffles that are little morsels of pure joy. This time we went for their most popular flavour, salted caramel. Definitely a great choice.

For the long drive home, we selected fruit jellies from North Shore Candy Company. This new candy start-up uses natural fruit flavours and colours in their products, and the taste is impressive. The flavours are strong and evocative of the summer fruit they were made from. North Shore Candy Company Refresh MarketThese are not the store-bought, waxy gummies of your childhood. No, these are something entirely different, and perfect for an hour-plus drive home on a Friday evening.

 

 

 

A Footnote from the Refresh Market

I couldn’t finish this post without mentioning Annie Axtell‘s lunar calendars. Though we didn’t buy one, I couldn’t help, but appreciate the quality work and creativity that went into creating them. So, if you’re looking for an affordable, eye-catching gift for the stargazer in your life, I think she may have that perfect present you’ve been searching for.

 

Circle Craft Market Win Inspires

Circle Craft Market

It’s no secret to any of my loyal readers that I love craft fairs. And the start of the Christmas craft fair season, always begins with the Circle Craft Market. So, I was very happy to win two tickets to this event where more than 300 artisans were selling their work. What I’m going to focus on in this post is the crafters that impressed me most with their creations, and show off some of the lovely things I bought from them.

Jackie Lee is Out of this World

Circle Craft Market Space Stuff

If all things outer space fascinate you, and you enjoy Art Deco, then Jackie Lee’s work will wow you. Her illustrations, stickers, and pins were unlike anything else at the market. This cycling astronaut pin and moon sticker are what we just had to take home.

Cheerful Tea Towels for Rainy Days

Circle Craft Market Tea Towels

My best friend has recently moved to Seattle. Like Vancouver, it’s a rainy place. Therefore, I thought that these bright and cheery tea towels might be an excellent item to add to her Christmas basket. Rain Goose Textiles is a North Vancouver-based company that has just a lovely selection of linen products with beautiful designs. Also, I was very tempted by their Bodum covers and tea cozies.

Felted Hedgehogs: My Mom’s Kryptonite

Circle Craft Market Felted Hedgehog

My mom cannot resist a hedgehog. Over the years, I have bought her hedgehog mugs, dryer balls, cards, and I recently made her a hedgehog Christmas ornament. And, Yuki, who runs Honey Canada, taught me how to make it. If you visit her website, or attend one of her classes at Bird on a Wire, you’ll understand just how adorable a piece of felt can become. At the Circle Craft Market, I couldn’t pass up this new hedgehog decoration she just designed. Mom is going to love it.

The Best Deal at the Circle Craft Market

Circle Craft Market spoons

Again, as some of you know, I am a bargain hunter. I love a deal on something fabulous. So, when I saw these spoons for only five dollars each, I had to have them. Swirly Spoons is also a local Vancouver company and has lots more affordable utensils on their site.

Let’s Talk Food

Vendors at the Circle Craft Market are very generous with their food samples. You get to try everything from chocolate to Indian curry. There were so many delectable creations I would love to have bought, but this is what I came away with:

*So, that’s it! The market was a lot of fun, and all the local artisans have really inspired me to keep sewing, felting, and cooking. If you’re interested in reading about one of my past craft fair wins, click here.

Vancouver Maritime Museum’s Winning Exhibit

The Lost Fleet Exhibit

I recently won tickets to the Vancouver Maritime Museum’s The Lost Fleet exhibit. The exhibit focused on the treatment of Japanese immigrants and those of Japanese descent in Vancouver during the Second World War. It’s main emphasis was on the confiscation of nearly 1,200 Japanese-Canadian owned fishing boats by Canadian officials on the British Columbia coast, which were eventually sold off to canneries and other non-Japanese fishermen. It’s not a pleasant period in our history. However, this was an excellent opportunity for me to learn more about this part of Vancouver’s past.

Japanese Internment in Vancouver

Now, I can only give the briefest overview about these events. Click here if you want to learn more. Basically, Vancouver’s Powell Street area once had a thriving Japanese community (Japanese-Canadians also lived in other parts of the province as well). After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese people in Vancouver were taken from their homes and placed in holding areas and internment camps. Holding areas included places like the livestock building at the Pacific National Exhibition where living conditions were very poor. Today, the Powell Street area only has remnants of the Japanese community. However, the yearly Powell Street Festival, helps to celebrate Japanese culture and the neighborhood as it once was.

Performances Liven Up the Vancouver Maritime Museum Exhibit

Vancouver Maritime Museum

The Vancouver Maritime Museum examined many aspects of the Japanese experience in Vancouver as part of their exhibit. What made it especially interesting, though, were the live performances. Actors read diary entries of Japanese-Canadians during WWII. They acted out roles like a Japanese ship captain, ordered to return to port, and a Canadian of Japanese descent asked to go to Japan.The exhibit also featured pottery and sound art, as well as artifacts and informative text about the period.

I also found it very interesting to visit the permanent collection, including the St. Roch vessel. It was especially lovely to go outside at sunset and see several vintage boats at the museum’s dock. Some rather strange objects were also on display inside the museum, such as a narwhal’s tusk.

A Tourist in My Own Town

Vancouver Maritime Museum

I’m rather ashamed to admit that I don’t know if I’ve ever been to this museum before. Yet, this brings home, again, why winning contests is awesome. You get the opportunity to go to places and do things you might not otherwise seek out. While traveling overseas is an amazing experience that I love, being a tourist in your own town can be fun too! So, many thanks to the Georgia Straight for making this adventure possible!

Sewing Class Teaches Me More Than Stitching

A Winning Journey

On June 17th, I won some pretty fabric in a draw at a sewing class. While this is a great prize, like so many of the things I’ve won, it’s often the journey to winning them which is interesting. The prize itself would not merit a blog post. Thus, I pose this question to you: have you ever really enjoyed something you weren’t that good at? Well, that’s how I feel about sewing. In the last five years or so, I’ve taken some classes. I’ve made some projects on my own; the most ambitious of which was a dress for my niece. These endeavors have had mixed results. However, I continue to keep sewing. Consequently, this is what led me to sign up for a strawberry-themed tea and sewing class on June 17th.

A Strawberry-themed Sewing Class

My best friend joined me for what began as a group of ladies sipping tea and munching on delicious scones around a small table at The Stitchery. This is a new Port Moody business that specializes in sewing classes and renting access to sewing machines. It was all very civilized and relaxing, but I knew what was coming next: a strawberry-themed sewing project. My best friend decided to make a strawberry purse, whereas I chose the strawberry pin cushion. I knew that my level of ambition should be in line with my level of ability!

Slow Progress

Then, I began. As usual, I started with lots of enthusiasm, which quickly devolved into a bit of confusion. I needed to ask for help midway, and at the end when a tiny hole emerged at project end. I was also slow. The senior ladies in the group finished their projects very quickly while we hurried to finished before the next group of people were due to take their places at the machines.

Life-long Learning

So, why do I continue to do this? I think it has a lot to do with who I am. I hate to give in to my own weaknesses. I’m not a hands-on learner, but I want to improve my capabilities. I know I’m not very patient, but I want to be. It’s easy for me to sit in front of a computer screen and write, but I want to be more than a wordsmith. And, hey, five years ago I couldn’t operate a sewing machine or even sew on a button by hand, but now I can. So, I’m not going to give up. I refuse to be discouraged. I’ll give it my best and I’ll be better for it. And also, who doesn’t love a pretty piece of fabric?

 

The Wellness Show Win

Well, everyone, I’m back! It’s been a long hiatus, but I’ve finally won another contest. A couple of weeks ago, I entered an in-store draw at Nesters Market and won tickets to The Wellness Show. So, last Saturday, I toddled off to the Vancouver Convention Centre to experience the event for the first time.

Samples, Samples, Samples!

I love free samples—who doesn’t? So, the food area of The Wellness Show was a dream come true. Also, they were healthy samples, so pretty much a guilt-free experience. I did buy a few things as well, though, that I thought you’d like to hear about:

  • Quesava Veggie Poppers: very cheesy mini buns that are seriously addictive. A bit much at $10 a box, but they are gluten-free and quick to bake—a good thing to have on hand for my next party.
  • Bingo Lactose-free Gouda CheeseTwo blocks for $10 was an excellent deal. I was also pleasantly surprised by how nicely the cheese melted, as I’ve had some dairy-free cheeses that didn’t work out well.
  • Tea from Tea SparrowFour 18-gram bags for $12. As I’m writing this, I’m enjoying Mandarin Rose. It’s a unique blend with the caffeine boost I’m looking for in the a.m.
  • Laiki Rice Crackers$3, made with red or black rice, oil, and salt. A little on the oily side, but not overwhelming if eaten in moderation. Unfortunately, I am guilty of eating an entire bag at one sitting.
  • Organic Maple Syrup: $13 for a large bottle that is as good as you’d expect from our Canadian staple

A Table Tennis Workout

The Wellness Show Table Tennis

The North Shore Table Tennis Club had a bunch of tables set up and I couldn’t resist playing for the first time in what must be at least a decade. First, I played against the Ping Pong robot. It kept firing at me and I was soon able to return the shots. Then, I played against my husband and, well, we were both equally bad. However, I think rediscovering something fun that gets you up and moving is very cool.

Other Reasons The Wellness Show Was Fun

  • Massagers for your back, feet, and shoulders that you could try for free
  • Various demonstrations and talks on several different stages: celebrity cooking, healthy families, living well, women & wellness, and zen fitness
  • Very awesome deals (e.g. $10 off $50 worth of groceries from Nesters)

Also, and most importantly, a space in which to think about how to live a healthier and happier life. Which leads to the big question: would I go to the show again next year if I had to pay for tickets? The answer is definitely ‘yes’. At $12.50 per adult online, it’s a great deal, especially given that we don’t take enough time out to stop and think about what it would mean to live a better life. And, that’s where I think The Wellness Show is great because it presents so many different options for you to consider when it comes to how you want to achieve that goal.

Note: Life’s gotten a bit busier for me lately. Thus, these contest posts have become less frequent than they once were. However, I will still make time to update my blog when I can. If you feel you’re not getting enough Rebecca in the meantime, please check out my posts on digital marketing and disability awareness.

Stay well, everybody!

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Flor de Caña Rum Party Prize

Flor de Caña: The Taste of Summer

I was fortunate enough to win entry for myself and three friends to the Hot Nica Nights Fire and Ice celebration. We arrived at the North Vancouver Shipyards and made our way to the outdoor venue. We could smell the burning tiki torches and hear the music long before we actually arrived at the Flor de Caña rum party.

When we did enter the outdoor venue, the first thing we noticed was the view. The blue sky and the blue inlet merging together, almost making

North Vancouver Inlet view

us forget we hadn’t suddenly taken a plane to a more exotic locale. I think I might have appreciated it even more, had I known that these beautiful summer skies would soon be replaced by a smoky haze.

 My Rum History

In any case, we were here primarily to try some Flor de Caña rum. This rum comes from Nicaragua, and has a 125-year heritage. Now, I’m going to be totally honest here. Prior to this event, I had never heard of this particular brand of rum. I tend to drink Appleton Estate’s Signature Blend and really enjoy it in various cocktails. However, I have tried other kinds of rum, including Bacardi, Captain Morgan, Havana Club, and Lamb’s. Also, I should mention that this was my first experience at a rum tasting too.

We each received two tickets at the door: one for a glass of the 12-year-old Flor de Caña and one for the 18-year-old. We could also have unlimited tastings of the seven-year-old rum, either straight or mixed.

Age Matters

Flor de Caña rum

I began by trying the 12-year-old rum on the rocks. It had a nice spicy, yet mellow flavor. I liked that it wasn’t overpowering and that I could enjoy it on its own.

Next, I went for a cocktail made with the seven-year-old. It also contained simple syrup, lemon juice, and hibiscus tea. Absolutely fabulous! Hands down, one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had, and I do claim some prior imbibing experience in the cocktail department! It had just the right amount of sweetness, which was key, so that I could enjoy the rum itself.

Finally, I tried the 18-year-old. That packed a powerful punch. Too much of a punch for me. At this point in the evening, one of my companions questioned whether we should be drinking rum straight at all. In his words, “What are we, pirates?” A difficult question indeed.

Will I Be Buying Flor de Caña?

Yes, I think so. At least, I’ll alternate between it and my Appleton’s. I’m not sure, given that I do drink rum only in cocktails, that I would spring for the 12-year-old, though. I feel like the seven-year-old definitely did everything I’d like a rum to do.

What I really want is the recipe for that hibiscus tea cocktail. Flor de Caña does have some great concoctions on their site, but my favorite libation is nowhere to be found. If you can track it down, my loyal readers, please leave a comment, send smoke signals, whatever you can to help me solve this truly first world problem.

Dutch Cheese For the Win!

What a Gouda Win It Was

Sorry, the pun was too much for me to resist. Yes, I won $50 of Dutch cheese from the Holland Shopping Centre! The win also conveniently occurred close to my open house party, so guests got to enjoy the following (see pic):

    • Pesto gouda: green and very delicious
    • Asparagus gouda: surprisingly good
    • Medium aged gouda: a classic, must-have
    • Goat’s milk gouda: a nice alternative for the lactose-sensitive
    • Smoked applewood cheddar: not Dutch, but delicious!
    • Tomato basil havarti: again, not Dutch, but still yummy!

      Holland Shopping Centre: Not Just Dutch Cheese

      If you haven’t been to the Holland Shopping Centre, I recommend you take a trip out to this New Westminster shop. It really has all things Dutch: salty and sweet licorice, croquettes,wooden shoes stroop waffles, tea towels, Heineken beer glasses, dishes, wooden shoes, and of course, Dutch cheese.

      Also, the day I went to pick up my winning cheese, I had one of their deli sandwiches. I was very overwhelmed by the huge choice of cheese. I ended up asking the clerk to slice what she thought was the tastiest Gouda and add it to my turkey sandwich.

      Connecting with My Roots

      One of the reasons I love visiting Holland Shopping Centre is it helps me to connect with my Dutch heritage. My grandfather came to Canada from The Netherlands when he was 18 years old, but I have several cousins who still live there. I’ve been to The Netherlands five times, and have been fortunate enough to visit Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Maastricht, and several other cities over the years.

      My family, and the Dutch people in general, are very hospitable. You’ll experience what they call ‘gezellig‘. It’s this feeling of coziness, warmth, and a certain untranslatable feeling of oneness with the space you are in. I’ve felt it in Dutch bars the most, and I’m always happy to give recommendations as to where to visit!

      My Dutch Bucket List

      Tulips

      I would love to return to The Netherlands again soon, and there are two things I would especially love to do. The first is to see the Aalsmeer Flower Auction. It seems amazing that something so beautiful and fragile as a tulip can require such intricate processes to move it from one location to another.

      The second activity would be a walking tour of sorts. I want to see many of the original buildings that were the inspiration for the KLM houses. These little Delft houses are given to business travelers who fly KLM. Little Kingdom By the SeaWe received these two houses on our honeymoon flight home (even though we weren’t flying business class). Also, Little Kingdom By the Sea is a great resource for finding out all the stories behind the houses.

 

Tot ziens!