On Anxiety and Mental Health

I’ve written bits and pieces of this post before, but as opposed to other topics, where I can just write endlessly without much thought or time, this gave me much grief. But with the annual “Bell Lets Talk” day for mental health here, I felt it was now or never.

I’ve struggled with anxiety and (mild) depression ever since I was a kid. I never really put the pieces together until I was an adult, but I had a bit of a ‘rough’ childhood in ways. With adults coming and going from my life a lot, it created an anxiety about being alone and being away from home that’s lasted until this day.

Anxiety is a weird animal. You can have days where you’re just fine, you don’t think about it, you laugh about the fact that you even have it to begin with. Then you have days where you can barely function to get yourself out of bed because you feel the weight of everything crashing on you.

I, personally, struggle the most when I am in a place that is unfamiliar to me. My “fight or flight” kicks in and I just want to get the hell out of place I am in and get to somewhere familiar. This is especially unfortunate given my love of travel. There’s nothing that I would rather do than hop on a plane and head somewhere interesting – however, mentally that is much easier said than done. This is why most people are always really surprised when I tell them about my problems. Outwardly, you would never know anything at all was wrong.

For me, everything kind of came to a head when I was in the middle of a road trip in 2016. I found myself in the middle of an extreme panic attack in a condo in Florida, freaking the eff out. It got so bad that I nearly booked myself a ticket to come back home. Thank god the friends I was with have patience for me, especially Dana, who knows all my neurosis and still talks to me, because I credit them for persuading me to stay, even though I know I probably wasn’t the easiest person to deal with.

I also realized that I do the worst possible thing in those scenarios – I push people away. I’m so concerned with ‘being the fun police’ that I basically tell everyone to go on without me, and have a great time. When really, being alone in my brain is the very, very worst thing that can happen.

After that incident, I was so ashamed and sad just wondering what the hell was wrong with me. Here I am, supposed to be having the best time ever and I was miserable, stuck in my own brain.

When I got back home, I had a long talk with my doctor about everything that had happened. Suggestions of daily medications were tossed around, but we decided not to jump to that right away. Instead, I’ve been fuelling myself by doing little things that make myself feel better. I exercise more than ever, I’ve been journalling (writing things out really helps) and I’ve been talking about how I feel more. The more you talk, the more you realize that many people are the same as you. But I do have a little medicated help – I have a steady supply of Ativan on hand in case I ever need it, and there’s no shame in that.

In November I managed to go on a mini-trip without taking one drug – not not the plane ride there or back, not to try and sleep at night. That was a huge, huge win for me. I think I’m ‘coming out the other side’ of this thing, but it will always be with me.

It’s not just limited to travel either, it happens anytime I am out of my ‘element’. I’ve had times when I’ve had to leave restaurants, parties, stores, friend’s houses etc. all because I felt overwhelmed and just had to get myself out.

I realize that my problems are only the tip of what many people have, but just being aware and sensitive to the fact that there are so, so many people that struggle with mental issues is so important. It’s just as important as your physical health.

If I wanted to, at this very moment, I could talk myself into a minor panic attack that can get my palms sweaty and my heart racing as if I’d run a 5k race. It sucks, it just sucks so bad.

Why did I write this? I don’t even know. But if you ever stumble upon it, just know you are most definitely not alone. Anxiety sucks, but with help and good people around you, it doesn’t have to own you.

The Return

After nearly a year, I have returned! I just realized that I wrote a blog about turning 30 and then disappeared. Now that 2016 is over, I realized that I’m paying for this site, so I’d may as well use it.

What was 2016 for me? Well, a lot of things. Mainly good but of course there was some bad along the way as well.

I travelled a lot last year – I went to Vegas for a week, did another two week stint through the south, spent a long weekend in Toronto, did some local poking about. I’m sure I’ll get to all of that later.

It was a bit of a rough year with my mental health, I had a bit of time where my anxiety threatened to overtake me, but I think I’m finally ‘coming out the other side’ of that, so I’m hopeful for a breathe-easy 2017.

I’ve had friends get married, had many parties, events, etc. So I have quite a lot to catch up on as we venture forward into 2017.

Also if you want to check it out I’m blogging a weekly column over at Fangirlish so feel free to come on over and check me out!

I already know that this year is going to bring some big changes, but bring it on, I’m ready.

On Turning 30

It’s been said that writing things ‘on paper’ helps with dealing with emotions, so what I’m about to present to you is basically my excerpt from a “Dear Diary”.

In two days I am turning 30. 30. The Big three-oh. I don’t know how and when that happened but there’s not much I can really do about it.

I’ve never been that person who cared much about their age, the numbers kept piling up and I was just going with the flow. All until this year.

30 has hit me like a ton of bricks and I don’t exactly know what to do about it.

Honestly, I don’t think it’s as much the age as the frame of mind that the looming decade change has put me into. It’s had me dealing with questions I should have been probably been thinking about long before this. I’ll be 30, single, with no kids. What does that say about me? Do I want to get married? Do I want kids? If so, I’m going to have to get my ass in gear soon, these ovaries aren’t going to last forever.

Most of my friends are already married (or getting married soon) which means babies won’t be far around the corner. Which is going to mean big changes to our “circle” and how we operate. Do I want to join the crowd or will I forever be spinster “Aunt Terri” who takes care of the kids when the parents go out for a night, but am never that parent. These are all the things that are currently plaguing my brain.

Where is my life going? What are my accomplishments? Sure, I’m decently well traveled and I have a fun circle of family and friends, but what else? I never did write that novel I’ve had in the back of my head for the better part of five years. I never lived up to that childhood dream of becoming a sports journalist. Where am I going professionally? Is this really what I want to be doing?

Logically, I know I’m still (relatively) young and have some time to figure myself out, but I’m not going to convince myself that this time is endless, when it is not.

This decade of my life will probably bring about more change than any other, and am I equipped to deal with that? I sure as hell hope so.

Why am I even writing this? I feel like I’m probably not the only one who’s dealing with these hard hitting emotions and I just want you to know you are totally not alone. I think, as the clock nearly strikes on my “champagne birthday” that I’m finally reaching the acceptance part of my 30’s emotional crisis, but let me tell you, it has not come easily.

On the good side, in a way, perhaps this crisis will be good for me. As I said, it’s already made me question things I should have already been doing, so now maybe I’ll stop being so paresseaux (fancy way of saying lazy) and finally start making progressive changes in my life. I can do it, right?

To my 20’s, I will miss you fondly and the fun times you’ve brought me, and I am basically giving you up kicking and screaming. To my 30’s, well, I hope you manage to exceed your former decade, no matter how hard that is to think about right now.

Savannah – Beautifully Weird

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Savannah, Georgia turned out to be a bit of a surprise for me. It had everything you’d imagine – weeping trees, old houses and churches, amazing hospitality but, what we soon found out is that the area can be quite dangerous as well.

The hotel that we stayed at was a very nice IMG_2586(the Springhill Suites) and it was located just on the edge of the historic district. We soon found out that you really need to confine yourself to this area, as the zone outside the historic district isn’t exactly pleasant.

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Serious notice, seriously bad grammar.

According to a tour driver, who took the guys on a haunted tour, crime is very high in Savannah but you are generally very safe within the historic district as it it heavily policed.  Learning this made us a little more cautious than we might have otherwise been, but it didn’t damper the trip. And it shouldn’t stop you from going there – it’s a beautiful area, full of history and most definitely a place you should see.

What are my tips for visiting Savannah? They are as follows:

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About to sample some honey wine!

#1 – Park your car and leave it. The historic area is not terribly large, if you’ve got decent mobility you should be able to walk it all quite easily. Also, you’ll be able to experience the city much better by foot – finding fun places to shop, eat and just generally browse. I’d highly suggest stopping by the Savannah Bee Company and sampling some honey mead wines (and also buying some stuff – my grandmother was a big fan of their products, I wish I could get it in Canada!)

Tip #2 – You can drink in public. As long as you liquor is in a plastic container/cup it is perfectly legal to drink in public in Savannah. As soon as we learned this we cracked open some cans of Four Loko (more on that later) and went on our way.

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I sat this one out, but two of the group went for it.

Tip #3 – Stay inside the historic district. I already said this above, but this is my strongest recommendation. On our first night there, the two guys in our group went across the road to a local gas station. They proclaimed before leaving that “if we’re not back in 10 minutes, we’re dead!” Likely a slight exaggeration, but it wasn’t the best area.

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A friendly man took this photo – and asked us for change afterward. He was harmless.

Tip #4 – Watch out for scams. That friendly man who offers to take your photo? Yeah, he’s probably going to want cash afterward. Most of these people are totally harmless, but just be aware.

Tip #5 – Take a free tugboat ride. There are many riverboat cruises you can take, but if
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Although I didn’t present the best picture of Savannah I don’t want you to think it’s a horrible, unsafe place to visit. Just be aware of your surroundings and you’ll be just fine!

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Christmas Shopping 101

I’ll admit – I am one of these annoying people that loves Christmas. I start shopping early, I put my tree up early (it went up yesterday, no joke) and I always plan a bunch of Christmas related activities.

However, what I really do not like is trying to navigate the insane crowds that seem to be appearing earlier and earlier each year. Last Sunday, more than a full month before Christmas. I decided to run out and have a look for a few things, the lines at the local Toys R Us store were about 20 people deep and there was absolutely nowhere to park at the mall. This lead me to come home in frustration and whip out my laptop.

I’ve been doing more and more shopping online in recent years, but this will probably be my heaviest year yet. With a big list and a lack of patience I find it’s the best way to get things done.

So, where do I shop? That’s the whole point of this post!

Note: This will be heavily geared toward Canadian shoppers, but Americans may find pieces of it helpful, as most sites ship to both countries.

Beyond the Rack – This is a discounted site where you can find things that have been sold off from various brands/designers. It’s a great way to get some quality stuff for a good price. The only thing about this site, and I really mean it is ORDER EARLY. Most of the time it takes about 2-3 weeks for merchandise to get from their origins to the Beyond the Rack facility and then a further week or so to get to your home address. So if you want to order from them do it NOW if you want to get it in time for Christmas.

The Children’s Place – If you have any little people on your list, the Children’s Place is a great stop. They always, I repeat ALWAYS have a sale on. And, if they don’t, Google “the Children’s Place promo code” and you’re sure to find one. Just last week I ordered about $100 dollars worth of merchandise for about $40 shipped, taxes in. Also, they ship very quickly. My shipment left Toronto on a Tuesday night and arrived at my house in Newfoundland less than 24 hours later.

Snorg Tees – Snorg specializes in funny, topical tshirts. They have a lot of product (I always find myself on the site for probably an hour, time I get through it all). They do charge for shipping but I don’t generally get charged duties on them, and the times that I have, it’s only been nominal.

Amazon – It’s cliche, but cheap prices, quick shipping and a large variety of product make this one of my favourite sites – especially if you want to order something mid-December (because you’ll still get it in time for Christmas).

Blurb – This option will take the most time, but it makes a great gift. You can download the site’s software and make yourself a book of any kind. In the last few years, whenever I’ve returned home from a road trip, I compile photos and make one of these for my travel companions. There is easier software out there, but after a small learning curb I like what you can do with Blurb. Also, the books range from about $20 and up but you can often get coupon codes for 40-50% off of your order.

Gap – As you might have noticed, I love a good sale! So the fact that every year Gap offers 40-50% off sales leading up to Christmas is great. You can get some great stuff for yourself for all those Christmas events, as well as some good presents. I’m particular fond of their athletic line. It’s durable and good quality and cheap than Lululemon.

Think Geek – Think Geek is a fabulous site filled with great, fun and nerdy goods. But I am warning you now – if you are Canadian you are going to pay duties on your order and it’s not going to be pretty.

Above all of these great options, if you live in an area that isn’t as insane as where I live, I strongly recommend that you get out an support your local business community. Even if you have to pay a little more, it’s worth it. I’ll always try and make a round or two of the downtown area before the holiday season – it’s a fun way to pass an afternoon.

On the Battlefields of Virginia

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After spending a bit of time in rural (ish) Virginia we all quickly developed an affinity for the state. So much so that Dion still talks about someday moving there! What did we enjoy about Virginia? Well, a lot of things.

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The grounds outside of the Historic Powhattan Resort.

We stayed at the Historic Powhattan Resort which is just outside of Williamsburg and that was a great plus point on its own. Although it’s a part of the Diamond International group (and you may get subjected to a sales pitch) it is a great place to stay if travelling with a few people. We had a moderately sized condo with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a small balcony. It seemed not a lot of people were staying there at the same time we were (it was mid-week and in September) which was all the more great for us. The resort has a pool, hot tub, tennis courts and a large number of wildlife. On top of it being cicada season we also saw a group of deer and two skunks (we made sure to keep our distance from those guys!)

We also spent some time learning some local history. We visited Historic Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg and did the driving tour of the Yorktown battlefields.

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Note: In case of war, do not replicate this pose. You will die.
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Met myself a new friend.

Coming from Canada, it was a pretty interesting way to spend the day. None of us are major history buffs or anything, but since our country has never had any major wars fought on it, it was cool to see the old trenches and cannons.

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Oh hi, local Newfoundland restaurant.

Another random/weird experience that we had in Virginia was coming across a local restaurant chain! In the information left in our room we’d seen a brochure for “Jungle Jims” restaurant. We instantly thought “nahh can’t be, must just be a same name coincidence”. But nope, in the middle of Virginia we found the only franchise of a restaurant based in Newfoundland to exist outside of Canada. It was surreal and of course we had to go eat there. However, don’t get too excited because we discovered not long after coming back home that the restaurant closed. So there goes the chance for Americans to experience such local gems as “monkey fingers and fries” and “Jim’s chicken taquitos”.

As for tips for visiting the Williamsburg area?

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All of this cost about $45. In Canada it would be closer to $75.

Tip #1 – Save money by visiting the local Walmart or chainstore. If you want to save some money, or simply don’t want take out for every meal, I suggest taking a stop at one of these places. You’ll be able to get breakfast food, snacks, weird souvenirs and even liquor – which is something that you definitely cannot do in Canada.

Tip #2 – You’re going to need a car. I mean, it’s probably a given, that if you visit somewhere outside of a large city that you’ll need your own transport. But this is definitely true of the Williamsburg area. If you want to visit the battlefields, explore the historic area, etc. just save yourself some hassle and pick up a cheap rental.

So that’s my thoughts on the Williamsburg area. Have you ever been there? Where are your favourite places in Virginia?

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(Less than) 24 hours in Washington D.C.

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If you’ve ever stumbled upon my blog, you’ll find one of my most favourite things to talk about is travel. I could talk for days – especially if I find someone who’s been to some of the same places as I have.  Because of this, I thought I’d take some time to explore a little more in-depth some of my favourite places that I’ve been. Many have been visited while on long road trips, meaning that I’ve seen a little of a lot, but I try to make that ‘little’ as meaningful as possible.

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Shane and I being a little too overtired (also, check out the Washington Monument photobombing us).

First on my list is Washington, D.C. which is a fantastic city which I’ve spent less than 24 hours, but I managed to see quite a bit in that short span.

We arrived in Baltimore only to immediately grab our rental car and proceed on the roughly one hour drive to Washington.

After travelling on an early am flight from St. John’s (through Toronto and then through Baltimore) it was an insanely exhausting day, but we also knew it would probably be our only chance in a long time to see the city (since we would only be there for one night before heading on to Virginia). So as soon as we were checked into our hotel, we laced up our sneakers and caught the subway to the Capitol District.

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Checking out the (outside of) the Smithsonian.

Tip #1 – Everything is further away than you think it is. When you’re in front of the Washington Monument, gazing toward the Capitol Building you may think “wow, this really isn’t too far!” Do not be fooled, it is. You’ll walk for probably 40 minutes or more to get there. But the walk is very nice and you’ll pass the Smithsonian and a bunch of other interesting buildings along the way.

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The Capitol Building at dusk.

 

Tip #2 – Don’t be afraid after dark. No really, Washington is surprisingly quiet after dark. As dusk hit, really the only people that we saw around were joggers, which actually comforted us, because we figured if they felt safe enough there, so should we.

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The subway station seemed pretty fancy to us!

Tip #3 – Use the Subway. While we had a rental car, we didn’t want to be worried about driving in downtown DC, so we decided to take on the subway system and you know what? It was super easy. When we first arrived, we had to ask for help (which people were very okay with providing) but after a quick lesson we were on our way. It was very quick and timely.

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Arlington National Cemetery – white stone grave markers for as far as the eye can see.

Finally, although the majority of our ‘visit’ was spent outside of buildings, on our way to our next destination we did make time to stop at Arlington National Cemetery. I’d basically consider myself to be a pacifist, but there’s something about seeing the graves of thousands and thousands of people that have died in protection of their country that can bring a tear to your eye. It’s a huge place, we only saw a part of it, but still it was most definitely worth the stop.

So there you have it! Are there many, many more awesome things to see and do in Washington? Most definitely, and I recommend you check them out. But if you only have a few hours to spare, you can see some great things. Should I find myself in the city again, I would probably arrange to take a few tours and eat some local food, as all we had time to ‘indulge’ in was McDonalds! 

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Shane checking out Obama’s pad (from a distance, of course!)

Trinity Loop in Ruins

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Just the skeleton of the old ferris wheel now remains.

About a 45 minute drive from my hometown used to lie a very quaint little ‘amusement park’. I use the term in quotations because there were no big, scary rides, no waterpark or anything like that, but to a small child it was pretty great. Here’s a brief explanation of a ‘day in the life’ at Trinity Loop.

10am – Start begging whatever parent/grandparent/guardian/whoever had the bright idea to tell you the night before that you were going, that its most definitely time to leave.

11am – Arrive at park and be greeted by the cardboard cutout referred to as “Choo Choo Charlie” who would enthusiastically wave at all as they entered.

11:15am – Start begging for cotton candy.

11:20am – Ride ferris wheel.

11:30am – Ride bumper boats.

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It’s hard to see, but the old railway has been totally washed away.

12pm – Ride the train (actual train) that would take you around the park. This is what made the park special, the fact that it was a full train loop (one of only few in North America) that was used to help trains to get more efficiently to higher/lower elevations. Once the rail system ceased to exist in Newfoundland, the Loop was built around this train ride and was its signature attraction.

12:30pm – Finally get some cotton candy.

12:45pm – Go for a ride on a paddle boat where inevitably whatever adult was in your presence would do all the hard work while you chilled out in the back.

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The remnants of the mini golf course.

1:15pm – Repeat 11:20 and 11:30.

2pm – Play mini-golf

3pm – Beg for one last ride on the ferris wheel but ended up placated by being offered a late lunch/early supper on the caboose dining car.

3:30pm – Eat chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs.

4pm – Leave to go home.

As you see, it wasn’t an overly fancy place but definitely enough to keep a kid occupied for a day.

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What was once the sign for the train ride now lays in what was once a bumper boat pool.

Here’s where the sad part starts – around 2004, due both in part to dwindling attendance and high upkeep of the attractions, the park closed. It was always hoped it may be able to open again in the future. However in 2011 the area was hit by a bad hurricane that basically destroyed the remnants of it and has left it in a terrible state of disrepair.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend (early October) a friend and I went home for the long weekend and decided to check out the old site to see what it had become. It wasn’t pretty.

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Alyson checking out the destruction for the first time.

Basically what followed was a soul crushing look at a piece of our childhood destroyed. It now resembles a place that wouldn’t go amiss in a horror film. We left the place both glad we had the chance to see it in person and also very sad. We made sure to listen to happy music on the drive back home!

If you want some more information on the site, I suggest clicking here and if you’d like to see some HG photos of the ruins of this place I suggest taking a look at Hidden Newfoundland.

 

DIY 90’s Party


IMG_8264Laser backgrounds? Check. Vintage candy? Obviously. Spice Girls? Oh hell yes. All of these ‘ingredients’ and more went into making my friend Dana’s (in the pic above with me) birthday. It was her big 30th so we felt the need to go all-out for it. What follows is a collaboration of DIY projects that made it a memorable night.

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To go along with the laser background we printed off some pictures of some classic 90s icons to use photo booth style (I mean what kind of a 90s party doesn’t pay reference to both the Titanic AND the iceberg that sunk it).

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On both Pinterest and Etsy I kept seeing cupcake pictures that were available for purchase. I thought to myself ‘this can’t be very hard to recreate on my own’ and it really wasn’t. All you need is a coloured printer, some card stock and a few craft sticks. The hardest part for me was the glue gun, which obviously resulted in a few fingers being glued together ;).

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Diana had seen a great recipe online for making multicoloured icing for cupcakes. We were super impressed at how well it turned out. All you needed was to make some white icing, add some food colouring and then add it all to a piping bag. You didn’t even have to be particularly careful in how you ‘arranged’ the icing in the bag.

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Not bad, hey?

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Dana herself created this masterpiece of a food table. She taped together some old VHS cassettes, added in a bunch of classic candy (ring pops, fruit by the foot, etc), and put out some fruit loops for the munching!

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Another 90s classic is the paint splatter background, a favourite in many a school photo. Here Shane and Dion pose in some 90s fashion favourites – including denim on denim.

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The weekend before the party a few of us had gone to our childhood homes for the Thanksgiving long weekend. There we raided our old closets and attics to come up with some 90s gear. Among what we found were Babysitters Club Books, posters, Barbies and an intense collection of troll dolls. All free and all very nostalgic.

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So there you have it! To keep this post from going excessively long here is just an overview of all the things we found and created for the party. Most everything was done for very cheap and it was definitely a very collaborative effort. It was fun to be able to create some of this stuff and as the rest of our crew starts hitting 30 in the new year, perhaps we’ll put these skills to use again!

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Jennifer could not have looked more amazing in her wet suit!

Roots, Rants & Roars

Every September my hometown of Elliston, Newfoundland hosts a culinary festival called Roots, Rants & Roars. Chefs from all over (local, Canadian and even some American) gather and prepare meals from locally sourced ingredients.

Considering the fact that Elliston has less than 400 permanent residents, and that Saturday night there are generally over 350 attendees – none of the local, it’s a pretty impressive feat. The festival gets great press and it seems to be growing more popular as time goes on.

The past two years, I have been traveling at the time of the festival and have not been able to attend, this year I knew I had nothing major planned so I decided to go home for the weekend to volunteer. If any of you reading ever want to go to an expensive event (weekend passes for this event are $250 each) I highly suggest trying to volunteer for it. Not only do you basically get to try/do/see everything, you get the added bonus of being able to get in on all the behind the scenes action.

My friend Diana is a big foodie, and this year she accompanied me to the event, she enjoyed herself so much that she thanked one of the event coordinators for letting her volunteer! Needless to say, we’ll be back again next year. My thoughts on this event are more of an overview, bit if you want more in-depth information on all the food from the event, I suggest checking out Diana’s blog.

Here is a brief photo essay from the weekend.

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On Friday night we got to attend and “enjoy” the festival in advance of volunteering on Saturday. That night’s theme was the “King of Cod” in which each chef prepared a different dish featuring cod. At the end of the night the participants vote on their favourite and that chef it crowed King. Although I didn’t get a pic of the food, this was my favourite dish.
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This was the winning dish – cod ramen!
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Cheers for food festivals!
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I snapped this pic of my nan that same weekend, I’d like to caption it “75 and still picking” (blueberries, that is!)
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Diana and I ‘burlapped’ abut 40 tables before the big multi-course supper on Saturday. We were servers for the night (it was intense, I’ve never served before).
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A bit of liquid courage before we start our intense night.
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Anddd we’re done! It was hard work but really fun, I must say. Here’s a shot of the crowd, post food and enjoying some entertainment.
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This was my favourite food of the entire festival – build your own creampuffs in which you could choose your fillings!
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This is what happens when you know most of the organizers of the event…