Kaeleigh Phillips


Rock climbing and conquering my fear of heights

Suspended 35 ft. in the air could easily be 1000 ft. the way I’m shaking. My heart is beating in my ears, my palms are sweaty, and I’m left wondering why the hell I am rock climbing when I’m terrified of heights.

Georgia Esporlas, an instructor with Joe Rockhead’s, an indoor rock climbing facility in Toronto, shouts up to me from below, “It is time for you to rappel down. You need to take your hands from the wall and sit back.” Every fibre of my being was telling me not to follow those instructions. I understand somewhere underneath the currents of fear overwhelming my brain that my terror is illogical and I’m not going to die. But I still can’t manage to do it. Esporlas informs me that it is necessary. I am already at the top of the wall and I have no other choice.

At the top of 35 ft. wall Photo by Georgia Esporlas.
At the top of 35 ft. wall Photo by Georgia Esporlas.

So, I let go of the wall. Suddenly, this debilitating fear slowly ceases to control me. Deep breathing helps. I close my eyes and sit back to be rappelled back down. After I get to the bottom, all I want to do is go up again. How can this be explained? What is this deep desire to expose myself to my profound fear of heights for a second time?

Joe Rockhead’s Indoor Climbing has been open since June 1992 and is a labyrinth of wicked climbing terrain. The facility is tucked away in Liberty Village in a large factory building with a 32 ft. ceiling. The rock climbing gym is home to a variety of climbers ranging from bouldering enthusiasts to lead climbers.

Bouldering doesn’t use ropes and is lower to the ground, but it can be just as challenging. “When you are bouldering, you have to make sure the rock doesn’t own you,” explains Esporlas.  “Make sure you can hold onto it. Don’t climb what you can’t jump off of and try to land flat.”

Even with these tips, my first rock climbing lesson at Joe Rockhead’s reflects how difficult it is to master the variety of routes that instructors change weekly to keep climbers engaged. We move to top-roping, notably the safest form of climbing; I learn how to tie the proper knots and belay safely; and then I begin climbing.

Esporlas helping me learn to boulder. Photo by Paolo Mendoza.
Esporlas helping me learn to boulder. Photo by Paolo Mendoza.

My instructor has been climbing for over 20 years and I recommend her ten times over as an instructor if you venture over to Joe’s for a lesson. She previously competed professionally and has climbed all over the world — her favourite place to climb is in Thailand by the beach. She has skydived 55 times and is a self-noted “adrenaline junkie,” but when I inform her that I am scared of heights, she shockingly responds with “I used to be scared of heights too”.

Esporlas advises to face the fear head-on.

“The more you climb, the more you get comfortable with it. Once you overcome it, the fear just passes through you. It is such a personal journey. It doesn’t matter whether it is climbing or sky diving. It is the heights, it is trust issues within yourself and your partner who is belaying with you.”

Climbing enthusiast Joel Woodhouse agrees. “The first initial reaction I get for being a mountain climber is ‘you are crazy’,” he said. “That comes from people not understanding how it works. People often think it is solo climbing. I’m not climbing to die, I’m climbing to live.”

Woodhouse hails from Calgary, AB. and began climbing in his early 20’s. He previously worked at Crux Climbing Centre in Calgary from 2011 to 2016, and has been dedicated to outdoor climbing for seven years. Woodhouse describes rock-climbing as not just a sport, but a way of life.

The climb hasn’t always been easy. One fated day in 2010, Woodhouse was traditional climbing, a challenging form of climbing where you set the route as you go, and he fell 25 ft.

“I had a big fall and broke my left ankle. I was in a wheelchair for a month and had a couple of surgeries on my foot,” he recalled. “I fell because I did a number of things that created a lot of slack. Initially, I didn’t feel the smash. It was a minute or two later that I felt the pain and reality set in.”

Luckily, Woodhouse was with three other climbers and one of his colleagues built a rope swing so they could carry him out. “Every time the swing jolted, I felt the bone clicking as I moved. It was very painful.”

The accident didn’t make him want to quit though. He was back on the wall in no time, with an air cast still on his foot.

“Climbing didn’t do that to me, I did that because of my lack of experience and arrogance. I felt like it was something I had chosen,” said Woodhouse. “It’s a lifestyle. To not climb after that obstacle would have led to other barriers in my life.”

 Joel Woodhouse with Charles Beddoe at Whitemans Pond, Alberta.
Joel Woodhouse with Charles Beddoe in 2013 at Whitemans Pond, Alberta.

Interestingly, climbers throughout history have described a similar feeling towards climbing. It appears to be that as much as the people choose the mountain, it chooses you as well.

To a much less heroic extent, my desire to get back on the wall felt strangely like a pull. It was as if there was some part of me that knew I needed to overcome my fear of heights and my fear of letting go. Needless to say, I bought a membership to Joe Rockhead’s and hope to climb outdoors once my fear is lessened.

“It’s a time when you are pushing yourself. Reality drifts away. You come into contact with your soul and it is very empowering,” says Woodhouse. “The fear starts to creep up, but survival is a catalyst. I’m not going to fall so I have to make the next move. It pushes limits and you aren’t bound by the physical realities of this world anymore.”

When I get that feeling, I want self-love healing

Try mentioning masturbation at a dinner party and watch as silence sweeps the room, facial expressions turn to shock and eyes will lower in shame. The word itself evokes a discomfort in most people that is not often seen in other sexualized topics of discussion.

It is time for the taboo surrounding female masturbation to be chucked into the trash, joining 1950’s Chatelaine ads advocating for traditional marriage and anti-abortion. Women have fought for sexual liberation since the 1960’s and 70’s — now let’s celebrate and talk about the importance of self-love.

Though squeezing the peach or stroking the sailor is mostly seen as a recreational activity, done under the covers late at night, research shows that masturbation has positive physical and psychological health effects for women. It is also a great way to get in touch with yourself … by touching yourself.

According to a study on vaginal massage released by the Research Clinic for Holistic Medicine in Copenhagen, Denmark, “Existential healing is not a local healing of any tissue, but a healing of the wholeness of the person, making him much more resourceful, loving, and aware of himself, his own needs, and wishes”.

Vaginal massage addresses not only physical problems, but it also allows the individual to understand how their sexual organs are affected by emotions and physical health. This, in turn, promotes further understanding of what a person needs in order to be satisfied with their health and their sex lives.

Vaginal massage and acupuncture also helps with incontinence and urinary tract problems. “These techniques often used for healing chronic pains in the pelvis or genitals, and treating the highly inconvenient pattern of frequent reinfection of the urinary system,” the Research Clinic for Holistic Medicine found.

In addition, masturbation can lead to some pretty earth shattering orgasms with practice. Orgasms resulting from masturbation aren’t just pleasurable, but they also secret higher levels of oxytocin. Oxytocin regulates prolactin, a stress hormone which has been shown to cause breast cancer and brain tumours. It is also a natural antibiotic and helps to fight nasty bacteria. So, next time someone asks what you are doing with your hands “down there”, why not tell them you are fighting cancer.

“Masturbation is a great way to explore your body for its own sake, have an enjoyable and pleasurable time, and learn what parts of your body are most responsive,” said Isabel Carlin from the University of Toronto Sexual Education Centre. “It’s also a great way to get to know your body and feel more comfortable with it for future sexual situations with other people.”

Having the ability to get yourself off whenever you please can be empowering and beautiful. Unfortunately there are many stigmas around masturbation that prevent women from exploring the exciting world down below.

“Stigma around masturbation can definitely make people feel stressed and anxious when they do masturbate (or even get the urge to do so), which can stop people from masturbating entirely,” said Carlin.

Reducing stigma and empowering people to embrace their own sexuality is a primary step towards sexual healing. For women with poor self-esteem or who have been sexualized in their past, masturbation is the last thing they want to do, despite it’s  positive effects.

“When a woman begins to view herself as an object, the mental resources that are required to constantly monitor her appearance can disrupt her thought processes, thus disconnecting her from her natural internal cues,” writes Mels Van Driel, urologist and sexologist, in his book With the Hand: A Cultural History of Masturbation. “Body satisfaction can also influence a woman’s ability to orgasm, her willingness to explore novel sexual activities, and allow her to feel more comfort in providing sexual pleasure for herself”.

Many people shy away from their genitalia, thinking that self-love is a bit gross, disturbing, and inappropriate. But, it’s not. There is nothing wrong with hunkering down, grabbing some candles and mood music, locking your door, and beginning the process of understanding the inner-workings of your magic spot. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

When in doubt, remember the great words of Woody Allen, “I won’t hear a bad word about masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love.” Self-love is an important asset to understanding and loving your body. This Valentine’s day, take advantage, and enjoy one of the most satisfying ways to stay healthy and happy.

Ontario leading the way with new Electric Vehicles incentive

Once a distant dream on the horizon, Electric Vehicles (EV) are becoming a realistic purchase for buyers due to increased incentives by the province of Ontario.

Ontario is leading the way for electric cars, with their revamp of the modernized Electric Vehicle (EV) Incentive program. The $20 million budget for the program is a part of Ontario’s Green Investment Fund, which has dedicated $325 million to help mitigate climate change.

The purchase rebate of an Electric Vehicle has been increased from a $5000 to $8000 rebate to a $6000 to $10,000 rebate. The owners of the EV’s will also have an opportunity to receive an additional $3000 if they have a vehicle with a larger battery capacity, and additional incentives will be offered to EVs that have more than five kilowatt-hours on their batteries. An additional $5000 will be provided for vehicles with more than five seats.

There are about 5,800 EVs driving along Ontario’s roads and the updated budget is bound to raise these numbers. Dedication to climate change programs such as the Electric Vehicles incentive is imperative for Ontario to reach its greenhouse gas 80 per cent gas reduction target by 2050.

“With a growing population and expanding urban regions, transportation emissions pose one of our province’s greatest challenges in achieving our ambitious greenhouse gas pollution reduction targets,” said Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne in a statement. “By making it easier for people to switch to an electric vehicle, we are taking an important step in our fight against climate change.”

Globally, Ontario is leading the way in EV incentives, providing one of the highest rebates worldwide. In the United States, a maximum $7,500 incentive is being offered for all-electric and plug-in hybrids purchased after 2010 in the form of a tax credit. In Ireland, EVs are provided tax relief up to € 5,000. Plug-in cars are eligible for € 2,500. In Sweden, the one-time “super green car premium” of 4,500 Euros is offered, but will only be provided to 5000 electric vehicles.

The $20 million Ontario investment will go towards creating a network of fast-charging stations across the province. The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) has implemented the Electric Vehicle Chargers Ontario program (EVCO), a competitive application-based grant program for public and private sector businesses to encourage investment. There is no cap on the amount of funding a company can request, which means there is potential for the cost of a charging station to be covered in it’s entirety, creating financial motivation for larger businesses. The application closes on Feb. 12.

Ontario Minister of Transportation, Steven Del Duca, is looking forward to the increased funding for these programs. “Providing better incentives for electric vehicles will help consumers and businesses make the transition to more sustainable vehicles, and keeps Ontario at the forefront of the clean, green economy,” he said.

Totsapalooza: being hip and happening with your kids

The 2016 Small Print Totsapalooza was hip and happening as kids dancing their little hearts out, ate delicious cupcakes, made innovative crafts and costumes, and listened to great storytellers.

On Feb. 6, the Revival Nightclub near College and Ossington hosted a different type of dance party, catering to trendy young urbanites in the two-to-eight year old bracket.

The annual event is run by Small Print, a local non-profit dedicated to children’s literature and providing opportunities for kids to take part in literary programs. By providing indie dance music and a cool way for families to have fun, Totsapalooza is dedicated to little readers and provides fun ways for children and authors to interact and have fun with the kids.

“It is always a whirlwind,” said Shana Hillman, board member of Small Print Toronto. “At the end, instead of beer bottles, it is cheesestring wrappers that are left on the floors. It is an opportunity to hang out with your kids in a really cool way.”

“Small Print is about doing interactive literary events with children. All of the events have a component where they get to interact and create, which helps innovate kids to become storytellers.”

Totsapalooza attendee, Aurora, playing dress-up.

Finding Winnie was one of eight children’s books sold at the event and was read by author Lindsay Mattick, the granddaughter of Harry Colebourne who discovered the real life bear, Winnie. Her son attended the event as well and took part in the reading.

Finding Winnie started from a personal place because it is in my family,” said Mattick. “It has been incredible to share the impact of the story I wanted to share as a mom.”

Finding Winnie is a story about Colebourn, the Canadian war veteran, who found Winnie, the bear that inspired the classic tale of Winnie the Pooh. Winnie was a black bear found in White River, Ontario in 1914. Colebourn brought him to the London Zoo, where he met a little boy named Christopher Robin.

“This experience for me is a dream come true. [Totsapalooza] is a very awesome event. It embodies so many things the kids should be doing dancing and enjoying books,” said Mattick. “I think as a parent, we all want to teach our kids to appreciate and be aware of great books and stories.”

All of the storybook authors at the event were Canadian, and parents, and their kids, had an opportunity to meet them first-hand. What made this particular event unique is that it catered to a specific demographics — kids and parents who were interested in the indie scene.

Being an indie parent means you are invested in preserving the tradition of books in place of Ipads, supporting local music and literature, and rejecting large corporations such as Disney in favour of smaller enterprises. Snacks were provided by local vendors, in addition to craft beer for the parents. Totsapalooza featured Bellwoods, a local indie band that graced the stage in the afternoon.

“It is an event with indie music, craft beer, and no Disney content in site,” Hillman said. “It definitely gives them exposure to an audience, and a chance to directly connect to their customers and future fans.”

Author, Lindsay Mattick reading to the kids.

From crafts to dancing to dressing up in costumes and taking fancy photos, Totsapalooza had something to offer everyone big and small. The event was an overwhelming success and is worth attending in the future. My own daughter didn’t want the Totsapalooza party to end and we will definitely be returning next year.

“Whip them out”: breastfeeding in public

“Whip them out. I will breastfeed anytime, anywhere, any place,” mother and breastfeeding advocate, Jesse Tallent said.

Despite the fact that breastfeeding is one of the most natural and beautiful acts between a mother and her new-born baby, women often feel insecure and ashamed about feeding their child in public. This is something Tallent correlates to society’s misconstrued beliefs about breasts themselves.

“Breasts are used to sell burgers or cars,” she said. “Women are often shamed for breastfeeding or for being too confident and showing too much skin.”

Too often are women reported on social media for posting pictures of themselves breastfeeding their child. These pictures are then removed for being “pornographic” or too revealing. This is something that Anne Kirkham, a spokesperson for the Le Leche League of Canada, a national organization that promotes breastfeeding and offers resources for new mothers, says is increasingly common.

“We live in a society that sexualizes breasts so much,” said Kirkham. “When you show your body in media, it is so overly sexualized. It may take awhile to come to terms with it in a new way.”

Similarly to many other women, I decided to breastfeed my daughter when she was born. At first, it was a bit painful, and it was a bit difficult to get my newborn to latch on. But, once I got past those awkward stages, breastfeeding became a time of bonding. I genuinely felt empowered, like there was a stronger connection between myself and my daughter.

At the same time, I felt like it was necessary for me to stay home to feed my daughter. Breastfeeding in public made me uncomfortable, but I was beginning to feel a bit isolated at home. I decided to start slow, by finding a community of moms who were nursing and willing to share in that experience.

“Seeing other moms’ breastfeeding is empowering,” said Kirkham. “When you start to recognize other mothers’ breastfeeding, you may feel more comfortable yourself.”

Other mother’s take this shared experience to a larger platform. Tallent regularly posts photos of herself breastfeeding on social media and hosts online support networks. The goal? to help women gain confidence when breastfeeding in public and to help break through sexualized trends attached to breasts itself.

“My advice to other moms is to take to social media and find a local support group like La Leche,” said Tallent. “Mothers being more open-minded about breastfeeding has taken to social media and has started a movement to change body image.”

Forums such as breastfeed without fear, normalize breastfeeding, and boobies are for babies provide safe spaces for mothers to proudly and openly share this new stage in their lives.

Most public areas —like malls or restaurants — offer a designated nursing station or area for mothers who want to feed their babies. But the whole idea that breastfeeding should be equated with a public washroom is questionable. Is the act considered a bodily function needing to be concealed, or are people genuinely as uncomfortable with the sight of a breast as the sight of a sexual organ?

When my daughter was a bit older and had finished breastfeeding, we were out with a friend who had a newborn baby. He needed to be fed so we went into one of the nursing stations. It was on the other side of the washroom, completely separated by a wall. The sound of the hand dryers was irritating the babies and the washroom smell as difficult to handle. The mothers looked miserable and I will never forgot how ashamed my friend felt as she kept apologizing that we had to be in that space.

Of course, there are nursing stations that are more welcoming and not exclusively attached to the washroom. A private nursing setting can even be helpful for breastfeeding mothers who are more comfortable in an isolated setting.

“I’ve used a nursing room at a mall. It is hard to get him to feed in public because he is so curious. Sometimes you run into other moms too, which is great,” said Tallent.

Another common issue is the general expectation that mothers should cover their babies with a blanket when they feed in public. Kirkham reports this is a common concern for new mothers.

“A lot of mothers complain that their babies get too hot under the blanket or swat at it which distracts the baby and makes the feeding difficult,” she said. “People should think about what it would be like for them to eat under a blanket.”

Tallent was pressured to use a blanket while breastfeeding at her own engagement dinner when her son, Rylan, was two months old. Rylan, she explained, needed to be fed often, but was struggling to latch. A woman she didn’t know approached her and tried to put Rylan’s blanket over his head.

“She was trying to help, but it was inappropriate.” said Tallent. “I had to go into a bathroom to feed him because she wouldn’t leave me alone.”

Most women are unaware that legislation exists protecting mothers and their newborn babies under the Code of Human Rights. According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, “you have rights as a breastfeeding mother, including the right to breastfeed a child in a public area. No one should prevent you from breastfeeding your child simply because you are in a public area. They should not ask you to ‘cover up,’ disturb you, or ask you to move to another area that is more ‘discreet’.”

As a mother who previously breastfed, I am glad these rights are being protected. I can only hope that society becomes more accepting and that people can learn to view breasts less as sexualized objects and more as a means of providing for a new life. That amazing and natural phenomenon is what truly makes breasts sexy. And that is something we should all embrace.


The SAD reality of the winter blues

Does grey winter skies and snow storms give you the winter blues so badly, you feel like you don’t even want to get out of bed? If so, it might be more complicated than the weather. You may be one of many sufferers of Seasonal Afffective Disorder (SAD), a subtype of seasonal depression.

University of Toronto assistant professor and director of CBT Canada, Greg Dubord says, “SAD is often dismissed as the “the winter blues”, and seen as an excuse people living with Depression are accused of making for their condition.”

Seasonal Depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that affects people seasonally. Harsh Canadian winters and more research into SAD has led many people to come to understand this mental disorder and to learn how to combat it. It can be a real struggle for those who feel unmotivated, constantly exhausted, and depressed in the wintertime; yet, these feelings (or symptoms) are often dismissed as a change in the weather.

What is it?

SAD is a form of major depression that occurs in one specific season, and was formally name in 1984 by Norman E. Rosenthal at the National Institute of Mental Health. Most people experience seasonal depression in the winter, though some people have the disorder in the spring.

Seasonal depression is considered a subtype of major depression, but differs from the traditional mental disorder because it arises at a specific time of year and returns annually. According to the Mood Disorders Council of Manitoba, two to three per cent of Canadians suffer from SAD compared to less than one per cent in the United States. Women experience symptoms more commonly than men.

What are the symptoms and signs?

Common physical side effects include fatigue, insomnia, oversleeping, food cravings, weight gain, anxiety and “a heavy “leaden” feeling in the arms and legs.

But, it’s the psychological effects that effect people more commonly. According to Dubord, these include “feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day; feeling hopeless or worthless; losing interest in activities once enjoyed; having difficulty concentrating; feeling irritable and/or anxious; having difficulty getting along with others; avoidance of social situations; being hypersensitive to rejection; and having frequent thoughts of death or suicide.”

Bright light creates serotonin, which is absorbed by the retina and through the pituitary gland. The lack of this specific hormone also causes drowsiness and exhaustion. When a person isn’t exposed to a particular amount of light, it can cause depression or SAD.

What can you do about it?

“Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), in combination with light therapy, is considered the best overall treatment for addressing both physiological and psychological vulnerability to SAD,” Dubord says.

A combination of methods helps to manage the symptoms of SAD which includes traditional major depression therapies as well as specialized light therapy. CBT is a form of psychotherapy that helps patients recognize and isolate certain thought patterns in order to challenge or alter them. It is commonly used to treat mood disorders.

Other methods of therapy include exercise, improving sleep patterns, making sure to have social interactions, and planning outdoor activities to get fresh air and enjoy oneself. Planning winter trips to sunnier destinations can help if that is possibility and actively. Possible outdoor activities include ice skating, snow shoeing, a winter walk, and a sleigh ride.

Thanks to some great technological advancements, products exist that can help alleviate symptoms of SAD. A light box, for example, helps to regulate the internal body clock by providing light at any specific point the person needs it — the morning for example.

A light box is a fluorescent light device that produces a light intensity of 2,500 to 10,000 lux at a distance of 1-2 inches. The common length of time for light box therapy is 30 minutes, ideal for a morning routine. Light boxes can be found in the form of an alarm clock, desk lamp, a floor lamp, and a ceiling light.

Which stigmas prevent people from pursuing treatment?

The “winter blues” is a common term used when someone feels down during the snowy season and is often mislabeled for SAD. This confusion causes people to misunderstand the severity of their symptoms.

“Like depression, there is a stigma associated with SAD that interferes with people’s willingness to seek diagnosis and treatment.”

The fact that SAD only arises at a specific time during the year, and then its symptoms virtually disappear, exaggerates the stigma.

Whether you are experiencing the “winter blues” or seasonal depression, know you are not alone.

Men’s activist group causes international uproar

UPDATE: The gatherings in Toronto (and around the world) have been cancelled, according to a tweet and website post by Roosh V. “I can no longer guarantee the safety or privacy of the men who want to attend on February 6, especially since most of the meetups can not be made private in time.”

A highly contested men’s activism group has revealed there are at least three group meet-ups scheduled in Toronto. The location of these meet-ups has been removed from the website,, but founder and rape-legalization advocate, Daryush “Roosh V” Valizadeh confirmed the location in a comment asking about the Toronto meetup.

“I merged 3 hosts into the Queens Park location because all of them submitted central locations that were near Queens Park. I think the turnout will be over 20, so you may have to split up into 2 or 3 groups and then re-join later.”

The group is garnering negative attention after Roosh V’s announcement that he is organizing gatherings in 165 locations in 43 countries around the world, all happening on Feb. 6.  The groups are known as “tribes” and the purpose of the initial meet-up is to try and create more permanent men’s activist “tribes”.

The event has garnered outrage worldwide in the media and on social networks. Roosh V removed the locations of the gatherings from his website, citing scheduled protests in a few of the larger cities. He had previously specified the Toronto location as being at Queen’s Park, and later confirmed this fact in a comment inquiry.

“I have created a private Central Command for meetup hosts and other trusted insiders to device protocols that allow all meetups on Saturday to proceed as planned. I will publish protocols for meetup attendees here by Thursday,” Roosh V writes. “Not a single meetup will be cancelled. We will not be intimated by the actions of the lying media and leftist political establishment.”

Thanks to the international press, every country and city labelled as a location for one of these meet-ups has the opportunity to take action and make it known they do not condone this hate speech. At the same time, it appears that Roosh V is enjoying all of the attention. However, on Feb. 1, he tweeted “Number 2 trending topic in all of Australia. This is the first time a man stood up to their puny establishment.” Roosh V has also tweeted several threats to Australian authorities, indicating that he will sneak into the country via boat because “the border is like swiss cheese.”

The opinions, writing, and actions of Roosh V clearly denote the inner-workings of an unstable man; yet the fact that men support his beliefs is troublesome. The nature of many of the articles on the website are violent and even go so far as to threaten anyone who wants to disrupt his worldwide event.

“I will exact furious retribution upon anyone who challenges you in public on that date,” he writes.

Roosh V’s meet-ups also potentially delegitimize other men’s groups. There are groups that exist to help single parents (including dads) or men who have experienced abuse, but by creating an exclusive group that is violent and works to facilitate hate speech deters from these goals. It can also makes men feel less comfortable gathering without being seen as anti-feminist.

Hopefully, these meetings are a bust due to international pressures and Roosh V will instead seek much-needed medical help for his deep-set hatred of women. In the meantime, let us celebrate the massive solidarity that both men and women have demonstrated to rid the world of misogynist, exclusive meet-ups — including people such as Roosh V.

Groundhog Day: The fluffiest holiday of the year

Every year, thousands flock to the birth place of the infamous “Groundhog Day” in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to see if the little critter has a shadow or not.

One question begs to be asked about this tiny weatherman and surprisingly is never questioned when Feb. 2 rolls around each year. What exactly is Groundhog Day and why is it celebrated?

In 1887, Groundhog Day was popularized in Punxsutawney by German immigrants when a groundhog was proclaimed as a new weather diviner — he (or she) would tell them whether winter would continue for six more weeks or if spring was on its way.  The custom maintained that if the groundhog had a shadow, winter would continue. If no shadow appeared, spring would arrive shortly.

This funny custom derives from the Celtic Pagan tradition called “Imbolc”, a celebration that occurs annually on Feb. 2. The festival celebrates the end of winter at a time where the last of the winter stock was depleted. Families and friends would share their food and enjoy the last days of frigid temperature.

The Catholic Church adopted the tradition in the form of Candlemas, which celebrates Jesus’ first visit to the temple. As with most holidays, it traditionally involves a feast. In Germany, it was customary that the clergy give candles on this holiday and depending on the length of the candles, winter would be longer or shorter.

There are also many song verses that explain if it were sunny on Candlemas, winter would continue and if it were cloudy, spring would come.

“If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.”

We can thank the Germans for determining that the shadow of an animal (specifically a hedgehog) could be used to predict the coming of winter instead of actual weather. Upon immigrating to North America, there were no indigenous hedgehogs on the continent, so German settlers decided the groundhog would be a worthy replacement.

Groundhog Day was an instant hit in North America and remains so to this day. There are tiny parading groundhog weather diviners at several locations across the continent, with a few special rodents in Canada.

Wiarton Willy is the infamous Canadian groundhog, located in Wiarton, Ontario. He is an albino groundhog and spends his days munching on grass and hanging out. He works one day a year and takes his profession very seriously. It is hard work walking out of his den and looking at his shadow — or lack thereof.

Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Sam is the resident weather rodent of the east, with the recently deceased, Winnipeg Willow as the western representative. Brandon Bob in Manitoba and Balzac Billy in Alberta are also contenders for the title of chief groundhog.

This year, a weather catastrophe occurred when the groundhogs did not agree on whether or not winter was coming to an end. Wiarton Willy saw his shadow whereas Shubenacadie Sam did not. People were lost on whether to put their winter coats away or not. Punxsutawney Phil put an end to the debate when his shadow did not appear. He remains the number one source for the day.

There is nothing wrong with wishing and hoping for the end of winter. In Canada, it’s what keeps us alive. But, do we really need an overfed groundhog, or an animal of any kind, to tell us what science and meteorologists do every day?

While saying that…their track records are probably the same.

Happy Groundhog Day!


D.I.Y Craft Projects: How to glamorize your wardrobe on a budget

Do you have an old pair of jeans or a t-shirt that you love, but they are looking a bit plain or out-of-style? D.I.Y fashion projects are a great way to revitalize your wardrobe while saving money! It can also turn into a fun afternoon with friends.

Need some inspiration? Here are a few fun D.I.Y projects that will leave you walking away with some great new pieces for your closet:

Bleaching your shirt with a funky phrase: Bleach can be a pain to work with, but it also has serious craft potential. Transform a simple, plain t-shirt or tank top into an original one-of-a-kind piece of clothing by creating your own quote or phrase.

  1. Place a flat sheet of cardboard inside your shirt. This will provide an even surface for your design and will stop the bleach from bleeding through. With a piece of white chalk, sketch out your design. Don’t worry if you need to smudge out chalk lines. They wash out once your painting is done.
  1. Secure your shirt by folding the sides under the cardboard, using elastics or clips to keep it from slipping. Prepare a small bowl with non-diluted, fabric safe bleach. Have your towel on hand to wipe up any drips.
  1. It’s time to make your design permanent! Dip your brush in the bleach and drag it on the edge of the bowl to eliminate dripping. Use steady strokes to trace the chalk lines of your design. For an even bleach line, you will need to reload your brush every two inches. You will quickly see your design appear, like magic!
  1. Continue to trace your design until you reach the end. Take a break, and return in a few minutes once the bleach has had time to react with the fabric of your shirt. Are there un-even spots or light areas? No problem. Simply go back in with your bleach filled brush and even out the design.
  1. Once you’re pleased with how your shirt looks, let the piece sit in the sun for an hour or more. This will allow the bleach to process and lighten. Depending on the cotton content of your shirt, the color of your design will range from dark red, to orange, to pink, all the way to white. Rinse and hand wash your shirt, and hang to dry. Your design is now permanent, safe to wash with like colors, and ready to wear.

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Studded converse shoes: Converse are a pretty hip shoe, but their plain-Jane style can get a bit boring after awhile. Here is a way to glam up your shoes on a budget and also cover up any mud stains if you have a lighter colored shoe.

  1. You’ll need around 40 studs per shoe for a 7.5 size shoe and some E6000 glue. This strong glue will ensure those studs stay on despite the rain and much it may travel through.
  2. In a well-ventilated area glue your studs onto the outer edges of your shoe, working your way from the bottom to the top. Allow the glue to dry for 24 hours before wearing them. Save a few extra studs in case you lose one at some point. If any are going to fall off they’ll probably go in the first day or two!

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D.I.Y cut-up back: There is nothing sexier than a shirt that reveals a bit of your back. SweetCandyLine teaches D.I.Y lovers how to covert a regular tee into a masterpiece using a pair of scissors and a little bit of ingenuity. Watch the live video to learn how!

Posted by SweetCandyLine, adapted from

DIY 3 headband12

Celtic headband made from old t-shirt: Here is a great D.I.Y that uses an old t-shirt to make a beautiful headband. It is a great way to recycle old clothing and create inexpensive accessories from your hair.

  1. Cut a strip from the t-shirt and stretch it until the material is thin.
  2. Cut the strip into two parts.
  3. Tie into Celtic knot (pictured above)
  4. Tie the headband together and as an extra option, cover with another piece of material to hide the tie.
  5. Enjoy your new hairpiece!

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D.I.Y CD Bling Collar: CDs are becoming a thing of the past and this D.I.Y provides a creative, easy, and seriously fashionable way to re-use the groovy tunes.

  1. Place CDs in hot water for five minutes to remove plastic covering.
  2. Cut CD in half.
  3. Remove plastic coating on the CD.
  4. Cut up CD into pieces (be careful not to hurt yourself).
  5. Use crazy glue to stick the pieces onto a collared shirt (or make a shape on another shirt).
  6. Voila! Here is your new blinged up shirt!

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Should you look into an electric car? Yes!

Cutting down on carbon emissions is an important issue on Ontario’s environmental agenda, and electric vehicles are considered as a great long-term solution.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are gaining popularity, with 5,400 EVs registered in Ontario to date, according to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO). Though public transportation, biking, and walking are the most sustainable forms of travel, people who choose to drive are being offered a green alternative that has great perks.

The initial cost for an electric vehicle can be daunting, ranging from the Fortwo Electric Drive at $26,990 to the BMW i8 at $150,000. The top selling electric car in Canada is the Tesla Model S, which costs $107,000.

Fortunately, Ontario provides an incentive to help people purchase these pricey vehicles. Up to a $8,500 rebate is provided to customers that have a qualifiable EV. The MTO provides a list of battery electric cars and plug-in Hybrid cars that are applicable for the rebate on their website.

Furthermore, the province is providing up to $1000 in rebates for a home-powered charging stations. An approved EV motorist will also receive a green plate that allows them to travel in HOV lanes as an added bonus.

There are currently two types of EVs  offered in Canada; battery electric cars and plug-in hybrid electric cars. Battery electric cars are powered 100 per cent by electricity. They have large battery packs that need to be charged at various charging stations. Plug-in hybrid electric cars are also charged by being plugged in but have smaller battery packs for shorter electric drives. A gas engine or generator will start to run on longer trips when the electric battery runs out.

Though EVs can be pricey initially, they are have great long-term cost savings because electricity is much cheaper than fuel. Emissions are relative to the specific EV that is purchased and Plug N’ Drive, a not-for-profit organization committed to accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles, provides a cost comparison chart that shows how much carbon each vehicle would produce and what the equates to in dollar form. For example, the Tesla Model S creates  1.9 kg of carbon per 100 km, which costs $3.14. Comparatively, if the Tesla was a full gas vehicle, it would create 17.8 kg of carbon per 100 km and cost $9.86.

Electric cars also need less overall maintenance. “Electric cars use an electric motor, a durable technology with one moving part. In addition, electric cars don’t require oil changes, coolant flushes, mufflers or exhaust systems,” the Plug N’ Drive explains. “Bottom line… less money spent on maintenance means more money in your pocket.”

Currently, transportation is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the province. GHGs account for more carbon emissions than iron, steel, cement, and chemical industries combined.

Ontario is embracing the revolution of the electric car as a part of their new Green Investment Fund. Ever since the climate change conference in 2015, protecting the environment has become a priority for the country. The province has invested $20 million into building EV charging stations across Ontario.

“Ontario’s new Green Investment Fund offers exciting opportunities to revolutionize how we live, work, move and play as we fight climate change,” Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Glen R. Murray, said in a statement. “This initial investment is just the start of many more bold steps we’ll be taking to promote electric cars as a sustainable transportation choice and to reduce greenhouse gas pollution in other sectors.”