Friday, 18 October 2013

Angels, Demons, Illuminati and Vatican City

Has anyone seen the movie, Angels and Demons? Well, for those of you who haven't the plot of the story is basically this, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Harvard Symbologist Robert Langdon in Angels & Demons
        The plot follows Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, as he tries to stop the Illuminati, a legendary secret society, from destroying Vatican City with the newly discovered power of antimatter. Using ambigrams, symbology and a little history, Robert searches the Vatican and its archives to discover the location of the antimatter bomb.

So I how does this tie in to what I want to do Before I'm Pushing Daisies? Well, this movie (and the book, which in my opinion is much better) has inspired me to want to visit the Vatican City. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not sure if I believe in the Illuminati or any super-secret cult, but it would still be cool to visit the places seen in the movie: Vatican Library, St. Peter's Square, The Fountain of Four Rivers...well you get the idea.

shutterstock 65493556 200x300 7 Surprising Facts You Didnt Know About the Vatican
Vatican Code of Arms
In my research of this trip, I've come across actual guided tours that follow the plot line of the movie as exactly as possible. While I think this would be interesting, in my experience it's much more fun to explore on your own, do your own research and draw your own conclusions. For example, a few Vatican "Fun Facts" as listed below:

1) Vatican City has its own separate police force known as the Corps of Gendarmerie of Vatican City. It has really strict standards for who is allowed to join, for example: To qualify for enrollment as a gendarme, a person must be an unmarried male between the ages of 21 to 24 of good health and a practising Catholic. There are also minimum requirements of height and education. Not exactly a long-term job position!

2) The Vatican is its own country – and the smallest in the world. This fact is not new to most people, but were you also aware that there are only about 800 residents of this tiny nation with even fewer citizens? Vatican citizenship is not guaranteed by birth, but by appointment and is terminal, ending when a citizen discontinues residency.

st peters2 300x200 7 Surprising Facts You Didnt Know About the Vatican
St. Peter's Basilica. The largest Catholic church in the
world and yes, we checked!
3) St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest Catholic church in the world. In case anyone wishes to refute this fact, the Church has actually placed the measurements of the largest churches in the world in the marble of the Nave to prove that all other basilicas are able to fit within the Basilica.

4) The baldacchino, or the center altar of St. Peter’s, lies directly over where St. Peter, the first pope, is buried. It is 96 feet high, made from bronze mostly stripped from ancient Roman monuments such as the Pantheon, and the only person who is permitted to say mass at this altar is the pope.

5) St. Peter’s itself does not have a single painting. In order to ensure that that the artwork in the church would persevere, all “paintings” are actually mosaics.

These are some of the reasons why I find the Vatican on my to-do list Before I'm Pushing Daisies, but there's more to it than that. Vatican City is so full of history I don't think a single person could unearth it all if they tried, even given an infinite amount of time. I'm not sure if it's possible, but I'd sure like to try to discover some Vatican Secrets and who knows, maybe I'll discover the Illuminati HQ somewhere along the way.

Illuminati looks the same
left to right and upside down

Pictures and Facts Credits:\

Doctors Without Borders

DWB Logo
For those of you who don't know me very well, you may not know that when I grow up I want to be a Doctor. There's something that has always just drawn me to medicine, even from a young age watching "Untold Stories of the E.R" and "Medical Incredible" much to my parent's dismay since I was 8 and they figured I should still be watching Teletoons. A lot of people say that someone only goes into medicine for the money, but that's not why I want to get my M.D.. The real reason is that I want to help people, and yes I know that sounds cheesy, but bear with me.

When I was a kid, I always did the "trick-or-treat-for-UNICEF" like a lot of kids my age and always stopped at the booth at the mall with the pictures of the UNICEF kids on them, but it was never in the family budget to sponsor a child. When I was a little older, in grade 9, my geography class took a field trip to a simulated DWB refugee camp that was set up in Uptown Waterloo and I remember hearing someone describing everything, but I wasn't listening. What was distracting me? The child actors playing the would-be-refugee's children, bandaged, sad-looking, sick and suffering. I knew then that I needed to find some way to help, even if it wasn't donating money. Seeing the real-life dramatization of what their camps actually were like hit home.

Doctors Without Borders Camp in Zimbabwe 
I've always seen those advertisements on T.V., you know the ones. The "Sponsor a child" commercials for UNICEF, DWB and World Vision. Every time they pulled at my heart, seeing those kids who were the same age as me going without basic things that I took for granted: food, water, health care, shelter and the list goes on. I've never really been able to sponsor a child financially, working at a gas station doesn't exactly leave me with a surplus of money, but I've known that I want to help somehow and I think that, Before I'm Pushing Daisies, I want to volunteer with an international aid organization, like Doctors Without Borders (DWB) to give what I can - volunteer hours.

My mom works at a hospital as a nurse and she's always telling me about a couple of doctors there who volunteer abroad in South Africa. They spend half the year here, in Canada, working to save some money and then they leave for the other half of the year and volunteer their skills abroad with DWB. Its where I got some of my inspiration for pursuing this dream, through talking with these incredible men. I've heard more than what they show on tv, the truth behind the doe-eyed children on those commercials and it's inspired me even further to chase after my M.D. so I can take the torch from these men who have so greatly motivated me to give back.

So while it may sound like a cop-out to say that I want to get into medicine to "help people", it is honestly my true motivation. People today appear to be scared by kindness, always looking for an ulterior motive, but sometimes you just want to be nice.


Photo Credits:

Friday, 11 October 2013

Kick the Can - Literally!

What could you do with matchboxes, garbage cans, brooms, a basketball and a Zippo Lighter? Well, if you're one of the 14 members of the UK-born musical group STOMP, you'd be able to do a whole heck of a lot.

Before I'm Pushing Daisies, I'd like to see STOMP! perform live and maybe, if I'm lucky, learn some of their moves too!
Brooms...a key instrument for the STOMP crew

I was watching a re-run of this kids reality show the other day - "In Real Life" - and these kids got to learn and perform a STOMP performance routine, with the real STOMP artists. The whole time all I could think was about how I wished it was me, learning those routines and being up on that stage.

Using garbage cans as stilts, brooms as drumsticks and basketballs as drum sets, this dance troupe creates music and dance routines by banging on, and dancing around everyday objects.

Stomp was created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas in Brighton, U.K. in 1991, and since their inception 22 years ago, the group has expanded to include troupes in Manhattan NYC, Japan, Chile, Canada and Brazil, not to mention choreographing routines for high-profile events and shows such as on Sesame Street and at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.

In 2006, Stomp’s New York production passed its 5000th performance mark. In the same year, Cresswell and McNicholas directed a public service announcement for television called "Stomp Out Litter", which featured the cast "sweeping up" at iconic locations in the five boroughs. They also began filming an IMAX 3D movie featuring the dance group.

The reason I really want to see this group specifically, is due largely to the fact that they don't need fancy instruments, expensive studios or even a voice to create amazing beats, music and entertainment. It really brings music back to its roots: a beat and people moving to it.

Until I actually get to see this group for real, I'll stick to watching their videos posted on youtube - I'll link some here for you to see too!

Picture Credits:

Das Wunderbar!

Bitte ein Bier, A beer, please! At this time of year, I'm sure many of you can tell exactly what is on my to-do list Before I'm Pushing Daisies, a 'holiday' here in KW that needs no introduction: I want to go Octoberfesting.

Before I start talking about why I want to go to Octoberfest, how about a few fun-facts to get you in the spirit?

Prince Ludwig & his bride Princess Therese
1) According to German history, Oktoberfest is the result of an extended wedding party that followed the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. Talk about an amazing wedding reception!

2)In 2010, Oktoberfest celebrated its 200th anniversary. There were 24 years over that period when the festival did not happen due to war or cholera or other emergencies.

3)Oktoberfest is one of the most famous events in Germany and is the world’s largest fair, with more than 5 million people attending every year.

Hey Gentlemen...
She's Single!
4)The “Dirndl” is the name for the traditional dress worn by Bavarian women and commonly seen at Oktoberfest.  The dirndl consists of a bodice, blouse, full skirt and apron. The placement of the knot on the Dirndl apron is sometimes an indicator of the woman’s marital status. When this is so, a knot tied on the woman’s left side indicates she is single, a knot tied on the right means she is married, engaged or otherwise “taken”, and a knot tied at the back means the woman is widowed.

5)An Oktoberfest parade took place for the first time in 1810. Since 1850, this has become a yearly event and an important component of the Oktoberfest. 8,000 people—mostly from Bavaria—in traditional costumes walk from Maximilian Street, through the centre of Munich, to the Oktoberfest.

Now that you know a little more about Octoberfest, maybe I should tell you why it's important to me that I attend?

Well, I live in Kitchener, formerly known as Berlin. And although our version of Octoberfest wasn't started on account of a royal wedding, it's become a huge event every year since 1969. It has become the largest "Celebration of Gemuetlichkeit" (Bavarian festival) in North America with the greatest Thanksgiving Day Parade in Canada.

Living and growing up in KW, I've seen the parade, the keg tapping and Miss. Octoberfest events ever since I was young, but I've never been fully able to participate since I'm not legal drinking age. Next year I will be and I plan on attending!

Until then, I will have to settle for watching the parade with my family. Happy Thanksgiving weekend everyone, Cheers!


Picture &  Fun Facts Credits:

Friday, 4 October 2013

In Loving Memory

Today, I'm bending the rules of my blog, just a little bit. I want to dedicate this post to the woman who inspired me to chase after my dreams, even when everyone else told me that I'd never make it: my Grandma Carol. Today would have been her 69th birthday.

My Grandma, Carol
I lost her 7 years ago, although it feels like just yesterday, on a warm summer day in July. We were swimming in the pool, my brother and I, when my mom ran screaming into the backyard. We all went to the front of the house and saw my grandma laying on the front steps, having a heart attack. I wish I could say anything else, but seeing her there is the last time I saw her alive and I've regretted never saying goodbye every day since.

When I lost my grandma, I felt as if my whole world had just collapsed in on itself. It wasn't until years later when I realized that it was just the beginning of her legacy to me.

In the 11 short years that I had with this amazing woman, she taught me all the skills I would need to survive a lifetime without her.

She taught me to treat others better than the way you'd want to be treated; my grandma always put others first even at a great personal cost to herself. When I was little, she dove off the porch (breaking quite a few ribs I'm told), to catch me before I fell off onto the ground and hurt myself. She would rather suffer herself than see me scrape my knees.

Another lesson that she left me with, the inspiration for this blog in fact, was to chase after my dreams and to find my own happiness. This lesson is probably the one that has stuck with me the most these 7 years. During the first 11 years of my life, I'd faced a lot of adversity. I would come home bruised and cut on the outside, but completely defeated on the inside from bullying at my elementary school.

Whenever I felt like giving up, she would always pull me aside, sit me on her lap and tell me that my worth as a person was more than the way others treated me. She would always encourage me to live more than their words and labels and stay true to myself because I would find my own path in life.

How this ties into my blog is this: if I had listened to my bullies, I wouldn't be here right now writing this blog. I wouldn't be blogging about all the things I hoped to accomplish in my life, Before I'm Pushing Daisies.

On my grandma's tombstone there is a phrase that says: "To live on in the hearts of those we love is not to die". I truly do hope that I am living worthily and doing justice to the life and legacy of my grandma, because I honestly believe she is somewhere looking over me and I hope that she would be proud. In loving memory.

This wasn't how it's supposed to be...In Loving Memory
Video Source: "In Loving Memory" - Jamestown Story

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Turn my Hobby into a Business!

I love to bake, specifically, I love to bake cakes. I don't know when I started to enjoy baking, but it just seemed to happen...somewhere along the way. Personally, I blame reality television like "Cake Boss", "Ace of Cakes" and the like; they made me believe that I was actually capable of making large, sculpted cakes because it just looks so easy! Believe me when I tell you this: they lied.
Cake Boss...Makes it look soooooooo easy!
On "Cake Boss" they don't show you all the times Buddy messed up. They don't show you when the cake comes out lumpy, or when the icing is too runny. Production cuts out the parts where Buddy and his team just need to step away, or risk throwing the cake against the wall. They edit out when the icing doesn't quite stick to the cake without getting covered in crumbs and no one ever sees when the cake just kind of...falls over.

I'm not exaggerating either, all the stuff I've listed above has happened. To me. Multiple times. Somehow I got it in my head that I'm the next "Ace" of cake-making (much to my parent's dismay...I seem to pick expensive hobbies!). It looks so easy on tv and Pinterest!

However Baking doesn't seem to be the biggest problem for me, I'd say that honor goes to the decorating. For starters, pre-made cake mix tastes like crap with added sugar. Not to mention how difficult it is to get the right colors of fodant to match your design! And carving a cake? Don't even try. 

So, for all you Cake-Boss-Wannabes, here's a few tip's I've picked up along the way:

1) Start Small. The first cake I tries to make was way out of my league, It was like running a marathon before I'd taken my first steps. The cake ended up making its debut in the trashcan, as the whole thing imploded in on itself and the birthday boy ended up with a store-bought cake instead. 

2) Bake from Scratch, especially if you're going to be decorating! Those Betty-Crocker mixes just crumble the moment you try to cut them, and pre-made fondant tastes terrible!

3) Take a class! Un-guided experience is an expensive teacher...take it from me!

Before I'm Pushing Daisies, I'd like to turn this hobby into a business, make a few picture-worthy cakes...and see a few more smiles! Because even more so than baking and decorating, I love to see people's reaction to my cakes! They make the hours spent fighting with pound cake, icing and fondant worth it!

I've attached a few pictures of the cakes I've made so far (And the people who enjoy eating them!)...they can only go up from here!
Licking the Candles..My Favourite part!
Cheesecake & Toblerone....OMNOMNOM
This Purse cake...definitely caused a lot of headaches!

But totally worth it, to see the look on this little Diva-in-training's face!

Lego Star Wars. May the force be with you, if you dare to try this one at home!

Baby grand piano! Chocolate *EVERYTHING* Chocolate cake, chocolate icing, modeling chocolate piano keys/book/flowers and, just for kicks, covered in a hard shell of melted chocolate :)

The best part of making these definitely has to be seeing the joy on the birthday-peoples' faces! That's when you know you've nailed it, and the long nights agonizing about whether or not your cake will still be standing in the morning is all worth it!