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List It Tuesday: What I Love About Living on Vancouver Island

Tue October 16 2012

LOVE Artsyville‘s List It Tuesday thing; decided this was the perfect topic to jump in on: what you love about where you live.

Over breakfast with the kids, I doodled some things about living here that I love and shared those via Instagram and Twitter – those sticky note photos follow all this.

Here are some longer-winded things I love about where we live…

* while other parts of Canada are celebrating Fall by withering, dropping off, dying, turning brown, folding up and preparing to be buried for several months in a row, Vancouver Island is just only beginning to soak up the elixer to bust out all green, (nearly) all over, all winter long. It’s a green winter out here, friends, and it’s a good thing. (and we get it twice – Spring on Van Isle is also a bountiful green escapade of new life and growth, summer gets a little crunchy and brown but you hardly notice what with the blinding blue of the sky and the ocean, then Fall again brings some lushness to Winter. nice, huh?!)

* winter here actually allows me to not really *have to* force the bicker-y morning rush of enforcing layers upon layers of warm clothes on resisting kids. i can let go, let them out the door in that one sweater, and not have to actually worry about frostbite and hypothermia. yeah, they might get chilly and they might get damp, but their extremeties are actually pretty safe. it might dip down to a bone chilling ZERO degrees celcius… (I grew up in the -30 degree celcius winters of frigid Northern Ontario)

* we like driving daytripping, and even though we pretty much haven’t gone further than 3 hours in any one direction, the things we can see and do in that tiny bubble of do-able road time is pretty super terrific. 3 hours brings me to Tofino and Ucluelet and I don’t think anything is as awesome as the wild west coast of Canada. Tofino used to be a dream destination, a “one day maybe I’ll see it” idea. 3 hours in another direction would pretty much deliver us to seattle, and if you knew me in the 90s you’ll know how cool that idea is (that’s a trip we still haven’t done though, nor have we run through the forest of the Olympic Penninsula or strolled the beach at La Push, lol. one day!)

* i can wear crocs year-round. yep, you read that right.

*the clouds and mist that crawl down the hills and float in the harbour are spectacularly awesome. i love that. it’s beautiful. i miss snow, because of the fog and cloud and mist. thank you.

*i can SEE mountains. yes, Vancouver Island has it’s own mountains, but jagged peaky towering mountains make my heart full and I can see them on the mainland from here. we used to live at the edge of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and i loved them, and while this is not the same, it’s still very very good.

* it looks like this









Sending Happy Mail in Canada?!

Wed August 29 2012

I fell in love with the idea of Happy Mail by AmberLee on but I don’t live in the US. I did a quick scan of the comments on some of her Happy Mail posts to see if any of her readers had tried to mail happy things in Canada, but I couldn’t find much in the way of specific details or experiences. Still too curious and with apparently too much time on my hands, I pulled up the Canada Post site and did some searching. It doesn’t look too promising for Happy Mail in Canada.

I mean, you CAN mail anything, nearly. There is a whole section about how to go about mailing honey bees. Great. Canada Post considerately puts everylittlething into a pricing structure (with a zillion guides, policies, surcharges, measurements), so you can probably mail it, but you definitely have to pay for it.

The Canada Post site is a labyrinth of pdfs and tables and links. I felt like I was on Charlie and Lola’s loop the looper ride, trying to find each little bit of information. So, full disclaimer > the following information is the best i could do, but not necessarily the best. Errors, omissions, misinterpretations are entirely possible. Best to assume they are and check everything out yourself.  Here is the link to Canada Post’s pdf they call the ABC’s of Mailing. Everything I reference assumes you are mailing “Personal” and not as a business.

Is Is A Parcel?

In terms of sending a PARCEL, Canada Post opts for the greater of either the item’s standard weight OR it’s volumetric weight. Yay! Have fun with that. Here is the link to where you can calculate a rate.  If you want to do the math yourself, it’s the l x w x h in centimetres = cm cubed then divided by 6000. See here again. This is probably going to be a significant factor in the sending of irregular happy mail items, if Canada Post will accept them at all.

With fun and zany Happy Mail still in mind, I thought it would be cute to mail a box of smarties or something to my kids as a back to school treat, and impatient with the actual availability of smarties in the house at the moment I thought of them, I found a (yes, empty) box of sour watermelon candy in my pantry. Good enough for investigation purposes!

If this box of candy is a parcel, it would cost $9.83 to send it TO MYSELF by regular parcel mail. This totally dampens the happy part of happy mail, so let’s hope it’s not a parcel.

Minimum parcel size is listed as  100 mm L x 70 mm x 1 mm H (you can go ahead and convert that to whatever you like).  I’m now visualizing a parcel as something bigger than a business card and much thicker than a regular envelope of papers.

Is it Lettermail?

Maybe, but Canada Post seems really stickly on the sizes of things. Every so conveniently Canada Post lists all sizes in millimetres, so either I can eye poppingly remeasure my box counting those teeny mms, or i can calculate conversions on every measurement. This is so much happy fun!

Regular letter mail cannot have a thickness of more than 5mm according the Table 1 in the Lettermail manual, so that eliminates my approximately 17.5 mm candy box right away.

Also keep in mind that Canada Post stipulates that standard lettermail must be rectangular in shape (also, staples on the outside of standard lettermail are not permitted, fyi).

It is Oversize/Non-Standard Lettermail?

Who knew? Maybe, let’s see. I guess this category explains why square envelopes are more expensive to mail. Again with the sizes of things.

Canada Post list the MIMIMUM size of non-standard lettermail as 140 mm L x 90 mm W x 0.18mm thickness, and minimum 3 grams.  Oversize lettermail is 5 grams minimum, same dimensions.

The MAXIMUM size for non-standard lettermail is 380 mm L x 270 mm W x 20 mm thickness, and max 500 grams.

My box of candy is about 152.5 mm L x 95 mm W x 18 mm H or thickness – yay! Sour watermelons are oversize lettermail! I think!

Happy Mail note: Canada Post stipulates that if the item’s dimensions exceed any one of the maximum sizes then it cannot be oversized lettermail and is then considered a Parcel. In the case of a happy flip flop, the height measurement is going to have to include the top strap bit, sending you way over 2 cm max. That flip flop is going to be a parcel, I think. A $10+ parcel. SAD FACE.

What’s The Rate?

Happy Mail is going to be much less happy if it costs me an arm and a leg to actually get it anywhere. Now that I’ve determined my rectangular shaped candy box can qualify as Oversize lettermail, I can look up the price to send it.

Canada Post has a handy pdf of lettermail prices, you can find it here.

For my happy candy, I know it’s Oversize Lettermail, but now I have to go by the weight to find the appropriate price. My candy is 100g, and I’m assuming plus the weight of the box (maybe not), but I’m going to opt for the 100-200g weight category to be safe (remember, if it exceeds 500g or the max dimensions, it’s a parcel).

This means my 100g box of sour watermelon candy is going to cost $2.10 to send to my kids.


Wait, Is There A Surcharge? What’s a Self-Mailer? What About Big, Flat Things?

One of the cute things about the Happy Mail items is the surprise-y, unpackaged delight of them. HOWEVER, Canada Post does not seem open to chuckles in the workplace.

Mail needs to be wrapped or packaged, unless it’s a “self-mailer”.

Self-mailers are explained as  “an article other than a card, postcard, magazine or catalogue that does not have an outer cover, wrapping or envelope in addition to the paper or material on which the communication is written,” says Canada Post. I guess that flip flop could be a self-mailer, except for it’s size which makes it a parcel, so…

Things that are not packaged are subject to a list of conditions to determine if it’s offensively un-packaged enough to warrant a surcharge. The Unpackaged items surcharge is $10, according to what I could find on the website. Ack. Narrowing down those conditions was very sleuth-y, and the following answers were found in yet another pdf, this time Canada Post’s Parcel Service Customer Guide:

“Unpackaged surcharge
A surcharge will be applied to any item shipped without packaging. An unpackaged item may be accepted if it:
• is not a size or shape suitable for wrapping;
• potentially would not be damaged or cause damage
to postal equipment or other items;
• potentially would not cause injury to persons
handling the item;
• is shipped within Canada or to the USA”

hm, so possibly a happy mail PARCEL item could be mailable WITHIN Canada. The wording of “MAY be accepted” is pretty open though. May, may not. Who’s to say.

What about happy big flatish things like a garland? That was totally cute. Possibly a self-mailer with that label, but it’s thickness looks like it exceeds lettermail maximums, making it a parcel. Of course not. So, that garland would be light, but kind of big. Is it worth it to spend $10 or more to send it? You make the call.

Also, in the event that it fits within the maximum sizes for lettermail, a standard lettermail item CANNOT SAG more than 22 mm in the middle. Don’t forget to sag-test your lettermail, folks.

So. Happy Mail in Canada?

The result of this is I’m mostly just as clueless about whether or not I could send a Happy Mail item to someone in Canada as I was before I started looking for answers. Overall I think it will turn out to be too expensive to justify, other than a one-time thing. I think I can send a box of candy, and I think it will be less than $3. To know for sure about anything else, I think I’ll just have to take it to the post office and ask. That will be fun. If I do, or if YOU DO, or if you or anyone you know ALREADY HAS tried, please let me know!

Now I’m off to handcarve a stamp to make cute mailing labels, and to buy some boxes of back-to-school treats to put them on to mail to my kids. In rectangular boxes, no staples, non-saggy, clearly addressed, hopefully non-unpackaged-surcharged, within Canada, not exceeding 500g… um, wish me luck?!

Summer Reading

Thu August 09 2012

The devouring of books is going slower than I would like, but am enjoying the luxury of reading for myself at all. List does not include picture books & chapters read aloud to small people!

Summer Reading 2012: Listed

The Vampire Diaries: The Hunters Vol 1: Phantom by (created by) L.J. Smith
The Calling by Kelley Armstrong
The Family Album by Kerry Kelly
Juliet by Anne Fortier

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

Of Love And Evil, Songs of the Seraphim Book 2 by Anne Rice

What are you reading this summer?

Summer reading

Wed July 11 2012


I am determined to read more this summer. I love reading & miss it during the busyness of the school year (with school aged kids & working in the school system). My 10 year old reads voraciously all year long. I love the memories & associations of dangling sandy feet off the end of vinyl couches, absorbed in a book quite possibly not appropriate for my age; angling the pages of a book so as not to be blinded by their glint in the summer sunshine; waking in the early morning light to grab the open book in the pillows to pick up where sleep took over; reading reading reading.

Some summertimes demand silly reading selections which I revel in (I seem to at least manage to read the complete Harry Potter series each summer), and I’ve spent much of my regular reading time in the last year or two indulging in Young Adult books, which I also revel in. I have no plans to stop either of those paths, but am also keen for more typical grown up fiction, which I’ve been missing. I am also, like many teachers, reserving some reading time for professional reading over the summer. Sounds like a duty, but often non-fiction reading is just as enjoyable a pursuit as fiction. All year long I read, skim, and browse non-fiction on a wide range if topics. My library “recently returned” list is staggering.

Just for fun I’m going to keep a running list of what I’ve read during this summer (July & August), despite a lack of prizes for which my kids are keeping a log for thanks to the library’s Summer Reading Club.

I issue no promises that this will represent a list of impressive literature selections or anything of the sort. My main book-selection strategy is whatever leaps off the shelves at me, and whatever captures my attention & imagination within the first two pages (or the first paragraph), and my second most used strategy is if I “feel” like reading a particular title. Very highbrow, English major stuff, I know.

Summer Reading 2012: Listed

The Vampire Diaries: The Hunters Vol 1: Phantom by (created by) L.J. Smith

The Calling by Kelley Armstrong

The Family Album by Kerry Kelly

Juliet by Anne Fortier

to be continued…


a favourite quote.

Sun June 17 2012

Index-card-a-day challenge: working with a prompt! b & w

Wed June 13 2012

{hello! so happy to have you visit! i’m hosting an icad challenge post today > read more about icad here!}

Personally I love rules and guidelines since they so handily delineate jumping off points, boundaries from which I can cheerfully veer in a direction of my choosing. Once past, I enjoy looking back and seeing where I am, where I went, how I got there. Sometimes that little bit of tethering helps.

For my icad card I’m sharing today, I specifically chose a prompt and consciously kept it in mind. I don’t usually, but it’s fun to throw it into the mix sometimes. I chose “b + w” and immediately wanted to work in those limited colours. Nearly everything is better in black and white 😉

I had been thinking on it in the back of my mind for a day or so, and during that time collage sprang in and stuck. Okay, b + w collage it was!

I’m also working this challenge as six-word memoirs of my days. Then I began thinking on the b+ w prompt not only as a visual prompt, but as the more broad black vs white that comes into play in life, in relationships, understanding other points of view, seeing those rules, boundaries and directions. I do love it when my thoughts wander an interesting path…

Today’s icad took on the form of advice to my little family in the how of navigating the black and white of the world, of our family days, of what matters most. How surprising. Not really what I set out to do.

Making the card itself was pure play. I grabbed some old book pages, an old children’s book illustrated in black and white, and some magazines, for collage supplies:20120611-115443.jpg

I dragged some white paint on my index card, just so it didn’t feel so bare to begin. Then I scribbled some mod podge on randomly, and not very consistently. I laid a book page over that and burnished it a but, hoping some of the black text and page would transfer over, which happily it did (i’m impatient, so the chances of waiting long enough for the podge to grab anything were slim):


I snipped some black and white images that appealed to me, with the image of the boy and girl adventuring onwards hand in hand really calling to me. I glued the pictures down along the edge of my card, then flipped it over and cut all the overhang away.

Then came the text. I love writing, words are one of my most favourite things in the world. Often to find the right ones i just sort if open my mind and let them come to me. They do. Today six words was all I could use. I spied the stamp I’d carved the other day still on my work surface, dear. There was a start. dear us. What did we need to know about the black and whiteness of things?

I used my sharpie pen, two sets of rubber alpha stamps, and one word sliced out of a rolling stone article on nicki minaj (because no, I wasn’t saving that one for special).

In all the black and white business, it was our connection to each other that was rising to the surface, so the only colour I allowed myself was a pencil/crayon pink heart of a highlight on those hands

This is what I particularly love about Tammy’s icad challenge – its so short and sweet that it can become whatever you want. A doodle. A couple of words. An exploration. It’s all good, it’s all art, all yours.

my other icad cards blogged here & here and some of last year’s here

Click here to read Tammy’s optional prompts for this week of her icad challenge and the line up of wickedly creative hostessess she’s got lined up for this week of prompts.

Click here to see the flickr pool of awesomeness icad is inspiring!

Big thanks to Tammy of daisy yellow for inviting me to share today, and for inviting us into the habit & inspiration of a little bit of artfulness a day!

icad day 2: one route, six words

Thu June 07 2012

this card was fun. sticking with the “six word memoir” idea for the second day in a row (kudos, self!) it popped into my head to make something to do with a map, or our sunday afternoon day trip trajectory.

i gathered up some supplies, which turned out to be a card, some watercolour paints and some papers (two different ledger papers i’d previously thrifted, a book page, and a scrap of watercolour paper with colours on it from something else i once did):


Once I did that I felt like tearing and glueing some paper, so that’s what I did next:


After a little contemplation, I swiped some white acrylic paint on, then off, so the ledger lines and book page type weren’t quite so bossy. Then I used the google maps app on my iPhone to get the general shape of the route we took on our afternoon adventure and pencilled it on my card. It just seemed to be asking me to stitch the route with needle and thread, so I did. Then I sat with it a while, watching Top Gear with my husband, until the six words sorted themselves out in my mind. I doodled those with my 10year old daughter’s purple gel pen!

I stil have to add the date stamp, but here is my tiny memoir of a nice family Sunday done, and making the card was almost as much fun as the day itself 🙂

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