Friday, 5 September 2014

How to Plan your own Wedding (Part 1)

Planning a wedding is a cinch, trust me. There is very little money can’t buy, including someone to plan your wedding. Just hire a wedding planner and you are done—easy peasy! (Ha!)

Okay, so for those of you who can’t afford a wedding planner, coordinator, or basically anyone to help you other than your mom, listen-up. You are planning what those experts call a “DIY” wedding—in normal people terms, you are a planning a do it yourself wedding. When you tell your colleagues or friends this, don’t be surprised if they make a face at you. Some of them know how much work goes into this ONE day so there natural response is that you are crazy, which you are. But, for those of you crazy enough (or simply on a budget like a usual bride) to venture this journey on your own (well technically with a significant other by your side, but we will get into how to rely on your man/significant other later) welcome to crazy land.

Step 1

Buy a book…or two… and register for one of those websites (I chose as it matched one of my books that I had), and start planning. Even that sounds easy enough.
Okay to break this down, walk into a chapters/Indigo and you will see a zillion binders on how to plan your wedding. Pick a few, and don’t go crazy trying to get the perfect one. The wedding has to be perfect, not the binder.

Some of the binders will have an option to join their website. This is a great idea. There is a place on the website where you can put in your budget, and it will break down what you can spend on every detail. Plus there’s lots of pretty pictures to get lost in when you’re bored at work!
Secret Information that the books don’t tell you:
Seeing as how this is my first time getting married, I had no idea what an “average wedding budget is”. Upon googling this you are likely to find that the average wedding cost is between $20,000- $30,000. So basically way more than your bank account will support. So that’s it. You are changing your mind and will simply go down to city hall and get hitched. Which is a great idea—if that’s what you want.

When we saw this number we decided to set the wedding date in two years…so we could save (which, in reality, wont happen). By doing this we were just avoiding the huge elephant in the room) How do you pay for a wedding?!

Step 2
Okay so there is no way you can pay for your wedding yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start planning it! First of all, you have to figure out what you kind of want. Is it a small intimate simple gathering, or a big huge feast, or a vintage wedding, or rustic, or boat, or sea-side, or destination….so many decisions (and we are only on the first question!). Okay, so we personally chose to go for the rustic-vintage feel and try to find a barn venue.

Now that you have decided on what you want you can start researching venues that are in the area you want to get married in. Simply google (or use your wedding site that you are registered with), email the venues you like, inquiring about prices, packages and ceremony options (if you want to get married at the same place as the party) as well as mention the time of year you are looking for and ask what they have available.

More Secret Information:

The scariest thing you will find out is that they are booking two years in advance and they may or may not have any dates you are looking for (People plan this so far in advance it’s crazy!). The even scarier thing you will look at are the prices. To give you a heads up—the prices range from about $50/plate, which does not include the rental of anything and does not include alcohol-- $140/plate which includes rentals and open bar. I am talking about the actual “reasonable” venues… Do the math. An estimate of 150 people at your wedding (and it will probably be way bigger because you haven’t actually sat down and written out a guest list yet because we are only on step 2 of a million and one) okay so 150 at $100/plate is $15,000 for the dinner alone! Yikes. So maybe no open bar… or less people… or you get married in 5 years…

Step 3

Tell your families that you are planning to get married but not for another two years because of the costs and venue wait lists. Explain to them the break-down of the costs and forward them a few of the emails that you have received.

While you are doing this, continue doing research on the venues. I found the more I researched the better I got at finding good prices. You’ll also find that you start actually looking at dates, and finding out what weekend/or weekday you actually want and you questions for the venues will start getting more direct.

Once you have explained all of this to the family, they will either be perfectly okay with a long engagement (yeah, right…). Or they will get back to you on how much they are willing to pitch-in. Basically they are “helping-you-out” so you don’t have to prolong the date.
Now you’re talking. Now, if you want to get married next year, you probably can. AND now, you have a more realistic idea for a budget—so you can plug it into your handy-dandy budgeter and, let’s face it, find out how much you can spend on a dress!!

Step 4

Start reading your binder planners and website checklists to find out the next steps. I know, I know, a step for more steps—but it’s crazy how much you have to plan out! Look at the time-lines they give you for each “booking”, and try to get it done before that. Venue’s book up fast, dresses take a long time to come in, and you need the perfect photographer—so get on it!
Helpful tip:

Focus on the venue first. It’s a huge thing to get done, and the one you want is probably going to go fast. Plus, if you are having the ceremony somewhere else, you have to now book two venues for one day—and that can get tricky if you leave it for too long.

So I leave you with this. Four, well directed steps to planning your own wedding without a wedding planner. Start here. Figure out what you want. Do research, email and phone everyone you are interested in.

If you have any questions or need any help, I am here waiting in the comment section below.
Until step number 5,



Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden wins Canada Reads 2014


The Orenda by Joseph Boyden is the winner of Canada Reads 2014. This post is very late, as I hadn’t finished the book until this past weekend. This novel was defended by Wab Kinew who is “an award winning journalist, [an] aboriginal activist and [a] hip-hop artist” (

This novel was difficult to read, not because of the language, but rather the truth behind Boyden’s words. (It is important to note, however, that this novel is historical fiction). The Orenda is a very graphic novel that does not shy away from blood and torture (which was Stephen Lewis’ main argument against it). The “Orenda” is described as the soul or entity of an object or person. Everything has an Orenda, and we must always take time to thank or apologize to the Orenda of someone or something that we have used or killed.
 Boyden has written this novel through the voices of three distinct Characters. The firs is Bird—a fearless and respected warrior of the Huron tribe, whose family has been savagely murdered by some combatants of the Haudenosaunee tribe. In return, Bird fights many of the Haudenosaunee tribe and captures and claims our second voice, Snow Falls. Snow Falls begins in this narrative, as an untamed animal that has a hard time accepting the fact that her family has been murdered. Although she is adopted as Bird daughter, she can’t help but find any opportunity to make him angry. One of these opportunities happens to be the befriending of a Jesuit and our third voice, Christopher or Crow, as Bird calls him.   Crow is a priest from New France who has been sent on a mission to convert these “sauvages” to Christianity. Boyden cleverly writes in each of these characters voice, and unravels the story which is their lives.

The theme of Canada Reads 2014 was “What is the novel that could change Canada?”, The Orenda does this by bringing to life a history that is often ignored or hidden. Boyden’s words are both captivating and beautiful, but I must stress that this novel is incredibly violent. With this violence, Boyden does a remarkable job at not placing blame directly on anyone for the tragedy that happens. However, this novel both enrages the reader, and opens a passage to a tragic history that we must attempt to face today.

This novel is a wonderful read that will expand your knowledge of Canada.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

The fourth book voted off of Canada Reads 2014 is: Cockroach by Rawi Hage


 Cockroach by Rawi Hage was the fourth book voted off of Canada Reads 2014. This book was defended by Samantha Bee who is an award winning comic, actor and writer. She has been a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart since 2003.

I read this novel a few weeks ago, and it is my pick for Canada Reads. This novel seems to take off from the beginning, grabbing the reader with the way the narrator’s mind scuttles forward. It is written with the speed and dexterity of a cockroach (and I am able to say this easily after
having too many experiences with cockroaches myself). It revolves around a dark disturbed character that is living  in Montreal, surviving day to day. The narrator, who remains nameless, could be any down and out immigrant you meet in Montreal, Quebec, living off of government checks, starving
because he has no money to buy anything, and few true friends because of his life style.

The flawless transition between the narrator speaking of performing natural human activities, then abnormal cockroach activities makes the novel eerily brilliant. Hage has made the words and sentences bounce around and jump from one thought to another; we are in the present, then the past, then a further past, making it difficult to keep up mentally, much like trying to kill a cockroach physically. Isolation is a major theme that occurs in Hage’s story (much like Annabel by Kathleen Winter).  The narrator frequents an artist café where immigrants go to hang out. He is a man who feels as though he is living in society yet remains untouched by it. He could be anyone—and is simply one of  the many immigrants here in Montreal because, like a roach, where there is one there is more.

The theme of Canada Reads 2014 is “What is the novel that could change Canada?”, and I believe that this novel has that potential. This novel left me with chills. It left me feeling both angry at the main character for not having tried hard enough, but it left me feeling angry at Canada for having failed him. If the majority of readers were effected by this book the same way I was, this could change the way our society helps new Canadians. This would be an incredible feat, as we are a nation made up of other nations. However, the debate that took place March 6th, 2014 demonstrated a good show of why not everyone relates to this novel. Mary Gaitskill of the NY Times
says that Hage's "negative characterizations are broad clichés, much too easy and too flattering to the narrator and the reader" ( The debators argue over Hage's main character, and whether or not he is relatable, or whether it is the other characters in this novel that create a more realistic picture of the life of an immigrant. Regardless, this novel was found to be difficult to access for the public, and The Orenda by Joseph Boyden takes home the Canada Reads 2014 title.

If you want to be touched by language that is startling and brilliant (although there was talk that the language is over the top?!), read this novel.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The third book voted off of Canada Reads 2014 is: Annabel by Kathleen Winter

Annabel by Kathleen Winter was the third book to be voted off Canada Reads 2014. The book was defended by Sarah Gadon who "is one of Canada's most promising young actors and a rising star in Hollywood. She has appeared in David Cronenberg's two most recent films, A Dangerous Method and Cosmopolis, and will be seen in several major films in 2014"(

This book focuses on an intersex child who is assigned as a male named Wayne by his mother. Born and raised in Newfoundland, as Wayne grows and discovers the world, he can't help but identify with his inner feminine side named Annabel. This is a powerful novel that forces the reader to examine the disparate between choosing who to be, and having who you are bequeathed upon you by something greater.

I think, what makes this book Canadian (other than the setting of Newfoundland), is the deep sense of isolation that each of the characters seems to feel. There’s a difference between a character simply being on their own—versus a character who is truly isolated from society through an experience, or in Wayne/Annabel’s case, their own body and identity. This book goes deeper then dealing with a intersex person who feels lost—instead of showing them as the only lost person, Winter does an excellent job at holding this character up to a handful of isolated people allowing the reader to compare and identify with a character that they normally wouldn’t identify with. The debaters of Canada Reads 2014 argue over the impossibility of the pregnancy that Wayne/Annabel experiences, and how it doesn't line up with the reality that the novel initially institutes. Gadon rebuts with the explanation that Winter intended this as a metaphoric pregnancy in order to better stir the reader. It is important to note that this is not the only novel in the top five Canada Reads 2014 list that does this, as Cockroach by Rawi Hage dives into numerous metaphors and analogies to help make its point. This debate seems to be the biggest reason that Annabel was voted off.

The theme of Canada Reads 2014 is “What is the novel that could change Canada?”, and Winter certainly does a wonderful job at bringing a multitude of relevant identity and sexual orientation controversies to the limelight. These are relevant battles that Canadians are dealing with today. Hopefully, this novel will shine a different light onto issues that some readers may have overlooked.

This novel has not won Canada Reads 2014, but it still has the potential to beset change on any reader who chooses to invest in it.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The second book voted off of Canada Reads 2014 is: Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan was the second book voted off of Canada Reads 2014. This novel was defended by Donovan Bailey who is a two time Olympic gold medalist, and still holds a world record for the 50 meter dash. (

I read this novel last year and, in my opinion, this novel is brilliant. This novel needs to be recognized for its beauty, creative voice and unique story. Half Blood Blues takes place in Paris during the Second World War. Edugyan writes as the voice of an aged black man, Sid, who looks back on his life and reflects on the disappearance of his talented friend Hiero. The story revolves around Jazz music and culture, which is reflected in the musicality of Edugyan’s words.  While music is an escape or way of life for these kids, it is not a product of the war but rather of themselves.

 While I often find that World War II novels tend to romanticize the idea of life during war, Edugyan seems to have found a way to capture the terror that war actually brought for many people living in Germany and Paris during this time. You find the Canadian voice in the character Delilah a scary, provocative, intimidating, woman from Montreal, Canada. She happens to be a confidante of Louis Armstrong (who also appears in this novel), and an incredibly intriguing character. This story isn’t all well and good—in fact, there are choices our protagonist makes that seem unforgivable. BUT, the voice that Edugyan has found in both a young and old black man is what makes this novel. It’s the words and grammar and spelling – the ‘off-beat’ way of speaking that actually becomes the jazz music. Brilliant.

The theme of Canada Reads 2014 is “What is the novel that could change Canada?”, and while I think Half Blood Blues is a brilliant take on Jazz musicians living in Nazi Paris, I don’t think it aims to change Canada in an obvious way.  This novel points out the flaws of our past, and a hope for a better future, but it does not specifically inspire a change in Canada. One could argue as Bailey did, that Half Blood Blues focuses on racial profiling, which is incredibly relevant today—but given that all the other novels still fighting for the Canada Reads 2014 title directly relates or take place in Canada, this novel seems “too far removed from social change in Canada” (Samantha Bee, who is defending Cockroach).

While this novel did not win this competition, if you like jazz music, poetry and a brilliant story—read this novel.

Monday, 3 March 2014

The first book voted off of Canada Reads 2014 is: The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood


The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood was the first book to be voted off of Canada Reads 2014. This novel was defended by Stephen Lewis, who is a “Canadian philanthropist and a Companion of the Order of Canada. [He is also] the chair of the Stephen Lewis foundation, which provides support to women and children in Africa living with HIV/AIDS” ( .

I had the pleasure of reading this novel prior to the Canada Reads debate which began March 3rd, 2014.  This book takes place in the future after a waterless flood has swept over the land. The Year of the Flood is the second book of a trilogy, the first being Oryx and Crake and third is the newly released MaddAddam. This book takes place in the future after pollution (and other relevant environmental concerns of today) have taken effect on our planet  On its own, The Year of the Flood, is a strong narrative that focuses on two prominent characters, Toby and Ren, who are part of a group, called God’s Gardeners. This story is told primarily through flashbacks of the two characters lives. These flash backs tell the story of how they ended up in their current situation. Throughout this novel we see Atwood’s brilliant reference to the influence of words and the bequest of power they can have over the author or the reader. This serves as a gentle reminder that as the reader of this novel, we can change our fate by letting this book influence our every day decisions. Having not read the other two novels in the trilogy, I can only imagine how prominent and powerful these novels would be as a series.

The theme of Canada Reads 2014 is “What is the novel that could change Canada?”, and while this novel certainly fulfills this topic by addressing the changes we need to ensue in order to save our environment, I would argue that this novel goes a step further and suggests that it is not just Canada, but the world that we have to change.

Although The Year of the Flood did not win Canada Reads 2014, I urge you to read this book!
Didn't get a chance to listen to the debate? Here is the link :

Thursday, 6 February 2014

What is Canada? The Canadian Challenge

A few years ago, upon getting an office job, I began to listen to the CBC—more accurately Jian Gohmeshi’s program, Q. Canada Reads caught my attention with the debate over five non-fiction novels: Something Fierce (Carmen Aguirre), Prisoner of Tehran (Marina Nemat), The Game (Ken Dryden), On a Cold Rode (David Bidini) and The Tiger (John Vaillant). At the time, I was too late to read all of the novels before the debate concluded announcing Something Fierce the winner. However, upon going to my favourite store (Chapters), I  picked up both Prisoner of Tehran and Something Fierce. While I have yet to read the last three on the top five of 2012, I couldn’t help being captivated by both of these stories. This was the beginning of my search for finding Canada in Canadian novels.
So, what is Canada?  I don’t know how to answer the question, and yet here I sit—born and raised in Canada. There are two words that come to mind when I hear the word Canada: multicultural and hockey. I realize that there are also the typical: beaver, igloos, maple leaf, syrup and any other icon that you can potentially find on one of our monetary coins, but those are not what I mean. I mean, when you walk down the streets of a Canadian city and you say wow this is Canada – what is “this”. Like many things, I turn to novels to teach me about my own culture. Let’s face it, if we were American you could easily look at Hemmingway, Twain, Kerouac, Thompson and many more, and you can find American culture. It’s time I begin my Canadian search, and although I took Canadian Lit in school, the fact is who, other than Atwood, Munro and Ondaatje, are iconic Canadian authors that comes to mind? While I do not want to keep referring to Canada Reads—it is where I have begun this search, and where I will begin my initial Canadian List. I will alternate between my Canadian search and my initial BBC challenge list, to find the Canadian culture. I also did not include the Canadian novels on the BBC list on this list... What I ask from you is – what is your favourite Canadian Author and book? I am making no promises to get through this list quickly; it may take my whole life! I will most likely focus on the novels that I own and the ones on the upcoming Canada Reads Debate as I enjoy listening to this program. But here is the list that I have created:

1.     The Game by Ken Dryden
2.     On a Cold Rode by David Bidini
3.     The Tiger by John Vaillant
4.     Something Fierce by Carmen Aguirre
5.     Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat
6.     Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
7.     The Age of Hope by David Bergen
8.     Away by Jane Urquhart
9.     Two Solitudes by Hugh MacLennan
10.   February by Lisa Moore
11.   Accusation by Catherine Bush
12.   Afterlands by Steven Heighton
13.   Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatje
14.   Annabel by Kathleen Winter
15.   The Blue Light Project by Timothy Taylor
16.   The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
17.   Cockroach by Rawi Hage
18.   The Disappeared by Kim Echlin
19.   Dogs at the Perimeter by Madeleine Thien
20.   Fifth Business by Robertson Davies
21.   Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels
22.   Galore by Michael Crummey
23.   Going Down Swinging by Billie Livingston
24.   The Good Body by Bill Gaston
25.   Half Blood Blues by Esi Eduyagan
26.   Happiness Economics by Shari Lapena
27.   Headhunter by Timothy Findley
28.   The Headmster’s Wager by Vincent Lam
29.   Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
30.   The Lizard Cage by Karen Connelly
31.   Matadora by Elizabeth Ruth
32.   Monoceros by Suzette Mayr
33.   Natural Order by Brian Francis
34.   October 1970 by Louis Hamelin
35.   The Orenda by  Joseph Boyden
36.   Ragged Company by Richard Wagamese
37.   The Republic of Nothing by Lesley Choyce
38.   The Shore Girl by Fran Kimmel
39.   Six Metres of Pavement by Farzana Doctor
40.   The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart
41.   Stunt by Claudia Dey
42.   Sub Rosa by Amber Dawn
43.   A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtemanche
44.   Swarm by Lauren Carter
45.   Sweetness in the Belly by Camila Gibb
46.   Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden
47.   Truth & Bright Water by Thomas King
48.   What the Body Remembers by Shauna Singh Baldwin
49.   Y by Marjorie Celona
50.   The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
51.   The  Headmasters Wager by Vincent Lam
52.   Going Home Again by Dennis Bock
53.   Hellgoing Lynn Coady
54.   Cataract City by Craig Davidson
55.   Caught by Lisa Moore
56.   The Crooked Maid by Dan Vyleta
57.   419 Will Ferguson
58.   The Sentimentalist by Johanna Skibsrud
59.   The Bishop’s Man by Linden MacIntyre
60.   Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay
61.   The Time in Between by David Bergen
62.   Runaway by Alice Munro
63.   The In Between World of Vikram Lall by  M. G. Vassanji
64.   The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke
65.   Mercy Among Children by David Adams Richards
66.   A Good House by Bonnie Burnard
67.   The Love of a Good Woman by Alice Munro
68.   Barney’s Version by Mordecai Richler
69.   Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
70.   The Book of Secrets
71.  The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
72.   A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews
73.   The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald
74.   Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald
75.   The White Bone by Barbara Gowdy
76.   The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
77.   Cabbagetown by Hugh Garner
78.   What the Dog saw and Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell
79.   No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay
80.   Six Seconds by Rick Mofina
81.   Clara Callan by Richard B. Wright
82.   Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
83.   The Law of Dreams by Peter Behrens
84.   The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
85.   Love and the Mess We’re In by Stephen Arche
86.   The Canterbury Trial by Angie Abdou
87.   The Darling of Kandahar by Felicia Mihali
88.   The Beautiful Mystery (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #8) by Louise Penny
89.   One Good Hustle by Billie Livingston
90.   The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
91.   Fall from Grace by Wayne Arthurson
92.   Far to Go by Alison Pick
93.   Cool Water by Dianne Warren
94.   The Amazing Absorbing Boy by Rabindranath Maharaj
95.   Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco
96.   The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon
97.   The Cure For Death by Lightning by Gail Anderson-Dargatz
98.   Darwin’s Paradox by Nina Munteanu
99.   Everything Was Good-bye by Gurjiner Basran
100. The Diviners by Margaret Laurence
101. Who Has Seen the Wind by W.O Mitchell
102. De Niro’s Game by Rawi Hage
103. Obasan by Joy Kogawa
104.The Garneau Block by Todd Babiak
105.The Englishman’s Boy by Guy Vanderhaeghe
106. How to make Love To A Negro by Danny Laferriere
107.  Stolen by Annette LaPointe
108.  Swamp Angel by Ethel Wilson
109.  Solomon Gursky Was Here by Mordecai Richler
110. Helpless by Barbara Gowdy
111. Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson
112. Bow Grip by Ivan E. Coyote
113. The Glass Boys by Nicole Lundrigan
114. The Town That Drowned by Riel Nason
115. Come Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant
116. Ragged Island by Don Hannah
117. The Bay of Love and Sorrows by David Adams Richards
118. No Great Mischief by Alistaif MacLeod
119. The Tin Flute by Gabrielle Roy
120. As for Me and My House
121. A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout

Complete: 19
All that I ask of you is: If you don’t see your favourite Canadian Novel on this list, please tell me and I will be sure to add it!

Now I shall make my journey to figure out What is Canada!