It’s the year of the sheep – kung hei fat choy!

chinese new year sheep

The Year of the Sheep (or Ram or Goat)

 

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

Chinese New Year follows the lunar calendar and typically occurs between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20. This year it falls on Thursday, Feb. 19. Like any other cultural New Year’s celebration around the world, Chinese New Year varies slightly depending on its geographic neighbors.

Year of the Sheep

This year celebrates the Sheep — also known as the Year of the Goat or Year of the Ram, depending on your culture. As with astrology, the animal signs represent not what others perceive you as being, but are assigned by the year you are born.

To make it slightly more confusing, there are also animal signs assigned by the month known as the “inner animals,” by the day known as “true animals” and by the hour known as the “secret animals.” This means that even if you are born in the year of the Rabbit, you can have the traits of a Dragon internally, an Ox truly and a Tiger secretly. Most people simplify this process by stating what animal year they were born.

That said, people born in the year of the Sheep are (supposed to be) tender, polite, filial, clever and kindhearted. Overall, they are sensitive and gentle, but are often worriers and shy…

For more, visit BreakingModern here.

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Book Review: The Bitterbynde Trilogy – where Celtic lore meets orcs

“The rain was without beginning and without end. It pattered on incessantly, a drumming of impatient fingers. The creature knew only the sound of the rain and the rasp of its own breathing. It had no concept of its own identity, no memory of how it had come to this place. Inchoate purpose drove it upward, in darkness. Over levels of harsh stone it crawled and through dripping claws of vegetation. Sometimes it slept momentarily or perhaps lost consciousness.”

Looking for an epic trilogy? Want one that’s already finished, so you don’t wait endlessly for more?

The Bitterbynde Trilogy by Cecilia Dart-Thornton was first conceived over a decade ago, but it wasn’t until recently that I stumbled across the fantasy series in a used bookstore in Australia. I snatched it up and soon discovered what I was missing. Nestled in a corner shop on the edge of a bustling beach, I thanked my luck I was able to find all three novels side-by-side. Needless to say, much of the next two days was spent with my nose pressed into the yellowed pages (when I wasn’t out snorkeling or hiking the beautiful shores of Airlie Beach).

The Bitterbynde Trilogy

The lovely trilogy I picked up from a used bookstore in Australia.

 

Beginnings …

The trilogy is a wonderfully concocted fantasy that brings folklore, magic and heroism to life. It all begins with a scarred, despised and mute foundling surrounded by superstitious servants and pompous lords. As the mute seeks the help of a wise woman in the outside world, it runs into trouble and is eventually saved by an adventurer who gives it the gift of communication through hand-speak and, most importantly, a name. Imrhien then sets off into a journey where she meets new friends, unkind foes, crazy wights, frightening monsters and ultimately falls in love…

For more, visit BreakingModern here.

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Top 10 Fitness Apps

Winter, if you are on the west coast of the U.S., has been mild so far, and if you’re in Canada, like I am, the worst is yet to come. No matter where you are it’s still cold outside. For fitness resolutes, the first two weeks are the hardest for fitness — it can take up to a month before a routine is set and you no longer need to force yourself to get some exercise. Whether you want to add a morning jog before you go to work or schedule in a quick set or three in the gym, here are 10 apps that will help you accomplish your 2015 fitness resolutions.

Fitness

You Are Your Own Gym

This is one of my favorite travel companions since it’s essentially a gym in your pocket. This particular app hosts a series of workouts featuring body weight movements that don’t require any equipment, aside from a bench or chair that should be easy enough to find.

Body weight exercises are my go-to because you can do them anywhere and at any time. A quick set of 20 jumping jacks, 15 push-ups and 10 sit-ups/crunches done three times will pick up your heart rate and warm you up. If you’re looking for something more challenging, burpees and jump squats are an excellent way to sky rocket yourself, or you can really push yourself with interval training, such as Tabata

For more, visit BreakingModern here.

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The Best DIY Holiday Gifts to Make Now

Decorations are out, houses are ablaze with holiday lights and stores are shelving extra merchandise. Christmas is definitely right around the corner.

Whether you’re on a budget or feeling crafty, do-it-yourself (DIY) gifts are an easy and heartfelt way to complete your Christmas list. Unless you’re capable of managing your time, it’s best to keep Christmas DIY gifts simple.

Ornaments

Handmade ornaments always add a touch of home to the Christmas tree. You can keep it simple with craft paper, dazzling it up with sprinkles and paint (a great craft to do with kids as well), or geekify the ornaments by painting them with a friend’s favorite comic/anime character.

If you decide to paint a clear glass ornament (find one at any crafts store), simple acrylic paint will work. But keep in mind that you’ll need to apply multiple layers. A neat trick is to take the hook off the top of the ornament and pour the base-layer paint inside the ornament. From there, make sure the paint evenly coats the entire ornament. Later, all you have to do is paint the exterior, add extra accessories and … ta-da!

pokemon ornaments homemade christmas gifts

Pokemon ornaments made by yours truly.

 

Mugs

Personalized or Christmas-themed mugs are always a great stocking stuffer. Whether you choose to make them at home or at a store where you can paint your own design (these stores will usually glaze and fire the mug/plate/item for you once you’ve completed designing it), you can never get enough mugs.

Add an extra bit of warmth with a side gift of instant hot chocolate.

For more, visit BreakingModern here.

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The Reboot: Movies and TV revised

It’s the show you loved as a kid, the one with the catchy theme song you continue to watch when you need a warm and fuzzy pick-me-up. In fact, you can still remember all the names of the characters, all the crazy plot twists and the details a true fan would know.

At some point you hear about a reboot — a revival of your favorite show. Because 10 years have passed and — wait, has it really been that long? At first you’re excited by the news. But this initial giddiness is usually followed by worry and trepidation. Why are they doing a reboot? They’re going to ruin something that was amazing!

From television shows (animated or otherwise) to big Hollywood blockbusters, it often feels like filmmakers have run out of ideas and are simply banking on the popularity of the original. And, in most cases, that’s usually a correct assumption.

To Reboot, or Not to Reboot

Though filmmaker and director Ken Ogasawara is ambivalent about remakes and adaptations, he does believe there are times where a film or television show shouldn’t be remade or changed.

avatar the last airbender movie reboot

Commenting on The Last Airbender, a film from 2010, Ogasawara said:

“Basically when the original is so good that there’s no topping it (which I admit is a very subjective judgment call), don’t try to improve on perfection, especially if you’re going to fail so spectacularly.”

The film was a live-action adaptation of the popular animated TV series, Avatar: The Last Airbender….

For more, visit Breaking Modern here.

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Road Tips for Racing on Unfamiliar Ground

Race

One of my races in Montreal, Qc – Defi Boreal Saint-Anne-de-Bellevue 5k

 

Hitting the road in unfamiliar territory is both daunting and exciting. On one hand it’s an excuse to visit a place you’ve never been before. On the other hand you can face a new climate or different elevation that takes some getting used to, especially when you’re there for a race.

I’m a novice runner, so let’s be clear that there are so many people who have more experience under their belts than me, but I want to provide general observations and lessons I learned in my races. What affects me might affect you, too. That said, these tips might not apply to everyone. Some people are awesome and can run under any condition and, if that’s the case, kudos (and curses) to you.

Choose a Destination

Pick a place, then look for a race. Or vice versa. My first destination race was a 5k in Montreal, which is roughly a six-hour drive from Toronto (longer depending on the weekend, what’s happening, and good ol’ traffic). Pick a place you’d like to visit for the weekend and see if there are any races that pique your interest. Likewise, if you hear about a fun race, plan a trip around the race….

For more, visit BreakingModern here.

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Fun indoor adventures when the rain washes you out

Australia (54)

Part of Sea Life’s walk-through tunnel.

There’s nothing worse when visiting a different country to discover the all-loving Mother Nature has decided to slot rain into your schedule. Activities, hikes, and all manners of outdoor trips have to be rescheduled and you find you suddenly have a whole day available for your leisure. As such, here are some fun, though not necessarily free, activities you can do by yourself or with friends and family. I’m one of those people who don’t find it weird to eat lunch or see a movie by myself, so let’s have at it!

Note: I haven’t quite managed to figure out how to transfer my photos from my camera to my tablet quite yet without going through various stages of transferring more than once (especially since I left my card reader back home), so pictures to come!

Sea Life Sydney Aquarium:
Located near Darling Harbor, the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium offers a variety of sea creatures that will appeal to young and old. Broken down into themed sections, from streams and billabongs to rocky shores, to the shark walk and valley, the multiple displays offer educational and interesting facts through signage and interactive screens.

One of my favourite portions of the aquarium was walking through the shark tunnel, which is essential a huge glass tunnel that allows you to see the underbelly of sharks and other aquatic life. The glass floor was also fun, if not slighty disturbing when young children decide to jump all at once in the same spot. Shark feed, here we come!

For those less keen on crowds, I’d advise against going to the aquarium on the weekends as there are many families and tourists equalling interested in keeping dry. There were some points where I felt rushed and was merely following the tides of the crowds rather than appreciating the smaller aquatic displays. It would have been nice to read the corresponding information and take in the underwater wonders that was offered.

Australian Museum:
There is currently a Tyrannosaurs exhibit (inner kid: wohoo!) occurring at the Australian Museum, which I found as amazing as any five-year-old kid. The exhibit is filled with Tyrannosaurs species that take a look at all related types, from big to small, including Tyrannosaurus Rex himself. Along with interactive and digital displays, one of the more interesting displays was a test to see how strong your hand grip is in comparison to that of T-Rex. The only downside was that it had to cycle through a long loop where it compared your strength to other creatures in the world as well, which caused quite a long line-up as we couldn’t skip the information. For the curious, the average human grip is 85 kg, where as a T-Rex was around 3,000 kg. There are, of course, other dinosaurs available to be viewed.

There are various sections as with any museum dedicated to birds and insects, rocks and minerals, as well as mammals and critters; those displays in itself are quite a sight to see (though I can sincerely do without the spiders and creepy crawlies). Parents with little children can also enjoy the Kid Zone, which has educational toys and games to keep them entertained.

Paddy’s Market:
Found in the heart of Chinatown, Paddy’s Market is a great place to find cheap souvenirs for friends and family. Though there is a lot of repetition of similar products and stalls, keep your eyes open for the best deals and interesting finds. The market place also sells fresh produce and delicious Chinese snacks at a decent price. Another place to visit (if you’re a morning person) is the Sydney Flower Market for super cheap deals for fresh flowers to keep your room smelling sweet. There is a wonderful selection of cut and potted flowers for any occasion.

 

For art lovers, there are quite a few free art exhibits located around Sydney, including the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Arthouse Hotel. I have yet had a chance to go to either, but there is still rain in the forecast for me so it may just happen. Another place of interest on my list is the Sydney Observatory, which offers a spectacular view of our solar system’s planets (pending time of year and date) and neighbouring stars. Keep in mind, a clear night is ideal for a visit to observatory. There is also the PowerHouse Museum for those keen on the sciences and things that move. 

As mentioned before, the Sydney Opera House is also excellent for a night a frivolity and laughs.

I’m still on the hunt for other places to visit on a rainy day, but that’s my list for now.

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