Would this house be big enough for you? Secret building project revealed

Would this house be big enough for you?


big-house-6 WMErin Lawrence, CTV Calgary
Published Wednesday, May 28, 2014 3:24PM MDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 28, 2014 3:28PM MDT

It looks like a new hotel along a highway but this can’t-miss construction project turning heads just west of Calgary Alberta is a huge single-family home.

It’s been under construction for months on Highway 22, just north of the Highway 8 roundabout, and it’s so large that neighbours and people on social media can’t stop talking about it.

According to property records obtained by CTV Calgary, the two-storey home, set on 80 acres, will be 11,000-square-feet when it is complete.

Fitbit Apps You’ll Love!

I LOVE my Fitbit Flex, and have worn it daily for nearly 2 years.  It keeps me honest on the fitness front, and gets me moving each day by buzzing me with silent alarms.  While the band does all the counting, there are some great apps it integrates with to make your life, health, and fitness management easier.


 For starters, you’ll want to know about the Fitbit App itself.  It’s a very easy to read and understand interface that counts your steps each day, tracks your sleep, records weight, and activity, and as you’re about to see, meshes with many third-party apps. The app syncs with your wristband via Bluetooth each time you launch the app on your mobile device.  While it syncs your steps automatically, you’ll need to input things like weight and water consumption yourself, and use one of the apps below if you want to track your food.  The Fitbit app also syncs your sleep pattens automatically so you can get a good sense of how many hours you’re getting, and what times of night you might be restless, or awake.

The Fitbit app is clean, streamlined and easy to read at a glance, and configurable to some extent, allowing you to keep or discard certain metrics, depending what you want to see.  Need a crash course in what the Fitbit is or how it works? Check out a great Tech Blog about the Fitbit line.

 Health & Wellness


My Fitness Pal (My personal favourite)MFP.jpg

Probably my #1 app for use with the Fitbit.  My Fitness Pal tracks your food and exercise, and also meshes that information with the movement and steps you get from the Fitbit. You set up an account, and tell it if you’re looking to gain or lose weight, or just keep things where they are.  It then tells you how much you should be eating in a day.  From there, the easy to use (and recently improved) interface allows you to manually enter your food, or to scan a barcode, and it will input the food for you.  It keeps track of your calories, then adjusts your calorie count for the day, based on how much or how little exercise you do.  So if you have a particularly busy day, it actually wants you to consume more calories!  The Fitbit, once you set the app up to link with your Fitbit, makes all the adjustments and shares any info with the app for seamless info flow.

Price: Free

Other Fitbit-compatible apps like it: Lose It, Foodzy



This app snagged “Best App Ever” in 2012. tactio.jpg It’s said to be the #1 Medical App in in over 10 countries, and in the  Top 10 Medical App in over 25 countries.  Tactio tracks all your body stats, from weight, to body fat and BMI, and your body measurements.  If you’re looking for something more in-depth than My Fitness Pal, this is your app, because it also tracks blood pressure, glucose levels, and cholesterol to give you a much better handle on your personal health markers.  It also counts steps and syncs with Fitbit to share the data, and allows you to make meal plans and count calories.  The app will even remind you to weigh in, get to your annual physical and deliver news updates (based on your profile), from the CDC and WHO. When I went through the set up, the questions were detailed and specific; it wants to know how many veggies you eat, what your waist measurement is, how much you move at work and in workouts, if you smoke, and more.  Be warned; if you’re going through the set up and get interrupted it doesn’t save what you’ve already input, so finish this before exiting, or before letting your phone go to sleep! Once your account is set up, link it to your Fitbit.

Price: Free

Similar to : My Fitness Pal (but much more in depth)



We all know the feeling; you set some goals, make a plan, and after a few weeks, boredom (or real life) sets in, and your carefully orchestrated fitness plan goes kaput.  Screen Shot 2014-05-25 at 7.10.00 PM.pngWhat if you had to pay for missing a workout?  That would probably make you think twice about your lame excuse.  Beeminder ’stings’ you for missing a workout, by making you pony up a cash penalty. “If you go off track, you pledge money to stay on the road the next time. If you go off track again, we charge you,” says the company’s app description.  Basically, if you flake, you pay. It’s not just for workouts.  If you want to learn Spanish, ballroom dance, or just to commit to doing something on a regular basis (call your mother!), Beeminder will make it your top priority, and penalize you if you don’t follow through.  Worth noting: I had a great deal of difficulty getting the app set up.  The only setup options are via Facebook and Twitter, and it kept giving me an “Authentication failed” message saying it didn’t recognize my profile. I’d love to know if it works better for any of you, and I’d be willing to give it another try.

Price: Free



Tappy Fit

You’re the kind of person who likes to gamify your life, so this is right up your alley. photo 2-1.PNG

This low-res faux-80’s era app uses your Fitbit data to improve your game experience as you navigate your flying shoe around your 2-bit world. Take more steps, some tasks get easier.  Skip them, and you have to work your thumbs a lot harder.  It’s a very basic (and a little dull) app, but fun for those who might need an extra boost.  I deleted it almost immediately after testing.

Price: Free

Similar to: Welly (which is basically a digital pet who gets cared for via the steps you take)


For Runners


Map My Run

I’ve been looking for an app like this for weeks, and was pleased when my research led me to this one. photo 1.PNG
Map My Run geo-locates you, and finds different routes you can take nearby, to cover a particular distance you might want.  Looking for a 5K near the office?  It lays out a handful of options.  Just want a quick 2-mile close to home?  Take your pick from the displayed maps. The app is colourful and very user-friendly.  Just touch, and run! And of course, it syncs with your Fitbit!

Price: Free

Similar to this: Digifit,  Endomondo and…



photo 3.PNGA really great pedometer app.  It uses the accelerometer inside your phone to track distance, speed, steps and calories burned.

You click it to start it when you go out for a walk, run or bike, and the app automatically sends your data to the aforementioned My Fitness Pal.  Technically this app doesn’t sync to Fitbit but it’s a great app to try out to see how (and if!) you might use a pedometer like a Fitbit.

Price: Free


Fitbolt Web App

You work a desk job, and you spend 7.8 hours per day sitting.  Need some motivation, maybe a reminder to get up, move, and do some stretching?  The Fitbolt desktop app claims to be just what you’re looking for.  It puts a tiny counter in your browser, and counts you down to a pre-set interval.  It will also display recommended stretches and movement activities you can do at your desk.  While the elbow/arm stretches were fine, I wasn’t about to do a plank on the dirty office carpet. I also didn’t like the fact that when the counter hits zero, there’s no alert, or alarm to remind you to get up.  It (in my Firefox browser, anyway) just reset it self and started counting again.  Also annoyingly, when do do remember to remember to look at the clock and try out a move, if you click that you’ve done it, it rewards you with …an ad.  Not to mention it kept crashing when I tried to log in to the dashboard.  Great idea in theory, but don’t waste your effort on this program.

Price: Free


Do you have a Fitbit-connected app you LOVE?  Tell me about it in comments.  I’d love to check out your favourite.


Travel: Peru’s Lake Titicaca, the Highest Navigable Lake in the World

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Lake Titicaca, Peru – The boat bobbed along the water’s edge, sidling up to the dock at Amantani Island in southern Peru.  For three hours we’d skimmed across the black water of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, after leaving port in Puno. We were here to spend 24 hours living as the Peruvians do;  staying with a local family; an opportunity to experience life far removed from tourist hotels and fancy restaurants. Life on Amantani Island hasn’t changed much since it was settled.  It’s largely an agricultural existence; ancient terraces cut into the mountainside hundreds of years ago are still farmed today.  We can clearly see those shady steps as the boat pulls in, and several locals dressed in traditionally colourful clothes grasp ropes flung into the air to tie up our boat. We’d been warned the altitude here could be a problem; causing headaches, dizziness,  and sapping our energy.  Within minutes we found the warnings were true.  What looked like a short and simple climb from the water’s edge up to our meeting spot was actually excruciating.  The hike took about 5 minutes, but by the time we arrived at the top, our legs burned and it was impossible to catch our breath. Clustered in a group at the top of the cliff were a dozen young women.  All wore the traditional coloured skirt, beautifully embroidered white blouse and black head scarf of the Amantani people.

Two Tourists and a local.  Photo Copyright: Erin Lawrence
Two Tourists and a local. Photo Copyright: Erin Lawrence

The women peered out at us from under their scarves, giggling and whispering,  wondering which of us would be in their care for the day and night. Our guide read our names from a list and introduced each of us to our temporary “mama”. These families have been here for centuries, and speak the native language Quechua, though most understand Spanish too. I am introduced to Norma and she shyly shakes hands.  The formal, Western greeting seems odd when delivered by someone who still wears the clothes of their ancestors.  Pointing up the mountain, she gives a hint of how far I’ll have to walk to get to our new home. Pack strapped tightly to my back, we begin trudging up the hills, and within minutes we’re panting again.  Norma, having lived on this mountain island all her life walks easily, and her feet seem to hardly touch the ground.  Smiling, she offers to carry the bags of fruit and pasta I’ve brought, which are gifts for her and her family. I grudgingly have to let her, and even loaded down, she makes the climb look easy. The pathway we’re using is virtually the island’s highway.  It’s narrow and uneven– laid with ancient stones hacked from the soil.  Every few minutes we pass someone Norma greets with a smile and the traditional Quechua greeting, “Alillanchu!”

Photo Copyright: Erin Lawrence
Photo Copyright: Erin Lawrence

The walk takes nearly half an hour and by the time we clamber up some dirt and stone steps into Norma’s yard, I’m exhausted.  I take a moment to breathe, and take in the homestead. It sits high on the side of a mountain, and the view is stunning.  I can see the rest of the island spread out before me, and the oceanic expanse of the lake glimmers in the distance.  The “house” is actually a complex of buildings spread across a flat section of the mountain.  There are four main buildings, all made of mud bricks with corrugated tin roofs, and there’s an outhouse in front. An elderly woman is crouched on a rock in the yard, surrounded by a rooster and a scattering of chickens.  Two children, a boy and a girl, peer around the corner, and watch curiously as I’m led up a wooden staircase on the first building, and into my room.  The inside is quite cute, and in stark contrast to the muddy straw exterior.  The walls have been smoothed and painted bright pink, there are three single beds, covered with warm blankets and children’s sheets.  Sheer gauzy curtains hang in the windows.  I’m instructed to relax before lunch, and  lay down for a nap immiediately. Lunch gives  a chance to really see how the Peruvians live.  I’m brought to the kitchen, which is a small, dark, cramped room with rough mud walls and a dirt floor.  The homes here, as in much of Peru, are not heated, so this is the warmest place in the house, and thus fine for a visitor.  The heat comes from the fire burning inside a small clay stove which sits at one end of the kitchen.

Andean clay stove.  Photo Copyright: Erin Lawrence
Andean clay stove. Photo Copyright: Erin Lawrence
Lake Titicaca Vista
Views of Lake Titicaca. Photo Copyright: Erin Lawrence

The stove is circular, a bit bigger than a beachball, and has two round openings on top, which easily balance the round clay pots the food is prepared in.  A stack of wood is heaped in the corner, and another older woman feeds small pieces into it.  There is a pipe which vents the smoke to the outside, but black soot is still streaked up the wall and onto the ceiling. The woman is Norma’s mother. She’s crouched on a slice of log, tending to the steaming pots.  Other log stools line the room.  We’d been told that our accommodations, depending on the family, could be rustic, or the family may have taken pains to make us comfortable, by supplying more western comforts.  Sure enough, a table made of planks has been set up at the opposite end of the small room, and a plank bench is wedged behind it . The small boy, and teenage girl join us, but several of the stools are vacant.  I ask about the family, as hot soup is ladled out. They explain, in a travellers combination of Spanish, broken English, the odd Quechua word, and some hand gestures that most of the family is out working in the fields, a job they do from sunup to sunset.  The ladies mind the children and take care of the animals and the home.  Norma’s father, and two brothers will join us for dinner. Our soup is quinoa, a tiny, that very typical Andean grain, mixed with vegetables and a delicious broth. The soup is followed by a plate of rice, potatoes and a small bit of meat, with chunks of white, squeaky cheese. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMuch of the rest of the meal is eaten in silence, since it seems the family doesn’t want to disturb me or seem rude by asking lots of questions.  That makes me wonder if I should cut out the questions for fear of being rude myself.  Fortunately, internal etiquette debates are ended, as the time has arrived for an afternoon of hiking this island.  Norma gives me a knitted woolen hat with ear flaps and long strings to tie up under the chin.  As I arrive at a meeting point I see all the others in our group with similar hats, in different colours.  The hat is typical of this region, but now the reason for our wearing them now becomes clear—it’s the only way our mamas (accustomed to several tourists every week) can remember which of us belongs at their house.     Again we set off uphill.  Bundled back in the comfort of a tourist group, we  climb towards Pachatata, or “Father Earth” mountain—one of two sacred peaks on this island.  On top, surrounded by a stone and wooden fence is a sacred temple which is only opened once a year during a ritual to ask the gods to ensure a good harvest.  There are no cars on this remote island, meaning all farming and industrial work is done by hand.  Looking up at the layers of terraced fame land hacked from the earth, it seems what’s been done here is monumental. We climb slowly, muscles burning, breath shallow, sweat soaking our bodies.  We stop every ten minutes to rest, and get a chance to enjoy the stunning vistas of the massive lake.  We arrive on top in time to see the sunset.  And as the light begins to fade, our guide encourages us to pick up a stone and carry it three times around the temple, for good luck. By the time we begin heading back down towards our homes it’s dark.  The hardscrabble pathway of loose rocks and rough earth is dangerous by day, but by night it seems strangely easier to navigate.  There is no tripping, no sliding—our footing seems to have solidified under the growing moonlight. Back at village level, Norma picks out her hand-knitted hat at a distance and returns me home for dinner Dinner is roasted guinea pig, veggies, rice, and a potato and quinoa stew that’s simple but very delicious.   I’ve brought a stack of postcards of my hometown of Vancouver for just this occasion, and I pull them out so they can understand where I’ve come from.  The family patriarch is in absolute awe of the Lion’s Gate Bridge.  He lives in a place where bridges are built by hand and with timbers hewn from logs near home.  This structure is as tall as Pachatata, and forged with iron.  He just sits and stares at it. Everyone has questions about such a place; how many people live in Canada? Do I have a husband? Do I work? What does my house look like? I answer questions long into the evening, and ask them many as well. By the time I head for my cotton-stuffed mattress with woven covers, I’m exhausted with talk.  Tired, and full, rest comes too easily.  And I only have a moment of looking forward to tomorrow, before I slip into sleep. Author: Erin Lawrence

Photo Copyright: Erin Lawrence
Photo Copyright: Erin Lawrence


Gorgeous Retro Illustrations Revived as Parks Posters




































Via DesignMilk.

I absolutely love these retro posters, advertising travel at the US National Parks.

The artwork is stunning, the colours gorgeous, and the design is simple, effective and eye-catching, especially in a world of HD video and 21 million pixels!  You can get them HERE from Print Collection.















Tees Help Raise Money for New Saskatchewan Wildlife Rescue

Tees Help Raise Money for New Saskatchewan Wildlife Rescue

Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 7.50.27 AMLimited Edition Porcupine shirts now available!

“Ready, Quilling & Able”  By purchasing one of these fabulous T’s or Hoodies you can help us build a pre-release enclosure for Salthaven West’s first patient!  Choose from a casual unisex t-shirt, fitted woman’s t-shirt or comfortable hoodie. Each one comes in your choice of at least 3 colours!  Funds from this campaign will be used to purchase wood and supplies needed to construct an outdoor pen to prepare the baby porcupine for his eventual release back into the wild.

For more information on Salthaven please visit:www.salthaven.org  or keep up with the Porcupine’s development on Facebook at:https://www.facebook.com/SalthavenWest

And for a look at the first patient at Salthaven West that inspired the campaign, check out the video!


Baby Porcupine, nicknamed “Porky”, is Salthaven West’s First Patient and doing great. He’ll be back in the wild soon.

From Game of Thrones, to Gemstones, to “ThunderHeart” & “Tempest”: Alberta’s Baby Names 2013

20140513-113021.jpgFrom Alberta Government News Release:

Alberta parents welcomed 53,090 babies – 25,789 girls and 27,301 boys – in 2013, ahead of 2012’s total of 52,439, and 2011’s tally of 50,844.

“Alberta is a great place to raise a family and we want Alberta’s kids to have the best life possible. The Building Alberta plan is one way we are working to ensure that the children born today have the education, health care and other supports necessary to thrive in world we live in.”

Doug Griffiths, Minister of Service Alberta

Names chosen in 2013 suggest Albertans like fantasy genre books and TV series, with several monikers from George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones franchise given to Alberta children. For girls, Arya, Brienne, Catelyn, Daenarys, Osha, Sansa, and Talisa made the list; while Tyrion, Theon, Robb, Martell, Jory, and Rayder appeared for boys.

For the second year running The Hunger Games trilogy may have provided inspiration for babies named Peeta, Cato, Rue, Primrose, Seneca, and Gale.

Some parents took inspiration from J.R.R. Tolkien, naming their boys Rohan and Thorin and girls Arwen. The Harry Potter series was also represented with Hermione, Ginny and Draco.

The science fiction and fantasy genre may also have credit for other names including Inara, from Joss Whedon’s Firefly; Lyra, of Philip Pullman’s Golden Compass trilogy; and Aslan, courtesy of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia.

Greek mythology also appeared to have an influence on Albertans who welcomed babies last year. Aries, Atlas, Orion, Midas, and Adonis made the list for boys. Athena, Artemis, Pandora, Hera, and Persephone were chosen for girls.

Several baby girls were named after precious stones including Diamond, Amethyst, Emerald, Opal, and Sapphire. While for boys, parents were inspired by brand names: Stetson, Oakley, Dyson, Kindle, Tesla, and Wrangler.

A number of interesting compound names also appeared on this year’s list: Heavendip, Goodluck, Godbless, and Thunderheart for boys; and Godwill and Violetrose for girls.images

Some of the more stand-out names for boys include Urban, Sir, Canyon, Hurricane, Logic, One, Alias, and Jixxr. While for girls, these creative monikers made the list: Eunique, Conshens, Barbie, Diva, Tempest, Siri, Arrow, Glamour, and Lava.

Albertans who are trying to choose the perfect name for their little bundles of joy can download the free Alberta Baby Names app for the iPhone, iPad and Android devices. The app has more than 95,000 Alberta baby names and their popularity going back to 1980.

The Vital Statistics branch of Service Alberta recorded 5,980 distinct boy names and 7,191 distinct girl names in 2013. The figures are based on reports to date from hospitals and birthing centres. Final numbers and a complete list of names will be available on the Open Data Portal once all the information is collected and compiled later this year.

Alberta’s top names for baby boys


Boy Names (2013)

Boy Names (2012)

1 Liam Liam
2 Lucas Ethan
3 Ethan Jacob
4 Noah Logan
5 Logan Mason
6 Benjamin Benjamin
7 William Lucas
8 Jacob Alexander
9 Mason Carter
10 Carter Noah

Alberta’s top names for baby girls


Girl Names (2013)

Girl Names (2012)

1 Olivia Emma
2 Emma Olivia
3 Emily Emily
4 Sophia Sophia
5 Ava Ava
6 Avery Lily
7 Abigail Ella
8 Charlotte Isabella
9 Chloe Abigail
10 Lily Chloe




Crazy Data Maps Will Re-Draw What you Think of the Globe

airports mapJason Davies draws maps.  But not your ordinary maps.  Really cool maps, that shatter what we thing of when we talk boundaries and borders. Davies’ maps use data differently; he takes data, and redistributes the information on a map, to createnot just different views of the world, but maps that a more Monet than Mercator Projection.

Check out his website with maps o’ plenty here.








Your Camper is a Wimpy Baby, Compared to the Powerful Swiss-Army-Style UEV-440

uevIt’s official.  I may just give up my tent.  But not for any ordinary camper.  The UEV-440 is the ultimate Urban Escape Vehicle.

“The UEV-440 is a true Jack of all trades, it offers the maneuverability and capability of a camper trailer as well as caravan benefits such as a hard roof, sides and floor,” says the company that builds it, “The 440 has a number of sleeping arrangements to suit both couples and families.
With luxuries such as diesel hot water system, interior heating, air-conditioning, microwave, shower, fridge/freezer, full kitchen complete with cutlery and crockery and even a flat screen DVD player you will fall in love with this truly ultimate off-road camper.”

Not to mention the bar area, and luxury sleeping quarters, all packed into a trailer you could easily pull down a mountain.  No kidding.



Check out this amazing video I can’t get enough of.





The compartmentalization of this trailer is insane.  Almost every side and panel folds out.  There’s awnings, stone/mud guards, and plenty of space for luggage, if that’s how you roll.

This unit is the ultimate in cool, functional durability. Check out their brochure on their website.


4 Ways to Connect Your Home & Make Life Better


It doesn’t take much to kick your home’s connectivity into high gear. You probably already have WiFi, so what about taking things to the next level? A high-powered router, or a camera to keep watch on the kids, the dog; security can be great additions.  But even small add-ons like a set of wireless speakers can save you trouble, hook ups and clutter when it comes to entertaining or relaxing. And Wireless TV from Google on a thumb-drive? … don’t even get me started.  Click here to read the FULL article: 4 Ways to Connect Your Home & Make Life Better