English Words That Were Invented By Writers

by Lindsay Shapka in ,

Did you know that a lot of the words or phrases that we use today were actually invented by writers, journalists, poets and playwrights? It's true! 

I was delighted to discover that one of my favourite words was invented thanks to an island, an ancient language, a Fairy Tale and a writer.

Serendipity (noun) 1. an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. 2.good fortune

The base of the word comes from the Arabic word for the island of Sri Lanka, Serendib. In 1754, writer Horace Walpole invented the word based on the title of an old Fairy Tale, The Three Princes of Serendip. The Princes were always making grand discoveries by accident in the tale... hence Serendipity! 

Find more words invented by writers here

7 Things To Know About Scottish Weddings

by Lindsay Shapka in ,

1. Men Wear Kilts (NOT skirts) — I learned first hand that you never tell a Scottish man that he has a "nice skirt". Apparently the difference between a kilt and a skirt in Scotland is that underwear is never worn under a kilt, and the men I've met at weddings are more than happy to prove that to you (especially after a few scotches). On another note, don't compliment ANYONE on their pants...

2. Women Don't Make Speeches Traditionally only the father of the bride, the best man, and the groom make speeches at the reception. Our North American tradition of showing slideshows and videos at weddings has not made it into Scottish weddings yet either. 

3. The MC or Host Is Usually An Employee of The Venue — Instead of getting your best friend, sister, or cousin to MC the event, the venues at Scottish weddings usually supply a host that announces speeches, food, dancing and generally moves the event along. Though it doesn't lend itself to the colourful jokes that usually come from a friendlier MC, it does make everything incredibly efficient. 

4. Scotch Is Not For Sipping — Everytime I met someone new (which was pretty much everyone), they would take me directly to the bar for a drink. Scotch would be ordered and I was not expected to slowly sip and enjoy this incredibly strong liquor, I was expected to shoot it back. Yup, I have not managed to stay sober for long at a Scottish wedding. 

5. Bagpipes — Pipers play before and after the ceremony, and they pipe the newly married couple into the reception. It is tradition for the bride to offer the piper a drink once they have made it to their seats to thank him for his time and talent. 

6. Tablet and Thistles — This could just be from my own experience, but both Scottish weddings I have been to had the Scottish thistle (an official symbol of Scotland) present and the served or gave away tablet as part of the party favours. Tablet is a sugary melt-in-your-mouth confection that tastes a little bit like a harder version of fudge (aka AMAZING). 

7. Reels — Traditional Scottish reels are SO MUCH FUN. They are a mix between line dancing, square dancing, and highland dancing. If you are a non-Scottish female, be prepared to be flung around the dance floor by your Scottish dance partner. Don't worry about looking foolish, everyone will be too busy trying to master the steps to pay any attention to you! 

My brother and his bride on their wedding day in Scotland! 


Book List: Duchess Bakery Cookbook

by Lindsay Shapka in ,

I had the pleasure of attending the launch of a beautiful new cookbook at Duchess Bakery last week. Written by Giselle Courteau (co-owner) and her incredible team, the book is filled with beautiful photos, recipes and stories about the bakery and the people that work there. Over 85 recipes break down the steps and ingredients to create French delicacies, and ALL of them were tested by normal people in real kitchens. 

Detailed, step-by-step instructions make even the most complicated recipes doable! 

Started by Courteau and her business partner Garner Beggs, Duchess was conceptualized while the pair were teaching English together in Japan. An odd place to get inspired by French pastries, you may think, but according to Courteau, the Japanese were obsessed with French food, and so there were bakeries everywhere. She spent three years perfecting her macaron recipe — she would buy macarons from the Japanese/French bakeshops, bring them home, analyze the flavours, and then try to recreate them. Oh, and she did all this with only a toaster oven! The macaron is still the signature pastry at the shop and the recipe used is the one that Courteau created while in Japan. According to her other business partner and pastry chef Jake Pelletier, though he continues to try, he has never found a recipe better than the one she came up with. 

This gorgeous cookbook not only unlocks the secrets of French baking for you, but supports these young entrepreneurs (and fellow travellers!) who have found a way to translate what they love into what they do! Find the cookbook here.

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Mmmm Macarons...

I hate to admit it, but the first time that I ever saw a macaron was 10 year ago in Paris and I was too afraid, embarrassed and confused to try one. Why confused, embarrassed and afraid, you ask? First of all, these tasty treats are very brightly coloured, often neon green, pink, yellow and even blue. Colours that looked to me like they were going to make your teeth melt, or were full of artificial ingredients that were sure to give me a tummy ache. Secondly, they... more


A Dose Of Inspiration: Quotes By Writers, Actors, and More to Inspire Travel and Adventure

by Lindsay Shapka in ,

“Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.”
— Ernest Hemingway

“But I am a born pilgrim. Even when I am feeling really lazy or I’m missing home, I need take only one step to be carried away by the excitement of the journey... I realize that I will never reach my goal by staying in the same place all the time. I can speak to my soul only when the two of us are off exploring deserts or cities or mountains or roads. ”
— from Aleph by Paulo Coelho

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”
— Oscar Wilde

“Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure.”
— Unknown

“If adventures do not befall a lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad.”
— Jane Austin

A map is the greatest of all epic poems. Its lines and colors show the realization of great dreams.
— Gilbert H. Grosvenor, National Geographic Magazine Editor 1914

“If I had to give you one piece of advice, it would be this: don’t be intimidated by other people’s opinions. Only mediocrity is sure of itself, so take risks and do what you really want to do. Seek out people who aren’t afraid of making mistakes and who, therefore, do make mistakes. Because of that, their work often isn’t recognized, but they are precisely the kind of people who change the world.”
— from Aleph by Paulo Coelho

“Some things weren’t meant to be tamed. For example, YOU.”
— Unknown

“I decided, very early on, just to accept life unconditionally; I never expected it to do anything special for me, yet I seemed to accomplish far more than I had ever hoped. Most of the time it just happened to me without me ever seeking it.”
— Audrey Hepburn

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering — these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love — these are what we stay alive for.”
— Robin Williams

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
— Ben Franklin

“My head is a hive of words that won’t settle.”
— Virginia Woolf

“I wonder how many people I’ve looked at all my life and never seen.”
— John Steinbeck

“We travel because distance and difference are the secret tonic of creativity. When we get home, home is still the same. But something inside our minds has changed, and that changes everything.”
— Jonah Lehrer

“Realize your youth while you have it. Don’t squander the gold of your days, listening to the tedious, trying to improve the hopeless failure, or giving away your life to the ignorant, the common, and the vulgar. These are the sickly aims, the false ideals, of our age. Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing.”
— from The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

“You can never visit the same place twice. Each time, it’s a different story. By the very act of coming back, you wipe out what came before.”
— from The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson

“The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.”
— Albert Einstein

“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things that I’m afraid of.”
— Joss Whedon

“Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”
— Carl Bard

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What's The Difference Between Ice Cream And Gelato?

by Lindsay Shapka in ,

Mounds of iced goodness sits in glass topped coolers, enticing those walking by to stop and purchase a scoop (or two) of melt-in-your mouth flavours like lemon, nutella, and blood-orange creamsicle. Nothing beats gelato.

But, then there is ice cream — served in crunchy waffle cones in favourite flavours like vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry, or mixed with things like cookie dough, or cheesecake. Mmmmm...

Both are delicious, have some flavours in common, and even have similar textures at times. In fact, gelato actually means ice cream in Italian. So what on earth is the difference between them?!

Here's what I have discovered:

  • Ice cream is made with cream and egg yolk, and has a fat content of at least 10% fat. Gelato, on the other hand, uses more milk than cream, uses fewer egg yolks (if any) so contains more like 5-7% fat.
  • Gelato is churned at a slower speed than ice cream, so it is denser because not as much air is whipped into it. Gelato is usually around 30% air, while ice cream contains around 50% air. This makes ice cream a little bit fluffier.
  • Ice cream is served frozen, while gelato is served at a warmer temperature so it doesn't use the elastic texture that makes it so enjoyable. 
  • Gelato tends to have more intense flavour than ice cream because there is less fat and it doesn't coat the mouth in the same way.

So there you have it! Happy indulging! 

7 Things I Learned From Being A Female Rugby Player

by Lindsay Shapka in ,


1. "You play rugby!?", accompanied by a head to toe scan of your body, is the typical response when someone (usually a male someone) learns that you play the sport. Believe it or not, female rugby players are not ugly, bearded, 300-pound lesbians. 

2. Every body type, nationality and skill set is welcome, if you are willing to work your butt every time you set foot on the pitch. 

3. The bond you have with your teammates is unlike anything you will experience in any other sport. After a full game of pushing yourselves further than you thought possible, putting your hands and faces waaayyyy too close to each other, and protecting each other from getting killed on the field, a certain unexplainable closeness is inevitable.  

4. Grudges are left on the field. Nothing surprised me more than seeing how opposite teams interacted in the clubhouse after even the toughest of games. Each side understands that in this incredibly physical sport, injuries happen, and competition ends when the last whistle blows.

5. Adrenaline is an incredibly potent drug that manages to keep all the pains at bay until you finally slow down and step into the shower. Then you can expect to limp, cry out and need bandages for the next week, leading people you interact with to think that you are a battered wife/girlfriend. 

6. Rugby is not a cute sport. You are covered in tape, wearing a mouthguard, have your nails cut as short as possible, no jewellery, and your hair pulled back as tight as possible to prevent anyone from pulling it. You are not there to impress the boys on the sidelines, you are there to kick some ass. 

7.  There are women who can actually outdrink men, and I am proud to say that many of them are my former teammates! 

Don't Sit Down When Dining In Rome!

by Lindsay Shapka in ,

An article published this summer in The Telegraph reported on some tourists in Rome who kicked up a stink when they were charged 42 Euros for two ice creams and a bottle of water in a cafe. Thinking that they were being scammed, they even went so far as to get the police involved.

Here's the problem: the prices were clearly marked on the menu that they failed to read.

How is it possible that ice cream and water can actually cost that much, you ask? Because they sat down at a table rather than taking them to-go.

I learned very quickly while living in Italy that as soon as you sit down in a cafe, the price of coffee, water, beer, pastry, gelato — pretty much everything — doubles or even triples in price. People don't really tip in restaurants, let alone cafes, and even though there are always tables, you will see that they are rarely filled by Italians. Therefore, cafes are not usually staffed to serve people during the day, so prices go up to reflect the additional work required.

So what do you do if you don't want to pay sit down prices? 

Coffee is usually served warm (not hot like we are used to in North America) so that it can be quickly drank while standing at the bar, while pastries, snacks and gelato are easily eaten while walking, sitting on the edge of a fountain or overlooking an ancient ruin. It is legal to drink anywhere in Italy, so when it comes to beer, or other alcoholic beverages, it is cheaper to buy a bottle at the local grocery store and then enjoy it will perched on the Spanish Steps, rather than in a stuffy cafe. 

Restaurants are, of course, a different story. There you are expected to sit down and enjoy a long leisurely dinner.

My advice? Employ the grab and go strategy of the Italians or, make sure you look very closely at the menu (sometimes there are two prices listed). If you really need to sit down in a cafe, try and get a few blocks away from the major tourist sites, as their prices will be the highest (and in my experience the least authentic.)