And while there may still be a small, pathetic snowbank at our curb, I am ready (so ready!) to fully embrace spring and get to enjoying some sunshine, greenery and walks outside without teeth chattering.
As the season finally begins to show itself, I thought it fitting to indulge in a little Vintage Spring-ery for today’s post. Flowers, bonnets, happiness and colour abound in these lovely seasonal gems from yesteryear. As always, vote on your favourites, below!
Do you have any big plans for the season? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.
Bring on SPRING!
Springtime Pup (And Poofy Dress), c. 1930
Flower Inspired Spring Fashion
Sophisticated Retro Spring Hat and Dress
Milliner Mr John Elegant Watteau Collection Spring and Summer 1962
2) Because it’s been longer than a week since there has been a POTW post, the summary of Daily Shots at the bottom of this post is longer than the usual seven days. If you’ve missed any of the last week and a half’s Daily Shots of Z & G, take the time to have a look – I promise at least one of those nuggets will make you smile :)
3) As this week winds down, my family is getting ready to embark on another summer trip! On Saturday morning we will be heading off on a long road trip that will take us to a new lake shore and a lovely cottage! We’ll be there for seven days of hiking, writing, games, beach fun, R & R and priceless time with one another. I’ve been assured there is some form of internet connection, but who knows? If there is, I will be here, bright and early on Sunday morning with my usual new Daily Shot (upper right corner of your screen). If not, this summer-lovin’ soul will be unplugged for the whole week. Either way, it’s allllllll good!
Have an inspired Friday, my friend! Now onto those pictures….
PICS OF THE WEEK
BOY AND BULL
I have no info about what the heck is going on here. I DO know that the whole darn thing is so bizarre (where are that poor child’s pants?!) that I knew immediately it would lead off this week’s POTW. If you happen to have any info (or idea) as to what, who, when, where and (most importantly) why these two seem to be eying each other up, I’d love to hearit:)
UPDATE: Received the following today:
“Hi! I actually have information on the bull and boy picture. I took this picture of my little brother and one of our pet bulls. The bull Bo and my little brother are around the same age and grew up together. It was not a planned photo. Just an FYI the bull is harmless. We raised him since he was born.”
UPDATE #2 – As of June 2014, I have received 2(!) additional messages from 2 different families claiming ownership and relation to this child and this pic. As I cannot attribute it correctly, I am removing it from Z & G.
On June 25th I was very pleased to share artist Elena Caravela’s whimsical piece, “Mesmerize” as the Daily Shot of Z & G. Today’s gemalso beautifully displays her knack for soft and clever illustration that’s always got a little something “extra” if you look just a bit closer. For links to Caravela’s work, see the credits, below.
BEST OF BOTH WORLDS: BOOKS & MUSIC
“Music is to the soul what words are to the mind.”
― Modest Mouse, Good News for People Who Love Bad News
“KAMPAI!” AND “SPLASH”
Head South-West of Tokyo (Japan), and take a dip in Hakone’s unique Wine Pool Spa Hot Spring. The Japanese are huge fans of Beaujolais Nouveau (red) wine – and they’ve got the resort to prove it. A dozen bottles, made by France’s Cordier, are poured into the water of the open air “wine spa”, daily.
According to the onsen (hotspring),”Wine smooths the skin and the aroma relaxes the mind…[it also, when bathed in, acts as] a rejuvenation treatment…It has been said that the Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra, loved to bath in wine.”
Who are we to argue with Cleopatra?
NEXT ITEM FOR THE CITY BUDGET: SPELLCHECK
We’re willing to bet they meant, “prone”…if not…well, this place has trouble written all over it.
PEACE. LOVE AND FLOWERS, BABY
Last week’s marvelous “Living Wall” was a favourite among readers. For those of you who loved the wall, this vehicular beauty is sure to please! (No word on where one takes this sort of groovy ride for a car wash :))
Miss Any of The Past Week and a Half’s Daily Shots? Catch up here:
I thought these were just the most delicate and darling desserts I’ve seen in a long time….Little bits of art unto themselves! Very chic, very fresh, very Spring! And just too unique and pretty not to share. (For the recipes, click on any of the picture captions). If any of you DO try one of these, please let me know how it goes! And for those of you with edible flower recipes of your own, I would love to hear about them (or better yet, see pictures!) Consider this my very Happy Thursday bouquet to most lovely, wonderful you. :)
March Break has long come and gone, and now that we’ve had a while to get back into our groove and sift through the photos of the kids’ annual Spring reprieve, it’s official: The sweetest day was our Maple Sugar Bush Hike at the Jack Smythe Field Centre. Yep, we hit up the tried and true traditional, Canadian sugar shack and it was grand!
"Sugar Shack" by Allan Edson (1872)
“Sugar shacking” is a well worn Canadian tradition, but I’ve only ever been during the winter months. I wasn’t sure what to expect as we drove up and down the huge hills to get there. The weather had been wonky for a few weeks (huge ups and downs in temperature) which left all of Spring’s new greenery and flowers in my area frostbitten, dead, half bloomed, or just plain pathetic looking (some of you may recall my Magnolia lament ;)). I worried that the maple bush would be brown and withered, that the promised “friendly chickadees” would be holed up in their nests, and the kids woefully disappointed with the whole thing. I didn’t want their first maple sugar bush experience to stink – they’re half Canadian for goodness sake!
(Just a few of my favourite shots below, followed by the full slideshow/thumbnails with lots of additional pics! Captions on my photos should tell the story :))
No idea what kind of trees these are but the buds were remarkable
Bud on tree
Ava, Ben and Daddy entering the trail
Spring was beginning to paint the place with some new life and colour...trees were beginning to green-up again
Looking into the wood
Tree that had recently been felled
Mock up "person" with two cans for hands. The cans held bird seed that the kids could put in their hands and raise up in hopes of a chickadee landing, in palm, to eat. (I thought the scarf was a nice touch) We saw many chickadees, but none seemed hungry.
Our first encounter with trees that had been tapped and were set up with buckets to catch the sap. It takes 40(!) of these buckets full of sap to make 1 small, glass bottle of maple syrup!
Clear drop of sap about to fall into the collection bucket
Finally, we made it to the back of the Sugar Shack! (Yes, that really is moss on the roof)
Syrup is released through the tap and into a cheesecloth-type bag lined bucket. The cheesecloth removed any leftover impurities (or tree "stuff") from the syrup.
After the presentation on how maple syrup is made, we were given popsicle sticks to dip into the fresh maple syrup....DELICIOUS! (Unfortunately, we were all too busy tasting to get a good shot of our "oh yummy!" expressions. With the exception of some syrup in the hair, all parties were impressed with the flavour :)
The most funky moss rock we saw. At least 3 different kids of moss (completely different texture and shape!) all growing in different directions on the same rock. Each one of them even felt unique!
The teepee is actually much larger than it would have been when the Aboriginal people lived in them (my husband, pictured, is just over 6"2 to give you an idea of it's size). It's been made this big so that visitors to Jack Smythe can enter and see a demonstration inside
Looking down: More moss, foliage and leaves...at my feet.
Looking up...trees and light
Moss growing up tree trunk
The full slideshow is here:
To enlarge any thumbnail, click on image
Freight train that stopped us about 5 minutes from Jack Smythe. It was HUGE. Longest freight train ever. It kept going, and going…..
First trees upon entry…looked pretty bleak (and brown!) But there were little bits of life and colour beginning to pop…
No idea what kind of trees these are but the buds were remarkable
And so plentiful!
My son and daughter before setting out onto the trail
Red tree bud
Loved the way the buds angled all over the place – so unusual!
Whatever’s going to bloom…it will be bloomin’ plentifully! Look at all those red buds!
Bud on tree
Making his way to the trail head…
Ava, Ben and Daddy
Ava, Ben and Daddy entering the trail
This way to the Sugar Shack!
My kids (daughter with her Maplelea Doll on her back) meeting a new friend
The first of many funky rocks covered in many different kinds of (bizarre!) moss
Another rock with moss (they get stranger…)
Spring was beginning to paint the place with some new life and colour…trees were beginning to green-up again
Ben, off to explore
This rock was completely covered in a fine, fuzzy, lime moss
Looking into the wood
We didn’t see any deer…but apparently, they’re all over Jack Smythe property
Tree that had recently been felled
Sign indicating that there were chickadees closeby. They were said to be very friendly…
Mock up “person” with two cans for hands. The cans held bird seed that the kids could put in their hands and raise up in hopes of a chickadee landing, in palm, to eat. (I myself thought the scarf was a nice touch :P)
Another funky rock with moss…totally different from the growth on the others
Closeup on “feathery”, long type of moss on rock
…And the moss spread onto logs too :)
Our first encounter with trees that had been tapped and were set up with buckets to catch the sap
Clear drop of sap about to fall into the collection bucket
More rock moss. This one was two different shades and not so “feathery” as some of the others
First glimpse, through the trees, of the teepee
Finally, we made it to the back of the Sugar Shack!
Excited to have made it “ALL THAT WAY!” (it’s really not a very long hike!)
Front of the Sugar Shack
Another funky moss covered rock at the door of the Sugar Shack
Inside the Sugar Shack- an industrial evaporator and tap line system set up to boil sap and make maple syrup…YUM!
Our gracious speaker giving a presentation on how the contraption works :)
Close up of tap line system and evaporator
Cooking demonstration by Tammy Hand–stoking the fire to get the process moving along! The steam (that smells DIVINE!) goes up and out of a “chimney” (which was really just a hole in the ceiling!) (this image courtesy of Matthew Strader)
Syrup is released through the tap and into a cheesecloth lined bucket. The cheesecloth removed any leftover impurities (or tree “stuff”) from the syrup.
After the presentation on how maple syrup is made, we were given popsicle sticks to dip into the fresh maple syrup….DELICIOUS! (Unfortunately, we were all too busy tasting to get a good shot of our “oh yummy!” expressions. With the exception of some syrup in the hair, all parties were impressed with the flavour :))
The most funky moss rock we saw. At least 3 different kids of moss (completely different texture and shape!) all growing in different directions. Each one of them even felt unique!
Close up of the other side of same rock
The tree tapping station set up for the kids to try
Finally, we made it to the teepee that we’d seen through the woods earlier
The teepee is actually much larger than it would have been when the Aboriginal people lived in them. This one is about 18 feet high. It’s been made this big so that visitors to Jack Smythe can enter and see a demonstration inside
Entering the teepee
Inside the teepee, this lovely lady was waiting to show us how the early settlers collected sap and produced maple syrup in centuries past. While she explained this, she was using a small hatchet to make kindling for the fire in the centre of the teepee.
The roof of the teepee where the smoke from the fire could exit
The door of the teepee
This bucket of sap was brought into the teepee by a volunteer. We were shown how, in days old, the sap would be emptied into a hollowed out tree trunk. Then rocks that had been heating up in the fire would be placed directly into the sap to heat it. This long process of “cooking” and reducing the sap is how maple syrup was made.
Hollowed out log filled with sap
Closeup of “uncooked” sap in hollowed out log
The hatchet our hostess used to hack at wood and kindling to keep the small fire going in the teepee (to heat the rocks) A large fire would not have been used long ago -the smoke would have overcome the inhabitants of the teepee
Fire in the teepee
My daughter attempting to hand “drill” into the tree to set the spigot (spout)
Another beauty of a tree
Looking down: More moss, foliage and leaves…at my feet.
Strange hollow in a tree
Craggy tree bark
Looking up…trees and light
Moss growing up tree trunk
Closeup of new moss forming on tree bark
Rock bed near creek
The last funkalicious moss rock of the day :)
All that sweet, mapley goodness got us in the mood for waffles and pancakes! Fortunately, I was able to find an absolutely wonderful recipe for egg free pancakes that my kids could eat (See my Eggless, Vegan Pancakes post). As you can imagine, we all ate, breathed and oozed maple for many days after!
Coming home from Jack Smythe, we stopped into Montana’s Cookhouse for my favourite veggie burger…but that’s a story to be saved for another day :)
In the meantime, if you ever have the opportunity to visit the Jack Smythe Field Centre, I’d highly recommend it! It’s located at 14592 Winston Churchill Blvd., Terra Cotta, Ontario N0B 1H0. Telephone number (905) 877-7771. Rates were $5 per adult and $4 per child 12 years and under.
Which of the pictures did you enjoy best? What did you do on your March/Spring Break? And (most importantly) does anyone know what the heck kind of tree that was with those huge, gorgeous, red buds??
The first week of Spring, I was giddy with anticipation. The buds on our Magnolia tree were getting fatter and fuzzier by the minute! High hopes for a full on, bloomin’ bonanza within days!
I posted photos of my budding branches in the inaugural Pics of the Week and yapped away about my would-be magnolias to my gardening groups.
(Back of hand to forehead and heavy *sigh*)
Just as they began to pop into their gorgeous glory, the fickle Canadian weather swooped and threw the temperature way down below freezing.
(Heart wrenching, frantic violins!)
So now, it is with deep regret that I inform you that the magnolia blossoms, mere days old, and only half opened, did not make it. :(
Frostbitten, browning petals litter my lawn now, and what is still on that poor little tree is terribly saggy, spent and well beyond saving.
That said, I did manage to snap the following pictures the day before the cold laid the smackdown.
It warmed up again, today, but we’re expecting it to get frigid again (I’ve heard rumors of one last snow…ACK!!) We’ll have to watch and wait to see how our darling tree fares this Spring.
On the flipside, while Mother Nature taketh away, guess what? Bingo! You’ve got it, my friend, she gives too!
As I lamented my almost-bloomed magnolias and abject ruthlessness of Canada’s freakish weather, I got a heckuva deal! A full case of sweet, sweet champagne!
…Well, Champagne mangos, actually ;).
Also known as Ataulfo Mangos, I wrote about these golden goodies (here) and they are deeeeelish. I got the whole case of 18 for what worked out to about $0.50 per mango (over half off of what they normally cost! SCORE!)
I see a plethora of juices, smoothies, desserts and chutneys in my future!
And maybe, just maybe, a beautiful, blooming magnolia tree too.
All images by Moi, Zen and Genki, with the exception of Crying Baby (via Babyworld)
When a dear friend of mine and I stepped into Moxie’s Bar and Grill last week, I had every intention of ordering one of my favourite menu items, their roasted beet and arugula salad. I was pleasantly surprised, however, when our server presented us with the Hello Spring Feature Menu to look over.
Peppered with items reflecting the season (think fruity flavours and fresh vegetables alongside the usual proteins), we both immediately zeroed in on the riesling poached pear salad and ordered one a piece.
Boasting “fresh romaine, spiced hazelnuts and walnuts, crunchy vegetables, roasted pineapple and a riesling dressing”, at $12.99 the dish was comparable to Moxie’s other salads in both portion (entrée size) and price. Steak, chicken or prawn skewers can be added for between $4 and $8 dollars.
The verdict? Well done, Moxie’s!
Our meals arrived in good time and were superbly plated. (I’m sorry, my picture does not do it justice!) The riseling poached pear was d-i-v-i-n-e (and I’ve had my share of poached pears). Perfectly prepared and artfully displayed, whole, to the side of the salad greens, the pear added a gorgeous, subtle sweetness when married with the rest of the dish and a surprising amount of substance to an otherwise light entrée.
Crisp romaine, juicy, roasted pineapple, tomatoes (and a few diced carrots) were complimented by the spunky riseling dressing, also well suited to a Spring menu. The spiced nuts were a welcome savory addition and contributed significant character. Both my companion and I were impressed by the depth and layering of flavours, and by how each bite was so texturally satisfying.
Overall, a lovely lunch experience I enjoyed and would recommend. I’d suggest pairing the riesling poached pear salad with a light, dry white wine and hitting Moxie’s patio to enjoy (they were in the process of opening it up for the season while we were there)
Moxie’s Hello Spring Feature Menu runs from March 8 – April 30. The chain has restaurants across Canada with varying hours. Check their website for the one closest to you. We were guests at the Moxie’s on Argentia Road (Mississauga) where the hours are Sunday – Thursday, 11am-12pm and Fridays and Saturdays 11am-1am.
There is the distinct possibility that I may try to whip up my own version of this pretty plate at my place…and if that happens, dear reader (and is, even remotely successful), I will be sure to post the recipe :)
A bite sized, sparkling nugget just for precious you. One that will take about 10 seconds or less to digest, but make you feel good, guaranteed. It’s the Quick Shot of Z & G, and starting tomorrow (3/26/2012), a new Shot will be appearing daily. The new Daily Shot of Z & G will remain where the Quick Shot has been, featured up top, in the right corner of all Zen and Genki pages and posts.
Also new and improved? You’ll be able to enlarge, comment, like or share the Daily Shot if you wish, just like any other post. If you miss a dose of the good stuff, no worries: A Daily Shot archive will now appear in a drop down menu under the newly constructed Daily Shot of Z & G tab at the top of the page.
After changing the Quick Shot everyday for the first week of Spring, there was such lovely feedback that I thought, why stop? Everyone loves to smile. Not everyone has a whole lot of free time. But there is an abundance of awesome stuff to share, and it doesn’t have to take long to soak in or make an impact.
So, going forward, bright and early, I’ll post a mini gift box with inspiration, wisdom, peace, energy or rip, snortin’ funny inside. It may be a quote. Or a picture. An anecdote. Or something to make you think. A seed, perhaps, that speaks just to you. Hopefully, it’ll tickle your brain, make you grin… maybe even inspire you to change the world. Whatever your reaction, I can promise three things:
1. It will be squeezed fresh, daily
2. It will always be free and positive
3. It will take you no more than a few seconds to indulge
I hope you’ll pop in while you’re sipping your tea each morning (or snuggling up with a warm blanket at night), and top up your tank with some feel-goodness, Z & G style.
If you’d like to submit material for the Daily Shot of Z & G, please see the guidelines located at the bottom of the Contact Me page.
Have a wonderful week!
***UPDATE: As of Feb 7, 2013, the Daily Shot will move to a Weekly Shot refreshed every Sunday.***
This is the first post in what will be an ongoing series, tellingly dubbed “Pics of the Week”.
Spotlight! Applause! Happiness and anticipation!
The series will run, every Friday. Nothing too fancy shmancy about it…it’ll be all about what magic’s in the frame (or, as is often the case with me, outside of the box :P) The quality of the shot may not be as important as what is in it, or the sheer visual may be why it’s on this virtual reel.
Be it through context, subject matter, humor, beauty or eccentricity, I’m aiming to shoot some she-zam! into your eye-orbs and give you some good ol’ fashioned, heart, soul or brain candy to enjoy.
Shall we begin?
Shot in my front yard, our magnolia tree on the 1st day of Spring.It may look barren…but see those tiny white flecks on every single branch?
…each of those hundreds of bitty puffs of light are fuzzy, growing buds.
Magic waiting to happen!
You thought your jack-o-lantern carving was special?
Regrowing store bought celery, green onions and leeks.
“SEA OF STARS”
“Pinpricks of light on the shore seem to mirror stars above in…on Vaadhoo Island in the Maldives…” This glowing (bioluminescence) “in the waves is the product of tiny marine life-forms called phytoplankton. Various species of phytoplankton are known to bioluminesce, and their lights can be seen in oceans all around the world, [says] marine biologist and bioluminescence expert Woodland Hastings of Harvard University.” (1)
THE FORCE IS STRONG IN THAT ONE
My youngest, in his new Star Wars helmet “spying on the enemy”
Happy most marvelous first day of Spring! My new MindBodyGreen post, “4 Ways to Savor Spring Showers” can be found here, and is also pasted below. Enjoy! :)
Spring is just around the corner which means rain, rain, beautiful rain! And while the adage “April showers bring May flowers” implies those downpours and drizzles are merely a means to a pretty end, rain can fuel deeply spiritual — and surprisingly tangible — positive outcomes. Here are four easy ways that don’t take a whole lot of effort (or cash!), but will fill your soul cup to the brim.
1. Splish Splash. Start with the obvious! Let your hair down, bust out your finest pair of galoshes, stylin’ rain hat or umbrella, and slosh like a wild child. Jump in the juiciest puddles. Stamp your feet. Make a mess. Taste the rain on your face. Find the muckiest trailside mudpie you can and plant your dirty boot mark in it. You’ll feel like a kid again: free! Exhilarated! Don’t be shy — you’ll quite likely be alone, as most grownups get skittish and take cover when heavy clouds roll in. After you’ve let loose, slow down. Consciously take a moment to really feel the rain, smell the rain…to just be. You, outside, literally showered and wrapped in Mama Earth’s glory. Appreciate the moment through the temporality of each droplet. Splish splashing in the rain is a great way to unwind, engage fully in the moment, tickle your inner child, and physically put things in perspective: it really is all just a drop in the bucket. Don’t sweat the small stuff…and bask in the grandeur of the big picture.
2. Catch and Release. Put out your biggest, sturdiest containers and catch as much beautiful fresh water as you can. If you’re really keen, buy a rain barrel to grab and store even more. Water overuse is a serious environmental issue, and the stuff is literally falling — for free! — from the sky. Use the water you catch for indoor planters, cleaning or even your kettle (just be sure those containers were spic and span before setting them outside!) Rain catching doesn’t only lower your water footprint and help the environment — it’ll cut your utility bill too. Win-win!
3. Make a Masterpiece. A rain painting is an easy to make, one of a kind piece you’ll love watching take shape. Center a sheet of thick paper on a plastic crafting board (or plastic bag that fits completely under the paper, lying flat). Sprinkle some dry tempera paint on the paper. Colors and quantity are up to you, but best results are generally achieved when the paint is applied thinly, over the majority of blank paper space. Place the crafting board and paper outside where the rain is able to make contact, step back, and watch your masterpiece come to life! Raindrops hitting the dry paint will turn it liquid, and begin binding it to your paper almost immediately. No two rain showers are exactly alike, which means, each painting you make will be unique and special — just like you! Bring your piece inside before it gets too wet, then touch up or style further with paintbrushes or toothpicks. Hang your rain paintings as art or use your beautified pages as stationary.
4. Meditate. Powerful, sharp, gentle or soft, rain is always a symphony. Open your ears, open your window (if possible!) and open your mind. Symbolically, spiritually and literally, rain is nature’s master cleanser, and greatest gift. So take it. Take a window seat. If you’re game, take a meditation cushion to your hooded veranda or porch. Really adventurous? Go outside and take in the droplets in the wide open air (this video proves it’s possible in even the heaviest downpour!) Settle into your meditation posture, quiet your mind and listen. Observe your breath. Allow the falling rain to soften all of the external noise in the world and in your soul. Outside or in, meditating in the rain is one of those rarest of occasions when the sounds all around you are organic, pure and have the potential to harmonize, profoundly with your inner OM.
This Spring, as the deep thunder begins to roll, or you hear that telltale pitter patter on the windowpane, get ready to indulge, have fun and make the very mindful most of the season’s finest gift! Rain’s not just for singin’ in anymore.
What fun and excitement this week! I didn’t expect to be away from here, my precious nook, for so long! But it was time well spent and very productive, indeed! There were a few notable things that made this past week so special:
1) Maple syrup madness. It was March break (so my two kids were home from school all week). Good times and good memories made! My husband even took Thursday and Friday off of work so we could all hang out together (and enjoy some of the annual March Madness of U.S. college basketball!) The highlight of our break was a trip to the “March Break Maple Syrup Days” at the Jack Smythe Field Centre (above is the entrance to the Centre’s forest trail). We all had a blast and enjoyed a full day outdoors. More on that in an upcoming post! (Teaser: expect to hear about a sugar shack, mammoth teepee and some funkaliciously weird mossy rocks :P)
2) Z & G got some TLC! Zen and Genki had a great first week - thank you! I was so surprised and so utterly humbled by the lovely feedback and support. I send you all a huge wave of love and gratitude.
Guess what? There is a wide variety of content in the pike that is going to knock your socks off! Over the next few weeks and months, you’ll be introduced to awesome people, projects, inspirations, recipes and how – to’s. I’ll be rolling out heaps of cool stuff , splendid series and nifty new features that I know you’re going to love as much as I do. Some of these are already firmly in the making, while others will take a little longer to finalize. On all fronts, I am super stoked to share with you…Stay tuned!
3) Spring’s almost sprung…finally! Only three more days until it officially arrives. You may have noticed the nifty, new countdown clock under the “Quick Shot of Z & G” on the right hand side of the page. Moving forward, this is one of the ways I will share the things I’m most looking forward to. Early Spring is one of my favourite times of year, and in my neck of the woods, the weather’s been freakin’ fabulous already. These flowers in our front garden started peeking out to soak up some of the sunshine early last week…..
…and they just kept coming…..
Within mere days the cold, hard ground has begun to breath. The magic and renewal of Spring never ceases to amaze me; a reminder that life perseveres – and returns even more radiant! – in even the harshest of conditions. There have been other stirrings in our garden as well, but that’s a different post altogether :)
What did you do for your March/Spring break? I’d love to hear about your favourite things to do and check out!