What I Learned About Myself from 23andMe

Like most people, I have always wondered who am I REALLY?! Fortunately we are at a time in history where those answers are just a few clicks away.

You know you’ve watched too much tv when you’ve thought perhaps I was mixed up in the hospital at birth. Perhaps I’m secretly royalty! Where in the world am I from?! My gift to myself this Christmas was DNA testing from the service 23andMe so I could finally figure out those answers.

Note: This is a review of 23andMe based on my personal experiences. I don’t have any formal science background nor was I asked to provide any opinions. I just wanted to share what I thought should anybody be considering doing DNA testing themselves.

Testing Process

I ordered my 23andMe kit on December 18th. Within a couple of days of ordering, I received a DNA testing kit in the mail.

There are a couple of different options for purchasing a testing kit. You can either get the “basic” Ancestry + Traits Kit, which will provide the breakdown of where in the world you are from, and Traits (over thirty reports including potential hair, eye colour, hair photobleaching, whether you like sweet or salty foods and more) based on your DNA. There is also a slightly more expensive Health + Ancestry Kit, which also includes genetic predispositions, wellness reports, and carrier statuses. If you do pick the basic kit, you CAN opt to add on Health after for an additional fee.

Here is 23andMe’s comparison and cost guide.

I opened the box and did the testing right after I got my kit in the mail. The first thing you do is register the kit on their website with your unique code ~ which will track every single step of the process. You then take out the testing tube out for the most fun part of the whole process: permission to SPIT!! You have to fill up a vial with a not-insignificant amount of saliva that the lab will test. It took me a good five minutes to get enough spit to fill it to the line.

Finally, your body is saliva free! There are detailed instructions on every step, and how to repackage for shipping back to the lab. The return shipping is prepaid, and you simply resend the same box it came in so there is no stress about shipping labels or postage. You simply drop the kit back into the post box and it’s on its way! You will get a tracked shipping number and can follow your sample back to the lab where it’s on to testing!

Testing Process

A little part of you travels across the country to 23andMe’s testing labs (they appear to be located in Los Angeles and North Carolina – with mine getting the tropical LA experience!) You can follow each step on the website or through email updates as your registered sample moves through testing – it’s a very interactive experience!

The kit can take 6-8 weeks to test in total – but that’s very conservative. Each step has an estimated time-frame. Some kits are randomly chosen for quality testing in the Review stage, which apparently can take up to two weeks. I’m lucky that didn’t happen to me because my goodness I was impatient (they didn’t end up testing for that particular trait… phew)! As an FYI – this was my timeline:

  • Registered and shipped (in Canada): December 22nd
  • Arrived at Lab (in Los Angeles, California): January 4th
  • Prepped: January 4th
  • Extracted: January 8th
  • Genotyped: finished January 15th
  • Reviewed: January 15th
  • Computing Your Results: started January 15th
  • Results Ready: January 17th – results were “expected” February 15th, or up to March 1st

Ancestry

Then the most exciting day came! The email that my results were ready!!

Now the exciting part! Who am I?! Let’s take a look:

I’m more colourful than I thought I would be (my insides DO match my outsides)! The map is made up from the DNA where your ancestors are believed to originate from in the past 200 or so years.

Some results were not a huge surprise: my maternal grandparents migrated to Canada in the 1950s from West Germany – so the Germany results were as expected! My Opa (paternal grandfather) was born near Chelm, Poland – so makes sense that he had Polish ancestry.

My Dad’s side has always been a little “mysterious” and unknown! That side of the family has been in Nova Scotia for a number of generations and we knew that the family had originated in England and Ireland – which seems to be pretty accurate looking at this! But the “fun” family rumour is that somebody had an ~interaction~ with a ships’ captain a few generations ago. 😉 That originated because Dad’s family has an inherited blood condition called Beta Thalassemia (which is characterized by severe anemia, fatigue, and bone disorders.) Beta Thalassemia is also called “Mediterranean Thalassemia” as it’s prevalent more in those populations (Italians and Greeks). I tested negative as a child, fortunately, but it’s always been apart of who we were. Looks like the rumour was TRUE as there is a chunk of Southern European/Italian in there.

Some of the interesting pieces the testing picked up were the Ashkenazi Jewish (albeit a tiny bit!) and the Senegambian DNA (it has 90% accuracy too and shows up on my relatives’ tests, so not just “noise”!) 1% means that it was multiple generations ago, but I am very interested in understanding the history of this person.

Health

23andMe definitely does not replace actual health advice. But understanding your genetic risks is still important. As I mentioned, I was tested for Beta Thalassemia as a child, so potential inherited risks is something that’s always been at the back of my mind.

The Health Testing feature provides insight into a number of Predispositions (like Macular Degeneration, BRCA, Celiac Disease, Late Onset Alzheimer’s, and Type 2 Diabetes, etc), potential Carrier Status (Beta Thalassemia, Cystic Fibrosis, Tay-Sachs, etc), and Traits:

I ended up not having any of the tested Beta Thalassemia variants (which I was already aware, but good to see!):

The test I was the most nervous for was the BRCA1/2 variant test which literally stands for “BReast CAncer gene” as it is a gene mutation known to cause a higher lifetime risk of breast cancer. BRCA gene has been in the news frequently over the past few years, brought into the forefront by Angelina Jolie who was found to have the gene and opted to have preventative surgery. Fortunately, I don’t have any of the tested variants. Again, not a replacement for healthcare and testing, but it still a relief and good awareness!

Some of the fun traits that your genetics can predict and 23andMe can tell you are such as dimples, eye colour, ear lobe type, hair colour, whether you have red hair, a widow’s peak, and ice cream flavour:

Now you know too much about my earwax!

The correct answer to the Ice Cream question is BOTH swirled together!

It’s worth noting, and 23andMe is pretty explicit in the tutorial you are required to take, that the Traits are “based on your DNA and data contributed by other customers.” So meaning, it’s only as good as the genetic information provided in comparison to other 23andMe customers with similar genetics, but it’s fun to think about.

DNA Relatives

You can OPT IN to find DNA Relatives (it’s not a requirement if you don’t want to.)

The site will show you your potential closest matches based on your shared DNA and shared segments, and estimate your relationship (I have over 1,500 matches)! I ended up finding a few of my Dad’s cousins over in Nova Scotia and lots of distant relatives. Doesn’t look like I’m secretly a princess or related to anyone who is going to stop the press! Boo!

You can then chose to message your relatives to get more information and build your family tree.

It appears that most users of 23andMe are North America-based, so unfortunately there are very few individuals from my mom’s side. Hoping that more of my family can do testing so our genetic picture becomes more clear!

In conclusion, DNA testing is very fascinating! I remember wondering about the possibilites when shows like CSI brought DNA knowledge to the forefront. Now it’s possible for ANYBODY to find out exactly who they are.

You do have to consider your own personal beliefs on privacy and whether it’s information you want to know and whether you can deal with potential outcomes (good and bad). But for me, this was a wonderful opportunity!

If you’re looking for more learning opportunities and experiences on 23andMe, I suggest checking out the 23andMe Subreddit!

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Thoughts on the Polly Pocket 30th Anniversary Partytime Surprise Compact

For my birthday, I gifted myself the Polly Pocket 30th Anniversary Compact! So I’m incredibly excited to share my thoughts.

If you’re not aware, Polly Pocket was a plastic miniature playset manufactured by Bluebird Toys in the 1990s that was small enough that you could literally carry it around in your pocket! When you opened up one of the candy-coloured magical shells, there was one of dozens of different mini-worlds inside each populated by half-inch plastic dolls that offered up infinite hours of imagination! Like most 90s girls, I HAD to have them all and they proudly covered my bedroom! But the little girls that loved her grew up and the toys collected dust in basements and was mostly forgotten.

Polly Pocket still exists as a brand, but she looks much different now than she did in the 90s. Now somehow it’s been 30 years since Polly first topped our lists to Santa, so Mattel (who now owns the Polly Pocket line) jumped on the wave of nostalgia and released a collectors edition set to reignite the magic of this little part of our childhoods!

I felt like I was 10 again when the brightly coloured box arrived! The artwork is especially adorable! The box is clearly meant to stay in tact and be displayed.

The Keepsake Edition (in box) next to the original 1989 Partytime Surprise playset (in front)!

The Keepsake Set looks almost *exactly* like the original on the inside, although the colours are different and contrast is much better on the new version! All of the details that made the original Polly Pocket sets so special is there, down to the pop-up present and little ups on the table.

The outside of the Keepsake Set is purple and it SPARKLES! I’m really glad that there is some differentiation on the Keepsake Set as it really looks like it’s something special.

For the time being, I’ve chosen to not open the set even though it is so hard for me not to open it and it explore it more closely! I’m really happy that I decided to get it because it brings back some great memories for me! It will be fun to compare them again in another 30 years! You can pick up the set for yourself from here on Amazon.

For some extra fun, take a look at this commercial which features the Partytime Surprise playset from 1994! This song occasionally pops into my head out of nowhere and hopefully into yours now!

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Is Neopets Premium Worth It?

Neopets.com Premium Banner

If you’re a Neopets.com user, you probably have heard that it’s time for the Neopets annual premium sale! And okay, if you’re not a current Neopets user, you might be questioning if you have time-traveled a bit. Nope you’re still here in 2019 and the virtual pet website of your childhood is still thriving (honestly mostly amongst millennials looking for that nostalgic thrill)! Much like most online games these days, there are also pay to play features on Neopets – one is Neopets’ premium membership.

A big topic of conversation amongst fellow Neopians is whether premium is “worth” the cost. I have been a premium member on and off for ten years through my various levels of interest with the game, so I have experience with and without it and wanted to share my personal thoughts.

What is Neopets premium?

Neopets is still a free to play site, but some of the sites’ features are “boosted” with the purchase of a paid premium membership.

What does premium get me?

Neopets Premium Toolbar
The Toolbar shows up at the bottom of each page of the game and has links to all your favourite frequent features – like your Dailies, Featured Game (2x more Neopoints for Premium members!), and even lets you keep up to date on your stocks and shop till!

You don’t lose anything by not being a premium member. But become a member has some great features:

  • A sixth Neopet! – a few years ago, Neopets allowed ALL users to get a 5th pet slot, and premium boosts that even more by allowing you a sixth!
  • Once a year species change – turn any pet into your dream species with just a click!
  • Premium Toolbar – which has links to premium features and your dailies in one convenient spot
  • Super Shop Wizard – this super cool super wiz is well… super! It searches every shop at once (instead of just certain shops) and lets you nab rare items. If you’re on a journey to win that Kadoatie avatar or strike it moderately wealthy, this definitely helps!
  • No ads!! – some of the site ads are a bit ~interesting~ and waiting for a minute to play your favourite games can be a bit annoying, so blocking them is almost worth the cost on it’s own
  • Journal – a place to put all your cool pet customizations!
  • Premium site theme and avatar
  • Access to the super special Charter NeoBoards
  • Premium scratchcards, extra random events, double the Neopoints on certain games, bonus Neopoints and items, Space Faerie Battledome challenger… and lots more!
  • And lastly, premium helps support the site and new features!

What does it cost?

Typically Premium costs $69.95 USD (approximately $93 CAD) for a one year membership, or $7.95 USD per month.

But Neopets offers a fairly steep discount for about a month in August/September. You can become a premium member for significantly less at just $49.95 USD ($66 CAD).

So… is it worth it?

Think about it like Neopets is one of your hobbies that gives you great joy. Paying real money to play is like paying for any game you purchase “bonus” items or boosts.

Will premium make you mega rich in the game? No, not on it’s own. It can certainly assist you with your goals in the game and help you have even more fun.

Neopets does definitely have issues with customer support, glitches, downtime, it’s quite outdated, and it’s membership is declining. So there has been a bit of anxiety about the site being no longer supported (but honestly, this has been chatter for more than a decade), which are all considerations before pulling out your pocket book.

But if you play Neopets every day and you like extra conveniences, then yes absolutely! Money can occasionally buy happy times.

How do I sign up?

To sign up for premium, go to this page, which will allow you to pick your subscription period and learn a bit more!

If you perhaps stumbled upon this page and want to give Neopets a go again (do it – there’s so much more to do than ever!), click on the banner to sign up:

Sign up for Neopets

(This post and my thoughts on premium was written completely unpaid! I would absolutely love to be paid for my opinions of Neopets, but so far that dream has not come true ! :()

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Whipple: Super Sweet Crafty Creations!

A few years ago I was surfing the net and saw pictures of plastic phone cases coated with realistic looking whipped cream with sweets on top and my sweet tooth went wild! A way to have your cake without the guilt?! Turns out the creation of yummy treat-covered objects (usually phone cases, jars, and the like) is a craft called “decoden“, which is a term that originated in Japan for decorating anything with other cute things! Now I’m by NO MEANS an expert in decoden, but I enjoy buying the creme and cabochens (they are little clay decorations used to make the treats even more fun!) and whipping up something tasty!

Whipple is a brand from Japan which allows you to create adorable decorative desserts from a boxed kit. I purchased my Whipple Starter Kit last year (I got the English kit for around $26 CAD on Amazon), but only got around to using it this weekend. The English kit is definitely aimed more for kids, as you can see by the packaging. The original Japanese kits are a bit more generic age-wise in my opinion so I don’t think that it’s strictly a “kids” craft toy.

The kit comes with the necessary plastic pieces, Whipple creme (clay cream) and pastry bag, and decorations to create four cakes, a cupcake, a wearable ring, a ice cream keychain, and a macaron keychain – exactly as shown above. If you count them, that’s definitely EIGHT not nine as the box says (unless they’re counting the big wedding cake as two separate creations…)

There is a little paper guide that is filled with picture-filled instructions and honestly it seemed a bit overwhelming at first (hence why it took a YEAR for me to get around to using it!) But once I read through a few times, it was as easy as pie! But I do still think the instructions are a bit unclear and took me a bunch of experimenting to figure out what worked. While it gives pictograph on how to hold the bag, but I feel this would be tricky for younger kids. There is a little practice guide which teaches you how to hold the bag and squeeze it out to create a star, swirl, sideways star, and spiral.

The Whipple creme comes almost ready to use (just needs some… kneading) and once you’ve setup an area that can get a bit messy you’re good to go! I do think you have to create everything at once because once the creme dries (it dries pretty quick, although it remains “squishy” for a longer time), it would be a pain to wipe off the dried nozzle. I was rather worried that I’d run out of creme, but there was almost half a bag left so I ended up using the rest on some other decoden crafts. Whipple does sell replacement creme (but it’s rather pricey at $16 for a bag!)

The whole kit took me about an hour from start to finish (I went SLOW – just as the instructions urge) and I have a ton of cute new decorations! However, as cute as the keychains and ring are, they are FAR too flimsy to actually be practical.

There are a few other kits (which range from $20-$40). But I think now that I have a hang of the process, I would probably order a Japanese Whipple kit (from ebay) as there are plenty more options for crafts (in addition to being less pricey overall).

Here is Whipple in action from their official Youtube channel!

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