Saturday, September 22, 2018

One of My Favourite Creatures

It's shaping up to be a busy Saturday in Toronto. Lots of fun on the agenda, but I probably won't have a chance to blog tonight, so I'm going to share a photo of one of my favourite creatures. Lulu is so smart and photogenic. She has gotten the hang of posing for the camera; however, she likes to come in real close. Every time I back up, she comes closer and sits down again. So here's a huge photo of Lulu.

Friday, September 21, 2018

UNIQLO Pop-Up

A series of happy coincidences led me to discover a UNIQLO pop-up today, where I received a free HEATTECH shirt!

The pop-up is promoting the UNIQLO CA app. All you need to do is head to the pop-up, download the app, sign up for an account, line up, and choose a size for your complimentary shirt. UNIQLO is giving away the version with the thinner material (not the extra warm), which retails for $19.90 in Canada. I already had this in dark grey and navy (and now, black!), and it's one of my favourite styles.

The pop-up is located at 451 King Street West and will be open until 8pm today (Fri Sep 21) and from 11am to 7pm tomorrow (Sat Sep 22).

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Instant Pot Adventures - Turkey Stroganoff

Even though I have a lot more time now, I still find myself in need of some fast go-to recipes. Hubby mentioned a while ago that one of his colleagues brought beef stroganoff for lunch and that "it looked SO yummy." Yes, this was another one of his hints. I found an interesting recipe for the Instant Pot, and I filed it away in my memory, which basically means I forgot about it. When I finally remembered last week, I decided to try it with ground turkey to lighten it up a bit. The resulting dish is so quick, easy, and delicious that I've already made it twice.



I adapted the recipe from this one. I used ground turkey instead of ground beef, one tablespoon of butter instead of two, chicken stock instead of beef stock, smoked paprika instead of regular paprika, whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour, and green onions instead of parsley. I also omitted the mushrooms, and I added another 4 oz of noodles and 1/2 cup of broth. It's quite rich with 14% sour cream, so I may try 5% next time to see if I can lighten it up even more, without significantly impacting flavour. In any event, it's a tasty one pot meal that takes no time.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Baked Goodies

It's been a while since I've baked. I used to bake regularly - muffins, cupcakes, cakes, loaves, cookies, cinnamon rolls, scones, bagels - I pretty much love any and all baked treats. However, the more I baked goodies, the more I ate baked goodies. It was impacting my waistline, so I stopped. Now I only bake on rare occasions, and today was one of those occasions! We had some ripe bananas to use up, so I made banana bread this morning. We also have some frozen fruit that has been sitting in the freezer for a while, so since I was in a baking mood, I made a dozen little muffins as well.



Both the banana bread and the muffins were delicious. So delicious that I can't wait to go to sleep and wake up tomorrow so I can eat more. The banana bread was adapted from Jamie Oliver's Earl Grey Banana Bread Recipe and the muffins were adapted from this recipe.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

THINX Pop-Up Shop

I was recently invited to check out the THINX pop-up at the Drake General Store. THINX is a New York based company that makes period-proof panties. I've never tried this type of underwear before, so I was intrigued. I woke up bright and early today for the event, and it was time well spent!





Our morning started with an energizing yoga class at Good Space. The studio is bright, beautiful, and airy, and it smells incredible too! Our instructor led a short, period-appropriate practice that got the blood flowing, so to speak.







After our yoga class, we headed over to the Drake General Store to check out the THINX pop-up. We had a light breakfast, which included this super delicious ginger kombucha by Vams Culture.





THINX offers a number of different styles, ranging in absorbency level. The most absorbent style is the hi-waist, and the least absorbent style is the thong. Samples of the different styles are available at the pop-up. The underwear feels well-made, and I was surprised by how "normal" they felt. The absorption area did not feel overly thick, even on the hi-waist style. I took home a pair in the bikini style, and I'm excited to give them a try. The THINX pop-up is located at the Drake General Store (flagship location) at 1151 Queen Street West and will be around until Sep 22/18 in case you want to check out the period-proof panties in person!



Note: not sponsored. THINX provided a sample for PR purposes.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Current Mood

I'm feeling rather uninspired. I'm in good spirits, but I don't have much to say. I guess you could say I'm feeling creatively lazy. This is my first creative lull since I started blogging daily, and I'm sure it won't be my last.

It was a beautiful day today. I met my bestie for lunch. I took a long walk. Hubby and I had a healthy dinner (I made sous vide steak with salad). I'm planning to curl up with my book and relax for the rest of the evening. Enjoy the rest of your night, and I will see you again tomorrow!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Two Little Surprises

Two little surprises made my day today, and I wanted to tell you about them.

Surprise #1
Toronto has some beautiful art walls. One such wall is the Love Wall. Covered with beautiful pink doodles and endearing messages, the Love Wall is always jam-packed with people wanting to take photographs of it or with it. Hubby and I walked right by it today, as we often do, and I did a double-take because there was hardly anybody there. I doubled back so I could take a photo. Then I doubled us back so we could take a photo together. I didn't have my camera with me so we used Hubby's old iPod.



Surprise #2
Every year, audiences at the Toronto International Film Festival vote for a film to take home the People's Choice award, and there is a free screening of the winning film on the last day of the festival. This is the first year we've gotten tickets to the screening.

This morning, when I told Hubby I got the tickets, he asked me what the film would be. The winner hadn't been announced yet, so we decided it might be fun to allow ourselves to be surprised at the screening. The winner was announced in the early afternoon, but we diligently avoided Google and Twitter. It's oddly strange and exciting to line up at the cinema with no clue as to what you'll be watching!

During the introduction, we learned that we would be watching Green Book. I had read a little about this film a few days ago but could only remember that it was highly regarded by audiences. Oh. My. Goodness. Audiences were right. Hubby and I LOVED it. This film is a crowd-pleaser that felt much shorter than 130 minutes, and I didn't want it to end. The film is simultaneously gut-wrenching and hilarious, and the acting is superb. It is an incredible film that deserves all the accolades it will no doubt receive. Highly recommended!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

101 in 1001

Today is a special day. Not only is it time for a new 101 in 1001 list, it's also Truffle's 8th birthday! I can't believe we've been lucky enough to have our wee bunny for almost a decade. Truffle is such a special boy, and he brings us so much happiness. Before I get into the 101 in 1001 list, I wanted to share a photo of Truffle on the day we brought him home. Look how tiny he was!



Hubby and I were in and out pretty much all day today, and we didn't get to spend as much time with Truffle as we would have liked. I must get back to paying attention to the birthday bunny, so I'm going to post my 101 in 1001 list as it currently stands. The list includes 51 items as of Sep 15/18, but I will be updating this blog post, so perhaps it will fill up eventually. I feel a lot more relaxed about the list this year. I even thought about not keeping track of the number completed, but the tracking aspect motivates me to refer to the list periodically so I'll continue with it. Without further ado, here are a few things I'd like to remember to do over the next 2.74 years!

Start Date: Sep 15/18
End Date: Jun 12/21
Last Modified: Sep 18/18
Completed: 0/101


1. Have date night with hubby once a month - 0/33.
2. Celebrate 10th anniversary with a tin or aluminum gift for hubby.
3. Celebrate 11th anniversary with a steel gift for hubby.
4. Visit a corn maze.
5. Go trampolining.
6. Watch a drive-in movie.
7. Ride a hot air balloon.
8. Book a float to try a zero gravity/sensory deprivation experience.
9. Throw an axe at BATL.
10. Blog the rest of my France 2013 photos (in progress).
11. Blog the rest of my Iceland 2018 photos (in progress).
12. Learn to draw on the computer or tablet.
13. Do at least 3 puzzles.
14. Learn how to fix simple things in the home.
15. Attend a Vipassana meditation 10-day course.
16. Go on a Habitat for Humanity Global Village trip to Cambodia, Mongolia, or New Zealand.
17. Take a trip by myself.
18. Visit Australia and/or New Zealand.
19. Visit Portugal.
20. Visit Prince Edward County.
21. Write and maintain an ongoing favourites blog post (in progress).
22. Find a place to volunteer.
23. Go to at least three farmers' markets.
24. Cook at least one recipe from each of my cookbooks (in progress) - 0/11.
25. Go through my two unopened coffee table books.
26. Go to at least six free concerts.
27. Go to a beatbox or b-boy battle.
28. Record at least six episodes for a podcast.
29. Watch at least three Munk Debates.
30. Read or listen to at least 50 books (does not include coffee table books).
31. Watch at least 50 documentaries.
32. Watch at least 50 TED Talks.
33. Watch all the Oscar nominated Best Picture films from 2018, 2019, 2020, or 2021.
34. Play frisbee at a park or on Centre Island.
35. Train myself to do the splits all three ways.
36. Visit at least one labyrinth in Toronto.
37. Change all my online passwords.
38. Get our wills drawn up.
39. Complete alterations on the two dresses on my list to shorten.
40. Reach my ideal makeup inventory numbers (in progress).
41. Reach my ideal clothing inventory numbers (in progress).
42. Go through Nina Garcia's 100 list and decide which items are appropriate in my ideal wardrobe.
43. Complete the 30-day plank challenge (in progress).
44. Practice playing the flute every day for a month.
45. Sing a song every day for a month.
46. Colour every day for a month.
47. Draw every day for a month.
48. Complete the eat-at-home challenge in November 2018.
49. Complete the eat-at-home challenge in November 2019.
50. Complete the eat-at-home challenge in November 2020.
51. Answer the 50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind by Jun 12/21 and see if my responses have changed.
52. Learn how to draw graffiti art lettering.
53. Take a self defense class.
54. Take a class at least three yoga studios.
55.
56.
57.
58.
59.
60.
61.
62.
63.
64.
65.
66.
67.
68.
69.
70.
71.
72.
73.
74.
75.
76.
77.
78.
79.
80.
81.
82.
83.
84.
85.
86.
87.
88.
89.
90.
91.
92.
93.
94.
95.
96.
97.
98.
99.
100.
101.

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Art of the To-Do List



I love lists. I have a list for pretty much everything. Lately, I've been challenging myself to re-think all the things I say I love. Shopping, going to restaurants, travel, and yes, even lists. When I was at Grail Springs with my friend, I found myself sitting alone in the hot tub one afternoon. I started writing a phantom blog post in my mind called something along the lines of, "There is more to life than your to-do list."

In my journal, I wrote: Life is a beautiful story, not a series of "to-dos."

In the moment, I firmly believed this. I started thinking about throwing all my lists out the window. I started thinking about the merits of writing in paragraphs rather than in bullet points. 

As quick as this idea came to me, it went away. Like I said, I love lists.

No, I don't want to spend my life making lists and doing things only to check off boxes. No, that would be stressful, and lists don't want you to feel that way. I believe there's a healthy way to use lists. I want my lists to be a tool to enrich my life. Here are a few ways I like to use to-do lists (and yes, I am writing in bullet points):
  • Ongoing open-ended lists: I have many lists to collect items that I don't want to forget. It's essentially a brain dump, and it relaxes me to know that I don't have to try to remember something. Grocery lists are in this category for me. Other examples of ongoing open-ended lists include: "books to read," or "restaurants to try," or "stuff to Google." If I go back to the list and something no longer interests me, I have no issues deleting the item. If I forget about the list or never refer to it again, I don't fret about it. I was meant to forget.
  • Weekly and daily lists: I use both daily lists and weekly lists. I don't try to come up with things to put on these lists. Rather, I only add items I want to remember. Examples of items on these lists include: "return library book by x date," or "go for blood work," or "book optometrist appointment." If I decide not to do something or to postpone something, I don't make a big deal about it. If I don't have anything pressing for the day or week, I don't make a list.
  • Other time limited lists: I will be posting my 101 in 1001 list tomorrow. I considered scrapping this when I was questioning my use of lists, but I think this collection of items serves a purpose. This list contains a mishmash of very different things, but it usually reflects my direction at any given point in time. It's a bit of a guidepost for what I want to learn, explore, do in the next 2.74 years. As with my other lists, I don't write this list in blood. If I no longer want to do something on the list, I remove it. No biggie.
A to-do list can be a valuable tool. The key is to be flexible. Just because something is on the list doesn't mean you have to do it.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Toronto

For as long as I can remember, I have always had the travel bug. I wanted to travel. I yearned to travel. No, I needed to travel. I used to comment that I had to travel twice a year to maintain my sanity. And perhaps that was true.

Strangely enough, I've recently realized that I no longer have the travel bug. I first noticed this around the time Hubby and I went to Iceland. I was excited for the trip, but I could have stayed home and felt perfectly happy as well. The same feeling occurred when it came time for our mini-vacation to New York and Montreal. I enjoyed those trips immensely, but my passion for travel seemed to have waned. Interestingly, I still spend considerable time looking at places to visit, checking flight deals, researching winter destinations, pricing out hotels... but mostly out of habit versus actually wanting to go away.

What happened to my intense wanderlust?
Was I using travel as a pacifier when I was unhappy with my job?
Was I trying to run away?
Do I truly like to travel?

These are the types of questions I've been asking myself.

When I look back at my travel vlogs, I can definitively say that I LOVE to travel. It's so rewarding, so much fun, so new. But perhaps I need a break from it. I chatted with Hubby, and surprisingly, he feels the same way. He also loves to travel, but he's a bit tired of it too. Perhaps we need a pattern interrupt. I was toying with the idea of a no-travel-for-a-year challenge, similar to how the eat-at-home monthly challenge broke our habit of going out to restaurants; however, I don't want to put a lot of restrictions on my gap year in case I change my mind. I want to go with the flow and see what happens.

Most of the people in my life expect me to travel during my year off. You probably expect me to travel. Even I expect me to travel. But who says we have to conform to expectations? Let's see what happens.

I've spent the last two weeks getting to know Toronto in a whole new way. I still love exploring, but now it's corners of this city I seek to discover. That hidden alcove in the financial district. The costume exhibit above that newly renovated food court. Those new still and sparkling water stations at Harbourfront. The midday talk at that library. Toronto has wrapped its arms around me and guided me to secret spots I was previously too distracted to see. It's so rewarding, so much fun, so new. Thank you to Toronto for showing me all your beauty and hidden gems.

My intense wanderlust isn't going anywhere.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Truffle's Eyes

Some of you may know that Truffle sleeps with his eyes open. When he was a baby bunny, he was super happy and trusting, and he would sleep with his eyes closed. Then we got Lulu, and he hasn't closed his eyes since. He'll still sleep comfortably, all sprawled out with his feet behind him, or curled up in a ball beside me. Sometimes, he'll squint his eyes in a relaxed stupor, but they are never closed. Imagine my surprise when I saw him sleeping today. In his litter box of all places. With his eyes firmly shut.



I was worried about him, because it was so out of character. I whispered, "Truffle, are you ok?" and he opened his eyes briefly. He looked a little annoyed.



He closed his eyes again, went back to sleep for a short while, and woke up as his normal self. Truffle's turning 8 years old on Sep 15th and that's rather mature for a Netherland Dwarf. We've started to notice some different behaviour, so we watch him closely, but he is still very active, drinks a ton of water, and eats pretty much non-stop. He's also the sweetest boy ever and will come to me repeatedly to beg for head rubs.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Currently Reading

I plan to read a lot of books during my year off, and I'd like to share them on this blog. The first three books are pictured below; however, I've only finished one of them as of today. I'll update this blog post as I finish the others.

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
This book is highly recommended by a lot of podcasts, and I figured it might be a useful read since I've always had trouble both asking for and accepting help. The book comprises a series of vignettes from Amanda Palmer's life and many of them resonated with me. The vignettes were interesting, well written, and insightful. While I enjoyed the book, and I understood where the author was coming from, I'm not sure I'm any more comfortable seeking or receiving help in my own life. Maybe I will start to make some gradual shifts now that I'm aware of how resistant I am to even admitting that I need help. I may want to re-read this book 6 months from now, after I've sat with the insights for a while.

Soulful Simplicity by Courtney Carver
I'll be reading this book next and will update this blog post once I'm done.

Victory Lap Retirement by Mike Drak & Jonathan Chevreau
I'm attending a talk by one of the authors at the end of November, so I plan to read this book by then at the very latest... but hopefully I'll be done way before that!



Also, my current 101 in 1001 will be ending on Sep 14/18, so I'll be posting a new list on the 15th! I'm excited to think through what I would like to get done in the next 2.74 years, especially since I have a lot more free time now. I'm not sure if the full list will be ready by Saturday, but I plan to post whatever I have at that point in time. I'm eager to see a change in the types of things I want to do, in light of my new journey. I have a feeling books will play a much more significant role, whereas going to new restaurants will likely take a backseat. Anyway, I wanted to give you a heads up that my new list will be coming in a few days in case you would like to make a list of your own! :)

Note: this blog post contains affiliate links.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Puffins Bring Me Joy

When I was looking through our many photographs from Iceland yesterday, it occurred to me that I haven't blogged about our travels in a very long time. Similar to how vlogs are my favourite type of video to re-watch, travel entries are my favourite type of blog post to re-read. During my gap year, I would like to catch up by sharing some of our vacations of yesteryear, starting with Iceland.



Hubby and I had such a good time photographing the Atlantic Puffins during our trip last May! Many of these silly, clownish birds nest in the cliffs of Iceland between April and September, so we were there at the perfect time of year. I pretty much had a continuous smile on my face as I was going through our photos - these funny, little birds make me so happy! It was the perfect pick-me-up on this rainy Monday in Toronto.













Hubby's photos were particularly stunning! I wanted to post them all, but I decided to exercise a little restraint, so here are a few of my favourites.













Where to find puffins in Iceland
We first tried to find them in Dyrhólaey, but were unsuccessful. A few days later, after our trip to the beautiful East Fjords, we took a rather long detour to Borgarfjörður Eystri, and we were pleasantly surprised to find tons of puffins. We highly recommend this location! While it's a little more remote, the drive is absolutely beautiful, and there are numerous walkways and viewing platforms where you can watch the puffins go about their day. It's an incredible place.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Busy Boycott

Courtney Carver (creator of Project 333) will be leading another Busy Boycott challenge starting tomorrow. I've signed up, and I'm very excited to be partaking in this! I've seen how being "busy" distracts you from what really matters, and I am increasingly aware of how feeling "busy" or being in the presence of "busy" changes the environment around you. While I've already taken great strides towards reducing my "busy-ness," I'm eager to learn more.

To put myself in the right frame of mind for this challenge, I took a look at some photos from our recent trip to Iceland. If I were to pick a moment to embody the Busy Boycott, I would choose a moment during our road trip around Iceland via the Ring Road last May. There were many times when we were the only ones on the road, and there were so many beautiful vistas to nourish the soul. I felt less busy there. I slowed down. The air was magical, and I stopped to breath it all in. I'm excited to make room for more moments like this in my daily life.





Saturday, September 8, 2018

Garden Bounty

If you follow my YouTube channel, you'll likely know that my friend and I took a rejuvenating one-week getaway to Grail Springs in mid-August. After a week of eating delicious, plant-based dishes, I was determined to incorporate more vegetables and fruit into my daily meals. I had planned to go to farmers' markets to check out the selection of in-season produce; however, that plan has since been put on hold, because my lovely friends with vegetable gardens have been generously sharing their bounties with me.

One of my good friends has given me kale twice - I like sauteing it with some onion and garlic in a little bit of butter. Even my meat-obsessed hubby commented on how delicious it is. My other good friend recently gave me a nice variety of garden fresh tomatoes. I used to dislike the taste of raw tomatoes, but that's because grocery store bought tomatoes leave a lot to be desired. On the other hand, the tomatoes from my friend's garden are packed with fresh, delicious, ripe, tomato-y flavour. Hubby and I have already enjoyed a good number of them in both salads and various cooked dishes.

Here's a little sampling the recent goodies... not only beautiful to photograph, but also delicious to eat and nourishing for the body.



Friday, September 7, 2018

Lulu's New Kong

Lulu loves when we leave the condo, because we'll usually give her a little treat in her Kong of peanut butter and dried duck pieces. Her old Kong was starting to get gnarly, so we bought her a new one from Amazon. When it arrived, it was very obvious that I had ordered the wrong size. The new Kong is teeny tiny - around half the size of the one pictured below. Note to self: next time, purchase size small, not extra small.




I was worried that Lulu would have trouble with the smaller Kong and thought about trying to exchange it. A month later, we still hadn't made the exchange, and her old Kong was getting really gnarly at this point, so we decided to let her try the teeny tiny one. I gave Lulu her new Kong this morning, and it's like she didn't notice that it was different. She didn't even bat an eye. After all, it's what's inside that counts.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Victoria Hayes SS19 Collection

Toronto Fashion Week is coming to a close after a whirlwind three days. On day one, I attended the Victoria Hayes presentation at RE\SET 004. Originally from Toronto, Victoria Hayes is a New York-based fashion designer, and her Spring/Summer 2019 collection is her take on "Retro Miami Beach." The collection comprises a palette of stunning colours combined with luxurious fabrics, and reminded me of a peacock - beautiful, majestic, and full of life.

This was my first time attending a static presentation, during which the models pose in one place for the duration of the show, rather than walk down the runway. I loved the interactive nature and the ability to take photos from multiple vantage points. It was hot and chaotic, but the 20 minute presentation passed by quickly. There was so much to look at... so many angles, so many details, so much beauty.





























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