Tuesday, November 13, 2018

ProFusion Expo 2018

Hubby signed me up to go to ProFusion, which is an expo for people interested in photography and videography. He actually signed us both up to go, but the expo is happening during the day, and he has to work. Even though he couldn't make it, he asked me around four or five times over the past two days if I was planning to go. I wasn't sure yet, but he seemed so eager for me to check it out that I looked at the list of presentations and found a couple I was interested in. The first presentation I attended was at the main stage. Jessica Kobeissi is a YouTuber and photographer. She gave a talk that was essentially about perseverance and not giving up on your creative dreams. Her channel looks like it's full of content I would love so I can't wait to watch some of her videos.

The second presentation was at the Canon booth. Jesse Driftwood is a videographer, who changed the trajectory of his career when he mastered the art of storytelling on Instagram using a vertical format. He was full of energy and stressed the importance of honing your craft while doing work that excites you. Both presentations were incredibly relevant and inspiring. I also liked that both speakers echo something that I fundamentally believe: that creators will feel the drive to create regardless of gear. This blog post kind of parallels that concept, as I only took photos using hubby's hand-me-down iPod. The photos were really crappy, but black-and-white makes them better, so here they are anyway.

If you are interested in checking out the ProFusion Expo 2018, it is happening for one more day (Wed Nov 14 from 10am to 5pm). Both Jessica and Jesse are speaking again, and their presentations are worth watching. Tickets are free and available here.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Coconut Flour Chocolate Chunk Bars

When my sister and I were in Ottawa, we ate some yummy coconut bars from the hotel lounge, so naturally I wanted to make some when I got home. I found a recipe online, but it called for so much butter, sugar, and condensed milk that I quickly decided to look for something else. I've been wanting to try another recipe using coconut flour, and I stumbled across this one, which looked fantastic. I had all the ingredients on-hand, and the reviews were mostly positive, so I decided to go for it. I followed the recipe almost exactly (except I omitted the vanilla extract, only added 2 ounces of dark chocolate since that's all I had, used a loaf pan, and increased the baking time to 25 minutes), and the result was delicious. While my bars aren't as pretty, I can attest to them being incredibly moist, flavourful, and filling. The texture is cake-like and a bit crumbly, but the sweet treats still have a really nice mouthfeel. Hubby and I both loved the result--we ended up eating half the pan! Nom nom nom.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Home Sweet Home

Super exhausted after a whirlwind adventure in Ottawa, but it's good to be home!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Sister Bonding Time

I can count on one hand the number of times my youngest sister and I have been alone together. More specifically, I can count the number of times on two fingers. The first was around a decade ago, when I brought her to Take Our Kids to Work Day, less than a month before I switched to a new job. The second was this weekend, when we spent several stomach-bursting-definitely-not-eat-at-home-challenge hours together, the night before her convocation ceremony. I wasn't sure what to expect during our sister bonding adventure, but the hours flew by, and I had so much fun! In the past 24 hours, I discovered even more what an incredibly smart, hardworking, funny, open, generous, and kind person she is. Also, I can't believe my littlest sister is so much taller than me now.

Following tradition with us three girls at convocation, we had to take some requisite jumping photos! Here's a little flashback to 2014 with both my beautiful sisters.

Today's jumps didn't work out so well, but the new grad sure looks good in this one. That jump is impressive especially considering her high heels!

I ended up being straight-legged in pretty much all our jumping photos. I swear I made an effort. Too bad this photo didn't turn out, but it's proof I can still bend my legs. Congratulations on your shiny new master's degree, littlest sis! Our whole family is so very proud of you. x

Friday, November 9, 2018

Nation's Capital

Greetings from our nation's capital! I'm in Ottawa for the night, and I'm cozied up in my hotel room, waiting for my sister to arrive. Thankfully, the weather held up for my walk from the train station to the hotel--I wanted to get those steps in! It's been snowing steadily for the last couple of hours, so it's pretty soggy out now. Stay dry, my friends!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Lulu Looking At Cookies

I'm running a bit behind today, but I wanted to maintain my daily blogging schedule, so here is the best kind of filler post. Lulu looking at a plate of cookies! I took so many photos of her but only shared one on Instagram so here are a few more. See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

CityLine Audience Members

Bestie and I went to a taping of CityLine this morning and had so much fun!! Tracy Moore and the CityLine staff were all very efficient, yet personable and hilarious, which made the 2-hour taping fly by. If you want to see us clapping away in the audience, be sure to tune into next week's CityLine on Wednesday November 14 at 9am EST on Citytv. Our episode features how to maintain gut health over the holidays, how to discuss money matters, the hottest toys this holiday season, fun cookbook gift ideas, and how to network. We both found the topics very interesting, and I can't wait to see how the episode comes together. If you have a free morning during the week, you can sign up here to attend a CityLine taping!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Easy Risotto Recipe

Risotto is one of hubby's favourite foods, but I've always thought it was too difficult to cook at home. I finally tried making it myself (perhaps during last November's eat-at-home challenge?), and it has become one of my go-to recipes. I read a ton of recipes when I was learning how to cook this, and eventually pieced together this one. Now, I make risotto around once a week--it's incredibly easy and so incredibly delicious.


• 400 grams frozen shrimp, thawed
• 3 cups unsalted chicken broth
• 2 tbsp butter
• 2 large celery stalks, finely chopped
• ½ large onion, finely chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 cup arborio rice
• ½ cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
• ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
• Salt to taste


1. Bring broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. As soon as broth begins to boil, reduce the heat so broth remains steaming, but is no longer simmering.

2. Heat approximately ½ tbsp of butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Season shrimp with salt and pan fry in batches until just cooked through. Add more butter with subsequent batches as required. Remove shrimp and set aside.

3. Add remaining butter to the same saucepan that was used to cook the shrimp. Add onion, garlic, and celery. Cook until softened, about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add rice, and stir to coat. Season with salt if desired (be careful if broth contains salt).

4. Stir ½ cup of the hot broth and a splash of wine into the rice. Deglaze the pan and stir frequently, until the liquid has been absorbed. Continue to cook on medium-low heat, adding broth in ½ cup increments followed by a splash of wine, and stirring after each addition until most of the liquid is absorbed. I typically add liquid every 5 minutes, and the risotto is the texture I like after 30 minutes of cooking. The risotto should be creamy and just tender.

5. Turn off heat, stir in parmesan and shrimp, and taste/adjust for seasonings.

6. Serve immediately.

This recipe serves 2 rather generously.


You can substitute the ingredients as you wish. Sometimes I use peas instead of celery. If I use peas, I boil them separately and add them at the end with the parmesan and shrimp. I've also used salmon instead of shrimp. In that case, I bake the salmon separately and add a piece on top of the cooked risotto instead of incorporating it with the rice. If you like mushrooms, that's usually a nice ingredient to include in risotto. Saffron would also be amazing--in fact, I plan to make a saffron risotto (Risotto alla Milanese) sometime soon. Buon appetito!

Monday, November 5, 2018

More XR Adventures

Hubby and I met up at the Apple store again today after he finished work. Hubby had mentioned a recent iOS update, which was supposed to fix the "beauty mode" issue on the XS, and I wanted to see if there was any impact to the XR. It looks like there wasn't, so I won't post all the photos I took today. Just this one comparing the regular photo mode with portrait mode.

And this one of hubby and me in regular photo mode.

And this one of hubby and me in portrait mode, which was taken with the XS Max. The photos are not directly comparable because we were facing the other side of the store and the lighting was different.

Also, I forgot to include the XR footage in this week's vlog, so I'll include it in the next one. Based on my limited testing in-store, I'm impressed by the video (and audio) quality! I'm excited to purchase my new phone!! I'm going to wait until mid-December, as I'm heading to a retreat in early December where I will not have access to my phone... more details coming soon. :)

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Learning By Doing

I'm usually rather picky about which recipes I choose to try. When I decide to try a recipe, it's invariably because it's tried-and-true. In other words, the recipe received overwhelmingly positive reviews online, or the recipe was recommended to me by someone I know, or the recipe was one that I requested because I ate something that tasted really good. Even when a recipe has positive reviews, I like to read the comments to see if there are any tips included. Then I modify the recipe to suit my needs. Yesterday, I decided to try a recipe for these pumpkin spice cookies because I saw a photo on Instagram and I had the ingredients in my pantry. I didn't read the comments below the blog post, which was a big oops on my part. This is what happened.

Yes, that's the "cookie" that came out of the oven. To be fair, I did modify the recipe a little bit. I halved the recipe. I used 1/2 cup of rye flour instead of 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp of almond meal. I omitted the cloves and the vanilla extract. However, I make these types of substitutions all the time, even when baking, and I've never had any issues. Fortunately, the "cookie" did taste good, so my main concern was the shape. The recipe instructed, "Place by small spoonful the batter onto cookie sheet." This was my first time working with coconut flour so I wasn't sure if the cookies would spread out on their own. I didn't press them down, so when I pulled the "cookies" out of the oven, they looked terribly unappetizing. Hubby calls them "muffin tops" or just plain "bread." I thought they were kind of scone-like. I decided to try the recipe again today.

For my second batch, I made the same substitutions that I mentioned above; however, I used 1/4 cup of rye flour instead of 1/2 cup, I turned up the oven a bit, and I pressed/shaped the cookies. The result looked much more appetizing and the flavour was a bit better too, but the texture still was not cookie-like. Hubby calls these "flat bread." The whole experience got me thinking about learning. When it comes to cooking, I love to learn by doing. It feels natural to experiment in the kitchen, adjust recipes to suit our tastes, and tweak future iterations to make the recipe my own. I also know when to give up. If my first batch of cookies had been a disaster, I would have written off this recipe. Fortunately, the "cookies" were tasty, so I decided to see if I could improve the next batch. The difference is night and day.

Note: no cookies will be wasted in the making of this blog post. Hubby and I will happily gobble up all the treats.

Saturday, November 3, 2018


Everywhere we look now, we're being sold something. A shiny new object, a tasty treat, higher social status, a better life. When it comes to material possessions, I haven't seriously wanted to purchase anything in a long time, but sometimes I'm tempted by new stuff too. My most recent desire to purchase a bikini, even though I have zero need for a new one, was the impetus for this video on 5 things I wanted in October but didn't buy. It's not always easy to resist new stuff, but I want to make a conscious and well thought out decision when I do buy something new.

High five for not shopping! :D

Friday, November 2, 2018

A Day in the Life

A lot of people ask me what I do all day now that I don't work. It's hard to say because every day is so different. Today was particularly hectic, but I tend to get more done when I'm "busy," which makes me feel productive and efficient. I plan to do a few post like this throughout my gap year. Today went like this:

6:30am: woke up and got ready
7:30am: ate breakfast
8:10am: left the condo
8:30am: arrived at the Design Exchange to volunteer at the Oliver El-Khatib talk
12pm: left the Design Exchange
12:30pm: came home, played with Lulu, started doing the laundry, and responded to some emails
1:10pm: went to Chinatown to pick up some groceries
2:10pm: came home, had a snack, fed Lulu, got lettuce for Truffle, vacuumed, cleaned the kitchen and bathroom, listened to a podcast, finished doing the laundry, did plank, updated my finances spreadsheet, had some email/social media time, and did some research/planning/organization
5:30pm: took a nap (I actually haven't been napping much during my time off, but I was exhausted today!)
6:30pm: woke up and listened to a podcast while cooking dinner
7:40pm: chatted with hubby when he got home and finished cooking
8pm: ate dinner with hubby
9pm: edited/exported a YouTube video, pet Truffle, and wrote this blog post

The rest of the evening will likely be spent as follows:
- Reply to one more email
- Complete one more French lesson on Duolingo
- Continue editing my vlog
- Read one chapter of my book
- Watch an episode of Salt Fat Acid Heat with hubby (such a good show--I highly recommend it!

The days have been passing by unbelievably quickly! I feel like I've been in a time warp for the last two months. Let's just say, I'm extra excited to be getting an extra hour this weekend. I hope you have a good one!!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Discovering TCM

My friend has been interested in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for a number of years, and she's been telling me about various seminars and books; however, I haven't had any exposure to it myself, aside from going to a couple of acupuncture sessions in 2015. I thought these sessions did make a difference with my tension and stress, but I wasn't sold on the practitioner, so I stopped going and didn't bother to find another one. When my friend and I were at Grail Springs, we chatted more about TCM, and I thought it would be a good time to learn more about it with my newfound freedom. We went to a session tonight at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and it was so interesting and informative!

The session was on How to Thrive in Winter with Traditional Chinese Medicine, and the information presented made a lot of sense to me. The speaker, Aline Yon, encouraged us to think of some takeaways from the presentation that we plan to implement. I really like taking lessons from different disciplines to apply in my own life, so here are the tips I plan to try this winter:

1. Eat more black beans, try cooking millet, and look into recipes that use endive. I already eat a lot of the recommended winter foods (onions, garlic, celery, chicken, seaweed, salt, camomile tea, etc.), but there were three that really caught my attention. I love black beans but don't often cook them, I've never made millet, and I'm curious about recipes that incorporate cooked endive (another tip was to avoid eating raw foods, like salads and smoothies in the winter).

2. Work on getting back to a bedtime of 11pm, or earlier if possible. I used to be good about going to bed at 10pm, but I've fallen off of that with my new routine. I now sleep at around 1am, which is way too late, since I've espoused the benefits of being asleep during the hours of 10pm and 2am.

3. Incorporate yoga practice at least two times per week, give meditation another try, and learn more about qigong. Another item I've essentially stopped doing is strength training, and I would love to get back into doing yoga. I've talked about this a lot--now I just have to do it. I'd also like to look into meditation and qigong, as many sources recommend these tools to develop mindfulness.

4. Try wearing socks at home. Today, I learned the importance of keeping our feet warm in the winter and not walking barefoot on tile. I am not a fan of wearing anything on my feet at home, but that means my feet are often cold. I'm going to try to get used to wearing thick, warm socks in the condo.

Those were the items that the talk inspired me to try! I'd also like to look into TCM more and read a couple introductory books that were recommended at the talk. In case you're interested, the recommended books are:
- The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine by Ted J. Kaptchuk
- Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine by Harriet Beinfield and Efrem Korngold

The speaker also referenced The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine: A New Translation of the Neijing Suwen with Commentary by Maoshing Ni, which seems more esoteric but still interesting. Also, I know it's not winter yet, but it's 11pm, and I'm a keener, so that means it's time for bed. :)

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