Friday, November 30, 2018

How to Disrupt the Holiday Gift Giving Cycle

Over the past few years, I've been trying to live a more simple life with fewer possessions. For the most part, this has worked really well. I've decluttered a lot and stopped the flow of products coming into my home. I've implemented a lot of pattern interrupts, and I've been feeling good about the changes. With the holiday season upon us, I've been thinking a lot about the gift giving cycle. What we give, how gifts make us feel, and why gifts seem so integral at this time of year. I've started making little adjustments in the gift giving cycles that I'm personally involved with, so I wanted to make this video in case any of you feel similarly. I haven't moved completely away from giving gifts, but I try to adopt a more minimalist mindset when it comes to selecting gifts. I've also tried to replace some gift giving with cards and/or celebrations instead. The result has been more quality time with loved ones and less pressure/stress associated with shopping.

If you're like me and you want to somehow disrupt a gift giving cycle that you're currently a part of, I've included four strategies that you can utilize today to start nudging behaviour in a new direction.

Strategy 1: start having conversations about gift giving

This is about being honest with yourself and your loved ones. Since I started decluttering, I stopped wanting stuff. I don't put as much value on gifts as I used to, so I really don't want my loved ones to spend a lot of time, effort, and money to pick out a gift for me, when what I really want is for us to spend time together. As a result, I've started having conversations with family members and friends to let them know that I prefer not to receive gifts.

If you're not in the same situation as me, but there's something about a current gift giving cycle that doesn't sit well with you, I recommend having a conversation as soon as possible in order to start opening up the dialogue.

Strategy 2: give and receive with a minimalist mindset

To me, minimalist gift giving has a couple of key characteristics:

- The gift shouldn't create clutter or burden for the recipient. Since I started decluttering, I've been liking giving and receiving perishables as gifts. Not just any perishables though--the perishables should be something that the recipient will use up rather quickly.

- Most minimalists are very intentional about the the products they bring into the household and they like to pick out their own stuff. I give a lot of gift cards and cash for this reason. These gifts have a bit of a reputation for being impersonal, but they allow for flexibility and choice--which are key attributes that all recipients appreciate.

Another approach could be to start giving gifts at times of the year that do not correspond to a holiday or occasion. I love giving small, unexpected, and zero-obligation gifts that are not tied to a holiday or occasion. It's thoughtful and does not create a burden on the recipient to reciprocate.

Strategy 3: exchange holiday cards instead of gifts

This strategy is pretty self explanatory, but it was a pretty big AHA moment when hubby and I implemented it this year for our 9th wedding anniversary. If you've followed my YouTube channel over the years, you will have seen that hubby and I tend to buy each other a lot of gifts for special occasions. It was really eye opening last year when we did the Love Languages quiz and found that "receiving gifts" ranked very low for both of us. We've tweaked our gift giving traditions over the years, but gifts were pretty much a constant. We've been following the traditional annual gifts for wedding anniversaries since the beginning (1st year was paper, 9th was willow). Instead of buying each other a willow gift this year, we made each other cards somehow incorporating the concept of willow. Hubby did so well with his card--it was hilarious! To me, this was much more gratifying than exchanging gifts.

Strategy 4: celebrate together without exchanging gifts

My friend and I have a tradition where we get together to during one of the busiest shopping days of the holiday season and buy each other gifts. One of us picks the theme for the year and then we have around 1-2 hours to shop, wrap the gift, write the card, and get back to the meeting spot. We then go for dinner and open the gifts. This is a really fun tradition, but I wanted to try something different. Since it was my turn to come up with the theme, I approached my friend and asked her how she would feel about trying something new. I proposed my idea and she agreed! Our holiday event this year won't involve gifts, but we will celebrating together over good food and good conversation. What could be better?

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Flavour Inspiration - SOMA

Hubby and I have a few goodies from SOMA kicking around, so we've been slowly making our way through them. Treats from SOMA are a bit spendy for day-to-day consumption, so I was inspired to try to replicate the flavours. Yesterday, we tasted the mango bar with chili lime salt and WOWSA! While I won't be making chocolate anytime soon, I do have mango lassi on my list of recipes to try, and the SOMA treat reminded me of a delightfully mango-y mango lassi. I also plan to buy some li hing mui powder (which the mango bar reminded me of, for whatever reason)--this powder is super popular in Hawaii, especially sprinkled on top of shave ice, and I need some in my kitchen pronto.

Tonight, we tried the SOMA rose hot chocolate (no longer available). I made a couple of chocolate shots and added some steamed almond milk. The resulting hot chocolate had a nice rose flavour, but something was lacking. It tasted a bit watery. We've tried a couple flavours of the SOMA drinking chocolate in the past year or so, and they don't compare to the ones I remember from years ago. I used to love the spicy Mayan hot chocolate, as well as the jasmine scented hot chocolate (both no longer available). I plan to experiment a bit to try to make a similar rose hot chocolate with the ingredients in my pantry. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

What is MUJI?

My friend and I went to check out the new MUJI flagship store earlier this week. Since we were in the area, we also spent some time at the "What is MUJI?" pop-up exhibition, which showcases a small selection of MUJI products alongside a brief description of some of the design characteristics. If you find yourself at the Atrium and want to check it out, the exhibition is running daily from 10am to 7pm until December 23, 2018. Admission is free.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Buss Up Shut

My friend and I watched a documentary on roti last week. Everything looked mouth watering, so I vowed to try my hand at making roti at some point during the eat-at-home challenge. Well, today was the day! I decided to try making paratha roti, also known as buss up shut, because the end result looks like a busted up t-shirt. I followed this recipe, which was a tad cryptic in parts, but the process ended up being pretty straightforward (albeit time consuming).

To accompany the roti, I made jerk chicken from a recipe I adapted for the Instant Pot, rice and peas, and actual peas. That's right, I also made a HUGE pot of rice and peas because I thought the roti would not be enough. After seeing the size of the roti, I asked hubby if he wanted to share one, but he wanted his own "ruffled t-shirt" (as he called it when he couldn't remember the name). So we ate one whole roti each, and now my stomach feels like Alien is about to pop out. Let's just say I'll be halving the recipe next time. The jerk chicken ended up being very salty, but it was perfect with the roti, rice and peas, and actual peas. I can't wait to eat leftovers tomorrow!

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Fulfillment Curve

The fulfillment curve is a classic inverted-U curve as it relates to fulfillment and spending. This concept is covered in Your Money or Your Life, which I highly recommend if you are interested in financial independence. Essentially, the fulfillment curve operates like this:

Survival: Many of us start out at a low level of fulfillment and a low level of spending. This is when we start to become self-sufficient and make enough money to purchase basic necessities.

Comfort: As our income becomes to grow, we can afford a few more things that make our lives more comfortable. We derive more fulfillment as we spend more money.

Luxury: As we progress in our careers, we start accumulating wealth and perhaps have more disposable income. We can afford a few luxuries. It's important to note that "luxury" does not necessarily mean designer goods (although it can). For some people, "luxury" can be a fancy drink from Starbucks. The point is we have the means to spend a little more to treat ourselves.

Once we reach a certain point though, spending more money can actually result in decreased fulfillment. There can be a number of reasons for this. Maybe the pursuit of making more money to buy things is resulting in less family or leisure time. Perhaps having more things contributes to clutter and leads to feelings of guilt. Regardless of the reason, this part of the curve represents overconsumption.

The magical place is the point at which you derive maximum fulfillment for the amount of money spent. This point is simply called: ENOUGH.

I've been through the fulfillment curve many times for many different categories of things. I started with fashion and accumulated huge bins of clothing, shoes, and handbags. When I reached the overconsumption tail for fashion, I moved on to camera gear. Then to beauty products. And most recently, to a broad category that I'll call experiences that encompasses restaurants, alcohol, events, and travel. As I spent more and more and more, I realized, I'm not longer deriving much fulfillment. In fact, I feel less fulfilled the more I spend. I was at the tail end of the curve, way past my point of enough.

For the past few years, I've thought and thought and thought about my money and my life. And sometime in the spring of 2018, I woke up. I crunched the numbers and decided to quit my job. Enough was enough. In the 3 short months since I left work, I feel I've been able to shift my fulfillment curve to the left. I'm spending less than I've spent in a decade, yet I feel more fulfilled than ever.

I used to reward myself with things that money can buy. Now I reward myself with time to do activities I love. Instead of buying a new handbag, I curl up on the couch with a library book. Instead of going on an expensive trip abroad, I take a walk to meet a friend to check out a museum. Instead of making a reservation to the hottest new restaurant, I cook a nice dinner while listening to a podcast. Instead of working 8 hours a day at a job I don't love to buy things I don't need, I play with Truffle and Lulu. I take an Epsom salt bath. I listen to music. I record a YouTube video. I talk to my husband.

It's amazing to be at the point of enough.


If you're joining me on today's journalling or thoughtfulness prompt, I'd like to focus on:

Who are the people in your life you can't get enough of? What are the things you love about them?

I'll be journalling on this at some point today, so please feel free to join me. You can set aside a specific block of time to journal (it could be as little as 5 minutes), or you can add to your journal entry throughout the day each time you feel like buying something. If you don't like journalling, you can just think about the prompt instead of shopping.


In each video, I'll also ask:

What's the best thing that happened to you today?

My former colleague (and friend) shared this question with me as it's a daily practice she implemented in her life. I loved the concept, but I've been off and on about applying it in my daily life, so I thought we could practice together. My twist for this 5-part series is that my answer can't involve shopping.

The best thing that happened to me yesterday was spending many hours at home relaxing with hubby, Truffle, and Lulu. So simple, yet so best!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Joy of Missing Out

The Joy of Missing Out (JOMO) is a concept I discovered recently. I first heard about JOMO in a podcast, but I've since seen and heard the term in a variety of different contexts. I've been trying to practice JOMO more often in the past few months, and it has provided me with a happier and healthier outlook on life.

JOMO has benefited my life in so many ways--the main benefits as they relate to shopping are:

Benefit 1: Accumulate less clutter
Benefit 2: Save money
Benefit 3: Have more time to do the things you love that don't involve shopping


From yesterday's journalling prompt, I found I had a surprisingly long list of things I love to do that don't involve shopping! Today, I'd like to journal on the following:

What have you experienced the joy of missing out on recently? How did you feel and why did you feel JOMO?

I'll be journalling on this at some point today, so please feel free to join me. You can set aside a specific block of time to journal (it could be as little as 5 minutes), or you can add to your journal entry throughout the day each time you feel like buying something. If you don't like journalling, you can just think about the prompt instead of shopping.


In each video, I'll also ask:

What's the best thing that happened to you today?

My former colleague (and friend) shared this question with me as it's a daily practice she implemented in her life. I loved the concept, but I've been off and on about applying it in my daily life, so I thought we could practice together. My twist for this 5-part series is that my answer can't involve shopping.

The best thing that happened to me yesterday was having a cooking night with our friends! Not only did we have an amazing dinner and share so many laughs, our friends also have two sweet and affectionate cats, and I loved petting and cuddling them throughout the night.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

How to Shop Your Stash

When I started reining in my spending and decluttering, I heard the phrase "shop your stash" a lot. I kind of knew what this meant, but I had no idea how to go about it. Simply looking at my clothing and beauty products and pretending to shop just didn't do it for me. So I started experimenting with my collection and trying different things until I finally figured out how to "shop my stash" in a way that worked for me.

1) Get bored.
When I started shopping my stash, I didn't really get it, because I didn't allow myself enough time with each item (or set of items) before moving onto something else. I would look at my clothing and products over and over again, and everything looked like the same old, same old. It didn't feel like shopping at all, where things are shiny and new. Then I implemented the beauty basket and the capsule wardrobe. I can't remember exactly how long it took me to get bored, but I think I used the same beauty basket for 3-6 months and I'm sure I kept the same capsule wardrobe for 1-3 months. This was enough time for me, but you may need to experiment to find what works for you.

For my beauty basket, I would use the same set of products for 3-6 months. I found it took me around that amount of time to get bored of something like a blush or eye shadow pallet. When I eventually got bored, I would then "shop my stash. Lo and behold, I got the "shiny and new" feeling from products I already had in my collection! I felt zero need to buy something new.

For my capsule wardrobe, I started out doing product 333 but only for my work wardrobe. I took photos every morning and posted them on my Instagram account. I had to tweak this challenge a bit before I found something that worked for me. I found it a bit difficult to pick out pieces at the beginning of the season, so I switched to a fluid capsule wardrobe, where I would build the capsule throughout the season, adding items here and there until I reached the 33 pieces. I liked this better as it required less planning ahead, but I found that my capsule was not cohesive. Eventually, I decided to do a monthly capsule with a theme, and I loved this approach! I would basically pick a theme for the month; it could be related to colour or some other theme--for one capsule, I wore 5 dresses and 2 pairs of shoes for the entire month. It was fun, flexible, and cohesive. When the next month rolled around, I would be excited to change the theme and wear other clothes I already had in my collection. It really made my wardrobe new and exciting again.

In both instances, I had to get bored with what I was currently using or wearing, before "shopping my stash."

2) Create an abundance mindset.
Having an abundance mindset is key to shopping your stash. If you think you have nothing to wear (in terms of makeup or clothing), you're much more likely to go purchase something new. One easy way to create an abundance mindset is to take out all the makeup or clothing in your collection and do an inventory. It can be a visual inventory (your pile may be much more than you thought you had), or if you're like me, you may want to do a physical inventory (e.g., on Excel). I love Excel, data, counting, and analyzing, so I find tremendous pleasure in doing inventories. The inventories definitely helped me create an abundance mindset as they provided tangible evidence of what I currently have in my collection. By doing this inventory periodically (around once per year), you may also find items you had tucked away and forgotten about.

3) Stimulate your creativity.
This is probably the most "out-there" recommendation, and most people I know personally wouldn't go to these lengths, but I find that taking photos or videos of myself wearing my makeup (lipstick, nail polish, etc.) and clothing helps me to get creative with what I already own. To be clear, you do not have to post these photos or videos in any way--they can be reserved for your own personal use. After you review them, you can delete them! From personal experience, photos and videos are very different from looking in a mirror, and these forms of media really helped me gain a more objective perspective on how something looks on me. Once I saw myself in certain makeup or clothing items, it stimulated my creativity, and I was able to utilize what I had in new and different ways. Since this is the most abstract point, here are some examples of how it helped me:

- When I recorded my handbag collection video, I thought of combining an existing bag strap with the body of another handbag I have in my collection. I love the combination and wear it all the time now. This combination injected new life into these items, both of which I wasn't really reaching for previously.

- When posting daily photos of my work outfits, I played with different combinations, and I could easily see in my feed what I liked and what I didn't. I was surprised because I loved some combinations that I didn't think I would, and this breathed new life into my wardrobe. I began to experiment more.

- When I did the lipstick-a-day challenge, I got more comfortable with wearing bold lipsticks both to work and in my personal life. Previously, I had a lot of bold lipsticks in my collection but always felt too self conscious to wear them. The lipstick-a-day challenge changed that, as I saw through my videos how nicely they brightened up my complexion and added a pop of colour to my otherwise neutral look.

Experimenting with and seeing your products and clothing in a different light is key to finding the "newness" in something you already own.


Yesterday's journalling prompt really made me feel good! Since it's Saturday, and many of us don't have to work, I'd like to journal on the following:

What are your favourite hobbies (or things you love to do) that don't involve shopping? Please try to list at least 10 ways you truly love to spend your time!

I'll be journalling on this at some point today, so please feel free to join me. You can set aside a specific block of time to journal (it could be as little as 5 minutes), or you can add to your journal entry throughout the day each time you feel like buying something. If you don't like journalling, you can just think about the prompt instead of shopping.


In each video, I'll also ask:

What's the best thing that happened to you today?

My former colleague (and friend) shared this question with me as it's a daily practice she implemented in her life. I loved the concept, but I've been off and on about applying it in my daily life, so I thought we could practice together. My twist for this 5-part series is that my answer can't involve shopping.

The best thing that happened to me yesterday was going to an event with hubby and a couple of our friends. Last year, hubby and I watched a documentary called Living the Game, and I subsequently wanted to check out an esport event, but I eventually forgot about it. I'm so happy we finally got to see the action in person! I found it incredibly interesting watching gamers play Street Fighter with their custom consoles just like the gamers in the film. I love getting immersed in different cultures, and that includes the subcultures surrounding different hobbies! The event was free and included 3 drinks, a t-shirt, and an eSmartr sleeve, which I wore when writing this blog post to boost my mental capacity and creativity (I think it worked). There was lots of food, but I stuck to the eat-at-home challenge. Best of all, I got a chance to chat more with my hubby's colleague's girlfriend, who is absolutely lovely.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, November 23, 2018

3 Tips to Become a More Focussed Shopper

In the past, I was an extremely unfocussed shopper. I loved to browse for deals, and I was easily enticed by sales. I didn't know what I truly needed or wanted, and as a result, I bought everything I thought I wanted. Once the clutter started accumulating, I realized I had too much, and I hadn't truly wanted most of the things I had purchased. That's when I started taking steps to becoming a more focussed shopper. In this video, I share 3 tips on how I did that.

Tip 1: Unsubscribe from retailer email lists
Unfocussed shoppers can be very susceptible to fear-based sales or marketing tactics like "Limited quantities available!" or "Sale ends in 24 hours!" or "80% off!" These marketing tactics prey on your fear of missing out. Yup, your FOMO. By unsubscribing from retailer email lists, you can become blissfully unaware of sales you are missing out on, on things you don't need or want. I unsubscribed from ALL retailer email lists when I first started to curb my shopping. I've since re-subscribed to a few retailers, but I've started feeling a bit tempted by sales again, so perhaps it's time to re-unsubscribe.

Some of my friends have a dedicated email account for junk/retail marketing lists, and this can be a good strategy too.

Tip 2: Avoid window shopping and online browsing
One of my favourite pastimes used to be going to shops and browsing to see what goodies were available. This is a huge no-no for unfocussed shoppers. I ended up buying tons of stuff I didn't need. At the height of my unfocussed spending, I even knew I didn't want some of these things, but I bought them anyway. That was such a strange time in my life, and I'm so happy I no longer feel the urge to window shop.

In my (very old) beauty ban tips and tricks video, I shared a strategy that involved online browsing, where you go through all the motions of picking out items to purchase and putting them in your cart. The key to this strategy is to close the browser and walk away before confirming your purchase. Invariably, your desire for those items will fade over time, and you won't end up going back to make the purchase. Since I don't browse as much these days, I don't use this strategy very often anymore; however, I did a couple of times recently, and it still works for me. If you're someone who would continue through to the purchase and confirmation stage, you'll probably want to stay away from online browsing altogether.

Tip 3: Keep a well thought out list and stick to it
I never used to shop with a list, but now I always do. I try my best not to go off-list when I shop. Recently, I showed myself shopping at a Chinese supermarket and I went off-list to buy a jar of pickled vegetables. I even said, "I'm going off-list" in the video! I later regretted it because those vegetables weren't very tasty. It was only a $2.99 lesson, but it stuck with me.

In terms of online shopping, I still try to meet the minimum threshold for free shipping, but I don't look at off-list items like I used to--that's how I accumulated pineapple shot glasses and a whole host of other things I didn't need. Now, I purchase one or two more of the items that were already on my list that I know I will use up rather quickly, like tooth powder or dish soap.


Yesterday's journalling prompt was a lot of fun for me! I journalled for around 10 minutes on the things I'm grateful for that money can't buy. I felt warm and fuzzy afterward. I knew I hadn't journalled in a long time, but it was interesting to see that my last entry was on Canadian Thanksgiving weekend! I'm glad I'm picking up journalling again, as this really helped me clarify my thoughts when I journalled daily at Grail Springs.

Today, I woke up to a slew of Black Friday deal emails, and I was momentarily tempted to buy a BeautyBlender set. I tend to beat myself up when I'm tempted by purchases that I know I don't really need or want, so I thought I should practice a little self-love. In light of this, today's journalling prompt is:

What traits do you love about yourself?
To go deeper, ask yourself: Why do I love this about myself?

Please join me as I'll be journalling on this at some point today. You can set aside a specific block of time to journal (it could be as little as 5 minutes), or you can add to your journal entry throughout the day each time you feel like buying something. If you don't like journalling, you can just think about the prompt instead of shopping.

P.S. I didn't buy the BeautyBlender set! I filmed today's video instead. :)


In each video, I'll also ask:

What's the best thing that happened to you today?

My former colleague (and friend) shared this question with me as it's a daily practice she implemented in her life. I loved the concept, but I've been off and on about applying it in my daily life, so I thought we could practice together. My twist for this 5-part series is that my answer can't involve shopping.

The best thing that happened to me yesterday was meeting up with a friend briefly. She texted me just before noon and asked me to help her pick out a coat. When I got to the store, she was trying to decide among three coats. I watched her try them on and tried to help her hone in on which coat she liked best. I started getting the sense that she wasn't 100% happy about any of them. We got to chatting and I told her about the video I had just filmed and the series I was working on, and she thought it was a great idea. I then asked her if I could ask her the 4 questions. She agreed, and by the 2nd question, she had decided not to buy any of the coats! I felt so happy and proud of her. We left the store empty handed and went to check out a couple of exhibits that she had on her list. We were only together for around an hour, but it was such a nice break in the day, and seeing her really lifted my spirits.

I suppose my best thing from yesterday does kind of involve shopping. But really, I like to think of it as involving not shopping.

Happy Friday!!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Buy Something

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who are celebrating today!

This year has been really interesting, and I've experienced a lot of changes in my life. I recently noticed another change as U.S. Thanksgiving approached: I'm not paying much attention to Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. I used to really be into this "holiday," as it's arguably the biggest shopping weekend of the year. But this year, I've been thinking about how else I could be spending my time (and cooking is at the top of my list). As I pondered this most recent change, I thought about being grateful, giving thanks, and how I can help anyone who is struggling to not shop, as I was not too long ago. This series came to mind last night, as I was telling hubby I wanted to make turkey again this weekend to celebrate U.S. Thanksgiving. But it was dark, it was late, we were about to go out, and I still had a few things I needed to get done. So I shelved the idea.

This morning, when I woke up, I checked my email and was bombarded with Black Friday deals. I've unsubscribed to a lot of retailer email lists, but a few remain, and those few still managed to fill up my inbox. That's when I promptly took the idea off the shelf and created this video. I have no idea what this 5-part series will entail, but I'll be posting about this topic daily, from today to Cyber Monday.

Here are the 4 questions I ask myself when I want to buy something:

1) Do I really need this?
2) Do I have something in my collection that I can use instead?
3) How will I feel over time if I either buy or do not buy this item?
4) Why do I want this?

While I definitely recommend asking yourself these questions when you're not 100% sure about buying a particular item, it's also helpful to think about these questions if you're looking at an item you believe to be a staple in your life. I tend to ponder these questions in my mind (or talk them over with a friend), but I think it would be interesting to journal on them as well. If you like, you can get deep with these questions and really examine the psychology around why you shop.


In each of the 5 videos in this series, I'd like to provide a journalling prompt--mainly because I want to journal more! Seriously though, when I stopped shopping, I needed something to occupy the mindspace that shopping took up. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, today's journalling prompt will be:

What are you grateful for that money can't buy?
To go deeper, ask yourself: Why am I grateful for this?

Please join me as I'll be journalling on this at some point today. You can set aside a specific block of time to journal (it could be as little as 5 minutes), or you can add to your journal entry throughout the day each time you feel like buying something. If you don't like journalling, you can just think about the prompt instead of shopping.


In each video, I'll also ask:

What's the best thing that happened to you today?

My former colleague (and friend) shared this question with me as it's a daily practice she implemented in her life. I loved the concept, but I've been off and on about applying it in my daily life, so I thought we could practice together. My twist for this 5-part series is that my answer can't involve shopping.


That's it for now. I hope you will find this series helpful!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018


FITREP is a new app that is essentially a virtual marketplace for personal training sessions. Hubby and I attended the CRUNCHES & COCKTAILS event this evening and had a blast!

We started off the evening with some boxed water by Flow Alkaline Spring Water. I was really thirsty and excited about all the different flavours. Throughout the course of the evening, I tried the original, strawberry + rose, and lemon + ginger. The flavoured waters were very subtle, which I enjoyed. Super refreshing. The watermelon + lime flavour was also available, so I brought one home with us. There was also boxed cold press coffee available by Point Blank, but I didn't feel like staying awake all night so I didn't partake. Hubby said it was good, so maybe I'll have a sip tomorrow morning!

There were three short workout sessions by personal trainers featured on the FITREP app. It was crowded and difficult to find room to do some of the moves, but I really enjoyed this part of the evening! The sessions included: Dynamic Warm Up & Movement Flow with Lorenzo Pagnotta, Light HIIT Workout with Celia Lopez, and Standing Yoga with Serena Virtue (my personal favourite, but you know how I feel about yoga). After the workout, guests could try two different cocktails from the bar (gin & kombucha or espresso-infused martini). Hubby and I both got the gin + kombucha (ugh, two beverages I love), but cocktails are not eat-at-home eligible so hubby drank both. I drank more water.

The savoury nibbles were catered by Calii Love. Since I'm still on the eat-at-home challenge, I didn't try anything, but hubby appeared to enjoy everything. I was really tempted by the avocado toast and chicken satay, as well as the mini muffins by Little Almond Baking.

Overall, it was a great event! I'm patting myself on the back for being able to stick to the eat-at-home challenge at not one, but two events!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A Day in the Life #2

Today was one of those days, when my friend asked me what I did, and I drew a blank. The hours flew by, but I have no idea how, so I thought I would document it in a blog post. I felt very happy and relaxed throughout the day, so I'll take that as a win. Here's how my day went down:

9:30am: woke up, kissed hubby goodbye as he left for work, and made a tea
9:45am: did my language lessons and read 10% Happier while taking an Epsom salt bath
11am: rinsed off in the shower and finished getting ready for the day while listening to a podcast
12pm: swept the floor and cleaned the bathtub
12:30pm: ate my first meal of the day, also known as breakfast, except I ate it at lunch time
1:30pm: finished recording/editing my Makeup Inventory video and responded to YouTube comments
3pm: fed Lulu, made a lasagna for tomorrow's dinner, and prepared our evening teas
4:30pm: ate leftover lentil soup, smashed potatoes, and pickled carrots for dinner
5:30pm: left the condo
6:15pm: met my friend at the Hot Docs Cinema for the Dal Puri Diaspora event
9:15pm: got back to the condo to find Lulu in the hallway (she accompanied hubby to throw out the garbage), took our daily photo, said hello to Truffle, and chatted with hubby
9:30pm: took off my makeup, continued chatting with hubby, went through my skincare routine, did a whole bunch of research on West Indian roti recipes (I'll be making this soon), responded to an email, and scheduled my Walmart grocery delivery

That brings me to this blog post! I don't have much planned for the rest of the evening. Hubby just left for the gym so I may try to do an hour or so of work. One of my other friends inspired me to do the 30-day plank challenge so I'll be doing a minute of plank at some point--I've been doing this daily since October 31st, and I think it has made a difference in my core strength and stomach definition. It's strange how the day can fill up with such ordinary things, yet feel so fulfilling. The night is still young (I've been sleeping at around 1am lately!), so off I go to do a few more ordinary things before bedtime.

See you tomorrow! x

Note: this post contains an affiliate link.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Currently Reading #3

In two weeks or so, I'll be embarking on a silent meditation course, where you're not allowed to bring any books, journals, or writing instruments. There are a couple books I want to read before I go, so I'm hoping to have enough time to get through at least one. I've listed these first:

10% Happier by Dan Harris
Some of you may know Dan Harris as a correspondent for ABC News, and he has been involved in other shows as well. In 2004, he had a panic attack on live television and subsequently discovered meditation, which helped with his anxiety and depression. I've listened to some of his interviews, and I think reading his book before the meditation course will be very helpful. It looks like a short book, so I shouldn't have any trouble finishing it in two weeks.

Update (Dec 29/18): I loved this book and wanted to slowly savour it. Dan Harris writes in a way that is very easy for me to read--it's as though a friend is speaking directly to me. The book was hilarious in parts, and I laughed aloud more than a few times. The author was also very candid about being skeptical of meditation, and some of his thoughts around it making you complacent, which are some of the same reasons I've been apprehensive about meditation in the past. While Dan Harris didn't attend the same type of 10-day meditation course that I did (his was a paid course and was not taught by S. N. Goenka), my experience seemed to echo his pretty closely, even up to seeing a bird at some point during the 10-day course that triggered feelings of complete contentment and peace. I plan to read this book again in the near future, as I think I will see it in a different light having since gone through my own silent meditation retreat.

Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda
I stumbled across this book in our condo building's "library," and it got great reviews on Amazon, so I decided to give it a try. This book is rather long, and I don't know how interesting I'll find the material, so I'm not sure I'll be able to finish it before the meditation course.

Courage to Create by Rollo May
This is a book I read a while ago, but forgot to include in a previous post. I borrowed the ebook from the library, so it is not pictured above. I loved the first half of this book! I found it incredibly insightful, and the passages really resonated with me. I had a lot of AHA moments during the first half of the book, and I would periodically reading stop to take notes or set the book down to ponder my thoughts. However, as soon as I got to the second half of the book, this stopped. I couldn't seem to relate to anything past the midpoint of the book, and I ended up skimming the rest.


I've been reading a lot of thought-provoking books lately, so I thought I would include a few cookbooks that I'll be leafing through over the next little while. These will likely be a lot of fun to read and will hopefully give me a lot of inspiration to keep cooking new recipes well past eat-at-home month.

Pasta, Pretty Please by Linda Miller Nicholson
My friend and I received this book when we went to CityLine earlier this month. It's a lovely book, but I'm not sure how practical it will be in my life. I've never made pasta from scratch, and while I'd like to give it a try one day, I don't really see myself making it regularly. I may decide to add this to our building's library once I'm done leafing through it.

Peko Peko: Family-Friendly Japanese Recipes
This is a self-published book on Blurb that was created to support the GlobalGiving Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund. I was excited to find this in our building's library, and I'm hoping to discover some new recipes to try.

Vegan Comfort Classics by Lauren Toyota
My friend and I were lucky enough to attend CityLine for a second time, and we received this cookbook as a result. I loved the segment we watched with Lauren Toyota, and I was ecstatic to have a copy of this book. I'm eager to incorporate more plant-based recipes into my cooking.

Update (Jan 25/19): I've flipped through all of the above cookbooks. While I enjoyed certain aspects of each, I won't be keeping any of them in my collection.

The above books will probably take me into the new year! I'll continue to provide updates within these blog posts. You can find my previous "Currently Reading" posts here and here.

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Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sunday Dinner

Cheater's Duck Confit recipe is one of my favourite recipes to whip up during the eat-at-home challenge. I've made it three times, and I am slowing making the recipe my own. I've tried twice to crisp the skin while rendering the fat from the duck legs, but it always sticks. This time, I tried rendering the fat in the cast iron skillet and it worked like a charm! The skin didn't stick and it crisped up nicely; however, the crispiness didn't last as the recipe calls for oven braising in the pan with the lid on as the final step.

Even though the result was delicious, I'll continue tweaking until I get the fully rendered fat and crispy skin I desire. Regardless, tonight's feast was lip-smacking! To accompany the "duck confit," I made Instant Pot green lentils, smashed potatoes, and Normandy-style veggies (that's what our favourite frozen veggies are called at Costco). The result was delicious, nourishing, and very filling. Pretty much the perfect Sunday dinner.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Currently Drinking #1

I posted a tea haul from The Tea Haus a while back, and we've started trying some of the teas. I thought this would be a good way to document our thoughts on which teas we enjoyed and would repurchase.

First up is Angel's Dream. This tea was recommended to me last year by Crystal as it's one of her favourites, and I immediately put it on my list to purchase. This tea is a blend of Sri Lankan, Assam, and Chinese green and black teas; cornflower and mallow petals; and natural maple and wild blackberry flavours. You can really smell the maple and blackberry notes (it also smells a bit like anise to me, but pleasantly so). I first drank this black with no sugar, and it was very aromatic with just a hint of sweetness. Crystal recommended that I try it with milk and honey, which brought out the flavours even more. It tasted like a decadent treat, and I would definitely repurchase this.

Hubby and I both loved the Milk Oolong from David's Tea, so I decided to pick up 200 grams of the Creamy Oolong from the Tea Haus. The website describes this tea as follows: "A premium Oolong from China and the successor of our Milk Oolong. This Oolong has a smooth, creamy flavour almost vanilla like. Remember to make multiple infusions as oolongs tend to improve in flavour and body in latter infusions." This is one of hubby's favourites--he frequently requests this if I ask him what after-dinner tea he would like. I really enjoy it too and would repurchase it.

The last tea we've tried recently is the Se Chung Oolong. The Tea Haus describes this tea as follows: "Se Chung is a speciality Chinese Oolong with a slightly earthy aroma and delicious aromatic taste." One of the reviewers described this as the best tea she's ever drank, so of course I was intrigued. I've only tried it once so far, and it is indeed very nice, but I'm not sure I would repurchase it. I'll try it a few more times before deciding.

Have you tried any delicious teas recently?

Friday, November 16, 2018

Dear Future Me

The future is a funny thing. There is so much uncertainty, and it can cause so much anxiety. But once you learn to trust yourself, to surround yourself with people you love, and to be fully present, the anxiety starts to fade away. The uncertainty becomes much more bearable, exciting even, because you appreciate each moment as it happens, and the people around you just as they are.

My dear friend and I got together today for a long chat, and we took the opportunity to write another letter to our future selves. We wrote our first letter at Grail Springs last August, and we decided to open that letter in August 2019. We decided to open today's letter in five years, in November 2023, to allow some more time for our current selves to develop into our future selves. Who will we be in 5 years? What will we be like? What will we be doing?

The funny thing about the future is that it will always be mysterious and unknown, no matter how much you think about it. I tend to overanalyse but I'm trying to trust my gut more, and I think it's working as I no longer stress out about making decisions. I'm excited to see what happens in five years, but that certainly won't distract me from enjoying each day until I get there.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Beef and Turkey Sliders

Sliders have been on my mind since yesterday, and they are in my belly today! I made seven mini burgers for dinner this evening. I used a combination of ground beef and ground turkey--ground turkey is my favourite way to lighten up a dish. I use that in place of ground beef in pretty much all my recipes, with the exception of burgers, where I like to maintain the ground beef flavour. I used to use a 4:1 ratio of beef to turkey, but today I used 1:1 ratio and the burgers still tasted rich and meaty. I'm not a fan of adding filler like bread crumbs, but I got the idea to use hemp hearts some time ago, and the result was tasty and nourishing. I have a package of wheat bran I'm trying to use up, so today I used a combination of hemp hearts and wheat bran. These burgers were tiny but tall and surprisingly hearty. The sliders were super delicious, and I plan to make them again in a day or two. I've included my recipe below as a rough guideline, but if you decide to make these, please feel free to tweak the recipe to suit your tastes!


• 1 lb ground meat (today I used ½ ground beef and ½ ground turkey)
• 5 tbsp hemp hearts (today I used 3 tbsp hemp hearts and 2 tbsp wheat bran)
• 2 eggs
• Seasonings to taste (you can use whatever you like--today I used salt, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, white pepper, and cumin)
• Splash of red or white wine (optional--today I used a splash of dry vermouth)
• Grated cheese (optional)
• Oil (for cooking)
• Buns (today I used Dempsters Pull-Aparts)
• Condiments and toppings to taste (today I used spicy ketchup and pickled hot peppers)


1. Put meat, hemp hearts, eggs, seasonings, and wine into a bowl and combine thoroughly (I use my hands).
2. Separate into 5 equal patties (or 7-8 for mini burgers).
3. Heat oil in a large pan or cast iron skillet.
4. Cook patties over medium heat until cooked through (approximately 5 minutes on each side).
5. Transfer patties to a plate and pile grated cheese on top.
6. Place patty on a bun and add desired condiments and toppings.

Serves 2 generously.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Mercedes Launch Party

In one of my recent vlogs, I mentioned that hubby has been signing us up for lots of free events. I used to sign us up for stuff too, but hubby was never keen on going, so I stopped. Things are different now because his colleague tells him about these events, with a strong emphasis on the free drinks and food. And since hubby signs us up, he doesn't complain, which is a win-win in my book. Tonight, we went to a Mercedes launch party at REBEL, which featured the new 2019 A-Class Sedan and 2019 A-Class Hatchback. It was so crowded that we could barely see the cars, but we had lots of fun chasing the cater waiters! Since I'm on the eat-at-home challenge, hubby ate my share. His stomach was bursting by the end, and I was drowning in my tears. The sliders in particular looked and smelled incredibly delicious. Guess what I'm making for dinner tomorrow night. That's right, burgers.

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!

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