The Slow Down

This past Friday was my grandfather’s 70th birthday which meant a trip up north to spend some time with family at the campground. We spent a few hours munching on Chinese food, enjoying cheesecake, and just hanging around a campfire. I checked my phone every now and then but there was no running around or flitting from one place to the other, there was just good food and good company. It was a nice change from the hectic lifestyle of multiple jobs and city living that I’ve been getting used to the past few months. Don’t get me wrong, I prefer the business over the long days of nothing all the time but sometimes it’s nice to just to find a moment to slow down.

This weekend’s little slow down helped me realize just how busy I’ve been, and I am realizing that I’m on my way to burning out if I’m not careful. This weekend was a good way for me to take a step back and to just relax. It’s something I realized I probably need more of in my life. Of course, I don’t always have the time to make the trip home and to sit around a fire. So with that in mind I thought it would be useful to create a list of things I can do to slow down in the city. And of course, that meant sharing the ideas with all of you. I’ve found a lot of the items on this list coincide with the items with my self-care post from eons ago but there’s some new additions as well.

Colouring or Journalling

There are a lot of beautiful adult colouring books out there but I will admit after trying one for myself I realized I don’t have the patience for colouring inside the lines. However, if you find a notebook or a notepad in my house you will likely find dozens of doodles of Felicity Smoak as well as random patterns that I’ve sketched all over papers. I don’t consider myself much of an artist but filling pages with doodles is quite calming.

I’ve turned my love of doodling into something slightly productive by keeping a bullet journal. My bullet journal is often about preparing for a busy week; it allows me to track my meals, to keep a running grocery list, and to know what day I have to be where, but it is also a creative outlet. New layouts and ideas for pages are a way for me to log off the computer for a while and to just focus on one thing. It’s good for clearing the mind and making sure things stay organized through all the chaos. Plus, as an added bonus my handwriting is getting neater.

Bubble Baths

Bubble baths are my number one feel good thing in general and they would go on a lot of different self-care and happiness lifts if I was ever to write more. I would say I love bubble baths more than the average person and I can easily stay in one for well over an hour if I have time. That being said, a quick fifteen minute bubble bath is also often enough to help me recharge and to just relax. There’s also been some studies that suggest bubble baths could burn calories but unfortunately it’s not enough to negate the need for meal planning and exercise. If only bath bombs and hot water were the secret to shedding those unwanted pounds, I wouldn’t struggle nearly as much as I do now.

 

Power Naps

I am someone who loves to sleep but over the years I have found I have a harder and harder time with this aspect of life. I used to be able to conk out right at nine or ten and then not wake up at all until six or seven in the morning, getting a good eight or nine hours. Unfortunately with one job that keeps me out late often, and a lessened ability to sleep right through the night, my sleep patterns just are not what I would like them to be. Long days mean I need a lot more energy to power through and little naps are often the way to make things work for me. There have been days where I’ll work a seven hour shift at one job and then have about three hours before I head off to a later shift at another. In those three hours I often try to squeeze in a little nap to help me get through the rest of the evening. In fact, I am writing this post after just having squeezed in a solid hour of midday sleep.

I know a lot of people struggle with napping, even though they’re exhausted and could really use the restorative powers naps can bring. There’s something to really be said about knowing what naps do to your body and how different timing of naps can effect you in different ways. One of the things I’ve used to inform my napping habits is the infographic below from The Wall Street Journal. My naps really range in length but I like to keep this information in mind, especially because avoiding 30 naps seems to be the way to go for me. I either do a really short 20 minute nap or I go full force for a 60-90 minutes since I seem to get the least amount of grogginess than these.

If you have the issue where naps just make you feel worse afterwards I suggest trying to nap in different places, positions, and for different lengths of time. You may just be able to find your sweet spot.

(Credit: Daily Infographic / The Wall Street Journal)

A Trip to the Coffee Shop

I am one of those people out of a romance movie that will sit in coffee shops for hours behind a laptop screen or with a notebook just doodling away. I like the music that Starbucks plays but really as long as the place has wifi I’m pretty content. The key to making coffee shops a slow down zone is to not just chip away at more work while you’re there. I don’t mind a little day planning but really if I’m using a solo coffee shop date to unwind it should be a time to detox from the work week by people watching and by enjoying an overpriced beverage or two.

Reading in Bed

You’ll notice how I’m very specific about where the reading takes place in this one. I think reading is pretty excellent just about anywhere and I’m very happy that I’ve been able to get back into reading for pleasure after struggling with it so much in university. But I’ve specifically listed reading in bed as one of my slow down ideas because I find that when I read in bed it is the place where I’m most likely to minimize all other distractions. Reading on transit involves being mindful of where I am, what I’m heading to do, and what’s going on around me. Reading on the couch often involves a computer screen beside me and my phone buzzing every now and then. But reading in bed is usually just reading. I’ve often put my phone away for the night and I’m just focused on whatever world exists on the pages before me. It’s easier to get lost that way.

 

Phone Calls with Friends and Family

If I didn’t have unlimited calling I would have the most outrageous phone bill ever. Where it’s easy for many of my friends to rake up hundreds of text messages a month, you are more likely to see me ending up with hours upon hours of call time. I’ve always preferred actual phone calls over text message and I am that person who will get lazy midway through texting and just call you because ‘I’m too tired to type’.

While I’ve probably lost the usefulness of quick text messages through this preference I do believe actual phone calls have a really therapeutic effect that texting does not. I call my mom pretty much every day and most of the time it’s been such a short time between our last phone call that we just say ‘I’ve got nothing new’ and then talk about something random. But those random conversations are a good way to unload and just stay in touch with whoever is on the other end of the phone. I always feel better after a long phone call and while I’m known for multi-tasking my way around the house while I’m on the phone, it still seems like a pretty good way to unwind.

There are many more relaxing things you can do without wandering off to the wilderness of course and I’m sure if I wanted to ramble on for another thousand words I could share some more ideas but instead I’m going to turn it to you: how do you slow down when life is crazy? What do you do to help stop yourself from burning out? Please share in the comments below!

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Lessons from a Shopping Bag

Today, a moment of growth came from a plastic bag full of snack foods and hair dye.

It’s a strange place to find real life character development and yet as I sat down on my couch with my freshly purchased goods I realized I didn’t feel guilty about them at all. I wasn’t worried that I was falling back into old habits where anything and everything was fair game, I just knew that today was not a day to worry about my diet. I had bigger things going on.

It’s easy for me to become obsessed with the efforts I’ve made to change my lifestyle. I spend hours upon hours looking at weight loss blogs, scrolling through workout videos, and planning meals. I put a lot of effort into trying to be healthier and dropping another pant size. There are progress photos, meal preps, step counting, and a whole bunch of other things that eat up time and energy. Some days I’m on top of everything and others I struggle. I used to make myself feel really bad about those off days but I’m starting to learn that my version of a healthy lifestyle doesn’t always include food logs, sweaty sports bras, or even a proper portion of vegetables. Part of this lifestyle is allowing myself those days when I’m not so concerned, knowing well that I’ll get back on track tomorrow.

Recently, I had the privilege of reading a post from one of the bloggers I follow that really got me thinking. The lovely Sara of Truly Sara talked a little bit about why she doesn’t like the phrase “Cheat Meal” (you can read the post here). While I’ve often used “Cheat Meal” or “Cheat Day” on my social media as a catch all for those days when I’m not counting calories or tracking ‘points’, I do really agree with what Sara had to say. The phrase can often make us feel bad about the food choices we have made, and we can often feel like a failure just because of what we put into our bodies.

I started thinking about this post again today as I finished off a ten pack of nuggets and half… okay, two thirds of a McDouble from McDonalds. Today was not a day I had planned to indulge; in fact there was healthy food in the fridge already made and ready but it just didn’t happen. Today was a rough one for me both physically and mentally; things were going on in my life that I needed comfort for and I found that comfort in food.

Do I unhealthily use food as a coping mechanism sometimes? Yes, I do but it’s not the end of the world and that’s the lesson I took home with me today, along with a plastic bag full of goods.

What I’ve come to understand to be important is to remember that I am in control. Just because I had a bad day today and decided to make it better by eating McDonalds and getting junk food for the evening does not mean I’m suddenly a failure. In fact, I haven’t even done anything wrong. I acknowledged that my feelings were negative, and I knew that tonight the food would help with that. Today that was worth it, other days it won’t be so I won’t make the same call. I won’t do this every time I have a bad day and that’s the triumph in it. I believe it to be a lesson worth sharing.

So much of life is about balance, and everyone’s balance is different. It can be difficult to do but finding your balance rather than basing your life on someone else’s can be incredibly empowering. Whether you call them cheat days, indulgences, or just don’t worry about the labels, you don’t have to feel bad about making those choices. If it made you happy, even for a short period of time, that’s what truly matters; not the size of your jeans, the calories you counted, or anything else. Your happiness is worth more than all of that combined.

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Six Lessons from Sharing Six Hundred Square Feet

I cannot believe how fast this summer is going. August is just around the corner which means in two more months Matt and I will have been living in our current apartment for over a year. It will mark 20 months of living together in total. Finally getting to move to the big city has been something that has really positively impacted both of our lives, and it’s also been quite the learning process. As an only child, I have had my own space most of my life, and I’ve had a lot of alone time. I even lived completely on my own for the last three years I went to university and while I missed out on a lot of the social aspects of living with friends, living alone was a great experience for me. I have always been comfortable alone so I wasn’t really nervous about that experience; I can’t say the same about moving in together.

Matt and I had been together for about four and a half years when it came time to start looking at apartments. The process of finding a place and packing up all of our things was stressful enough but it wasn’t nearly as nerve-racking as the idea of actually living together and sharing a space all the time. We had spent a few days together here and there both at home and on vacation but actually having a space that was just ours was something new.

After four and a half years you would think I would have been pretty confident in our ability to figure it out but of course there are a lot of things that you don’t even think about until you’re in the heat of it all, things you’ve done for years that are just part of your nature. For example, I always make my bed in the morning. It’s something I’ve done since I was a kid and it’s a very important part of my routine (a Navy SEAL commander even agrees that it’s a good habit to have).  But for Matt it was not something he felt like he had to do and so it was just one of those little things we had to talk about.

Over the last twenty months we’ve had lots of talks about chores, habits, which way the toilet paper roll should face, and a whole bunch of other mundane little things. Navigating a mine field of different routines and opinions has not always been easy, and I will openly admit I’ve started many fights over laundry and the shower head not getting turned off fully. But even with all these fights I feel like I have learned a lot from living together and that’s what I’d like to share with you all today. Whether you’re just moving in with someone (it doesn’t even have to be a partner; it could be a new roommate or a friend) or you’ve been living together for a while, here’s some lessons that have helped us make our little corner of the universe into a happy home. At least, most of the time.

1. Meet in the middle

I’m starting with a big one; this was one of the more challenging things for me because I’m very particular about a lot of stuff. I like the bed to be made, the kitchen to be clean, and for stuff to get done in a timely manner. Matt is much more relaxed and probably couldn’t give a damn whether the bed was made or not. Despite this, if he’s the last one out of the bed in the morning he still takes the time to make it because he knows it’s something I care about. On the other hand, I used to be very particular about dishes not being left in the sink for more than a day but it really wasn’t reasonable on weeks where he wasn’t getting home from work until two or three in the morning. While I wasn’t okay with just stockpiling dirty dishes, I found a way to change my expectations in the fact that we could run the dish washer a lot more often and it would be worth the extra money for the time saved.

I’ve phrased this lesson as ‘meet in the middle’ rather than the usual idea of compromising because I don’t feel like I’m lessening my standards or asking him to completely change his. We’ve talked about our preferences and what we expect in our home and we’ve found a way to bridge any gaps that exist between them. If you have areas that you disagree about it can be useful to find a middle ground rather than just shouting at the other person to change. Be willing to be flexible with your expectations but don’t feel that you ever have to fully rid yourself of them. Be honest about what you want from your home and find ways to make sure you both achieve that.

2. Have your own time

Moving in together means seeing a whole lot more of each other, and while that is nice sometimes it can also be a little bit exhausting. For me, I don’t think there’s anyone I’m truly comfortable being around all the time. It’s perfectly healthy to need your own space and to do your own things. This summer Matt has taken in a lot of Blue Jays games and since I’m not at all interested in baseball it’s been a great way for him to get out and have his own thing with friends and family. I myself have a plethora of things I take off to do on my own or with other people, including day trips with my mom or just daily wanderings around the city.

Even though you’re now living together and you’re likely going to see each other every day, your time does not have to be completely dominated by your partner. It’s important to continue to have your own life outside of them where you can enjoy things separately. Yes, you’re going to do more things together now by the very nature of you being together more often but you can still make plans with other people or even just with yourself. In fact it’s probably pretty important that you continue to do so. Having a break from each other can resolve a lot of conflict and it can make for a happier home.

3. Find ways to be alone together

There will be days when you’re both home with nothing to do. Sometimes it can feel like you then have to find something to do together, whether it’s watching a movie, making dinner, or something else entirely. While it’s nice to have these home date nights, you don’t have to feel the pressure to make that every night. It can be a weird shift from dating someone to living with them because of the fact that time together before might have often been something you always planned something for. But you can’t do that every single day so the shift while living together can be a little different. Some nights you’re both going to be home but that does not mean you have to do something together.

What I’ve found is a real comfort is being able to do your own things while you’re around each other, even if you’re stuck in approximately six hundred square feet with not much room to go your separate ways. Being able to sit beside someone without needing their attention is a skill that makes living together even more enjoyable and relaxing. Some nights you just want to chill and do your own thing, and if your partner can understand that they can do that too then you’ll be much better off. Sometimes you just need alone time but that alone time can come in the form of one of you watching television while the other reads or something along those lines. Sometimes it’s nice just to sit beside each other for a few hours and not even have to say a word.

 

4. Make the ordinary extraordinary sometimes

On the opposite end of things from the last lesson is the fact that living together means more nights in than ever before. Since Matt and I started dating when I was in University, a lot of our weekends together were actually spent in my apartment because I had to continue to study while he was visiting. Because of this we became pretty used to just having time inside an apartment where we’d do our own thing and then sit down to have dinner together or to watch a movie. It was good preparation for not feeling the pressure of making every single night special but that does not mean only nights out should be the special ones. There are plenty of ways to make evenings at home together something special.

It can be anything from surprising your partner with dessert one evening or just making time to do something fun together. As mentioned in my previous post about Pandemic, board games have become our go to thing. We have a handful of games now that the two of us really enjoy and if we’re looking to spend a few hours actually having a fun time together at home then we’ll set one up.

Whatever you do doesn’t have to be out of this world, the smallest thing can be a nice mix up that allows for a good break in the week. Sometimes it could just be the extra effort of a home cooked meal, or even just how you present that meal. Light a candle, throw on some background music, and just enjoy each other’s company. The little things can become quite special if you allow them to be.

 

5. Understand that life is rarely 50/50 all the time

I think this is one of the biggest wake-up calls I got. As someone who has always considered themselves quite independent and fiercely feminist it can be a bit discouraging that there is a typical bread winner in our household. It was even more frustrating when I was unemployed and contributing less than a third of what Matt was to expenses. In the beginning I was tracking everything in budget charts, right down to little purchases from the dollar store, and in the end all it did was upset me.

I have come to accept the fact that moving in together did not mean we would be going fifty fifty on everything. And I’m not just talking about money: household chores, the responsibility of planning dates or evenings with friends, the monitoring of bills and finances, and all those other little things that come into play when sharing a home, it just doesn’t split even nicely. At least, it doesn’t for us.

There are weeks where things aren’t so bad, where Matt has the time to take care of the laundry and I manage to do the cooking but other weeks he’s working overtime and I have a few days off where I can pick up the slack. Some weeks I’m pulling sixteen hour days and he’s left to pick my clothes up off the floor because I just couldn’t do it before collapsing into bed. It really varies. Some weeks I carry the house, some weeks he does, and every now and then we’re both there together, keeping things from falling apart. It fluctuates and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not a bad feminist because I take the lead on meal planning, and Matt’s not any less of a good partner for not paying for dinner when we go out. We’ve found our own way to balance things and while the scales shift and change all the time, they still work for us. You don’t need to feel bad if you can’t pay exactly half of everything, and you don’t need to create a perfectly even chore list either. As long as you find balances that shift and fluctuate in a way that works for you, it’s fine.

6. Keep dating your partner

In the beginning of moving in together it was very easy to just stay home and do nothing, to allow the weeks to pass us by with work and weariness. Matt stopped asking me out to dinner and I stopped planning adventures for us. We were around each other all the time, why would we need to do more together?

Of course, I realize now that that’s a silly question.

After some time it started to bother me that we weren’t trying anymore. Life had become routine in the worst way. Wake up, go to work, have dinner, go to bed. Some weeks we wouldn’t even see each other because we were working opposite shifts. But despite this we lagged behind on making that special time for each other, or even trying to surprise the other with small gifts or just a hot home cooked meal. We fought about it and it was one of the harder things to get over because it really is easy to just fall into the trap of not trying anymore. But we should have been and it’s something I do my best to remember every day. It’s important to keep trying to put that smile on their face, to surprise them after a long day. Just keep trying.

It can be something as simple as going out for lunch before the other person has to work or something more elaborate like a whole day out with dinner and a show. Whatever it is, don’t stop trying to make those special moments for your partner just because you see them all the time. Try to think back to the beginning of your relationship and how you would do things to impress the other. Those things are still just as important now that you’re living together. Never stop dating the person you love, it’s likely how you started to fall in love with them in the first place.

Even with all this, we still have our disagreements. Old habits can be hard to break and some days the desire to just sit down and do nothing overpowers the desire to help out. Things aren’t perfect and they never will be but things are good and the happy days far exceed the unhappy ones. To me that’s a pretty good start.

As we hopefully renew our lease and get another year here, I’m sure there’ll be a whole new handful of lessons to learn from our own experiences and from others. Do you have any tips of your own of how to manage living together? Is there anything you do in your home to make sure it’s a positive space? As always, please feel free to share in the comments below. I love hearing your feedback and finding out more from people with different experiences. Sometimes that’s the best way to learn.

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Why I Work for Free – A Story of Volunteering

vol·un·teer

“freely offer to do something.”

That definition of “volunteer” is pretty straight forward. It refers to the action of offering one’s help freely, without cost, without stipulation. You choose to do something, whether it’s out of the goodness of your own heart or for a number of other reasons. Whatever those reasons are, compensation, at least in the form of money, is generally not involved. You were not required to do whatever it was but you offered yourself up anyway. Sometimes we volunteer to do the dishes after someone has made us a lovely meal, sometimes we volunteer to go first in presentations.

And sometimes we volunteer our time to organizations and events that matter to us.

While volunteering for different organizations was not foreign to me because of mandatory volunteer hours in high school, it is something that up until now I considered myself too busy to do unless I had to. I was always working or in school and while I probably could have made the time to tack on an extra hour or two every few weeks I never really felt compelled to do so. It wasn’t just the time constraint but the anxiety of putting myself in a new situation that really held me back from doing it.

But after being unemployed for six months this past year, I not only had the time but I really had the need for volunteering. Declines for job applications had come in steadily and any inquiry I was able to make came back to the same issue: others had more experience. It’s not that I didn’t have any experience at all; I’ve worked at a wide range of places from non-profits, to post-secondary, to Walt Disney World but this experience was not enough. My experience with the populations I want to work with and with social services as a whole was really limited. And so, I turned to volunteering.

While a pessimist would express concern over the fact that I was basically taking the jobs I wanted and doing them for free, I will argue that I have gained more from volunteering than it ever took from me and it’s because of that that I wanted to share my top five reasons for volunteering. I’m sure if I really thought about it I could think about five or ten more but for now these are the ones that come to mind.

Gaining experience

Number one is pretty straightforward, given the main reason I started volunteering in the first place. The hope was to fill the gaps in my practical experience that would compliment the educational background I had worked so hard to get. I needed the experience working in the social service sector rather than just reading about it and wanting to support it. Still, many volunteer positions require some experience as well, especially if you’re looking to work with vulnerable populations which is why you may sometimes have to start at a lower position and work yourself up. For me, this meant starting administratively with a women’s shelter rather than working in the shelter itself because I did not have shelter experience. It’s all about working into it.

Making connections

So much today is about who you know. Sometimes knowing someone gives you a heads up on when a job that you might want will be posted, and other times it could just be information on an event or something else that you’d be interested in. My volunteering opportunities have opened up other volunteering opportunities and they have also allowed me to meet more people in the sector that I’m interested in working in. These connections can definitely come in handy down the road, especially because I was limited to just one family member in the same field as me, and a handful who took the policing route. Becoming more connected has exposed me to more and helped me learn from others around me.

Getting your foot in the door

Many organizations like to hire new employees from their volunteer pool. You’ve already shown some time and dedication to the organization, and you likely know more about it than someone applying from outside so it really makes sense. This is how things worked out for me. One of my organizations always sends out an internal job posting before they make it external so they can try and get suitable candidates from their volunteers. It’s a great way for them to reward and recognize volunteers, and it’s a great way for volunteers to transition into a larger or different role.

Getting to be a part of something that matters to you

While it’s great that volunteering can be beneficial to helping kickstart or even enhance your career, I think it’s also something that enhances your life. You get to choose where you volunteer and therefore you get to insert yourself into a realm that is important to you. Feminism and issues of violence against women are two things I’ve always been passionate about and getting to volunteer with a women’s shelter, even just through their events committee has allowed me to be a part of issues I used to just talk about.

Making a difference

This may seem like it’s the same reason as the last one but in my head it actually tackles the other side of things. While volunteering gives the gift of being a part of something, it also allows you to put positive energy out there and make a difference to someone else. The other reasons are very you-focused but this one is about the people you’re actually interacting with and influencing by being a volunteer. This one acknowledges that volunteers are doing amazing work and that they are changing people’s lives by offering their time freely. Whether it’s helping one person by being a companion to the elderly, or a group of people by being a camp counsellor, or even the organization itself by helping with fundraising and events, you are making a difference by giving your time to the organization you choose. You can change someone’s life just by being there. Sometimes all it takes is a few hours out of your day.

I truly wish someone had pushed me to volunteer sooner. Yes, sometimes it makes my days long and my commute longer but even when I’m the most tired I have never regretted my choice to become a part of the two agencies that I’m volunteering with. I’ve met some amazing people and I’ve been given the opportunity to really make a difference. Not only that, but volunteering bridged a gap for me and I’m a few weeks away from starting a career that I thought I was years away from. It makes you wonder what if I had done this sooner, but of course I’m just glad I have done this now.

If there is somewhere in your community that inspires you with the work they do, or is just something you’ve always wanted to be a part of then consider giving some of your time. It’s often not a very big commitment, a few hours here and there every month, and I promise what you’ll get out of it will be worth so much more than the time you gave up.

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A Celebratory Meal – Bazille in Nordstrom

I’m afraid the weekend got away from me a little bit so this one is going to be short and sweet. It was a busy week with big news for me. I have a conditional offer for a full time salaried position with one of the organizations I have been volunteering with and I couldn’t be more thrilled. This of course led to a crazy week with excitement, juggling of priorities, and celebration. That of course meant that the time I would normally have set aside for writing my blog posts kept getting pushed back until suddenly it’s almost ten o’clock on Sunday night.

But don’t worry, the hectic celebrations of the week left me with something to share with you.

After finding out about the job offer on Thursday, and dealing with the fact that Matt didn’t get home until nearly 7, we decided making dinner was too much work and we decided a little evening out. We live in a good area but a lot of the restaurants are big chain restaurants that I just wasn’t in the mood for. Plus, the occasion called for something special.

Strangely enough, that something special ended up being in the middle of a department store.

Nordstrom opened up in two Toronto locations last year and I will openly admit I am obsessed with the aesthetic of the store and all the beautiful clothes inside. For the most part it’s a little bit out of the usual range of what I spend on clothes but I did get an Eliza J dress and a Ted Baker London skirt / top combo for Christmas from the store and I love them both. I really just wish I had more occasions to wear the Ted Baker.

There was no celebratory shopping trip planned (not yet at least) but instead our evening’s dinner took place at the restaurant inside Nordstrom. Different Nordstrom locations have different restaurants, the one we went to at Yorkdale boasts Habitant and Bazille. Habitant is more of a quick bites bar menu stop whereas Bazille is a fuller restaurant.

One thing we noticed right away about Bazille is how quiet and calm the restaurant is. It was the perfect place for a low key dinner for just the two of us. And the food was excellent as well.

To start we ordered an appetizer of calamari. I’m a big calamari fan to the point where it’s kind of my go to appetizer. Some people like mozzarella sticks, some people like garlic bread, and well, I like them both to be honest but calamari is something special to me because it’s just not quite as good when you make it at home. Or at least, when I make it at home because it typically comes out of a box.

This calamari had a nice crispiness to it but it was still very light. The lemongrass in the sweet chilli sauce made it a little different than the normal sweet chilli heat you normally get with calamari.  It made it a bit sweeter in a way, with a distinct lemony taste. Overall it was quite tasty and I wouldn’t hesitate ordering it again.

While I did quite enjoy the calamari, it definitely wasn’t the highlight of the meal. Matt and I decided to order two dishes and split them. He ordered the Crab Macaroni and Cheese while I picked out the Prime Rib French Dip.

The mac and cheese was incredibly cheesy an creamy with breadcrumbs on top to deliver a bit of a crunch. The pieces of crab meat inside infused the whole dish with a delicious fishy taste to go along with the cheese. The side salad that went along with it was nothing special in my opinion but the tasty bits of roasted cheese were yummy. The actual greens themselves were what threw me off. But overall the dish was absolutely delicious. Sometimes a comforting bowl of mac and cheese, no matter how fancy or not, it is all you need.

But for me the prime rib beef dip definitely took top place on the evening’s eats. The meat had so much flavour and the melted cheese the softly toasted bread just tied the whole thing together. The au jus was perfectly salty which I think is a really fine balance. Some places make it way too salty, others don’t make it salty enough but this was really well done. The stack of fries that the sandwich came with were both artisanal in nature and very tasty but I did not like the kalamata aoili but of course that makes sense: I hate olives.  I opted for ketchup instead and occasionally dipped the thin but crispy fries into the au jus. It was a delicious combo.

I would definitely recommend Bazille if you’re kicking around a Nordstrom and find yourself getting hungry. I would also recommend Peace Treats which is where we stopped for desserts. They have fully loaded milkshakes with a handful of toppings, some of which are as ridiculous as cotton candy, mini donuts, or a decent slice of cake.

We opted for the O Canada milkshake which was being offered for a limited time for the anniversary of 150 years since Confederation. The milkshake was rimmed with cream cheese icing, rolled in sprinkles, topped with whipped cream and then decorated with m&ms and a slice of red velvet ice cream cake.

Needless to say, I wasn’t watching what I was eating that night.

I always love discovering new restaurants that we enjoy and it’s nice to have something different close by. While I do love Red Lobster and Shoeless Joes, they are pretty generic. This was something different and as it turns out, different was good. And of course, so was the milkshake.

So that’s it for  me. Hopefully things slow down a bit soon but chances are they won’t. Big changes ahead may mean a lot more late night posts but I promise you, I’m not going anywhere.

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Extraordinary Gift Giving

It’s not Wednesday, I know, and I’m sorry; life got in the way this week and I wanted to give you a good post rather than a rushed one. So anyway, here we go.

Finding just the right gift for someone can be quite a challenge, especially if you’ve been exchanging gifts for years and have run out of ideas. I am someone who loves giving gifts. In fact, I love giving gifts so much that it’s kind of become a competition I have with myself to come up with the best possible gift and to top the gifts I’ve given before.

As you can imagine, this gets harder and harder every year.

Matt and I’s first anniversary was marked by a Survival Kit to survive another year with your girlfriend; inside were three bottles of beer, comic books, candy, and a pair of tickets to his first ever concert. It was pretty great at the time but I consider if fairly basic compared to the Harry Potter extravaganza I set up this past year to mark five years together. I made ‘books’ out of granola bar boxes and filled them with goodies and travel supplies, I filled a cauldron and scattered Hogwarts letters on the bed with some Hufflepuff merchandise I had picked up in Orlando. All of this was to get ready for our big trip in October, Matt’s first trip to Hogwarts. His Hogwarts supply list included a few items I would buy him on the trip which included his very own wand. I’m pretty proud of that one, and of course that leaves me wondering how I’m going to top it this year.

Over the years surprised gift receivers have asked me time and time again how I come up with all of this stuff. Creative gift giving is something I pride myself in but it’s also something I think everyone could do if they set their mind to it. Giving (and receiving) gift cards is perfectly fine but sometimes it’s nice to make things a little more personal. Still, I acknowledge that it can be hard to know where to start, and that’s why I wanted to share a few pointers with you.

So here we are, my tips on putting together an extraordinary and memorable gift:

See if you can find a theme

What has made most of my gifts successful has been the fact that I had a theme to work around. I find themes actually make the gift a little less work because you give yourself a parameter to work within. You don’t have to pick anything elaborate if you don’t want to; for one of my gifts the theme was just a yellow colour scheme. I even know someone whose kid asked for “yellow” for Christmas so they worked all the gifts around that colour.

Themes can get more specific of course; I’ve done Harry Potter, travelling, Beauty and the Beast (which I posted about some time ago), and the ever overdone theme of Star Wars (thank you Disney for releasing the films around Christmas). Having a theme can give you some searching options for finding ideas online. In looking up Star Wars online I came up with the idea of ‘making’ our own lightsabers; with some markers and leftover gift wrap tubes we got to design lightsabers while watching Star Wars and eating dinner. Yep, it was a really wild Friday night for two twenty somethings.

Themes help you focus the gift and can help narrow down ideas, they also make the gift more unique and kind of exciting. It also makes it personal of course because you can tailor your theme to the person you’re giving the gift to.

Don’t let Pinterest get you down:

Scrolling through seemingly endless feeds of gift ideas and pictures of things other people have made can be quite intimidating, especially when you’re worried about your project becoming a Pinterest fail. But Pinterest can be a great tool for getting ideas for whatever gift you want to make. It’s how I got the idea for my Open When letter box for my mom (which was featured in this post) and the idea for the fishing lure key chain that I made for my grandfather. Both gifts turned out great, even if my grandfather seemed more interested in taking apart the keychain so he could actually use the lures.

Use Pinterest as a research tool but don’t expect yourself to perfectly replicate anything on there. Make the gift how you want to make it and in a way that suits your budget and your desires for the outcome. Your gift doesn’t have to look the same as something someone else posted; in fact I think it’s nicer if it doesn’t. Your gift should have your own personal touch to it, even if the idea came from someone else.

The Dollarstore is your friend:

Themed gifts can get really expensive if you’re not careful. Brainstorming ideas can often lead to a list of items that really start to add up. I’ve had gift ideas where I’ve bought the first few major things and realized I had more or less killed my budget on one or two items which really kills the idea of making a basket or a themed gift. My solution to this problem has become the Dollarstore. People are sometimes surprised when I explain that that’s where a lot of pieces of their gift came from, mainly because there is this misconception that just because something is low in price it has to be ‘cheap’ and therefore undesirable. But more often than not I use the Dollarstore to find some filler items and the actual packaging of my first.

For my dad’s 50th birthday I did a box celebrating every decade he had been alive during. While bigger items like Gordie Howe’s book and an under armour Muhammed Ali shirt put me back a bit, many more of the items only cost a buck or two and they still brought the whole gift together. Skittles, KitKat bars, cotton swabs, a fan, sparklers, pens, etc. Simple things that made the gift a bit bigger and really flushed out my scene.

Tip: Check out different Dollarstores in your area if there is more than one, some might have items that the others don’t.

The imperfections make it perfect:

I try not to put too much pressure on myself when I’m making these gifts, even if I would like everything to look smooth and clean cut just like the Pinterest images I’m inspired by. But the fact is: no one has ever complained to me about a typo or a poorly glued edge, my grandfather wasn’t worried about the slight ink smudge on his fishing key chain, and my dad didn’t mind that some of the ribbons  on his box weren’t expertly curled. When you make gifts all the hard work and heart you put into it shows through and no one cares if every last thing is perfect. Just do the best you can do.

Don’t sweat the small stuff; if you make a mistake see if you can fix it without scrapping the whole project but if you can’t it’s often better to move on.

So whether you’re getting ready for a big birthday like I am (my grandfather’s 70th), or you”re brainstorming for another occasion, it’s always nice to consider a personal touch to your gifts. It really makes things go the extra mile, and you might even have a bit of fun putting the gift together. I know some of you might instantly react and say oh I’m not creative enough but I promise you you are. You might just need some inspiration from others and then you can run with it. If you don’t believe me, you can ask Matt:

Matt went from giving regular insert piece of jewelry here gifts to eventually realizing that I could only wear so many necklaces and that I preferred experiences over gifts anyhow. It took a few tips from me and a bit of help from my mom but eventually he put together his own themed gift box. The gift included a night at a hotel in the city (before we were living here), snacks and comfy clothes for the stay, and tickets to see Kinky Boots which were effectively marked by the DIY Kinky Boot he had made with items from the Dollarstore (See? So useful!).

It’s probably one of my favourite gifts I’ve ever received from him; it even tops the Tiffany’s bracelet he bought me, just because so much thought and effort went into it. If he can figure it out, I promise you, so can you.

If you have any questions about any of the gifts seen here or any of the many others I’ve gifted in the past please don’t hesitate to comment below. I’m happy to help with any ideas or even execution of gifts if you have an idea of what you’d like to do. I live for this stuff so even if you just want to show off a gift you’ve made please go ahead and drop me a link! I can’t wait to see what ya’ll come up with.

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Bring out the Board Games

Since so many of my posts on this blog involve sharing my adventures, it might often come across that I’m out and about a lot more often than I am home. While that may be true for some weekends, especially lately because of summer and all of the things going on in the city, I am still very much a homebody who enjoys a good weekend lounging on the couch, sitting around in pyjamas. While many of these weekends included a good ole Netflix binge or reading for an hour in the bathtub, there are many weekends that also include a bit of table top gaming.

Now, board games are something I’ve always enjoyed but they’ve wavered in and out of favour in my household over the years. As a kid I didn’t have as many opportunities to play board games because I was an only child. I was much more likely to sit down and play a game of cribbage with my grandparents than I was to set up a game of Monopoly (mostly because most of the adults in the house refused to play it). Occasionally games would be pulled out and dusted off for an afternoon but more often than not I relied on my Playstation to keep me entertained. High school brought about party games like Partini, Cranium, and the ever whacky Quelf. In University a friend brought over the Marvel deck building game Legacy and while my one friend Jessica really struggled to grasp the point system it was a great time. Still, these games seemed to only be dragged out whenever we were lacking something to do. They weren’t great constants in my life but they were always a fun time.

When Matt and I moved in together last year we started to find things for the two of us to do that didn’t always involve going out for the evening and dropping $100 like it was nothing. On a whim we picked up a new game from Chapters after reading that it was a cooperative board game. You see, we’ve always been weary about head to head games because I can get quite competitive and while that’s fun in a group one-on-one it can be a little infuriating. Even in a group it can get a bit heated (tip: be careful playing Ticket to Ride, there’s a lot of anger over plastic trains).

The game was Pandemic and it’s really the game that kicked off this obsession I have with board games.

The idea is quite simple: there are four strains of diseases spreading across the globe and it is up to your team (whoever is playing) to stop that from happening. There’s lots of ways to lose in Pandemic but only one way to win: cure all four diseases.

Each player gets a unique character to help your cause. Each character has a different special ability based on their occupation. Now, I definitely have my favourite character to play as (the scientist) but what is interesting about Pandemic is that different games will lend themselves to different characters. Sometimes you’ll lose and realize that you wouldn’t have been so screwed if you had been playing as someone else. Of course, you’ll never really know that until after all the plastic cubes have taken over the board.

As with most board games the set up the first time can take a bit but after two of three games it’s a pretty easy process to remember. I don’t even think it takes five minutes for us at this point and that includes my horrid deck shuffling.

Once you’ve moved through the set up steps of infecting the board it’s time to get to gameplay. Every turn each player gets to do a total of four actions (moving, building research centres, curing disease cubes, etc.) and at the end of their turn they draw two cards from the player deck. Player deck cards are used to help cure diseases; you need five of the same coloured cards to cure a disease. But inside the player deck there are also helpful event cards and the ever dreaded epidemic cards.

When an epidemic card is pulled an outbreak of disease cubes happens and if you’re anything like us there’s a large amount of cursing. Epidemics can completely screw over a perfectly fine game and there’s four of them mixed into the player deck. During an epidemic you infect a new city with three cubes and then you shuffle the cards of infected cities back onto the deck. This can be disastrous of course because often times these cities are the worst of. If an infection card is pulled and the city already has three cubes you then trigger an outbreak which spreads the disease into every connected city.

Now that sounds pretty bad, but it gets worse.

If the outbreak bursts into another infected city then that city outbreaks as well, thereby creating a chain reactions. Too many outbreaks is just one of the ways you can lose the game. There’s a counter on the side that you move down every time an outbreak happens and if you reach the skull you’ve lost.

The other two ways of losing include the following:

  • Running out of cubes of any single colour
  • Running out of cards in the player deck

For us, outbreaks and running out of cubes seems to be the most common. I can only recall one game where we actually got to the bottom of the player deck.

Pandemic generally plays out in 30 minutes to an hour. I find the more players you have the longer it takes because there’s a lot more debating about where to go and what to do. What had surprised me about this game is that it hasn’t becoming boring even though we’ve had it for a year. The relatively simple concept still throws you off your guard sometimes. We’ve had games where we’ve lost in fifteen minutes and we just kind of sat there gaping at the board. We’ve also had games that were going really poorly and ended up turning themselves around.

Our love of the game led to expansion games being thrown onto a Christmas wish list last year, alongside the standalone Pandemic: Legacy, which is essentially the base game on drugs. You change the game as you play over the span of a year, making it incredibly unique. When we’ve finished our year I’ll definitely come back with a review of that. It’s definitely pricier, especially for a game that is more or less a one off but it’s also great. Still, I strongly recommend starting with just the regular old Pandemic.

And now, I’m off to try and save the world, one small plastic cube at a time.

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Fitness Friday – Not Another Picture of my Weights

When I started this blog I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do. I knew I had some adventures to share and a big heart to pour out into the world. As I began to really come into the community I realized I don’t spend enough money on make-up or clothes to ever become a style blog and when I looked at a lot of the lifestyle blogs I knew I’d never be comfortable enough posing for pictures to be the aesthetically beautiful girl featured throughout those posts. In the beginning, I really struggled with what this blog was going to be and how it was going to look. All the helpful tips and tricks I read from more experienced bloggers empathized the need to find your niche and to build your audience from there.

And I did find a niche, but I’m not sure it’s the one I intended for this blog.

My wandering into the weight loss and fitness journey tags really came out of wanting to find inspiration and ideas from others who were in it for the long haul. Quickly I found that WordPress has a beautiful community of diverse individuals just trying to be healthier, stronger, and happier. The positive vibes from the community were equally matched by realistic bad days that weren’t sugar coated in you can do it mantras. All of this quickly appealed to me. I hit the follow button several dozen times and soon enough found myself within the community, blogging about the workouts I was trying, the meals I was prepping, and all that little things that make weight loss and fitness so challenging. As time pushed on more and more of my posts focused on my weight loss and everything that I was doing to achieve that.

But that was never the intention of this blog.

My tagline from day one has been “A girl learning to love herself and the world around her.” and while that does include learning to love my body by taking better care of it, that is not the centre of things. You see, there have been a few long stretches in my life where a great lack of mental health has led to me enjoying absolutely nothing. I was out of touch with the world and truly not interested in being part of it. My major battle in life is not what size of jeans I’m wearing, it’s making sure I don’t lose my love of life again and so that is what I’m going to focus on.

Going forward Her Story Continued will feature a lot more of me just living. This means sharing more of my adventures, whether they happen in the city or just around the house (I have a lot of board games to show off). I’m going to talk more about the people who inspire me, and the things I do in my life to bring meaning to it.

Now, just as the end of Tasty Tuesday didn’t mean I would no longer be posting about food, the end of Fitness Friday does not mean I won’t keep talking about workouts and different things I’m doing to power through a major motivational slump. I’m definitely not about to leave the community either, because reading your posts and following your journeys has helped me stick with mine. All this means is that you won’t be getting a post every single Friday that talks about workouts, gear, or anything else fitness related. Working to change my body and to improve my health is definitely still a big part of my life and it’s going to pop up but it won’t be a focus of this blog anymore.

You will still hear from me twice a week; I’m going to try Wednesday as a new posting day in addition to my regular Sunday posts. There’s lots more coming for you readers, I’m not going anywhere. And hopefully neither are you.

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Canada Day and the Canadian Bucket List

I’m going to start this post off with a truly Canadian start and apologize that I’m a day late. So in my sincerest truly Canadian voice: I’m sorry.

Anyway, yesterday marked 150 years since Canada, my homeland, began the process of becoming the country it is today through the Canadian Confederation. After 150 years our big country has made itself known for a lot more than just being America’s hat. Whether it’s for the whacky range of accents of our citizens (please look up a Newfie accent if you’ve never had the pleasure of listening to one), the cute nicknames we have for our currency (a loonie and a toonie, how much sweeter can you be?) or the fact that our current Prime Minister, love him or hate him, definitely looks like a Disney Prince.

Since I was still a little sick and I ended up not being needed at work on Saturday I didn’t really celebrate Canada Day aside from a few Canadian treats (poutine, Tim Hortons, and Hawaiian pizza, yep it’s Canadian). So I figured today’s blog post could be a little tribute to the nation I call a home.

I really struggled with what I was going to share with you all in this post. I considered doing a list of things that make me proud to be Canadian or important moments in Canadian history but I was struggling with how to write it. Canada is a big place with a lot of diversity over 10 provinces and 3 territories. I myself have only truly had the chance to visit five of the ten provinces and my experiences are definitely limited. With that in mind I thought I’d share with you the Canada I do know and the Canada I would like to meet. So here are the five top things I’ve done in my homeland, and the top five things I’d still like to do.

The Top 5 Things I’ve Done

5. Attended Toronto’s Pride Parade (twice) – I’ve been an LGBTQA ally since before I even knew the acronym or really much else about the community. Over the years I’ve learned a lot and I’ve become a better ally but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I actually got to go show my support at Toronto’s annual Pride Parade. My first Pride was actually when Toronto was the host of World Pride and it was a great time. We got crowded in amongst a barricade and although it was hot as hell once things got going the energy (and a few water gun sprays) made the whole thing quite amazing.

(Yes that is Dascha Polanco from Orange is the New Black, and yes I did die upon seeing her.)

4. Took in a world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) – Every September Toronto hosts a big film festival that shuts down certain streets downtown with red carpets, hoards of paparazzi, and big Hollywood stars coming in to promote their new films. When I was still in University, a group of us headed up to Toronto to try and catch a glimpse of some of these stars. It was our first time at TIFF so we didn’t really know where to be in order to actually see anyone and our late arrival put us at the back of a crowd with little chance of spotting anything more than the town cars that drove up to the red carpets. This was of course discouraging but thankfully bad luck turned into a once in a lifetime experience.

Pushed far away from the carpet itself, hoping to see a star through the window of their town car, we suddenly found ourselves in the rush ticket line for the film adaptation of Anna Karenina. The line was long so we weren’t hopeful but by some lucky star we soon enough found ourselves in one of the back rows of the Elgin Theatre watching as some of the cast and crew came out to introduce the film. Stars in attendance included Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Domhnall Gleeson, and Mr. Darcy himself Matthew Macfadyen. I have to pinch myself when I think about the fact that Keira and Matthew were standing there together, Elizabeth and Darcy right there in the same room as us. And of course the movie was fabulous too. There’s just something about watching a period film in a theatre like the Elgin, which opened in 1913 (thank you Job #1 for that fact) and has been well maintained to this day. The night ended with a Q&A for the cast and crew and a totally memorable experience for the four young women in the back row.

3. Attended (many) lobster dinners on the East Coast – I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it again: you haven’t truly had lobster until you’ve had it fresh off the boat. I’m quite spoiled in the fact that real lobster dinners are not a once in a lifetime experience for me but more likely something that happens every few years when I go ‘home’. Both of my grandparents are from ‘down east’ as we call it and any trip to see the family is always full of good company, perhaps a bit too much fresh air for a city girl like me, and a whole lot of good food. My great uncle was a lobster fisherman so it was nothing to have big lobster feasts where full crates of the delicious red devils were dumped into an army sized soup pot. If you every find yourself on Prince Edward Island or anywhere on the East coast really, make sure you treat yourself to a lobster or two. It’s even better if you have leftovers the next morning to make lobster sandwiches for breakfast.

2. Walked down the Rideau during Winterlude – It actually took me twenty one years of my Canadian life to get myself to our nation’s capital but a few years back cheap train tickets and a stay at one very haunted jail hostel made for my first trip to Ottawa with my best friend. It was the final weekend of Winterlude so downtown was bustling with activity despite the frigid cold that early February had brought. We walked everywhere which of course meant layering up in thick sweaters, winter jackets, and just about every winter accessory you could find. Our hostel was all of a ten minute walk from Parliament Hill and the Rideau River which becomes the world’s largest skating rink in the frostier months.

Unfortunately, I failed my homeland and never really learned how to skate but walking down the frozen river was nearly as exciting.

1. Saw my great uncle’s name in the Book of Remembrance in Ottawa – This one is at the top of my list because it is of course a very personal experience. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts (particularly my post about the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge) I am big into history, especially World War One and World War Two. My great grandfather fought in WWI, and his eldest son, my great-uncle was killed in the second world war. I have learned a bit about Curtis over the years and I was honoured to wear his name on my jacket while visiting Europe in high school.

The Book of Remembrance sits in a glass case in the base of the Peace Tower at the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. On my first trip we were lucky enough to be waiting for the elevator to go up the Peace Tower when it was time to flip the page of the book. Every day there is a small ceremony with an officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) where the case is opened and the page of the book is changed. Upon the pages of the book are the names of those who gave their lives to keep our country free. I learned afterwards that you can request to see a specific page of the book if you make the request in advance but I unfortunately forgot about this on our next trip to Ottawa a few years later.

Luckily, fate intervened.

My parents and I were doing the regular tourist trips around the city; visiting museums, memorials, and of course Parliament itself. We took the familiar trip to the Peace Tower, stopping to look at the Book of Remembrance and finding that the pages had been flipped to the M’s. I completely missed his name on the first quick glance down but then my eyes lifted and found a familiar line: Pte Miller, Curtis Harrison Nth NS Highrs (Private Curtis Harrison Miller of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders). I assumed my mom had remembered to call ahead but she assured me this wasn’t her doing. I broke down in tears, of all the days we could have been up in that tower we were there the day the page was open to his name. I’m not sure anything in this country will ever top that.

The Top 5 Things I Still Want to Do

5. See the Big Nickel in Sudbury – This one might sound a little silly because what is really that great about a giant nickel? I’m not sure I can answer that question but it was one of the things I remember us planning on doing when my grandma got sick. We never did get to make the trip to Sudbury and we haven’t since so the silly Big Nickel is definitely on my list of things to do even though it might not be that exciting to some. But who knows, maybe I have some coin enthusiasts amongst my readership.

4. The Edge-walk at the CN Tower – I’ve been up the CN Tower many, many times. I’ve jumped on the glass floor, I’ve given my friend Maggi a slight heart attack while sitting on one of the railings on the observation deck, and I have even had the chance to dine in the revolving 360 restaurant. Despite all this, there is one more experience on the third tallest tower in the world that I am looking forward to. It is known as the EdgeWalk.

The tower’s newest attraction takes you outside onto the roof where a red jumpsuit clad version of yourself is tethered in to walk, balance, and hang off the edge. I actually had an interview to be one of the guides on the EdgeWalk but other things fell into place and I had to turn down the offer. Still, I hope to eventually be a guest one day.

3. Take a trip on the Rocky Mountaineer through the Canadian Rockies – In my almost twenty five years of life I have never managed to make a trip West of Ontario. All my ventures have been to the East because that is where my family is from. Because of this, there are actually a number of things out in the Prairies and the West Coast that I would like to do but of all the things I can think of the one at the top of the list is the glass-domed train through the Canadian Rockies. I’m not much of an outdoorsman (outdoorswoman?) but the idea of riding through the wilderness in luxury doesn’t sound so bad. If I ever get the chance I’ll definitely be springing for the GoldLeaf service just to get the most of the experience.

2. Go up in a vintage biplane over Ottawa – This is an experience that I actually had a chance to do on my second trip to Ottawa but missed out on because I didn’t have a buddy to go up in the air with me (and because I was too stubborn to let my parents pay for both seats of the trip when only I would be going up). Anyway, at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum there is a company that does vintage biplane flights. As you may have guessed from my desire to do the EdgeWalk, I’m not at all afraid of heights so jumping up in the air in one of these small planes doesn’t bother me one bit. Hopefully the next time I’m in Ottawa I’ll get to wear more than just the dress-up flight goggles.

1. Go dog sledding for the day – It’s funny that I just claimed that I’m not much into the great outdoors and yet the number one thing on my Canadian bucket list is actually a completely outdoor experience in the dead of winter. Now, despite the stereotypes put out about Canada being a frozen tundra of ice and snow, we do not actually have pet polar bears nor do we all drive dog sleds to work but I would like to try it (the dogsled thing, not the polar bear). There are a bunch of companies that will actually take you out for a full day, teach you how to hitch up the dogs, mush the sled, and then just let you sit back and enjoy the ride. It sounds like an experience that will require a few hot showers afterwards but I think it would be worth it.

While I wanted to use this post to talk about some of the things that makes this country great, I think it’s important to remember, on this momentous anniversary especially that our nation is not without its faults. While we often like to raise ourselves up by saying we’re not as bad as our neighbours to the south, there are still many things we need to work on. There is a history of violence against the Indigenous people who called this land home long before the fathers of Confederation brought our nation together. It is something often overlooked in our history classes, which is especially worrisome when you learn that the last residential school did not close until 1996. While we pride ourselves in our nation’s multiculturalism, there are still ongoing incidents of racism and discrimination in our most diverse areas. I myself, as a Canadian girl was raised to believe I could do anything that a man can but still face the barriers of the gender wage gap and sex discrimination in the workplace. We have come a long way in 150 years but that does not mean we don’t still have far to go.

As our Prime Minister himself said in a recent speech addressing the nation on this momentous anniversary “We vow to set a new course for the next 150 years.” I hope for myself and for all Canadians to learn and know our history better so we can make the future in this country a safer and more welcoming place for all.


Happy belated Canada Day my fellow Canadians at home and abroad, and to the rest of you: Canada’s doors are open, you should visit sometime.

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