Mother Daughter Adventures – Volume Three

What is this? Two mother daughter adventures right in a row? Well, I figured after a few months of not documenting any, it was fair that I do a double share this week. My mom tends to come to visit every few weeks so we have a lot of adventures to share. Of course, whenever I tell anyone this it is usually met with something along the lines of “you two must be really close” which is then followed by me asking if said person has seen Gilmore Girls and if they have I explain that we’re just like Rory and Lorelai. I mean, I never went to Yale and my mom doesn’t own an inn but it is still a pretty fair comparison.

Anyway, onto the adventure.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent a couple days at my parent’s place last week but on Friday mom and I made the trip back to the big city with a mother daughter date planned downtown.

The St. Lawrence Market is the oldest continuous running Farmer’s Market in North America and it just so happens to be one of my favourite places in the city. I don’t even have to buy anything, I like to just walk around the market floor and take in the energy of the old building. It’s a great place to pick up fresh produce or to try a hot lunch from one of the stalls. From fried fish to peameal on a bun, there was a bunch of different options for lunch or an early dinner. The outside of the building is surrounded by a wraparound balcony with picnic benches that are perfect for enjoying a meal in the sun. If you can manage to snag a table, that is.

This trip to the market wasn’t for a haul of fresh fruits and vegetables, or even a trip to my favourite seafood joint but instead we had booked two at the market’s History and Tea Talk.

On certain Fridays this summer the St. Lawrence Market has hosted this event with different historical presentations and a traditional afternoon tea to follow. For me, it was mostly about the tea but the history talk turned out to be quite nice too.

We learnt about the original market building across the street and how the St. Lawrence Market sits on the spot that the first city hall used to sit. In fact, the Market Gallery where we were seated was part of the original city hall. The larger market building was constructed around it many decades later. The talk carried on with mentions of the city’s first mayor William Lyon Mackenzie, Toronto’s cholera epidemic, and a bout of other historical facts that were rather interesting. Once the talk finished we were directed down half a flight of stairs to The Market Kitchen.

Getting to see The Market Kitchen in person was one of the main reasons I was so interested in taking in this afternoon tea in the first place. It is a spaced that is used for events and cooking classes. The moment I first saw the space online I fell in love and I’m pleased to say that seeing it in person did not disappoint.

The kitchen is found above the North West corner of the St. Lawrence Market. The large market windows overlook Front Street, including Toronto’s Flatiron building. On the other side of the venue there is a large railing that overlooks the shops of the market.

The afternoon tea itself was a modest serving but I did not expect anything extravagant at $15 a person. In fact, for the price I think it was more than a fair deal. Each tea setting was for four people so we sat with a another twosome. There was an array of finger sandwiches, two-bite desserts, and small scones with fresh berries and cream. This was accompanied by a large pot of black tea served on lovely mismatched china.

I don’t know what it is about finger sandwiches but I always find them so much better than actual sandwiches. Perhaps it’s the lack of crust or the fact that there just so itty bitty. Regardless, the small selection of finger sandwiches for the tea was quite lovely, even the plain cheese sandwich was scrumptious.

While the little desserts are normally my favourite part of afternoon teas, it was actually the scones that did it for me this time. While the cream was just normal whipped cream rather than Devonshire cream, it was still quite delicious, especially with the mixed berries on top. In fact, even after the scones were gone, we helped ourselves to a serving of just berries and cream.

It was another adventure well spent with my momma. Afterwards we killed some time by walking to the Distillery District and just hanging out before I had to take off to give a tour that evening.

If you’re in Toronto or just visiting, there is actually one more History and Tea Talk for the summer taking place next Friday August 25, 2017. This one includes a tour into the City of Toronto’s Art Collection art storage vault. To be quite honest, if I wasn’t already making plans to go to the CNE on Friday, I would consider going to this once more.

Of course, there’s always next year.

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What the scale didn’t tell you

It’s been a little while since there’s been anything fitness or weight related on this blog, and while I’m still dedicated to making this place about more than just my physical health, I do think it’s still important to check in every now and then, especially when I have new lessons to share.

This week while visiting a friend I noticed a pesky scale sitting in the corner of the bathroom. I was able to avoid this scale on my first trip in but later on when changing out of my bathing suit I found myself too tempted to resist. I mentally prepared myself, reminding myself that that number doesn’t really matter, and then I stepped on. I was pleasantly surprised by the number on the scale but also simultaneously reminded that weight isn’t everything.

I’ve lost just under ten pounds since the last time I weighed myself in March. I realize that this doesn’t sound like a whole lot of anything in six months, especially with common declarations from weight loss programs shouting about losing 50 pounds or more in the same period of time or much less. But for me, this was just a reminder about why I did away with the scale anyway. I may have only lost nine pounds in six months but so much more has changed and that is simply not reflected in that number.

From reading journeys from others, I know I’m not the only one who has non-scale related victories to think about. I do know that a lot of the time the weight focused nature of diet culture can make us forget those non-scale triumphs and changes. In fact, often the scale does not fully reflect everything we’re seeing in ourselves so it’s important to remember it is not the defining factor in your journey, or at least it shouldn’t be. It’s helpful to remember the other ways exercise and a healthy life style affect you and your body. With that in mind, I thought I would take a moment to talk about some of the things that number on the scale doesn’t measure.

Physical health

Whether you measure this by an actual assessment by your family doctor or just by your own personal observations, your physical health improving is a great way to justify all that hard work you’re putting in. For myself, losing weight and being active has allowed me to climb stairs without as much difficulty and it has helped with body pains that I have always carried in my heavier areas. Additionally, this whole journey is preventative for myself as Type 2 Diabetes runs in my family. Reflecting on how your journey has improved your health, as well as prevented further disease or illness, is a great way to recognize and celebrate your hard work and progress.

Strength

Related to physical health but still slightly different in my opinion are the changes you will see in your own strength. From lasting a bit longer on the treadmill to lifting heavier at the gym, any sort of improvements you see in physical fitness are reminders of all the changes your making.

It can be really useful to have a certain workout goal in mind in order to track the changes. I know a lot of people who are getting into running so they track how long they can continuously run. Others I know have committed themselves to yoga and have seen themselves master certain poses as they’ve become more flexible. For myself it has been about getting through certain workouts that challenge me with fewer and fewer breaks. Whatever it is, seeing yourself improve throughout this journey is a great way to remind yourself to keep pushing.

Comments from others

It may seem a little vain, but when others comment on changes in your looks it can really help bolster your motivation and your dedication to this journey. Plus, vanity doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. It can take people a while to notice a difference, and others just won’t say anything, but hearing compliments every now and then can make you more inclined to compliment yourself as well. Others seeing changes may just help you see changes you’ve been missing this whole time.

Little comments here and there can be really great for your self esteem and they can act as little unexpected rewards. This is why I always encourage people to tell the person if they think they’re looking good in a certain picture or when they see them. Everyone can benefit from a nice comment or two, no matter what shape they’re in. We’re all beautiful and we deserve to be reminded of that, especially if we’re struggling to remind ourselves.

Clothing sizes

As I always like to remind everyone: women’s clothing sizes are bullshit. Yes, you generally have your average size which is your go to to try on in a store but that doesn’t mean we don’t waste so much time going back to the rack to try a different size for a better fit. Still, if you’re like me and shop at the same three or four stores, there can often be a bit more consistency (but not total consistency) so seeing your clothing size drop is something that is still possible. For me, dropping almost ten pounds seemed like a much bigger change when I realized I’ve dropped two pants sizes with that loss.

How clothing fits

The way your clothing fits and even the cuts you’re wearing can be even more useful than the actual size on the tag. Slipping into old clothes that hadn’t fit for a while or even having to go buy something new can be really empowering, especially if you start to feel comfortable in new styles that you didn’t dare try before. For me, it was all about the high-waisted pants with a tucked in shirt. This was a look I always envied but since I wear most of my weight in my tummy, I just couldn’t get comfortable with it. I saw girls my size and bigger pull of this look flawlessly so it wasn’t about not being thin enough to wear it, it was simply a comfort zone issue for myself.

In trying to be more body positive I’ve come to accept that you have to give yourself time to get out of your head. Just because other girls are comfortable looking fabulous in a crop top or a two-piece bathing suit does not mean you have to dress that way. But if it’s something you want, your journey may just help you get there with both mind and body. I always thought I would need a flat stomach to start wearing anything high waisted but here I am, still a lot of fabulous flab in my midsection and my head is finally in the place I needed it to be to try this look.

On that note: don’t be afraid to try new looks as you go through this journey, you’ll find that sometimes the things you were too afraid to try before become something you’ll wear all the time.

Body composition

Last but certainly not least is the fact that that little bathroom scale tells you nothing but a number. It can’t show you where you’ve toned or how much muscle you’ve gained in respective to the fat you’ve lost.

This is where progress pictures come in or even just regular pictures. Since change happens slowly it can be really hard to see your progress in a mirror. You’re seeing your body change little by little but it can often feel like nothing. Taking progress pictures a month or two apart can show you the bigger shifts and seeing those changes can be really inspirational. You can look at different areas that are changing at a faster rate. For me it started in my face and in my arms, then I saw it in my legs, and finally I noticed my mid section begin to change.

Those are just some of the ways you can look for changes outside of the scale. No one thing can really define your journey, just as there is no single magic solution to make the journey easier. Look for your victories in places outside of a number and try and take stock of them altogether. Maybe you only lost one pound this week but you now fit into an old pair of jeans, one should not negate the celebration of the other.

What non-scale victories do you use to track your progress? Let me know in the comments below!

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A Streetcar Trip Outside My Comfort Zone

The long weekend rolled in and I realized we had no plans. I was scheduled to do tours on Friday and Saturday but that still left my days wide open. After doing a quick little search to see what was going on in the city, I decided it was finally time to venture away from my usual haunts in downtown all the way out to The Beaches.

The Beaches is a neighbourhood east of downtown and since I live Northwest of Toronto’s core, I don’t often venture out too far east. The Beaches was unexplored territory and since trips to the beach are generally a summertime activity, I figured it would be a good idea to have this adventure before the summer months leave us and we roll into fall.

We made our trip down and out very slowly, having a later start in the morning since I’d be working late in the evening. After grabbing a quick bite to eat (which will be featured in another post) our adventures moved on Queen Street East as we ventured into an area known as The Beach Village. Here you’ll find an array of beautiful houses and cutesy shops.

  

We wandered inside antique shops, stores full of arts and craft supplies, and we even decided to stop in at a little bakery. Brick Street Bakery has a very rustic vibe to it with dark wood accents and low lighting. There’s a little four seater table at the front window for anyone looking to get off their feet while enjoying a treat or two.

We decided to just grab and go, eating in the doorway next door while we waited for a little sun shower to move along. Our treat of choice was a soft and gooey blueberry cinnamon bun. And lucky for us it was a good choice.

After checking out what the street had to offer we headed down to the actual beach. It was a windy day with a lot of cloud cover so Woodbine Beach wasn’t as busy was it likely would have been on a bright sunny day. But there were still lots of people about, enjoying the fresh air and taking in a game or two of beach volleyball.

Woodbine Beach is lined with a long beautiful boardwalk and peppered with Muskoka chairs. We didn’t actually make our way out onto the sand or into the water but just hanging by the boardwalk was nice and relaxing. It was also perfect for people/dog watching. We parked ourselves on a park bench for a little while and just enjoyed the summer breeze.

From the beaches we moved into Woodbine Park in order to find The Toronto Food Truck Festival. Over 40 food trucks rolled into the park for the weekend with foods ranging from authentic Belgian waffles to Southern-style BBQ plates. There were tons of options to choose from, which of course just made my life more difficult.

The only thing I found disappointing about the Food Truck Festival was the lack of small snack plates. Most of the trucks were serving full menu items priced between $10-15. We had been hoping to grab a bunch of little plates under five dollars so we could try more. Unfortunately only a few stands had anything close to that price range.

Since it was only three o’clock and we had already had lunch we weren’t hungry enough to gorge ourselves on anything like the chicken and waffles in a waffle or the bacon wrapped poutine burger. Instead, we order a twisted potato and an order of original apple fritters with vanilla ice cream from two different trucks. The two items together cost about $15. It was a bit of a pricey snack but they were both delicious in their own way.

The neatest thing about the twisted potato was the different kinds of gourmet ketchup offered to go with it. We sampled each of their unique flavours; bacon, mesquite, ghost pepper, and dill pickle. The dill pickle had the most flavour but I really enjoyed the mesquite (it had a barbecue taste) and the ghost pepper (it had a hot sauce taste). The bacon was a little disappointing as it didn’t really taste much different than plain old regular ketchup.

Of the two treats we sampled, the apple fritters were definitely the more memorable of the two. I learned in the first bite that old style apple fritters apparently have thick apple slices inside and icing sugar covering the top. Dipping these warm pockets of apple goodness in the runny vanilla ice cream was an absolute delight.

After making our way back out of the park we decided to check out more of Queen Street East simply because it’s an area we haven’t explored before. We walked back in the direction we had come from in the morning, taking a look into more of the stores we had passed by after lunch. I quickly began to recognize a lot of restaurants from lists that I’ve scrolled through on BlogTO including a little unique coffee house called The Sidekick.

The name hints to a super hero theme which is executed perfectly through the inclusion of a small comic book shop on the inside. Exposed brick and chalkboard menu signs are complimented by hanging tesla bulbs and the inclusion of a number of comic figurines and statues. In the back corner there’s a small fireplace surrounded by comfy chairs and a board game selection for patrons spending a bit of extra time in the cafe.

 

Our stop at The Sidekick was brief but it was a nice way to rest tired feet before wandering into a gastropub for dinner. A quick look at my watch told me it was time to head back downtown in order to get to work. We decided to walk rather than hopping on the 501 streetcar and the trek put me over 20,000 steps for the day before I headed in for my Saturday night tour shift. We adventured well and now that we’ve seen how easy it is to get out to The Beaches and the surrounding neighbourhoods I’m sure we’ll be back.

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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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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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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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Oh The Places You’ll Go…

So technically the first day of summer was only a few days ago but the warm weather rolled in a few weeks ago and because of that we’ve been pretty busy with adventure after adventure. I’ve already shared a few of them in my previous posts but since the sunshine dragged us back out of the house again yesterday I figured I’d give you all another look on yet another adventure day planned in the city.

The plan was to go down to the Junction Farmer’s Market to grab everything we needed for a picnic but as it turns out the market is quite small and lacking picnic type goodies. It was more a fresh vegetable market which would have been good for a grocery shop but wasn’t so great for filling our picnic bag. Luckily, I’m pretty good at improvising and we quickly found a place to grab some brunch.

People seem to have an obsession with brunch but honestly nine times out of ten I find it’s just a breakfast menu that people eat off of a little later. But despite this I do like checking out new little spots and The Mugshot Tavern was something that just popped up on my phone when checking to see what was around the area. Matt had an unusual chicken and waffles eggs benedict which was smothered in gravy and was tasty, while Jess and I had more traditional brunches of a breakfast burrito and plain old chicken and waffles. Nothing was over the top spectacular but it fuelled us up for our walk into High Park.

Now, I’m not much of a nature person. I’d rather walk a few city blocks than roll around in a field of grass. It perhaps has something to do with the plethora of outdoor related allergies I have. Still, High Park quickly became one of my favourite new adventures and that was solely for the off leash dog area. I’m not even sure how many dogs we saw on the walk on the trail but I know I couldn’t take the smile off of my lips the entire time. My friend Jess was only slightly more excited when she got to go to see the baby capybaras at the High Park Zoo.

After the zoo we took a long street car ride up to College Street to go for donuts. Jelly Modern Donuts is an upscale gourmet donut joint that I’ve visited a couple of times now. Like most speciality dessert places it is a bit on the pricier end but it’s not bad if you’re only grabbing one. The donuts are a good size and they’re really tasty. Matt ordered the seasonal fruit, I got the chef’s creation (pralines and cream) and Jess grabbed a Madagascar vanilla which is actually the first donut I myself ever tried from the shop.

Just like the time’s before, the donuts did not disappoint.

Our adventure continued in Kensington Market where we wandered through some shops, paid way too much for freshly squeezed orange juice, and just beat the dinner rush at Seven Lives, my number one taco joint in the city. It was a day filled with new and old adventures, a couple of laughs and a bit of sun.

So that was our adventure this weekend. Sunday morning came early with an 8am volunteering session and now it’s time to wind down before another work week. Hopefully there will be more adventures soon.

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