Uncategorized

Grateful for the Little Moments

The last couple days brought a health scare for our family dog. He is a beautiful little (or not so little) Maltese poodle mix. He is twelve years old, and he joined the family just a few weeks after he was born.

C. is the first dog that anyone in the family has had as a pet companion. And getting him was only half-planned, though I’ve been grateful for my parents’ inexperience and sensitivity more than once since. They had planned to visit a breeder to see some puppies just to learn more about the process of buying a dog. It turned out that C. was the last puppy left from his litter, and they fell in love instantly!

C., relaxing, taken a few weeks ago (2018)

His health scare started with a cough during the day, and when he visited the vet, he was given antibiotics for a bacterial infection. He stayed up nearly all of that night coughing, and he continued to have sporadic fits of coughing yesterday, too. (So far, he seems all better today!)

This is the first time he has been sick, and while his age might not be the main factor (I mean, we’ve all had throat infections, right?) I can’t help but feel he has slowed down. And that’s been a reminder for me to enjoy every single moment I have with him, because I don’t know how many more I’ll get.

We have all been spoiled by his always energetic personality and this infection along with some behavioural changes in the last few months have been a total surprise. I can’t tell you how much I regret all the times I put off taking him to the dog park! I didn’t appreciate just how lucky I was to have a dog on my hands that wanted to go. One of his behaviour changes is that he is not as enthusiastic about his walks–he goes twice a day. Whereas in the past, any mention of the word “walk” would have him wagging his tail and waiting by the front door, there are now days when even a treat won’t do the trick to make him want to go.

Observing these changes in C. has been so humbling and such a great, difficult–and slightly painful–reminder that as wonderful and beautiful as life is, it is also ever-changing. We are all only here temporarily, and even who and what we are changes.

C., winter 2018

I remember hearing a cheesy quote about chasing your dreams because tomorrow you might be here but your dreams might not be, and it rings true. We should chase the dreams in our hearts as they call us.

As for C., I feel beyond blessed and lucky to have him in my life even with his changing moods and aches and pains. We’re off for a walk now.

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fashion · Uncategorized

Four Things I Wish I Had Known Before Thrift Shopping

I love going to Banana Republic or Aritzia or J. Crew as much as any other girl. I love finding that perfect shirt or dress, and buying something brand new; there’s just something about the shopping experience I love. But with the awareness of the impact of fast fashion on the environment and the people it affects along the supply chain, it’s become clear that I need to make better decisions.

Consider that an article from the Ellen McArthur Foundation, an organization dedicated to studying how we can create a sustainable circular economy, estimates that the garment industry produces the equivalent of more CO2 than the emissions from international flights and maritime shipping. But while the awareness of pollution from air transport has become so accepted that some airlines, such as British Airways, allow fliers to contribute to a carbon fund by buying offset credits when they purchase tickets, most fast-fashion giants are doing little and sharing even less with the consumer.

Two of the main environmental problems with most conventional (price-focused) fast fashion garments are that their production consumes an excessive amount of natural resources (namely, water) and it releases toxic chemicals into the environment at many stages of production, putting people and entire ecosystems at risk.

One way to mitigate these and other problems in the short term is to buy thrifted items. At this time, more environmentally made garments tend to be significantly more expensive than their conventionally made equivalents. So to stretch your budget, and make responsible decisions when you buy new, it’s a good idea to buy used clothes whenever you can. Here are some things I wish I’d known before starting to thrift.

[Consider watching the documentary The True Cost to learn more of the detailsof the environmental and human impact of the fast fashion garment industry. Rent it on Youtube or find on Netflix]

KNOW what you like: // This is my most important tip. When you enter a Club Monaco or the Gap or any other store, you’re presented with items that fit into a semi-coherent style. The company carefully curates their seasonal offerings and their garments wouldn’t look out of place side-by-side in your closet. But thrifting doesn’t offer that luxury! When you’re thrifting, you’re exposed to all sorts of styles; so it’s really important to know—before going to the shop—what you will be looking for.

Thrifting shouldn’t be about sacrificing your personal style; it just requires a little more effort. So, know your colours, which cuts suit you best, whether you prefer skirts or dresses, and be completely at peace with not finding anything sometimes—because that will happen!

If you have trouble envisioning what style might suit you, consider finding a fashion blogger that inspires you or look at the cut and colours of the garments at your favourite shops. I recently wrote a blog post about Carly, a style blogger I like.

Ditch last minute shopping: // If you know you’re going to be invited for a baby shower in two months, or you have to go to a friend’s birthday next month, start planning for an outfit now. It’s a good idea to have seasonal, occasion-appropriate outfits at the ready, but if your wardrobe is incomplete, act on it as soon as possible. Thrift shopping takes a lot more time and effort than conventional mall shopping. You might need to visit more shops and flip through more hangers than you’d like to. That’s why you need to give yourself time.

But if you do find yourself in a pinch, why not consider a rental service like Rent Frock Repeat? They are a Canadian designer dress rental service. You will pay a fraction of the cost of the dress, and you will look absolutely fabulous, without having to make an often unnecessary addition to your closet. This service is great for weddings and other big occasions.

Find a seamstress: // This tip can take you a really long way. Sometimes you’ll find a dress or skirt, or shirt, that is almost perfect, but not quite. Maybe it’s a little loose in the chest area, or maybe the shoulders sit a little funny. Ask the thrift store about their return policy, and take the garment to a seamster/tress you trust. See if they can fix it!

If you can find a place that offers well-priced alterations, then you will still save money on your shopping while ending up with an outfit that is tailored to your body, something no ready-to-wear item offers.

Follow the care instructions: // Yes, you may have only paid $8 for your newest thrifted item, and it may make little sense to now dish $10 to dry clean it. But if the wash instructions ask you to only wash cold with light items or dry clean, then you need to do that. My personal experience has been that thrifted items are much more prone to disintegrating than new buys. Treat them as well as you possibly can, and part of that will include following the care instructions to a T.

hiking · Uncategorized

Saturday Hike: 22 KM (Photos)

Today I wanted to share some photos from my long hike yesterday (Saturday). Even when it’s cold outside, you can brave the elements by dressing a little warmer.

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I’ve found that days spent breathing in fresh air are invigorating and rejuvenating. So even when I really, really don’t feel like going (like yesterday) I join a hike anyway and haven’t regretted it yet.

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The temperature fluctuated between -2 and 5 degrees celsius and it was sunny throughout the entire hike (which lasted about six hours). Even though I didn’t take any gloves, even my fingers warmed up once we set a reasonable pace and kept moving.

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This photo is from the end. Just a couple months ago, it would have been dark at 5:40 p.m. but it was still completely sunny by the time we made it back to our cars.

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Most of the hike was in ravines and woods, like this. The trees and bushes are all bare in winter, so it’s not the greatest scenery. Except the rainbows! I spotted so many in my photos, but I have to admit I either missed all of them in person or they were ones you could not see with the naked eye. Is that possible?

Also, behind the rainbow, the white, is a waterfall. Beautiful.

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Another of the many waterfalls we passed. How gorgeous is this?

There were steep drops towards most of the waterfalls, but looking down we could spot a few daredevils who’d ignored common sense and sometimes explicit signage and who’d climbed down into the ravines. Not something I would do.

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This little pond was completely frozen when we first passed by it (pictured). We test-threw a few rocks that bounced off its icy surface.

On the way back, it was almost completely thawed with the warming air and all that sunlight!

Awesome day overall.

You can find a hiking group in your city by Googling hiking groups, finding one on Meetup.com, or dragging a few reluctant family members and friends and you might be surprised by how quickly you all turn into avid enjoyers of the outdoors. We’re born nature lovers… So it doesn’t take much.

food · Uncategorized

Healthy Easy Vegan Lunch: Tofu Avocado Toast With Stubb’s BBQ Marinade

Today was a study day, so I didn’t fuss or spend much time in the kitchen. I decided to make some easy healthy vegan food.

I wanted to make a quick but still healthy lunch, and something that would hold me over until dinner. Et voila: I made avocado toast.

Of course, there’s a very high chance you’re already sick of avocado toast (I mostly am; it’s a pretty lazy content idea, let’s be honest). BUT this is a twist on avocado toast! (Anyway, that’s what I’m telling myself.) Read on.

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I toasted two slices of Glutino’s gluten free toast, which is so easy to digest. This is especially important on days where I need all of my wits about me and have absolutely no time for that heavy food feeling.

On top of my two slices of toast, I mashed one whole small avocado and added some sauteed cubed extra firm sprouted organic tofu (the whole brick costs $2—it just sounds fancy) marinated for a few minutes (but leave it more longer if you have time) in Stubb’s Texas Steakhouse marinade.

Et finit! Qu’est-ce que c’est? Easy healthy vegan food.

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I haven’t seen this idea before, even though it’s so simple. The toast is good for carbs, the avocado for fats, and the tofu for protein. It’s especially important for plant-based diet adherents to make sure they ingest enough omega-3 fats and whole proteins (tofu* is one).

This meal is adjustable: you can make more or less of any of the ingredients without adding a significant amount of time, and with carrot or cucumber sticks, it would pass for a complete meal in my books.

Hope you try it!

*Disclaimer: I do limit my tofu intake to prevent any potential hormonal effects, whether with sex hormones (estrogen) or thyroid hormones.

p.s. Check out my easy vegan burrito lunch post.

For more easy healthy vegan food ideas, I personally love the vegan recipes on Budget Bytes. They are cheap and (relatively) easy recipes. My favourite of Beth’s recipes (the recipe developer and blogger behind Budget Bytes) is the Pressure Cooker Split Pea Soup.

books · Uncategorized

Book Chat: Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson

An audio version of the blog post is available below:

[Please pardon the part in the audio recording where I claim Branson has no reason to feel confident. I should have said he had* little reason.]


This week, I listened to Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way by Richard Branson on Audible, and I picked up some new ideas. The book is narrated and written by him, and at first I was a little put off by his accent—which is British—but then I got used to it.

I chose to spend my monthly Audible credit on this because I feel I always get the most perspective and the best lessons from reading biographies of people who have done remarkable things. And I think Richard Branson is one of those. Branson grew up middle to lower class and went on to build the Virgin empire that has brought his personal worth to an estimated $5 billion (though I don’t know how any of that is measured).

The audio book is a mere 5 hours, and since I listen at a speed of 1.25x it only took me about four. The retelling of Branson’s journey is about a mix of business, personal life and descriptions of the stunts Branson is known for. I personally wasn’t a big fan of these.

I was reading to learn from Branson more so than for entertainment and I felt the regular lengthy intervals about sea channel crossings and hot air balloon flights were there to create an artificial and also unnecessary sort of excitement. I felt Branson’s actual life was already interesting enough just by virtue of all he’s accomplished, starting with creating a small magazine geared towards students, then a health centre, a record label, an airline, communications companies, and more. But don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot in spite of the hot air balloons.

Two interesting things struck me while reading. The first is that Branson was very confident for absolutely no reason from the beginning. For example, in his youth, he was terrible at sports and all but a disaster academically, but he still had the audacity to write letters to the headmaster complaining about the lunch room at his school. Most people wouldn’t feel they have the right to do something so daring in his situation, even if they did want a better lunch room. In fact, I think myself and most people I meet use the existing evidence of their accomplishments to license themselves with confidence. Well, maybe this isn’t the best way because Branson’s spirit and passion led him and another student to start a small magazine named Student, all about students’ interests and issues. That was his first venture, and the rest as they say is history.

From there, Branson built a health centre where students could turn to be connected with doctors offering cheap care. While working on his by then up-and-running magazine, he saw an opportunity to connect students with certain health conditions with doctors charging less or nothing and ran with the idea.

Later, he started some record stores, knowing he could sell records for cheaper than the competitors and make a profit.

I am not writing all this to retell the book, but to demonstrate the essence of the second lesson I learned, which is that Branson was very, very good at identifying opportunities. This struck me because I see so many small-time entrepreneurs who have loads of skills sell something they think people should need or want, rather than truly offering an improvement on what their target market is already wanting or needing. That makes no sense, especially since these are smart people, but I’m inclined to think the reason this is somewhat rare is that this ability to step outside of yourself and notice the collective habits of streams of people is, broadly speaking, a type of listening that takes a lot of humility. Do I make sense? What I mean is, you just gotta stop thinking about yourself and see others and listen to others to be able to do that.

The idea of building a record store that sold cheaper records came from noticing that friends of his would spend three times the amount of money they’d ever consider spending on a meal on a record without ever thinking about it. Branson knew he’d have an advantage and a shot at business by providing the records for less.

Other than these two great qualities (confidence and great perception) Branson seemed remarkably normal. Aside from his pitiful academic and sports careers in his youth, he seems to have struggled quite a bit with relationships, both personal and business. In other words, he’s not good at everything he’s tried. This is both comforting and surprising. I haven’t personally had the opportunity to meet many people who’ve accomplished extraordinary feats, so each time I see stories of how truly average high achievers are (or at least, can be) in most aspects, it inspires me. But it’s also surprising because it goes against a narrative I’ve accepted, of people being either wholly  (or even mostly) remarkable or unremarkable. Good or bad. But even if it takes less mind-space to see the world this way, it’s limiting and the cost of that is higher than living with and accepting the uncertainty of not being able to “peg” people as one thing or another because I know one side of them.

And that’s it. I hope you enjoyed reading. I’m sharing my view partly because I think it’s different from much of what so many others shared on Goodreads. For example, I didn’t learn any specific business tricks or a how-to for running an existing business. Instead this book shifted my perspective on business in general (something I frankly have little experience with) and it inspired me. I learned that when it comes to starting a venture, listening a lot more closely and identifying ways to serve others is probably more fruitful than starting companies meant to furnish the owners (or, you) with better lifestyles. And I also learned that this right attitude will probably go a much longer way in keeping you trying when things aren’t perfect—and so ultimately with being successful.

Pick up your copy here, on Amazon: Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way

fashion · Uncategorized

Nomads Hempwear Top (Eco-Friendly Fabrics)

Nomads Hempwear is a clothing company offering chic yoga and activewear. They use eco-fabrics to produce their items. The production of hemp, organic cotton, bamboo, and soy can save water and use fewer pesticides compared to that of conventional materials.

I placed my first order with them two weeks ago. I picked up their Osiris tank, made from bamboo, organic cotton, and a little spandex. The ordering process was simple, and I love this top. It’s very soft, comfortably stretchy, and the cut is flattering. One surprise was that in the photo on their site it looked as though it would have an underwire, but it does not.

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I find it’s a versatile top, and I was able to wear it to dinner last night, under a cardigan. They’re offering free shipping on orders over $100 now, and their sale items are steeply discounted.

food · Uncategorized

Healthy Vegan Dinner in a Pinch With Amy’s Kitchen

Amy’s Kitchen is a company that offers vegetarian, organic and non-GMO convenience foods. The company was started by Andy and Rachel Berliner in California in 1987, and it was named after their daughter, Amy. Their canned and boxed soups, frozen entrees, and frozen wraps are widely available at supermarket chains in Canada.

What I like about Amy’s Kitchen is that they use real, healthy ingredients, many of of which are organic, and their products are priced reasonably. Today I want to share how to create a healthy lunch or dinner with my favourite Amy’s wrap.

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You will need:

1 gluten-free Amy’s Kitchen frozen bean and rice burrito ($3.99)
1/4 cup Daiya cheddar cheese
1/4 cup mild salsa

For the salad:
Two cups washed and cut lettuce
Handful of baby spinach
1/2 ripe avocado
5–10 grape tomatoes
1 tbsp balsamic vinaigrette

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Toss salad ingredients and set aside (outside or in fridge depending on how you cook the burrito). Unwrap Amy’s Kitchen burrito and warm up according to instructions, either by microwave oven or conventional/toaster oven. Take out before it’s ready ( 25–30 seconds with the microwave, and 15 minutes with the conventional oven).

Flatten the top side of the burrito by gently pressing down with a fork. Then arrange most of the cheese on top. Place in the oven for 10 minutes or microwave for 15–20 seconds. Take out and flatten with a fork again. Place mild salsa and the rest of the cheese overtop. Place in the oven for another 5 minutes or microwave another 10–15 seconds.

You will love this. 🙂

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