Toronto Recap Part 1: the details

Monday, May 22, 2017



Most bloggers will tell you that the best part of blogging is the relationships. Well, maybe the few making tons of cash might have a different perspective but for the rest of us, those just trying to document life, find their voice and work it all out via the interwebs, the best part IS the relationships, hands-down.

I've been a part of the Blended Blog since it's inception and despite my chronic absenteeism, they keep me around (thank ladies!) and don't complain about my perpetual lack of posts. 

Last April, I threw caution to the wind and hopped on a plane bound for Las Vegas to meet up with 6 "strangers". Everyone I told thought I was INSANE. If I'm being honest, there were times if I also thought I was crazy. Sure, I had gotten to "know" these ladies over the internet but real-life is a whole other ballgame. They could be catfish that turned out to be serial killers. Spoiler alert: they were not. Vegas was not only the break this momma needed, it was my first realization that you can form lasting relationships with people you've never met. It went so well, we decided, prior to even leaving Vegas, that a round 2 was an absolute necessity.

This year's meetup was just a 1 hour (2 with traffic) drive me and my travelling companion, Nicole.

I can't capture everything in one post so it's going to be a 3 part series because, why not drag this out as long as humanly possible? I am a blog-slacker afterall so I'll need to ride this wave as long as I can. First post, the details of the weekend...



Here's the recap:

I picked up Nicole around 4:30pm on Thursday. We both thought ahead and brought yummy treats for our friends. We grabbed some caffeinated beverages and headed on our way.

me and my travel buddy/roomie/photographer extraordinaire

 At 6:30pmish we arrived at the hotel (the Grand) which was beautiful and I have very few complaints minus the elevator which went so fast it made my stomach do backflips every time. On second thought, maybe that was baby #3 telling me she's going to be a rollercoaster junkie. I digress.

Two beauties, Andrea and Lisa, awaited us in the lobby. 

Nicole and I dropped off our stuff in our beautiful (though poorly lit for makeup-doing) room, changed (because this momma was feeling frumpy) and headed downstairs to the bar/restaurant to wait for the rest of our crew and visit with Andrea and Lisa.

We ate, drank (and by 'drank', I mean I had delicious soda water and lemon - woohoo) and got to know each other while we waited. Don't worry, the other ladies beverages were oodles more exciting than mine. 

Next to arrive was Whitney who made the 5 hour drive from her home in Michigan. 

Then Sarah, Alison and Katie who literally made their way to us by plane, train and automobile (little did I know that I was part of the reason behind their adventure downtown Toronto - more on that later).

Deena was texted me from her plane wondering who was there and what we were doing. She doesn't like to miss a thing! She and Christy arrived shortly after. 

Last but not least was Lana who had a delayed flight and who I didn't actually see until breakfast because she didn't arrive at the hotel until after midnight and this pregnant lady quickly turns into a pumpkin when the clock strikes 12. 

Friday we headed to Niagara Falls via a bus tour (King Tours). Our tour guide (Jay) was great, informative and funny and he had our backs all day (let it be known he does not like if you cut the line in front of 'his girls'). It was a whirlwind day that went fast but felt really long (does that make sense?). There was a lot of sitting on a bus but we saw the sights, had some great laughs and took a ton of pics (obviously).

matching shoes


more matching shoes

the falls

ready for our boat ride... fashionable, no?


Friday night we headed to El Catrin in the distillery district. They were super accommodating and despite it being a fullhouse and us having two tables reserved, they were able to seat all 11 of us together. What I didn't know when we went out for dinner was that the ladies had all been talking and this dinner was sort of a baby shower for me! They all brought gifts for me a baby #3 (a few of the girls picked up a gift card on their way to the hotel, hence their crazy journey through downtown). I was surprised, overwhelmed and beyond grateful. I hadn't realized until then but I had yet to purchase anything for our little girl. So she officially received her first gifts (and a lot of them!).

pink converse for baby girl - adorable!


Dinner was unique and delicious and while I missed out on what were described as delicious margaritas and was nearly falling asleep by the time we left (near 11:30pm), it was one of the best girls nights I've had.



Saturday was a walking tour/shopping. We walked and walked and walked. At the end of the day my FitBit said I took nearly 24,000 steps... good thing because I think I ate as many calories. Despite living so close to Toronto, I'm embarrassed to say that it was my first time seeing a lot of the places on our 'list'. We checked out Kensington Market, Graffiti Alley, Nathan Phillips Square, the Lakeview restaurant (best club sandwich and pear salad) and rounded it out with a shopping excursion at the Eaton Centre and dinner at the Pickle Barrel (how have I never been to Pickle Barrel before?). 

selfie

lol I'm not angry, just cold

Sarah has mad selfie skills - who else can get 11 people in one selfie (besides Ellen)


After dinner we headed back to the hotel where everyone checked out the rooftop hot tub. Everyone except me that is. Truthfully, I was exhausted and knew I couldn't go in the hot tub anyways, so I said goodnight and hung out in my pjs and watched a chick-flick and fell asleep early. Normally I like to be right in the mix but I knew my limit. Thankfully, no one held it against me.

Sunday morning was farewell breakfast as we had some early departures and the remaining 7 of us headed back to the mall (because, why not?). I used the gift card the ladies got me and bought baby girl some beyond adorable outfits and picked up some Blue Jays gear for my other littles. The ladies from the US made some last-minute purchases from some Canadian stores and we had quick lunch in the food court and headed back to the hotel.

our last day... more shopping


Just like that the weekend had come to a close and it was time to say ciao to our remaining travelers before they embarked on their respective journeys home.

I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about the weekend that was but I think I'll save that for another post and no, I won't make you wait a month for that. What I will say now is don't put off time with friends. Resist the urge to make excuses because there are always other things you could/should/would be doing. Time away from it all with good friends is invaluable, It's good for the soul and as busy the weekend was, I came back re-energized for my everyday life.



Thanks ladies, I cannot wait til the next time!

Stay turned for Toronto Recap Part 2: the ladies behind the blog


I read some books (kinda) - books reviews

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Hello lovelies and happy Thursday!!

Do you love to read? I used to. I used to read a lot. Then I became a mom (twice... working on number 3) and the amount of time I had to sit, quietly and do anything basically disappeared.

I think it's safe to say that since my first was born, the only books I have read have brightly colored cartoons and movable parts or are focused on developmental milestones or claim to give all the 'secrets' to make your child a good sleeper (spoiler alert: some babies sleep well, others do not... the end).

Anywho, when my friends at The Blended Blog started their monthly book club, this little momma started feeling a little left out. Having said that, I couldn't wrap my mind around how on earth I could possibly entertain reading up to 4 books a month (you don't have to read them all) when I haven't even read one in the past 4 years. Impossible!

Then Leslie suggested "Audible", an app that allows you to listen to audiobooks - note: I'm planning a review post of Audible so I'll try not to spoil that too much here ;) The rest is HISTORY!! Since I started listening to books I've been able to not only keep up with the 4 books a month for the book club, but also add a few others in the mix. Go ME!!!

Here are the books that were chosen for April and my thoughts on them (I'll do my best to keep it brief and not give any spoilers).



The Silent Girls - a psychological thriller that focuses on a detective and his search for a missing girl. I'll be honest in saying I was unsure how much I'd like this one. I'm the woman that can't watch scary movies because I spook myself out even weeks after watching. Also, my timing for listening to this one was questionable (while away in a hotel for a conference - ALONE). Admittedly, it made a little weary on my solo trip to the gym in the wee hours on the morning, lucky for me, there were no deranged kidnappers. This book held my interest from start to finish, was a very easy listen and kept me wanting to find more time to listen. Plus, it had some great and unexpected twists and there's going to be a followup book :)



The Widower's Wife - another thriller (yikes) about a missing woman (wife and mother) and the investigation that takes place prior to the large insurance payout. I liked this book but I would rate it last out of the 4 for the month. Having said that, I still really enjoyed listening to it. The story line had a few twists but there were a couple parts I found a little predictable. It left me with a bunch of unanswered questions but I suppose that's the point in a decent book.



The Nightingale - can I just say "wow"? The truth is I was sort of questioning whether or not I'd enjoy this book given that it's based in WW2 and usually the novels I read aren't based in war-times. I was gripped, almost from the start, by this story. As far as audiobooks go, it was a long one at almost 17 hours but I found myself making time to listen because I was so attached to the characters. It was a difficult listen though and by 'difficult' I mean very emotional. The characters were well developed so I felt their emotions and triumphs deeply. It's a gut-wrenching novel that explores the terrors of war and hate but also how the everyday bravery of ordinary people can truly transform others and the world. This book made me think a lot and I'd highly recommend it. Heads up: heed caution while reading/listening in public... I may or may not have shed a few tears on the treadmill.



Small Great Things - I adored this book. This was actually the first book I listened to so not only was it the first book I endeavored to read/listen to in years, it was also my first experience with an audiobook. I could NOT get enough. This book, like the Nightingale, had me from the start. My emotions were pulled in so many directions and I found myself angry, ashamed, confused and often questioning the state of the world while reading this. You will both love and hate parts of the characters and you will not be able to put it down. There might be points where you're not sure if you can possibly take another word because there's so much unwarranted hate, but keep on. This book is worth it. I truly think it should be recommended reading for all as it really makes you think about racism and oppression and the ways in which we, sometimes unknowingly, contribute. LOVED.


Wanna join in on the book club fun? You're not too late to start reading one (or more) of our May picks!! Just go to The Blended Blog book club signup and you're all set

Little Miracles

Monday, April 17, 2017

Hey strangers...

Since my writing is so sporadic, every time I come here I feel like I need to start with an obligatory apology and a list of excuses. Maybe this is my new way of blogging. Actually, the truth of the matter is, that's part of the reason I stepped away and haven't yet made a return. I don't want my writing here to feel like a chore, I don't want it to be a chore.

Anywho, I decided to hop in ('hop in', get it? I'm still funny guys... sometimes...) on today's theme "Little Miracles" which is part of the Blended Blog's spring series (I'll share more topics at the end in case you'd also like to 'hop in' lol).

For those who happened to be old blog friends, and by 'old', I mean around for most of the 3 years I've been blogging (in my absenteeism I also missed my three year blogiversary - go me!), you'll remember my old Monday Moments of Gratitude posts. I started those posts with the intention of reminding myself, in this crazy life, to dutifully look at moments that had gone by in the week prior that I was grateful for. This effort was an attempt not take for granted some of the beautiful, though sometimes small-seeming, moments that life has to offer. And then, like a lot of other things, that too began to feel like a chore. So, that was one of the first things to go. But I miss it, not necessarily the writing about it (though sometimes, that too) but the act of sitting down and purposefully reflecting on the week that was. More than a few times, the task of writing those posts brought special moments back to mind and a smile back to my face.

So friends, let's call today's post a flashback to that. And the good news? It doesn't feel like a chore, I was looking forward to sitting down, the house somewhat quiet (weird) and just thinking about the little moments lately that I'm grateful for.

  1. flutters and feeling good - in case you don't follow me on Facebook or Instagram, SURPRISE I'm pregnant... again! This is not a joke and is also, conveniently, one of my major excuses for my absenteeism here. I'm 16 weeks pregnant with baby numero 3 and for the most part of that 16 weeks, I've been feeling like complete garbage. This has seemed to peak during the witching hour through bedtime (which has been at like 8:30pm) so my 'spare time' window had all but diminished since this little nugget was conceived. The good news? I seem to have turned a corner the last two weeks and  am feeling much better. Also, finally starting to feel the little flutters in my belly that remind me what all that feeling ill was for. I'll save the my talk about the shock and fear about this addition for another post ;)

  2. the weather - is it just me or did that winter seem excruciatingly long? Tell me I'm not the only one. We had a few days of unseasonably warm weather just over a month ago and it quickly brought life back to the world... and then it got cold and snowed... again. Since then we've all been waiting. After that taste of t-shirt weather, it was unbearable to go back to donning our winter jackets in the morning. BUT the past few days of this April long weekend have been simply beautiful. Warm, sunny and just perfect. Everyone is happier, everyone is enjoying the outdoors and all is right with the world again. I think it's safe to say that at some point in my life I may need to consider a move south. Then again, maybe I would treasure Spring, Summer and most of Fall the same way I do without the brutal winters. Ya, let's go with that.

I'm keeping it short and sweet this week so as to not overwhelm you with Shaunacey... gotta ease you all back into me being around here in case I decide to make some kind of comeback at some point. lol

Make sure you head over to the Blended Blog to see what little miracles my friends are sharing.

Feel free to link up your posts below and we'd love to see you join some of our future Spring posts!




me time - tips for moms

Monday, February 27, 2017

"Me time"

The concept is quite simple really, time taken for yourself.

Time used to rest and replenish, whatever that looks like for you.

It's safe to say now, that prior to becoming a mother, I never realized how important 'me time' was. I took for granted the fact that I could come and go pretty much as I pleased. Sure, I had a job and people that counted on me for things but at the end of the day 'me time' never really seemed like something I had to work to obtain. It was kind of a given. Once I was done my obligations, the rest of the time was mine ALL mine.

Enter the little people.


"You don't know what you've got til it's gone".

#truth

I, for the most part, love being a mom. I've got myself some pretty adorable little people who keep on my toes.

It's not that the littles took any time away from me. It's that from the second they each entered this world and my role as mom grew and grew, I, myself, slid further and further down my own priority list. It seems that, as a mom, a parent, your obligations never really end.

So now, instead of waiting until all the things are done to take the time for myself, I'm tasked with having to make or take time for myself. Unfortunately, any time made or taken for myself usually results in the dreaded "mom-guilt".



"me time" tips for moms

  1. Lose the guilt (read: how to eliminate mom-guilt for good).
  2. Keep it simple - 'me-time' doesn't need to be a week-long kid-free trip to the Caribbean (but I'd sign up for that ANY day). The easier and more doable your time is, the more likely you'll be able to keep it up. Lucky for you, I've already shared a big list of self-care activities that are super easy to work into your day-to-day life no matter how many little people you have.
  3. Schedule it - put it in your daytimer, put a timer in your phone, leave a post-it on your mirror. Whatever you need to do to make sure you keep this commitment to yourself.
  4. KNOW you deserve it. This goes with losing the guilt and I know it's been said time and time again but I kinda think it's one of those things worth repeating. You cannot be your best self and take care the most important people in your life unless you, yourself are taken care of. Plus, you certainly deserve a break (on the regular) for all the awesome you do!
That's it... off to have a bath and enjoy some "me-time"




Once you've linked up with us below, head over to the Blended Blog to see what the other ladies are saying about "me time".








on nurturing relationships as a busy mom

Monday, February 13, 2017

I know, I know, it seems like whenever I find the time to write here, which lately is not often, I'm constantly talking about how busy I am, how crazy life is. It's also not lost on me that, despite all the chaos, I managed to do very little this weekend and still put off writing this post until the last minute (and by 'last minute' I mean it's 9pm on Sunday night... must get better at prepping!).

That's the thing about being "busy", it's not always a bad thing, it's just a state of doing something else. It's having a lot of 'to-dos' but trying to fill your time with things that are important to you, things that make you happy.

As a mom, it seems like the list of things that need to get done is never ending. Sometimes that means there is less room for some of the things you might rather be doing or people you might want or need to spend a little more time with.

When I became a mom I was not prepared for how quickly some relationships would change. What has become very apparent over the past 4 years is that all relationships require work. Be it your husband, your children, your other family or your friends, all the important relationships in your life need and deserve to be nurtured. The best part is, this is a two-way deal, so you shouldn't be the only one doing the work here.



the BIGGEST thing is time. Time. There's never any time!!!

Here's the thing though, relationships, especially the ones near and dear to you, are WORTH making or finding or taking the time.

For me, I find scheduling time to be key. Particularly for a 'girl's night' or 'date night'. Those are the kids of things that usually require some level of 'prep' so it's best to know a head of time.

I also try to find time to connect with people when I'd otherwise not. For example, since I'm back to work, I usually try and call someone on my way from work to the kid's daycare (on bluetooth, of course). This is an easy way to stay connected with family and/or friends and it's at a time that's super convenient.

Since I'm terrible for putting things off, I try and do things when I think of them. Like sending someone a quick letter or card or a kind text just to let someone know I'm thinking about them. It doesn't take much time at all but it's so important to let people know they're important to you, even when they're not around.

Probably the MOST important tip of all is to BE PRESENT. When time is of the essence it's vital to use it wisely. It's silly to go out on a date or for a girl's night and to be staring at your respective phones all night. It just doesn't make sense to scrounge for time with people you love and then waste it away. Phone-free time is always a good idea, even if for part of the time because most things can wait.

Last, if you truly can't find the time to spend with some of the people who are important to you, tell them! Le them know that's weighing on you and tell them that you miss them.


Now head on over to the Blended Blog to see how the other ladies are nurturing their relationship.

How do you nurture the relationships that are important to you??? Tell me in the comments


Alright, that's all I got. If you've got a post on nurturing relationships feel free to linkup with me and my Blended Blog friends below.




An InLinkz Link-up

Meal Planning and Food Prep for busy moms

Monday, February 6, 2017

As a mom of two who also works outside of the home, life is hectic to say the least. By the time I get the kids home at the end of the day, it's practically time to get them ready for bed. Apparently they like to eat before going to sleep though, go figure. Suffice to say, I feel like I'm running around like a lunatic from the second I get in the door until they're cozy in their beds for the night until someone needs to pee or needs a drink or needs a snuggle.

Of all the pieces of this working-mom life I find challenging, meal time is right up there on the list (right behind and tying into, not having enough time with my kiddos).

Seriously, when I get home from work my children literally start raiding the cupboards for any accessible carbs (read: cereal and crackers). It's a mad rush to get something somewhat healthy on the table before they fill their bellies with all the processed things.

In order to get a moderately healthy meal on the table in lightening speed, I rely heavily on meal planning and food prep.

Here are some meal planning/food prep tips for busy moms (or anyone really because who doesn't want to spend less time worrying about dinner on the daily?)



The most important things are:

1. Making a plan

2. Prepping all the things

that's IT! Easy peasy, right?

Just KIDDING!!

My plan was to do post with tips but when I read posts like that I sometimes feel like it's not concrete enough. So, instead of me taking you through an abstract 'to-do' list, I'm just gonna tell you what I do, specifically.

Making a plan:

You probably read that and think I have a giant menu planned out for the week. I don't. Not all the time (read: usually not). For me, the most important thing is sitting down before I do groceries and having a general idea of things we want/need for meals for the week.

I basically think, very basically, about what meats, easy sides and veggies I want. I don't make complicated meals during the week (because, not practical) and I usually like to have things I can easily mix and match.

I have a plan for dinner but I also like to have a plan for other meals as well. Again, I don't over complicate this. For example, for breakfast I find it super easy to make overnight oats. Obviously, when I'm shopping I need to make sure I have the ingredients for my ideas. In this case, greek yogurt, large flake oats and some fresh berries.

Once you pick the things you want and that can mix together to make some healthy fairly balanced meals, the rest is all in the prep.

Prepping all the things:

THIS is the most important part and as I mentioned before, even though I have an idea of the meals we'll be eating, it's when I'm prepping that I really put things together. THIS is where the magic time-saving happens.

Because time is of the essence, most of our meals are cooked ahead of time and re-heated. I don't love using the microwave ALL the time, but we like hot food and this lady doesn't have time to cook a full on the daily. Having stuff ready to go is my life-saver. No, I'm not being dramatic.

Sunday is the day where I usually prep all the things.

What does this mean? I season, cook, cut up and pre-make everything I can possibly think of to make meals easier throughout the week.

Here are some of the things I prep by meal:

breakfast:
- overnight oats - 1/3 cup eat of greek yogurt, rolled oats (large whole flake), water. Make at night, at fruit and stir for breakfast
- omelette muffins - eggs, ham and veggies
- boiled eggs - I literally boil a dozen eggs on Sunday for an easy breakfast or quick add to a salad

lunch:
- cut and wash lettuce - pre-portion lettuce and/or spinach for salads
- turkey chili or soup (an easy and healthy work lunch)
- cut up various veggies and pre-portion for a healthy snack (celery, carrot sticks, peppers)

dinner:
- chicken - skinless chicken breast on the BBQ - we cook a bunch on Sunday and will use them for wraps, adding to a salad or as the main meat for dinner
- salmon - I usually cook a couple fillets for during the week. Yes, I'm the jerkface who microwaves fish at the office. #sorrynotsorry
- rice - I cook a few cups of brown rice and use it as sides for dinner during the week
- pasta - kids LOVE pasta (okay, so do I) and it's super convenient to have on hand and ready to heat for a speedy side
- mac and cheese muffins for the kiddos (always a hit)
- potatoes/sweet potatoes - roasted or mashed, a healthy and delicious side
- carrots - my kids love boiled carrots, so I boil a bunch on the weekend to use as a side during the week.

I try and cut up as many fruit and veggies as possible. I find if I have these things prepped, I'm more likely to eat them (and feed them to my family) as opposed to above-mentioned cereal and crackers.



So that's pretty much it... it's not rocket science but doing these simple things significantly reduces my work-week dinner time stress.

Now, PLEASE spam me ALL your meal planning and food prep tips because I'm willing to try anything :)

THEN, hop over to visit Nicole who is also sharing her own meal planning and food prep tips!!



If you have any meal planning or food prep posts - link them up for me and the Blended Blog ladies :)





dreams: thinking about the future

Monday, January 16, 2017

What do you answer when someone asks you what your dreams are?



I don't mean the kind when you're sleeping, but the dreams you have when you're awake, the dreams of the future.


I was asked this recently and by "asked" I mean tagged in a post on Instagram... and by "recently", I mean it happened months ago and I haven't let it go.


It stumped me. Legit.


Initially I was thrilled to have been called upon to answer "aw thanks" and I sat and stared blankly at the "comment" bar as I realized I had no idea what my answer was.


I read through the other answers, so concrete and well thought-out. The only things I could come up with were arbitrary hopes for my children and what kind of house I'd like to live in.


The challenge for me was when I tried to picture where I would be and what I would be doing, I could imagine everyone around me, my loved ones and what they might be doing, but I couldn't see myself in a place that I wanted to be because I didn't know what that place was.


I felt a lump in my stomach. It was as if all the confidence and self-awareness I thought I had suddenly got knocked out of me.


Ashamed and somewhat embarrassed that I, as a Social Worker, someone who has spent a significant amount of time analyzing where I come from and talking about the importance of fulfillment,  haven't taken the time to re-evaluate who I am and where I want to be...


I mean I know who I am, I know what I value, but the more the focus of my life has been on my children, my family, the more lost my non-child related goals have gotten. It's like all other things faded into the hazy background from that first positive pregnancy test and it's hard to remember what they looked like before they got so blurry.


It's not to say the focus on my children is misplaced, it's not. It's not to say that they won't always be my primary concern, they will, always, but there's room for me in there too, there has to be. Right?




I have friends watching their children go off to college and university and I know they have ideas about what they, as 'empty-nesters' will do now, the adventures they will go on and all the dreams for themselves they will see come to fruition.


I don't want to be the person who doesn't know who she is when she's not taking care of children. I can't be that woman who doesn't know what she wants other than the best for someone else.


That's not enough for me.


Having hopes and aspirations, not just for those you love, but for yourself and living your passion is something I hold of great importance. The thing is, those hopes, aspirations and passions change. They need to be constantly re-evaluated. Unfortunately, the chaos of life doesn't always allow for
that coveted 'alone time' to think of all the things. This might be one of those things, for me, that is worth making time for. This might be one of those times where I greet that voice in the back of my mom-brain saying "you're being selfish" with a "no, I'm honoring myself, the person who takes care of all of these other people, that person needs care too, she's important too".


When we ask what people's dreams are, we assume they have an answer. We assume that all people have some idea in their head where they'd like to end up but perhaps that's not the case. 


Thinking about this same question now, even weeks later, I still don't have an answer. I can still quickly tell you my hopes for my children, my husband, even friends and family, but for me personally, it's still unclear.


For a while I was self-conscious about this and not wanting to admit that I didn't have some goal, however abstract or unrealistic, but I feel differently now. For me it's more about the process. I still can't see an ideal end place but I can see a 'next step' and that's the important part.


Sometimes we get so overwhelmed about some distant reality that we lose sight of all the small steps between our present and that distant hypothetical 'ideal place'.


I'm showing myself a little grace (we could all use more of that) and instead of pressuring myself to come up with a destination, I'm starting the journey. I am starting to ask myself the question - what would make ME happy (assuming everyone around me is taken care of)...? |There aren't answers yet and I don't imagine it's going to be quick or easy, but what good things ever are?


Looking back, I'm thankful I was tagged in that post, no matter how silly I felt at the time about not having an answer, and even though I STILL don't have one, I am at least thinking about the possibilities and taking some steps in the right direction... don't they say it's all in the journey? Well, here I go...



- DESIGNED BY ECLAIR DESIGNS -