Toronto Recap Part 3: the feelings

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

I have already shared the details of my Toronto trip with the Blended Blog ladies as well as little tidbits about each of the ladies, but what kind of social worker would I be if I didn't talk about feelings?

Seriously, you'd be surprised how a seemingly simple trip can evoke so much emotion in one person. Plus, I've previously mentioned that I'm milking this experience for all the blog posts I can, so that's also that.

props to Nicole (second from the right) for all the gorgeous pics!!

I present to you: Toronto: the feelings

excitement - YAY my friends are coming to Toronto! So much excitement looking forward to an adult weekend away with some amazing ladies.

anticipation - is it May yet?

anxious - but what will I WEAR?! This would be an issue for a normal trip but when you're meeting up with a bunch of fashion-forward ladies, the packing anxiety reaches a whole other level. Add a baby belly and limited selection of adorable maternity clothes and it's a recipe for a breakdown.

more anxiety - will we all get along? What if they don't like me? Do I have to share a bed? A lot of unknowns when you're travelling to hangout with people, a bunch of whom you've never even met in real life.

free - no parenting for three whole sleeps!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

optimistic - this is going to be GREAT!!!

confused - where the heck do we park?

relieved - these ladies rock! No drama, everyone is sweet and hilarious. What are the odds? Who cares? this is great!

nauseous - we were on the 14th floor and let me tell you, the elevator was akin to a rollercoaster ride. My stomach did flips EVERY time we went up or down, which was A LOT. Yuck.

jealous - I'll admit it, watching the ladies enjoy delicious beverages had me feeling a little like a green-eyed monster. It wasn't those fancy gin-fizzy drinks that had me drooling but rather the large glasses filled with red wine goodness. Don't worry, I ate my extra calories and enjoyed a ton of soda waters with lemon... you're right, so NOT the same.

full/satiated - I haven't had this much yummy food in a long time. I at all.the.things. So good.

admiration - each of the ladies I traveled with had something to admire. From gorgeous hair to mad makeup skills to kindness that knows no bounds to knowledge about all the things. I just kept soaking in all the uniqueness these people had to offer.

bored - bus drives and waiting for buses is not fun. Thankfully, the stops in between made it worth it but I was vividly reminded that I do not like long bus rides.a

scared/nervous - let's jump on a boat headed into the rapids right up close and personal with Niagara Falls... yes, I was a nervous about this leg of our adventure. Clearly we all survived and lived to tell about it.

surprised - those lovely ladies surprised me at dinner Friday night by showering me with presents for our little girl. So sweet and I was genuinely shocked.

exhausted - up early (thanks children for permanently ruining my ability to sleep in) and in bed late (yes, midnight is late for me... like REALLY late) and days filled with TONS of walking = one tired momma. I don't remember the last time I was up until 11pm let alone at a restaurant until that time.

embarrassed - them: 'let's all go to the roof top hot tub'
me: I'm sorry, I really need to go to bed.
There are few times in my life where I've left the party early but my goodness there was no way my tired body could hold out a few more hours especially for  hot tub party I couldn't enjoy.

relaxed - truth be told, quiet time in bed watching a movie until I drifted off to sleep was sweet and utter bliss.

self-conscious - you would think as a quasi-blogger, that I'd be comfortable taking a selfie or posing for pictures in public... nope. Did I do it? Of course, but I felt so silly every.single.time.

guilty - of course my 4 year old gets the flu while I'm out having fun with my friends. Cue the mom-guilt. Yes, I was nearly in tears and yes, she survived without me....

thankful - while I felt guilty for not being with the puking child, that also meant I didn't have to deal with puke... so I consider that a win.

happy - it felt so good to have so much grown-up, kid-free time with such remarkable women. We laughed, we joked, we goofed around a lot. We talked some shop and we shopped a lot. We walked until our legs and hips were sore (or maybe that was just me that was sore) and ate all the yummy things. We soaked up our quickly passing time together and already started to plan our future adventure.

sadness - parting is such sweet sorrow. After a whirlwind weekend, I was happy to be heading home but also sad knowing that the majority of these women live so far from me and I likely won't see them again until next year's adventure.

grateful - when the Blended Blog started I knew we had a good group and although it's changed a little bit over time, I'm confident that the people who have been a part of it were for a reason and the ones who remain are as well. I not only consider these ladies fellow bloggers and collaborators but also good friends. I am so grateful to be part of this group and cannot wait until we get to see each other again.

Okay... that wraps up the Toronto posts from this lady. I'm hoping to try and be more present around here but there's still family and work and my virtually non-existent social life combined with my body's desire to sleep A LOT (I'm am creating life and all that). See you soon :)

A tasty summer salad

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

I'm over at the Blended Blog today sharing a tasty summer salad!!! Head on over, check it out and link up your food/recipe posts with us.

Toronto Recap Part 2: the ladies behind the blog

Friday, May 26, 2017

My last Toronto Recap was the "all the things we did" post which is great if you're wondering what we got up to but, if you're anything like me, you want to know what the ladies are really 

Let me introduce you to the ladies behind the Blended Blog in Toronto.

You already "know" me and I'm slightly biased there so we'll skip myself but if you want more a glimpse of me, stay tuned for Toronto Recap Part 3: the feelings.

Meet my friends:

I've known Nicole for about 9 years. We met when I contacted her and her business partner to take some pictures of my then boyfriend and I. Since then she's photographed all the significant events in my life. She is funny and kind and sweet. She multi-tasks like no one I know (she works two jobs, has 4 kids, works out like a fiend and the list goes on) and she has made the biggest lifestyle/body transformations over the past year. Seriously, if you need some weight-loss/health motivation, this is your girl! I got to know Nicole a lot better during this trip and, as I've already informed her, she's stuck with me as a friend. I'm already harassing her via text (sorry Nicole). Did I mention she's a kick-butt photographer? She took some great shots over the weekend (including headshots for each of us - as pictured in this post. Check out her photography page for more brilliance).

I follow Lisa's blog and she has to be the most inspirational style-blogger. Ever. She pulls of some pieces I wouldn't dream of trying and does it with such ease. Don't even get me started on her Instagram. Look it up, you will NOT regret it. Lisa is super sweet in person and has the best hair (seriously, I have some mad hair-envy). Lisa is a calming presence and was the perfect balance in our big wild group. I found her quiet confidence admirable and it was a pleasure to get to know her better. If you're wondering how to translate high-fashion into affordable and wearable looks, her blog does not disappoint.

I've been talking to Andrea for a while and am proud to say it was I who suggested she be added to our Blended Blog group. She's the perfect addition to our group but I have to be honest when I say I did not think it was possible for her to be as sweet in person as she seems online. I was wrong. She's every bit as sweet in person as she seems online. She's stunning and so kind and complimentary. She has a special place in my heart and I can't wait for baby girl to wear the pink converse that Andrea gifted her! Andrea's blog shares all kinds of delicious food, drinks as well as fashion (no one can rock a pineapple sweater like this lady) and so much more.

This cute little midwesterner is another sweetheart. Whitney is adorable and funny and has the best stories. This lady has so many adventures to share and it's so fun to listen to her talk (though, part of that is due to the is the accent I think ;) Teacher by day and absolute sweetheart by night.Whitney was another later addition to the Blended Blog (thanks to Carrie) and it's another match that I think was fated to be. Check out her blog to follow her adventures and adorable fashion (yes, she is that cute in real-life).

Another teacher (they dominate our group) and Long Island native. Katie is so unexpectedly hilarious. She's a wine-lover like me and the only thing I'm sad about from our trip is that we weren't able to have a glass of wine together (given my current baby-carrying status). Don't worry Katie, I'll have a bottle of red (or 4) with our names on it next year!! Katie bid us farewell with a gift from home, a shot glass. Perfect gift from Katie even though I can't use it as intended right now. Shots of a OJ anyone? Follow her blog the mishaps and mayhem of solitary life... though, if I had to guess, this girl won't be solitary for long. And in case your wondering, girl can drink a giant beer like a champ :)

I can nearly see Alison squirming in her chair as she reads this lol. Alison is one of the quieter ones of our bunch and despite not loving physical affection, still let us all welcome her with hugs. She has the most understated and surprising sense of humor and some of her one-liners left me giggling far too long. She's a bookworm at heart and I promise one day I'm going to branch out and let her pick one of my reads (she reads more fantasy which is out of my wheelhouse). I find her personality and fashion sense unique and refreshing. She's one of the most original and interesting people I have had the pleasure of meeting. Check out her blog to see exactly what I'm talking about.

My roomy extraordinaire. I fell in love with this cutie last year in Vegas. We both have young kids and love to have fun. She's got a million dollar smile and it's always on her face. I don't even know if she gets mad. I roomed with her and Nicole and let me tell you, these girls have ALL the hair and makeup tips. For real, you need hair and makeup product recommendations? Ask Sarah (or Nicole). I wish this spunky lady lived closer to me because I know we'd have a ton of fun (and drive our respective husbands INSANE). Her blog is filled with her adorable fashion, hair and makeup tips and her little cuties.

I met Christy on the way to Vegas last year and was so surprised how chatty she was in real life. For some strange reason I thought she was quiet. She got a good laugh when I shared that tidbit with her. I was wrong, she has a personality and smile that lights up a room. I also admire how she manages to workout regularly, work full-time, find time for friends AND parent her two boys and run them from activity to activity. Oh I have to add that I think this lady can pull off just about any lip color imaginable.

I met Deena a year ago and am happy to report that I've gotten to spend time with her (and her family) a few times since then. I remember anxiously awaiting to meet Deena in the Calgary airport. I was so nervous about whether or not we'd get along but as soon as we hugged that was it, instant friends. She's the one who somehow keeps us all organized. She's always on task but, thankfully, forgiving when we're not (by 'we', I mean 'me' - sorry). We've bonded over our love of the Blue Jays and will be reunited in less than 2 weeks for a Blue Jays date on her way back home through Toronto. I am seriously so grateful to have this lady in my life. Her blog name alone "Shoes to Shiraz" shows just how fated we were to be friends.

Lana is the 'momma bear' of the group. She's always looking out for everyone else. She is kind and sweet and selfless but my gosh we have some good laughs. I think the most I have laughed in years was when Lana and I squished a macaroon in Banana Republic in Las Vegas during a late-night shopping excursion. In hindsight, I'm not sure why it was so funny to us, but we literally couldn't stop laughing. She's so easy going and has this innate ability to make everyone feel at ease. Another blissfully calming presence and she's always up for whatever shenanigans are going on. Her boys are growing up and leaving home and she shares all about discovering her 'new' happy on her blog.

I had great intentions for this post but after writing a little tidbit about each lady I feel my words are failing me. I'm inclined to chalk it up to the lack of writing in ages but I think it's safe to say that the real reason is that there is absolutely no way I can capture the true essence of each of these amazing women. There is no way I could write about these ladies that would do them the justice they deserve... and I'm going to end it there before I get all gushy and stuff BECAUSE I'm saving that for my next post... Toronto Recap Part 3: the feelings because yes, my feelings about the trip and these ladies needs a post ALL on it's own.

Stay tuned and go check out these kick-butt gals if you haven't already!

PS how freaking gorgeous are these friends of mine?!

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?). 


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