Goal Check-In for 2016

I don’t mean to scare you, but there are only 70 days left in 2016! Boy, does time fly!

This year has been jam-packed for me so far, and I’ve undergone quite a bit of change. When I first started blogging last December, I had no idea whether I would be able to stick it out for longer than a couple of weeks. But hey — here we are!

One of the first posts I wrote back in January was a list of goals I wanted to achieve this year. I’ll be honest: I had forgotten almost all of them before starting to write this post. In the interest of transparency, let’s take a look back at the goals I decided were so important at the beginning of this year, and see where they stand so far.

1. More Steps per Day on my Fitbit

I have a confession to make. I lost the charger for my Fitbit back in August…and I haven’t used it since.

Yes, I know, it’s awful. I fully intended to buy a new charger and get back into it, but I got so used to life without it. Plus, having a more demanding work schedule was making it much more challenging to stick to step-count goals. Still, though, I should probably go buy a new charger.

However, the intention behind this goal was to focus on a healthy lifestyle. I’ve been practicing yoga fairly regularly, which is a step in the right direction, at least.

2. 8 Hours of Sleep

This goal is still a priority for me, though I haven’t been very successful with it. Heading to bed as early as is necessary for 8 hours of sleep (i.e. 10pm) is a huge transition. I think I’ve made improvements — but I guess I don’t really know without my Fitbit tracking my sleep. Hm.

3. Read More

I’ve read a bit more this year than last year, I would say. I’m currently in the middle of three non-fiction books, and bouncing between them depending on what I’m in the mood for. I haven’t found time for fiction recently, though, thanks to a little friend called Netflix…

4. Knit a Pair of Socks

In January, I was really into knitting. Like, a lot. But almost immediately after writing my list of goals, I basically stopped knitting altogether and moved onto something else. I daresay it has joined the Hobby Graveyard. I think I would be amenable to retiring this goal altogether for this year. Maybe some other time!

5. Improve my Technical Skillset

My progress in regards to this goal has gone in an entirely different direction than I had anticipated. While I didn’t end up taking a course in programming, which was the original idea, my transition to a new department at my company has led to the development of some bomb Excel skills. Plus, I wrote the book on using our database interface for standard queries. (Literally — I made a training guide. It’s only 30 pages, but still.) So while it’s a little off-track compared to the January intent, I’d say this goal could be counted as a success.

6. Keep Blogging

I’ve made it this far. Only 70 days to go! Obviously my post frequency has decreased a tad, but that’s just a product of a busy life and blogging authenticity.

7. Identify my Dream Job?

The real purpose of this goal was to do some soul-searching and try out some new things. I made a change to my career path this year, and it was definitely a valuable decision. Beyond that is still a work in progress.

8. Track and Plan my Goals

I was pretty good about this early in the year, but I fell off the wagon over the summer. Honestly, I think that’s okay at this stage in the game. I have some vague targets and I’m not letting everything in my life go wild, but I don’t think the rigid goal structure I’d originally conceived would be very helpful for me right now. Keeping track of these goals (or what’s left of them) for the next 70 days should be good enough for 2016!

What goals did you set for 2016 — and how will you achieve them in the next 70 days?

NaNoPrep - How to Prepare to Write a Novel in a Month

We are just over two weeks away from the first of November. For those of us ingrained in writing culture, that means we’re right in the middle of NaNoPrep season. For everyone else, allow me to explain what the heck I’m talking about.

November is the National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. Each year, thousands of writers around the world embark on a quest to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. It’s a self-regulated marathon for anyone who has always wanted to write a book, but simply hasn’t found the motivation — the “kick in the pants”, if you will — to get around to it. Keep in mind that the goal is to produce a very rough first draft. The editing process comes afterward, once you have a manuscript to play with. Writing that first draft is the largest single hurdle anyway, so the internal and external motivation of this challenge is perfect for getting it done.

The NaNoWriMo website contains a myraid of resources, plus a comprehensive forum to connect its global participants. And if you live in a decently populated area, there may even be local writing sessions, or “write-ins”, scheduled nearby during the month for you to attend.

If this is the first time you’re hearing about NaNoWriMo, you’re probably thinking one of three things:

  • That sounds awful! Why would anyone do that?
  • That sounds awesome. Sign me up!
  • I’m sure that would be really fun, but I simply don’t have time to write a novel in a month! That sounds far too ambitious for me.

If you fall into the second or third camp, then I would encourage you to read on. With the right attitude and support, you may surprise yourself in your ability to conquer the challenge.

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo six times now — and I’ve won each and every time. I’ll talk about how I accomplished that in a future post. But for now, let’s make the most of NaNoPrep season. Here’s how I prepare in October to write a novel in November!

Sign up.

For first-timers, the first step is to hop on over to the NaNoWriMo site and sign up. You’ll have a chance to input a bit of a bio and your geographical location, which will allow you to connect with the local writerly community (if you so choose).

Declare your intention to participate.

I would encourage you to take a digital and traditional approach to your declaration. Tell your friends and family that you’ll be writing a novel in November. Then post some NaNoWriMo flair on social media to spread the word to your larger circle.

Decide what you’ll write about (or don’t).

Whether you’re a planner or a pantser (i.e. “flying by the seat of your pants-er”), you’ll want to create your novel on the NaNoWriMo site in order to track your word count progress. From there, it’s up to you. In the past, I’ve taken extensive notes, drawn maps, made character profile sheets, the works… and in other years, I’ve literally started with a title, a one-liner plot synopsis, and a blank Word doc. So get planning — or not!

Rally the troops.

Writing a novel is fun, but writing a novel alongside friends and family is even better! Find people in your live with a love for writing and encourage them to join you in your journey. You can even NaNoPrep together (whatever that means for you)!

Commit to attending a local event (where applicable).

If you’re lucky enough to live in a region with a local group, make the effort to attend at least one event. I find these events are highly motivating for upping your word count. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to meet other writers in your area, and to thank your Municipal Liaison (or ML, the local organizers for NaNoWriMo) for their efforts in the writing community. (Okay, I’m a little biased… I served as the ML for Kingston, Ontario in 2013-14!)

If you’re joining the marathon this year (or at least still thinking about it), let’s be buddies! Click here for my NaNoWriMo profile.

What are you doing to NaNoPrep this year?

Thanksgiving 2016: Thankful Thoughts

Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends! It’s a sunny and beautiful, albeit chilly, day here in the GTA. Once this post is complete, I’ll be heading out with Joe to a local conservation area for a hike and some fall colour sightseeing. But I wanted to take this opportunity to share some of the things I’m thankful for this weekend. There’s so much to celebrate!

I’m thankful for the basics: the things we tend to take for granted.

It’s easy to jump right into the luxuries when considering the best parts of our lives. I know it’s important, though, to acknowledge and be grateful for those simple things that not everyone in this world may have. I’m explicitly thankful today that I have food, shelter, safety, the ability to use my body and my mind, and the freedom to express my opinions and strive for my goals. Obviously that doesn’t nearly cover it, but I want to ensure that I take time to ponder these today.

I’m thankful for my current living situation.

I’m very lucky at this time of my life to have an affordable, sufficient, and convenient living space; a supportive, intelligent, and loving partner; a playful and adorable fur baby; and a challenging and engaging start to my career. I don’t know what the next year will bring, but I’m hoping that all of these things will still be true next Thanksgiving!

I’m thankful that the Blue Jays defeated Texas and are moving on to the ALCS!

Yes, I’ve hopped on the Blue Jay Bandwagon. I’m not a sports person, and I’m especially not a baseball person. It’s slow and boring and kind of confusing! But I love how the current success of the Toronto Blue Jays is bringing people together. There is a distinct positive energy in the air at work when my office livestreams the post-season games. And last night, at Thanksgiving dinner, freaking out with my parents and my aunts and uncles at every good play (in their matching team jerseys, no less) was an awesome bonding experience. Here’s hoping they dominate the next round!

I’m thankful for this blog.

Being able to express my opinions and share my experiences by taking advantage of the technology available to us these days is a pretty extraordinary gift. Thanks for joining me on the journey!

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

Totally Ridiculous Makeup Trends

A couple of weeks ago, I received my September ipsy Glam Bag in the mail. It’s taken a couple of weeks to get around to trying all five of my makeup products this month. But now that I’ve tested them all, I have to share that one of these products has brought about a serious revelation: some people are going too far in the name of beauty.

 Totally Ridiculous Makeup Trends: Makeup as Art

Of course, there are crazy makeup trends out there that aren’t intended to be an everyday look. That will always be true, and I don’t want to go messing with art. Here, though, I’m talking about the trends and tips people are following on a daily basis. These are the kinds of things that can actually be harmful, in one way or another. Let me give you a couple of examples.

Lip Plumping Serum

This is the product that caused my epiphany. My Glam Bag came with a sampler size of this product:

Makeup: Too Faced Lip Injection Extreme

Too Faced Lip Injection Extreme.

Now, I’m super naive when it comes to makeup. I automatically assumed that this was simply a lip gloss. A clear shimmer would make your lips look more plump, right? Well, not quite. This is actually a “serum” that basically causes your lips to have a stinging reaction of some sort, which makes your lips look plumper (as a side effect). I wiped it off the second it started burning. Then began the Googling.

And I found positive reviews of this product all over the place! People enjoy the sensation of their lips burning, apparently. Either that, or they enjoy the look of their fuller lips enough to warrant the pain of this product. In fact, I saw one YouTube review that used this serum as a way of talking down people who would otherwise partake in the Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge. Um, no thanks.

Tightlining & Waterlining

I’ve heard on more than one occasion that your eye makeup isn’t done until you’ve tightlined and waterlined.

 Totally Ridiculous Makeup Trends: Tightlining

But as someone who has experienced the agony of styes in my eye, especially when working at a computer all day, I will personally say: It’s not worth it!

Full Makeup Coverage on Acne-Prone Skin

I know, I know, we all do this. But it makes me very sad for all of us that we feel the need to cover up our pores and blemishes with layers of makeup. It’s a vicious cycle, too, because clogging pores with makeup only makes skin conditions worse! And while it’s great to see some celebrities going without makeup, I know many of us — myself included — are a long way from taking that step, for the sake of our skin.

Many people wear makeup not to hide, but to enhance their beauty and have fun with the process. That’s great! Let’s just do our best to look and feel beautiful, without causing ourselves unnecessary harm in the process.

What daily beauty trends do you think are totally ridiculous?


I don’t usually follow politics very closely. I’ll do a bit of research right before an election, I’ll vote, and that’s about it. But even as a Canadian, it’s been impossible to miss the headlines surrounding Donald Trump in the past few months. I had a hard time believing some of the things I was hearing. It was easy to assume that most of the stories were sensationalized in the tabloids. It all came to a head last night in the first 2016 Presidential Debate. And dear lord, it was all true.

In some circles, my Canadian political views automatically make me a bleeding-heart liberal. In Canada, that’s not entirely accurate. My opinions are liberal in some ways and conservative (by Canadian standards) in others. But I’ve realized that prior to this past year, I was under the misguided impression that the kind of people that would back someone like Donald Trump couldn’t possibly exist. So imagine my shock as the polls shifted more and more toward The Donald in the past few weeks.

Watching last night’s Debate made it abundantly clear to me that if the US elects Donald Trump, the consequences could be devastating. His complete disregard for facts, logic, respect, and self-control was laughable. Except that millions and millions of people are actually going to vote for him. Are you kidding me?

Now, about Hillary Clinton. For starters, I am so thrilled that America finally has a female Presidential Candidate. Is she the best-ever choice for US President? Maybe, maybe not. (Though her choice in first names is impeccable…) But in my opinion, any logical person should be looking at the two options, and the best choice should be extremely obvious. Yes, even for Republicans. I simply can’t believe that someone’s standing political allegiances can be so absolute that they should blind them to what’s going on in the world around them.

Anyway, those are my two cents on the matter. I want to encourage everyone to do their homework and make an informed decision. The world as we know it may depend on it.

Time for an Upgrade: My New Google Nexus 6P

I’ve had my good old Samsung Galaxy S III for three years now. For me, having the same device for three years or more is pretty standard, especially when it comes to phones. In fact, my Galaxy was my first-ever smartphone, so that gives you some indication of how slow I am to catch up to the mobile trends. If I could, I would probably stick with the same device forever. But with all of the apps and processes I’m running all the time, my battery life was terrible and the phone was so slow. Time for an upgrade. Yesterday, I picked up a brand new phone: a Nexus 6P!

Looking into phones for the first time in three years was pretty rattling. They’re so darn expensive now! My first thought was to look into the Galaxy S7 as a natural step up, but the price tag wasn’t very attractive. Instead, I started doing my research into which Android phones out there were the best bang for your buck.

First of all, I’ll mention that I’m not an Apple person. At all. So the allure of the new iPhone 7 was completely non-existent in this search. Plus, my entire life is integrated into Google apps at the moment, so it makes sense to keep everything accessible.

My major concerns when looking for a phone were processing power and battery life. Camera quality was more of a cherry on top than a deal-breaker, considering the not-so-great quality of my current phone camera. But beyond all of that was the price, to be honest. I wanted to be relatively caught up in terms of technology without breaking the bank. And while the successor to my current phone was pretty much top-of-the-line, I couldn’t justify the monthly plans and/or the up-front fees with any provider I came across.

Luckily, as a long-time Rogers customer (because I never change phones, hah), I was offered an extra 3G of data for free. It’s a similar plan to my current one, with $50 down for the Nexus 6P. Totally reasonable for my purposes, and it met my criteria as well. Score!

Now that I have my Nexus 6P, I’m excited to start using and customizing it. All of my apps were copied directly from my old phone to the new one, thanks to Google. (Yes, even Neko Atsume, haha!) I will say that the size increase from the S III is a bit extreme, especially with my tiny hands, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it!

Honestly, because of all the software updates needed, I haven’t had much time to play around with my Nexus since I picked it up. If I develop any strong opinions on this phone, positive or negative, I’ll be sure to review in a follow-up post. But for now, I just want to say that I’m so glad to finally have a new phone. (And hey, now I can download Pokémon Go for real! Not that anyone is playing it anymore…)

What’s your smartphone of choice for 2016?

My 3 Latest Binge-Worthy Netflix Faves

Hello, friends! It’s been a hectic few weeks around here. In the midst of the hustle and bustle this month, I’ve found it so necessary to take the time to chill out for an hour or two and watch a favourite TV show. With my current schedule, I don’t really have much time or brianpower for following multiple shows at a time. Netflix has been a godsend, then, since I can watch a single series straight through at my own pace. I’m glad I made time for these three recent Netflix picks!

Stranger Things

 Netflix: Stranger Things

Quick IMDb Synopsis: “When a young boy disappears, his mother, a police chief, and his friends must confront terrifying forces in order to get him back.”

This is one television bandwagon that I’m so glad I hopped on. Obviously, this show is blowing up right now, and for good reason. I’ll admit that I wasn’t hooked right away, though. I’d gone into this paranormal thriller expecting something similar to The X-Files. The first episode went essentially according to my expectations, so I didn’t feel particularly compelled to continue watching. A week later, I watched the second episode. And two days after that, I’d completed the entire eight-episode season. So.

In spite of its niche genre, Stranger Things has a very broad appeal: mystery, sci fi, nostalgia (it’s set in the 80s, in case you didn’t already know that), awesome characters, you name it. I am so impressed with the quality of Netflix Originals these days. Whether it seems like your cup of tea or not, give Stranger Things a shot next time you log into Netflix!

Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23

 Netflix: Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23

Quick IMDb Synopsis: “Chloe is a New York party girl with the morals of a pirate who bullies and causes trouble for her naive small town roommate June.”

This show is definitely not the stereotypical, formulaic sitcom I was expecting when I sat down to watch the first episode. It’s incredibly zany and surprisingly self-aware. The vibe is more Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt than Two Broke Girls, thankfully, but I’d say it’s more clever than Kimmy as well, especially in its use of clichees and tropes. Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 is still predictable, like most sitcoms, but it’s worth a shot if you’re looking for a quick laugh with a twist.


 Netflix: Galavant

Quick IMDb Synopsis: “The adventures of Galavant, a dashing hero who is determined to reclaim his reputation and his “Happily Ever After” by going after the evil King Richard, who ruined it the moment he stole the love of Galavant’s life, Madalena.”

So one major thing missing from that synopsis is that Galavant is a modern musical. No, seriously. And it’s kind of hilarious. It’s essentially an Americanized Monty Python (Holy Grail comes to mind). The writing and musical team behind the two-season show is also responsible for Disney’s Tangled, which makes perfect sense. If you liked Tangled, you’re pretty much guaranteed to enjoy this.

What binge-worthy Netflix shows would you recommend?

Life Lessons I Learned From My Cat

Whether you’re a cat person, a dog person, or something else entirely, you probably know that cats can be pretty clever. Some of them are true masterminds:

While others simply know how to play their owners like a fiddle:

My cat, Lorelai, generally falls into the second category. She has me and Joe wrapped around her little…claw. She definitely leads a charmed life, and she’s learned how to make the most of it. So now that cats have essentially domesticated us, their owners, what can we learn from them?

Know What You Want

When a cat wants something, they’ll do everything in their power to get it. (If you’re not convinced of that, watch the above videos again.) And when they don’t want something, they’ll make sure you know it. They don’t worry about how you’ll feel if they reject your “pets” or ignore your toys. “Yes or no” is a much simpler equation when you don’t stress over subtext. Keep it simple and be happy!

 Life Lessons I Learned from My Cat — Know What You Want

…But It’s Okay to Change Your Mind

Cats are fickle creatures. They whine at you until you give them what they want, and then suddenly, they don’t want it anymore.

To illustrate this, here is Business Cat.

To illustrate this, here is Business Cat.

But here’s the thing: humans can also be fickle and change their minds. Maybe you’ve been after a specific goal for a while now, only to realize you were pursuing it for all the wrong reasons. Or maybe your tastes changed, or your mood. That’s okay. We’re not static; we’re dynamic. What’s important is what makes you happy now — not what would have made you happy, had everything stayed the same.

Take a Cat Nap: Rest and Recharge

Getting enough sleep is so important for your health and well-being. No one knows this better than a cat. No one.

Life Lessons I Learned from My Cat — Sleep


Hold Yourself to the Highest Standards

Lorelai is always grooming herself. Whether she’s had an active day or a lazy one, she always takes the time to get fresh and clean — or, at least, the cat version of fresh and clean. For cats, it’s instinctual. Lorelai isn’t out to impress anyone. She makes herself a priority, just for her own sake. I think we can all take a page from our cats’ books on that one.

Spend Time with the Ones You Love

One of the happiest surprises I’ve experienced in getting my first cat was how much time she wanted to spend with me. I’d always heard about cats being solitary and avoiding their owners most of the time. To clarify, Lorelai isn’t cuddly and playful at all times. She needs her space as much as the next cat (or human).

But even when she’s napping or doing her own thing, she’ll usually still choose to be in the same room as us. And if the presence of your loved ones makes you happy, spend time near them. Even if you’re not actively “hanging out”, everyone will benefit from the positive energy of being together — just like cats do!

What life lessons have you learned from your cat?

5 Reasons to Love Fall

Fall is my favourite season. Hands down, no doubt about it. I know a lot of people associate fall with the stresses of returning to the daily grind, whether that’s school, work, or some other exhausting routine. But for me, the positives outweigh all of the downsides. So even if I’m jumping the gun a little bit, that’s why I get so excited when September rolls around!

Sweater Weather

Winter is freezing cold, spring is rainy and unpredictable, and summer is scorching hot and humid. Fall weather, especially early fall, can be refreshingly chilly and sunny — making it a perfect time to break out those sweaters I haven’t worn in months. I personally love the feeling of wearing light layers outdoors. Fall is also great for getting some outdoor exercise and sight-seeing (without getting too sweaty).

Energy and Anticipation

Whether or not you’re currently attending school, fall represents a second chance at a “new year”. With summer over, it’s a time to buckle down, reorganize your life, and focus on your priorities or create some new ones. I’ve found that the “back to school” buzz is what energizes me as I align myself with my goals for the season.

Fall Colours

I live in Ontario, Canada, which is known for its beautiful fall colours.

 5 Reasons to Love Fall - Fall Colours


It’s a great time for a hike to take in the natural sights!

The National Novel Writing Month

Let’s face it: in spite of the lovely weather and colours in September and October, the atmosphere in November is usually pretty dismal. So it’s a perfect time to hole up indoors and write a novel!

I’ve discussed the National Novel Writing Month before, and I definitely will again. As a brief summary, though: you write a 50,000-word novel in November. Simple, right? If you’ve ever wanted to write a book and just need a kick in the pants to get it done, NaNoWriMo is for you. Stay tuned for more posts on this writing marathon, and check out the website to sign up and access resources.

Pumpkin Spice Lattes!!!

…Just kidding.

As a devout Tim Hortons junkie (and employee), the Starbucks PSL doesn’t have a particular hold on me. However, hot drinks in general are a huge plus for me as the seasons change. When summer gets unbearably hot, I’ll partially transition to iced coffee or the occasional frappuccino (yes, that one’s from Starbucks). But it’s always half-hearted, and I can’t wait to warm my hands and my heart with tea, coffee, or espresso drinks.

In short, I am so glad it’s September, because it means fall is upon us!

What do you love about the autumn season?

Life Lately - Birthday & Long Weekend Update

Hello from our nation’s capital! I’m out of town this long weekend to visit family, act like a total tourist in my own province, and see my sister off as she heads to university for her freshman year.

But first thing’s first: this past Thursday was my birthday! I can’t say I’m particularly excited about being 23, especially given a certain worrisome Blink-182 lyric. 22 was a fabulous year for me, though, so I’m looking forward to whatever the coming year will bring.

Of course, I still had to go to work on my birthday, but I was able to leave relatively early (and by relatively early, I mean 6PM). Actual working aside, it was a decent day in the office. My manager actually stayed late the night before to cover my desk with balloons, which was super nice and unexpected. It’s good to know that we’re all in this together.

I’m not one for big birthday celebrations. As such, the evening was relatively low-key. In what has now become a birthday tradition, Joe and I had dinner at East Side Mario’s, which is honestly one of my favourite restaurants — cheesy, I know, but how can you pass up unlimited salad and garlic bread? After our thoroughly filling meal, we went to the Putting Edge for some mini-golf!

I don’t know about you, but I hadn’t been mini-golfing for years. And I was pretty bad at it. No surprise there. Luckily, Joe and I managed to achieve our mini-putt goal: not letting the group of kids three holes behind us catch up!

Following our escapades, we returned home and watched the final two episodes of Stranger Things. Guys, this show is fabulous, and if you haven’t watched it, now is the time. It’s only eight episodes and can definitely be binge-watched in the span of a long weekend.

Speaking of long weekends, I’ve finally kept my promise to myself that we’d go somewhere over a long weekend this summer. This was our last chance! We’re staying with my aunt and uncle and doing some museum-hopping and shopping while we’re here. My sister is also moving into her residence in Carleton for the first time. I can’t believe it — she’s all grown up!

I have a busy couple of weeks ahead once I return home. It’s important, then, that we use this weekend for some fun and relaxation. Hopefully the blog won’t be on the backburner for too much of September!

How are you spending this long weekend?