Hiking the Nassagaweya Canyon Trail

This weekend, Joe and I took on our greatest hiking challenge yet: the Nassagaweya Canyon Trail. The trail connects Rattlesnake Point and Crawford Lake parks by leading you across the valley between them. The Conservation Halton website lists the trail as 7.2km one way — except you have to go back, too! It’s also the only trail on Halton’s roster with a “Difficult” rating. After all the hiking we’ve done over the past couple of years, and with a beautiful weekend ahead of us, it was time to take the plunge.

My first piece of advice would be to check the internet for any events at your destination parks. We arrived at Rattlesnake Point early, around 9:30am, and there was already a lineup to get to the toll booth! It turned out there was a big trail race that morning throughout Rattlesnake, so the park was closed to the public until noon. We’d have to start our hike across the Nassagaweya Canyon from the other side at Crawford Lake.

The Base of the Valley - Nassagaweya Canyon

Taking a stroll through the Nassagaweya Canyon.

Once we finally got on the trails, we had a great time. The weather was perfect, and we descended the escarpment into dense, green forest. A few areas had raised wooden bridges across wetlands, but the paths were mostly dirt, rock, and roots. There were a couple of extremely rocky sections that we decided to traverse. If you’re not as adventurous, don’t worry! Signs along the way clearly indicate how to bypass the rocks.

A Rocky Road - Nassagaweya Canyon

Be careful! (At least, maybe that’s what I was saying?)

Then came the tough part: trudging back up the other side and onto the Milton Outlier, home of both Rattlesnake and Kelso. At this point, we accidentally joined the tail end of the Five Peaks trail race, which followed a similar route back into Rattlesnake Point. We tried to stay out of the runners’ way!

Views from Rattlesnake Point - Nassagaweya Canyon

#views

We turned around after a quick snack break at the lookout on the Vista Adventure trail. The views at Rattlesnake Point are definitely worth taking in! On the way back, we took the Bruce Trail route that doubles back on itself at the bottom of the valley. There were tons of bugs down there, but the flowers and trees were really lovely. (Make sure you bring bug spray, sunscreen, and tissues if you have allergies!)

Fields of Flowers - Nassagaweya Canyon

Don’t stop for too long to smell the flowers, or the mosquitoes might eat you alive…!

In the end, hiking the Nassagaweya Canyon trail took us three hours, including our little pit-stop, and covered around 15km. If you’ve got a few hours and decent weather ahead of you, I would definitely recommend this route to the ambitious hiker. Looking forward to more great (and long) hikes in the future at Conservation Halton parks!

Done the Hike - Nassagaweya Canyon

Reppin’ my Tone It Up hat on the trails! Checked this one off the hiking bucket list!

Where do you love to hike?

Why I'm Not Coaching for Beachbody

In the past few months, I’ve done a complete 180 when it comes to healthy living. I started exercising and eating right (for the most part…), and I shared the process on a fitness-focused Instagram account. I noticed it almost right away: these mysterious “virtual fitness coaches” saturating my feed with sweaty selfies and motivational quotes. And it didn’t take long, once my account started to gather a following, for these ladies to start reaching out to me with offers to become a coach myself. They didn’t always mention their employer outright, but I only needed a quick Google search to tell me that these women work for a multi-level marketing company called Beachbody. That’s right, the dreaded “MLM” — what some people refer to as a “pyramid scheme”. Yikes.

But the peppy posts and the promise of a rewarding, engaging, self-propelled career were getting to me. So I did a bit of research.

Like any MLM, the premise of Beachbody is that its salespeople promote and sell its products to their social networks. In this case, it’s a collection of video series, a video-on-demand service, and a nutritional supplement called Shakeology. If you’re a human with a TV, then you’ve probably heard of the workout program P90X from the infomercials. That’s Beachbody. And if you’re involved at all with the fitness social media scene, then you might also have seen posts about Beachbody’s other programs like “Insanity”, “21 Day Fix”, or “Hammer and Chisel”.

Beachbody salespeople go beyond simply peddling their products. They also typically provide moral support to their clients via social media, making them “virtual fitness coaches”. Coaches pay a small fee for the infrastructure of their business (i.e. their personal Beachbody website, from which they earn a commission). But in order to successfully promote Beachbody from personal experience, coaches also need to buy into the programs themselves. Even at a seller’s discount, this can be a pretty pricey endeavour. This is how all MLMs work, so the startup costs were no surprise to me.

Then there’s the coaching recruitment aspect, which is pretty standard for an MLM as well. Whether it’s through commissions or bonuses, Beachbody encourages coaches to find others to join their coaching teams. This creates a structure (or upline) of coaches that provide business advice and support to newer team members. I have found it so interesting to see the wide variety of tactics current coaches have used to reach out to potential clients like me. It’s formulaic, but there’s definitely tons of room for personal flair.

So, am I turning down the opportunity to work for Beachbody as a virtual fitness coach because it’s an MLM, and therefore an evil company that wants to steal my money and take advantage of my friends and family?

Actually, no.

I already knew the basics about MLMs when I started looking into Beachbody. And I really liked the idea of promoting a healthy lifestyle and helping others achieve their goals, plus earning a revenue stream on the side. Obviously the startup costs are daunting, but I would cross the ROI bridge when I came to it.

The dealbreaker for me was actually the Beachbody products themselves. You heard the program names: “P90X”, “Insanity”, “Hammer and Chisel”. They’re high-intensity, hardcore, super-focused workouts intended to provide maximal results in minimal time. Some of them even come with meal plans to help you, ahem, “shred” or whatever.

Back when I joined Tone It Up, I mentioned that one of my favourite things about the program was that it was light, fun, and positive. Sure, there’s talk of being toned and lean. But the major focus is on creating a lifestyle that is sustainable in the long run. My fitness goals are a lot more about habit-forming than about “results”. And honestly, if the video has scary words like “Insanity” or “Max” in the title, I’m probably not going to try it — let alone stick to it!

I love promoting products that I believe in. (You’ll recall my NaNoWriMo obsession… my Agendio reviewpraise for my new Fitbit…) Unfortunately, I just don’t believe that Beachbody’s lineup of products would meet my current needs as a consumer, so I definitely can’t promote them as a coach.

That’s not to say that it won’t work for anyone! Do your research, watch the workout trailers on YouTube, and talk to coaches on social media. (Shoutout to Kate Rhue, a Beachbody coach who answered all of my annoying questions and is so passionate about her work as a virtual fitness coach! If you’re in the market for coaching, check her out!) But for now, I’m going to stick to Tone It Up for my fitness program, and earning an income the good ol’ fashioned way.

What are your thoughts on Beachbody?

Cruising in your Twenties

When you’re in your twenties and feeling the tug of wanderlust, you’ll find so many travel options. Between backpacking, road-tripping, all-inclusives, cultural experiences, and much more, you face the tough choice of how to spend your vacation days and best see the world. Have you considered taking a cruise? I personally just returned from my second Royal Caribbean cruise in as many years, and had an awesome time. Cruising in your twenties isn’t usually the first vacation that comes to mind. But cruises aren’t just for families and older travelers. Depending on the experience you’re looking for, it might be a great choice for you!

The Variety of Travel with the Comfort of an All-Inclusive

The main draw of a cruise, for me and many others, is the opportunity to visit multiple destinations with a consistent “home base”. I love being able to stay in one room with tons of amenities, then step on-shore and experience new locations and cultures. Last week, my family and I traveled to Nassau, St. Thomas, and Sint Maarten, all of which were interesting and beautiful. From this and my previous cruise, my boyfriend and I can pick our favourites, and decide where we’d like to travel again in the future, and where we want to try next.

Excursions: Optional On-Shore Adventures

If you’re looking for an authentic cultural travel experience, then you may opt out of the additional expense of on-shore excursions. These are activities you book through the cruise line with some safety built in (i.e. the activities have been vetted, and the ship won’t leave without you if the excursion runs late). Examples include parasailing, ziplining, cultural tours, dolphin swims, scuba diving and snorkeling, or even just a comfortable bus ride to an exclusive beach. My family and I even participated in an “Amazing Race”-type activity for a few hours in Sint Maarten, which was a riot. (And we came in second place, haha! Not too shabby!) For a summary of my excursions on last year’s cruise, check out this post!

These activities can get pricey. But you’ll want to compare those prices to whatever you would be spending otherwise on taxis, food, and activities. To each their own!

Entertainment

Many cruise lines these days pride themselves on quality entertainment for all ages. If you’re cruising in your twenties, you’ll probably be less interested in the kid-friendly costume parades. But on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, for example, there was a Broadway musical, an ice dance, a high-diving water show, and a very creative acrobatic performance. And that’s not including the numerous smaller activities and events held throughout the ship, basically all day, every day. If you’re a fan of the arts, this is definitely a plus! There’s also a full assortment of sports and fitness activities and amenities, if that’s the kind of entertainment you’re into.

Nightlife? It Depends

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no party animal. On my most recent cruise, I went to the onboard nightclub twice, but it’s not exactly my cup of tea. From what I’ve heard, if you’re into that sort of thing, Carnival Cruise Line could be the way to go. They’ve got a reputation for hosting the youngest crowds, wildest parties, and best DJs. But if you’re just looking to party and dance the night away on your vacation, perhaps a cruise would be overkill. You could just as easily travel to a single city or venue and save money on the extras that come along with a cruise.

The Food!

There is so much delicious food on a cruise. It’s kind of insane. And while there are lots of ways to spend more money and upgrade your dining experience, there are also tons of free options! I’m talking multiple buffets, sit-down dining, pizza, 24-hour room service — all included! The price tag of a cruise might look outrageous at first, compared to your standard hotel or vacation, but you really need to factor in the food you’ll be enjoying throughout your trip.

A word of warning, though. Most cruises are cashless and use ID cards to load your tab for the week. That makes it so easy to rack up charges without realizing it, especially at the bar (or at Starbucks on board). I didn’t drink much on my trip, but I’d recommend keeping an eye on your account if you’re on a budget!


All in all, I’m now a huge cruising fan (and, apparently, evangelist). If you have a reasonable budget and are looking for a good balance of adventure and relaxation, then I’d definitely recommend cruising in your twenties!

Where will your next vacation take you?

Choosing Your 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene

You may have heard of Yoga with Adriene. It’s a YouTube channel with around 2 million followers (at the time of writing) led by quirky, lovable yoga powerhouse Adriene Mishler. (Maybe you’ve read my two previous posts on the subject, here or here? Check these out if you’re curious about my experiences so far.) If you’ve heard of Adriene, then you’ll definitely know about the 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene challenges. They’re guided video practices released daily in January for the past three years.

Each series is available for free on YouTube, and contains 30 (or 31) videos at 15-45 minutes in length. If you sign up on the website, you’ll also receive a daily message to supplement the practice of the day. In January 2015, there was the original 30 Days of Yoga, and in 2016, Adriene released the sequel, 30 Days of Yoga Camp. This year’s series, Yoga Revolution, wrapped up this past week. I’m happy to report that I really enjoyed this year’s practice, but I’m finding that each one is unique, fun, and invigorating in its own way.

Why a 30 day experience? While it’s awesome to practice yoga wherever and whenever it fits into your life, a daily practice provides great structure for growth. This was true for me physically, mentally, and emotionally. Adriene gets into some of this in the intro video for her first series, 30 Days of Yoga:

So what if you’ve just found out about Yoga with Adriene, and want to begin a month-long yoga journey? Should you choose 30 Days of Yoga (2015), Yoga Camp (2016), or Yoga Revolution (2017)?

Naturally, I (and Adriene, I’m sure) would recommend all three — probably in chronological order. But perhaps you’re looking for a particular type of yoga challenge. If that’s the case, I want to provide you with some context and insight to help you choose, based on my own experiences with these three 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene series.

If You’re New to Yoga

My recommendation for newcomers would be the original 30 Days of Yoga. Adriene’s guidance is very clear and informative in this series — but don’t worry, there’s lots of fun and silliness along the way. There’s also a natural progression of difficulty throughout the series. As a relative newbie myself, I found the earlier videos helped me build strength and mindfulness to prepare me for the rest of the series.

If You’re Looking for a Physical Challenge

Is yoga your workout of choice? Awesome! I’d recommend Yoga Camp. I found this series to be the most physically demanding of the three. Like the first challenge, this sequel series provides a ramp up to the more challenging videos. Adriene provides opportunities to practice new, more difficult poses, but also offers modifications as you work towards them.

If You’re Seeking a Journey of Self-Love

Committing to any yoga experience is an act of self-love, but if your ultimate goal is an emotional experience, then Yoga Revolution is for you. This series is the embodiment of Yoga With Adriene’s slogan/mantra, “Find What Feels Good”. The focus is much more on mindfulness, positivity, and “tapping into your inner smile” than the other two 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene experiences.

If You Want a Consistent Practice

Maybe you’re having trouble sticking to those New Year’s Resolutions. (It is February, after all.) If you’re looking to make yoga a daily ritual to carry you into the rest of the year, I’d suggest starting out with 30 Days of Yoga. I found this series to be the most consistent in terms of style and length. The day-to-day cadence of difficulty and focus was also more predictable in this series. This made it easier to fit yoga into my daily schedule. And after these particular 30 days of yoga with Adriene, I felt the most prepared to continue my home practice without YouTube video guidance.

If You’re Looking for Something New

After practicing for a while in a highly structured public yoga class (or the same old YouTube videos), things can start to get stale. Yoga Camp and Yoga Revolution will help you step out of your yoga comfort zone, in slightly different ways. Yoga Camp focuses on the link between mind and body, using mantras to channel energy and breath throughout both gentle and challenging sequences. I found Yoga Revolution to be a bit more instructive, as Adriene discussed alignment, energy, and chakras, for example, throughout the series. Both experiences incorporate a bit of Kundalini Yoga as well, which was new for me, and might be new for you.


I hope these considerations help you Find What Feels Good — whether that’s 30 Days of Yoga, Yoga Camp, or Yoga Revolution! If you’d like, take the next three months and do all three 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene series! Let me know which one(s) you choose! 🙂

Tone It Up Nutrition Plan First Impressions

After weeks of debate, and swooning over nutritious Instagram stories, I finally caved and purchased the Tone It Up Nutrition Plan. That means I’m a full-fledged TIU member! Never thought I’d be saying that, but here we are. Just a few weeks ago I started following along with the Daily Workouts on ToneItUp.com. I’ve really enjoyed the process and the community thus far. So before I get too entrenched in the TIU 2017 Challenge (for better or worse), I thought I’d share my Tone It Up Nutrition Plan first impressions!

 Tone It Up Nutrition Plan First Impressions: 2017 Challenge

Tone It Up Nutrition Plan First Impressions

Curiosity killed the…wallet?

Let’s just start off with the price. This plan is expensive, yo. Dropping $150 (USD, I might add) is a hefty commitment, especially since I’ve never done anything like this before. Can’t I just Google all of this nutrition info? Pull together some recipes on Pinterest and make my own plan for free?

Technically, yes, anyone could do that. The question is whether anyone will — and for me, the answer is a definite “no”. By the time I put in the effort to research which foods I need to fuel my body for mental and physical exercise, I’m already chowing down on Tim Hortons. I have made some healthier choices in recent months, but my self-regulation is my downfall. The convenience of having things explained, and aggregated in one spot is my biggest draw to the Nutrition Plan. I wanted to see whether the layout and guidelines of the plan would work for me.

I also took advantage of the current bundle offer. For $165 I received the Nutrition Plan membership and the Body Love video series. These video workouts currently appear quite often in the 2017 Challenge Daily Workouts. The challenge is already 1/3 of the way through, which is a bummer for the bundle. But from what I saw in December, members-only videos from previous challenges show up pretty often during non-challenge period Daily Workouts. Plus, I can always do the workouts whenever, right? (…Right? Hah. We’ll see about that.)

This Plan is Future-Proof.

Usually, when I’m making a commitment like this one, I’d take forever to come to a decision.

Should I wait until the next challenge comes along? Should I wait until I’ve used up all of the frozen pizzas in my freezer? Should I just try to eat healthy without any Nutrition Plan? (Continue ad nauseam…)

But the payment structure of this plan is a huge plus — or, rather, the lack thereof. It’s one fee. One-time. Flat rate. And you get every Nutrition Plan update and Challenge supplement download, for free, forever. This is perfect whether you just want to dabble, or if you’re an all-in-or-all-out kind of person, like me. Here’s the current spectrum of Plans available to members for download:

 Tone It Up Nutrition Plan First Impressions: All Plans 2017

I likely won’t use all of these, but they’re helpful to have when the opportunities arise. (Granted, TIU Challenges also usually require a paid set of videos, which are not included.)

Nutritional Science(ish).

I read through the “plan” portion of the download (i.e. not the recipes) on Saturday night. The guidelines seem solid, and there’s even some chemistry in there to explain the “why” behind them.

Even though I’ve got a Bachelor of Science, my biochemistry background is super limited. I appreciated the basic explanations Karena & Katrina included in the Nutrition Plan. But then you come across stuff like this:

Fatty acids are broken down by the enzyme hormone-sensitive lipase~ or what we like to call the “Burn Baby Burn Enzyme!”.

My boyfriend was reading over my shoulder and dying of laughter! So take the science sections with a grain of salt…

Meal Prepping is Madness.

My original plan was to dabble in some recipes and try out the Nutrition Plan whenever I could fit it in. But I just knew that I would revert to pasta and takeout, and wouldn’t be giving it a fair shot! So instead, I spent Sunday afternoon grocery shopping and meal prepping, as instructed by the 2017 Challenge Guide.

Wowza.

That grocery run was so expensive! I probably could have guessed. So much healthy food, and some of it premium or organic. Also, I was stocking up on bulk foods that I wouldn’t otherwise have purchased, like coconut shavings and flax seed. (And apple cider vinegar. Apparently that one’s important.)

Joe helped me with some of the meal prepping, since he loves to cook and I’m a mess in the kitchen. But as we all know, practice makes perfect! I made Egg Muffins, Almond Butter Cookies, and Chia Seed Pudding.

Things I Wish I Had Known 24 Hours Ago.

I’ve only had this Nutrition Plan for a day, and it’s already been a learning experience. Here are some things that might be helpful if you’re taking the TIU Nutrition Plan plunge:

Print it out.

If you have an iPad or tablet, you’re probably okay, but it was a nightmare switching between my phone and my laptop all afternoon. There are also printables at the end of the Plan — so at least print those. Plus, there’s just something so comforting about holding the pages in your hands, isn’t there? Okay, maybe that’s just me. I’m thinking of printing and binding mine at Staples ASAP — at least the main Nutrition Plan book, anyway.

Rewrite the grocery list in an order that makes sense for you.

This applies if you’re following a Challenge, like the 2017 Look for Love Challenge, with your meals all laid out. Joe and I kept having to go back for things in the grocery store because we skimmed over an ingredient! Take more time to study the grocery list than I did…

Join the gosh darn challenge on time!

At the end of 2016, I was convinced that my reasons for skipping out on Look for Love were solid. I’m participating in Yoga With Adriene’s Yoga Revolution, and still following the Tone It Up Daily Moves. That’s all the time I have to commit!

But you know what I still had time for?

Facebook.

Netflix.

And lots and lots of dawdling.

So you know what? I’m going to bite the bullet, try something new, and hopefully be healthier for it.


Those are my Tone It Up Nutrition Plan first impressions. To summarize, I’ll say that I’m cautiously optimistic, motivated, and curious! If you have any questions (for a newbie like me), ask away!

(P.S. I also created a TIU Instagram account to document the journey — mostly so I wouldn’t annoy my main account followers, haha! Let’s connect @tiu.hillary)

Are you on the #TIUteam? What were your Tone It Up Nutrition Plan first impressions?

Agendio Planner Review

If you’re like me, one of the most exciting things about the New Year is starting out with a brand new planner! I find that putting my thoughts and commitments down on paper is one of the best ways to get organized. Plus, it’s so satisfying to check items off that pesky To Do list! I went a totally new direction with my 2017 planner than I ever have, so I want to share my Agendio planner review and customization experience.

(Note: this post contains my referral links. I hope this review helps with your planner decisions — thanks for your support!)

What about Erin Condren?

Last year, I was a huge Erin Condren Life Planner fan. I’d been using the planner for six months when I first blogged about it, and continued for another six months before letting the habit drop. (It was an 18-month planner, by the way.) So what happened?

  • It became too bulky and cumbersome for my needs. I couldn’t bring it along to meetings, and I was hesitant to take it home stuffed in my laptop bag every night.
  • The layout was very daily-focused, without much space for weekly lists or notes. With my schedule becoming more erratic, I wasn’t able to assign many tasks to certain days ahead of time.
  • The interchangeable cover was starting to get a little damaged, and I couldn’t justify ordering a new one (especially with shipping costs).

That being said, I’m still a huge fan of Erin Condren’s tools and aesthetic. I will definitely purchase products from the shop again someday, though they might be other types of stationery or accessories.

I started shopping around for my 2017 planner in early November, and I wasn’t finding anything that met all of my requirements. And yes, I may have been nitpicking. But if I’m committing to a planner for the year, I don’t want to compromise! Eventually, I gave up searching for pre-existing planners and just typed into Google, “customizable planners”. There were a few misses as I scrolled through the results, but I found a real winner: Agendio.

Agendio Planner Review

Agendio’s web app allows you to walk through the entire process of building your perfect planner, essentially from scratch. You first choose your general layout: the size, timescale (daily/weekly/monthly) and orientation (horizontal/vertical). From then on, you’re in the driver’s seat. Create customized list areas, add check boxes, manually adjust section sizes or day breakdowns (hourly or into sections), pick your colours and fonts — basically do whatever you want. Click here for a sample of Agendio’s “customer creations” if you want more examples, but I’ll show you my own!

 Agendio Planner Review — Cover

First of all, I selected the smallest size and the leathery binding with small interior rings. I’d heard in an unboxing video on YouTube from MissVickybee that this format felt lighter than it looked, and that’s what I was hoping for! The exterior on this version has the Agendio logo, and the only customization available is the colour. That was fine by me. If you’re looking for something more substantial, the sizes go up to 8.5×11″, and there are customizable laminated covers for the full-spiral binding. (See images of other planners here.)

My weekly layout looks like this:

 Agendio Planner Review — Weekly Layout

If you’re curious, that’s weekly layout Model #32064. I’m also using Enriqueta as my font.

The left-hand side I’ve devoted to daily notes, while the right-hand side is for a weekly overview. There’s space for goal-setting, random notes or doodles, a to do list, blogging ideas, and a weekly thankful thought (borrowed that idea from Erin Condren!). Each of these sections were things I either appreciated or wished for when using other planners. I customized the sizes, lines, and shading for each of the boxes on the right-hand side. The web app was very easy to use as I set up the layout. I’m so excited to use the sections!

Now here’s my monthly layout, Model #32060:

 Agendio Planner Review — Monthly Layout

I was able to customize the look and feel of the page, plus the notes area on the right-hand side, which I’ve kept in list form. Plus, you’ll notice on the 12th that I’ve included my dad’s birthday. You can add your own events to the calendar in weekly or monthly mode (or both), and you can make them recurring if you need to. While I didn’t use the feature very much, I was extremely impressed with it. I can totally see how that would come in handy!

You can set the colour of each month separately, if you wish. I decided to follow the Life Planner trend, giving each month a different colour (dark blue for January, for example). Other than that, though, I will admit that the planners aren’t nearly as colourful as others on the market. No worries! I ordered a bunch of stickers from Amazon last week to spice things up throughout the year. And to accommodate the stickers, I added a cardstock pocket to the back of my Agendio planner (for $3 extra). You can also add an elastic for the cover or coloured monthly tabs for the interior.

If you’ve missed the start of the year to find the perfect planner, fear not! Agendio allows you to choose the starting month of your 12-month planner.

Every Agendio planner review I read before ordering my planner was very positive, and this one is no different. I’m so excited for 2017 — with my new Agendio planner in tow!

What’s your planner of choice this year?

thoughts-on-last-nights-debate

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.

Galavant

 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?

When you’re looking to add a new board game to your home collection, one of the most important things to ensure is that the game won’t get stale. What’s the point in buying a game that gets boring after the first few play-throughs? Joe and I were on the hunt for something fresh and fun this weekend. We landed on Pandemic, a popular cooperative strategy game released in 2007. So far, we’ve played in three different groups: with my family, with his family, and just the two of us. And we had lots of fun each time!

The goal of Pandemic is to save the world from four deadly diseases. You play as a team of specialists with various randomly-assigned skills. As your turns progress, you and your team travel the world to treat these diseases and research their cures. At the same time, new cities are infected and outbreaks spread. It’s a race against the clock and the forces of nature to save the world.

Pandemic is the first cooperative game I’ve ever played. It took some adjustment, but I really enjoyed being able to work with the other players. Instead of competing via psychology and betrayal, your shared enemy is a series of random card draws. That way, the suspense and excitement were equally high for all players. Plus, you can share everything: the cards in your hands, your plans for next turn, and suggestions for your teammates’ moves.

The cooperative gameplay worked best when all players were engaged in the game. That wasn’t always the case, though. But even when a player was distracted or disinterested, they wouldn’t fall behind like they might in other games. The team still could still direction and use that player’s in-game special skills as things progressed.

My favourite part of Pandemic is the role of randomness in providing a unique game experience every time you play. Your strategy will change based on which cities are infected, when your cities have an epidemic, and what your special role will be for the duration of the game. I’ve noticed that some board games get very repetitive the more you play. That’s not the case with Pandemic, especially because you can also adjust the game’s difficulty at the start of each round.

 Pandemic — A Board Game Review

I do have a couple of warnings for new players. First, the game gets harder and the strategies get more intricate as you add additional players. It’s intended for 2-4 players, but we tried playing with 5, which made it much harder (but not impossible). Extra players essentially lengthen the time it takes to execute your strategies, and there are more opportunities for random events to ruin your plans.

Also, be aware of your team composition. Team strategies in cooperative games like Pandemic tend to gravitate toward the suggestions of players with stronger personalities. Do your best to ensure that every player gets a chance to voice their opinions and make decisions with the group.

In short, Pandemic is a great game for groups to have fun and be competitive – but with common goal. It looks a bit daunting at first glance, but the mechanics are really straightforward once you get the hang of the three-stage turn system. I would recommend Pandemic for groups of all kinds!

What are your favourite cooperative board games?