Summer 2016 Recap

This summer was indeed a memorable one. I shared my summer bucket list here on the blog back in May and I managed to accomplish most of what I hoped to. I participated in my third Relay For Life event, read almost all twenty books on my summer reading list, got to know the city even better with an urban scavenger hunt, attended a Toronto Blue Jays game, and ate lots and lots of gelato and ice cream.

It’s officially fall and it certainly feels like it (Today is 64 degrees), so I’m saying goodbye to summer with a roundup of my favourite summer memories…

pre-survivor-speech

A quick selfie with Winston Sih before sharing my cancer experience during the opening ceremonies. I was asked to be the survivor speaker at this year’s Toronto Relay For Life. It was simultaneously the most terrifying and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. My hands wouldn’t stop shaking and I got all emotional, but it was 150% worth it. From my speech: “To me, Relay is all about community. And being a part of this community has taught me that it’s okay to not be okay; it’s okay to be vulnerable.”

toronto-relay-for-life-survivor-lap

Kicking off my third Relay For Life by walking the Survivor Lap with my fellow survivors. The lovely event day volunteers handed out yellow roses to survivors at the starting line. It was incredibly moving.

Union Summer

I spent a lot of time at the Union Summer Market and discovered Toronto food vendors like Heirloom Toronto and Death in Venice Gelato Company.

jerk-duck-confit-sandwich

The most amazing, melts-in-your-mouth Jerk Duck Confit sandwich from Heirloom Toronto Food Truck.

cold-brew-espresso-gelato

Beating the heat with Cold Brew Espresso & Nutella + Cookies gelato from Death in Venice Gelato Company. Because two scoops are always better than one!

graffiti-spotting-during-urban-scavenger-hunt

Graffiti spotting on our urban scavenger hunt in Kensington-Chinatown. I know the area pretty well, but I discovered so many new-to-me spots! I’ve been meaning to do a scavenger hunt for years and I’m glad I can finally cross it off the bucket list!

station-cold-brew-coffee-and-my-favourite-summer-read

Relaxing by the waterfront with Station Cold Brew’s Signature Cold Brew coffee and one of my favourite summer reads, Food and the City by Ina Yalof.

cheering-on-the-jays

Cheering on the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. Go Jays Go! It was my first game in eight years!

business-cards

Celebrating the arrival of my business cards. I’m officially part of the team at Pom Health and Wellness!

toronto-music-garden

I spent lots of time exploring the absolutely gorgeous Toronto Music Garden.

roxy-fitness-event

Checking out the Roxy Fitness event at Woodbine Beach. It was such a fun event and I’ll definitely be participating next year!

the-secret-scripture-premiere

Scenes from the TIFF 16 red-carpet premiere of The Secret Scripture. Rooney Mara, Jack Reynor, Eric Bana and Vanessa Redgrave star in this adaptation of Sebastian Barry’s award-winning novel from Oscar-nominated director Jim Sheridan.

What’s your most memorable summer moment? I’d love to hear!

Life at the moment

waterfront-views

What I’m working on…

Getting back into my ballet routine. Back in May, I started getting terrible headaches, feeling dizzy (even while sitting), and incredibly exhausted even after sleeping for 8 hours. In June, I did a blood test which showed that my iron was extremely low (It was sitting at 8!) I took a two-month break from ballet and focused on getting my iron levels up. It was a difficult but necessary decision. I started taking heme iron supplements daily, incorporating iron-rich foods into my diet, making sure I was getting enough sleep at night, and drinking more water than I’ve ever drank before. It’s been a rocky road but I’m happy to report that I’ve got my energy back, I haven’t had a headache in months, and I’ve taken three ballet classes since mid-August!

Go-to snack foods…

G.H. Cretors Chicago Mix (Buttery caramel corn & aged cheddar cheese corn). A friend introduced me to it a couple of years ago and I fell in love! It’s the perfect solution for when you can’t decide whether you’re craving something sweet or salty (Or does that only happen to me?) I also love Brookside dark chocolate-covered goji and raspberry. Soooo good.

Favourite Juicery…

Village Juicery at Yonge and Eglinton. I’m a huge fan of their cold pressed juices. Be Calm (celery, pineapple, fennel, cucumber, and mint) is my go-to juice when I’m feeling dehydrated. It’s incredibly refreshing and a great source of iron, calcium, and magnesium. Yesterday, I was feeling a bit tired so I stopped in for a pick-me-up. The nutritionist recommended one of their plant milks, Be Happy. It’s packed with cashews, alkaline water, maple syrup, Himalayan pink salt, and cacao nibs. I’m not kidding; my spirits lifted after just one sip! I’m going nuts over this healthy, decadent treat.

What I’m watching…

I’ve been catching up on movie-watching. Over the past few months, I’ve watched Still Alice, While We’re Young, Me Before You (I bawled my eyes out), Finding Dory, London Has Fallen, and American Sniper. Lately, I’ve been in the mood for documentaries. A few on my watch-list: Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Half the Sky, Taxi to the Dark Side, and Stories We Tell.

Currently reading…

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm, The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman from my summer reading list.

Must-have beauty products…

Vichy Cleansing Foam, NeoStrata Crystals and Activator, Revlon Ultra HD Lipstick in Iris, Cover Girl Lashblast Mascara in Black-Brown.

Habits I want to break…

Checking Instagram first thing in the morning (It’s like an addiction). Also, consuming way too much sugar.

Habits I want to keep…

When I was dealing with low iron issues, I felt dehydrated most of the time and it forced me to start drinking lots of water. I’ve been drinking at least 7 glasses a day and hopefully I’ll keep it up! Also, before I do anything else in the mornings, I jot down all the things (big and small) I’m thankful for in my journal. This simple task has made a world of difference in the way my day unfolds. Gratitude is really so important!

What I’m going to miss the most about summer…

Food trucks, unwinding on rooftop patios, eating outdoors, reading in the park, walking everywhere, relaxing by the lake, eating scoops and scoops of ice cream, the breathtaking sunsets.

I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to lately. Feel free to share in the comments.

Summer 2016 Bucket List

Sherwood Forest

Victoria Day long weekend marks the official kickoff to summer. It was a gorgeous one with lots of sunshine, blue skies, dining on patios, and watching fireworks on the beach. Today is another 80 degree day and I’m dreaming of all things summer!

Last night I jotted down the things I am most excited to do this summer and I thought I’d share my list with you. Without further adieu, my summer bucket list…

  1. Go on an urban scavenger hunt
  2. Check out an adult colouring and cocktails night
  3. Attend a food truck festival
  4. Lots of patio lounging
  5. Tree-top obstacle courses and zip lining at Tree Top Eco-Adventure Park
  6. Go to at least one sporting event (Toronto Blue Jays game on August 10!)
  7. Visit at least one provincial park
  8. Learn how to standup paddle board
  9. Beat the heat with lots and lots of gelato and ice cream
  10. Read 20 books from the list of 100 books I’m reading this year
  11. Grab a blanket and go stargazing
  12. Sign up for an aerial silks workshop at The Extension Room (finally!)
  13. Spend the day at Allan Gardens
  14. Go biking along the Evergreen Brickworks Trail
  15. Go kayaking
  16. Take a trip to the zoo (I haven’t been in ages!)
  17. Go on a wine tour

Do you make summer plans or prefer to go with the flow? I’d love to hear what you’re most excited about this summer!

Relay For Life 2016 in Toronto

hope

Relay For Life 2016 in Toronto, the Canadian Cancer Society’s annual signature fundraising event will be taking place on Saturday, June 18, 2016 from 6pm to 12am at Downsview Park.

Why I Relay?

In the summer of 2011, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The following summer, I was declared cancer-free. In 2014, I joined the North York Relay For Life committee and helped organize my first Relay For Life event. It was an unforgettable, life-changing, and incredibly emotional experience (tears were shed).

This June, I’ll be walking the track with my teammates at my third Relay For Life event. All money raised will go towards funding Canada’s most promising cancer research and vital support services for Canadians living with cancer. Services like the Wheels of Hope Transportation Service, the patient transportation program where volunteers drive cancer patients to life-saving appointments and the Peer Support Program which connects those who have been recently diagnosed and caregivers with a trained volunteer who has “been there.”

Upon diagnosis and during the year and a half I lived with cancer, I had no clue these services even existed. If I had, I would have definitely used them.

As a peer support volunteer and Relay For Life committee member, I feel extremely fortunate to be able to use my cancer experience to help those fighting this horrible disease.

Relay For Life is all about family and building community. The friendships I’ve made through volunteering, my fellow Relay For Life committee members, and the opportunity to meet all the brave Relay participants, survivors, and their loved ones on event day keep me coming back year after year.

With only 74 days to go until Relay For Life in Toronto, I’m inviting you to join me on track and accept the baton by registering as a team captain, participant, survivor, or volunteer.

Support me on the road to Relay by donating to my fundraising goal. Thanks in advance!

Who will you relay for?

(Photo snapped at the start of the luminary ceremony at Relay For Life 2014 in North York.)

2016 Goals

Big Christmas Lights

At the beginning of each year, I spend a few days thinking about the areas of my life I’d like to grow in and the new things I’d love to try before the year is out. In an attempt to streamline things a bit, this year’s list is significantly shorter than lists from previous years. Here’s a look at my goals for 2016…

1. Watch my words

Our words are powerful. We can choose to use them to build others up or tear others down. Last spring, I picked up Karen Ehman’s life-changing book, Keep it Shut: What to Say, When to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All and finished it in less than a week.

The chapters on gossip (what it is and what it isn’t), being a better listener, and controlling your digital tongue really convicted me. It challenged me to make an effort to listen to others when they’re speaking without interrupting (difficult for me as I can be a bit of a talker, but working on it), recognize when to speak up and when to remain silent, and think carefully before I post (or leave a comment) on social media.

2. Practice being content in every situation

When hard times come (and they will), it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling sorry for ourselves. Life is filled with ups and downs, highs and lows. In 2015, I learned what it truly means to be content in good times and especially in bad times. Trials teach us how to be patient and persevere and equip us with the necessary experience to comfort and encourage others when they’re going through tough times.

3. Read more good books

Last year, I rediscovered my love of reading. Once I started reading, I just couldn’t stop and I ended up reading 57 books in 2015. Thanks to the MMD 2015 reading challenge, I had access to book recommendations from fellow book lovers. We shared books we read and loved (or hated) and this made deciding which books to read and which ones to skip that much easier. The challenge categories also pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and read books I wouldn’t normally give the time of day.

For 2016, I plan on reading 100 books. Once again, I’ve joined the MMD 2016 reading challenge and I’m loving the new categories like ‘a book published before you were born’, ‘a book that was banned at some point’, and ‘a book that intimidates you’.

4. Stay active in every season (not just when the weather permits)

In January 2015, I promised myself I would start going back to ballet. While I got over my fear and started dancing again, I didn’t go as often as I would have liked. In the winter, I would complain about the cold and use it as an excuse not to leave my apartment.

This year, I plan on going to class at least 3 times a week, no matter the weather. I went ice skating on New Year’s Eve (I hadn’t gone in two years!) and I had such a blast. I’ll definitely be incorporating it into my winter fitness routine.

5. Take mini trips throughout the year

After my spontaneous trip to New York for Christmas vacation, I’ve caught the travel bug. I’m already making a list of possible vacation destinations within Canada and overseas. A ski weekend at Blue Mountain Ski Resort in Collingwood and a long-overdue trip to Vancouver in the summer top the list.

What are your goals for 2016? I’d love to hear in comments.

(Photo of gigantic Christmas lights snapped while exploring NYC over the holidays.)

Sunshine Award ~ Keep smiling, keep shining!

Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you. – Walt Whitman

sunshine-award

It’s pretty cold and gloomy here today and I was feeling a bit under the weather until I received a really sweet comment on one of my posts. Kelly of 365 Days of Thank You nominated me for a Sunshine Award! Kelly has made it her mission to thank 365 different people who have helped her become the person she is today. This is such an amazing idea. Her post The “C” Word really hit home for me! I was shocked by how similar our experiences were from diagnosis to surgery to recovery. It’s such a blessing to be able to connect with someone who also fought and beat thyroid cancer.

I started this blog just a little over a month ago to share my experiences, both good and bad. At first, I wasn’t sure if I had much to say but as it turns out I really do! I enjoy writing every day and it truly has been a blessing. I’m grateful for everyone who reads my posts and finds them interesting and “inspirational”.

Now it’s time to spread the sunshine!

The rules are:

1. Include the Sunshine Award icon in your post
2. Link to the blogger who nominated you
3. Answer 10 questions about yourself
4. Nominate 10 other bloggers to receive the award
5. Link to your nominees and let them know you nominated them.
6. Answer the 10 questions at the bottom and create 10 questions for your nominees to answer.

So 10 Questions About Me:

1.  What famous figure, living or dead, would you like to share a meal with?

Hmmmm… tough question. I would have to choose Nick Vujicic. He is so inspirational. Nic was born without arms or legs but he refuses to let his physical condition limit his lifestyle. He’s an author, musician, actor and motivational speaker. It would be such an honour to sit down and have a conversation with him. And Nic, if you’re reading this, feel free to contact me:)

2.  If you were an instrument in an orchestra, what would you be?

I would definitely be a violin.

3.  What is your favorite Ben and Jerry’s flavor?

Ben and Jerry’s isn’t my top ice cream pick. But my favorite ice cream flavor in general would be….do I really have to choose?! Ok fine.. I guess it would be Amaretto:)

4.  Favorite way to travel: plane, train, or automobile?

I love traveling by train! I used to take the VIA Rail from London, Ontario to Toronto at least once a month while at university. I love watching the lush greenery go by.

5.  Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts?

Starbucks all the way!

6.  How do you “pay it forward”?

I really love volunteering! Right now, I spend a great deal of time volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society. I just want to use my cancer experience to help others.

7.  What must you have on your iPod?

I actually don’t own an iPod right now. I still listen to *N Sync a lot and Justin Timberlake. I’m also a huge oldies fan. I love disco, 80’s freestyle and every Prince song there is.

8.  Why do you blog?

I blog to share my experiences with others. If reading about my experiences helps someone out or makes someone smile, I’m happy. It’s also been a great outlet for me. My mind is always going a mile a minute and instead of driving my friends crazy with my ramblings, I just write everything down. They still read my blog though:)

9.  Where do you go when you want to get away?

When I want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, I usually take the ferry over to Toronto Islands. It’s like being transported to a different world. I love walking along the boardwalk and watching the sailboats go by. It’s so serene.

10.  Best movie, ever?

Ahhhhh… this is the most difficult question anyone could ever ask me! I have so many favourites…but if I had to choose just one it would be Life as a House. Kevin Kline is such an amazing actor! I’ve watched it a million times and it never gets old. I’m a real softie and I love movies that make me cry.

The bloggers that bring a bit of sunshine to my days are:

Peace Love Lauren

Put the Kettle On

A Spoonful of Style

1 Quest to the Next

Five Degrees of Chaos

Turquoise Compass

Read, Sugar

Feet from Shore

A Beautiful Little Adventure

NYC Expeditionist

Joanna Loves

10 Questions for My Nominees:

1. What’s the most difficult thing you’ve ever experienced and how did it change you?

2. What’s the number one thing on your bucket list?

3. Why did you start blogging?

4. If you could witness any historical moment, which would you choose?

5. If you could meet one person in the world who would it be and why?

6. What sound do you absolutely love?

7. Best book you’ve ever read?

8. If you won the lottery today, what is the first thing you would do?

9. Favorite vacation spot?

10. What was the last movie you watched that made you cry?

Why I volunteer

Sympathy is no substitute for inaction. – David Livingstone

I guess I first felt the need to serve and give back to the community while in high school. As a member of Key Club International, my fellow keyclubbers and I would perform acts of community service, such as collecting clothing, visiting the elderly in nursing homes, planning Christmas treats for children’s homes and organizing food drives.

After university, I participated in organizing a few fundraisers here and there and volunteering at local food banks but didn’t involve myself as much as I could have.

Since my cancer diagnosis last year, I suddenly felt this overwhelming desire to serve. What better way to do so than to volunteer with the Canadian Cancer Society I thought. After all I’d been through over the past year and a half, I wanted to help others fighting this terrible disease and offer hope in anyway I could. So in February of this year, I attended a volunteer information session and the rest, as they say, is history!

Along with 10 other volunteers, I’ve been planning Bark for Life, a canine fundraising walk for people and their pooches to raise funds and awareness for the Canadian Cancer Society. There are many cancer survivors who do not have family or friends but have canine caregivers. Bark for Life gives them the opportunity to celebrate their own victory against the disease and acknowledge their dog’s role in their life.

After seven months of intense planning, promoting and approaching random people on the street, the big day is almost here! Three days away to be exact. The response has been overwhelming. Pet stores, coffee shops, groomers all wanted to get involved and signed on as sponsors. Businesses have donated chew toys and other merchandise for prizes, samples of doggy treats and most important, their time.

While I’m looking forward to finding out if we reached our fundraising goal, I’m most excited to see the looks on the faces of survivors who’ll be kicking off the walk. I’m sure it’ll be a very emotional experience.

Stay tuned for photos from the event!