5 Ways To Make Toronto (Or Any Big City) Feel Smaller

Nathan Philips Square at Toronto City Hall
Nathan Philips Square at Toronto City Hall

Ever feel like Toronto is getting too big, too busy, and too hard to get around? Well, you’re not alone. In 2016, the census metropolitan area of Toronto was almost 6 million and is growing at a faster rate than the national average. In fact, Toronto ranks as North America’s 4th largest city in terms of population, according to the Economic Intelligence Unit, after Mexico City, New York, and Los Angeles.

I love living in a big city. There are always new exhibitions to see, restaurants to try, and quaint neighborhoods to discover. In fact, I often feel there are so many options to choose from, and that I miss out on some fantastic opportunities because I just can’t be in two places at the same time!

One of the things that I’d like to share more with you, the readers of my blog, is how to live slow and intentionally. I didn’t realize there was a term for how I like to live. I’m an emotional person, love connecting with people, and tend to overthink things. But I also appreciate all the things life has to offer, the big and the small, the material and the immaterial. I like being alone as much as I like being with others. And, I like walking outside as much as I can, enjoying nature and just feeling a part of the world. Yes, even in a big city, you can experience much of mother nature. Continue reading


7 Reasons I Love Visiting With Family

Broummana, Lebanon
Broummana, Lebanon

7 Reasons I Love Visiting With Family

In the last month, I’ve visited with family in two very different parts of the world, and I wanted to share with you why I loved these two family visits. In early March, I went to Lebanon to visit my parents, brothers, and extended family, and, in late March, we went to the US to visit my husband’s family. Although these trips were in places far apart from each other, the reasons I enjoyed the visits are very similar.

As part of being mindful of how I spend my time, I really paid attention to the visits I had and why they were so important and meaningful. Visiting family seems like something you do because it’s associated with a certain holiday or milestone. Sometimes you feel like you need to make these visits out of obligation or expectations. Sometimes you love making the trips and taking the effort. And, sometimes, you’re just so darn grateful for the opportunities and savor each moment. The latter is how I felt in the last month.

Here are the 7 reasons I loved visiting with family recently. I hope they inspire you to plan more visits!

Reason 1: My family is a part of my history
This sounds so obvious, but it’s really deeper than having people who are related to you. I’m talking about the family resemblance, the common cultural background, a country’s understood traditions, and the feeling of connectedness. When you’re around your immediate and extended family, you see where some of your mannerisms and points of reference come from. For example, in Lebanon, we’re a bit of loud family. We yell from room to room or outside to someone in the garden. The neighbors pretty much know what we’re up to! In my family in particular, we are bitterly honest with each other and we tell it like it is. For spouses and in-laws, this may seem harsh at times, but it’s what we’re used to and how we grew up. It’s done lovingly, really. Engaging in this banter made me understand that growing up like this was normal for me, but that it might not seem so normal to my nuclear family of my husband and two teens, or for my in-laws. Continue reading


Sharing the ‘Little Things’ That Made Me Happy In A 24 Hour Period!

Enjoying the little things in life

When you enjoy the little things in life, you feel happier. It sounds simple, and it is. You know what I’m talking about: the little things like appreciating a blue sky after a few days of rain, walking around comfortably in above zero temperatures after weeks of freezing weather, and engaging in a pleasant 15 minute conversation with your teen.

In today’s busy world, I feel like I’m always on the go and that I don’t have a second to myself. Well, in the last few days, I’ve enjoyed a lot of little things that have made me happy, despite running around and overscheduling my time. Perhaps inspired by the little notebook I picked up from the dollar store recently or perhaps inspired by mindfully appreciating every moment I have with friends and family, I thought I would share the simple things that brought me joy over a 24 hour period.

Here are the little things that made me happy over the course of a day: Continue reading


5 Tips For Hosting An 18th Surprise Birthday Party!

My oldest daughter turns 18 in February and we decided to throw her a surprise 18th birthday party. She’s got a lot going on during her last year in high school including balancing school, social life, and university applications. We knew she wouldn’t have time to plan something that we could work on together, so I thought it best to throw her a surprise. I’m glad we did, because, a few days after her party, she said that she would not have had time to plan a party on her own.

I’d never thrown a surprise party at home before, so this was new to me. The hardest part was hiding some of the decorations and the cake, as well as orchestrating her being out of the house. Also, having 3 hours to decorate and get the food and activities ready was quite a challenge. But, I had lots of people helping me and it all worked out. I think the main thing to keep in mind is that kids like to be together, no matter what the occasion.

Here are my 5 tips for throwing a successful 18th surprise birthday party: Continue reading


7 Holiday Gift Ideas Inspired By The Toronto Gift Fair!

It’s mid-November which means it’s the Christmas and holiday season everywhere you look! Given that clothing, shoe, electronic, department, and jewelry stores derive anywhere from 20-30% of their annual revenue from holiday sales, it makes sense that stores are heavily promoting gift-giving!

And, for us consumers, getting a head start on holiday shopping is always a good way to enjoy a stress-free holiday season. I’m always amazed by my friends and family who are so ahead of the game. You know what I mean: that friend whose house is all decorated by December 1st and whose shopping list is done. This is the friend who’s enjoying the holidays the way they’re meant to be enjoyed: relaxing in front of the fireplace and listening to Christmas carols – doing anything except shopping at the mall! Every year, I say I’m going to get more and more things done ahead of time, and I do a pretty decent job, especially with my holiday baking! (more on this in a future post).

Because buying gifts is the most time-consuming and most difficult part of the holiday season, I thought I’d suggest some ideas for preparing and completing your list. Here are some ways to think about your holiday gifts, as inspired by the Toronto Gift Fair. Continue reading


My Basic Morning Skin Care Routine

Body Shop Tea Tree Skin Clearing Facial Wash, Reversa Cleansing Micellar Solution, Reversa Solution for Oily and Acne Prone Skin, Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen
Body Shop Tea Tree Skin Clearing Facial Wash, Reversa Cleansing Micellar Solution, Reversa Solution for Oily and Acne Prone Skin, Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen Lotion

This is my first beauty post!

I thought I’d dip my toe into the beauty blogging world and share some of my favorite go-to products, starting with five that are part of my morning skin care routine. I’ll share more in upcoming posts, so stay tuned!

I wouldn’t describe myself as having beautiful skin. I battled acne as a teen and in my early twenties and I was very self-conscious about it. It defined who I was for a few years. I was on a couple of different medications until I found the right one. And, finding the right one was a game changer for me. Then, things settled down, acne-wise, but I experience breakouts from time to time. Over the years, I’ve figured out what works for me and why. I’m very picky about the products I use in terms of how they address acne and oily skin: they can’t feel oily on my skin. The less greasy they feel, the more likely I will be to incorporate them into a regular skin care routine!

Let’s start with these five items that are part of my daily skin care routine. Continue reading


Always With Love

It’s Valentine’s Day and last year I wrote a post (link here) about why I’m okay with Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day is as good a day as any to talk about love because every day is a good day to talk about love. But, what is love, really? It’s lots of things and it’s about describing how you feel about lots of things. It’s about falling in love with a person or your first-born child. It’s about loving something inanimate like your first home. It’s about forgiving people and accepting them for who they are, and that, to me, is the most important part.

The title of this post comes from my Dad, who, since I’ve become a parent, has repeated to me: ‘always with love’. By this, he refers to how I parent, discipline, guide, and teach my kids things. It’s so hard to be patient, to forgive the things your kids say to you or about you. It’s so hard to punish or tell a child you don’t approve of what they’re doing, nicely. But, that’s what you have to do, and, to do it properly, you have to do it with love. Continue reading


The Chevrolet Volt And The Perks Of Going Electric

Do you have an electric or hybrid car? Have you ever thought about owning an electric car? My family doesn’t own one, but after recently test driving the Chevrolet Volt, I’m wondering why it’s taken me so long to seriously think about the perks of owning an electric car.

We’re in a car industry revolution now, like it or not. The rules of the game in vehicle technology and how we think about transportation in general have changed significantly over the last few years.

Not only do we have connected cars, but automated or self-driving cars are here, with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers forecasting 75% of cars on the road will be automated by 2040. And, electric cars are becoming easier and more economical to own, in part due to advances in clean energy, increased battery life, and wider availability of charging stations in buildings and malls.

Given all of these exciting advancements, my husband and I were definitely interested in test-driving the latest Chevrolet Volt at Hogan Chevrolet, in Scarborough, Ontario. Continue reading


New Year’s Resolutions, Goals, or Both?

Happy New Year to all of my readers!

How do you feel about a new year? How do you feel about making New Year’s Resolutions? If you made any last year, did you keep them? Do you set New Year’s Goals as well?

To quickly answer these questions: I find new years and new beginnings to be generally exciting and hopeful. I’m okay with making some New Year’s Resolutions and managed to keep most of mine from 2016. As for New Year’s Goals, I think they’re as important as resolutions. When I asked my family if they thought there was a difference, we all agreed that resolutions are more like daily habits we want to work on while goals are longer term items we work towards that can be measured and tracked. (If you want to read more about setting goals, you can check out this link to the Mind Tools website.)

As I look back on 2016, I would say that I had a great year, for which I feel lucky given the many terrorist attacks and tragedies we saw. I traveled more than ever, which is a big deal for me as I overcame a lot of anxiety over traveling by plane. I caught up with more family and friends than ever, and I’m so happy about being in touch with them more regularly, thanks to social media and long distance conversations over the phone or WhatsApp. And, I got to spend time blogging, connecting with new people, and learning a lot about freelance writing. Continue reading


Seven Tips For Hosting a Stress-Free Holiday Party

fullsizerender-29For the past few years, I’ve hosted a holiday luncheon for about 40-50 people, kids included. It’s the one big party I have every year to invite the people that have included us in their family celebrations throughout the year and that we see on a regular basis.

The first year or two, the party planning was stressful, mainly because I wasn’t equipped with all of the plates, cutlery, serving dishes, chafing dishes, and coffee maker that I needed and I wasn’t sure about the timing of getting things done. Recently, though, I’ve figured out how to make it as stress-free as possible and I can say that this year’s party was the easiest. It only took 5 years, but that’s okay! If you’re considering hosting some form of holiday party, I hope some of these tips will help:

Tip 1: Give as much notice of the party as possible. I try to give the guests about 3-4 weeks’ notice. Because I hold the party at least 3 weeks before Christmas, most of the guests are still ‘free’ and not caught up in the holiday shopping or other parties. It’s also a fun way for you and the guests to ease into the holiday season.

Tip 2: Start cleaning out the freezer and fridge two weeks before the party. Go through the fridge and freezer and make a mental note of what you can use in the next week or two and toss what is expired. Start buying fewer perishable items like fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products, so that your fridge remains clean and empty. Cook meals that won’t have too many leftovers.  And, consider ordering in or eating out for the last two days before the party… bonus for you and the husband and kids!

fullsizerender-31Tip 3: Bake ahead. Sounds easy enough, but this means that your freezer, from the tip one above, has been cleared out and can handle all of the desserts you are making ahead and freezing. It also means you have made a list of the desserts you are planning on making and that you have on hand storage containers, plastic wrap, waxed paper, and all of the required baking ingredients. Start baking two weeks ahead so the last week can be spent on prepping the house and buying fresh food for the party. Continue reading