Great summer reads

7 August 2018 | 0 Comments

I have been actively trying to read more fiction this summer, purely for the enjoyment of it. It feels like such an indulgence and makes me happy.

I’ve recently enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and An Ocean of Minutes (although it nearly broke my heart, it was worth it). What are you reading this summer? Have you read Crazy Rich Asians? I can’t wait for the movie.

 

 

 

Trip planning tip: make your own Google Map

24 June 2018 | 0 Comments

We leave for Scotland in one week (huzzah!) so I’m deep in last minute trip planning mode. One way I keep track of all the restaurants, attractions and things we want to hit is by making a custom Google Map. It’s really easy to do – go to Google’s My Maps tool and create a map. Start searching and dropping pins. You can colour code and categorize them. You can invite others to collaborate on the map, and also share a view-only link.

If you want to see some of our plans for this Scotland trip, check out the map I’ve made here. And to check out our travels, follow along on my Instagram.

36 hours in Asheville, North Carolina

10 June 2018 | 0 Comments

Ian had a milestone birthday last month, and to celebrate, we went on a little getaway. Ian has wanted to visit Asheville, North Carolina for a while. For those that don’t know about craft beer, it sounds like an odd choice for a destination… but the small mountain town has 28 (!) craft breweries. Visiting Asheville is a pilgrimage for Ian, who loves craft brewing.

I coordinated all the details for a 2-night getaway, and wasn’t going to tell Ian where we were going until we got to the airport. But a few days before the trip I noticed that he wasn’t getting excited because he had no idea where we were headed. So I decided to tell him so he could do some reading online and prepare. As much as I loved the idea of making the trip a true surprise, I realized that I was robbing Ian of the fun of anticipation. So I spilled the beans. He was so excited!

We flew from Toronto to Atlanta, and then on to the little regional airport in Asheville. There is Uber in Asheville, and the downtown area is walkable. But if you want to venture further out, I recommend getting a rental car at the airport.

After dropping our bags at an adorable Airbnb, we drove to the Grove Park Inn for a drink on their impressive stone patio, with views out to the Blue Ridge mountains. Asheville is steeped in history, and that includes the Grove Park. It has been a stylish destination for dignitaries, celebrities and artists for decades. It’s where F. Scott Fitzgerald stayed when visiting his beloved Zelda while she was in a sanatorium in Asheville. After our drinks, we wandered around the hotel, looking at century-old photos and the gorgeous Arts and Craft style architecture and furnishings.

We left the Grove Park and drove to Sierra Nevada’s new North Carolina brewing facility, where they have an onsite brew pub. We ate outside, savouring the sweet, warm air as I had a half-pint (I was driving) and Ian enjoyed some beer tastings. Sierra Nevada is family friendly (there’s a little playground and sandbox on site), and dog-friendly. It has a super chill vibe with a giant outdoor fire pit and Adirondack chairs.

The next morning we toured the Biltmore Estate. It’s HUGE and beautifully restored. The audio tour of the manor takes a couple hours, and then we walked around the gardens. There were glass sculpture installations by Dale Chihuly all around the Estate. Gorgeous!

That took us into the early afternoon, so we headed back to downtown Asheville for a late lunch at Asheville Brewing Company. They make tasty pizzas and serve them to you on picnic tables in their covered patio area. Is there anything better than pizza and beer? After lunch we had a little nap and then it was time to start our epic beer crawl.

Many of the breweries in Asheville are walking distance from each other, in the South Slope neighbourhood. We planned our route so we’d start at one end, hitting as many spots as we could handle, moving downhill the whole way (the neighbourhood isn’t called South Slope for nothing – it’s hilly). We hit up Hi-Wire, Bhramari, and Wicked Weed for delicious and innovative brews.

By the time we got to Catawba, we were hungry again. Luckily it’s next door to Buxton Hall BBQ, and you can place a take-out order and then bring the food over to the brewery to eat with your beers. I know I said there’s nothing better than pizza and beer. Except for North Carolina BBQ and beer. That is perfection. We continued on to Green Man and Burial Beer Co. before I tapped out. A short Uber ride took us back to our Airbnb, where we relaxed on the cozy screened porch before calling it a night.

The next morning we caught our flights home from Asheville to Atlanta and back to Toronto. We probably could have used another day in Asheville to explore more, but the 36 hours we had really were fantastic. A birthday trip neither of us will forget.

The best TV show I’ve seen in a while

7 June 2018 | 0 Comments

Have you heard about the BBC America show, Killing Eve? It was created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who wrote and starred in Fleabag (another TV show I adored).

Killing Eve stars Sandra Oh as a recent addition to MI-6 who is tracking down a sassy, stylish psychopathic assassin played by Jodie Comer. The show isn’t for the faint-of-heart as some of the killings are pretty violent. But it’s gripping and fresh, and worth watching for the performances and writing alone.

I was on a few long-haul flights recently and watched all 8 episodes in 24 hours. I was hooked! Highly, highly recommended.

How do you keep track of your tasks?

12 May 2018 | 0 Comments

I live for lists. Ian makes fun of me for the epic lists I make before family trips – lists of what to pack for each family member, lists of what to do to prep the house for our departure, etc. I make lists for professional tasks, personal things that need to be done, books I want to read, TV shows to watch, links I want to revisit… it goes on and on. I have to write it all down so the information isn’t clogging up my brain. It’s part of a method I learned a few years ago called Getting Things Done.

I keep my everyday to-do list in an app called Todoist. I have it on all my devices, so I can access it from anywhere. I also have a Todoist “skill” setup with my Amazon Echo smart speaker, so I can say, “Alexa, add an item to my to-do list” and then dictate it. All the tasks end up on the Todoist to-do list, and if it’s not there, it’s not gonna get done.

Jocelyn K Glei, the host of the Hurry Slowly podcast and author of a bunch of great books on creativity and productivity, has a weekly email newsletter I enjoy. In this week’s email, she included a link to a blog post proposing a 2-column to-do list. The idea is to make an “easy” column and a “hard” column. Things like “book doctor’s appointment” go in the easy column, and they can be accomplished when you have low energy or just a few spare moments. Things like “write proposal for new project” go in the hard column, because they require time, focus, and energy.

I thought the 2-column concept sounded like a cool idea, but then I realized I sort tasks this way already. I put the hard (aka important) tasks at the top of my list each day, and try to hit those first thing in the morning when I have the most energy. Then I backload my to-do list with the other things, knowing I won’t go for those until later in the day when I’m feeling drained.

How do you keep track of your tasks and lists? Do you have a specific methodology?

[photo via]

Girlfriend getaways in Prince Edward County

5 May 2018 | 0 Comments

Every year, my BFFs and I do a weekend getaway together. This year we’re going to Prince Edward County for the third year in a row. We love the towns, restaurants, wineries and countryside – it’s the perfect place for a mini-vacay with friends.

Someone asked me recently for recommendations for a girlfriend’s getaway in PEC, so I figured I would share my picks with all of you.

Full home accommodations (for groups):

The group I travel with is 6 women, so we’re more comfortable in a whole-home rental (as opposed to everyone staying in hotel rooms). Last year we rented this historic farmhouse in Quinte West, about 30 minutes north of Prince Edward County. The classic Canadiana decor is so fun, and we had a blast chilling by the pool with floaties. The large front porch has a hammock and lots of seating – perfect for spending afternoons chatting and drinking all the wonderful wine we purchased in the county.

This year we’ve rented this adorable farmhouse near Picton. No pool this year, but the hot tub more than makes up for it.

Hotels:

The Drake Devonshire is the place to be in Prince Edward County. Right in the heart of adorable Wellington, with its spectacular on-site restaurant, the Drake is fantastic. But it only has 13 or so rooms, so snagging a reservation can be tricky.

The June Motel is a great value option for groups. The owners took a mid-century motor lodge, right in the middle of wine country, and turned it into a hip, retro modern motel.

Bed and breakfasts:

For traditional bed and breakfast accommodation, the Edward and Thyme Again Gardens are both amazing options.

Where to eat and drink:

Me and my pals build our itinerary around mealtimes and wine tours. Everything else is just hang-out time. In the past, our favourite wineries to visit are Hinterland, Norman Hardie, and my personal fave, Rosehall Run (I buy their Hungry Point Sauvignon Blanc by the case).  This year we’re looking to expand that list a bit – I’ll report again in June with an update.

A lot of the wineries have food options onsite. Our favourite so far is the pizza oven at Norman Hardie. They have a casual outdoor restaurant with wood-fired pizza, which pairs perfectly with a glass of wine and a view of the vineyards.

The restaurant at the Drake Devonshire Inn is fantastic, for dinner, lunch or weekend brunch. Make reservations though – it’s a hot spot. I love the breakfasts at Enid Grace cafe in Wellington. And ice cream from Slicker’s in Bloomfield or Picton is an absolute must.

There’s a fantastic Farmer’s Market in Wellington on Saturdays and Sundays. You can pick up farm fresh food and take it back to your accommodation for your own feast. Pair that with a bottle (or three) of local wine and you’re set. Seriously, is there anything better than good food, good wine, and time spent with friends?

 

PS – A weekend in Prince Edward County with a 6-year old

Podcasts I’m loving these days

8 April 2018 | 0 Comments

Which podcasts are you loving these days? I have my regular tech industry pods (Reply All, Betakit’s CanCon podcast, Recode Decode, Too Embarrassed to Ask, etc etc) but I like to go beyond those.

My current favourite podcast (as in, I watch for new episodes every Friday and download and listen as quickly as I can) is Call Your Girlfriend. I love how hosts Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman talk about politics and pop culture and everything in between. They’re smart, warm, and I feel like I’m catching up with old friends every time I listen. The most current episode features an interview with Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood. It was seriously inspirational.

When I’m in a light-hearted, self-care mood, Forever35 is just the ticket. Hosts Doree and Kate discuss makeup and skincare routines with a bunch of great guests.

It’s been gone for years, but I still miss the Oprah show. I get little doses of the Wonderful One through her Super Soul Sessions podcast. It’s the closest I come to going to church.

And I just read on Twitter that Jonathan van Ness (of Queer Eye fame) has a podcast called Getting Curious. Can you believe? Downloading now.

My go-to online shops for plus size clothes

3 April 2018 | 0 Comments

It seems like shopping for clothes is difficult for every woman I know, and extra hard for plus size women. Especially in Canada, where “normal” stores only go to size 14 or so (the same stores in America will often carry a few sizes larger than their Canadian counterparts).

I’m 5’10” tall and I wear size 16 or 18, depending on the brand. That means finding clothes that fit, look good, don’t cost a bajillion dollars and are situation-appropriate is agonizing. It’s enough to make me want to throw in the towel and wear a uniform every day. But I need varied looks for my television appearances and speaking gigs, so that means regular shopping. Blech.

Here’s how I deal: online shopping. I can take my time, watch for sales, and never leave the couch. Much better than shopping in stores, which often results in me being frustrated and hangry.

Some of my favourite looks from online shops (photos above, from left to right): black jumpsuit from ASOS Curve, “fit and flare” red dress from Land’s End, long blue dress with white piping detail from Joe Fresh, long sleeve wrap dress also from Joe Fresh, and pink bell-sleeve dress from AdditionElle. I also love City Chic and Mod Cloth. A friend swears by eShakti but I haven’t tried them yet.

Which online plus size shops do you love?

We’re going back to Scotland this summer

11 March 2018 | 0 Comments

When I was younger, I craved new experiences. I never wanted to travel to the same place twice. Why, when there are so many new places to explore? But now I’m older (my 38th birthday is coming up. I’m not exactly ancient, I know, but stay with me here).  And in my ripe old age, I know what I like. I like Scotland. A lot. So we’re going back in July.

Our trip will be 2 weeks, and the second week will be on the Isle of Skye (the first week’s plans are undetermined – more on that to come). While on Skye, we’re staying in a small, luxurious cabin on the Trotternish Peninsula, with sea views out to Rona and Raasay. We’re looking forward to hiking the Old Man of Storr, dining at The Three Chimneys, and relaxing fireside with a wee dram.

I’ll share more as our plans evolve. And if you have any hot tips, please comment!

PS – photos from our last trip to Scotland.

Image of Skye by Paul Morris.

A Colouring Book I Wholeheartedly Endorse

27 February 2018 | 0 Comments

I’ve been known to poo poo adult colouring. I just don’t get it. But if you’re into it, or if you have a kid who loves colouring as much as mine does, you *need* to support this: The 2018 UnCommon Women Colouring Book. Heck, even if you don’t like colouring and don’t know anyone who does, support it anyway.

The UnCommon Women Colouring Book is a project from my pal Kelsey. She commissioned illustrator Rori! to create the Uncommon Women colouring sheets, featuring badass women of the open movement across libraries academia, Creative Commons, Mozilla, Open Source Software and Wikipedia.

I just ordered my colouring book and sticker set. I’m going to colour with my daughter. I might even enjoy it!