November 29, 2012

what this year has taught me

It's really hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that this maternity leave is drawing to a close. It has felt like the fastest year on record. But don't get me wrong, there are some long days in there. This past week I have read this amazing collection of articles about motherhood that inspired me to write my own.
I have never known such vulnerability since becoming a mother. She is my heart personified. Her arrival brought on a new level of anxiety: I had to have her crib next to our bed for the first six months, just to make sure I heard her breathe. I needed to know that she was okay. I didn't care if every coo she made woke me up, it was reassurance that she was doing well. She had been years in the making and now that she was here, I was her fierce protector.
I remember when I was little, I dislocated my wrist because I was jumping from our backyard picnic table to our monkey bars (as you do) and swung a little too high for my body's capabilities, only to come crashing down on my wrist. (sidenote, my brother's best friend thought it was the coolest thing he had ever witnessed and tried to break his own wrist the exact same way). My body went into shock and I turned white as a ghost (which only a very trained eye would ever detect). I didn't cry, but my mom sure did. As a kid, I remember thinking that it didn't make sense. Why on earth would she cry when I was the one who was hurt?
Now I get it. Every little milestone and achievement she makes, brings an overwhelming rush of joy and happiness to my heart. And when she falls and hurts herself, I feel it. When we sat in Children's hospital so the doctors could inspect the lump on her back, I smiled at her and kept her calm, and let the good-results-tears-of-relief flow when she was sleeping.
Even though she won't retain memories until she is three or four years old, I try to inject a little something special into our days, whether it's visiting friends, going on an outing, or taking her to an indoor play zone. Nothing makes me happier than seeing the joy spread across her face as she runs around with kids, plays with new toys, and looks up at me as if to say, "are you catching any of this?!?Isn't this amazing?" I want to show her the world and experience it all over again through her eyes.
Even when we do routine tasks together, like getting groceries, she sits in the cart and waves to people, which usually gets the senior citizens gathering (and in this town, there are a lot of them). It makes me so proud that they feel her happiness. A simple visit with her to my grandma's nursing home can make their day. Even though a lot of the seniors can no longer hear or string a sentence together, they smile and wave at her, and that makes my heart soar. My mom is the single most giving person I have ever encountered. Even though my grandma doesn't say much anymore and often doesn't know who any of us are, my mother goes to see her almost every day of the week, just to sit by her side and hold her hand. Motherhood isn't a job, it is a relationship. It demands the most from us and also gives us the most in return.
There are definitely days where I've been up since 5, where she has barely napped, I've barely had a chance to eat, I'm exhausted to zombie-like status and am so happy to see her call it a day at 8pm. My hubby and I have even high fived when the day is done. "She's finally asleep!" But then about a half hour later, we're looking at photos of her gushing about how awesome she is. You forget the hard parts pretty quickly.
I get teased a lot for having so many photos of her on my blog, but honestly, when your favourite hobby is photography, and your favourite subject is your child, it is easy to go a titch crazy with the ol' shutter finger. But I think the real reason I post so many photos of her is because she has single-handedly created the deepest sense of happiness within me and I want to share that feeling with you.
And now that little bundle of happiness is crying in her crib, so I better sign off. xo

November 26, 2012

Images from the weekend

Hello friends! Did you have a good weekend? I felt like this was one of those perfectly balanced weekends: time with friends, time in the great outdoors, time with our families and Stella's first meet up with Santa Claus, which went surprisingly well. I'm hoping she asked him for better sleeps. 

November 23, 2012

Happy Friday!

Hello lovely friends! What do you have on your weekend line-up? We're going to give little miss her first sneak peak at Santa Claus as he arrives in town tonight. One of our American friends has also invited us for a delicious Thanksgiving feast. With the rainy, cold weather, I've been craving a lot of soup. I tried out this recipe for Broccoli soup last night. It was delicious.
I'm putting together a few holiday gift buying guides for you, although I am impressed that so many people I talk to are already done their Christmas shopping. I'm sorry, what? I haven't even started.
What kinds of Christmas traditions do you look forward to?
I can't wait to take our little girl on her first Christmas train ride through Stanley Park. I also can't wait to bundle her up and show her all of the Christmas lights at Van Dusen gardens. Basically, I am a sucker for a beautiful display of lights, like these at St. Paul's hospital. Look at this sparkling walk of lights in Japan. Stunning.
Do you have a tradition when it comes to decorating your Christmas tree? We always buy a fresh tree and have done it up like this for the past few years, but I'd like to try something different this go-round.
One of my funniest tree decorating moments was when I was growing up. No matter how hard my dad tried, our Christmas tree would not stand up in that $&#*@& stand. In the night we heard it fall over with a loud crash. My dad got up, took one look at the tree and tossed it over the balcony. Spectacular.
The right stand is half the battle, isn't it?
Thanks again for all of you lovelies who take a moment to peek at this blog. I am always heartwarmed by how many of you are out there and how far across the globe you span. A lovely reader from the Philippines asked me the other day if she could use one of my photos as her Facebook cover photo. I was so touched. This is my favourite hobby and I am always happy for any little slice of time I get to work on it. Have yourselves a lovely weekend!

November 21, 2012

going to great lengths

What's your favourite length to wear your hair? Would you ever try a pixie cut? Would you ever have the confidence to walk into a salon and ask the hairdresser to do whatever they think would suit you best? Or, do you go in with a game plan, like this post. Do you find it hard to change your look? Fun fact: Hair is extremely important to women. I mean it REALLY is. I've had more hits to my blog about how to put your hair in a sock bun than almost anything else I've ever written. The only thing that beat it out was the post I wrote about the birth of my daughter. If only she had been born with a little bun in her hair, the sky would be the limit on my stats! We really are a nation obsessed with hair. Hair tutorials on you tube get millions of hits. Salons collect big bucks getting our hair to look "effortless.". Do any of you remember this move when Keri Russell, on the TV show Felicity, went from these long locks:
to these short locks?
This haircut was blamed for the show's decline in ratings, subsequent cancellation and is listed under TV guide's "25 Biggest TV blunders"! Seriously, one haircut. Can you imagine if you got a drastic haircut on the weekend, went to work Monday morning and the boss took one look at you and said, "there's the door! We don't want that haircut around these parts!"
Sorry, I just made myself giggle with my play on words, because people part their hair.
But when Michelle Williams went from:
to her new pixie cut:
Her career and status as a fashion icon skyrocketed. Perhaps Michelle Williams should thank Keri Russell for paving the way. What's the most daring thing you've ever done with your hair? 

November 19, 2012

images from the weekend

Hi sweet friends. I hope you had a wonderful weekend! Today I have exactly four weeks left of my maternity leave. I can't believe how quickly time is flying by!
On the weekend we had friends over for dinner and I wanted to share the recipe for this yummy hot apple and brie salad that was a hit: (from the Best of Bridge series)

4 large Granny Smith apples
1/4 cup maple syrup
8 cups washed spinach leaves
1/2 lb. brie, cut in small pieces
1/2 cup toasted pecans

1/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
3 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Peel and core apples; cut into 1/2″ slices. Arrange on baking sheet and brush with syrup. Broil until golden; turn, brush syrup on other side and broil. Place spinach in large bowl. Whisk dressing ingredients together in a small saucepan and heat until simmering. Pour over spinach, toss and add cheese, apples and nuts

November 16, 2012

aha moment

Recently, I've read about a topic that I am excited to share with you because I think it impacts so many people. Have you heard about experiential avoidance? In simple terms, you avoid feelings of discomfort, anxiety, negative thoughts or feelings as a short term fix, but end up creating more long term harm for yourself. For example, you want to get in better shape so you join a gym. But then you start worrying what others will think of you when they see your out-of-shape body at the gym. You also don't like the effort it demands of you to drive to the gym, exert yourself and get uncomfortably sweaty. It's easier to just curl up on your sofa, where you feel safe. So, you stay in. In the short term, you've avoided feeling anxious and any bodily discomfort, but over the long term, if this behaviour persists, you will become increasingly out of shape. People with social phobias feel distress when they are invited to a party where they will have to make small talk, which induces negative feelings within themselves. They can't fully engage in conversation because they are scanning the room to see how others are perceiving them. They can't relax because they are putting all of their energy into regulating their anxiety. So, they stay home where they feel calm and happy. Short term gain? Absolutely. But over the long term, they begin to live a more constricted and narrowing existence.
You can see how easy it is for substance abuse to arise if we apply experiential avoidance. To avoid negative thoughts/feelings, boredom, or distract us from something difficult or demanding in our lives, we turn to drugs, pills or alcohol to numb or avoid the pain. For the short term we feel a happy and our problems are forgotten. But over the long term, this coping technique creates addiction.
Often what people don't realize is that by avoiding negative or uncomfortable thoughts/feelings, bodily sensations, we end up increasing the intensity and frequency of our problem over time.
We are essentially giving our problems more power over our lives. Over the long term, psychologists say that experiential avoidance is one of the most detrimental coping styles and link it to psychopathology.
Think of whatever it is that causes you stress/anxiety. Do you use avoidance as a solution?
I have definitely been guilty of this. My sense of confidence has always been lacking, so I have avoided some risks for a fear of failure. For example, I have been asked to shoot photographs for engagements and weddings and have recommended other photographers for fear that I would ruin their special moment. So, in the short term, I didn't have to worry about failing. But over the long term, I'm not doing anything to improve my confidence or my skill set as a photographer.
Life isn't supposed to be comfortable all of the time. Avoidance short changes your experience of living a full life.
I love the analogy that we should think of ourselves as the sky, where we let clouds come and go, but we are the bigger picture. We are vast enough to contain all experiences: the clouds, the storms and the sun.
So, for the social phobic, go to the next party or social engagement you are invited to. If you feel anxious or uncomfortable, just sit with it. Observe the negative feelings in your body. Observe your thoughts in a matter of fact way, and let them go.
In fact, people who are willing to expose themselves to the negative feelings and emotions that accompany these experiences, enjoy better mental health and perform better at work.
Ever since reading about this I've been trying to apply it to things I'm working on. For example, being shy, there have definitely been times where I've felt anxious making small talk. But, now I just let myself sit in the discomfort and let it pass. I'd much rather have interesting conversations and meet new people than allow my shyness to overtake my life.
When you look back at some of your favourite experiences, isn't it often when you were doing something bold and brave that directly challenged your greatest anxieties or fears?
Have a wonderful weekend lovely friends!

* image courtesy of

November 13, 2012

such great heights

Do you have a fear of heights? Would any of the places shown above scare you just a little? A friend recently celebrated her birthday at the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore featured in the top two photos. Isn't that infinity pool amazing?
What's the bravest thing you've done involving heights? The craziest thing we've done was to hike to the peak of a local mountain in snowshoes. At one point the hike was so steep we had to strap the snowshoes to our hands to dig into the hill, like using ice picks. It wasn't one of our better decisions.

Photos 1&2) Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore. 3) Glass bottom swimming pool at the Holiday Inn in Shanghai. 4) Pie in the Sky crane operated dining experience. 5&6) Ronda, Spain 7) Tennis Court at Burj Al Arab Hotel, Dubai. 8) Sirocco Restaurant, Bangkok. 9) Insanity Ride, Stratosphere Hotel, Las Vegas. 10) CN Tower Edge Walk.

Photos courtesy of:,, express-o,,,,

November 12, 2012

pieces of the puzzle

Hi lovely friends. I hope you had a wonderful weekend! This past weekend I finally sent off all of my paperwork to search for my birth parents. I have attempted this in the past, only to come up empty handed. I'm not really expecting different results this go-round, because my birth parents have a no contact declaration on my file, which is typical of adoptions in the '70s. And I get it. It's a decision they made when they were young and more than likely they just wanted to move along with their lives and put it behind them. But recently I found out that if I can get an undertaking form notarized within 90 days of receiving my adoption search results, I can at least have access to my adoption records. At this point of my life, I'll take whatever little nugget of information I can get. So, all I might find out is my original name, or a small file of medical information, but at least it is something. Here is the bare bones information I have about my birth parents:

Mother: 20. French Scottish. Pretty. 5'4", 125 pounds. Brown hair, green eyes, medium complexion. Quiet. Thoughtful. Bright. Charming. Interested in tennis, swimming, skiing, skating, music and reading.

Father: 21. English Scottish. 6' medium build. Curly red hair, blue eyes, fair freckled complexion. Outgoing. Likeable. Extremely athletic - plays hockey, basketball, football. University student.

As soon as I had this little blue-eyed, curly red headed daughter of mine, the most common question I'm always asked is, "where does she get that bright red hair from?" Based on the information I have, it is easy for me to see that she has my birth father's colouring. And with that little match in physicality, I became instantly intrigued with my past. Are my birth parents still together? What was her birth experience like with me? Do I have any siblings out there? Does Stella have any little red headed cousins? What's my medical history? Have they ever tried to find me? Are they both still alive and healthy? Do they have families of their own? There's a lot of information that I'll probably never know, but having a child of my own has definitely piqued my interest in finding out whatever I can. 

Being adopted, there are certain trademark personality traits that I possess: a lack of identity, a deeply rooted sense of abandonment (I'm always afraid that family or friends are simply going to leave) and desperately wanting to feel like I belong somewhere. It is also challenging to visit doctors and have "adopted" as my answer about my family medical history. I am hoping through this search that I can obtain any little piece of information to help me build upon my sense of self. 

Ever since going through a pregnancy and birth, and all that it involves (the nausea, my body's physical changes, the baby's step-by-step development, the 9+ months of taking good care of myself through nutrition and exercise, the bonding experience of birth), I feel so much admiration for the woman who endured a whole pregnancy, gave birth and then selflessly gave me up. I can't even wrap my mind around how difficult it would be to go through all of that and then leave the hospital empty handed. It is such a brave, altruistic decision. She'd be 60 now. I'd love to tell her that I ended up with amazing parents and have a really happy home life of my own, in case she ever wondered if she did the right thing.

November 9, 2012

i like to move it move it

Happy Friday lovely friends! What are you up to for your weekend? We're taking the little one to see her grandpa march in the Remembrance Day ceremony. Last year we had a laugh at the usually sober ceremony when it was really quiet and a little boy belted out, "Dad, I think someone farted." His dad quickly scooped him up and exited stage left. Kids. Love. Them.

With less than six weeks until my maternity leave is over, I've been working out harder than ever lately, trying to shake the last of the baby weight. I call it baby weight, but let's face it, after 10 months, it's more likely weight from living large all year. I don't recall turning down too many (any) desserts. But with time ticking, it's become my own version of the amazing race. But instead of participating in daredevil challenges like the amazing race, I'm turning my back on Halloween candy mini treats and weekday drinks. Baby steps right? Last night whilst at the gym, sweating, or shall I say "glowing" like a son of a b, I realized there are certain songs that elevate my energy to the next level. Somehow they get you to tap into your reserves and endure, endure, endure. Do you like listening to music when you workout? What gets you pumped? I thought I'd share a few of my favourites: This song by the Heavy makes me feel like a bonafide rock star. In fact, I'm pretty sure I sing it out loud whenever it comes on my ipod, regardless of the fact I'm at the gym.  This track by TV on the Radio or this song from Metric always give me the extra boost I need.
If you want to lose yourself in a beat, what about this track by Bastien Laval, this song by Ellie Goulding or this song by Ron Reeser?
What kind of exercise do you prefer in the winter? Personally, I love taking classes (dance, yoga, spinning) because I know I will not cut any corners. I also signed up for hot yoga to warm up my old bones. I need variety in my routine to keep it interesting. After all, variety is life's greatest spice apparently (closely followed by cinnamon). How do you stay in shape in the winter?
Here is a quick look on some machines for women to avoid in their gym routines. Also, here's a few smart post workout snacks. 
I hope you have a wonderful weekend! Keep moving! xo

November 7, 2012

a walk in the park

It was a gorgeous crisp and sunny fall day, unprecedented for November. I loaded up the little one and her furry sidekick (the dog, not me, although my calves probably could use a shave) and off we went to Campbell Valley Park. My little loves, beautiful scenery and a coffee in hand, I was in heaven. My little girl took her first steps last night - she walked from the coffee table to the living room window to wave goodbye to me when I went to get groceries. It was one of those moments where I thought, did I see that right? But when Craig started jumping up and down with excitement, I knew she had taken her first steps. This little family moment, plus Obama getting re-elected made it a very celebratory night. 
November is looking good! 
ps. Thank you Aunty Tammy for Stella's outfit - it was perfect for today! 

November 4, 2012

images from the weekend

Hi lovely friends! I hope you had an amazing weekend! We went on our annual Williams family getaway - this year heading to Harrison Hot Springs. It was an awesome spot for a quick night away. We rented three cottages at the Harrison Hot Springs Resort. I'm a huge fan of the cottages versus staying in the hotel for quite a few reasons. At the cottages, your car is parked right beside your room, making it much easier to unload gear. Also, we were able to put the little one to sleep in the bedroom, and have everyone over in our cabin's living room where we could stay up late drinking vino and playing games by the fire. If we had stayed in hotel rooms, we wouldn't have been able to all get together like that. The cabins are also far enough apart from one another that you don't hear your neighbours. And best of all, in the cabins, your dogs can stay with you free of charge (if you stayed in one of the hotel rooms it is an extra $100 for your furry friend (still talking about your dog here, not some unfortunate hairy friend you may have). We went for a few swims in the amazing hot springs and went on a gorgeous lakeside walk. It was the perfect place for an overnighter - it was only a 1.5 hour drive from home without any border or ferry line-ups to deal with. I highly recommend it if you want a relaxing escape. Do you do any annual trips with your family?

November 1, 2012

travel bug

Images courtesy of: For the love of Megan,  Abercrombie & Kent & the New York Daily News.

Do you love to travel? When I look at photos like the ones above, I actually swoon. There is so much beauty in this world, it is staggering. I have started a travel fund for us, so that we can have a family adventure next year. I want to live like the locals and immerse ourselves in a culture somewhere. I haven't narrowed down the destination yet, because my wish list is a lengthy one.  I'll also have to bear in mind that we're travelling with a little sidekick, which makes it a whole different travel experience (one that usually comes to a screeching halt by 8pm). I love all aspects of travel: the planning and research stage, choosing cool places to stay, reading up on the local customs and culture, exploring and photographing new sites (ad nauseum), trying different food (mental note, must pack maternity pants with stretchy waistbands for food sampling), visiting bustling markets and chatting with the locals. What is topping your "must see" list lately? I think highest on my list right now is France, but Iceland, Croatia, and Italy are definitely close in the running. Eventually I want to take Stella on more adventurous travel destinations, like Nepal, India, Africa and Disneyland (hey, lining up anywhere with a child for an extended period of time is an adventure). So, with her future tuition fees and my travel plans, I better start rolling our coins and living on ramen. If you drool over amazing travel photography, here's a site by a gifted photographer I work with who has travelled the globe:
Happy planning!