On getting my act together

Time is ticking…gotta makes some moves – Monica

While I usually like to complete tasks basically right away, I also have what I call my “two-week turnaround” time. There are those things that you just don’t feel like doing, like re-caulking the bathroom shower tiles or cleaning out the garage. Or making that phone call to have the furnace fixed or schedule dentist appointments, etc.

Struggle to get moving

Currently, I am struggling with focusing on writing, illustrating and finishing up my third book. Arrggh! There is no absolute deadline, but aiming for sometime this year. There is so little time. So, I am definitely not on a roll. However, it’s super easy once I am on a roll. The ideas for illustration come at super-speed. But sadly, the only time I have to work on my book is before and after office hours at my regular day job. I drop off my kids at school then rush to the office and load up my Adobe Illustrator. So basically, I can work from 9:15am to 10am, then again from 5pm to 5:30pm. Then gotta rush off to make dinner at home.

When I was down to the wire for time for Winter Moose visits Montreal (www.CanadianAdventureBooksbyMonica.com), I had to go into the office at 4am on Saturday and Sunday mornings (before my kids got up) to finalize. No choice when you have the printer pushing for submission.

So you wonder how I have time to blog. Well, again, passion is a driver. It does not take me very long and I love getting things off my chest (like self-therapy) and inspiring/helping people.

Adobe Illustrator

I have mentioned before, but I absolutely love Adobe Illustrator. www.adobe.com. It is so flexible and non-abstract. I am working on a tutorial for beginners to learn some basic techniques in Illustrator. So look out for this incoming posts. I plan to give a demo as I work on my own illustrations for the book. So you will be able to see how I have created my illustrations (almost live).

In thing this called life, we need to figure out how to best manage your time to make every minute count. Food for thought: Time is one thing that we cannot get back. Make the most out of every minute. Cheers!


It’s time to let go (poem)

illustration of galaxy dancer
Dance with the stars
It's time to let go,
Of the fear that paralyzes you.

Stretch high above the trees.
Above the sky.
Even the universe.
Let your hands swish through the stars,
as you twirl around in dance.

Keep only your feet on the ground.
And know that you have accomplished.   

- Monica

I write this poem because I believe fear of the unknown is often what keeps people from accomplishing what they dream of achieving. In this thing called life, it’s time to let go. Be brave and just give it a try. Again, 2019 is what I coin to be the YEAR OF NO EXCUSES.

A whisper (poem)


This poem is dedicated to Narendra Nayak, a fellow blogger (asliveroflife.wordpress.com), whose insight into our lives as humans and our existence are much in line with mine. I have been rather uninspired lately to write poetry, but after enjoying his photography and writing, I wrote up the poem below last night before sleeping.

word whispers

A whisper

whisper in my ear
what you want me to tell you
for I don't know what you want to hear.

time is like the steam rushing to escape the kettle
only to be left with none.

will you love me forever?
touch my hand so I know everything will be ok?

just one glance and I fall all over again
before I say goodbye.

In this thing called life, we need to take some time to ponder. It allows us to gain insight into ourselves and those around us.

In search of plant-based restaurants: Freshii review


Freshii is a franchise restaurant. It is not a vegan restaurant but does have a wide selection of vegetarian dishes without any meat or meat by-products. You should double-check the ingredients with the cashier before ordering.

Overall rating:

Food: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Price: $$$-$$$$ out of $$$$$ (depends what you order)

Ambience/decor: 3 out of 5 stars

My fav dish: I tried the new Sriracha Chili Bowl most recently. It didn’t look that appetizing but it was nice and spicy and very tasty. Chili and avocado is a nice mix!

Freshii locations

As Freshii is a franchise, you will see many locations pop up. Hopefully, you have one near you. www.freshii.com

Other products

Freshii has a lot of soup bowls, rice bowls, wraps, cold-pressed juices (can buy bottles from the fridge or do a 3-day or 5-day juice cleanse). You can customize most of the menu items the way you like. But word of warning, carefully review what you select for customizing. For example, adding tofu may cost $3, and adding other stuff has certain cost as well. So your wrap which may have started at $8 may end up being $13+!

I wrote about their 3-day cleanse in one of my first blogs:

Freshii’s 3-day cleanse blog

Loyalty rewards

You can download the Freshii APP and collect rewards. To date I earned $20 rewards – which I used excitedly. I learned that you cannot collect rewards if you order in the restaurant. So you only get rewards through the APP.

Use of APP for ordering

Some locations are not that organized. The online orders may be printed below the cash register, so the staff may not see it until you arrive. This happened to me two times when I was in a rush. I got frustrated and called them right away I ordered online to make sure they got my order.

Freshii is a great go-to for food on the go. I love hot veg comfort food, so still looking for local eats. Any good hot veg food places that you know of? Please let me know.

In search of plant-based restaurants: Wutai Vegetarian Restaurant review


Wutai Vegetarian Restaurant located at 8425 Woodbine Avenue, Markham, Ontario. It is not a vegan restaurant but does have a wide selection of vegetarian dishes without any meat or meat by-products. You just need to double-check the ingredients with the waiter/waitress before ordering.

Overall rating:

Food: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Price: $$$-$$$$ out of $$$$$ (depends what you order)

Ambience/decor: 3 out of 5 stars

My fav dish: Lotus root and glutinous rice wrapped with tofu skin (appetizer pictured top centre)

I was finally able to line up the stars and meet my gal friends for a girls’ night out. Everyone is so busy all the time, so I thought I’d be spontaneous and see if they were all free this past Friday. I never tried this restaurant before, but one of my friends ate there a number of times and suggested we meet there.

Chinese food

If you love hot Chinese food, but don’t love the meat, you have to try it out. Typically, Chinese vegetarian food is “mock” meat made of tofu or beancurd. This does not jive with me. So, I was delighted when I saw an extensive menu of appetizing dishes at Wutai.

Other products

If you enjoy Chinese dim sum, they have a large menu selection of vegetarian dim sum during the lunch period. Dinner is a la carte only.

Loyalty rewards

None here.

I really enjoyed the food and will definitely go to satisfy my craving for Chinese dim sum – which I have probably missed the most since becoming vegan.

Worth checking out! Maybe I’ll see you there?

In search of plant-based restaurants: Copper Branch review

Unity Falafel Wrap with collard green wrap

I LOVE food! Now vegan almost two months (and loving it!), I am constantly in search of restaurants serving healthy plant-based food. The only problem is that I do not live close to many of these restaurants. There are a number of them downtown, but the trek is too painful. So, you may need to ‘customize’ your meals at your local restaurants. Umm, excuse me, please delete the cheese from the pizza, and does the dough contain egg or milk products? Me and my daughter’s favourite pizza is the Margarita which has basil leaves and tomato sauce. I find that pizzeria’s are always running out of basil, so we are left with a pizza with tomato sauce only. Pretty annoying indeed. Hard to get what we want.

Copper Branch is a franchise, serving a plant-based menu. There are many Copper Branch locations opening up everywhere. So, if you are lucky, you can find one near you.


Overall rating:

Food: 4 out of 5 stars

Price: $$$ out of $$$$$

Ambience/decor: 4 out of 5 stars

 My favs: General Copper Bowl, Organic Quinoa Chili and Unity Falafel Wrap.

I have been to two locations so far (Markham and East Gwillimbury). Both restaurants are warm and welcoming. The Markham location feels a bit cramped and seating is more limited.

The food is great. You feel healthier just eating at Copper Branch. They have unique menu items such as my favourite: General Copper Bowl with mushroom with General Tao sauce, quinoa, beet slaw and avocado. But a bowl (not a large serving) costs about $15 plus tax. The fries are nice but quite expensive (~$8) for a large (which is really a small size if you ask me). Their green matcha coconut milk tea is really nice, but a bit pricey at $6.50 a regular-size cup. My daughter likes the shiitake burger and fries. The Unity Falafel Wrap had a limited time option to pay more for a collard green wrap (pictured above) which is great if you are eliminating carbs from your diet.

Other products

You can even buy take-home items such as organic coffee beans, jalapeno spicy sauce, bottled Kombucha tea, dark chocolate squares, and more…

Loyalty rewards

To collect points, you can get a loyalty rewards card/number through their phone APP.

We have eaten many meals at Copper Branch. Try it out – I think you would enjoy the dishes.

Getting fit

photo of a bike
Photo credit: Ryan M

Where to begin?

Thinking of getting fit this year but feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start?

Getting fit is not just about exercising for hours. It is a combination of exercising, eating well, getting enough sleep and mental focus (including de-stressing yourself and thinking positive).

I do not view exercise as a chore. Exercising gives me energy and relaxes me. I remember that I need to take time for myself, or I will not be healthy for my family long-term.

Find an exercise that you enjoy

I am not the type to enjoy running on a treadmill, so I constantly look for different ways to make my workouts exciting. I am currently combining dance, boxing/martial arts and yoga (so basically aerobic workout) alternating every second day with circuit weight-training (basically doing a variety of exercises using free weights like dumbbells and bar). You wonder how that’s possible? Well, you gotta use your imagination a bit!

Based on research, exercising does wonders for your health and brain. Yo! If you really must play Candy Crush or plop yourself in front of the TV, at least get on an exercise bike.

Here are just 5 simple ways to start

  1. Small steps. If you have never exercised before, you may want to consult your doctor before beginning. I would suggest that you start with walking and some light weight-lifting. If you are not sure how to lift weights, you can join the gym and hire a trainer for a few sessions, or as many people do – watch YouTube videos! Weight-lifting is really good for building muscles. And more muscle mass in turn means better calorie/fat-burning and protects against osteoporosis. If you need motivation and a goal for walking, you can buy yourself any of the watches that record your steps (such as a FitBit).
  2. Choose your exercise. If you have joint pain, an exercise like swimming or yoga might be suitable. Not sure what you like? Try everything!
  3. Master your breathing technique. I am learning yoga on my own from a book that I bought 20 years ago. The most important thing is learning how to inhale and exhale through your nose. I think most of us tend to breathe in through our nose, but breathe out through our mouth. I Googled why it is good to inhale and exhale through the nose, and discovered that when we breathe in we take in oxygen (duh!). If we breathe out through our mouth the action is quick, so the oxygen does not have as much time to absorb and fuel our bodies. So by exhaling through our noses the process is slowed down. This sounds very logical eh? I have applied this breathing technique not just to yoga, but to my everyday life.
  4. Eat healthier. Start simple by cutting out the junk and processed food. Work on incorporating more whole foods (for example, this means eating the actual vegetable like corn and not canned corn).
  5. Don’t feel guilty if you skip a day. It is ok to skip a day if you really don’t feel like working out. Don’t feel guilty about it. Just keep going the next day. It is recommended that adults get at least two and a half hours of moderate to vigorous exercise a week. More for children. www.canada.ca

In this thing called life, I believe our health (physical and mental) is number one. After dealing with two post-stroke parents for many years, I say that I do not want to “STROKE-OUT”.

Stay healthy!

Say hey, say hey…


…say how ya doin’…(lyrics from Matthew Good Band’s song, Everything is Automatic). You can tell, I have been signing Matthew Good Band’s song in my head. By the way, if you haven’t listened to this song, it’s really amazing. Matthew Good has gone solo since that album and will be performing at the Richmond Hill Centre for Performing Arts on March 9, 2019. http://www.matthewgood.org/

Take a listen to this classic:

2019 flying by…

Say, where did the year escape to already? As I write this post, it is already Day 17 into 2019. I feel like time is running out already.

As per one of my posts in December 2018, I did not make any new year’s resolutions last year to be applied towards this year, because I feel that I am just setting myself up for failure.


I have dubbed this year to be the YEAR OF NO EXCUSES. I have been spreading the word to everyone who will listen to me. What? No gym today? That is not ok, it is the year of no excuses…

Here are a few concepts/mottos that you can apply to yourself this year:

  1. Don’t think – just do!
  2. I will dream BIG and do!
  3. I will make time for my best friend – me.
  4. If I want something badly, I will go for it.

My “no excuses” put to good use

Here are 2 things that I put off last year, but have now handled, because…it’s the year of no excuses!

  1. I am losing patience with the CN Tower. I have emailed the media department so many times but didn’t hear back. I am waiting on permission and have been waiting since mid last year, to publish my book, Winter Moose visits the CN Tower. It was actually meant to be my second book. But because of trademark and other issues, my book was up for review. I finally tracked down a phone number and left a message for my contact person. I am dreaming that I will get the go-ahead this year. I can’t wait to share that book with the world!
  2. I dropped off my books for consignment at a few local Chapters/Indigo locations last year, but have been too busy to follow-up. It is a bit difficult to make calls during my working hours + a little teeny weeny bit of procrastination. Anyway, it’s 2019…I took care of it and if I am lucky, I can be part of a few in-store events this year.

In this thing called life, you never have time to do things. I get it. But if you set your mind to something – before you realize, the same amount of time goes by (whether you do something or don’t) and in the end, you would have accomplished either nothing or something.

Yo! I want to hear from you. What will you accomplish this year with no excuses?

Empty drink container placement = one’s personality


Study of psychology

The above photos were taken on the same day.  Both drinks were emptied and placed (photo on the left) or left on the floor (photo on the right) by two different children. 

I loved studying psychology in University. I love studying people and their personalities in general.  So, I thought it was really funny when my son’s friend (about 7 years old) (I will call him CHILD A) asked me where to put the empty juice container.  I just tapped the counter (in a general area near the front of the counter) and said to leave it there.  When I glanced over, I saw that he left it so neatly placed near the backsplash. Of course, it triggered an idea for my blog!

My four-year old (now 5) (I will call him CHILD B) obviously threw his drink on the floor.

Personality analysis

Since the Chinese say your personality at age 2 will be the same at age 80, I figure I can do an analysis.

So what are the personalities of CHILD A and CHILD B?  Take a stab at it yourself and send me your comments.  Based on my analysis, answers are below. Don’t peek until you come up with your own analysis.

My analysis

CHILD A is very analytical, cautious, detailed and afraid of trying new things. He likes to observe but says little. He is a very careful person and likes to dot his “I”s and cross his “T”s.

Because I know CHILD B very well, I take a clinical approach in his analysis. CHILD B is naughty, likes to be different, has a lazy approach to life, doesn’t care what others think about him and volume is more important than detail.

CHILD B will finish a drink and even though there is a table next to him, he will look over to some random spot and launch his drink onto the floor.  OMG! He has a pitching arm for sure.

In this thing called life, everyone has a different personality. We need to learn how to deal with every type in order to benefit most for our interactions with people.

On a practical level:

1) our parenting style has to be different for each child. What may work on one child, may not on another. For example, as a young child, my oldest son accepted “bribes” openly in exchange for joining a sport for example, but my younger two kids could not be bribed.

2) in the workplace, we have to figure out how to get along with everyone. So by analyzing them and understanding where they come from, we can adjust our interaction with them accordingly. For example, an introvert may generally not want to talk to you, but if you can figure out something they like (such as watching movies), you can strike up a conversation that way.

Show me the Rockies -guest post

Bow Lake, AB: Photo credit: Annette Ng

Special guest post: Annette Ng

Today’s post is written by someone very special to me: my younger sister, Annette. We have gone through so much as children and adults. We did not always get along (I was a very mean child and did regretful things), but life events such as the ageing and death of our beloved family dog, Einstein, our mother and father’s strokes have brought us closer over the years. Annette is fun-loving and caring person, as well as an avid hiker. Annette has her own blog site as well: https://thecontinentaldivine.wordpress.com/

Show me the Rockies! by Annette Ng

When I moved to Calgary fourteen years ago, it was a practical move for job opportunity, not intended as the trailhead for adventure and discovery. I hadn’t even given the proximity to the Rockies a thought. Within my first month of moving to Calgary, I drove out to Banff and was awestruck. Driving through the mountains was such an indescribable feeling, as it still is. The mountains towered above me, surrounded me, and yet gave me a deep sense of peace.

Even in my younger days, I had such fond memories of Mt. Tremblant, Quebec, hiking with my sister Monica. It was no surprise that I fell in love with the Rockies. This was the place that I was meant to be, where I flourished, discovered new places and new activities such as running and snowshoeing. A love of hiking is also what brought my fiancé Gabor and I together. Together, we have hiked further and higher, explored more, experienced more, and continually dream more.

Our love of the Rockies is what has lead us to pursue guiding. We want others to experience the exhilaration, the splendor, and the tranquility of the outdoors. We want to show people stunning alpine lakes, glaciers, wildlife and wildflowers. We are in the process of establishing our own guiding company, Show Me the Rockies Hikes and Tours Limited, as well as obtaining permits and insurance in order to guide in some of the Provincial Parks. Also in the works is getting the proper certification for Banff National Park, which has its own set of requirements.

Although we are not quite at our destination of officially guiding, please feel free to contact me by email at annette.ng@hotmail.com. I can certainly assist with recommendations for hikes and places to see in the Canadian Rockies.

Show Me the Rockies, you say? We would love to!


In this thing called life, you never know where you might end up. Dream big and never give up!

I hope you will contact Annette and Gabor the next time you plan to visit Alberta. They took us on an absolutely amazing and exhilarating four-day hiking adventure back in August 2018. I always feel so ALIVE when surrounded by mother nature and share the same love of the mountains as Annette and Gabor.