Blogmas | Free & Cheap festive things to do in TO

Toronto is a great city and there are no end to the fun, festive and free things to do around the city during the holiday season!  Be sure to bundle up and be sure to check out the list below on some ideas on how to enjoy the season (on a budget)! 

*NOTE* images are not mine and have been referenced below.

Distillery District

The last time I went to the Winter Village was 2019, and the photographer in me wants to re-create this magic through my lens! This place is full of beautiful sights (every corner is perfect for a selfie) and tastes (thank you coffee and chocolate)! Entrance is free on weeknights before Dec 27th + children under 9 are free of charge!

Image from BlogTO

Holiday Yorkville Village

Yorkville is beautiful any time of year, but having it all lit up makes it amazing. The best photo op would be in the light tunnel! And the christmas tree totally gives Rockefeller Center vibes!

Image from BlogTO

Skating at Nathan Phillips Square

This rink is ALWAYS jam packed so keep the little ones close to you and on the edge of the rink. The best part about skating here (other than – it’s FREE as long as you bring your own skates and snacks) is the MUSIC. Whether it’s 90s christmas pop or top 40, you’ll have a great time whipping across :)

Image from Curiocity

Hudson’s Bay & Fairmount Royal York Hotel Windows

Miniature displays and twinkling lights? Sign me up! I’ve yet to check our the Royal York windows but I’ve heard that they are enchanting. Grab your mocha or hot chocolate and enjoy the stroll past these beautiful displays!

Image from Torontoist

Want more? Follow my Blogmas 2022 journey here!

5 personal growth quotes that will make you rethink your purpose

I know I’ve stumbled upon these quotes multiple times, but just recently they hit different.

It made me reflect on my purpose, direction and priorities.  And also gave me more motivation. Though,  I must say, quotes are flaky and can’t always provide inspiration.  On occasion they can make you stand up, re-evaluate and take action.

So please feel free to reflect on the words and enjoy the sunflower pics I took at Robintide Farms

What we fear of doing most is usually what we most need to do.

We cannot become what we want by remaining what we are.

It’s Never Too Late To Be What You Might Have Been

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

A goal without a plan is just a wish.

 

Our Experience at Valarie in the X Hotel

A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to check out the fantastic roof top patio at the X Hotel.

Valarie is boasted as Toronto’s newest nightlife concept with an innovative Japanese menu, inspired cocktails amidst unparalleled views the six.

What we ate:
Cocktails: Single Malt on the rocks, Espresso and Cosmo Martinis
Food: Truffle Fries, Maitake Mushroom (bowl) & Truffle Teardrop (sushi roll)
Food Menu

The mushroom item was delicious.  Crispy and with a truffle flavour. 

And the martinis were perfect (flavourfull and strong!)

The entire rooftop is lined with a glass balcony – so you get views of the lake, Mississauga, the downtown core and the lake of course.

And of course I only got pictures of the CN Tower.

The views and cocktails really made it for me, although I wish they had more food items.

Over all it was a great experience (we tried to ignore the early 2000s clique vibes between patrons and the restaurant staff).

We got reservations through OpenTable, but I think a walk in is worth a try!

Collision Conf

Sharing a tiny review of my experience at Collision Conference 2022 in Toronto

What is Collision Conf: 
It’s the leading tech conference in North America.  The conference is made up booths, several stages for speakers/panels/fireside chats, master classes and workshops. The topics are wide ranging from human centric AI, diversity in tech to purpose-led products.  

What I like best about the conference?
The energy by far was a vibe. Idea sharing, Innovation and creativity was everywhere from the conversations between people, the talks on stage or the information learned at booths.

My favourite master class/workshop:
I attended a talk about table talk exercises – which delivered both standard IT practices but also innovative testing methods (great information for my current role). I also really really enjoyed a talk about purpose led business (good people doing good people).

My favourite booth?
The Women in Tech lounge – obviously! Although technically not a booth it was just a great space to hang out, grab a coffee, meeting people or catch up with colleagues. It was my home base!

Summer cottage getaway

With lockdown measures still in place, no vacation destinations requiring air travel are being planned – the next best thing is vacationing in your own backyard.  The best way to do that in Ontario? Camping or for the camping-averse Cottaging!

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A cottage is a great way to embrace the great outdoors, picturesque sunsets, time on the water and a change of scenery but still with the conveniences of home (sleeping on a bed, private bathrooms and better weather protection).

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Camping is the same flavour but a lot more planning is required – in a good way because it offers an even more outdoor, nature filled experience.

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That said, I am not yet ready for camping, maybe in a few years when the girls are little older and more able to help so for now we’ll take the cottage.  We don’t have a cottage in our family, so we usually rent one or find a house near a lake.

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Here are some tips I’ve picked up overt the last few years of cottaging!

Preparing for your cottage:
– plan your days as much as you can including travelling to and from, meals/groceries, packing and activities
– if travelling with other families, divide up grocery shopping and cooking
– pack for the elements (even if you have a house to escape not ideal weather from, you may still want to enjoy the cooler evenings and rainy mornings)

When you are there:
– spend as much time as you can on the water & drag your kids out as much as possible
– let the kids run free (safely)
– eat every meal OUTSIDE
– take lots of pictures & video of the grounds and all of the activities
– Find any reason to celebrate ;)

Before you leave:
– leave the cottage in the same condition you found it (especially the kitchen!)
– make sure to put away any boating equipment (these are more likely to get stolen which means you don’t want to get caught paying for replacements)

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How to find your why + a small exercise!

You might have heard the popular sayings:

Come back to your why!

What’s your why?

Find your purpose!

I’ve been hearing it for years.  But I’ve only recently made the connection.  This is the way I see it: Passion is a day dream, but purpose is a S.M.A.R.T goal on your “life’s to-do list”.  Passion is about doing something because you have an emotional connection to it.  Purpose is direction and the reason for which something is done.  Purpose is fuelled by reasoning and usually the reasoning is the answer to a why question.

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It’s the answer to your why aka your why statement that gives you motivation to do what you do.  Your why statement will be the reminder you need to keep moving in the direction of your purpose.  For individuals your why statement is not only your purpose, it’s who you are, your cause, what you stand for or your belief.  Of course many companies and organizations identify their why statement as a way to keep employees motivated in their work.  So why shouldn’t individuals have a why statement for their lives?

Your individual why statement is evergreen.  That means it makes sense and is applicable to any part of your life, whether that’s your career, your hobbies or your life overall.  It is simple, actionable and expressed in affirmative language that resonates with you.

Employees who have identified their why statements are clear in their direction and therefore are more inspired to do the work they feel compelled to do.

OOTD, Why Statement, Purpose over Passion, Follow your heart, Know your why, Purpose filled life, New World, Style, Creative, Big Magic, Goal Setting OOTD, Why Statement, Purpose over Passion, Follow your heart, Know your why, Purpose filled life, New World, Style, Creative, Big Magic, Goal Setting OOTD, Why Statement, Purpose over Passion, Follow your heart, Know your why, Purpose filled life, New World, Style, Creative, Big Magic, Goal Setting OOTD, Why Statement, Purpose over Passion, Follow your heart, Know your why, Purpose filled life, New World, Style, Creative, Big Magic, Goal Setting OOTD, Why Statement, Purpose over Passion, Follow your heart, Know your why, Purpose filled life, New World, Style, Creative, Big Magic, Goal Setting OOTD, Why Statement, Purpose over Passion, Follow your heart, Know your why, Purpose filled life, New World, Style, Creative, Big Magic, Goal Setting

Organizations who see this as a win will support employees and employees will be more engaged at work.  I recently participated in an innovation program at work.  The experience was both challenging and awakening.

Part of that awakening was determining my why statement.  Here is an EASY exercise to find yours.

Tools: poster board, post its notes (standard size & few different colours), permanent markers, chart paper.
You don’t need any of these tools, but using actual paper products, pens and a wall helps your body and brain align and really get into this activity.

Step 1: Think about your life and brainstorm 5-10 times you felt most successful and then felt most challenged.  Once you have these memories are listed (on your post it notes, piece of paper or word doc), review everything and try to notice any patterns.  You may start to see some themes pop up like “team work”, “technology”, “lack of control” or “creativity” – the number of themes doesn’t but finding the themes does.

Step 2: Based on your themes, take note of your motivators.  This will help you understand what your contribution to others lives will be and the value of those contributions

Step 3: Write your why statement with this format “To ____, so that _____”.  The first blank is your contribution and the second blank is the impact of that contribution.  This should come easily but also may be an iterative process (ie: write down your statement, then tweak it a bit, write it out again, change a little something and write it again – continue this process until you have something you feel good about).

Step 4: Share your why statement.  Share it with your partner, your kids, your friends, your co-workers.  Share it on twitter, on blogs, on IG and in whatsapp/teams/webex chats!  It will be easy to share your why statement because it’s all you so there will be a level of pride and excitement.

And in the spirit of sharing, this is my why statement:

To create and lead an agile team, so that we build transformative solutions, achieve goals and inspire people.

Also it’s okay if you aren’t ready to share it or if you feel like the wording is a little off.  Keep at it, you’ll get it to where it needs to be and be thrilled to share it with the world!