Every Day Should Be International Women’s Day

I love International Women’s Day. I get teary-eyed scrolling through my social feeds with all the heart-warming messages that women are valued and cherished. International Women’s Day (IWD) falls the day after the anniversary of my mom’s death so I think there is also that component; for most people, the first example of womanhood is Mom. It reminds me that my mom was a woman. Now that I have joined those ranks, I wish I could tell her I totally get what it’s like to be the centre of a household and feel pulled in so many directions. I wish I could tell her I wonder how to chase my dreams yet still support my children in finding theirs. Or sometimes I am just totally stumped about how to keep all my kids clean, fed, exercised, educated, and happy in the same day. But I can’t, so I rely on my tribe of women to lift me up and support me. And this past IWD, I spent the evening at Guildford Town Centre listening to a panel of women who believe in doing just that.

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On March 8, 2018, Guildford Town Centre hosted what I hope will be an annual event called UNITED – Celebrating International Women’s Day. Moderated by 94.5 Virgin Radio host Nira Arora, a panel of 3 inspiring, accomplished women shared their thoughts on following your dreams, finding inner strength, and women helping women to a standing-room only audience. Lifestyle Blogger Monika Hibbs, Blo Founder Devon Brooks and Dress For Success’ Victoria Newstead delved into how they found their inspiration, who their role models are and how they ‘balance it all’.

Some of my favourite takeaways were:

  • Change can be scary but it can also be exciting – new ideas, new careers…all can launch us into the lives we are striving for.
  • We can’t do it all ourselves – our businesses might need to expand to include others who support our vision, we may need help with our kids, we might have to let the dust bunnies grow as we work on our masterpiece.
  • It’s important not to look at other women and do the compare and despair thing – we need to be the loudest cheerleaders for each other. Adjusting each other’s crowns is part of being real queens.
  • There’s a season for everything – you don’t have to do it all RIGHT. NOW.
  • Be around women who lift you up, who inspire you to be the best version of yourself – and then be that woman for others. You are the sum of the people you keep closest to you so choose your circle wisely, and contribute your best to that circle.

In addition to the entertaining and informative panel discussion, there were many other cool features to the evening. Dress For Success was supported by donations of clothing and by purchasing sweet engraved necklaces. Services like  free makeup and hair touch-ups, and free headshots were offered for those who wanted to spruce up their LinkedIn profile. And the atmosphere was fun and festive with a live DJ spinning some tunes. She played some great jams!

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I went to bed that night feeling super pumped and then woke up the next day thinking, I wish it was International Women’s Day again. That’s when I decided I would do my best to make each day one that celebrates other women, and myself. I tweeted this with the hashtag #IWDallyearlong. If you have something to say about that, I hope you tweet me with it!

Women do too much, give too much, survive too much and thrive too much to be limited to one day of celebration, honour and awareness. We need to work hard every day to ensure that women around the world are safe, respected, cared for and supported.

Thank you, Guildford Town Centre, for lighting the fire for so many women this year – I had a fabulous time!

taslim jaffer writer





Thank you to Guildford Town Centre for sponsoring this post – I love telling my readers about the people and events that inspire me. All opinions are my own.


Eat. Lift. Thrive. by Sohee Lee: Book Review

‘Strong is the new skinny’ is a common phrase these days, sprawled across tank tops on sweaty bodies at the gym, and on memes floating around Facebook. I’m glad the emphasis has gone from losing weight to gaining strength. I’ve had my own up-and-down relationship with my body size and shape, particularly in the past 5 years. I’ve accepted that my body will likely never be what it was pre-babies…but now I’ve started imagining that I can be stronger than I ever have been. When I was given the opportunity to read and review Sohee Lee’s Eat. Lift. Thrive, I accepted it gratefully. I’m determined to make my 40’s about thriving, not just surviving. I’ve done a lot of emotional work in my 30’s and am shifting my attention now to a healthy, physical body that will take me deeper into the life I envision.

If I were to dissect the reason for ‘where I am today’ in terms of my fitness, I’d say I didn’t invest the time. I didn’t take the time to understand my body’s needs or how to create a sustainable healthy lifestyle that was best suited to me. Since last fall, I’ve been more conscious to incorporate more movement in my life but I haven’t quite nailed down my routine or a ‘food for fuel’ mindset.

Are you looking for an individualized workout and nutrition regime that is sustainable? Eat. Lift. Thrive is like a personal trainer in your pocket!

Part One Of Eat. Lift. Thrive: Reset Your Thinking

Lee’s book begins with what, I believe, is the perfect foundation for any book on fitness and nutrition: your mindset. It’s probably the section of the book I would read over several times. In a humorous, conversational tone, Lee debunks common fitness myths surrounding willpower (because don’t most of us think it’s about having enough willpower?), that it has to feel hard to be working, and that a fitness regime is all-or-nothing. I was so relieved to read these pages, you have no idea. I’ve been known to go from 6 days/week workouts and watching portions to completely binging for days and falling off the cardio bandwagon. It’s a devastating fall from grace, that one. Not only do I then tell myself, “See? I couldn’t do it,” I also feel frustrated that clothes that fit me just a couple weeks before become completely inaccessible.

Reading this part of the book made me realize that I’m not alone in this. And it earned my trust in Lee to continue reading through the coming chapters. I’m glad I did because not only did she debunk the myths, she filled the void with useful information in an easy-to-read voice. Her examples of ‘small, bite-sized habits’ right at the beginning of Eat. Lift. Thrive. immediately gave me the confidence that I could actually manage to make movement a part of my week. Her emphasis on not just getting healthy but staying healthy sounds like the perfect approach for me!

Part Two Of Eat. Lift. Thrive: Eat

The first chapter of this section is like a review of nutrition without being overwhelming or daunting. In fact, Lee doesn’t look closely at numbers (in terms of grams of protein, fats and carbs) so there isn’t that obsessive quality that some regimes have. She’s more concerned that we know how to read labels and know approximately how much we are eating. This makes sense and is truly empowering. I feel like this would eliminate a sense of failure because you are not counting each macronutrient down to each crumb.

After the nutrition review, Lee makes suggestions for long-term success with eating well and talks about my favourite food subject: moderation. I balk at the idea of giving up pizza, bread of any kind, and a nice cheesy lasagna. No, thanks. Needless to say, I devoured Lee’s ideas about incorporating these foods into my meal plan with no guilt or shame. Training ourselves to be intuitive eaters (which she expands on in this book) is way more helpful than an outright ban on some of our favourites. I will never again read or listen to anything that tells me I can’t eat certain foods.

Her actionable items at the end of each chapter in this section are priceless. They are simple and sensible, and I can see that implementing just one or two at a time will make some smart changes for me.

Part Three Of Eat. Lift. Thrive: Lift

The introductory page to this part begins with “Resistance training is the fountain of youth.” If that doesn’t intrigue you to read this entire section word for word, I don’t know what to say. I’m aging and I’m OK with it, but I’d like my body to be as young as possible for as long as possible. This isn’t about shedding fat, per se, but building confidence. Lee suggests that the weight room is all you need for a trimmer, stronger body. Aside from the physique, Lee shares many other benefits she has observed as someone who works closely with weight trainers. Her case studies are inspiring to read and, like all the information presented here, this entire section reads like a personal conversation.

My favourite chapter in this section is Chapter 8 where there are photographs of people modelling the different exercises along with the descriptions of target muscle groups, variations, and tips.

Part Four Of Eat. Lift. Thrive: Thrive

And the best part is putting it all together, with your mindset, your nutrition and your weights program, to be able to create programs for YOU. To create a sustainable, healthy lifestyle that works for YOU. This section pulls it all together to help you put to practice everything you’ve been learning.

Like I said, I’m interested in thriving and not just surviving. I’m tired of the on-again, off-again relationship I have with my own health.

My Three Favourite Parts

  • This book is EASY to read. It’s engaging and informative without being overwhelming.
  • I loved the photographs of the different exercises. Visuals are wonderful. Plus each movement is explained so well in the descriptions that you can literally teach yourself how to do it.
  • I loved that Lee created sample programs to make it super easy for anyone to get started. With an emphasis on individuality, these are just guidelines but how nice to have something to start with, even if you decide to modify anything.

I recommend Eat. Lift. Thrive by Sohee Lee to anyone who is tired of starting over but wants to give it a good, sustainable shot. Also, to anyone who already has a fitness regime but would like to up their game.

You can find Sohee Lee on Instagram. Check out her IG stories – some great stuff there!

I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

taslim jaffer writer


Onegin: Review Of The Hit Musical At Surrey Civic Theatres

Onegin, first of all, is not what you think. It’s not about gin, one or otherwise. And it took me almost half the show to realize that it is actually the name of one of the characters, pronounced On-YAY-gin. I should have watched this before the show:

But, to be honest, it was fun to have a good laugh at myself and to hear other patrons laughing about the same thing with their companions as we left the theatre. Among the jokes about the mispronunciations were some noteworthy comments about the story, the music, the set, the costumes and more. In two words, the entire production was supremely impressive. In more words, I would see this show several times if given the opportunity.

What Is Onegin?

Onegin is inspired by a poem and opera from the 1800’s. Evgeni Onegin, a handsome man not willing to be tied down by love, visits the Larin family estate to meet his friend’s fiancee. There, Onegin meets Tatyana, a shy bookish girl ready to be swept away into the new and delicious world of romance. Onegin’s visit stirs up more than just passion! Much drama pursues among unforgettable musical numbers and convincing performances that completely immersed me in long-ago Russia.

The press release for this show described this hit musical as a rock concert, back kitchen party and love poem. I couldn’t describe it any other way. Seven cast members and three musicians shared one stage, and created layers and layers of art, beginning with the opening number in which they declare: “We hope to please, we hope to charm, we hope to break you open.” And they most certainly did!

My Favourite Scene

Prior to seeing the show, I read The Georgia Straight’s review which proclaimed, “You’re lucky to be alive right now…because you get to see Onegin.” I thought this was a bit dramatic. Then I saw the show and I really do feel lucky to have seen it. The music alone was well worth it. My favourite song was Let Me Die when Tatyana spends her first night after meeting him pining for him, writing feverishly in her journal about her desires, fighting that voice inside her that begs her to get a grip on herself.

Here’s a taste of that song:

Now imagine sitting just rows away from Tatyana on stage with her voice reaching to the far ends of the theatre, able to see her every facial expression and movement as she wrestles with what she wants and what she isn’t sure she can have. It was breathtaking.
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Photo Credit: David Cooper
Kudos to creators Amiel Gladstone and Veda Hille on their incredible success! In an interview with Hille she explained, “When we started writing Onegin, I was ready to dive into grand romance. This show has let me feel things I haven’t in ages. Sprawling, messy feelings that led to soaring melodies and hot dreams and some pretty fervent singing.”
Produced through the Arts Club’s Silver Commissions Project (developing new plays since 2006), Onegin collected ten wins at the 2016 Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards, making history as the first production to win all but one of the awards in the large theatre category. Now that deserves a standing ovation!

Bravo! And a special shout-out to all the cast and musicians who made this vision come alive.

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Photo Credit: David Cooper

Cast: Lauren Jackson (Tatyana Larin), Jonathan Winsby (Evgeni Onegin), Erik Fraser Gow (Vladimir Lensky), Meaghan Chenosky (Olga Larin and others), Caitriona Murphy (Madame Larin and others), Andrew Wheeler (Prince Gremin and others), and Nadeem Phillip (many others).

Musicians: Barry Mirochnick (percussion and guitar), Jennifer Moersch (cello) and Marguerite Witvoet (piano and keyboards).

My husband and I turned this into a date night and we will definitely do it again. I’m glad that we can stay on this side of the bridge and be entertained by the vibrant arts scene in Surrey.
To check out what’s playing now and in the near future, visit the Surrey Arts Centre’s ticket information site.
I received complimentary tickets to this show in exchange for an honest review. I am proud to partner with Surrey Civic Theatres. Join them on Facebook so you don’t miss a show!

Did you catch my other reviews?

taslim jaffer writer





India Is Obsessed With Light Skin And It Has To Stop

India’s obsession with light skin has followed us to Canada and everywhere that desis have settled, and it has to stop!

I was standing in line at my local Indian grocery store with two of my children. It was a quick run for fresh eggplants and ginger for a curry I was making that evening. As we stood in line to pay for the produce, my eyes wandered over to the area near the cashier where my kids were playing. Lining several shelves within arms’ reach from them were packages of skin bleaching creams. On these boxes, a woman’s face was pictured several times in succession as she faded from her natural brown to a much more light skin colour.

I couldn’t believe it! What if my older daughter had been with me? Someone more aware of her surroundings and who would have noticed those packages. Someone more conscious of what she looks like and aware of the differences among shades of brown. What if my kids ever felt like they needed a product like this?

I pitched the story to the team at The South Asian Buzz, and not only did they love that I was going to cover this, they all shared with me some memories of their younger years. Some were truly heartbreaking.

I’ve since learned that this is not just an issue in the South Asian community but is a phenomenon that spans Asia and Africa. Nobody can pinpoint exactly where it comes from but from the comments I received on my personal Facebook page indicate that everyone wants this to end. Well, everyone except the brands that push this garbage on us.

That little girl inside me who heard comments about fair skin in such a positive light is thrilled that I used my voice to call this out. Some of my favourite pieces to write are the ones that make people question the social ideals that they’ve grown up with.

You can read my article on The South Asian Buzz. Do you have a comment to share about this? I’d love to hear it below or on SAB.

Read The Full Article On The South Asian Buzz

Women’s Heart Health: It’s Time We Were Part Of The Conversation

When I hear the words ‘heart attack’ I automatically think of a man. Not necessarily an older man, because young men (in their 30s and 40s) in my family have had heart attacks. And my father-in-law died suddenly from coronary artery disease just after his 65th birthday. But still…I don’t instantly think of my female second cousin who suffered a heart attack years ago. Or even the women in my family who are on cholesterol-lowering medication. It wasn’t until I read the Heart & Stroke 2018 Heart Report, released at the beginning of this month, that I asked myself, “Why not? Why don’t we think about women’s heart health?”

The conversation needs to begin with research; two thirds of heart disease clinical research focuses on men and is then applied to the entire population. But not all hearts are created equal, and there are significant differences between the sexes. This means, we don’t have enough information about our leading cause of death. As a result, women’s heart health is under-researched, under-diagnosed, under-treated and under-supported. Ladies, it’s not great news. According to Yves Savoie, CEO of Heart & Stroke, “Women’s hearts are still misunderstood. We are decades behind in our knowledge of the differences between men’s and women’s hearts.”

I am sharing this information with you because when I learned about it, it shocked me. I honestly had no idea of this discrepancy, or that women’s hearts are different from men’s. I just assumed that when I or my female relatives go see the doctor about our health concerns, our sex was taken into account and we were treated differently. It makes sense to me now, after reading the report, that women’s heart health is unique subject matter. But the diagnostic tests we take (like the treadmill test) are not nearly sensitive enough to detect issues in women. And when we do require treatment after a heart attack, less than 1/3 of us receive it within time guidelines.

I have heart disease on both sides of my family; as a South Asian Canadian this is not surprising. According to the recent report, South Asian, Chinese and Afro-Caribbean women have higher rates of heart disease and poorer outcomes compared to Caucasian Canadians. As well, Indigenous women in Canada are twice as likely to develop coronary artery disease.

This is all super grim, I realize, but as a woman I feel like I need to know this. It’s only by learning these statistics, hearing stories shared by women who have lived through these experiences and heeding their advice can I continue to advocate for my best health.

Some Facts About Canadian Women’s Heart Health

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of premature death for Canadian women.
  • Every 20 minutes a woman in Canada dies of heart disease.
  • 5 times more women die from heart disease than breast cancer.
  • Early heart attack signs were missed in 78% of women.
  • Women who have a heart attack are more likely to suffer or die from a second heart attack than men.

The report covers a lot more and I encourage you to look at it. Knowledge is always power.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m approaching 40 but I’m thinking about my health in a different way than I have in the past. It’s a good thing, though. I know it’s not 100% in my hands but I can at least try for optimal health.

I’m going to be focusing on specific areas and sharing my journey in different ways with you.

4 Healthy Lifestyle Choices I Am Focusing On

  • Eating well
  • Moving
  • Reducing stress
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

What are some of your health goals? Ladies, how are you keeping your heart in top shape? Please share with me in the comments!

taslim jaffer writer

Bergmann Piano Duo: 4 Hands, 2 Pianos, 1 Incredible Performance

On February 15, I was invited to enjoy just over an hour of live piano music at Surrey Civic Theatres, skillfully delivered by Surrey-based pianists Elizabeth and Marcel Bergmann. The 129-seat Studio Theatre is intimate and comfortable and exactly the place you want to experience a performance by the Bergmann Piano Duo. I love live music because – other than the exceptional sound quality – watching musicians in their element, doing what they love, has such an impact on my soul.

I love to see live performances at Surrey Civic Theatres. Here's my review of the Bergmann Piano Duo.

Observing Elizabeth and Marcel non-verbally communicate across the bells of the gorgeous grand pianos was fascinating in itself. Pianists play, not just with their hands, but with their faces and whole bodies; being able to witness the nods, facial expressions and synchronized breaths so close up was awesome!

Elizabeth and Marcel are international performers who have played throughout North America and Europe. They are also Artistic Directors of White Rock Concerts and are on faculty at the Langley Community Music School. Marcel arranges the music for their CD collection and live performances, and it’s obvious he and Elizabeth are a dynamic pair when they make those pieces come alive.

This clip gives you a taste of their chemistry as they talk about their musical life together. You don’t even have to be a fan of piano to appreciate how amazing it must be to share a life with someone equally passionate about an art.

At The Movies With The Bergmann Piano Duo

The show I attended was called ‘At The Movies’ and highlighted selections from West Side Story (L. Bernstein, arr. M. Bergmann), The Big Country (J. Moross, arr. M. Bergmann), Oblivion (A. Piazzolla, arr. M. Bergmann), The Mission (E. Morricone, arr. M. Bergmann) and An American in Paris (G. Gershwin). Though I was only familiar with West Side Story, the narration and synopses by David Mann provided enough context to help me understand the mood of the pieces that followed. I noted that The Mission and An American in Paris sound like great films; it would be fun to watch them now that I have a taste of the music that weaves throughout the stories.

The Bergmann Piano Duo is playing again at Surrey Civic Theatres on Thursday April 19, accompanied by vocalist and actress Onalea Gilbertson. In the cabaret-style show, From Berlin to Hollywood, the audience is treated to selections from the Threepenny Opera and other hits. Afterward, there is even a chance to mingle with the Bergmanns!

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Excuse me if I sound a little dreamy, but the curved bells of the piano in an embrace under theatre lights set quite the stage for my brief middle-of-the-work-day escape. I had slipped into my seat in the Studio Theatre after teaching a writing workshop and next on my list was a phone call with a client; the interlude felt like an opening of my creative self. I sailed into my phone meeting feeling invigorated and inspired. And that is the true beauty of art – it reaches into all the other parts of your life, even the tired, empty spaces, and fills them with energy.

Do you like to watch live performances? What was the last show (musical, theatrical) you saw? Tell me in the comments!

Watch this space for more suggestions of what to see and be sure to check out my other reviews.

I received a ticket to the show in exchange for my honest review. I’m proud to partner with Surrey Civic Theatres. You can find them on Facebook here.

taslim jaffer writer 




Year of Yes By Shonda Rhimes: 5 Kick-Ass Takeaways

Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes was showing up everywhere on my social feeds last year. Truth be told, I didn’t know who Shonda Rhimes was; I just knew she wrote a book that a lot of people were paying attention to. I hadn’t really been a T.V. person until Netflix entered my life in a big way last summer so that might explain why I was one of the few people on Earth who hadn’t watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. (Don’t worry: I’ve rectified this situation by binging episodes since last week. I am totally in love with Dr. McDreamy and well on my way to collecting dark circles under my eyes to satisfy this obsession). What inspired me to give Grey’s a try was reading Year of Yes.

What I Learned from Shonda Rhimes' Year of Yes: How to Dance it out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person

Threaded throughout this memoir slash personal development book was Shonda’s creative process, and as a writer those bits thrilled me. What I took away from this book, besides a curiosity for her shows, has become a part of my own personal and creative life. If you haven’t read this book, I gave it 5 stars on my Goodreads app which means you need to get your hands on these pages and read them – stat!

Here are my 5 kick-ass takeaways from Year of Yes

1. Own your badassery and get your swagger on. When Shonda talked about how women react to being given a compliment, I was like, that is so me. If someone tells me they loved something I wrote, I will do any number of the following: look away, cast my eyes downward, shrug my shoulders, shake my head, mumble something, or say: “oh…huh…” and giggle. Since reading that powerful section on badassery and swagger in Year of Yes, I will now look the person in the eye and say, “thank you” (because if nothing else, that is just polite!) and ask them a follow-up question to engage them in conversation about the topic. Or I say something like, “I really appreciate you reading. It was important to me to put that out there.” I do value my readers – so much! – and writing is a lot of work. I don’t want to undermine either important fact.

2. The 5-mile run. I’m not a runner but I understand the ‘5-mile run’ writing process that Shonda describes. I  have since borrowed this metaphor for my writing classes. The 5-mile run in writing is that process of pushing on, keeping on, ignoring the distractions, knocking down those demons, shushing that voice that says ‘someone else has written this better than you’, and writing, writing, writing until you conquer those 5 miles of cobwebs and are now…in the zone. That is the sweet spot for a writer (and I guess for a runner!) and it’s where we want to be every day. But it’s a practice. The more often you run those 5 miles or write through the junk in your head, the better you get at it and the faster you get to the zone. Really, this applies to anything. You can’t get to where you want to be when you’re looking everywhere else.

3. Recognize and love your inner child. Shonda talked a lot about her little girl self in a way that encouraged my own little girl self to start showing up more. Either that or I just started seeing her more. I’ve always been attached to that awkwardly-dressed, big-eyed dreamer who I know still lives inside me – a permanent 7 year old who follows her more adventurous friend through the woods to play, who sings in an imaginary band, reads everything she can get her hands on, and collects notebooks. She’s nervous in new situations, is unsure about whether she’s doing things ‘right’ but absolutely knows what she loves. She’s a wonderful companion to me when I’m writing, and always.

4. The Year of Yes is also about ‘no’. I didn’t jump to get the book when I heard the title because I’m trying to be more conscious about saying ‘no’. I say ‘yes’ to a lot of things (it’s how I carve my entrepreneurial path). But I know that to live an authentic life, I have to identify what’s important to me – not just so I can create time for those things but so I can take back my energy from what’s not important. The deeper I got into this book, the more I realized that this is exactly what Shonda recognizes, too. Saying ‘no’ can be difficult. For me, it sometimes comes with guilt or the worry that I will look like  a bad person. But if I always keeps my own values in the forefront, the ‘no’ is just a ‘yes’ to what’s more important to me.

5. You can’t do it all at the same time. This. Is. So. True. The way Shonda explained it, if she’s winning at work, she’s losing at motherhood. Or winning at motherhood and losing at work. Put your hand up if you can relate to THAT?! I remember this one day, in particular, just after I read that section of the book, I had this amazing work day. I checked everything off my to-dos and even started on something for later that week. Like, I rocked that work day. I picked up my kids after school, and I was humming and smiling and practically skipping from the car to their classrooms. Straight from school, we drove to the swimming pool where all 3 kids had lessons at the same time. Yeah, because I’m a kick-ass mom who managed to get lessons for all 3 kids in 3 different levels at the same time. As the kids changed into their swimming gear, I realized…I forgot to pack them towels! Which meant that in 30 minutes I would have two soaking wet kids, shivering, with no towel. And 15 minutes later, their older sister who had a longer lesson would join them. Talk about a mom fail! And of course, the pool wasn’t close enough for me to go back home, grab towels and come back. I’d be cutting it tight and risk not being there when my 3 year old came out looking for me. Also, I don’t like to leave the building when my kids are in swimming. So, I was stuck. And then I laughed because…I WAS JUST LIKE SHONDA RHIMES so how bad could that be? I shared this in my IG stories; it was the perfect example of how you can’t win at everything all at once! (Thankfully, the pool let me borrow a towel so nobody was actually forced to put their street clothes on soaking wet).

These takeaways from Year of Yes quickly gave that book ‘game changer’ status for me. It’s one of those books I could read again and stand to benefit from often.

Have you read it? What did you love about it? On another note, are you a Grey’s fan? Don’t tell me anything about it! I’m only on season 2!

taslim jaffer writer

Live Your Authentic Life By Answering This One Question

Over the recent Family Day long weekend, my family and I spent a night in Whatcom County. It was sunny and clear but there was quite a nip coming off Lake Whatcom. Perfect weather for sitting in a window seat, watching the small ripples chase each other toward the shoreline. I pulled my journal onto my lap while the kids busied themselves with a card game. I figured I’d just dump some of the thoughts tumbling around in my head before making lunch. I didn’t know I would stumble upon an exercise I’d recommend to help you live your authentic life.

How do you live an authentic life? Answering this one question is a good start.



Sometimes when I journal, I have a particular thing I want to work out and I just need to see it all physically to make sense of it, to gain some clarity. But that day, it truly was just a moment when I felt like I wanted to take advantage of quiet children and a sunny spot by the window. I started writing random thoughts that piggy backed on each other and didn’t necessarily flow. I start every writing class I teach with this exercise; it’s called a free write. My students (and I) find it a great way to clear out the cobwebs before we move on to other writing tasks. It’s also a phenomenal way to tap into that authentic voice and let it be heard on the page.

After about a page of these random thoughts, I ended up writing this: One day I will look back and think, wow, this is not the important stuff.

The Question To Ask When Wanting To Live An Authentic Life

And no, it wasn’t. I hadn’t intended on writing out anything ‘important’ but clearly, there was a part of me that wanted to. So, I penned: What is important to me? And I wrote down the first thing that came to mind. And then I asked: What else is important to me? And I wrote down the words that described the image I saw in my mind. I continued asking myself, on paper, “What else is important to me?” and each time I saw something pop up, effortlessly, in my mind. I did this 13 times before I drew a blank and felt like I was searching. I decided to quit then because I didn’t want to force anything. Those 13 responses came so easily and felt so right; thinking too hard might have changed the whole experience.

Once I identified the important-to-me things, my values shone through loud and clear: connecting regularly with family and friends, connecting regularly with my faith and Nature, the arts, creating travel opportunities for myself and my family, inspiring others to think about their legacy and their authentic life, and self-care. When I look at these values, it’s easy to see where I need to place my energy and where I can probably take some back. That’s vital; we have a certain amount of energy that we can expend in a given day. Knowing what’s important makes it easier to say ‘no’ to things that aren’t.

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I wanted to share this with you so you could give it a try. If it’s not through writing then maybe it’s something else that gets you in the zone. Running? Hiking? Deep breathing with your eyes closed? What clears your mind enough to let that authentic voice be heard?

According to palliative nurse Bronnie Ware, one of the top 5 regrets of the dying is not living a life true to oneself. Answering this question – what is important to me? – might help circumvent that. Or at least, it’s a solid first step.

What is important to you?

I’d love to hear in the comments, if you’re willing to share, 1 or 2 things that are important to you.

taslim jaffer writer


What My Neighbours Are Watching On Netflix

At my most recent book club meeting, after thoroughly discussing the thought-provoking book we had just finished reading, the conversation flipped to Netflix. As everyone chimed in with what they were watching on Netflix, I realized that even though most of these women lived just steps from my own home, I didn’t know what they were doing in their living rooms in the evenings! I mean, it’s not that I’m a nosy neighbour or anything but it’s pretty important to know the people you share a corner with, don’t you think?

My neighbours are used to me asking them all kinds of things: can someone take my kids to school today, can someone pick up my kids from school today, does anybody have a lemon, does anybody have a juice box , did anybody save yesterday’s paper, does anyone have a bottle opener/gravy boat/wheelbarrow/ I could borrow, I have extra cake – who wants it, who wants to come over for tea, who wants to wake up early on a Sunday and go for a walk? You get the picture.

And yet, after all these years, I didn’t know what they were watching on Netflix! I had to remedy that. I rounded up 5 of my neighbours and asked them for a peek in their living rooms so I could see what they enjoyed watching together as a couple.

5 Shows My Neighbours Love Watching On Netflix

Kavita and Robby: Breaking Bad

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Breaking Bad is about a high school chemistry teaching dying of cancer who tries to secure his family’s future by making and selling crystal meth.

We loved it because the character on this show are complex and very interesting. The character development is unbelievable – watching the main character’s journey from good to diabolical was fascinating. The plot line is unpredictable and compelling, and the use of foreshadowing was very sophisticated.

We loved every minute of this series! Since the series ended, we use it as the gold standard to compare all other shows. My husband and I will often say to each other, “It was good…but NOT Breaking Bad good!”

Kim and Shane: Nashville

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Nashville is about country music legend Rayna James whose label has her touring with a rising young diva named Juliette Barnes.

We love to watch Nashville – we started it about a month ago and are currently mid-way through Season 3. We generally have very different taste in TV shows, but we both love country music (which this show oozes) so naturally we both love watching it. We visited Nashville a few years ago and fell in love with the city which probably plays into it a bit!

Cayley and Frank: Ozark

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Ozark is about a financial advisor who gets in trouble with a drug lord and has to launder $500 million in 5 years. To do this, he moves his family from Chicago to the Missouri Ozarks.

We started watching Ozark because it came highly recommended. We like that it’s a bit dark but also humorous at the same time. It’s a great show to binge watch on a weekend (if you don’t have kids around) since there are only 10 episodes in the first season. And…we’ve been told that the last episode has a big surprise!

Erin and Chris: Breaking Bad (Just like Kavita and Robby!)

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We loved Breaking Bad because it started off strong in the first episode and didn’t let us down once through the entire series. The writers and actors are all amazing, resulting in an incredible story line told through even better characters. We’ve watched the series multiple times and see something different every time…and we’d still watch it again and love it just as much (if not more) than the first time we saw it.

Kelly and Hammond: The Crown

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The Crown is the Netflix original drama about Queen Elizabeth II from the 1940s to modern times.

We love The Crown because the characters are realistic and the actors do an amazing job portraying them. The costumes, scenes and direction are superb with entertaining plot and dialogue. As well, the architecture and countryside of England and Scotland makes us nostalgic for our younger years growing up in the UK.  History buffs will love the lesson in 20th century post-war Britain!
You feel like you are taking a ‘real’ behind the scenes look at the Royal family and the struggles that they deal with each day behind closed doors and in the public eye. Before we watched it, we took at look at other reviews which included ‘instant classic” and ‘like the subject it examines, the crown feels like an antique to be admired”. We instantly fell in love with The Crown and are looking forward  to the next series.

What Are You Watching On Netflix As A Couple?

Your turn! Tell us in the comments below what your favourite series is as a couple. Also, did any of my neighbours convince you to try something you haven’t seen?

taslim jaffer writer





As a member of the Netflix Stream Team, I receive some perks for sharing my honest opinions and ideas with you!

Valentine’s Quotes You’ll Want To Take Note Of

I’ve always been inspired by quotes. My piano teacher had them all over her studio and I would take some time most lessons, before or after, to peer at them. I memorized the words and repeated them back, enjoying the way they’d roll off my tongue under my breath. I’ve turned to quotes to stir my heart, lift my soul, and motivate me to keep pushing on. During a particularly dark time in my life, I created inspirational, pay-it-forward cards that have travelled the world! People bought them directly from me or from other gift stores like Brick & Mortar Living, and then sent them on international adventures. Recently, I started making digital quotes that you can check out in my Instagram Story Highlights.

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, you may want to throw in a little quote for your friend or lover. To make it easier for you to find the something cute, funny or downright-gushy, I thought I’d share this blog post with you of 61 Valentine’s quotes from ProFlowers.

Here’s one I absolutely love – because after almost 15 years of marriage, I can tell you it is SO TRUE:

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This one is also true and perhaps just as important:

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What’s YOUR favourite quote on love? I’d love to hear it in the comments! Maybe I’ll even create something for my Instagram stories and tag you in it!

taslim jaffer writer