Learning Spanish With These 5 Tools

Earlier this year, I shared with you my goal of learning Spanish. I had planned to use these 3 tools to do it so that on my upcoming trip to Mexico I could have a successful (albeit short and slow) conversation with a local. Now, I know people on the resort speak English. I know I can order food and ask for directions in English. But I love languages, particularly Romance languages, and this was excellent motivation to embark on something new. I also believe it’s respectful and thoughtful to learn at least a little bit of the local language. (I highlight more reasons for language-learning in this column for Peace Arch News).

So, did I use the tools I thought I would? Some, but not all. And I found new ones along the way. Here’s what has been working so far:

5 Tools For Learning Spanish

1. My friend recommended I try the Michel Thomas CD collection for Beginner Spanish. And this was the most invaluable tool I used. I borrowed it from the library in June and ended up renewing it throughout the summer and into September until I could no longer renew it! And I am seriously considering buying the collection myself. I just LOVED the way Michel teaches. It’s all by listening which, frankly, is how language is best learned. (Think of how you learned your native language). At first I was freaking out a little. I felt like I should take notes, create a vocabulary list, pause the CD to repeat back. But I’m glad I used it the way it was intended. I think my second time around, I will make some notes because when I write things down they become emblazoned in my mind, but I was pleasantly surprised with how much I had retained just by listening. (He teaches other languages, too, if learning Spanish isn’t your thing).

2. Netflix!! I’ve always loved watching foreign films but my husband isn’t a huge fan. He doesn’t want to have to read subtitles while unwinding at the end of the day. I get that. But I’ve been able to convince him occasionally to throw on a Spanish movie so I can get used to hearing it spoken in varying accents, dialects and speed. And when I have a night to myself on occasion I know I can get my language geek on and watch something like: Palm Trees in the Snow, Amar, Ingobernable, La Nina, or La Esclava Blanca.

Just writing about this on this wet, grey day makes me want to curl up on my couch with a Spanish film or series! Have you seen any of these? Or have recommendations of your own? Please tell me in the comments below!

3. My sister-in-law is fluent in Spanish having studied it in university and then travelled to some Spanish-speaking countries. I should probably bug her more than I have been to practice with me since this is truly the way to gauge how much I know – plus, I can get immediate feedback and corrections which is important, too. But she has been a great source of encouragement. Amo a mi hermana!

4. Y musica! (Ok, I’m totally missing accents in my text because I don’t know how to find them on my keyboard. I apologize if you’re a Spanish speaker and this is making you cringe – if it helps, it’s making me cringe, too). So many people recommended I learn Spanish by listening to music and this made a lot of sense to me. I have fallen in love with the sounds of Enrique Iglesias, Fonsi, and Juanes. There are so many more artists out there that I have yet to discover. I’m particularly looking for ones like Juanes because I seem to pick up on his lyrics more easily. (Recommendations? Drop them below!) If you haven’t heard this song from him and Nelly Furtado, please take a moment to crank it and get lost for a moment in the beautiful words, melody and harmony.

5. T R A V E L! This is both a motivation AND a tool for learning Spanish. I don’t expect to be fluent without using this language in real life context and I can’t say I’m sad about adding travel to my list of tools. Did you know that Spanish is the official language in approximately 20 countries? And has about 400 million native speakers? Pretty amazing! Have you travelled to a Spanish-speaking country I should add to my bucket list? I’d love to hear!

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

6 Tips For Mindful Eating During The Holidays

This is a post I published on The South Asian Buzz just before Canadian Thanksgiving. Since my American friends and family are celebrating the big turkey day in less than 48 hours (I know they’re counting down!), I thought I’d pop this post on mindful eating here. There truly is a way to enjoy all the foods we’ve come to associate with holidays in a way that won’t sabotage our health and wellness goals that we have been working on the rest of the year.

Also, let’s be honest – it’s not just Thanksgiving that means heavy meals. There’s Christmas following close behind. Then New Year’s shindigs. Valentine’s Day. Easter. And it goes on. Hopefully, these tips on mindful eating make it easy for you to stay on track, no matter what your goals are for your body, mind and spirit.

Read The Article On The South Asian Buzz

Why do I write about wellness?

Wellness and personal growth topics are of great interest to me. For years, I’ve been on a spiritual journey through writing and sitting in quiet. Recently, I’ve decided to focus on my physical health by working out and eating…better. (That’s the hardest part for this lover of all things fried, salty and cheesy!) I love researching these topics, speaking with experts and motivating my readers with the information I find. When The South Asian Buzz needed an editor for their Wellness & Personal Growth section, I happily took the position. And now I get to work with their wonderful contributors and an editorial calendar filled with engaging, powerful content.

Thanks for reading!


5 Of My Favourite Netflix Posts In Time For Friday Night!

A few weeks ago I let you in on how I convince my husband to watch what I want to watch on Netflix. And that was the first thing I felt compelled to share with you since becoming a member of the Stream Team. Today I thought I’d give you a little background on why I’m excited to be an ambassador for my favourite entertainment brand and introduce you to some of the people I share this gig with. I’ve rounded up 5 of my favourite Netflix posts so you can get to know my teammates – because sharing is caring, and because I want you to see how amazing Netflix nerds are!

For quite awhile now, I’ve been consuming Stream Team posts to get all the latest: the inside scoop and my peers’ honest opinions about what they’re currently enjoying on Netflix. When I was asked to join the crew this summer, I was thrilled to be able to share with my readers how I use Netflix for entertainment as well as education. Netflix brings my family together in many ways; it’s our favourite Friday night tradition. It also provides entertainment for girls’ night in and keeps my inner need-to-know-it-all satisfied with endless documentaries for every facet of life.

Each month, I’ll be writing about something different – and if you have any questions or topics you want addressed on my blog, feel free to shoot them my way! If you want to check out other Stream Team members, these are the folks who inspire me to bring my best to my blog, every day. Let me know in the comments if you have a special Stream Team member you’d like to give a shout out to.

Louise Chapman – Talk Nerdy To Me

In this post, Louise shares the shows she and her husband, Gary, have convinced each other to watch, along with the ones they encouraged their kids to watch. What I love about Louise’s writing is that it’s honest, down-to-earth and never gimmicky. I also find that we have a lot of the same interests so her recommendations come in handy for me, too! Browse through her Netflix posts for a variety of great topics.

Salma Dinani – The Write Balance

Salma is my go-to girl for motivation about my physical wellness. She’s always on the go, working out, preparing healthy meals and doing everything else a mom and writer needs to do. But she makes time to learn from Netflix and I particularly enjoyed her post about the food documentaries to watch. When my husband and I watched the first one she mentioned here, it completely changed some of our eating habits which we’ve maintained for almost a year now. I’m always grateful for her inspiration!

Jamie Khau – Styling The Inside

Jamie turned me on to Aziz Ansari’s Master of None and This is Us – both of which my husband and I binge-watched together. So, thank you, Jamie, for making “What do you want to watch?” easy for us! I love Jamie’s tweets (check #StreamTeam to catch what everyone’s gabbing about) because they never steer me wrong. She and I are both obsessed with This is Us…but I think this post shows that she is just slightly more crazy than me. Here Jamie talks about loving a show so much, you Google the sh*t out of it!

Raj Thandhi – Pink Chai Living

Raj and I joined the Stream Team around the same time but I am already enjoying her content. I’ve been an avid reader of her blog for years, and our lives have intertwined in such a way that I am proud to also call her my friend. Having said that, I’m still pretty picky about what I consume online (because there is SO much out there!) and I don’t just read or promote work because the writer is my friend. Raj has a great flair for the written word and is also a social media maven. In this valuable post, she shares the tools she uses to create better blog content – and you can read how Netflix comes into play!

Alison Tedford – Sparkly Shoes And Sweat Drops

And if you have ever felt the highs and lows of a Netflix binge, Alison will commiserate with you – and make you laugh. She is one of the funniest bloggers I know and she just tells it like it is! In this post, she talks about what it’s like to get sucked into a show – and I know we can all relate. She makes me feel normal and yet happy about my quirks all at the same time. I love her work and I am so happy to be a Stream Team member with this funny lady!

So, what are you currently binging on or what have you enjoyed lately? And don’t forget to tell me which Stream Team member I need to get to know!

Schooled In Smoothies By Jugo Juice

If you’ve been following along on my #TaslimGetsFit journey (mostly on IG Stories) you know that I’ve been moving a lot more these days. Mid-summer this year I realized just how sedentary my lifestyle was and I couldn’t recognize this woman who kept outgrowing her clothes! That was the worst part – looking in the mirror and not seeing me. Like, even past the body. I’m a strong woman. I admire speed and strength and flexibility, and I am quite capable of all of those things. But over the last few years I had let it all slide for one reason after another. The one important reason for getting back my strength – MYSELF – was forgotten. So, on August 1, I took the plunge and actually started a program of exercise and nutrition, and it has made all the difference! When the opportunity came up to interview Registered Dietician Andrea Holwegner, I grabbed it; I needed someone to demystify smoothies for me! One of my goals is to incorporate more of a variety of these in my diet, and Andrea is the gal who works with Jugo Juice to ensure their smoothies are as nutritious as possible.

The first thing I learned when talking to Andrea was that not all smoothies are created equal. The key to a healthy smoothie is to make sure there is no sugar added – the juices and fruits you use should be unsweetened. Jugo Juice rightfully boasts this about their product. Wherever you get your smoothies, you should ensure they can claim the same.

So, what do you put in a healthy smoothie (and still have it taste great?). Here’s a helpful chart of the anatomy of the perfect smoothie.

smoothies, jugo juice, chocoholic nutritionist, taslim gets fit, taslim jaffer

Breaking Down My Smoothies

So, I’m not a big juice drinker. We never have juice in the house; the kids have some when we go out for dinner sometimes or of course, they chug back a juice box at a birthday party. So, I asked Andrea about leaving out the fruit juice. While this cuts back on the sweet taste of a smoothie, it’s perfectly fine to use an alternative like a milk. I prefer almond milk or oat milk and I’m happy to stick to that.

When it comes to fruits in my smoothies, I’m a standard one banana type of girl. But Andrea encouraged me to try some frozen berries as they would add froth and make the drink more of a shake. I do add ice in my shakes which has the same effect. But if I’m leaving out the fruit juice, then frozen fruit is a nice way to add some sweetness and of course, nutrition!

Oh God, then there’s the stuff that makes it all turn green. Kale. Spinach. If you look at #3 on the chart you see some healthy vegetables which I NEVER include. Scratch that. I had tried to put greens in my smoothies but my blender just didn’t quite pulverize it enough and I ended up chewing (and gagging on) the contents. So, of course, I didn’t try that again! However, I treated myself to a new Ninja last month for the sole purpose of making healthier smoothies…and it’s still in the box. Because I’m scared to blend spinach again.

“You have to try the Mighty Kale,” Andrea encouraged. “It’s one of our most popular smoothies.” Was she kidding? I had to find out for myself so after my Zumba class on Saturday I made my way to a nearby Jugo Juice and walked right up to the counter.

“I was told to try the Mighty Kale,” I said, not sounding as sure as I tried to appear.

“Oh yes, it’s one of our most popular smoothies!” chirped the young woman behind the cash register.

I ordered one without the apple and orange juices, and asked for almond milk instead. Everything else – kale, spinach, mango and pineapple – could stay.

And this is what it looked like:

green smoothie, smoothies, jugo juice, chocoholic nutritionist, andrea holwegner, taslim jaffer, taslim gets fit

I’m not going to lie. It took me almost the rest of the day to finish it – it was huge! I even shared some with my 3 kids. As always, it was approved by 2 out of 3 of them (I rarely get all 3 of them to like anything). But you guys, I drank kale. And spinach. And that felt great!

I’m looking forward to mixing up my daily protein smoothie with some greens, a variety of frozen fruits and some of the superfoods mentioned in the chart. I now feel like I can successfully create something that will fuel my body – and if I need to grab something on the go, I can always pop in to my local Jugo Juice and more confidently order kale in a cup.

What’s your go-to green for a healthier smoothie?



English Is Hard To Learn. Give Newcomers To Canada A Break.

Building Bridges – my column in Peace Arch News – allows me to share my thoughts on topics I feel create better understanding among my community. Sometimes, these issues stem back to when I was in high school; things that were on my mind then are apparently still hot topics today. Like the belief that all newcomers to Canada should speak English. In my most recent column, I got to tell South Surrey and White Rock residents that English is hard, and immigrants and refugees deserve a break!

I learned English as a second language once I started school. I was also lucky to have parents who grew up speaking English in their school system so I picked up my new tongue (which is now my primary language) quickly and easily. At least, I don’t recall struggling with it. Since then I have learned French in school, tried my hand at Mandarin (couldn’t grasp it), picked up a little Italian and am now studying Spanish. I love languages and how learning them can bridge gaps, teach us about different ways of living and thinking, and much more. But I don’t expect people to learn them easily and I certainly don’t think we should be offended when people don’t.

I’d love it if you’d read the full piece and then comment here: do you speak more than one language? Which ones? And what are your thoughts about this issue?

Read The Article At Peace Arch News




What You Must Eat In Victoria, B.C.

For Spring break this year, my husband and I decided to take the kids to Victoria, B.C. I actually lived there for a chunk of my early childhood and it’s where my first memories are rooted. Though I’ve been back for day trips as a tourist (especially when relatives or friends visit from other parts of Canada), I hadn’t actually taken a few days to stay there. And I hadn’t visited the home in which I lived with my parents, brother and grandmother in 30 years. It was a nostalgic trip but also an opportunity to create some new memories with my own family.

The three nights we spent there were amazing. We got to do a lot of touristy things and just enjoyed the mild climate as we strolled downtown. And of course, while we were there, we ate some incredible food!

I shared the 5 foods you absolutely must try the next time you are in Victoria for the travel section of Surrey604. A couple of the restaurants were simply lucky finds but I had also asked my Instagram friends ahead of time for some recommendations.

I’m curious to know if you’ve eaten at any of these places – and of course, am always happy to hear your recommendations. I’m sure we’ll visit Victoria again next Spring and this time I want to try new places. Oh, except I am definitely going back to #5 on my list!

Read The Article On Surrey604


Oat Milk: A New Plant-Based Milk For My Smoothies!

Last year, my husband and I watched the Netflix documentary Forks Over Knives and it seriously gave us some food for thought. (No pun intended). It was the night before New Year’s Eve, the kids were in bed and it was the perfect opportunity to start dreaming about our new year. What did we want to add to our lives? What did we want to ditch? What would be our focus?

Someone recommended this revolutionary documentary and so I suggested we watch it that night for some ideas. Our biggest takeaway was to concentrate on more plant-based nutrition to our daily diets. We did this in a big way by cutting out red meat and we’ve also made small switches like opting to go dairy-free where possible. The trick to being successful with this, we found, was to experiment and try a variety of options. Like with milk, for example. So, I was really excited when I got an email about a Vancouver-based company, Earth’s Own, that provides a nutritious, tasty alternative to dairy milk. It surprised me to hear that SoFresh milk was made from oats!

Refrigerated oat milk is new to Canada but people in Sweden and South America have been enjoying it for quite awhile. I loved the fact that it’s allergen-free, low in fat and sugar, high in protein and contains 7 essential nutrients including calcium and vitamin D. And, of course, that it’s made right here in Canada from Canadian oats.

This news came to me at the perfect time. I’m on a personal quest for fitness and a big part of that is fueling my body well. So, I’ve incorporated a daily smoothie which I had never done regularly before. Part of the fun of making smoothies is being creative about what goes in – and I was really happy to have a new plant-based milk to try. The best part is, I totally enjoyed the taste. (That was a bit of a relief, I must say).

I also used the SoFresh oat milk to make Apple Pie Chia Pudding – a recipe provided by Desiree Neilsen, R.D. who you should follow on social media if you are looking for simple and effective ways to get your health on track. I had first heard Desiree speak at a nutrition workshop many years ago and she blew me away with her passion and knowledge.

I’m thrilled that Desiree took the time to create a video just for my readers talking a little more about oat milk plus some really delicious ways to enjoy it. (Like THIS dessert!).

I’m really committed to better health on my road to 40 and beyond, and this fabulous list of recipes right from the SoFresh site gives me the feeling that it can still be a tasty trip!

Can you leave me your favourite smoothie recipe in the comments so I can add it to my arsenal? Thanks!

How My Husband And I Do Movie Nights – And Stay Married

Friday nights are family movie nights. There is just nothing else the 5 of us want to do after the go-go-go of a school and work week. We wake up on Friday mornings excited to get through the day so we can turn on some Netflix and cuddle up on the couch.

Obviously with the kids in on movie nights, we have to watch something that’s appropriate for them (and they range from 3 years to 10 years). What’s worked well for us is each week the kids take turns choosing a movie. It still has to work for the other two, but our youngest is actually really good at non-animated movies, and my older two are known to sit fixated for a movie like Moana. As a family we have loved Monster Trucks, Pete’s Dragon, Are We There Yet?, Finding Dory, Into the Woods, The BFG…and many more! It’s never difficult for us to find a movie that works for all of us. This system works well for the whole family and movie nights are generally my favourite of the week.

Once the kids go to bed, the hubs and I get the couch and the remote to ourselves. Which sounds lovely. Except we have some very differing preferences when it comes to entertainment. His most recent favourite movies on Netflix have included: Mechanic: Resurrection, The Saint, London Has Fallen and Planet of the Apes.  And mine: Amar, Eat Pray Love and The Ugly Truth.

Here’s How We Do Movie Nights Post Kids-Bedtime

1. We flip to compromise mode and scroll till we pick something we both like. Hidden Figures was a recent winner! Sometimes we scroll for a long time until I threaten him to pick something quick; if we start a movie past 9:30 I am guaranteed to not finish it. Movies we’ve compromised on in the past include: The Intern, Seven Pounds, Friends with Benefits and The Notebook.

2. I bribe him with a plate of my famous nachos. No, really. It’s not that hard to get him to do anything for a plate of ooey, gooey cheesy nachos.

movue nights, netflix, nachos


3. If we just can’t find anything we’re both in the mood for, we skip the movie and opt for a series we’re watching together instead. Because the truth? We usually watch a movie on Saturdays, too, after the kids go to bed! So, if Friday nights ends up being a night to catch up on Aziz Ansari’s Master of None then we’re pretty happy to do that, too. Lately, our favourite series is This is Us. Oh my gosh, have you SEEN it?

4. I talk him into something, like a documentary, by telling him how much it will benefit our lives. It’s for the good of the family. That gets him every time. He’s got such a wonderful heart and I definitely take advantage of this. P.S. Watching Forks Over Knives got him to quit his weekly hamburger. I am practically saving his life with my love of Netflix documentaries.

5. I tell him that watching certain movies gives me fodder for my blog. It’s for my work. So, how can he not support my work, right? It’s true that this is a bit of a stretch. But if I’m in the mood for a foreign film to exercise my Spanish-listening-ear, and I also happen to write about travel and language learning, then it kind of all goes together. So, I’m not lying. I’m a writer so basically EVERYTHING I am curious about is important to my work. (Hopefully this is one post he doesn’t read).

movie nights, netflix, netflix stream team, husband and wife, movie nights with the husband, family nights, taslim jaffer

I know we’re not the only matrimonial match that has to compromise over Netflix entertainment – what do you do when you want to watch something but your partner wants to watch pretty much the opposite thing? I’d love to hear your ideas!

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

Healthy, Local Food Products In Vancouver

I love writing for Surrey604.com – a digital publication that showcases the best of where I live. I’m proud to be a Surrey girl; we’re a city in our own right. Often described as Vancouver’s teenage sister, my city is growing into its own unique identity. Writing for this pub lets me keep a finger on the pulse of this mecca of diverse restaurants, businesses, charitable organizations and of course, the people who live here. When the opportunity came up to highlight one of my favourite west coast grocery chains, I happily agreed to share 5 healthy, local food products that would work well at your next dinner party.

The transition from outdoor summer meals to indoor fall comfort foods can be a little awkward. I find myself racking my brain trying to remember what we like to eat that isn’t barbecued or eaten on a picnic blanket. It’s an exciting time too, though. Almost like pulling out the cozy sweaters from your fall wardrobe. But isn’t it even better when you try something new that you fall in love with?

I’m totally that way about food. I have my favourites but love to try new dishes – especially if they’re healthy and supposed to be delicious, too. I like to take companies up on that challenge to see if my tastebuds can be won over by better choices.

Have you tried any of these 5 products? If so, what did you think? And do you have a healthy recipe I can try this fall? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Read The Article At Surrey604



A Laundry Playlist For Your Folding Pleasure

The laundry drives me nuts. I have tried to keep on top of it but with each passing year I am failing miserably. Between school clothes, work clothes, wear-around-the-house clothes, pyjamas, uniforms, workout gear and the extra changes from the occasional spill…it’s never ending. (Towels. I forgot towels). The one consistent thing that pulls me out of a laundry-induced bad mood is a playlist of awesome music…songs that literally move me to get the job done.

So, for the readers of YMC, I put together a playlist of my favourite songs from different times in my life. Though some of the music is really old, I can assure you I am not that old. I just happen to have been born in the wrong musical era.

Do you listen to music, too, when you’re doing housework? What chore requires it? And what’s on your playlist?

Have a listen to mine on YMC and let me know if we share any. As a side note, you’ll notice that a couple of mine are Spanish. I’m currently learning the language and find that listening to music is a fun way to train my ear. I also like pulling up the lyrics in Spanish and English and matching up the words I know. Both of these songs have English or half-English versions. But you really should listen to them in their native language – they almost feel like different songs.

Read The Article At YMC