Travel: Finding Wings in Dublin, Ireland & 7 Tour-related Travel Tips

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Dublin, Ireland. The rain welcomed us in as our overnight flight landed Midmorning in Dublin. My first reaction was “argh!”, but then the passenger beside me assured me that it wouldn’t last for long. She was right.  Be prepared for lots of photos!

Where we stayed: The Sandymount Hotel

The Sandymount Hotel in Ballsbridge, just a 20-minute taxi ride from the Dublin airport and a convenient  10-minute train ride to central Dublin.

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The staff at the hotel were, very friendly, helpful and a very diverse group, which made the experience that much more enjoyable. Staff seemed to be from across the globe! Some places I discovered were from Spain, Portugal, Mauritius, and Japan. It was awesome. The service, the food, the interior lounge areas and the efficiency with rich we were served was awesome. 

There is also the quaint Sandymount village and a waterfront that we didn’t get the chance to explore would have loved to if we had more time.

DAY 1 – DUBLIN: FISH & CHIPS AND REALLY REALLY OLD BOOKS

After checking into our hotel, we set out to the nearby train station to head into central Dublin by noon. We had only 2.5 days of sightseeing after all and we wanted to kick things off fast. We also had to be up at 6:00am for our tour,

We started with lunch at The Bank on College Green for its proximity to the Hop-on-Hop-Off City tour stop. We decided on taking the CityTour bus because we felt that was the best way to get around the city quickly and to the major sites within a relatively short period of time.

What we saw: 

Impressive Trinity College Library and the Book of Kells.  Dublin Castle grounds – not really a castle as we expected and we opted to walk the grounds instead of spending our limited time going inside.

Inside of the Trinity College Library in Dublin, with rows of old books

Few minutes in very busy Temple Bar area. Wish we had more time walk along this street and explore the area. More importantly, to sit and listen to some impressive live music (what little we heard made us want to hear more). That was one of the few downsides to this quick trip. 

Guinness Store House (Exterior Only)  – This was a highly recommended tour – from my online research and the passenger in the seat next to me! But we didn’t think to buy tickets online and by the time we made our way there, later in the afternoon, the queue was very long and we were very tired! We decided the weather wasn’t great for getting a good panoramic view of the city and a pint of Guinness, while jet-lagged with a 6:00am wake-up time, did not seem smart. We vetoed that tour and headed back to the hotel for dinner.

Quick Tip: If that’s a tour on your list try to buy tickets online or perhaps go earlier and make that one of the first places – and not the last to visit as we did. There is a separate queue for online ticket holders.

DAYS 2 & 3: IRELAND BY RAIL AND COACH TOURS 

We booked Royal Irish Tours for the two full days we would be in Ireland (would use them again!). This was a good plan in terms of getting around and seeing as much of the countryside as we could while learning a bit of history (and not having to navigate driving on the other side and relying on GPS). Downside? It meant we would have to be up at 6:00am and 5:00am respectively. On the bright side, that left very little room for jetlag of any kind to set in!! 

DAY 2: ALL THE PRETTY SHINY THINGS 

First just a shout out to Tour Guide Paddie McArdle with the RailTours Ireland Guided Tours! I mean, come on! with a name like that, that almost guarantees a great time, right?! Having a friendly, knowledgeable and, very funny, Tour Guide made the world of difference for us.

(Tour deets: Waterford Crystal, Kilkenny City & The Suir Valley – this last part was more of a view from the train and not an actual stop)

photo of the showroom with table settings and large crystal chandeliers hanging from a mirrored ceiling

Photo credit: N. Calabro

 

The House of Waterford Crystal tour surprised me. I didn’t know what I expected but it wasn’t that I would enjoy it so much. But then again, shiny pretty things and an actual behind-the-scenes “how it’s made” tour, well that’s just perfection, really. Seriously tho, the designs were delicate, beautiful and intricate. You couldn’t help but be fascinated by the craftsmanship and how it was all made (and then buying a little something to take home with you! Because, it’s a little piece of history and it’s pretty and shiny! 😊). This was my favourite part of my Ireland stay.

On to Kilkenny

We visited Kilkenny and the exterior of a castle before going a bit of souvenir shopping in a local store. I wished I had the chance to walk around and pop into some of the shops and just soak up the vibe of the place. Sadly, this was not to be and we simply did a bit of a scenic tour, by foot and a bit of a guided mini-trolley thing that felt like we were at an amusement park and asked to sit on one of those small trains.

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DAY 3: OCEAN VIEWS, CASTLES AND FINDING MY WINGS IN GALWAY 

(Tour deets: The Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle, The Burren & Galway Bay)

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Our day started at 7:00 and with a Full Irish Breakfast on the train. We visited Bunratty Castle – great tour, complete with guides in costume and gruesome tales of war. Then the rain started and we worried that by the time we made it to the Cliffs of Moher we might be hit with fog. With our rain jackets on and umbrellas up, we strolled around the quaint village surrounding the castle, hung out with a couple of asses, chickens, goats, and possibly some fairies.

We head to the Cliffs of Moher where the views did not disappoint. It was later in the afternoon and there were lots of people. Should I have the opporutnity to make this visit again I will try for first thing in the morning or to catch the sunrise with as very little people as possible. I can only imagine the feeling of peace and tranquillity you could experience taking in the vastness of the ocean from atop a cliff. (Tip: be prepared to give your legs a workout as it’s a long hike. Ask the guide which is shorter route before you head out and be prepared to feel the burn along with the incredible view – maybe don’t look down.)

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After the Cliffs of Moher, we headed to Galway for traditional Irish pub fare – Bangers and Mash – and the long train raid back to Dublin. I also got my wings in Galway! 🙌🏾

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HERE ARE SEVEN (7) TRAVEL TIPS FOR YOUR NEXT TOUR:

  1. Tour Bookings: My best tip would be to book your tours in advance as it can take a few days for confirmation I believe and the tours seem to be fairly packed. If you happen to find yourself booking last minute then call directly and speak to someone rather than trying to do it online. Sometimes it’s better to speak to real live humans, as they may be able to help you in a way the good ole’ internet cannot.
  2. Arrive Early: For the tours, I would suggest trying to arrive about a half-hour early to check-in and get sorted. Again there can be quiet a few people so it’s nice not to be rushing.
  3. Eat Breakfast: You may also grab a coffee and a light breakfast before getting on the train or to bring with you. The train did have snacks but I was glad to have grabbed a coffee and muffin beforehand.

    Also, bring some snacks. You can buy snack and beverages on the train but our train didn’t offer a proper breakfast so we bought coffee and muffin in Heuston Station in Dublin before boarding the train and had granola bars in case we got peckish before lunch.

    I would also suggest buying a snack or something light on your way home depending on how long you will be on the train heading back to your destination – if you know you might be in need of snack along the way (a couple of the travellers bought slices of cake to go and I have a sweet tooth so I wished I’d had some with a cup of tea on my nearly 4 hour ride backs to Dublin. 😊

  4. Layer up and be prepared to walk: This is Ireland so the weather is, well, wet and unpredictable. Wearing layers allowed us to be comfortable when it got warm on the train or tour bus and when strong winds hit us on the Cliffs or the sun came out while walking around Kilkenny. To add to this, please wear comfortable shoes because there is a lot of walking. My travel buddy said she clocked 12,000 steps on one tour. 🙌🏾
  5. Throw (on) Shades: Bring sunglasses, even if you think you won’t need them. The sun came out and surprised everyone!), a raincoat and umbrella and layers – it was hot on the train but chilly outside, then it began to rain, then the sun came out. The weather is unpredictable. Best to be prepared.
  6. Camera Basics: Bring spare camera batteries and a travel charger. I use both a mirrorless Sony camera and my iPhone to take pics so having extra batteries and a charger (or two) was essential.
  7. Backpack it: I carried a sturdy, Briggs and Riley waterproof travel backpack.  I was able to fit my camera, 2 lenses, extra batteries and charger, wallet, raincoat, cardigan and a small travel umbrella, with room for souvenirs.  It was comfortable on my back for all the walking I knew I would be doing.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

The best part of the tours? The weather was shockingly working for us- some rain, but not too much, sunshine and clear skies when we needed it. Honestly, we were stressed out about going to the Cliffs of Moher and to be greeted by fog like the group that went the day before, but the luck of the Irish was on our side. 🙌🏾

The other best parts of the trip:

  1. The people and their sense of humour (the accent was lovely too);
  2. The green grass, grazing animals and picturesque countryside; and
  3. Really great comfort food (stew, chicken pot pie and bangers and mash).

Yes, it was a really short trip but it was still well worth it. We hope to return for a longer stay and take in some more of the sites and Full Irish Breakfasts!

Cheers,

Cassandra McD.

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Self-Care on the Daily:

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Self-Care on the Daily

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Self-Care on the Daily

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To celebrate International Self-Care Day, I’ll be posting a series of positive messages that I created to hopefully inspire you to do something nice for yourself once in a while! You’re worth it!

Sincerely,

Cass McD.

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Self-care​ Day: Solo Ste. Anne’s Spa Day

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Ste. Anne’s Spa Getaway

I have created this beautiful garden where many people will come to be healed” – prophecy given to Ste. Anne’s by Jay Rawlings

“You went to the spa by yourself?” This was the reaction I got from a couple people when they found out that I recently went to Ste. Anne’s Spa in Grafton, Ontario for a much-needed self-care spa day. What’s up with that?! Why is it that people think it either impressive or unusual that one should do things alone? Anyhow, that is a subject for another post, I’m sure! But today is International Self Care Day so I wanted to share my recent solo girl’s spa day getaway to Ste. Anne’s Spa

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Coal and Canary Scented Candle

Riding Solo for this Self Care Day

It hadn’t occurred to me that it was unusual to go to the spa alone. I mean my idea of relaxation and pampering involves me riding solo and being left alone to just kick it, in silence, preferably with a good book and in beautiful surroundings! What can I say?!, I love my own company! Embracing solitude is simply another equally rewarding way to make the most of a spa experience, isn’t it?!

I no longer drive so I was excited to learn that Ste. Anne’s can arrange for Via Rail train tickets and provide a shuttle service as part of my spa package! Woot-Woot!

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Ste. Anne’s Spa

My initial trepidation about this solo selfcare spa day was, “what the heck was I gonna do all day by myself?” I had the whole day to myself.  I had nothing to worry about of course. Ste. Anne’s Spa took care of everything for me, including booking my train tickets and providing shuttle service to the spa. They even sent my itinerary with suggestions of what to pack for the day. All I needed to do was pack my things and show up!

I began my day with breakfast, followed by the most amazing Eucalyptus Body Wrap (with a facial and head massage! h.e.a.v.e.n.) that left me feeling lighter and all kinds of relaxed and rejuvenated! I also did a Gentle Yoga wellness class that was enjoyable and the perfect way to wind down.

I had a stress-free, super relaxing time wandering the beautiful, spacious grounds, listening to the birds sing, feeling the sun on my face and the soft breeze on my skin.  I strolled slowly, aimlessly, and completely at ease.

I got excited to find little gardens dotted around the property where you could sit, quietly and listen to the rhythm of the flowing water against the rocks and the faint, soothing melody of wind chimes being softly kissed by the wind. Peace and tranquillity are the only words I have to describe the experience.

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The only time I realized how many small groups of people were at the spa was during lunch and afternoon tea while I was in the dining area. Otherwise, I was pretty much left to walk and chill out in peace and enjoy the serenity of the place.

Solo Spa Days are Awesomeness

Would I do it again? Absolutely! By myself, yeah, or even with my besties. The one thing I wish I had done, however, was to learn to sit still a little longer, close my eyes and just be in the moment. I struggle with that at home but taking this small step outside my comfort zone and to have this experience is enough for now. 

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peace. out

Cass McD.

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Iceland Travel Guide: 7 Things-to-Do & 5 Travel Takeaways from my vacation in Reykjavik

Iceland_Landscape_Houses_HR-17Photo: Cassandra McD.

We travelled to Iceland in May and I’ve been meaning to share some of the highlights and low-points of the trip with you, so here you go! (WARNING: This is a long post so grab your coffee, settle in and enjoy!)

The Outdoors for the Not-so-Outdoorsy: Stepping Outside my Comfort Zone

First things first, I’m not at all an outdoorsy person! I mean, I think I went camping once, in maybe 6th grade – I’ve blocked it out of my memory so I’m not even sure that really happened! So, this trip to Iceland, with the vast landscapes, waterfalls, sheep and spots where scenes from Game of Thrones was filmed (ok, so I was totally looking forward to that part), was going to be well outta my comfort zone, for realz. But, that’s what this year is about, finding small ways to step outside my comfort zone and get comfortable with discomfort.

Iceland_Landscape_mountains_HR-6Photo: Cassandra McD.

I didn’t anticipate what awaited me on this trip. What awaited me you might ask? White Walkers!!! Kidding! But honestly, there might have well been when we found ourselves on a mountain in a snowstorm and visibility was zero. We couldn’t see who, or what was coming along the trail.

Iceland_Hiking_Snow_DeePhoto Credit: Jerome Clark

Something to keep in mind is that Iceland weather is truly unpredictable, even during their summertime. Pack appropriately with options of layers for warmth and protection from the elements!

Where we stayed

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My cousin was in-charge of the accommodations. To save costs we stayed at an AirBnB in the City Centre and bought groceries at a local supermarket called Bonus. We were told by a local, it’s where the locals’ shop and better bang for your buck than other places. Also, a burger and fries at a restaurant could easily cost about $30 CAN so buying a sandwich at the supermarket was our better option!

Where we ate

Well, given that prices were exorbitant for everything in Iceland we bought groceries at the local grocery store. We did visit a Thai restaurant and had pizza! Well, because we love pizza and burgers and fries!

Photos by Cassandra McD. and Jerome Clark

What we did

Because there were three of us we had planned ahead of time that each person would provide a list of three things they wanted to do while in Iceland and then we would narrow the list down based on costs and time.

Luckily for me I travel with some awesome family members who, like me, are fairly easy-going and we didn’t have any issues selecting things to do that we could all enjoy as a group (well, ok, I was not too keen on the horseback riding – I was terrified of that tour but I was out-numbered on that so I decided to feel the fear and do it anyways!“)

The tours we took were well run. We did a Citywalk tour, GoEcco hiking tour and Ishetar Icelandic horseback riding tour. When we weren’t touring we spent some time walking around Reykjavík, checking out shops and a couple museums.

The weather served up some real doozies and stole the show in terms of vacation memories. Even the locals remarked that the wonky weather was unusual for May. We experienced rain, strong winds gusts that made an umbrella useless, then came periods of hail and snow all within minutes and daily throughout the entire trip.

Although the weather made for limited exploring we agreed we would have loved to do more walking around the city for sure.

Here is the list of most of the activities we did during our 5 days in Iceland (links to websites included to learn more about each activity):

  1. Blue Lagoon Iceland Geothermal Spa
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Photo: Blue Lagoon, Jerome Clark

  • Liked: Shuttlebus straight from the airport and return trip that dropped us off minutes away from our accommodations. Place to store luggage and opportunity for some cool photos.
  • Didn’t Like: The facilities were not well heated. It was freaking freezing outdoors but when you were inside, it was not that warm. It’s also pricey.

2. City Walk Reykjavik – Walking Tour 

  • Liked: The tour was 2-hours and “free” but you could make a contribution at the end of the tour if you choose to. It was a great way to meet fellow travellers (met another Canadian),  learn about the Iceland history and about Reykjavik.
  • Didn’t Like: Nothing bad to say about this tour at all. It was a great way to start our trip and to get insider tips on where to eat, shop, or what other things to do on your trip. The fact that it was two-hours and free was awesome as we got to set our own budget for donations.

 

  • Liked: Our Guide – he clearly had a passion for the environment and was very knowledgeable. The hike was an easy one to do for non-outdoorsy types like us!
  • Didn’t like: the snow-storm that rolled in and left us covered in snow and with frozen fingers and toes. Thumbs down!

 

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  • Liked: That they had rain gear that you could put on. Also, I got to ride an Icelandic horse for about an hour ( I’d never been on a horse before so this was quite the experience)
  • Didn’t like: We picked the wrong tour. Although this was presented as something even for people who had never been on a horse, I felt the group was too big and the instructions to minimal for our liking and with our nerves, well, we probably should have done more research and signed up for the Meet the Horse tour.
    • I had never been on a horse, close to a horse or even knew how to fix the straps on my helmet. So, when I was put in a line then handed the reins with a massive beast attached and told to “Go!” I was a bit shocked and very uncomfortable. This was followed by a not-so-cooperative horse that I ended up exchanging for another!
    • This experience deserves a post of its own so to keep this short, I survived but I think next time doing the Meet and Greet with the horses might have been more appropriate.

 

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  • Liked: The architecture and The staff. We had the best chat with the staff there about Canada and a random conversation about Trapped – an Iceland drama I watched on Netflix. Don’t ask!
  • Didn’t Like: The weather ruined the views from the observation deck. We braved it for a few minutes but hurried back into the warmth of the indoors.

Photos: Cassandra McD.

  • Liked: It was free to simply walk around and admire the stunning architecture. The gift shop had some cool merch as well. It was worth a quick tour even if we were not seeing a show or buying any merch.
  • Bonus: There is a free bus that takes you from the Harpa to the Pearl.

 

Photos: Cassandra McD.

  • Liked: You were able to get some cool shots of the exterior, interior and panoramic views of the city.
  • Didn’t Like: That I took me basically the entire trip to feel comfortable pronouncing the name and knowing full well that I still ain’t saying it right!

5 Travel Takeaways: 

  1. Location, location, location – the AirBnB my cousin booked was a prime location and given the weather was so awful, it was nice to be able to walk a short distance to do grocery shopping.
  2. Timing is everything…sort of – Apparently July and August would have been a much better time to visit. It’s their summer and the most likely time to get decent weather.
  3. Thermal underwear is a lifesaver – Pack extra layers, including socks and thermal underwear! Also, if you happen to bring pjs, they also make for a good added layer of warmth.
  4. Waterproof things, one of the best inventions ever! Buy some. A pair of waterproof hiking boots,  waterproof outer layer shell jacket and phone carrying case to slip your phone in.
  5. Having a positive attitude is the best carry-on. The weather sucked but we were able to find lots of laugh about and have wonderful conversations with people we met during our stay. We had bad weather but made good memories!

Lastly, what I loved about Iceland

My favourite thing about the trip was the people! Hands-down. Everyone was really friendly and helpful.
My suggestions for those of you who more city travellers and non-outdoorsy but who want to get a little outside your comfort zone and stretch yourself a little bit without going all into a full-on camping and outdoor adventure, then Iceland is a great option to consider.
One thing we wished we had the opportunity to do but didn’t because of the weather was renting a car and doing a day trip. Tours can add up so renting a car would have been a great option to see a bit more. That being said, I would love to go back and experience Iceland in better weather! Perhaps a stop-over may be in my future!
Cheers,
Cassandra

 

 

 

 

 

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My Migraine Journey: Life Interrupted

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June was National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, and I was happy to be able to share my migraine journey as a part of the #MoreThanAMigraine campaign to help raise awareness.

The Migraine Struggle is Real!

Migraines and me, well we’ve have had a long, tumultuous relationship. My earliest memory of migraines was when I was 11. At the time I had no idea the debilitating pain, vomiting, sensitivity to light and noise, all common migraine symptoms, would be something I would be living with for most of my life. I simply believed for a long time I had headaches.

The stuff that other people say

If you suffer from migraines you probably can relate to having well-intentioned people give you unsolicited suggestions about causes and advice on potential cures even though they have never suffered from migraines or rarely had headaches.

  • “It’s just a bad headache” – my mom used to say this. She’d give me over- the-counter pills for headache pain relief and tell me to sleep it off.
  • “You read too much!” – this may have been partly true because I eventually did need glasses.
  • “Take magnesium, iron or calcium.”
  • “It’s probably you’re diet. Go gluten-free!”

Incidentally, lack of knowledge plays a big part in why migraines go undiagnosed for years, as mine did.

Set it Off: Facts and Triggers

After being diagnosed with migraines in my 20s, I set out on what I think is typical for people who suffer from migraines, trial and error methods of trying to identify what the triggers were.

Some of my triggers include scents like vanilla or lilac, and many perfumes, red wine, too much caffeine, and certain types of soft drinks. Then there are the triggers I have zero control over, like hormonal changes that happen during PMS (yup, every month) or changes in weather. I live in Canada, so you know, that’s pretty much every day!

Life Interrupted

I’ve learned through my experience and meeting others with migraines that we have different experiences with migraines.  I’m guessing the one thing we may have in common is that migraines, whether episodic or chronic, can severely impact on our quality of life, including missing days off school or work and affecting productivity and time with family and friends.

One time I was asked to photograph someone for their website, my first paid gig as a freelance photographer. On the day of, however, I was hit with a migraine. I showed up, put on my best smile and barrelled through the shoot like it was the best day ever while in pain and feeling nauseous the entire time. The client couldn’t tell that I was not at my best. It made me angry, frustrated and questioned whether I could do freelance work at all if migraines were going to be an issue.

My migraines are episodic, meaning I have them less than 15 days each month (sometimes they can last for days). I met a woman who has chronic migraines, which are ones that happen for 15 or more days per month. She told me she had migraines every single day. It blew my mind that she was able to hold a job and live while in pain every day. But she told me she has a system of pain management in place that works, and that is routine for her.

Suffering from migraines, regardless of the type, just straight up sucks, 100% for the individual and their loved ones. Having to miss the championship game for your kid’s basketball team, or piano recital or awards ceremony because of a migraine can be painful for the parent and the child.

Ain’t No Cure for these Blues

Since there is no cure for migraines, when it comes to migraine treatments, one size does not fit all.  Before my particular course of treatment, my migraine would typically last for 14 hours. I would be curled up foetal position on the bathroom floor, in the dark, cellphone in hand, crying and wondering when I should call 911 for help. I felt like death.

After trial and error, I’ve found a combination of preventative and alternative treatments that work for me.

Migraine Management - InfoGraph

I’ve managed to cut the duration down to about 7 hours on average. I take less time off work, get to spend more time with friends and family and don’t stress out as much about going on vacation.

We have to find treatments and ways to manage the pain that meet our specific needs. For some, it’s preventative measures, like migraine-specific medication, therapeutic options like BOTOX for chronic migraines (yes, that’s right, BOTOX was approved in Canada in 2011 to be used to treat chronic migraines. I have no experience with it but consult your doctor for more details). Alternative options such as acupuncture, massage therapy or chiropractic treatments may also work for some people.

I still experience debilitating migraine headache days,  sometimes migraines that last for up to three days, but these are infrequent now and for that, I am very grateful.

If you or someone you know suffers from migraines, check out www.mychronicmigraine.ca where you can take a simple quiz to determine whether you might be a chronic migraine suffer and learn more about chronic migraines.

Cheers,

me

 

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My Morning Routine- Mellowed Out and Lovin’ it

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How I start my day has changed considerably when I was forced to cope with chronic pain that left me unable to sit or walk for months. Then I suffered from burnout which left me feeling mentally, physcially and emotionally exhausted. To say it was a rough year is an understatement.

Burnout threw me off my game and I needed to take back some control, in small ways and switching up my morning routine was one way I was able to do this successfully.

Now getting up and starting my day off in quiet before I get my hustle on is essential to me. It’s been my lifesaver. I also read a Fast Company article If you want some general information about how successful people start their mornings, Fast Company article on how successful people start their mornings which was helpful in reinforcing the notion that how we start the day is so important for wellness.

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What were my mornings like before? Well, I would get up at 6:00 with the alarm, usually after a restless nights sleep, groan loudly and curse, and immediately start to think about work and all I needed to get done that day.

One of the big issues for me was being super hydrated and waking up with headaches and for a migraine sufferer, this only added to my crappy morning mood. Here’s a Reader’s Digest article about some of the implications for dehydration while sleeping.

Once I was out of bed, I would get into distraction mode. I turn on the television to take in the morning news and immediately sit there, like a zombie, watching the highlights and maybe even getting a little depressed at the not so happy news stories.

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I would eventually make turn my attention to charging my phone. Naturally, I would stop to check emails and a quick look at Instagram.

Then I would absentmindedly take a shower as I continued thinking, stressing, about the day ahead of me.

Basically, I was kind of sleepwalking through my mornings. Sometimes I was so lost in thought I wouldn’t remember getting dressed or recall the journey into the office. Sound familiar?

Downing in the emotional and physical quagmire of burnout forced me to try some new things. I created an info-graphic to highlight my mellow morning routine.

Morning Routine - InfoGraph - FINAL

What ways do you find to get your day off to the right start, especially if you have kids and a full house?

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Gratitude Attitude: Getting Uncomfortable to Find Happiness

Copy of Just try New things. Don't be afraid. Step outside your comfort zone and soar.

VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE and intentionally getting uncomfortable is the secret to really kicking that spice up a notch!

This approach to life is what’s kept me, in many ways, out of the clutches of prolonged periods of depression. It’s been a solid practice for maintaining my mental wellness. The odd thing is that I hadn’t connected it to my happiness before. If I’m not learning something new, then I’m usually pretty miserable.

How I do it

I’m a lifelong learner – if I could get paid to take classes for a living, I’d probably be happy (assuming it’s not math…). Every year, as part of my goal setting, which involves sitting down with a pen and post-it note and jotting a few things down, I try to list one new thing I want to do or learn for the year, sometimes more.

Several years ago, I decided to do my first solo travel. I went to Chicago and fell in love with the city and solo travel! I’ve since visited solo to a few other countries including Spain and Portugal.

I have taken a 10-week technical boxing class, which was intimidating – it was in a real boxing gym and the guy, well, he looked like he coached many champs in his earlier days. I absolutely LOVED every, single, gruelling, sweat-drenched, bit of the workout! To this day, I will swear that boxing is the best fitness workout you can get!

I have also taken classes in kickboxing, taekwondo, Spanish, salsa and Cha-cha lessons (omg, sooooo embarrassing!) and ice skating – I still can’t figure out how to stop without crash landing, but I haven’t broken any bones or hurt anyone, so I’m ok with that.

In all of these activities I’m usually mediocre at best, or sometimes the classes were not that great, but I always stick with it through the end. I’m still happier for taking the time to do something for myself, that is, to intentionally get uncomfortable, learn something new, meet new people and just have a good time.

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5 other Awesome Benefits of Getting Uncomfortable:

  1. You’re in control. You decided what new thing you want to try and just go for it!
  2. You’ll feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when you take that first step (ok, you’ll probably also feel sick to your stomach, but that should pass…eventually)
  3. You’ll feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment having done it.
  4. Your more risk-averse friends will totally admire you (yes, I am a Badass, cha-cha dancing superstar, that’s right!)
  5. It has the power to be transformative. You will learn something about yourself from all that discomfort, like, Ummm, that you are in fact a badass.

This year, to step outside my comfort zone, I’ve committed to taking “self-portraits” and sharing them here @thisgirlwithcamera for all to see. Just writing that made me feel a little queasy. I’m still getting used to it, maybe even enjoying it a little!

(Inspiration for this post is from Get Happy: Lessons in Lasting Happiness by Dr Anthony Gunn)

What interesting ways have you found to  ‘spice up” your life lately? Leave a comment.

 

 

 

 

 

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Brunch Spotlight: Wish Restaurant, Toronto

Wish Restaurant

Photos by Cassandra McD.

It’s the weekend! And that means its time for one of my favourite activities. Brunching! Ahh, if brunch was a sport, it would practice it professionally!

One of the restaurants in Toronto that I’ve been to a few times for weekend brunch is Wish Restaurant. Celebrated my birthday here last year as well. I’m a sucker for great design and this place has this French, rustic vibe going on that’s chic and inviting (also it’s a place that serves my two fave meals, French Toast and burger and fries! Never disappoints!)

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Wish Restaurant

Be forewarned, the space is on the small side but the patio is great in the summer. If you happen to walk by during a weekend afternoon you will notice that the place is filled with the constant hum of conversation and a constant stream of people. It gets seriously busy really quickly so my advice would be to make reservations and do that early.

I will mention that the last time I was there, we were politely encouraged to leave after a short time as the table was reserved for other patrons. This is not uncommon for hotspots in the city. So, if you’re looking for a place to gab for hours with the girls this may not be the place for you.

Wish Restaurant

Tips:

  • Always make reservations in advance
  • Try to get there for an earlier brunch time slot as it’s less busy
  • Take a couple pics for the IG, it’s def an Instaworhy spot, don’t you think?

If your a brunch lover too, would love to hear what is your favourite brunch dish?

 

 

 

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