Everyday Makeup Using Drugstore Products

When it comes to makeup I’m a no fuss, no muss kind of gal. I spend maybe 5 minutes applying makeup in the morning. And I use mostly drugstore makeup products because it’s cheap and it gets the job done. When I was younger I used to splurge on the expensive stuff, but when I tried drugstore brands I was impressed with the quality and called it “good enough.” Why pay more?

These are the drugstore products I use every day as part of my makeup routine.

everyday drugstore makeup favorites

1. L’Oréal Paris True Match Lumi Healthy Luminous Makeup
This foundation has SPF protection and that’s why I got it. I use a kabuki brush to apply it, which is my favorite way to apply foundation. From time to time I’ll use my fingers if the brush isn’t available, and it works just fine. This foundation is pretty sheer, which I like. I don’t want to look like I caked on fondant on my face. It’s just enough coverage to even out my skin tone. Plus, it’s moisturizing, which is great during winter when my face becomes parched as a desert wasteland.

2. L’Oréal Paris True Match Super-Blendable Powder
I used MAC Blot Powder for years, and I recently switched to this. Easier on the wallet and works just fine.

3. Maybelline Expert Wear Eyeshadow Quads
I use Chai Latte – a neutral palette that works well for everyday eye makeup.

4. NYX Cosmetics Slide On Pencil
This is a creamy eyeliner pencil that glides on smooth. It’s so easy to use! If you have oily eyelids (like I do) you may need to touch up later in the day (but I don’t bother). I use the shade Jet Black.

5. Burt’s Bees 100% Natural Moisturizing Lip Shimmer
On the days I don’t go for the lip-liner-as-lipstick shtick I use this tinted lip balm. I like the shade Rhubarb. This is a moisturizing lip balm with good pigmentation. Doesn’t make your lips too shiny.

6. NYX Slim Lip Liner Pencil
I just recently discovered that you can use lip liner as lipstick not just as lip liner. Who knew? Apparently it’s how the young kids to do it. It will give your lips a very matte look so you may want to touch it up with some lip gloss or lip balm. I find using a lip liner as lipstick way easier to apply than lipstick. With lip liner you can define and color your lips all in one go and be very precise about it. Efficient! Love it!

If I go for mascara I use Innisfree skinny mascara which I order from Amazon. Works fine. But I may switch to a NYX, L’Oreal, or CoverGirl brand in the future.

If you’d rather use a tinted moisturizer (and skip foundation) I highly recommend Boots No7 Dual Action Tinted Moisturiser. I’ve been using it for years. I recently stopped using it because I switched to an oil-free moisturizer with higher SPF (the onset of wrinkles at my age is REAL, and I needed to take action). But I still occasionally use it if I’m in a hurry and can’t bother to do the moisturizer-then-foundation routine. I just mix the tinted moisturizer with a bit of foundation, apply to my face using my fingers, and I’m good to go!

Have you ever watched makeup tutorials online? Once I start I can’t stop watching them! I just keep watching one after another. They are so addictive. It’s mesmerizing to watch makeup artists transform their faces, and they make it look so effortless.

These are a couple of my favorite makeup tutorials on Youtube:

If you want to learn how to apply foundation, check out this tutorial by Jaclyn Hill.

Doing eye makeup can be especially challenging for Asian women. I watched tons of eye makeup tutorials for monolid eyes. I like this one by Jen Chae, and her other eye makeup tutorials for Asian eyes are also good. Seriously, I can watch her channel forever.

My Favorite Instant Pot Recipes

instant pot gif

I’ve had the Instant Pot for a little over a year now, and it has revolutionized the way I cook. I call it the Magic Pot. It reinvigorated my interest in cooking, and I barely use the stove to cook anything anymore.

I use the IP several times a week. Hard-boiled eggs and steamed vegetables are a couple things I make in the IP on a regular basis. Steamed veggies taste so much better when cooked in the IP. My toddler can’t get enough of steamed broccoli, green beans, and cauliflower. I even converted my favorite recipes so that I can cook them in the Instant Pot.

The other thing I love to make in the IP is steel cut oats for breakfast. It is so quick to make. I used to cook steel cut oats the night before, let it sit overnight, and cook some more the next morning. Now, the whole ordeal takes less than 30 minutes in the IP, and I don’t have to babysit it while it cooks.

instant pot penne al burro recipe

Since I’m able to cook big batches of food in the IP during the weekend, we have enough leftovers to take as lunch during the week. So the IP has actually saved us money.

The best thing about the Instant Pot is that it has made cooking less stressful. I can just dump all the ingredients into it and walk away. No standing over the stove, stirring, and keeping an eye on the food.

If you haven’t already jumped on the Instant Pot train, what are you waiting for? This kitchen appliance has saved me so much time and reduced the stress of cooking. I cannot recommend it enough.

Here are my favorite Instant Pot recipes so far:

•  Beef Stew
•  Kalua Pork
•  Chicken Congee
•  Salsa Verde Shredded Chicken
•  Roast Potatoes

Check out my Pinterest board of IP recipes for more recipe recommendations.

Here’s a super easy penne al burro recipe, which I’ve adapted from a recipe I already had. It’s basically the easiest mac n cheese you’ll ever make.

instant pot penne al burro recipe

1 lb. penne rigate
2 tsp kosher salt
4 cups water
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp cream cheese (optional)
½ to 1 cup freshly grated Parmiggiano Reggiano

Place the the penne and salt in the IP and pour in the 4 cups of water. Make sure all the pasta is under water by patting the noodles down with a cooking utensil.

Cook on Manual for 4 minutes. Release pressure using the Quick Release method.

Leave the pasta water in the pot, and add all the butter into the pot. Add the cream cheese if you have it. Stir until butter (and cream cheese) has melted. Then add the Parmiggiano Reggiano. Start with ½ cup and add more to taste. Stir until the cheese has melted.

Serve and enjoy!

favorite instant pot recipes

10 pieces 10 outfits 10 days

Last month I joined the winter 10×10 challenge. The basic idea was to choose 10 items of clothing, including shoes, and make 10 different outfits from them over 10 days. I thought it would be a fun challenge and I would learn something from it. And both turned out to be true.

I already follow the capsule method for my wardrobe so I thought it would be interesting to be limited to an even smaller capsule.

capsule wardrobe

Here’s what I chose for my 10 pieces:

—4 tops

—1 cardigan

—3 pairs of pants

—2 pairs of shoes

I was free to choose whatever outerwear and accessories I fancied. And yes, most of the pieces I chose were black so it made it easy to create various outfits. Everything basically went well together. So getting dressed in the mornings was a breeze. I took a photo each day to document the outfits I created. And let me tell ya, taking selfies was the most painful part of this experiment.

10 day capsule wardrobe

Here are 5 things I learned by doing the 10×10 challenge:

  1. I hate taking selfies. Absolutely hate it.
  2. I’ve always been curious to see what it would be like to dress in all black all the time. Well, it turns out I don’t like it too much. I realized that I need to wear something of a lighter hue now and then.
  3. Because I got sick of wearing all black after a few days, it forced me to try styling my outfits to introduce some novelty. So for the first time in years I tucked in my shirts. I tried half tucks and full tucks. It’s a bit of a pain to tuck in my shirts every time after going to the bathroom but it only takes a few extra seconds to do it.
  4. No one noticed I was wearing the same 10 pieces of clothing for 10 days.
  5. Since I got by just fine with 10 items I learned that I really don’t need as much clothes as I think I do.

So this experiment gave me some clarity about how I want to shop for my wardrobe going forward. Since I don’t need as much clothes, I will fork out the money for high quality, ethical brands. Spending more on well-made, ethically-made clothes will mean I buy less, which will help me in my quest to live a minimalist life. Plus, I’ll have a more clear conscience when I do buy from independent brands that focus on ethical production.

I believe in the long run this will actually help me save money as I won’t be buying clothes mindlessly just because they are on sale or it’s a “good deal.” If I carefully consider my purchases, I will most likely end up feeling more content with my wardrobe.

DIY Modern Minimalist Planter Boxes

diy modern minimalist planter box

Last May, the Dude and I picked up the materials to build three planter boxes for our balcony. We finished building them in June, and I did the first two coats of paint shortly thereafter. I didn’t get around to painting the third coat until August. The plants were purchased and planted in September. And now it’s the end of October and I’m finally blogging about them.

These planters were supposed to be done in June but then life…

So anyway, I pretty much followed the instructions in this tutorial to build the planters except ours are much longer and they are not vertically stacked.

diy modern minimalist planter box

We have a super long balcony, and I’ve been wanting to plant some stuff to fill the space. When I looked up the price of modern fiberclay rectangular planters I choked and decided to DIY it using wood and a few coats of paint.

We picked up all our materials from Home Depot, and the cost of making the three planters came just under $200 (materials are listed below). I can’t even buy ONE fiberclay planter in the same size for $200!

I planted blue oat grass, an evergreen grass, which I got from Hunters Garden Centre in Kits. Blue oat grass doesn’t need much water, which is a good thing, because watering plants is a chore I prefer to do sporadically. For soil I combined container mix and landscape soil.

The plants look a bit wispy at the moment but perhaps by next year they will fill out. I just hope they don’t die during the winter because that’ll be $120 that just withers away.

diy modern minimalist planter box

1 – 2” x 8’ x 12’ pressure treated wood
1 – 2” x 8’ x 10’ pressure treated wood
18 – 1’ x 6’ x 4’ cedar
12 – 3” screws
72 – 1 ½” screws
1 – roll of landscape fabric
1 gallon – exterior white paint (I used untinted Behr exterior paint)

diy modern minimalist planter box

Tips for making rectangular planter boxes

  • Pre-drilling all the pilot holes is a must when constructing the boxes. It’ll make things go much faster and easier.
  • The tutorial says to use deck screws but we used regular ones for the 3” screws.
  • For the gaps between the boards on the long side of the planter, we just eyeballed it. To prevent soil from seeping out through the gaps, I stapled landscape fabric in the inside of the box.
  • For drainage, place empty milk jugs at the bottom of the box, put a sheet of landscape fabric on top of the milk jugs so the soil doesn’t fall through, and then plant your plants on top of the sheet. Another reason I created the false bottom was to avoid filling the entire box with soil.
  • If using white paint it’s worth doing 3 coats. I found that 2 coats wasn’t enough for an opaque finish.

The great thing about making these ourselves, besides the satisfaction of building something with our bare hands, is that it allowed us to make them the exact dimensions that worked for the space. When I was shopping around for planter boxes they were either too big, too small, or the wrong colour (and definitely the wrong price!).


I’m pretty happy with how these planters turned out, and I hope they’ll look better as they age and get weathered.

Shortly after planting the blue oat grass, I felt inspired to go get more plants. I had some leftover soil, so why not? Here’s a cheerful collection of potted greenery, mostly herbs.


Our balcony is finally coming together, and I look forward to spending more time out on it next summer to enjoy our new plants.

diy minimalistic modern planter box

Why Clogs May Possibly Be the Perfect Shoes

sven halter top clogs

The summer of 2016 will be known as the summer when my love affair with clogs began. I am obsessed with clogs at the moment. Even though I already bought two pairs, there are at least four more I want to get. I’m so head over heels in love with clogs that they’re the only shoes I want to wear year-round.

Why do I love clogs? Because they are damn comfortable, and the ones they make these days pack a great deal of style. Now that I’m the mother of a small child, comfort is something I will not compromise on when it comes to shoes. Chasing after a rambunctious two-year-old requires shoes that provide good support and won’t destroy your feet. Clogs meet these requirements perfectly. And, to boot, there are many stylish clogs out there that will make you look fabulous while you run after your little tazmanian devil of a toddler.

Moreover, since I don’t own a vehicle I walk A LOT, and that requires I wear comfortable shoes. To some that may mean resorting to sneakers. Although sneakers are comfortable, I don’t think they are appropriate footwear for my workplace. Plus, they don’t go well with my work outfits anyway.

Enter clogs.

They are the perfect shoes to wear both for work and for walking. Walking in clogs all day actually doesn’t feel too bad. It did take a couple days adjusting to the wooden base but my feet quickly got used to them. I had no idea that a wooden sole could be comfortable.

I also find standing in clogs much easier. The clogs I wear have a medium heel, and I noticed that I can work at my standing desk much longer with clogs than with flat shoes. It doesn’t feel like I’m wearing heels at all because the wooden base provides great back support. My physiotherapist even noticed that my posture looked better when I wore my clogs.

These days I’m seeing clogs more and more on the interwebs, and it looks like they are making a comeback (or maybe they already did and I missed the memo?). I’m not at all surprised that they are trending again because many of them are beautifully designed. If you were like me and used to think clogs looked dowdy, a few minutes of online browsing will show you otherwise. Clogs have undergone a fashionable makeover. And that is great news for those of us looking for stylish shoes that don’t compromise on comfort.

If you’re thinking of getting clogs I recommend buying handcrafted ones. My favourite clog company is Sven, and their clogs are all made by hand in the United States. Handcrafted clogs are pricier, but the awesome quality you get in return is worth it. They may quite possibly last you forever.

best clogs

1. Toms Beatrix Clog Sandals Made in China

2. Sweedish Hasbeens T-strap Sky High Made in various countries other than Sweden (according to my research)

3. Sven Tawny Halter Top Clogs Made in USA

4. Sweedish Hasbeens Jodpuhr clog boots (see #2)

5. Cape Clogs Herringbone Green Made in Sweden

Visiting the Oregon Coast

oregon coast

Ah, the magical land of Oregon. Each time I’ve gone there I leave behind more pieces of my heart. This summer we went on a family road trip to the Oregon coast, and introduced the Beast to the land where he was conceived (our first trip to Portland was in September 2013 and nine months later out came our little Beast).

cannon beach oregon

The Oregon coast was AMAZING. We rented a beach house in Manzanita, which is just south of Cannon Beach. Manzanita is a tiny, sleepy beach town and much less busier than the better known Cannon Beach. It was perfect. If we go back again I would choose Manzanita again in a heartbeat.

manzanita oregon

We spent four nights in Manzanita with my parents. Because we had childcare taken care of by my folks, the Dude and I got to actually enjoy ourselves. We rode bikes on the beach, went hiking, and enjoyed a peaceful dinner at a local restaurant. The other benefit of having my parents with us was that my mom cooked for us. She spoiled us with yummy Korean food.

tillamook cheese factory

Visiting the Tillamook Cheese factory was a highlight of our trip. We toured the factory and learned how they make their tasty cheese. This place is worth visiting just to watch the assembly line. It was downright mesmerizing. The Beast’s favourite part was sitting in the Loaf Love Tour van, which he did not want to leave so we had to pry him out of there. He also indulged in lots of cheese, of course, being the cheese fiend that he is!

modo car oregon coast

We borrowed a Modo car for our trip since we don’t own a vehicle. To my surprise, it was about the same price as renting from a car rental agency so we went with Modo because it’s way less of a hassle. No car rental agency BS to deal with whatsoever.

Visiting Oregon never disappoints. Manzanita provided the right pace (slow) and environment (stunningly beautiful) that allowed us to relax and take it easy. I truly felt rejuvenated by this trip, mainly thanks to my parents who were with us to help out with the Beast. Otherwise, vacationing with a toddler simply becomes parenting in a less convenient place. When you have a toddler, every little bit of help you can get really makes a difference.

I’m already daydreaming about our next trip to Manzanita…

A Simple Two-Step Method For Creating a Wardrobe You’ll Love

konmari capsule wardrobe

I’ve been unsatisfied with the state of my wardrobe since I can remember. Every morning I stare into my closet and think, I have nothing wear, even though it’s filled with clothes. I always felt underwhelmed by my wardrobe. Why do I wear the same ten things over and over again? Why do I hold on to clothes that I barely wear anymore?

But finally, this summer, I decided to do something about it. I learned about an effective way of purging unwanted stuff and creating a wardrobe I’ll love. Armed with my new knowledge, I tackled my closet head on, and the result is a curated collection of clothes I am genuinely happy to wear.

Step 1: Purge All the Clothes You Don’t Love

Decluttering seems all the rage these days. Everyone is talking about Marie Kondo’s bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. After recently reading it for my book club, I felt motivated to go for it and apply the KonMari method to my wardrobe. As Kondo prescribes, I held in my hands, one by one, every item of clothing I owned and asked myself, Does it spark joy? (Yes, really).

konmari capsule wardrobe

KonMari’ng my wardrobe took a few hours, and the photo above shows the fruit of my purging mission. It turned out I owned 70 tops, and 35 of them were culled for the donation bin. Out of the 24 bottoms I owned, 9 failed the “Does it spark joy?” test. At least 6 pairs of shoes and more than half my socks were banished into the discard pile. After the whole procedure, I was thrilled to be done. I nearly felt intoxicated with giddiness. My wardrobe now only consisted of pieces I love. I had finally whipped my wardrobe into shape!

Now when I open my sock drawer and see all my favourite pairs at once, I beam with pride. Who knew a tidy sock drawer could bring about such euphoria?

Step 2: Create a Capsule Wardrobe

A capsule wardrobe is an awesome way to curate a seasonal collection of clothes that you are content to wear for a discrete period of time. So I created a capsule of 35 pieces that includes tops, bottoms, jackets, and shoes that I would wear from July to the end of September. This does not include workout clothes, sleepwear, and loungewear. I created my capsule entirely out of what I already owned except for a new pair of sandals. The clothes that didn’t it make into this season’s capsule were stored away and will be considered for the next capsule.

The capsule method is a good way to prevent mindless shopping because it forces you to be very intentional about what you add to your wardrobe. I’m really hoping that going with the capsule method will help me stick to my annual clothing budget. I plan to buy only high quality pieces that I will keep long-term and adheres to my personal style. The end result will be a cohesive wardrobe in which every item of clothing will complement one another.

The other great thing about a capsule wardrobe is that it saves you time when getting dressed. Because I love every piece of garment in my capsule, putting together an outfit for the day is easy-peasy. So in addition to saving you money, having a minimalist wardrobe will save you time and make getting dressed for the day much less stressful. I’ve been living with my capsule wardrobe for a month now, and I absolutely love it. There is no going back.

I am so pleased with how my wardrobe turned out that I’m looking forward to KonMari’ng the rest of our apartment. I no longer feel burdened by the clothes I own, and it’s a great feeling! After reading Kondo’s book I think I finally found a clear, concrete method for decluttering and achieving the minimalist lifestyle that I aspired to but always seemed elusive.

Have you tried the KonMari method or creating a capsule wardrobe? What has your experience been like?

Camping with a Toddler: A Survival Guide

camping at goldstream provincial park

We recently went camping on Vancouver Island for two nights with our two-year-old. It was our first time camping with the Beast, and there was much teeth-grinding dread in anticipation of it. Would the Beast sleep through the night? Given that our toddler has a tendency to make a run for it any chance he gets, how were we going to enjoy ourselves while being on high alert 24/7? Was I going to have my sanity intact by the end of the trip?

Fortunately, the Beast did sleep well for the most part. And we ended up having heaps of fun in spite of the challenging moments. Things certainly did go wrong, but in the end it was all worth it.

Every time I’ve gone camping I’m astonished by how at ease I feel being outdoors all day and all night. It’s like some primal part of my being instantly feels at home being out in nature. It was gratifying to provide this experience to our son and watch him enjoy his first camping adventure.

I am no camping expert, but I wanted to share some tips based on our first camping trip with our two-year-old that I hope other parents with toddlers will find helpful.

Here are 12 tips for surviving a camping trip with a toddler.

surviving camping with a toddler

1. Have non-ambitious plans
Our agenda for this trip was to make it as easy as possible. We made no plans to do anything that would require a great deal of effort. We mostly just hung out. Our campsite was right next to a playground so we spent a lot of time there with the Beast.

2. Go with friends
I wouldn’t have done this camping trip on our own, and I’m so glad our friends invited us to join them. It’s gobs more fun to go with another family. We took turns preparing meals and that worked out really well. After our kids went to sleep we sat around the campfire chatting and drinking beers. Speaking of beer…

3. Bring plenty of booze
They don’t call alcohol “mommy’s little helper” for nothing. Booze is a good way to reward yourself after a long day of being hypervigilant and looking after a toddler who has absolutely no regard for his own mortality.

4. Mentally prepare yourself not to get much sleep
Does anyone ever get a good night’s sleep while camping? I felt like I slept no worse this time around than I did on previous camping trips in my pre-baby years. If possible, take a nap in the afternoon to catch up on some Z’s. That’s what I did, and it helped mitigate the wretchedness I feel after a night of poor sleep.

camping with a toddler

5. Find ways to contain your toddler
Our boy is a super active toddler who is allergic to staying still. Being outside 24/7 with no walls to contain the kid proved to be exhausting, so there were times when we were very tempted to tie him to a tree. We gave ourselves breaks from having to chase him all over the place by attempting to contain him occasionally. We brought a portable booster chair in order to strap him down during meals. He slept in a pack ‘n’ play so that he wouldn’t be bouncing around in the tent like a crazed ferret. We slapped on a harness (a.k.a. a baby leash) on him to prevent him from darting into the road after he almost got hit by a car. It turned out that the best way to contain him was to park him in the back of our friends’ SUV. He loved chilling in the trunk with the door open.

6. Prepare food ahead of time
I chopped veggies at home to avoid having to bring a cutting board and knife. I also pre-cooked food and froze it. When it was time to eat, the food was already defrosted and all I had to do was reheat it. For fruit, I packed grapes and blueberries because they travel well. I also brought dried fruit and cheese sticks – easy finger foods.

camping with a toddler

7. Use disposable everything
In an effort to have a hassle-free camping experience, I resorted to using disposable plates, cutlery, cups, and paper towels. It’s wasteful and terrible for the environment, I know, but camping with a toddler is hard enough so I get a free pass, right? I highly recommend doing anything it takes to minimize the number of dishes to wash.

8. Accept filth and dirt as inevitable
I mentally prepared myself to be okay with dirt because that’s part of the camping experience. We did not bother bathing the Beast, and we used baby wipes to clean his hands before meals. I managed to brush my teeth and face once a day and that was good enough. Remember, easy is the name of the game!

9. Go on a hike
We went on an easy 1-hour hike with our toddler. He walked most of the way since we didn’t bother bringing our stroller. It was a great way to tire him out for his afternoon nap! This was our most ambitious activity during the entire camping trip.

10. Try to stick to your toddler’s routine but be flexible
The Beast normally has set meal times, but while camping I let him eat whenever and whatever he wanted to eat since food was always within reach. We pretty much stuck to his sleep routine, putting him down at the usual times he normally goes down for naps and bedtime.

11. Bring warm clothes and blankets (yes even in summer)
Even though it was July and sunny, it was freakin’ cold, especially overnight. We unfortunately were underdressed, and my sleeping bag didn’t keep me warm at night (hence the reason why I didn’t sleep well). We used a winter-weight sleepsack for our toddler but next time I would definitely get a sleeping bag for him. I worried the whole night he wasn’t warm enough even though for PJ’s he was wearing a onesie plus a fleece sleeper over it. But then again maybe he wasn’t that cold because the second night he sprung a major diaper leak that soaked right through his sleepsack and he slept fine the whole night. Anyway, better to be safe than sorry – so take extra blankets and sweaters!

12. Pack extra extra clothes for your toddler
Every parent who’s traveled with their toddler knows to pack extra clothes. Toddlers are exceptionally talented at generating all sorts of liquids from every orifice of their body. So for camping take even more spare clothes because you won’t have access to laundry facilities and your toddler will manage to soil herself one way or another. During this trip, the Beast had more diaper leaks than normal. Given his overnight diaper leak (see #11), next time I would put a pull-up diaper over his normal diaper for bedtime in order to prevent him from soaking his PJ’s and sleepsack.

Bonus tip: Let go and have fun.

Camping with a toddler turned out be more enjoyable than I expected. It’s a shitload of work (literally, as the Beast pooped generously and frequently during our trip), but it’s fun to see your kid have a great time as he explores the outdoors. I hope we do it again next summer!

Have you gone camping with a toddler? Any tips you’d like to add?

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Motherhood, Career, and Finances


Our boy recently turned two, so I’ve been reflecting on my time as a mother. Any honest parent will tell you that having kids is both wonderful and terrible. Personally, the challenging parts stand out in my memory more than the good times (due to the negativity effect). To overcome this cognitive bias, I try to consciously shift my perspective so I focus on the pros rather than the cons of becoming a mother.

Specifically I’ve been reflecting on how having a child has impacted my career and finances. While we were expecting my two biggest anxieties were how having a child would kill my career aspirations and how it would send us to the poor house. I confess that I had a very doom and gloom attitude. Surely a kid would ruin both, I thought. However, while reflecting on the last two years, it became clear that the outcomes have been unexpected.


Having a child has made me more ambitious than ever. Initially, I assumed motherhood would have the opposite effect. But I am now more focused on my career than I’ve ever been before. Having a kid makes you worry about finances all the time, and I want to be able to provide for the Beast, not just with material things, but more importantly with experiences that will make him happy and shape his character.

While pregnant I wasn’t sure whether I would end up working from home so I could spend more time with the Beast or working full-time and placing the kid in daycare. I was leaning towards the former. But while on maternity leave it became very clear that working at home and doing childcare was not the the option for me. To be frank, taking care of a child all day is just not my thing. It simply does not provide the mental stimulation I need. Soon after the Beast turned one, I started making moves to find a full-time job as a graphic and/or web designer. I beefed up my portfolio and hit the pavement applying for jobs in Vancouver. Within four months I landed my current job working as a full-time graphic designer. This was the shortest job search I’ve ever conducted. I was extremely motivated to secure a full-time job because by that point I was fed up with working from home and doing childcare, so I really hustled.

There were two books that really inspired me to pursue my career goals post-baby. I read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In while I was on maternity leave. Reading Lean In showed me that I do not have to compromise my career goals simply because I am a mother. I owe to it that book for going back to work full-time. More recently, I read another book on mothers and careers called The MomShift by Reva Seth, which I found inspiring, as it was filled with stories of mothers who achieved career success after having children. And these weren’t Sheryl Sandberg types who have millions in the bank and round-the-clock nannies. They were your typical everyday women.

I feel ambitious career-wise more than ever because motherhood is not the end all be all for me. There is more to my identity than being a mother. Motherhood is just one aspect of my life.


Like I mentioned before, having a child has caused me to fret about our finances more than ever. I worried about financial ruin constantly while pregnant. (Did I mention I have a tendency to catastrophize?). Midway through my pregnancy we became a single-income family so I really agonized about how we were going to afford raising a child, especially in a pricey place like Vancouver.

Expecting a baby definitely motivated us get our finances in order and be disciplined about our money. We paid off our student debt, saved up enough for an emergency fund, started contributing monthly to our RRSP (retirement savings), got life insurance, and wrote our will. We track every dollar we spend and review our budget on a regular basis. There is nothing like the fear of living in a cardboard box to whip me into financial shape. Having two incomes again definitely helps. But financially things remain tight mainly due to the insanely high daycare fee we pay every month and did I mention we live in Vancouver, a.k.a. No Funds City? Amazingly, though, we are able to put money away every month for our future because we live within our means and we carefully consider every purchase that’s not a fixed cost. Every dollar of income is accounted for so no more mindless spending!

Therefore, having a kid, to my pleasant surprise, did not ruin my career nor did it bankrupt us. The Beast motivated us to be more responsible when it comes to career and finances. Of course, he has also brought a lot of good into other parts of our lives. There is more joy and laughter. Yes, it’s challenging being a mother. And there are aspects of motherhood I definitely dislike, but that’s another blog post!

How has raising a kid(s) impacted your career and finances?

168 Hours: What I Learned After Tracking My Time for One Week

Photo courtesy of Death to Stock

I recently quantified my life in 30-minute chunks for an entire week in order to see how I spend my time and notice any patterns. What inspired me to undertake this project? Laura Vanderkam, a time management expert, recently wrote an article in the New York Times about this topic, and after reading it, I was motivated to track my time to gather hard data on what I really do throughout the week.

I kept a record in a Google spreadsheet and updated it periodically throughout the day. Here’s a copy of the spreadsheet.

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There were a couple of anomalies in the week I did this. Twice I had to leave work earlier than usual because of appointments in the late afternoon. Normally I work from 8:30am to 5pm. And I also had to do daycare drop-off/pick-up a couple times, which I don’t do normally. Other than those activities, it was a typical week for me.

When I set out to do this experiment, I had a vague sense of what I do day in and day out, so I was looking forward to discovering my false beliefs about how much time I spend doing certain activities. Mainly, I was keen to quantify how much time I actually spend reading and doing household chores (which includes cooking meals, cleaning, and getting groceries). The “lies” I tell myself are that I don’t have enough time to read and that I spend too much time cooking. Well, time-tracking proved me wrong!

In one week I spent a whopping 10.5 hours reading (this is a rough estimate since I didn’t time myself exactly). I mainly read the news (print and online), typically in 15- or 30-minute allotments. It’s rare that I get to sit down for an entire hour and read. It would be nice to be able to read a novel for an hour straight, but that’s a luxury now (and frankly I don’t know if I have the patience to do so nowadays). When I was on maternity leave I used to read a book a week! Now that I’m a “working mother” (which still sounds comical to me), reading novels has gone down my priority list. These days I’m lucky if I get to finish a novel within a month.

The other “lie” I’ve come to believe is that I spend too much time cooking. The Dude and I share the responsibility of cooking meals, but I feel like I spend waaay more time than he does cooking. It’s probably true that I spend a little bit more time, but the data shows I definitely do not spend as much time as I think I do. Prepping food roughly took 4.5 hours of my time during the week. That’s not even an hour a day on average. So I’m going to stop lamenting the fact that I spend too much time cooking because in reality it’s not a fact at all.

Besides cooking, I spent roughly 5.25 hours on other chores during the week. The bulk of it was grocery shopping since I like to pick up fresh food every couple of days. I do one big grocery shop per week, which involves borrowing a car from Modo (our carsharing co-op), and I do smaller shopping excursions throughout the week (usually on my way home or during lunch breaks). I’m thinking of eliminating the weekly big grocery shop so I could fit in an extra fitness class per week. I tell myself I don’t have time to exercise, but I know better. I can fit in exercise during the weekend if I get groceries delivered instead. It will be more expensive, but when you take into account that I have to pay for the car rental and spend the time to go to the grocery store, in the end the price difference between going myself and getting groceries delivered may not be significant.

In the future I’d like to track an entire month. It would reveal how I actually spend my time, and based on the data I can make informed decisions on what needs to change. I get a 168 hours every week – no more, no less – so I want to make sure that I manage my time well.

Would you try tracking your time? Are you afraid of discovering the false stories you tell yourself about how you spend your time?