Social Capital Conference and GM Canada

Social Capital Conference, Ottawa July 23rd, 2011

Social Capital Conference was last weekend, and the first of it’s kind in the Ottawa area. It was well organized, had amazing food, and some great sponsors.

Although it was Chevy that was one of the sponsors of the conference, I should thank GM Canada  for the vehicle that I drove up to the conference (from Toronto). I was loaned a Buick Regal Turbo to drive for the weekend.

[Review] This is not your grandfather’s car anymore. With plenty of leg room in both the front and back seats, they have made this model sportier than I remember the Regal to be from 20+ years ago.

We only had the car for a weekend, so we didn’t have a lot of baggage. But the truck had plenty of room for 2-3 full size suitcases and a couple of carry-on bags. It also had a trap door to allow for skis to pop through to the back seat arm rest.

This fully loaded car had it all – from cruise control to fuel economy meter. The console had everything you needed to control the entertainment system (Radio and DVD player) and the navigation map. They were easy to reach for the driver. There was more than one place to access them. Some were on the steering wheel (answering/ending calls and volume control), while the others were below the gear shift box (which included switching display from navigation to audio). But if you didn’t want to use these controls, there was the voice commands. 

The voice control was quite intuitive. Connecting my iPhone via Bluetooth was very easy to do with a couple of verbal commands.

The interior had black leather seats. Which in the summer could be quite hot. But they clearly built this car well. Not only were the seats not hot after leaving the car for the pit stops, but the car cooled down quickly with their auto climate control.

 In terms of the design of the car, the only part that I feel was a bad choice by the designers is the chrome that they used around the gear shift box. With the sun that we had the whole weekend, I found myself having to cover it up with my sweater. I’m not sure if it was due to the position of my seat or my height, but it was quite annoying. The rest of the car had a brushed metal or pewter finish, so had they used that finish, I think that it would have accomplished the same effect without the blinding glare.

My only other complaint is that I couldn’t use the navigation map independently from the audio/music. It’s possible that the radio could be turned off, but I couldn’t figure it out.

Nonetheless, this is a great car to take a family of 3 or 4 on a road trip. It was a smooth ride and with the turbo, I’m sure that I was well over the speed limit (shhhh… don’t tell the cops).

Buick Regal Review – This is not a paid posting. I was loaned the Buick Regal from GM for 5 days for a test drive.

My next test drive will be the GMC Acadia from Toronto to Montreal for #LeTweetup in late August


GO Train


My daughter had said to me that she has gone on most forms of travel (plane, boat, bus, and car). And she said that the train would be the only one that she hasn’t been on yet (and she didn’t count being on the subway). So I needed to go to Oshawa to pick up a car from GM Canada for my weekend test drive. I figure that this is a great opportunity for my daughter to ride a train.

We fully embraced public transportation that day. We walked to the subway station, took it down to Union train station (with minutes to spare) and switched onto the GO Train. The added bonus to this experience was that the trains are double deckers. So needless to say that we sat up top.

It was definitely a fun thing to do with my daughter during her summer break.


You should see me now….

I’m on a roll. Finally. I’m now 40lbs down and I’m not done. But I’ll be honest, it’s not about the number anymore. It’s not even about the clothing/dress size. It’s about how I feel, my fitness level, and my endurance.

Working out with my trainer and being at Fight2BeFit was the best thing that I have done for myself my whole life. From having the best trainer, that truly cares and wants to help you achieve your goal. As long as you have the drive and the will to do it, he will help you get there.

I’ve been working out for three weeks now (training 3 days a week with the trainer and 7 days a week of 30 min cardio) and I’ve dropped 1-2 dress sizes. My flexibility and range of motion has also improved greatly.

Below are my before, during and progress photos. I’m going to leave the reveal to a later post.

It’s a New Year

It’s the first day after my 38th birthday. The Chinese say it’s the start of your 39th year. Either way, 40 is around the corner. I feel that I’ve been dealing with my image and weigh issues as long as I can remember. And it’s taken until now for me to do something about it. 

I know that in previous post from the past year have been about positive change and positive thoughts (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but I truly feel that I’ve finally taken action. 

Two weeks ago Monday, I walked into George Kiriakou’s gym, Fight2BeFit, and told him that I was time for me to sign on with him.

I’ve know George for a few years now. We live in the same building and I knew that he was a trainer (at another gym that I won’t mention) for a few years, but wanted to go out on his own. And six months ago, that’s exactly what he did. 

Within a couple of months, he approached me to have an open house/info night for the residents of our building. So I helped him make it happen. He suggested that checked out his first. I walked into 77 Finch Avenue E to the lower level to find a room with the usual suspects – upright an reclining bike, elliptical, stairs and a treadmill, plus all the range of free weights. Turn the corner and there’s a ghetto kitchenette that he called a Protein Shake Bar with one bar stool. There wasn’t much to it. I really wondered how I’d get to my goal in a place like that. 
Well the open house/info night arrived. I really wasn’t sure who or if anyone would turn up. I didn’t think that anyone would  want to pay for a gym membership when we had those same machines in our condo gym. Sure enough, people came. We had about 15ppl come. All of them gave their contact info and got a booklet of free passes to try out services and classes that offered at Fight2BeFit. 

I still didn’t sign up as I had just committed to a year at another gym and I couldn’t get out of it (and I still wasn’t sure if I couldn’t do it on my own). I knew and believed everything George was saying at the open house/info night. January 3rd 2011, I start at my new gym with great enthusiasm trying all the classes. I even signed up for nutritional counseling. 

Three months in, I became frustrated. There was little change to my weight, endurance and clothing size. My mid way goal (of 20lbs down) was 2 weeks away and I wasn’t any closer to it since I had been battling the same 5lbs since January. 

Back to today. It’s the day after my mid way goal, and granted I’m 14lbs from the mid way goal, but I can say that I’m stronger, my recovery is getting better and I already noticed that doing my cardio on the bike is getting easier. 

This is the year that I change my life for the better. 

– Posted using BlogPress

Kung Hei Fat Choi

Happy New Year! The Year of the Rabbit.

Gong Xi Fat Chai! Kung Hei Fat Choi

This Chinese New Year seemed to have crept up on me. Normally (or previous years) I used to decorate the house, get everything ready (buying new things, having the red pockets ready etc). But this year, the only thing that I remembered was that I would get time off from work.

To prep for Chinese New Year, I would get out our decorations, clean the house and buy something new (face cloth, slippers or PJ’s). I would get some red pocket envelopes and some crisp new bills and get it ready to give to my daughter. I’m still figuring out what traditions I want to continue/pass down to her. And I try to remember what my parents had done. Here’s what I remember:

Days leading up to New Year’s Day, you clean your home from top to bottom. The sweeping of “bad luck” allows good luck to come into your home

Day 1 New Year’s Day you put away all the brooms and dust pans so not to sweep away the “good luck”. The purchasing of something new to wear or getting a haircut represents a fresh start.

Day 2 (doesn’t apply to me) have married daughters return home to see their birth parents, as they might not be able to see them often after they are married. Also the second day would be the day that new businesses would start.

Day 3 is the day that you would stay home. You wouldn’t socialize with friend and family to avoid saying bad things or fighting with them.

Day 7 is the common man’s birthday. This is the day that we are all a year older.

Day 15 is Lantern Festival. This is the day that I’ve known to be like a Valentine’s Day where single women and men seek each other. This also marks the last day of the New Year celebrations.

All of these might not be 100% accurate, but it’s how I remember it to be.

So for those who celebrate Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year, I wish you a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year

Loving my Lululemon

I had just updated my status on Facebook that I have dropped a total of 30 lbs since I consciously decided to make a change.

Back in April, I went to a family wedding in Taiwan. I’m not sure how much I actually weighed back then, but I felt like I had exploded. The flight to Taiwan/Hong Kong not only made my feet and ankles swell, but the rest of my body (so I thought). Everything looked wrong. I looked wrong – I lost all my curves. I felt like I was expanding like Aunt Marge from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

I was embarrassed to have attended the wedding looking like this. Seeing my extended family (for a mini family reunion) and be double the size that I thought or felt I was.

I have dealt with my weight issues all my adult life, plus having a baby (7+ years ago) I had tried it all. From Jenny Craig/Weight Watchers. Herbal Magic and wishful thinking. But I knew what I needed to do. So I bit the bullet, contacted a nutritionist. I knew that weight loss was 80% what you eat and 20% exercise.

The nutritionist couldn’t take me as a new patient until June, so in the meantime, I cut out processed foods (as much as I could) and pop.

I should add that not long after this photo was taken, I went to try on bridesmaid dresses for a wedding that I was a part of for later that year, and I was fitted into a size 22!

I was finally able to meet with the nutritionist [June 21st, 2010], had my intake and assessment and I followed her recommendations the best that I could. I then hired a personal trainer. I started with her July 22. By that time I had dropped 12 lbs just by changing what I ate. After 3 sessions, I had to leave for a family vacation for 3 weeks. During that time, although I was only able to keep up my workout for the first week away, and was on my new food plan 50% of the time, I dropped another 8lbs by the time I returned home.

I set a goal, to lose as much as I could for the wedding of my friend, which was Oct 4th and therefore I had 5 weeks to pull it off. The trainer asked me to commit to walking at least 3 days a week for 10-20 mins. And I managed to do 3-5 days a week for 30-60 mins. We met 2 times a week until the wedding. I had lost inches but maintained the 20lbs down. I’d say that my dress size had to around a size 16 (although it was custom altered)

Of course I kept going. My ultimate goal is to be around 150 lbs and a size 6-8 (or any single digit dress size is fine).

30 lbs lighter30 lbs lighter Here I am today – 7 1/2 months later and a total of 30 lbs lighter. I’m a little over half way to my goal. And most of my loss is in my mid section. My pant size hasn’t changed, but I am in a Medium/Large for my tops (instead of XL-XXL) and the top that I am wearing here is a Lululemon and it’s a size 8!

A friend ask me how I was feeling about this milestone. At first, I didn’t feel any different. But now, I feel like I have accomplished something big. So even though I might not official be a size 8, thank to Lululemon’s top, I feel that I am.

[Previous posts Nutritionist and Committing to a New Lifestyle]

These are a few of my favourite…Apps

I’m dedicating this post to my favourite apps that I have for my iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad. [None of these are sponsored by the developer. I had bought and tried all of them]

iPhone/iPod Touch Apps: (some of these require 4G iPod Touch and/or running iOS4)

Momento $2.99 It’s been years since I have written in a Diary or Journal. Momento is a great solution to log almost everything that I post online. From my blog posts to my tweets. All this and it’s password protected.

Nike + GPS $1.99 In light of my goal to get fit and be healthier, my trainer asked me to commit to walking a minimum of 3 times a week. I wanted to track my distance so I first used the free Nike+ that comes with all iPods and iPhone. But that requires the transponder that you put in/on your shoe (an extra $15). This app doesn’t require any special transponder. Just put it in your pocket or attached it on yourself and off you go. It maps my route, log the distance, time etc and tells me how much calories I burned. It rocks. And just recently, they did add a heart rate monitor that you can buy $69.95 and it will really tell you your stats.

ZipList Free No matter how many cookbooks I own (and I have a lot) and apps from Jamie Oliver or Martha Stewart, I will still hop on my computer and do a quick search online. ZipList helps me keep all those recipes in one place and it will automatically create shopping lists for me for FREE. You can also share your recipe box with family and friends. So if you want your significant other to pick up some items, you can get them to look up your list thought this app. Free to register an account on their website.

Skype Free If you have access to Wifi you can make calls from both your iPhone or iPod Touch. It’s works great. I’ve called from Starbucks to my family in Hong Kong at no extra charge!

BudPhone Free Make long distance calls as long as you calling from and to the cities listed on their website (more cities are being added). Your number still appears on the call display at the other end. This is operated by They also have a desktop app where you can register for a dedicated and permanent number. With this, you have a free follow-me number with voicemail (that emails you the messages). So, until Google Voice comes to Canada, this is a great free way to make calls. {also available on Android and Blackberry phones}

Trip Journal $2.99 (and they have a free version of Trip Journal) It is exactly as it’s called, a travel journal. It will map out where you’re going. You can add points of interest with notes and photos. Then at the end of your trip you can share it all through Facebook, with their free TripJournal Facebook App. {also available on Android and Symbian phones}

iPad only Apps: The UI and design of the below apps is the eye candy that makes me love having my iPad

Lifelike Craig $1.99 A different way to browse Craigslist ads. Set up like a newspaper, you can mark your favourite posts with a red marker like circle.

Lifelike Cards $1.99 It’s like browsing postcards at a tourist shoppe while on vacation. This app gets the images from Flickr. You can have it pull random images, or by category. You can send these “postcards” to family and friends.

Early Edition $4.99 Takes the RSS feeds, and displays in newspaper style. Easily to organize with folders and easy to share to Twitter, Delicious, Facebook, or email it.

The Feed Free Unlike Early Edition, it takes its feed from your Google Reader only.

Flipboard Free First to come out with a visual way to see your Twitter feeds. It takes the websites, photos etc and puts it on the page with the tweet so that you don’t need to click to a website.

TweetMag $4.99 Another way to appreciate your Twitter feeds

Made for iPad and iPhone/iPod Touch:

Zinio Free Just in time for the de-cluttering of my home, I had subscribed to 80% of print magazine through their desktop app. Prices for annual subscriptions are same or less than subscribing to the print version. Then came their iPhone/iPad app. I can keep all my magazines with me or download them with any WiFi connection. You can read them like a magazine, or just the text only. Some magazines, like MarieClaire (US) have interactive bonus. Just check out the December 2010 issue with Emma Watson – she’s moving on the cover (like they do in The Daily Prophet in the Harry Potter series).

BlogPress $2.99 For posting to my blogs on Blogger and here on WordPress. You can also post to MSN Live Spaces, MovableType, TypePad, Live Journal, Drupal, Joomla, Tumblr, SquareSpace and My Opera.

Delivery Status Touch, a package tracker $2.99 with a free Desktop Widget. I use this app on all my devices (as well as my laptop) to track the parcels being sent to my clients from my overseas office and back again.
1Password by Agile Wed Solutions They have a Pro version for $14.99 which is for both your iPhone/iPod + iPad. If you only have one or the other mobile devices, there is 1Password for iPhone or 1Password for iPad at $9.99 each. The 1Password3 Desktop version is $39.99 for a single licence and $59.95 for  Family licence (up to 5). Originally, I had purchased the desktop software to help me remember everything I have in my wallet. With all the points cards available (and obviously I have) and the multiple passwords that I need to remember, it was the best solution. Now they have the App for the mobile devices (which also includes Android), you can carry all the info with you. You can also sync all your devices via WiFi or through the free Dropbox service. It will also help you create passwords if you need to make it more difficult than your child’s birthday or your sweetheart’s nickname.

PDFReaderPro $0.99 This is a great app for downloading, saving and reading PDF files. For example, after misplacing the manual for the new Food Processor that I got, I was able to find it online, download it, and read it on my iPad, while flipping to the recipe at the same time

Kobo Free An eBook reader app with many titles to purchase. But the bonus is that you can also borrow eBooks from the library (in this case I’m making the link to the Toronto Public Library, since I’m in Toronto).

Kindle Free {also available on Android and Blackberry phones} Obviously the same as Kobo, there can be more titles available through Kindle Store. Also there are times where I find that the price is significantly less than other eBook Store.

I hope that you find these quick summary and reviews helpful. These are the apps that I use regularly. Maybe I’ll post the game apps next time.

*I will write a separate post for Photo and Video Apps.

[Update – I should add that I have only Apple computers at home. I try to provide links for all platforms that are available, but sometime it might be Mac centric – sorry*]

Favourite Photo/Video Apps

{This is NOT a sponsored post. I paid and tried all these apps, and I would give them all 5 stars}

Being a trained photographer (but I don’t do it professionally anymore), I thought that I’d dedicate this post to my absolute favorite Photo/Video Apps.

Photo Apps:

Instagram Free (iPhone only) Already very popular, but right now only available for iPhone/iPod Touch. You can take photos with your camera or grab saved photos from your Photo Library. You can add filters before posting or leave it as it. After uploaded, you can share to many other services like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr to name a few.

Diptic Free with $1.99 upgrade (designed for both iPhone and iPad) This app allows you to put together your photos with preset frames.

Phoster $1.99 (designed for both iPhone and iPad) Create posters to print or share. Already preset with great graphic design. All you have to add is your images and the text. There are also different finishing effects (like a creased poster)

Swanko Lab $1.99 (designed for iPhone) Extra formulas $1.99 It’s like I’m back in school and in the darkroom experimenting. This app allows you to take photos from you library and add effects with different formulas.

ShakeItPhoto $0.99 I miss my polaroid cameras (and I had quite a few different models). This was a great way to simulate taking a polaroid shot. You even shake it to help develop.

CameraBag $1.99 one of the first photography apps on the market, this one has preset finishes to apply on your photos in your library or one that you want to take. Also available CameraBag for iPad $2.99 CameraBag Desktop $19.00

Hipstamatic $1.99 The Hipstamatic comes with the John S Lens, the Jimmy Lens, the Kaimal Mark II Lens, the Standard Flash, the Dreampop Flash, Ina’s 1969 Film, and Kodot Verichrome Film.

Extra packages are Williamsburg HipstaPak (Helga Viking Lens, Pistil Film and Primary Gel pack); The Portland HistaPak (Lucifer IV Lens, and BlacKeys B+W film); Shibuya HipstaPak (Roboto Glitter Lens, Berry Pop Flash, and Float Film); Camden HipstaPak (Alfred Infrared Film and BlacKeys SuperGrain B+W film); The Mission HipstaPak (Bettie XL Lens, Ina’s 1935 Film, and Eggshell White Case); and Limited edition packages: Dali Museum GoodPak (Salvador 84 Lens, DreamCanvas Film, and Dali Dreamscape Case).

They even have a Field Guide to help coach you to take better photos.

QuadCamera Multishot $1.99 It can take sets of 4 or 8 photos in time intervals (that you can adjust). From there, you can have the photo be a multishot or you can turn it into an animated GIF to post on your blog or website.

ToonPaint $1.99 The best app to take a photos and give you a drawing or sketch of the photo.Very easy to use and you can colour it right in the app.

PhotoShake $1.99 Similar to Diptic, it’s a fun way to create photo collages. Select photos then Shake!

AutoStitch $1.99 One of the first photo apps that I bought. It was a great way to create wide or panoramic photos.

Infinicam $0.99 Brought to you by the developers of CameraBag, its similar to it’s sister app, but instead you can choose the combination of filters and frames

Incredibooth $0.99 Just some old fashion fun in the photobooth. You can try to see how many friends that you can squeeze together to get in to shot on your iPhone

Video Apps:

ReelDirector $1.99 (designed for both iPhone and iPad) Before iMovie App $4.99 was available, there was ReelDirector. Not only does it cost less, it’s designed for both iPhone and iPad, whereas iMovie App is only for iPhone

8mm Vintage Camera $1.99 My family had a Super8 camera and filmed their vacations. I love the look and feel of them, so I found that this was the best app for the price.

CinemaFX for Video $2.99 Same developer as 8mm Vintage Camera, but has 55 different filters. Really makes shooting video with your iPhone fun to do and post on YouTube.

Here’s to 2011

I’ve been posting irregularly on my blog. I’ve been over extended the last couple of years. I haven’t even been able to post on my daily photoblog every day either. And after attending Blissdom Canada, I realize that I still need to work on finding my [written] voice and have more of a focus of what and where I am posting.

That being said, I am going to create a list of things that I plan on accomplishing this year. I will be coming back to this page to strike off every task that is completed.

[* represents priorities]

  1. (Aside from Books) get rid of things that I don’t touch/use on a [semi] regular basis
  2. Clean out my storage (at my father’s house) so that I only keep seasonal clothes and items for my work studio
  3. Sell, donate, throw out all baby stuff (minus a couple of momentos)
  4. Downsize my [Everbest] office library
  5. Try out as many different classes at my new gym in the month of Jan then:
  6. *Schedule a regular exercise routine
  7. *Create a healthy and balance diet
  8. *Use a meal planner
  9. Create a healthy meal plan for DD (that she will be willing to eat)
  10. *Lose 20lbs or 2 dress sizes by my birthday in March (a kind of half way goal)
  11. *But lose a total 40-50 or down to a size 8-10 dress size (by May 28)
  12. Wear moisturizer with SPF daily/take care of my skin
  13. Truly organize (everything in its place) my home/office and simplify my life
  14. Read “Getting Things Done” and apply it (while using Remember the Milk efficiently)
  15. *No more Fast Foods, No more Pop, No more Processed Foods
  16. File my taxes on time. Get all my personal documents in order
  17. Maintain my friendships with friends near and far, beit via phone, email or Canada Post
  18. Make ALL my gifts or give anything that I have in my gift trunk

Blissdom Canada ’10 and Blissdom ’11

I was a late registrant to Blissdom Canada’10. I had heard about Blissdom prior to it coming to Canada from a few blogger that I follow. I never thought of going to a conference for myself until I noted that a lot of the Tweeters that I follow (from Canada) were going to Blissdom Canada.

So I missed the early bird registration when it was a good price, and to make it more difficult, I had to go on a wait list (which I thought was a cruel way of saying that you’re not going to make it this year). I really didn’t think that it was for me until I got the email (and a phone call) giving me a 48-hr window to register as my name came up on the wait list.

Without hesitation, I registered (although the extra $100 really hurt). After tweeting that I was going to Blissdom, I approach a techy mum from [my daughter’s] school yard that I had been socializing since Spring of this year. I asked if she had heard of Blissdom and if she is going, and she tells me that not only is she going, she’s a speaker and she was one of the people that approached the ladies from Blissdom to bring it up to Canada.

It took a lot of juggling with babysitting, but I finally made it to almost every event. Wished that I could listen to all the sessions. But I got a lot out of the ones that I heard. There were amazing speakers. There were inspiring and encouraging ladies there. It was a great time.

After the three days, and “following” as many ladies as I could on twitter that I met, I started to “engage” as Scott Stratten said in his keynote speech. But by Monday, life was back to normal, I had to get my daughter to school, I had to play catch up with work and I’m still trying to find time to work on …. myself.

Then I think about where I came from. That I have been working hard all year on personal improvement. For the first part of the year, I had been figuring it all out. By mid-year, I had found a nutritionist, (six-wks later) a personal trainer, I de-cluttered my storage of all baby/toddler stuff for a Mom-2-Mom sale. So I’m on the road to my goal.

One2One Network is having a Blissdom ’11 Conference Giveaway, where the grand prize is an all expense paid trip. With the conference in August ’11, it would be a nice way to celebrate my first year working towards a more blissful life.

I don’t think that I’ll be able to go to any more out of town conferences in the next year without contest like this. So wish me luck.