COM0014 – Blog #1: My Summer Vacation in Portugal

I love travelling – do you? I was so excited at the thought of going to Portugal this summer. It had long been on my bucket list so I jumped at the opportunity to go with my parents when they told me where they were planning a visit to the country that has a rich history.

The day we left was actually the first day of a heat wave in Ontario and Quebec so we were pleasantly surprised when we arrived in Portugal at how pleasant the temperature was! Our first days were spent exploring the different neighbourhoods and sites of Lisbon. We also enjoyed many delicious seafood meals and the local desert called pasteîs de nata, lovely little custard tarts that make the perfect ending to a meal. Having eaten so much, we burned all the calories exploring and often walking up hills in the capital. After a few days in the capital, we made our way west, where we visited Pena Palace in Sintra. The palace was absolutely stunning with its Portuguese tiles and architecture as well as the accompanying ornamental gardens; where there were flowers of all sorts, shapes and colours! You can read more about Pena Palace here.  We also visited several beaches, including those in Oeiras and beautiful Nazaré.

No trip to Portugal, would be complete without an obligatory stop in Fatima, the site where many believe the virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children in the early 1900s. You can read more about this fascinating story here.  While we were in Portugal, we thought it would be nice to visit another country, as travel in Europe is quite inexpensive compared to North America. We jumped at the chance to do a day trip to Barcelona as neither of us had been to Spain and we thought what better place to visit than Barcelona. During our one day stop in the Catalonian city, we visited a beautifully breathtaking monastery at the top of Monserrat, where the monastery is perched at the very top of the mountain. We also visited a few of the typical tourist spots including the Sagrada Familia, Park Guell as well as several Gaudi-designed buildings. I’ve already started looking into my next big trip and am hoping to go to Japan in 2020 for about three weeks as it is the next big  item on my travel bucket list. All in all, I had a great summer, filled with some travelling, barbeques and most importantly some relaxing. What was your favourite memory this summer?


Christmas, is hands-down my favourite holiday! I love the decorations, the
baking, Christmas dinner, the music, the movies, the general merry-making,
the charity aspect and of course the gifts!

Over the next few weeks, the theme I’ll be focusing on is – you guessed it
– Christmas!  I am hoping to share with you different tips for the holidays including recipes and shopping tips

Lately in the news, there’s been some backlash about Christmas décor
appearing in stores in early September – too early for some – including
myself! Here’s why:

I pretty much love any holiday, give me any reason to celebrate and I’m a
shoe-in. However, I like enjoying one holiday at a time, I like keeping
them separate, some holidays just don’t mix – can you imagine listening to
Thriller one minute and Feliz Navidad the next, seems a little odd, doesn’t
it? Especially with the unusually hot weather, it’s a little hard to think
about Christmas while enjoying a mojito on a patio.

Also, putting out Christmas decorations so soon could lead to a false sense
of urgency and could possibly make one over spend without even being
conscious of it, creating even more stress!

On the flip side, some people are enjoying it as it gives them ideas for
very early planning. Some retailers and grocery stores also like that their
customers can see the different options available to them and perhaps
sample some of these items (like different flavours of eggnog) to figure
out their final game plan. Of course, with lists of the top toys starting
to make their way through the internet, some are keen to snag the latest
toy of the year before there aren’t any left.

Personally, I don’t like to put up Christmas decorations until after
Remembrance day, but by mid- November, I am pretty much in pre-Christmas
mode and go into full gear on Black Friday for good shopping deals.

What about you? Do you like seeing Christmas décor in September?

Christmas tree

Here’s a picture of my Christmas tree from last year!



I can’t remember a time growing up when my family did not have a pet; each family member has been a pet owner at some point or another and we seem to be mostly cat people. We’ve had Garfield who lived until the ripe old age of 21 and Curly, who came and sat on our sofa one day and never left and we’ve also crossed paths with Almas and Tiger. Growing up with pets, not only teaches you about responsibility but also unconditional love. There are many benefits to owning pets including decreased stress, anxiety and blood pressure as well as boosting your immune system.

About five years ago, I decided to get a cat and found Cookie on the humane society website. He was a teeny tiny white ball of fur and unbearably cute and I immediately started the paperwork to adopt him! Here are a couple of pictures of him that I took – isn’t he quite the poser!

Cookie Kitten    Cookie adult

So what is it about cat videos and memes that almost break the internet? I’m sure we’ve all heard of Grumpy cat whose owners created an empire selling Grumpy cat related paraphernalia and what about Youtube star Maru, the cat from Japan that loves boxes and Oskar the blind kitten with his guide cat Klaus. What is it about cat videos specifically that make people go crazy? Well, according to an Indiana University study by professor Jessica Gall Myrick – the answer is simple: it’s the warm fuzzy feeling we get when we watch these videos.

The study found that viewing cat videos boosts energy and positive emotions and left people with fewer negative emotions. Myrick said “Even if they are watching cat videos on Youtube to procrastinate or while they should be working, the emotional pay-off may actually help people take on tough tasks afterward.”

So next time you find yourself consumed by watching cat videos – don’t worry! Just think about all of the benefits and keep watching that video of Keyboard cat!

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Facebook: Check out my blog at  to find out the health benefits of owning a cat and watching cat videos!


I remember very well one of the first moments when I was a child that cemented my love of baking. I was six years old and it was my turn to bring a baked good to my brownie meeting. I remember waiting for my mother to get back from work to get them ready on time for my meeting. I don’t think I was much help, I probably cracked and egg or two and mixed a little, likely making a mess in the process but when you’re in a rush – every parent would have done the same and anyway, which parent would let a six year old use an oven by themselves? As it was time to feast on the brownies (that my mother made!) at the meeting, everyone told me how delicious they were. So gooey and still warm – I was thrilled! I remember getting my first brownie badge that day, the baking badge of course, and feeling so proud.


My passion for baking evolved as I got older and was allowed to use the oven by myself and I still love watching baking shows (my favourite is the Great British Bake Off) and trying to replicate what is being made on TV. I even completed a pattiserie certificate at Algonquin College and took pictures of every single item that I made. I’ve often thought about creating an Instagram account strictly with pictures of my baked goods but have never followed through on it – strange, given that I love looking at other people’s food pics as many people do. I guess the food picture trend is still growing with no end in sight – could it be because people just love taking pictures or is there more, i.e the visual absorption of information is stronger than any other sense.


Gaston Oliva’s article on The Power Of The Image discusses 5 didactic uses of Instagram, here they are:


  1. We are primarily visual beings
  2. We process images up to 60,000 times faster than text
  3. We have more ability to retain the visual content than any other form of information
  4. The online content that includes visual information register better results
  5. Their impact on social networks is also notable.



Since I don’t have an Instagram account (yet!), here are some pictures that I took of baked goods that I’ve made – What do you think? Would you eat them?

Fruits Sushi

Tropical Fruit Sushi


Bread Rolls

Poppy Seed Bread Rolls

Floral Fruit Tart

Floral Fruit Tart

Black Forest Cake

Black Forest Cake



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Check out my #pastrypics while learning more about being a visual learner at



Learn more about the power of the image at and decide if you would take a nibble of my baked goods.


According to an Ipsos Reid poll, one in five Canadian teens have witnessed online bullying so this week I want to discuss a very serious and growing problem that is plaguing youth not only in Canada but around the world: cyberbullying.

Do you remember Amanda Todd, the 15-year-old British Columbia teen who took her own life a few years ago after being bullied and blackmailed online? What about Rehtaeh Parsons, another young girl from Nova Scotia, who also committed suicide because of cyberbullying? There are countless others and not only girls but boys as well. Amanda’s death shed light in Canada on an issue that is far too common these days and helped spur the creation of Anti-cyberbullying legislation Bill C-13.

If you are the parent of a teen or know a teen that is being bullied, it’s important to acknowledge it, document the situation and report it to school officials. Sometimes it’s not always easy for teens to speak to their parents – so always ensure there is someone they trust that they can speak with.



Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Cyberbullying and online harassment also affect adults and according to a cyberbullying prevention organization, the advice is much the same. Take detailed notes of the situation and screen shots if possible; secondly, contact the service provider where the bullying is happening, for example, contact Twitter or your telecommunications service provider. It’s also important not to engage with online trolls as it could look like you’re flaming the fire or contributing to the problem.


seth-schwiet-40984 (1)

Photo by Seth Schwiet on Unsplash

I hope this post sheds light on a vital topic and if you wish to read more on cyberbullying and online harassment, you can visit the following websites:

Next week’s blog will deal with a much lighter topic: Instagram and the power of a visual follower – Stay tuned!

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Stamp out #cyberbullying by refusing to stand by when you see something wrong taking place!


Have you ever though “Have I crossed THAT line?”  regarding online harassment or cyberbullying. Take this self-assessment to find out where you stand on cyberbullying.

Cyber-Safety – Do you practice safe cyber surfing?

I’m sure you must have heard of those infamous emails a few years back from a “Nigerian Prince” demanding your bank account information to “share” his inheritance with you or most recently, messages purporting to be from Canada Revenue Agency where you “owe” thousands in backed taxes and can pay them back with Itunes gift cards. I’m sure some of you are thinking “I would never fall for that!!!” but unfortunately some people do. It’s not because they aren’t as smart or clever as the rest of the population. It’s because some of these scams are constructed to appear legitimate. It’s important to keep in mind common sense tips to ensure that you don’t fall victim to scams or have your identity stolen online.

Common Sense Tips for safe cyber surfing:

  • Don’t give out personal information
  • Don’t trust people you don’t know or haven’t met
  • Don’t download unknown files or click on unknown links
  • Set strong passwords for your accounts as well as your Wi-Fi

computer  wordle

Although these tips may seem to be very basic, it is important to have occasional reminders as many of us live fast-paced lives and sometimes need a refresher on the basics just like this article by Gary Davis that names the top 5 most dangerous email subject lines.

For more reading on internet safety, visit the RCMP’s information page where you’ll learn about other safety themed topics. Next week’s blog will continue on the cyber-safety theme, precisely dealing with teens and cyber bullying.


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Need more info on #cybersecurity? Follow @GetCyberSafe for the latest on staying safe online.


What do you do to ensure your online safety? Share your favourite safe cyber surfing tips with other readers