Things I Learned From a Book About Finding Love

One of the daily practices prescribed in the book, Calling in "The One."

One of the daily practices prescribed in the book, Calling in “The One.”

My friend talked a couple of us into starting a book club with her. The book was Calling in “The One”: 7 Weeks to Attract the Love of Your Life by Katherine Woodward Thomas. Needless to say, I was skeptical. It ultimately took half a year to finish, but I did it. Six months for a seven week program, or approximately 178 days versus the 49 it should supposedly take. The point is, it was more drawn out than it should have been.

Nevertheless, we juggled our work schedules, hobbies, social lives along with the readings and exercises, and, eventually, we managed to finish our final discussion. It has been about a month since our group last met, and I’m not sure the premise of the book worked. It may have for one of my friends, just not for me. Not yet, anyway. Granted, it doesn’t guarantee love is going to magically appear in your life within the time allotted on the cover.

Rather, as I worked my way through the pages from cover to cover, I understood that it’s not about doing things to make you seem more attractive on the surface. Instead, it’s a matter of getting to know who you are as a person, aiming to better yourself, and knowing that what you put out there is what you hope to receive in return because that’s what you deserve, for better or worse.

Honestly, I never imagined I’d read a book like this. I didn’t think it would come down to that. Then again, I never used to think I’d try speed dating or online dating, so never say never! However, despite my reservations, I found the author’s writings to be quite interesting and insightful, even when I felt like the examples didn’t quite apply to me. So, if you’re interested in giving Calling in “The One” a go, I’d recommend it.

If you’d prefer not to, but you’re wondering what kinds of nuggets are tucked away in the tome, I thought it would be good for me to list out the most important things I learned (or, at least, was reminded of) and to share them with you.

We are connected to everyone and everything.

We are connected to everyone and everything.

1. We might all live in our own little bubbles at times, but it’s important to remember that you are connected to everyone and everything. Think of the butterfly effect.

2. It’s necessary to make room for people in your life. If you cannot literally set aside space or time for them, you’re probably not mentally ready for a relationship.

3. Know what makes you happy and understand that you are allowed to be a bit selfish. Ask for what you want and need. Be okay with what people are willing and able to give to you.

4. Be the person you want to attract in your life. For example, you can’t expect to snag someone who’s ambitious if you’re perpetually lazy.

5. Have an idea of what you want in life. Vision boards can help you better visualize your goals and possibly guide you towards them.

6. Understand that you’re a work in progress and so is everyone else in this world. People are not perfect, but it’s important to be the best we’re capable of being at any given moment.

7. Believe that sometimes a loss is actually a gain. Often times, things happen for a reason, even if the reason isn’t clear at first.

8. Avoiding toxic ties and all around negativity is paramount in life. If we stew in all the bad, it makes it really hard to wash it out. Strive to be as positive as possible and only keep those whom you trust and who make you happy in your inner circle. Read about my quest for positivity here.

9. Take each mistake or failure as an opportunity to learn and improve yourself.

10. Life and love may not turn out to be exactly as you pictured, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Be open to possibilities.

11. Nurture any passions you have or think you might have because they build your character and make you who you are.

Simple pleasures can make a big impact.

Simple pleasures can make a big impact.

12. Live in the moment. Appreciate things as they happen because it may be your one and only chance to experience it. Show gratitude for even the smallest things because simple pleasures often make the biggest impact.

13. Know your own boundaries and don’t be afraid to draw lines if you need to. Others should have the decency to respect them. You’re allowed to say no and to speak up for yourself.

14. Your worries really can be put in a box and forgotten about until you wish to bring them out again. This one probably requires a little bit of explaining. One of the practices we were tasked with doing one week was to select a box, decorate it and then fill it with all of your worries. When you were done, you literally sealed them away. It made me realize that life can be overwhelming. We’re often trying to deal with multiple things at once. Yet, sometimes, it’s best to deal with difficult situations one at a time. It’s kind of a daunting thought, but if something isn’t solved right away, it’ll always be there later. For me, when I put my stresses on paper and then tucked them into my wisdom box, I felt so much lighter, and, truthfully, since I did that, I haven’t really dwelt as much on each and every thing that had been weighing me down.

15. There’s no point in having regrets about the past. You can’t change the past (unless you have a time machine). Just be sure to do the things you want to do now (as long as it’s feasible for you), so you don’t have any regrets in the future.

16. There are things I’d love to change about myself physically. However, it’ll either take a lot of time or it’s simply not going to happen (save for a body swap), so know that nobody has a truly perfect body (not even supermodels). You can be thankful for every inch of yourself for some reason or another. Ex. I wish my legs were longer and a lot slimmer, but, hey, I have legs and they give me the ability to walk. Win!

17. Cultivate solitude. You need to know who you are by yourself to know who you are when you’re with others. Read my post about being alone, but not lonely here.

18. Take some risks. Be a “yes” person.

Writing this post is my version of a personal risk. I probably would have been embarrassed to tell people about something like this in the past, but, nowadays, I believe that sharing is caring. I hope these words may inspire some of you or help you on your journeys in life and love. All the best!

Edmonton Restaurant Review: Holt’s Cafe

Lunch at Holt's Cafe

Lunch at Holt’s Cafe

As a teenager, I used to bus downtown from school to see my mom at her gift shop. Sometimes I would stay and help her out at the store, and, other times, I would venture off through the pedway to walk around City Centre mall or poke through the merchandise at Holt Renfrew. I’d act all adult in this high end boutique (I call it that because, let’s face it, it’s nowhere near as good as the ones to be found across the rest of Canada), even though I was far from it.

When I graduated from university and I got my first real job as a young adult, I’d do the same thing. The only difference was I was now really more of a grown up. If I wanted to, I could save my earnings and spend it on that hot pink patent leather Louis Vuitton wallet embossed with their LV logo, or whatever was the “hot” item of the day. Of course, I was never one to splurge on big ticket purchases like that, so, alas, Holt Renfrew would need to make money off me some other way.

On my many trips to the store, I paid very little attention to the back corner on the top floor. It never really occurred to me that a restaurant existed there. But, over time, I started to notice that tables were tucked away there, and, eventually, Holt’s Cafe was added to my list of places to try. It has been several years since I started working downtown, and just before the new year is when my friend and I finally made a point of heading there for lunch.

The two of us ventured to the cafe the week after Christmas, so, even though it was significantly quieter in the area, we still made a reservation. Upon arriving, I was surprised at how cute the space is. Decked with simple light-coloured wood grain chairs, tables covered in white cloths, white walls accented with rainbow striped wallpaper and a Christmas tree, it was minimalist chic. What I loved most about the look of the restaurant was the far wall, which consists of floor to ceiling windows that overlook the street-level atrium entrance to the Manulife building, allowing plenty of natural light to bathe the room as well as an opportunity for people watching.

Much of the menu was appealing, and, considering the venue, the prices weren’t as high as I would have expected. The two of us decided we would each order a main and we would split them both. We ended up selecting the pumpkin gnocchi and the squash risotto cakes.

Pumpkin Gnocchi

Pumpkin Gnocchi

The pumpkin gnocchi was a bit of a surprise in that the number of gnocchi provided for a $16 dish was fairly miniscule. I believe there were a total of 6 or 7 pieces. They were of a decent size, but, ultimately, the dish they came in was about the size of a my hand (and my hands are small). On the plus side, they were deliciously plump. The sage butter provided an additional layer of flavour and the side of greens made it a lighter dish than we anticipated.

Squash Risotto Cakes

Squash Risotto Cakes

Squash risotto cakes sounded like a nice change of pace from a bowl of regular risotto. The round patties were relatively large, sitting atop a huge bed of the same greens that came with the gnocchi. Nicely crisp on the outside, they tasted great having been garnished with a light tomato-based sauce. The salad that accompanied both plates was a good mix of lettuce, carrot and beet (?) peel, cranberries and a lovely smokey flavour from what I believe were thin slices of purple potato that had either been baked or pan fried.

Ginger Pear Amaretto Cake at the front and Pomegranate Gingerbread Cake at the back!

Ginger Pear Amaretto Cake at the front and Pomegranate Gingerbread Cake at the back!

Since we had the time, we also indulged in a couple of desserts. My friend ordered the pomegranate gingerbread cake with salted caramel sauce. I think it was the words “salted caramel” that got to her because she can’t pass up anything that has that ingredient. It was a sweet, rich dessert that at one or two bites was perfect, but I was told was a little too much as a whole. She also noted that she couldn’t really taste the pomegranate, and the ginger flavour wasn’t as prominent as in my choice, which was a ginger pear amaretto cake. While my cake was sugary as well, I would agree with her that it was more subtly so. The amaretto and ginger paired really well together, and the slices of pear that adorned the surface of the dessert added a much needed tartness.

There were only two people on staff at the restaurant that day (not that it was busy), and they both did a good job of attending to all the tables. Food was prepared in a timely fashion – where exactly they fit their kitchen, I don’t know – and we were in and out in just over an hour.

The daily specials board inside the store. Also look out for the easel in front of the store doors while walking through Manulife!

The daily specials board inside the store. Also look out for the easel in front of the store doors while walking through Manulife!

I quite enjoyed our meal. Although, I’d be inclined to try something different on my next visit. Some of their daily specials sounded great, so I’ll have to keep an eye out on those whenever I walk through the building, but most of the other options on the regular menu appealed to me, too.

Overall, Holt’s Cafe feels almost like a secret little oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the work day. Sometimes that’s exactly what’s needed; it’s a place to take a much deserved break and recharge yourself for what lies ahead.

Edmonton Restaurant Review: 97 Hot Pot

Boiling our pots of soup at 97 Hot Pot.

Boiling our pots of soup at 97 Hot Pot.

As a Chinese girl who was born and raised in Edmonton by my parents, far away from the rest of our immediate family, we would eat Chinese food when I was growing up, but I much preferred things like pizza, pasta and the like over traditional Asian fare. I’d happily go to Chinatown to eat sweets like pineapple buns, and, of course, to shop for all things Sailormoon. That was pretty much the extent of it.

It has always been that way for me. If I ever had the option to have anything other than Chinese food, I’d take it. Yet, that mentality has changed over the years. By all accounts, Chinese cuisine still isn’t my favourite; however, I do love a good Peking duck, or freshly made shumai and cocktail buns at what I like to call “Asian brunch” as we usually partake in dim sum late in the morning and on the weekend.

So, now that I’m older and more willing to try everything, when my parents suggested going for a hot pot lunch on a chilly December day, I thought I had better give it a go. I really should refrain from being picky nowadays.

Raw chicken and pork slices, bean curd, dumplings and sauce.

Raw chicken and pork slices, bean curd, dumplings and sauce.

Years since I had had that type of meal – essentially you get boiling hot soup and you cook raw veggies and meat at the table yourself (it actually sounds a lot like The Melting Pot from what I’ve been told) – I figured it was time to open myself up to my heritage. After all, hot pot is the Chinese equivalent of bringing family together.

We ended up at 97 Hot Pot, a somewhat newer establishment in the heart of Chinatown. The location used to be home to a small grocery store, but has been renovated into a spacious, bright and clean restaurant. Tables have individual hot pot plates built into them, so each diner can pick a soup base of their choice. The temperature settings of the heating plates can be changed (on a scale from 1 to 3), allowing patrons to adjust them as needed.

The interior of 97 Hot Pot.

The interior of 97 Hot Pot.

They offer an all-you-can-eat option at 97 Hot Pot, but the lunch menu is more than enough for each person. At around $13 each, there’s plenty of food to ensure you don’t leave hungry. Using the paper menus, we checked off what we wanted, which includes one type of broth along with five entree items. All of us selected different things, but I went with the Szechuan Spicy Chicken soup, sliced sirloin beef, pork wontons, pork & vegetable dumplings, beef balls and vermicelli noodles. Another bowl of fresh veggies (lettuce, tomato, corn on the cob, enoki mushrooms, white button mushrooms and broccoli is provided as part of the price.

First off, let me say that the Szechuan Spicy Chicken soup is SPICY! I love food with a good amount of heat, but, for me, this was more than I expected. On the one hand, I didn’t have to use any additional sauces to flavour my soup and food. On the other, it was spicy enough to take away some of my ability to taste anything else. This soup is made with a number of ingredients, many of which I couldn’t quite pick out, but can be seen in the pot. One flavour in particular was hard for me to pinpoint, but I’m sure it came from some sort of re-hydrated veggie or bean, which is often used in Asian soup bases, and not one I’m that fond of. Nevertheless, it was still yummy, and, if you have a penchant for extremely spicy food, this might be for you.

I liked that they didn’t skimp on the extra bowl of vegetables because it could be a meal in itself. Regardless, I’m glad to have the additional entree items. The sirloin beef slices were fresh, the beef balls had a nice spring to them once cooked, the dumplings were plump and juicy, and the vermicelli, which soaked up just the right amount of flavour from the soup, helped to fill my belly. The only misstep of my meal was the tiny wontons. Although several were provided and they were tasty, they were much smaller than regular wontons that are to be had anywhere else. Also, if I had a do over of my lunch, I would maybe have gone with the rice noodles instead. Thick, clear and kind of gelatin looking, I sampled one from my mom’s plate, and they were delicious.

My mom's selection of rice noodles, sliced sirloin beef, shrimp, squid and fish.

My mom’s selection of rice noodles, sliced sirloin beef, shrimp, squid and fish.

With regards to the service, it was busy that day and they don’t have many people on staff, so I would say that they could improve in that aspect. Both my mom and I still had some food to cook, but our soup had boiled down until there was very little left in the pot and you could smell a bit of the food burning. We had to wave a staff member down to get them to add water to our pots before we could continue with our meal.

All-in-all, I enjoyed the food and the outing. It’s a fun, communal type of meal that is as traditional Chinese as one can get.

Living a Positive Life

Folded papers with my positivity notes written on them.

Folded papers with my positivity notes written on them.

I’m not one to make resolutions when the new year rolls around. My track record when it comes to seeing them through isn’t great. So, I’m not calling this a resolution. It’s more a change of heart and mind, and this is something I opted to do in the last quarter of 2014.

Most of the previous year, I endeavoured, along with a couple of friends, to work through a book that was going to help us find love. Maybe it sounds a little silly, but it’s not like cupid had been knocking on my doorstep, so I figured I had nothing to lose. While not everything discussed in the book and during our club sessions felt entirely applicable to me, it was still an eye opening experience that helped to pave a little more of the path I should strive to follow.

All-in-all, the book wasn’t some immediate solution to solving my woes in the relationship department. However, it did give me more insight into the things that are important to me, and important to opening myself up to receiving what I need and want.

More than anything, I realized that I was beating myself up too much. I’ve always been one to compare myself to others. Yet, I understand that doing that serves no purpose. Over time I’ve begun to see that everything isn’t always what it seems. The people who have what look like picture perfect lives on the surface, may be suffering inside. Who knows, right?

The biggest takeaway for me as we reached the half way mark of the book was that I had to stop letting negativity into my life. I have always prided myself on being a very positive person. I hate to see sadness or disappointment, so I try to be a light. Sometimes it’s hard though. I’m well aware that things aren’t always sunshine and roses. Watching or reading news stories can get me down fast, thinking about where I am in my career and knowing I’m not even close to where I want to be bums me out, and other peoples’ consistently pessimistic views of the world push me to grow weary, but I finally decided that I had to counteract that.

As crazy as it may sound, I now believe that if you think and act optimistically – see the glass half full – you’ll feel a thousand times better. You can’t expect to think bad thoughts and not have them continue to affect you. Just saying you’re doing well when someone asks, even if you’re really not, works wonders. Honestly, it’s all a state of mind.

One of the best ways to do this is to remember all the things you’re grateful for. Do this every single day, not just once a year on Thanksgiving. Appreciate the little moments.

A joy jar that holds all of my wonderful memories until I shake them out come New Year's Eve 2015 and read them one by one...I think I need a bigger one!

A joy jar that holds all of my wonderful memories until I shake them out come New Year’s Eve 2015 and read them one by one…I think I need a bigger one!

That’s why I’ve started contributing to my joy jar. Every single time something that is nice, happy, funny, exciting or any other number of positively skewed adjectives happens, I’m going to write about it on a piece of paper, fold it up and place it into some sort of container. When New Year’s Eve 2015 finally arrives, I’m dumping each piece of paper out, and I’m going to go through them one by one to remind myself of just how fabulous my life has been and is. Big or small, I want my memories to be good ones.

Here are some rules that I think are essential to live by:

Be part of the solution. Pursue your interests, you never know where they may lead. Be a good friend. Listen to people, sometimes it’s all they require of you. Be your own person; avoid comparisons to others. Love fully and truthfully. Be giving and forgiving. Don’t hold things in, it never ends well. Be in the moment. Accept compliments. Be kind because kindness spreads. Smile.