Drop the ball

This is a new series on book reviews that have change my life in a meaningful way.  Some are books that I read 10years ago that I still refer to, or books I’ve read recently that I really want to share with everyone. The first book is Drop the ball by Tiffany Dudu


I almost did not read Tiffany’s book because I thought she was “too perfect”. I thought I wouldn’t be able to relate to her book. I’m glad I gave it a chance because I think it changed my life, the way I approach motherhood and the way I approach the “distribution of labour” in my marriage. Here’s a few reasons why I liked her book.

1. She does seem too perfect by my standards but that’s her nature. She was just born more organized and positive than most of us, I can’t fault her for her DNA. But she is candid about her failings and the amount of help she receives and the amount of help she asks for.

2. She talks about asking for help and who she gets help from. I find a lot of mothers don’t talk about this. They appear like they have super powers juggling it all, but we all know to survive as a working mom or a non working mom, we need a village made of of friends, co-workers, families etc.

3. She talks about how much harder marriage gets when you have kids. How tough it is to have conversations about “distribution of labour” with your spouse. We’re not taught by anyone how to approach these conversations in a considerate, constructive and thoughtful manner. She has real actionable suggestions in this area that are practical. That can be used by anyone. You may not agree with all of them, but I think you will walk away wanting to apply a few of her suggestions.

4. She drops the ball and talks about it. As a mom of two kids under 5. I drop the ball a lot. Like sending my kid to school in her uniform when it’s dress “normal day”. There was a period of time where Tiffany went two months without opening the mail and was late on so many bills. That happens and for some moms, there are periods in our life where it is so busy, we don’t have time for anything even basic things like opening mail.

5. She challenges the norm. I don’t believe in making excuses for men when they are not doing their fair share of the household chores or helping with the kids. But the reality of it is, the men in my cohort (mid 30s to mid 40s) were not raised with the mindset of 50/50 in the house hold chores and childcare. She points out way we as a society have not supported men to be better primary care givers. That both women and men need to challenge the stereotypes we impose on men and change our thinking.


New Year, Old Me.

ML dressed Nora last Sunday in this top and pant.   I thought it was too much pattern for one outfit but kept that criticism to myself.  I loved that the pants were only $1.49, that’s cheaper than a small coffee at Tim Hortons.

Bottom: Tangerine $1.49

Top: Carters $2.99

I usually don’t make new year resolutions. I have 4 goals that I try to work on every year.

1. Be more productive. This to me means going to bed at 10 pm and wake up at 5 am each and every day. I usually accomplish this goal between March to November. But the winter months are a struggle every year. Some day, I will be able to do this all year round.

2. Learn new things. The year I was on mat leave I took George Brown’s Baking Arts 1. I loved it so much. The Year before that I took their Culinary Arts Class.  Years before that I took an Adult Sewing Class at Sew Be It Studio.  I am a social learner. I need to be in a classroom and interact with people. Now with a second baby on the way, I am resigned to the fact that it will be 3 to 4  years before I can go back to the classroom. This means I have to look at online options.  Do you have any recommendations?

3. Stay in shape. This has been a nagging goal since I was a teenager. I remember getting a gym membership with my friend in high school at a local community centre and feeling so good about myself. I thought I was so cool for having a gym membership at 16. I have had personal trainers and my best experience has been Hour Glass Workout (HGW). Last year, I was adamant about getting my pre-baby waistline back that I did HGW, ran the Nike 15K and focused on eating a healthy diet. I did get my pre-baby waist back. Staying in shape has different meanings to different people. To me, it makes me feel like am I am the @hit! I should not be so dependent on a superficial idea but it works for me.

4. Nurture relationships. I’ve experienced great joy and great sadness.   I know life would be unbearable without amazing friends and family to share it with.   Even though I am a true loner at heart, I try to see friends and family as often as possible.

This year will be like any other year, I will continually to try to achieve all 4, at different times of course.  It’s hard  to kill it at all 4 all the time, which is fine by me.

Growing up.

Here is a snap shot of a few items I picked up at ValueVillage.  The Roots sweat shirt is my favourite.  Not because of the brand, but because of who commissioned it.  If you look closely, it it also says TD Asset Management group.  What company commissions baby clothes for their employees kids?  Only over paid bank Asset Managers? These tops range from $1.99, $3.49 and $4.99.

Recently Updated

Recently, ML and I have been trying to shed some of our hold habits and beliefs we had while living with our parents. We both appreciate everything our parents have done for us but we realize that not all of their beliefs apply to our lifestyle as middle class canadians.  For example, we want our house to stop looking like it belongs to a couple in their 20s, too poor or lazy to decorate with nice furniture or art work.  I feel this is something that will take years for ML and I to accomplish. We are both cheap and lazy.  But we are focusing on one room at a time, so by the time Nora goes to school, she won’t be ashamed to invite friends over to play.

My favourite marriage books

This little chic juicy couture (Valuevillage) romper is truly one of my favourite purchases for Nora.  I found it a few months before summer and was dying for the snow to melt so I can dress her up in it.  It is more expensive than what I would usually buy her but it was so worth it.

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Romper: ValueVillage for $5.99

Brand: Juicy Couture

This is something ML often pokes fun at me about.  Before I endeavour to do anything, I have to read a tonne of books on it or listen to countless podcasts before I take the first step.  So in true fashion, several years before ML and I got married, I read a bunch of books on the topic.  Below are a few of my favourite.  I still go to them once or twice a year when ML and I frustrate the hell out of each other.

I don’t think it helps that my parents have a really good marriage.   That does not mean they did not fight.  I’ve seen them fight enough times, and my mom even dropped the “D” word a couple of times.  However, in the end, they alway spoke about each other with so much reverence.  They met in university and from that point on, my dad would follow my mom around like a shadow.  She was a pretty, rich and smart girl.  He was a slow, dowdy but persistent country boy. My dad would always say how amazed he was of my mom’s intellectual capacity.  When they were in university, my mom could study a textbook and tell my dad how many commas, or period was on each page.  Her ability to memorize content was remarkable he would say.  But like most smart rich kids, my mom was lazy.  She would always do just enough to pass, get enough good grades so my grandfather would continue to finance her lifestyle but she never pushed herself beyond just “enough”.  As a kid, I remember my mom telling me she would never divorce my dad, even if she threatened to from time to time.  She would say literally in Vietnamese “I know I would never find someone who loves me and you three kids as much as your dad.  There’s no better man out there so divorce and remarriage would be a waste of time.” She would always revere about how kind, hard working and persistent my dad is. ML likes to remind me that my parents are odd and weird for their generation.  Most Asian parents don’t have marriages like my parents so I should temper my expectations.

Anyways, back to my list of favourite marriage books.

  1. The Mirages of Marriage.  This book was written in 1968 and I bought it sometime in 2008 at a used bookstore in Stratford, Ontario.  I’ve had it by my nightstand for years and re-read some chapters once or twice a year.  My favourite passages are “Romance, which most spouses mistake for love, is not necessary for a good marriage. The sparkle some couples manage to preserve in a satisfying marriage- based on genuine pleasure in each other’s company, affection and sexual attraction for the spouse as she/he really is – can be called love” “Love may also be used as an excuse for domination and control. The expression ‘I love you’ has such an immutable place in our traditions that it can serve as an excuse for anything, even for selfishness and evil.”  I am reminded that the last sentence can be applied to parenthood as well.  Some parents use “love” as an excuse to control their children and spouse.

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2. Why marriages succeed or fail by John Gottman.  I like how clinical the book is and how Gottman claims his team can predict the success and failure of most marriages.  The most memorable thing about this book is Gottman’s 4 horsemen of the apocalypse.  These 4 things will ruin any marriage and they are criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling and contempt.  He said these 4 communication styles are the most destructive and biggest predictors of divorce.  Early in our marriage, I definitely found myself being critical and stonewalling a lot.  It was reading this book that made me realize how unproductive it can be.  In the 14 years that ML and I have been together, I have only felt contempt towards him once, it was around the time my brother passed away and I held a lot of people in contempt during those dark days.    I think out of all the 4 horsemen, the one that scares me the most is contempt and I do my best to build a strong connection with ML so that we don’t enter that stage ever.


3,4 and 5. For Better: the science of a good marriage by Tara Parker-Pope, Men are from mars and women are from venus by John Gray, What your mother couldn’t tell you and what your father didn’t know by John Gray.   It’s been 5 or more years since I read these books and I can’t remember the specific passages that resonated with me.  However, I do recall the things I felt when reading it.  There were nuggets of insights that seemed so wise and simple in these books.  I recall pages that were boring as well but I clearly remember feeling glad I read them.  I think I may re-read Tara Parker-Pope’s book, I remember wanting to recommend it to one of my girlfriend as I thought the author had such a keen sense of observation when it came to relationships.


Inspirational: Jessica Houssain

First, our regular programming of fabulous value village finds.  I loved doing photo shoots with Nora before she started to crawl.  It was fun for me to plan what I was going to make her wear.  I also did it  for her grandparents who were hounding me daily for pictures of their precious granddaughter.

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Swimsuit – $2.99 Valuevillage

Brand: Baby Gap

Headband: Rhyla $16 U.S.

I was lucky enough to hear Jessica Houssain speak at an event this spring.  She is on the Board of the Canadian Women’s Foundation and Executive Director of a New York based NPO called Women Moving Millions.  I often think about what kind of work I want Nora to do when she grows up.  Jessica spoke with so much passion about travelling to Africa to help build wells to provide clean water, working with Unicef to fund life-saving programs for children in need and working with the Canadian Women’s Foundation to help abused women.  I want Nora to choose a career path that gives her personal and professional satisfaction, in the long run, those two things have to go hand in hand.  I know very few people who can say they feel that way about their job.  I should also say that Jessica comes from a very privileged background, the Houssain family is one of the richest families in Canada.  She could have gone on to become a captain of any industry and make even more money.  But for now, she is in the field of philanthropy, using her pedigree and connections for good.


I was poor, who knew?!?

This adorable Joe Fresh t-shirt only cost me $1.49!  $1.49!  I made her wear this almost every week last summer.  The print was easy to co-ordinate and it breathed really well.

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Top: $1.49 from Value Village / Brand: Joe Fresh

Bottom: Value Village shorts $0.99

Headband: Rhyla $16 U.S.

When I was a kid, twice a year we would visit the The Scott Mission on  Spadina in Toronto.  We would go to their basement and  pick out clothes from these bins.  I remember it was the most awesome feeling in the world.  As a kid, I thought what a amazing place this is,  we get to pick out all the clothes we want, and take them home without paying.  I assumed we did not pay because I don’t recall my parents taking out their wallet or give any money away.  We had been in Canada for about a year or two.  I never thought of us as poor until years later when I realized that program was for low in come families.

At the time my whole family slept in a single large bedroom.  I did not think this was cramped at all and loved every minute of it.  If I woke up in the middle of the night from a nightmare, I looked around and saw my siblings and mom and dad in beds right next to mine.  My brother and sister and I would goof around with each other before bed. They were such simple times.

I was totally oblivious to the fact that stats canada would classify my family as poor.  All I knew was bedtime was awesome because I got to play with my siblings right up until the moment I fell asleep. I had all the clothes I needed and my parents were relatively happy when they spent time with us.

This is a big part of why I buy used clothes and toys for Nora.  I know that she has no clue nor does she care right now where these things come from.  As long as I play with her and give her my undivided attention.  I’d rather she not know what poor and rich means for a long time.  I’d rather she consider herself rich for life because she has parents who love her unconditionally.

P.S. This post reminds me that I need to make a donation to The Scott Mission.  They do great work and I am grateful for their generosity to this day.

5 things I can’t live without

First, our regular programming.  Nora wore this jacket almost everyday this past spring.  I got a such a thrill finding this Joe Fresh jacket for only $2.99 2015-04-19_blackjacket 2015-05-31 nora2015-06-07 14.36.58

I am such a creature of habit and don’t really enjoy shopping (I know, what’s wrong with me).   This is probably because I am a true loner at heart.

But when I decide on wanting something, I have to have it and it is usually something I will use or wear all the time.

apple watch - Copy

1. In short, I know it is a overpriced fitness band.  And that is my primary use.  I use it on every run and every work out.  I also obsess about how often I stand everyday and  how many calories I burn each day.  The apple watch is perfect for my fitness OCD tendencies. I usually take it off when I bath Nora and I feel so naked.  I want to do a full review of the apple watch soon but for now, all I will say is it meets my expectations.


2. I worked at United Colors of Benetton in high school and always got excited at the beginning of every new season.  When we got a big shipment, one of the key tasks was steaming all the clothes before they hit the sales floor.  I always volunteered to steam the clothes because I loved seeing the steamer smooth out the wrinkles.  I always thought that someday when I was making a salary, this would be one of the first luxury items I will buy.  Luckily, ML bought this for me shortly after we graduated from university.  I use my steamer about 3-5 times a week and he made sure to buy me the Jiffy brand as that was the brand we had at Benetton.

hot water dispenser

3. I am the laziest person I know (it’s my dirty secret).  I love, love, love drinking lukewarm water.   Every morning, the first thing I do is boil water and for years I always complained about it.  When ML and I first lived together and our kettle broke, I was so moody during that time, it took so long to boil water on our stove (in my mind it felt like forever).  About 3 years ago, I decided to finally buy a Zojirushi hot water dispenser.  I use this every morning and several times at night.  On the weekends when we’re home, I probably use it 10x a day.  It makes me feel like I am a millionaire the fact that I don’t have to boil water.  Aside from my family, I would save my Zojirushi if my house was on fire.


4. I’m not too proud of this item just because I am now learning how bad it can be to be addicted to screens.  My ipad combines my love for magazines, podcasts and books.  I read all my magazines on this, check out library books and download it on my ipad and use my Kindle app mainly on my ipad.  When I started to sleep train Nora to sleep at 7pm, while she fell asleep on my chest, I would have my ipad in one hand reading books until 10pm when I finally fell asleep.  When I am cooking, I have my ipad near by as I don’t buy hard cover cook books anymore.  I have used android tablets and I don’t think it can hold a candle to the ipad.

headsets - Copy

5. This item is a new addition to my daily routine.  I have only been using the Bluetooth headset for the past 4 months.  I am obsessed with listening to podcasts.  I cannot do laundry unless a podcast is on, or cook or clean.  Sometimes it feels crippling when the battery on my headset is dead.  I love that the headset can travel with me throughout the house and I don’t have to carry my phone with me.  I love running with the headset and don’t have to worry whether the strings are long enough. I walk from the GO train to my work and again, the phone can be in my bag while I listen to my music or pod cast.

#1 Goal – My mid year resolution

Let’s get the house keeping item out of the way.  Below is a top and bottom that I bought for my daughter.  They were both 30%  off with my Value Village stamp card.  The top was $4.49 and bottom was $3.99 before the discount.  I love seeing her chubby arms in tank tops.

Nora Carter Top_VV_June2015

Carter Top_$449VV Pants_May_2015

In 2011, I managed to develop the habit of waking up between 5am-5:30am to work out.  This habit lasted about two years and I was really happy during this time.  On the days that I did not work out, waking up early allowed me to prepare my meals and it gave me a competitive edge at work.

Since having a baby and returning to work, it has be come extra hard to try and wake up that early but I think I can do it this year by slowly making small changes.  For the month of July, my small change will be to be in bed by 10pm on week nights, regardless of what is happening.  I will be in bed at 10pm, even if there’s laundry to be done, or meals to be cooked or work to be done.

I want to start working out at 5:45am again instead of 7pm currently, I want to have a few days a week where I start my work day at 6am and think strategically instead of reacting to things.  I want to use this time to meditate and reflect on the day’s goals.  This one habit of being up at 5am will have a positive effect in all areas of my life.  This one habit will be a game changer towards achieving better health and happiness. Wish me luck!

Blogging again…

It’s been a long hiatus.   For the sake of brevity, I’ll just share that I had a baby and live in the burbs.  And on most days, I live a happy, content and peaceful life, filled with love and laughter.

I won’t be strictly blogging about my Value Village and Goodwill finds and will blog just about anything and everything.  The majority of entries will still be about buying used goods.  I love the idea of making use of something that is useless to someone else.  It’s my way of saying we’re all all useful/valued to someone, even of someone else may have no use for us.

My goal is to blog once a week and not just on this blog.  But another blog I started with my sister two years ago, before we both had our babies.   I’m probably being overly ambitious but that’s just how I am.  Maybe someday, I’ll learn.

Now on with our regular programming….I found this little romper for Nora at Value Village.  It was too big for her at the time (June 2014) but by August 2014, she had grown into it nicely.


One piece – Walmart George Romper

Value Village at $1.99

Hair band – Rhyla

Hair clip – Carters