Tea Time At Crown & Crumpet SF

9th January 2019

It’s ‘winter’ in the Bay Area and that means lots more rain and fog. But a cup of steaming tea + warm scones and a good gab fest with the girls can definitely brighten up the day!

Crown & Crumpet is located in a modern building wedged between authentic shops and salons in Japantown. From the glass exterior, it doesn’t much resemble an English Tea Stop but inside, florals and whimsical decorations adorn white walls and pastel pink bench seating.

Afternoon Tea is reasonably priced at $32 per person. You get a large pot of loose leaf tea, two freshly made little sandwiches, two warm savouries, one scone and crumpet with clotted cream, house-made lemon curd and jam, and five bite-sized sweets.

Continue reading

Happy Holidays!

20th December 2018

Why does family photos always have to involve begging, bribing, yelling and a broken candy cane?!

Here’s Xmas 2018. From ours to yours… happy holidays everyone! 💕🎄🎅🦌⛄

#MomTruth: When It’s Way Too Quiet

2nd November 2018

Kids Drawing

Every mom knows quiet typically = mayhem.

So when I didn’t hear a peep from CJ this morning, I wondered if he decided to use strawberry jam as finger paint or if he managed to get his little hands on a UPS box full of foam peanuts again…

This was last year when I left for 2 mins to go to the bathroom!

Mom truth

But instead he handed me this cute drawing taped with treats from his precious Halloween stash. ‘This is you mommy and this is me.’ Instead of a heart attack, my heart melted. 💙🍬

I’ll love to hear what kind of shenanigans happens in your home when it’s just wayyyy too quiet?!


The Best Halloween Costume Shops In Toronto

1st October 2018

Halloween Costumes

Malabar – go early to avoid lineups! This place is the grand daddy one stop shop for all your favourite costumes and accessories in downtown TO. They have very knowledgeable staff and carry an extensive array of pre-packaged costumes, rentals, professional makeup, wigs, hats, masks and everything else your little devil’s heart desires.

Spirit Halloween – city slicker ghosts and goblins can now conveniently shop at this popup on Queen Street West. Costumes for the whole family, props and decorations can all be found here. (Get 20% off any item here.)

Creepers – located in Oakville, they call themselves Canada’s creepiest and sexiest Halloween superstore and rightfully so because they’ve got everything! The staff even dress up as their favourite characters. Their “Pop Culture” section is pretty cool with costumes from Harley Quinn, The Walking Dead, Transformers and popular video game heroes.

Halloween Costume Shop

Exile Vintage  – remember Mr. Dressup’s trunk? Well this place in Kensington Market reminds me of it. There are racks and racks of second-hand clothing and vintage pieces that make excellent costumes if you’ve got the creativity.


Continue reading

Back To School Traditions

16th August 2018

Back To School

CJ started Montessori School in Toronto when he was two. Then at four, he joined Life Project Education for a few weeks while we were digital nomading in Costa Rica. Next month he’ll be entering pre-kindergarten at his new school in the SF Bay Area.

This kid sure gets around! And I was right there with him at every first drop-off… with a big encouraging smile all the while holding back tears behind my extra large sunglasses.

We mark the end of summer (gosh is it really, already?!) with a trip to the CNE, filling our bellies with cinnamon dusted Tiny Tom donuts. Then it’s all about the photos on the first day. Bribing CJ with swedish berries for a snapshot by his locker. At the end of the school year, we ask his teachers to write messages in a copy of Dr. Seuss’ “Oh The Places You’ll Go”… which we plan to give him on his graduation.

Back to school sign

Here are a few other fun ideas to kick off your new school year…

Get a large t-shirt made with “class of _____”. How cute would it be to take a photo each year and watch them grow into their grad shirt. (It’s going to be #classof2032 for us!!)

If you have little ones, tame their jitters (and your anxiety) by reading The Kissing Hand or The Invisible String together.

Make a schuletüte – a great arts and crafts project! Based on a German tradition, it’s basically a school surprise ‘cone’ that parents fill up with supplies and treats. Check out Pinterest for inspo.


Continue reading

Let’s Not Make It A Political Or Geographic Thing, It’s A People Thing!

23rd July 2018

Flowers Basil

I had planned on staying glued to the news and mourn silently from abroad because my home town of Toronto is Trending on social media for another tragic shooting. One too many all in a few weeks. I’m SAD, SAD, SAD and now angry because my Twitter feed has been peppered that somehow the Danforth Shooting was America’s fault (guns coming across the border)!!

Why do I care because everyone is blaming America for its poor leadership so what’s one more eye poke?

I CARE because my husband and I chose to move our son to the United States last month despite how ‘discriminating, violent and horrible’ a county it is. (Thank you friendly Canadians for pointing that out.)


Yesterday, a woman who lives across the street decided to come over just to say hello. This is our first meeting. She wore a red 45 #maga hat. She came back a few hours later with flowers, basils and strawberries, all grown from her garden and a cookie for my son.

In our King West condo, we’ve been in an elevator with neighbours riding up/down 30 floors, listening to Trump bashing and boycotting the US. Not a nod of a greeting, no acknowledgement that there is a little human being making a silly monster face at you (too busy on Instagram and tripped over our stroller).

Sure this is a small gesture but what experience do you think my son is going to remember having lived in both countries? When we teach him acts of kindness, who’s a better example?

I love you Toronto but you are so full of hate now and I’m heartbroken.

I’m just saying… friends, please don’t make it a political thing. Or a geographic thing. I keep reading how people are ‘shocked that it happened in such a family oriented community’. That’s just naive. Because at the end, it’s really a people thing. <– This goes for guns too.

Banning weapons works in functional societies. And it clearly appears that ours is broken. So let’s address the bigger issues of mental health and a burnt out over medicated population (especially in large dense cities like Toronto). Lock up anything that is destructive but if there is a will, there is a way.

And really why do you want to see a whole country fail because of one election? Because that also means you want to see my family fail since we now live here and my husband’s business is 90% American.

So as I’m typing this in my cozy home in California, my son is at summer camp and I’m not even sure where hubs is but I hope they (and your family) are safe. Such incidents like this remind us that no one and no place is invincible. Canada AND United States. Let’s work on being kind to each other.

End rant.


Summer Beauty Favourites

11th July 2018

Summer Beauty

When it comes to beauty in the summer, less is definitely more. I like to keep my routine quick and simple. Here are my favourite products to help you get through the sun and heat…

Argan Brightening Facial Scrub

Acure Organics is one of my favourite beauty brands. For the past five years, I’ve been using their facial wash, toner and this fabulous scrub (twice a week) to get a deep cleansing experience like I would at a fancy spa. The scrub has just the right amount of grainy texture so you can feel it working on your face but it’s still gentle enough that sensitive skin doesn’t feel tight or dried out. ($15)

Burt’s Bee Facial Towelettes

I always have these wet towelettes stashed in my purse so I could remove makeup and excess oil lickety split. The Peach and Willow Bark version exfoliates (bonus!) and smells absolutely delicious. They comes in a pack of 30 and are a beauty must-have at home and on the go. ($10)

Lavanila The Healthy Deodorant

I love the Lavanila product line because they use natural ingredients and are bursting with beautiful scents like vanilla, lemon, coconut and grapefruit. This deodorant contains no aluminum, paraben or propylene glycol and doesn’t leave yellow pit marks on your white shirts. The only downside is it doesn’t stop sweat completely so if you are really active, you will need to reapply the deodorant to ensure maximum odour protection. ($17) Also comes in a travel size. ($11)


Continue reading

Hey Moms, Don’t Be A Susan!

7th July 2018

Mom truth

Parents, please read this article This Is Why Social Media Makes Modern Parenting Hard… and don’t be a Susan! She’s a unicorn anyway.

Susan is that woman, that mom. We all know a Susan. She’s an over-achiever, but makes it all look effortless. She only needs three hours of sleep a night. She doesn’t just have a crafting table, she has an entire crafting wing in her house!

Susan has a cookie cutter for every occasion, including Arbor Day and Flag Day. She never misses a volunteer opportunity. She has a freezer full of homemade casseroles and a refrigerator full of pre-prepped nutritional and delicious meals (toddler and adult versions of course).

Susan’s children are never bored. They are always engaged in developmentally appropriate sensory play, thoughtfully running their little hands through moon sand or rainbow oats or feel frames. They don’t watch TV.

Once upon a time, I really tried to be a Susan. I was a high achiever ‘super mom’ for probably a year and half and took mega pride in juggling my career as a marketing exec, blogger, teacher and new mama who shopped all organic and strived for that polished playful Instagram feed.

Well not always… see that photo above? It was taken after I left for two minutes to go pee. That is after holding it in for the last hour to feed, dress and wipe his boo boo’s. Only to come back to every toy taken out including an opened Canada Post parcel. The little monster was supposed to be sick that day and stayed home from school. The struggle is real!

So now I’m just CJ’s mom who goes to bed — yes sometimes at 9pm! with stickers in my dry-shampooed hair, promising myself that I’ll try harder tomorrow. So mamas, even if you are not a Susan, you are still doing great!

Share your Susan moments in the comments section below and follow my less than perfect #momlife on Instagram!


A Step By Step Guide To Moving To The United States

4th July 2018

Moving To USA

When CJ needed more green space, we quickly realized that our big city life was expiring. Then hubby wanted to be closer to his clients to grow his business and after an extra long stretch of winter, I was simply done with the cold…  so we began hatching out a plan to move from Toronto to the SF Bay Area!

As exciting as it is moving to another country, it is also a LOT of work. Planners got to plan right! It took over a year to secure our E1 Visas, sell most of our stuff and transition our business. We even snuck in some travel in between, including a Route 66 road trip!  

Route 66

Now that we are finally here, I thought I’ll share some tips and advice to help other expats who are considering a move to the US, less overwhelming. From finding a new home to filing government paperwork, here are some important things you should know and plan before throwing that farewell party…

US Visas

There are many types of visas. Most common ones to get are through a company, whether it’s an internal transfer or a new hire. If you own a small business, you may qualify for the E1 or E2 visa. I wrote a detailed step by step guide on how to apply for an E1 visa here.

Importing a Car (from Canada to US)

While this is not a costly endeavour, it is a time consuming and very tedious process so I’ve dedicated an entire post and outlined the 5 mandatory steps here. If you are driving there are 2 options: import your car at the border or wait till you get to the port of your new home State. You can also visit the US Customs and Border Protection website for more information.

International movers or pack your own pod?

My cousin moved from Ottawa to LA and she spent over $5,000 USD hiring movers. Since we sold most of our furniture and just needed to move 35 boxes and our bicycles, we decided to use a Pod service. To keep costs even lower, we actually drove our stuff across the Buffalo border and loaded it into the Pod ourselves. Instead of having them drop it off/pickup, we saved $2,000 and ended up paying around $3,000 for a 16x8x8 container.

Since we planned on taking our time to drive Route 66, there was no rush in getting our things delivered at a set time. So from Toronto to San Francisco, the Pod arrived in 9 days and we had it stored for the rest of the month for an additional $160. 

Departure meeting with a cross-border accountant

Do you know that if you have RSP’s, TFSA’s and other such Canadian investments, those can be taxed in the US? I didn’t either!

That’s why it’s important to setup an appointment with an accountant who specializes in cross-border taxes at least one month before you leave. You’ll receive advice on restructuring personal assets and/or how to most efficiently conduct business in the US if you are a SMB owner. (You may need to setup a B Corp etc.)

At $300-500 CAD for a one or two hour meeting is pretty expensive but I still consider this a worthy investment. IRS is mean and complicated to navigate yourself especially during your first transitional year!

Finding accommodations

Put the word out and start your search about 5-6 months before your desired arrival. We decided on a short term rental which I lucked out and found on Craigslist. We figured half a year is a good timeline to feel out a neighbourhood before committing. And since we sold all our furniture, we picked a  furnished place to ease the stress of having to immediately go shopping.

Airbnb and HomeAway are obvious places to look for rentals and I use them often for vacations but I found with longer term stays, the service fees can add up. However, you can always reach out to the owner and negotiate a monthly rate as well. I’ve seen some that were discounted 40% for longer term stays! Don’t forget to also scope out Zillow, local Facebook groups, Sabbatical Homes and World Schooler Exchange . In the East Bay, the community site Berkeley Parents Network (BPN) rocks for finding short term stays.

If you plan on buying, talk to a realtor 7-8 months before your target moving date. Give even more time in competitive real estate markets. If you are planning to move to the Bay Area, my cousin, Kelvin owns Sequoia Real Estate so give him a ring!


Continue reading

How To Import Your Car From Canada To USA

30th June 2018

Import Car to USA

Hubby has a serious attachment to our car so when we made the move to the US, the car of course, was coming with us!

We considered railing it but after getting a quote of $3,000 USD, we decided the money would be better spent on a fun Route 66 road trip with hubby’s dad. CJ and I would then fly to Phoenix to meet them and the three or us would continue the drive to our new home.

During our research we found articles that were outdated or written by people who never even went through the process! So we decided to share our experience of how we imported our car from Toronto to San Francisco.

There are 5 mandatory steps…

1. Get a clearance letter

Three weeks before your department date, call your vehicle’s corporate office to request a clearance letter. Which basically states that your car conforms to safety and environmental protection standards. They will ask for your VIN and other manufacture information which can be found on the stickers on the driver’s side.

At Lexus it took less than one week to receive this letter by email and there was no charge. However, we did have a scare when we found out that vehicles made after 2007 were required to have a tire pressure feature. Luckily the premium package for our RX350 had it so we were cleared!

Prepare ample time to get this letter incase modifications are required or you decide to avoid the hassle altogether and just buy a new car when you get to the US.

2. Paperwork at the border

We entered the US at the Detroit border. There was a one page ‘vehicle clearance’ form to fill out and an inspection by the Border Patrol Officer. Remember to have your proof of registration with you. Your name and ownership title must match the purchase agreement or you will need to go back to your dealership to get this corrected. (This could be the case if you purchased your car second-hand from Craigslist or if the car was given to you by your parents, etc.)

Because of an agreement with NAFTA, there is currently no import charge.

Alternatively you can import your car at a port in the State which you plan on moving to. Here are the ports of entry. IMO this is an easy process so it’s better to get it done and over with when you cross the border instead of driving all the way to your new home State. Imagine if  somehow your car doesn’t meet standards and you end up having to drive all the way back!


Continue reading