Category Archives: Life

#GirlBoss: Amira de Vera of Project Four PR

5th March 2017

Amira de Vera

Amira and I go way back. Rewind to 2010 when we used to meet over coffees + cocktails to talk about boys and dream about starting our own businesses. She’s become my little sister and it’s been incredible watching her grow in her career and life. Always putting on a brave face and big smile, she may be little but expect big things from her! Meet Amira de Vera, #GirlBoss and (drumroll…) Founder of Project Four PR.

What’s a day in the life of Amira de Vera like?

This is a bit of a cliché PR answer but no days are really typical for me. I have some days where I am sitting at my desk from 9am till late at night working and then there are some days where I am running from meeting to meeting or accompanying clients to a media interview or photo shoot. One thing that you can find typical and consistent about my daily routine is that I like to insert a one-hour workout in there, regardless of how busy I am. I always, always make time to work out!

Project Four PR

You have been talking about starting your own agency since we met and you finally did it. Congrats! Tell us about Project Four PR. 

I know! It’s so crazy to think that what I merely dreamed about is now an actual reality!!

Project Four PR is a Sports and Entertainment Public Relations and Management Firm representing some of the country’s top talents in the film, television, sports, music and lifestyle industries. We specialize in personal publicity and management services which includes media relations, brand endorsements, charitable partnerships, red carpet attendance, and digital strategies. Essentially, we turn people into household names.

I have always been passionate about the entertainment and sports industry, particularly in the talents that make it up. Personal publicity always came natural to me and there is nothing more rewarding than seeing your clients blossom and grow into their career. Watching other people live their dream and accomplish their highest vision is why I do what I do.

Continue reading

#WednesdayWisdom: Embrace Uncertainty

1st March 2017


I need answers. And I need them now!

Big shifts are coming for our family + business. All of which I don’t have answers ‘yet’ so trying not to be a control freak of my own destiny. Trust the process, allow the universe to do its thing and time will unveil… repeat mantra!

Uncertainty. A far cry from the 10 year masterplan I mapped out for myself in my twenties. All of which mostly did not come true ha.

I never married my high school sweetheart and moved to Manhattan. But I did meet a man that better compliments and challenges me, one who makes me laugh and love harder than I’ve ever known. And we did briefly live in NYC. And Vancouver. And San Francisco.

I didn’t have two kids by 35. But I did give birth to a darling baby boy at 35.

I got that corporate marketing job I loved but ended up ditching the rat race after ‘accidentally’ starting my own business and blog. I never thought I would actually get paid to eat food, travel and write spa reviews!

As you can see lots of curve balls were thrown at me in the last decade. Some balls I managed to catch and others I chose to swerve. Some I even dropped. Having a solid plan did not make things certain. But it all turned out okay and even better!

And that’s the thing with uncertainty. It gives us the chance to think about what we really want – not what we think we need. (Think about that one because there is a big difference.)

It forces us to live in the moment. No matter how uncomfortable. Because the present is the only thing that is certain.

It encourages us to let go of things, memories and people that create a false sense of energy.

Continue reading

Furniture For Your Condo Or Small Home

13th February 2017

Condo Generation

I curated this list in 2010 when I bought my first condo… now I’m on condo number three (and married with a rambunctious toddler)!

Choosing to raise our family in downtown King West, I know all about maximizing small spaces. If you recall Toronto Life’s cover story 2 summers ago, that was my little family featured in an article called ‘Condo Generation’.

When it comes to furniture shopping, the experience can be overwhelming and frustrating – not to mention, the huge dent it puts in your wallet. So here’s my list of places (beyond Ikea!) that I found during my own quest to seek out stylish furniture that is of good quality, design and reasonably priced. Happy Shopping!

Condo Furniture

KROFT: designs and makes beautiful handcrafted furniture right here in Toronto. Condo dwellers and small home owners will especially appreciation their collection of bedroom, dining and living room furniture with clean lines and modern finishes. They also meticulously customize pieces. $$$

Design Republic: my fave store because how can you not love a place where their mantra is “Furniture for the People”? Whether you are searching for the edgiest modern sofa, design classics or industrial and vintage pieces, you can find it here at their Queen West showroom. Great service and custom solutions available as well. I bought most of my living room furniture here and they made me a cool custom wooden bench! $$$

Modern Sensibility: find your stylish condo furnishings here without paying an arm and leg. They don’t sacrifice on quality and are proudly Canadian owned. Lots of double-duty furniture and sale items too! $$

Urban Mode: a hidden gem and another one of my favourite shops. This place is not very big but it is owned by a couple of very friendly knowledgeable ladies. They do have some condo furniture on display as well as lots of cool decor pieces and the popular Chilewich mats in all sizes and colours. $$

CB2: a modern destination from Crate and Barrel that will furnish every room in your modern apartment, loft or home without too much denting in your wallet. Conveniently located in condo land on the corner of Queen West & Bathurst. $$

BoConcept: furniture in their collection is functional, contemporary, timeless and comfortable. They also provide an in-home design consultation service and turn-key furniture solutions so that you can move in or have your rental property fully furnished in less than three weeks. $$$

Continue reading

How I Beat The Winter Blues With Light Therapy

5th February 2017

Philips Wake-up Light

My morning routine goes something like this…

Alarm #1 goes off. I stir and hit snooze. Then alarm #2 goes off. I’m annoyed but not enough to get out of bed. By alarm #3, I want to quit life. Sounds familiar?

The struggle is real!

To help combat fatigue and the winter blues, Philips sent over two buddies to help me wake up and stay up!

The Philips Wake-up Light is a light therapy device that has replaced my alarm clock. For the last few weeks, instead of being jarringly awoken abruptly by noise, I arose to gentle sounds and light that simulated the morning sun.

Philips Light Therapy

How it works: I set my alarm at 7:15am and it goes off to either the FM radio or one of 2 natural sounds. BUT at 6:45am (or 30 mins before your set wake-up time), the clock lights up prepping your body to wake up – dimly at first then it gets brighter. To turn off the ‘alarm’ just tap anywhere on the surface.

Continue reading

My New Year’s Solutions

3rd February 2017

New Year Resolutions

Happy Lunar New Year! 

It’s the year of the fire rooster, the tenth sign of the Chinese zodiac which is associated with productivity and protection. So this year, we can all look forward to progress, honour and integrity.

Every year for as long as I can remember I’ve more or less been making the same resolutions… and breaking them. This year, I decided to create a list of solutions instead.

So here are 5 things to help me live a more happy and balanced life that I can actually commit to…

1) Single-tasking is the new multi-tasking!  

Those who know me know I have the attention span of an Instagram story so I’m really going to have to work on this one by learning how to better prioritize, stay focused and avoid procrastination.  I truly believe I’ll get way more done if I worked on completing one task before moving onto the next rather than juggling several things at once.  Part of the problem though is I get bored easily and like having many options!

2) Be in the present.

This means actually being more social and less glued to media. Hubby reminds me that I REALLY don’t need to document my entire life on Instagram!!

3) Allow myself to do absolutely nothing (and not feel guilty).

I’m always running around doing something, anything! I was talking to a friend just the other day and blew her away when I told her that I basically NEVER travel without my laptop. Even on my honeymoon, babymoon and every trip in between, this Macbook has crossed oceans and should have it’s own frequent flyer card! I don’t always work but knowing it’s within arms reach comforts me. So this year, I’m really going to try to stop being ‘super mom’ and be okay with it… okay to go to bed knowing my little boy’s toys are all over the floor, okay to leave that email unanswered for another few hours, okay not to feel obligated to go out with friends and of course, okay with saying no!

Continue reading

What To Expect When You Get An Oxygen Facial + Special Promo

31st January 2017

Holts Spa

Last week, I took a mommy time-out at the Holts Salon and Spa where I was treated to a 60 mins oxygen facial.

The wonders this type of facial can do to dry winter skin!

Asmeret, my esticician was all about making me feel comfortable and relaxed, explaining every step of this “miracle facial” that many celebs swear by.

Unlike your typical spa facial with luxurious smelling creams and golden potions, this one is all about ‘results’ – so hydration and rejuvenation to help eliminate toxins, tiredness and signs of aging.

Asmeret first cleansed my face, then exfoliated it with a grainy scrub before applying warm steam for 3 mins to open up my pores. After some brief extraction around my nose area, she applied a fruit-based enzyme peel and left it on for 10 mins while she offered me a lovely hand and arm massage. The peel felt tingly but not stinging which meant it was doing it’s thing of removing dead skin cells to ‘reboot’ the skin naturally.

Continue reading

3 Things To Do Before You Call It Quits

24th January 2017


Who really likes to admit defeat? I’m especially not one to back down from a challenge. As a matter of face, I’ve got one of those relentlessly determined personalities where I want to turn every #loss into a #win.

From working out, to mundane tasks, jobs or even quitting relationships, think of the last time you threw in (or thought about throwing in) the towel. Did you rationalize why it’s wasn’t worth it or create road blocks (I just didn’t have enough time!) or were you simply afraid of failure or rejection?

Even if it’s uber unpleasant I assure you there is a way to turn it around. Maybe you won’t ever love it but you’ll at least learn to appreciate it more. Here are 3 tips to help you not quit and I promise you will feel much better knowing you conquered it!

1) Get a liability partner

There’s no shame in admitting you can’t do it on your own. That’s where friends and mentors come in. A liability partner is someone who holds you accountable for _________. So find someone who you can share a very honest relationship with, someone who will call you out for slacking off and who’ll be your cheerleader to keep you on track and on the path to success.

2) Change things up one variable at a time

A lot of my friends have joined running clubs and some have even become marathon fanatics but I never really liked running. When Nike Women released their gorgeous new line of active wear, my interest in exercise piqued because who doesn’t want to buy cute outfits and fancy shoes right?! But my running career was short lived.

Then one crispy fall day, I dropped off my son at Montessori School and had to rush back to do something else. So I ran all the way home. And I loved it.

Nothing really changed except I accidentally discovered that I prefer running in the cold!! All the other times, I would run outside when it was warm or inside on a treadmill (boooring).

Continue reading

Hip Urban Girl: The End Of An Era

17th January 2017

HipUrbanGirl The End

It’s a bittersweet day for me because we just wrote our last post on my other blog.

Some of you may know me from Hip Urban Girl. HUG produced over 2400 valuable and fun posts. No doubt it represented a very carefree time in my life when I was thriving in my career, had a large social network and the freedom to jet set around the world.

I started writing 6 years ago and haven’t stopped.

Not to say I don’t know how to have a good time anymore and have morphed into a dinosaur overnight (hey, I’m a still a hip + urban mom!) but priorities shift as you  begin decluttering and ‘editing’ life.

The next chapter…

The last 6 years have brought some of the greatest changes in my life.

Marriage. Different jobs. Starting an ad agency. Becoming a Mother in 2013!

Inevitably I’ve changed and so has my brand.

Meanwhile Lisa, the other half of HUG also moved to Portland, OR and has created her own stories.

Wendy 2017 City Refinery

So it is only natural that our content evolves with us. It feels right and there is no better time than now to close one chapter and open a new one.

City Refinery is a lifestyle website filled with things I love, inspiration and organized chaos.

Continue reading

Leaving A $382,000 Job To Start All Over Again

13th January 2017

Google Partners Adwords Analytics

I want to share a story about a very anxious and uncomfortable time in my life. As you are reading keep in mind these two things…

  1. Be true to yourself.
  2. Never be afraid (or think you are too old, too good or don’t have time) to start all over again.

This story has a happy ending but had I written it in 2011 or 2012, it would have been rather doom and gloom.

Online Advertising

In 2010, my husband walked away from a job that paid $382,103.00 with full benefits. To say he had gone batsh!t crazy was putting it politely.

He didn’t like what he was doing? Nope because he’s still doing the same thing today! Bad boss? His former boss has actually become one of our best friends and we even go on vacations together! So WTF right?!!?

He called it freeing himself from the “golden handcuffs”.

In a nut(case)shell, it meant leaving behind his executive position at an ad network to pursue his dream of becoming his own boss. The draw was making his own hours, hiring his own team, choosing his own clients and heck if he wanted to take his work on the road for 8 months, so be it. Which we actually did in 2012, creating a temporary home and office in San Francisco and Hong Kong.

With a handful of contracted media buyers and one lonely account (coming from having managed over 150!), Adfluent Media was founded late 2010 in the second bedroom of our downtown condo.

Spring, summer and fall came and went. Then it was Adfluent’s first anniversary and hubby closed off the year with barely $60K. Our family and accountant was like “what happened?!?” I was like so embarrassed!!!

Startup Life

In his second year, he made a little bit more. If it bothered him he sure didn’t show it and kept pressing on. Rise & Grind each morning he had to “hire myself all over again”. He also wore many hats: the accountant, web guy, biz dev.

Continue reading

What Happened After I Meditated 45 Days With The Headspace App

9th January 2017

HeadSpace App


How did I meditate for more than one and a half months? More on that in a bit. First let me tell you what changed for me…

  • I am more calm
  • I no longer get scared by screaming strangers on the streets or the TTC or in tight spaces (mentally, I feel like Bruce Lee) 
  • I now have more patience and genuine interest when someone explains how their day has been
  • I am less reactive — example, when my mom criticizes my cooking — I actually listen rather than talk back, and appreciate her feedback, to her amazement 
  • I am more fascinated with changes in the weather and gratefully accept that it’s -20 degrees celsius outside with windchill (lovely day) 
  • I sleep better
  • I workout better

And most importantly, I am way less stressed out. Mainly because I am no longer playing a defensive, reactive game to my emotions whenever a part of my day doesn’t pan out “smoothly”. I feel in control — more on Stoicism, a mental Operating System on dealing with stress, in a later post (I promise).

This brings me to answer my initial question of how I managed to consistently meditate for 45 days and introduce a new habit—I hacked my willpower. Think of willpower as a finite resource, similar to energy that we have in a day the moment we’re awake. By finding the most effective, efficient way of using the least amount of willpower to cultivate a new habit—I could more easily introduce an intended habit without it feeling like a chore. 

First thing after I’m awake when my cognitive capacity is still powering up—this is especially useful because I’m hardly making a conscious decision to do anything that requires effort. I’ll gulp a glass of water with apple cider vinegar along with a few pinches of pink salts (this is for adrenal fatigue purposes) and go straight into my meditative practice. 

HeadSpace App

Headspace is a guided meditation + mindfulness app that’s available on iOS & Android. When I turn it on, I’m in my zone. 

The creator, Andy Puddicombe travelled to the Himalayas to study meditation and eventually was bestowed as a Buddhist Monk in Northern India. He uses a series of pre-recorded videos and audio to guide me into easing my mind for relaxation and being aware of thoughts that may arise. Each session can be adjusted between 10, 15 or 20 minutes. I chose 20 because, why not? More chill is always better!

Continue reading