Hiking 101: “If I'm going to invest in just one thing, it should be…”
Written by Monica Ng
Good Hiking Boots.
In my opinion, if you buy nothing else (specifically for your hiking adventures), invest in a good pair of hiking boots for the ankle support and mud/water resistance.
I hiked the trail at McRae Lake Conservation Reserve wearing my hiking boots. It was super muddy. I had no issues at all walking through the mud, on and around exposed tree roots, climbing up rocks and making my way across tree trunks (aka bridges) – but the moment I put on my runners and tried to go check out the water one last time, my ankles were twisting. It's easy to sprain your ankle wearing improper footwear.
Trail conditions aren’t predictable. Your trail could be rocky, “rooty”, or flat, etc. Also, a sunny day doesn’t mean dry trails. Runners can get soaked by wet and muddy terrain. Never mind the fun you'll have washing your muddy runners! Having wet feet sucks too.
Comfort = happy hiker. Case Closed.
If you're looking for comfortable and great looking hikers, check out Merrell.
If I were to select just ONE photo to describe 2020 in a nutshell – it would be this one:
I took this picture while sitting on a tube, floating 2 kilometres downstream on a calm section of the Grand River at Elora Gorge. This photo represents one of my life philosophies: the need to keep on moving. The tattoo was inspired by one of my favourite Canadian musicians, Matthew Good – as one of the lyrics in his song “Beauty” is “keep on moving”. My tattoo represents the importance of moving physically to stay healthy (as both of my parents had strokes) and metaphorically – to keep on going despite what life may throw at us. Also, I managed to get this tattoo between quarantine lockdowns!
Life is not static. As humans, we cannot be static either. Grab life by the horns and make your own memories.
Despite the devastating and crippling effects that COVID-19 had on the world, I am thankful for so many things this year.
Here are my TOP 5:
My family and friends.
Being able to continue working my day job.
Having vegan desserts and frozen food delivered right to my door. Sweets from the Earth is an amazing bakery – try their s’mores cake. Ahimsa Vegan Food (Indian food) has delicious frozen food in individual servings – their butter “chicken” is absolutely delish! Many companies are now promoting their online businesses because of COVID and I totally support local businesses.
Amazing exploration of Ontario’s outdoors by foot, canoe and kayak. My adventures inspired me to write a blog titled “Discovering my backyard – Ontario“. I have almost 80 reviews posted to date. Could be more, but there are a few really special places like Killarney Provincial Park, McCrae Lake Conservation Reserve and Beamer Memorial Conservation Area, that I keep going to. The gravitational pull toward the outdoors has been really strong for me this year. I make time to get outdoors despite my crazy life. Honestly being outdoors is for my body, mind and soul. If you haven’t found yourself surrounded by nature – give it a go!
I had a chance to pursue my passion for music and writing, by interviewing many of my favourite Canadian musicians, while discovering so many more along the way. All of these musicians are amazing, super-passionate, driven and so incredibly personable and down-to-earth. I’m very fortunate that they were so open to being interviewed. It’s people like these that make me so proud to be Canadian! You can check out all the interviews under the “Interview” tab on my site, or click on the names below.
I recently had the chance to interview my elementary school classmate, Sharon Rampersad, who took advantage of the pandemic downtime to finish off her book. Also check out my interviews with my friend author, Fong C. Hsiung, and a children’s book author friend I made on Instagram, Kelly Ann Charleson. Kelly is a Matthew Good fan too!
***2021 promises many more outdoor adventures and more interviews. I have a few interviews in the works already. Even a special surprise!***
Wishing you all a very Happy 2021 New Year! Most importantly: stay safe and don’t let life pass you by. Every moment is precious and it’s amazing how much can be achieved in a short period of time. Blink too much and opportunities may pass you by. Sending you all positive vibes!
Ticket in hand, I was on standby. Hearing about a lot of other cancellations and closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I wasn’t sure if Matthew Good’s March 12, 2020 concert would be cancelled. Of course, part of me could ABSOLUTELY NOT wait for the show, but the other part of me was dreading the exposure to public transportation and a crowded concert hall.
Concert a go!
The concert was on. I said goodbye to my family as they bid me safe travels.
Meridian Hall, Toronto
I always try to arrive in time for the opening acts because it’s a great chance to discover new music. The supporting bands that evening were Ellevator (Instagram: @ellevatorband) and Born Ruffians (Instagram: @bornruffiansmusic). I never heard of either band, but was really impressed with the unique music style of both. Also, the singer of each band have really fresh unique voices.
Ellevator is based in Hamilton, Ontario. The band’s singer, Nabi, is a soft-spoken person on the mic, but man – when she started to sing, her vocals blew me away. She occasionally sat down on the stage during her songs, commanding the audience in a different way. When they first came on stage, I was reminded of old high school band days (maybe because they look young). But be warned – they do not play “elevator music”.
I had a chance to chat with Nabi briefly at the merch table after the concert. I asked her when she first started to sing and she said since she was very little. Nabi has this really amazing aura surrounding her. I have been enjoying my new CD for the past few days. Check out their music!
Our very own Torontonian band! The guitarists are absolutely wild and a pleasure to watch. Luke, the lead singer, has a powerful and very fresh voice, and was super-animated on stage. I don’t know if he ever found his glasses that he dropped while jamming on the guitar…Check out their music too!
There are no words to describe the moment MG comes on stage and delivers his first vocals. It happens at every concert of his that I attend. BAM! A chill runs a mile a minute through my body and I am like “OMG”! Short for Oh my gosh or Oh Matthew Good!
Matt’s performance was beyond incredible as always. His music has been part of my life for about 20 years. Where has the time gone? Did I mention that he’s Canadian? I love Canadian music. In fact, most of my favourite artists are Canadian: Matthew Good, Moist, Neon Dreams, Ria Mae and newly added, Craig Stickland.
Matt recently launched his album, Moving Walls, which includes songs such as One of Them Years, A Momentary Truth, Beauty, Sicily and The Heights. It was amazing to see him perform songs from this album in concert. The songs have a whole new meaning to me now.
Matt is a lyrical genius, sings like a male angel and is talented to the max. He’s a songwriter, singer and guitarist. He also speaks publicly about mental health and his own bipolar disorder and battle with depression.
Yes…Matt, this, Matt, that…I just love him!
If you haven’t had a chance to listen to his music, I hope you find some time.
Rest of Tour Postponed
Right after the show, Matt posted on Instagram that the rest of the tour would be cancelled due to the virus. He wrote that people DM’d him with anger that he irresponsibly did not cancel that evening’s concert. It must have been a really tough decision for Matt not to cancel, considering the circumstances. But on that note, I feel like I caught the last train. If I die, I will die happy.
Matt also played one of my favourite songs from his album, Something Like a Storm. It’s called Something Like a Storm. It was wild on the stage.
Here are a few of my favs from Moving Walls: Selling You My Heart and A Momentary Truth
Of course one of his classics: Load Me Up. The crowd went crazy for this!
In this thing called life, music transcends life. Not sure if that makes sense – but it sounds good 🙂
This post is dedicated to Frank Kadillac of Neon Dreams (www.neondreams.ca), as it was inspired by him.
What is pure happiness? What is innocent happiness?
Do such things exist? If yes, do they still exist? I sure like to think so.
A short while ago, I wrote an Instagram story about the days of innocent happiness (as a child) (pictured top left). You can’t tell from the photo (me on the left), but I was carrying my favourite small pillow in the fabric carrier tied around my chest. I can actually remember that moment. I was happy. No other care in the world.
After I created my IG story (pictured top right), the creative juices started to flow and I knew I had to get off the couch and write a post.
Here’s the story…
Ever since I met Frank Kadillac and Adrian Morris of Neon Dreams at Tyler Shaw’s concert (they were the opening act) back in October, 2019, I have been listening to and digging their tracks. Check out the video of one (among many) of my favourite songs, “If not now, when”:
Anyways, in this song, one of the lyrics go “I wanna make you smile like in CPH”. It was driving me crazy what CPH meant. Was I that old that I didn’t know that acronym – OMG! LOL! I Googled it, thinking that maybe it was a drug. Finally, I decided to send Neon Dreams a DM.
Frank explained that it was a place where he was happy. I won’t reveal this place in case he wants to keep it private. Of course, I then start to think about myself…was there a place where I was truly happy?
I couldn’t come up with any specific place, but thought that maybe certain events would stand out. Often happiness is paired with other emotions, so our happiness becomes muddled. Pure happiness is something special. The best I could come up with was my recent trip to Killbear Provincial Park. I have an inflatable two- person kayak. When I got in my kayak and left the shore, I could feel the sun shining on me. My kayak supported by the waters of the Georgian Bay. The majestic Georgian Bay rock formations stretching in the distance on my right. My destination was a small island not far from the shore. I was so excited. With every paddle towards my private island, I was smiling. I was so happy. Nothing could bring me down.
Life jades us
Not being able to quickly recollect a “pure happiness” moment makes me a bit sad. Life really jades us. Think of our daily grind. Work, work, work, pay bills, eat, exercise, sleep… I know you are feeling stressed now! Unfortunately, life consists of good and bad things – seems like more bad things sometimes, don’t it? Like how my car broke down when I was about to go to the gym…
Take home message
I think the goal is to make every happy moment count. Dream about your happy moments often. And even better…create more happy ones!
In this thing called life, it’s important to cherish the happy moments and like Frank – remember that there are happy moments. Cheers!
For as long as I can remember (probably since high school), I wanted to write and publish a fiction novel. More than ten years ago, I started writing one. I never made it past page 35. Why not? Well, my storyline and characters were not developed enough and I couldn’t figure out how to go further. In my head it was a great suspenseful book!
In 2017 (the year Canada celebrated its 150th), I was inspired to write and illustrate childrens’ books about Canada. In 2018 and 2019, I published three: My Great Canadian Adventures and my series – Winter Moose Visits Montreal and Winter Moose Visits Alberta. Check out: www.CanadianAdventureBooksbyMonica.com
I loved that experience and will continue to work on my Winter Moose series, but I still long to publish a novel.
Ding! An idea.
I knew I wanted to write a fiction book based on my parents’ lives, because their stories are so crazy and unreal. But again, the problem was, I didn’t have my “catchline” to get me going. Suddenly when I was driving one night in February 2019, I had my “Eureka” moment – the first sentence of my book. That first sentence was all it took to start the brain gears turning. I am more than half-way through my manuscript now.
While I knew my general story line, spinning a whole story out of it would be a challenge. I realized that I had to breakdown the task, by brainstorming and jotting down my preliminary ideas down on paper. The writing process can be overwhelming and daunting – but rewarding too. If you ever read, David Usher’s “Let the Elephants Run”(a great read by the way) – when faced with writer’s block, David recommends that you just start writing. In my interview with my friend, Tony Wong (writer for the Toronto Star), he suggests the same thing: “My advice is just to start writing. Get something down on paper. It might not be your best stuff, but good writing is really in the re-writing.”
Is reading the same as writing?
I don’t think so. Even though I have read so many books, I found that writing is something different altogether. When I was trying to organize my chapters, I realized that I had no idea how to do it effectively.
I am by no means an expert writer, but I did some research online about novel writing. Here are a few things that I found really useful to keep in mind when writing my own novel.
10 things that I keep in mind when writing
Draft an outline for your book. Spend some time jotting down some rough notes about your storyline, story setting, mood and characters. When I read the first short chapter of my book to my 6 year-old, he asked me to stop because it was “too scary”. That means that I was successful in setting the “mood” through the choice of my words. You can update your outline when you feel you need to build your story more.
Don’t be over-wordy. Unless you really need to be wordy, keep your sentences as concise as possible. Example: The spring flowers looked really lovely with the sun shining brightly on them. Try: The sun shone brightly on the lovely spring flowers.
Keep sentences short. Run-on sentences like the example above are not only hard to read, but are hard to follow as well. When reading books with long and overly detailed sentences, I find myself needing to re-read. Often I set aside those books because I can’t get past the first chapter.
Work on catchlines. English is a great language as each word means something and can convey a deep message. Here’s a line from one of my poems titled, A Whisper: “time is like the steam rushing to escape the kettle…only to be left with none.”
Create cliff-hangers. Cliff-hangers are not only for the end of a book in a book series. Make your reader want to flip the pages quickly by creating suspense at the end of each chapter.
Develop your characters. Write down as many characteristics for each person as possible. Think about their temperament, passions, weaknesses, etc. It could be helpful to write down a description of what your character looks like physically and to explore their nervous habits or movement (such as jerkiness).
Chapter character revelations. Your protagonist can go through ups and downs every chapter. Maybe at the beginning of a chapter you think they are succeeding, then at the end, there could be a set-back – or vice versa. For example, a shy girl is overjoyed as she overcomes her stage-fright during the rehearsal, but then she finds out that she is cast out of the play.
Create a suitable environment for writing. Find your own space. Pick a time of day that you can channel your creative juices.
Copy edit. You can ask a trusted friend to read your finished manuscript. You may not want to do this too early in the process, as the expectations may be too high. There are professional copy editors as well, who for a fee, can provide you with a lot of excellent feedback. I found that copy edit was a very important part of my childrens’ book publication process. My grammar is not as good as I thought!
Don’t beat yourself up. If you haven’t written as much as you hoped for, or get stuck – just give yourself some space. Find some inspiration. Then get back to work.
In this thing called life, an idea may strike – but it’s the hard work that produces your final written piece.
Wishing you all a successful and happy year! Don’t forget to pursue your dreams 🙂
Almost every year, I watch the countdown (except one where I fell asleep before midnight) to cheer in the new year.
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3…2…1…Happy New Year!
Sure, it might be happy. A set date for a fresh start. New resolve to join the gym, start a new career..or simply to put the negative things from the past behind you. But you probably feel the same way as I do…another year and in this case, a year plus a decade gone by in the blink of an eye. That’s life. There is NO turning back the clock.
I have been writing entries for my blog for over a year now. It has been a great forum for me to communicate and express myself. For me, writing is therapeutic. Plus I enjoy sharing things that I learn from life. Thank you so much to those of you who took the time to read my musings. I appreciate the support.
Why I titled my blog “This Thing Called Life”
I titled my blog “This Thing Called Life“, because life is just there. Everything can happen in this thing called life. Life is constantly changing and throwing things at us. Parts of it we can control, while others we cannot. We just have to deal with life as it comes. I was so inspired by my tag-line that I tattooed it on my leg last year. No matter what crap happens in life, I can sum it up as something that happens in this thing called life. So, it’s ok. I can move on.
In this thing called life, perfection cannot always be achieved. It’s your determination and effort that count.
I dedicate this post to my sister, Annette (Instagram: @showmerockieshikes), her husband, Gabor (@grizzlymedve) and Jonathan Fast (@jonathan.fast). I check out their gorgeous landscape posts whenever I am itching for nature but can’t get out. There is nothing more satisfying and humbling than being at one with nature.
Saying goodbye to 2019
What better way to say goodbye to 2019 than a post about what I love. Below are a few tree photos that I put together. Trees make great “models” – they stay still for the most part and they charge nothing to photograph them. Aren’t trees just amazing?
The photos below were taken from my hikes/travels (including Rattlesnake Point, Killbear Provincial Park, Fernie (BC), Toronto, Forks of the Credit Provincial Park). When I look around, a unique tree or arrangement of trees might catch my attention. It’s important to always have your smart phone (with camera function) with you – as you NEVER know when that special tree will come into your life – kinda like people.
If you have never hiked before, I highly recommend you try it. If you are afraid to get lost (like me), there are usually some hiking groups/clubs that you can join. Or just take a friend.
There are so many reasons to love trees. Below is a list of 10 things that I came up with.
10 reasons to love trees:
they provide life-giving oxygen.
they absorb poisonous carbon dioxide from the air.
their foliage gives shade.
their roots prevent soil erosion.
they give shelter to animals and insects.
they are beautiful and unique.
they tell us the age of the forests that surround them (tree rings).
their forest provides great footage for films.
their beauty inspires writing and photography.
maple trees give sap for making maple syrup.
In this thing called life, you have to take the time to hug a tree, enjoy Mother Nature at her best, and help to preserve the beauty for everyone and future generations.
I am a lover of trees. No joke. I have a bigger collection of tree photos from my travels, but include a few here. Trees are life-giving (oxygen), stand the test of time, don’t talk back, are unique and majestic. Ever try placing your hand on the trunk, closing your eyes and feeling the power of the forest within the tree? If not, I highly recommend it. You will feel a vibration surge through your body – a recharge.
Year-end self reflection
I self-reflect daily, but thinking about year-end always seems to bring up a lot of events from the past. Now it’s DECADE end. That requires even more thought! My son always asks me why I post daily on Instagram/Facebook – and I tell him that it is therapeutic for me, and I like to share with others. Maybe someone out there just needs to hear that they ARE good enough.
Top 5 things to leave behind this decade:
Mean and hurtful words. Mean and hurtful words cannot be taken back once said. Think before you speak. Don’t say them. In my teens my mom basically said I was stupid (because I was not as academic as my older sister who got awards for this and that). In grade 2, I struggled with English (so my teacher let me borrow a dictionary). In my weekly Chinese school, I truly hated and struggled every single year (my friend classmates were witness), but was relentless and made it to Grade 11 (with the help of my friend – “look at my paper”!). In high school my overall grades were passable, but got high 90s in English lol. Got a Bachelor of Arts in University (Major in Sociology). Graduated from a certificate program in Interior design. Got a Law Clerk Certificate. And now, work as a Law Clerk, speaking Cantonese almost every day. The point is, growing up is already so hard. We don’t need to carry a stigma our whole life.
Bullying others. If you have no self-confidence or have personal issues you are dealing with, don’t take it out on others. Growing up people made fun of me for being Chinese and fat. I was a painfully shy kid with a heart, so I internalized everything and it really ate at me. Even relatives were abusive about me being fat. It took me decades to come out of my shell, as well as to not care what people thought of me.
Negative words. If you have nothing good to say, don’t say it. This one is self-explanatory.
Negative thoughts. A new decade is around the corner. Give yourself a break. It’s okay to make mistakes.
Self-doubt. You are the only person who can doubt yourself. When in doubt, pretend you are confident and just do what you set out to do.
In this thing called life, a new year is a chance for a fresh start. Leave behind everything negative!
This post is dedicated to Neon Dreams and those who dare to dream.
I only discovered Neon Dreams (www.neondreams.ca) a day before Tyler Shaw’s concert at Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts, when I got the concert reminder notice and saw they were one of the opening acts. Craig Stickland was the other opening act. As most people would probably do these days, I did a quick Google and started to dance, clap and snap my fingers the moment I listened to their song, About You. Take a listen below.
What’s bonus? They are Canadian!
I am like a big kid at these concerts and LOVED the opportunity to meet all the artists (Neon Dreams, Craig Stickland and Tyler Shaw). My daughter knows I am a suck and teases me about it. This morning, she was like…Adrian…haha!
It was really great chatting with Frank and Adrian about their musical inspiration; and learning what a kick-drum is lol!
Neon Dreams is made up of Frank Kadillac (singer and Eukele player) and Adrian Morris (drummer, guitarist, etc.). There is just something really special about this duo. Watching them on stage was almost a surreal experience. I found it difficult to pinpoint exactly what it was that made me feel the way I do. So, I kept thinking about it…
This is day 3 after the concert and I am still trying to figure it out. I guess it’s a vibe…
But here’s what I did come up with:
Their music is fresh and has an upbeat vibe. What a difference to listen to ‘happy’ music instead of sad love songs.
Frank is totally charismatic and approachable. His smile is heart-melting 🙂
On stage Frank was totally commanding the crowd – we could all feel the energy in the audience. Everyone was having a good time.
In terms of arrangements, the drums were close to the stage (versus in the back) – which really showcased Adrian.
I have always been a huge fan of the sound of drums. Adrian is the best and coolest drummer I ever met. He was just part of the drums. I never heard the array of drum sounds (I didn’t know drums make those sounds) that he played, so it blew me away. He was just bouncing around and crossing his arms to bang the cymbals on the opposite side with amazing power and ease. Adrian makes it look so easy – just for fun I tried to cross my arms the same way, but they are so stiff! What’s a bit embarrassing, he probably noticed me staring at him, because he pointed out that I was in the front row lol!
Here are 2 of my other fav songs so far:
In this thing called life, we never know who or what might inspire us – but it’s important to have an open mind and just go where the wind takes us. Thanks Neon Dreams for giving my brain some stimulating new tunes. Cheers!
Every year around this time I get really depressed. Not just because I will be a year older on September 11th, but I am reminded that humanity has manifested itself into a complete monster. There are daily reminders as well that our world is in chaos and trouble (Amazon rain forest fire, wars between individuals and countries, death and torture of billions of animals for our food, and on a micro-level: individuals bullying others – need I go on?).
The 9/11 attack took place in 2001 in New York City, USA. I remember the day so clearly, because it was my second day at work in a new city and my birthday. One of my colleagues had a portable radio on and she called everyone over when the news came in. It was so unreal to hear that the terrorist planes crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center – killing about 3,000 people.
There is no doubt that humans are geniuses (as evidenced by everything they have managed to create: from inventing the telephone, cars, airplanes, modern science fighting disease and resuscitating the dead and so on) – yet, there is the evil side – greed, corruption, jealousy, hate…
As much as I would like to believe that humanity is fundamentally good and can change – looking at current world events such as the burning of the Amazon rain forest and mass destruction of earth’s inhabitants and the earth- I am not optimistic at all.
But I am just one person…
While you might think that one person cannot effect change – it is not true. There is a ripple-effect that can create positive changes. We are all part of the collective whole.
In this thing called life, we all need to do our part to preserve the earth for future generations. We need to be kind to each other. We need to recognize that animals are here with us and not for us. We need to stop consuming material goods that create the landfill and drain the earth’s resources.
I leave you with just one image: picture all the digging below the surface of the earth (gold, metal, minerals, etc.). Eventually, the top will cave in…