Meditations for Workplace Success

Exciting and intimidating; the perfect words to summarize the new work venture I’ve undertaken.

As a few of my side endeavours were wrapping up in June, I was given the tremendous opportunity to work for a dynamic company in the industry that I love. Having been out of this line of work for a few months, I’ve felt a little rusty and a little clumsy. My feelings of inadequacy are only amplified when I think about how intelligent and adept all of my coworkers are. It’s both motivational being around such brilliant people, and daunting to try to elevate myself to be on their level of competence – but I need to maintain focused on the opportunity.

Reflecting on previous full-time experiences, I’ve developed a series of meditations to keep me out of my negative feelings when they arise, and guide me towards career-centric success and to maintain a positive mindset:

1. I am gaining valuable experience. I have a wonderful opportunity for exponential growth that aligns with my long-term goals.

2. I am contributing to the creation of a dynamic and sustainable future every time I succeed in the workplace.

3. I am resilient and capable; my work ethic is unparalleled.

4. Coworkers are mentors. I can learn something from everyone.

5. I can bring value every time I take initiative.

6. Grind every day. Prioritize delayed gratification over instant results.

7. A better me is built on a day like today.

8. Maintain balanced focus — eat healthy, excercise daily, cherish your friendships.

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Building Savings as a Student

Okay.

I’m sick of watching all of those money-saving life-hack videos that advise giving up Starbucks, because you don’t need that five dollar latte. Lies. First of all, I do need it. Second, my iced coffee is $3.10 with free refills, so I make it work. 😉

Here are my tips for saving money as a student, while still affording extras like Starbucks and manicures — because financial independence should not be synonymous with restricting yourself from items you genuinely enjoy.

TIP #1 Check your Bank Account Daily.
On a daily basis, I check my balance on my phone. This quick and frequent access enables me to have a constant understanding of how much money I have saved, and how much is at my disposal. A habit like this also keeps me on top of whether or not I’ve paid my bills, whether I’ve received payments for work, and it keeps my credit card balance nice and low.

TIP #2 Establish Multiple Sources of Income
As a student, this can be more of a challenge. For me, some great sources of income as a university student were:
a) Teaching Assistant: I was lucky enough to work as a teaching assistant for an online course for more than two school years. The hourly wage was significantly higher than minimum wage ($22-$26/term), and since it was online, I was able to easily integrate this job into my schedule.
b) Don/Residence Assistant: I did this for my final two terms of university. While this job involves a lot of work (read: do not do it for the money – you need to genuinely love it, the compensation will be a perk). Here, I had free on-campus living accommodations, as well as a generously allotted meal-plan (Starbucks was included in this!!). Living on campus also was a time-saver, less time travelling to class == more time doing productive things.
c) What do you love? I like to work with kids. While I don’t see this in my long-term career trajectory, it’s something I noticed I was good at, and something I could help people with. This allowed for an additional $40 – $200 per week during school weeks. Not being bound to a supervisor also enabled flexibility, so I was never too overwhelmed.

TIP #3 Play the Market.
Play the stock market if that’s your game. Investments are good to have! Although, here I’m referring to the student housing market. Often, I lived on a term-by-term basis. Moving every 4 months allowed me to always get the cheapest rent available. I could negotiate for additional fees, like internet, to be included in the rent. And as a student, summer terms mean less students in town, therefore more empty rooms that tenants are looking to fill for a discounted price. One summer, I managed to get a room in a luxury student building that usually charges ~$730+ per month (plus utilities), for just $375 all-inclusive.

TIP #4 Budget with Cash.
I frequently use cash to pay for goods. This allows me to budget more carefully, as I leave my “digital” money out of sight and out of mind when shopping. It’s said that a country’s economy works in one of four ways: They’re rich and act rich, they’re poor and act poor, they’re poor and act rich, or they’re rich and act poor.

It’s always best to act poor, even when rich, and spend accordingly. This will make you more frugal when you don’t have to be, which results in more savings. Little efforts, like looking for sales on groceries and things you need, getting student discounts, selling gently used clothes and books, let you save more while also making accommodations in your budget for “fun” things, like that $3.10 coffee from Starbucks. 😉

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And those are some of the tips that helped me to build a savings account and repay student debt while still in university! Best of luck with your financial goals, everyone!

 

Productivity as a Student – Optimizing your time

If I could describe my university experience in one word, it would be overcommitted. I hated having spare time, and I hated wasting time, so I always bound my schedule to a plethora of extracurriculars.

For instance, one of my busiest terms involved me: Working a 40-hour work week for an internship, Taking two university courses, Working as a teaching assistant for an additional 10 hours, Tutoring 5 students for about 1 – 2 hours each, Freelancing consulting and web development for two local start-up companies, in addition to studying Mandarin and taking painting classes for fun.

Needless to say, it wasn’t easy, and I wouldn’t recommend it, but I managed it. Even during school terms, I typically balanced similar responsibilities – except raise the number of courses, switch the full-time work week to part-time work, and add being an executive member of 1 – 2 university clubs. All this, and I still felt like it was never enough, yet I was extremely busy.

Here are some tips that I suggest if you’re trying to navigate a busy life!

1. Meal prep
This one’s obvious. Meal prepping has become super popular in recent years. I watched a ton of YouTube videos, bought in bulk, and invested in a nice glass tupperware set (getting glass tupperware is ESSENTIAL!) Sundays were dedicated to cooking, and some of my favourite meals to prep are curries, mixed beans and lentils, deconstructed tacos, summer rolls, and pasta dishes. Then I also prepped snacks and breakfasts like overnight oats, chia puddings, baked french toast, toasted granola, etc.

If you’re working hard to make money, don’t waste your efforts by eating out every day at work – your wallet and body will thank you.

2. Understand your work habits
Some people are night owls, but I find that I’m most productive during mornings. I had a routine where I would wake up at 4:30am Monday – Friday, and then sleep in until 7am on the weekend. This allowed me to get in two meals before work – typically a smoothie later followed by toast and fruit. I would work out in between the two meals for about an hour (5am – 6am), then eat and do some grading for the course I’m TA’ing, reply to emails, or prepare readings for class depending on the day. By the time it was 8am, I was ready to leave for work and had a few tasks crossed off my to-do list. This also gives me 4 – 5 hours at night to allocate to other committments.

3. Optimize your spare time
If I had a few minutes before class started or a 30-minute lunch break at work, I rarely wasted time on social media. For example, one of my courses required students to post in discussion groups twice a week and submit a paragraph summary of readings. Which took about 2 – 2.5 hours, given that I had five 30-minute lunch breaks in a week, I was able to knock out this assignments before their Sunday night deadline and made effective use of a seemingly small pocket of time.

4. Say “No” to things, tasks, and people that don’t align with your goals
While it may seem difficult, having a colleague you’ve been doing freelance work for try to convince you to attend a meeting that’s before an exam, or a friend who asks you to join her for lunch when you’re swamped are sometimes worth saying “no” to. It’s important to surround yourself with people who understand that sometimes your life is incredibly busy (after all, whose isn’t?) and who understand that it’s best to spend time together when you can be fully present, and not stressed out.

5. Find a motivational rule
Whenever there’s something particularly groan-worthy on my to-do list, I remind myself to “expect problems and eat them for breakfast” – or to get these tasks out of the way early. Whenever I have a block of time to dedicate to said task, I tell myself to spend 15 minutes working on it and I’ll eventually have two options:
1) Is it more challenging than expected? Continue working at it until it becomes easier.
2) Is it easier than expected? Good. Finish it while you have the time!

And those are some of my main tips! Of course, don’t forget to work out, eat right, and treat yourself when able. Balancing ideal commitment goals and realistic time constraints is a learning curve, but not limiting yourself is key. Try what you can, while knowing when to say no.

Let’s Cook: Fully Stacked Vegan Breakfast Sandwich

“Vegan Breakfast Sandwich” doesn’t always flow together, especially at restaurants. It was one of those foods that I had to accept that, I just wouldn’t have a lot of access to when I became vegan. BUT I FOUND A WAY! So, enjoy my obnoxious vegan breakfast sandwich meal that I devoured while watching the Bachelorette.

Step 1 – Prep!

Here are the ingredients I used:
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1 everything bagel
2 slices of Yves “ham”
2 pieces of Earth Island provolone
1 ripe avocado
2 mushrooms
3 pieces of asparagus

2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp of soy-free Earth Balance
Salt and pepper to taste
Sriracha

2. Start cooking the vegetables
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In a pan, I fried the asparagus and mushrooms with the garlic, salt, pepper, and Earth Balance until the mushrooms started to caramelize. Meanwhile, I preheated the oven at 350 degrees to toast the bagel.

3. Prep the filling!
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You can put anything you like in your sandwich. I used vegan ham and cheese, avocado, and mushroom with sriracha. However, I also think some tofu scramble, smashed bean salad, salsa, vegan mayo, or coconut bacon could all be DREAMY options! ❤

As you can see, I put the cheese on the bagel and then into the oven (it didn’t melt as I had hoped, but was still nice). Then I put the Yves into the same frying pan as the vegetables for about 3 minutes, flipping them halfway and then slicing the avocado.

4. Assembly!

 


Once everything was all warm and crispy it was time to assemble, and I stacked this sandwich super high. It isn’t the healthiest breakfast – don’t worry though – still got fruit in before this. So this was more like a brunchy-lunch. I also ended up using half the avocado in the sandwich, and eating the other half as a side, and everything was DELICIOUS!!!!!

If you have any tips to make a yummy vegan breakfast sandwich, let me know! 😀

Soft.

it’s so soft and so delicate…

These are the words I use to describe that moment, which up until, I never believed I would be describing a moment as soft, but it is exactly how I felt sitting by the window in my university’s library, waiting for my electronics to charge before heading outside to read at a picnic table.

I was looking out, directly at the people whose bodies walked on the path outside, the older women talking on a bench together who were approached twice in the span of 10 minutes by people who I assume to be colleagues. It’s already been two months since I finished undergraduate courses forever, and yet I’m back here again, hidden within the masses and breathing deeply knowing that I’m free to float in and out with the tide. Unsuspecting. Soft. Malleable transience captured in the span of some slivers of time. The leaves seemed to sway up and down up and down in the breeze, glistening. A girl is sitting at the same counter as me, two seats down. But before she even opened her laptop, she cupped her chin in her hands and breathed in the same moment and view as me. We never shared any dialogue or even eye contact, yet we shared a moment, and as I sit sipping my coffee and watching the ups and downs of the leaves, it’s a pure interaction.

It happened, an amalgamation of stimuli, within which I could cherish a soft thursday morning — quietly relishing my gentle victory.

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How to Launch a Successful Side-Business!

With two new business ventures in the works, I’ve been doing a lot of reflection about my first forays into the trenches of entrepreneurship. First was launching a local tutoring service in August 2014, followed by the working to establish myself as a freelance graphic and web designer in September 2016. I’ve been thinking about what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and I constantly find myself having ideas for new ways to build on what I have, connecting services with clients, and identifying gaps to be filled within the current ecosystem.

My first two endeavours have largely been independent initiatives, driven and sustained entirely by myself. Occasionally, I offer some work to people I know when time is tight, and I have prospective tutoring students who I just can’t feasibly accommodate – or when I’m tasked with a design job that could also use some coding assistance, I often look to two of my close friends for support with those responsibilities. Even though I haven’t outsourced growth with either of these endeavours, it’s something I am comfortable with and intend to do with both of my next two ideas.

Admittedly, I’m quite a shy person and not the best at outreach, which resulted in entrepreneurship being a never-ending learning curve for me in an area that always seemed to be on the periphery of my comfort zone. Here are some tips I have for others, especially introverts, who want to launch a side-hustle of their own. (Side note: not the biggest fan of the word side-hustle, it’s such a millennial hot-word that’s often tossed around to describe minimally lucrative endeavours like being a survey-answerer).

1. Know your worth.
If what you’re providing is actually valuable, charge competitively and competently. For instance, I can write poetry, but I know that my poetry is not of immense monetary value as it is not a need. High grades, however, are needs by many high school students. Having taken courses focused on language acquisition, English grammar, and some weekend certificate courses for tutoring, I feel that I am of value to the average high school student. All of this enhanced by the fact that I myself maintain high grades, and am able to transfer my skills and strategies to others, make me a competitive tutor. As high school grades are not only more competitive than elementary school grades, but also serve as a numerical metric, I can charge a higher rate here than I would for elementary school. From talking to locals and scoping the internet for local tutoring service feeds, I was able to verify that my rates are not too high, but still reflect my skill set.

2. Preparation is key.
Let your clients know what they are getting with your service. Have a portfolio, testimonials from past clients, and a schedule or itinerary available to prospective clients. Being well-prepared and having a defined self-image enables you to establish more trust between yourself and a client in a short period of time. Don’t disrespect a prospective client’s time, be prepared to show them exactly how you intend to meet and exceed their expectations.

3. Focus on building a long-term reputation.
While you may only intend your side-hustle to last a short period of time, you never know where it may take you or if it could potentially grow larger. For instance, I’ve had clients from my side businesses offer me full-time employment when I finished my short-term work with them. When beginning a business, your clients are both your customers and your referents. Word of mouth and validation from previous clients has been integral to building my image as a tutor and designer. Beyond the first 8 months in both ventures, I’ve had to do considerably less outreach as I worked hard to impress clients – which allowed them to refer me to their friends, colleagues, classmates, and even family members. A credible reputation for success can be just as impactful as a well-constructed portfolio or outreach campaign.

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Now that I’m starting two ambitious and separate ventures in two separate industries from the ground-up, I’ve been thinking about the importance of those three components incessantly. I need to understand their values within the current climate, prepare to articulate and demonstrate their significance, and build up a reputation from nothing. Each of these present their own unique array of challenges and difficulties, but I think the most important takeaway from having ventures in the past, is to understand that good preparation early on mitigates future stresses, and once I overcome the hurdle of acquiring the inaugural clientele I’m going to have a lot of work to do – which is exactly why I do what I do.

 

 

 

Let’s Get Some (Vegan) Carbs!

Now that I’ve addressed the “Starbs” component of the site name, it’s time to get into the carbs! Today I’ll show you a standard what-I-eat-in-a-day on days where I need to stay home!

Pre-Breakfast Smoothie – 8am 
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I always try to start my morning with a nice smoothie. Sometimes its green, but this morning I didn’t happen to have any spinach on hand, so it was just:
4 ripe Bananas
1/4 cup Pineapple
1/4 cup Mango
3 Strawberries
1 tsp. Chia Seeds
A splash of water

*Personally, I don’t like creamy smoothies, so I rarely add milk to smoothies.

Breakfast – Whole Wheat Vegan Banana Pancakes – 11am
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Let me just say this is my FAVOURITE breakfast option. It’s soooo good and so easy to make. I start with this Coyote pancake mix (which is vegan, although some of the brand’s other pancake mixes do contain dairy, so be careful), 2 ripe bananas, and some almond milk.
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I don’t measure the ingredients, but rather look for the consistency to be just right. Then I add in a teaspoon of flax seeds and a teaspoon of chia seeds. Once the mix is ready, I add some coconut oil to a pan and fry them up. I don’t measure the mix, because these keep pretty well over night, so  I just eat the extras tomorrow.


I then top my pancakes with some maple syrup, and today I added some granola with almonds, raisins, and shreds of coconut. Dark chocolate, nuts, raspberries, agave, apple slices, cinnamon, and peanut butter all make for great additions though!

Lunch – Fruit – 1:30pm

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When I start feeling hungry again, I typically try to fill up on fruit. In the summer I love cut up melon, as well as kiwis and mangoes. Today I had 1/4 of a large watermelon and a branch(?), bunch(?) of grapes while I did some work.

Coffee Break – 3pm
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I’m typically a morning coffee girl, or an after-work coffee girl – today I was the latter. Since I had a free drink, I opted for a pricier drink: a venti iced chai tea latte, with almond milk, light ice, and 2 shots of espresso. It’s so flavourful, with the chai, almond, and espresso flavours blending so nicely together. Definitely more of a “fall” palette, but I enjoy this one year round.

Dinner – Potatoes, Zucchini, and Asparagus – 7pm
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Tonight for dinner, I had some potatoes and veggies (but unfortunately I ate half of the food before I remembered that I was supposed to be photographing my meals, so… yeah).

I started with 2 large potatoes, chopped them into wedges, and seasoned them with salt, pepper, garlic, and cayenne pepper. Then I lightly greased a baking tray with grapeseed oil and put them in the oven for 40 minutes at 400 degrees, before broiling them on high for 5 minutes so they get nice and crispy!

For the other veggies, I used half of a zucchini and about 10 sprigs of asparagus, cut in halves. I used a similar seasoning blend (less salt and less cayenne though) and put them in the oven over top of the potatoes for the last 15 minutes.

Once they were all done, I prepped them on a plate. What is not pictured are the sauces I used for the potato wedges: some ketchup and sweet chilli sauce. Yum!

And that’s what I eat during a typical homebody day! I hope you enjoyed! 🙂

Starbs 101: Instructions and Recommendations

Alright, so here goes my first blog post on what is likely my sixteenth blog. As per the URL, it’s apparent that I’m a Starbucks (and carb) enthusiast – but I wasn’t always this way! Once upon a time, the concept of a gold card was completely foreign to me and I had little knowledge as to how vast and expansive and wondrous the Starbucks menu could be (and I also followed a strict paleo diet… but that’s another story).

So here’s how to order your bevy like a pro and not fuck it up.

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A barista once complimented me, and that was the moment I knew that 4 years of braces was worth it.

Step 1. Sizes Matter

  • “Tall” == small == 12 fl oz.
  • “Grande” (pronounced like Ariana Grande) == medium == 16 fl oz.
  • “Venti” (Like “twenty” bc it actually means twenty in italian) == large == 20 fl oz. (or 24 fl oz. if you get an iced beverage. Same price as the hot option, but more liquid. Go for it. Get that lil extra extra)

Trenta == extra large == 31 fl oz. (**be advised that not all locations offer this, only order this once you’ve gained a few exp. points and levelled up, k? (aka become a regular in at least one location) also if you consume this much caffeine you’ll likely be freakin’ jazzed)Now that lesson is out of the way, you’re ready to put together a basic order! With any drink, I usually opt for a Grande, or a Venti if I’m feelin’ spendy.

2. We be burnin’ (or nah, it’s up to you)

Do you want a hot, iced (cold – think like chocolate milk or iced coffee), or frozen (like a slushie) drink. You only have three options here, and whichever you choose will limit your choices accordingly.

3. Caffeine.

Self explanatory. When I was a wee lass I was terrified of caffeine, but second year of university forced me to suck up those fears, along several swigs of cold brew, in exchange for survival. I’ve been a changed woman ever since. But Starbucks does have some nice caffeine free options that I still reach for when I can actually afford to sleep.

4. Milk and Honey

Most drinks allow you to adjust the sweetness and choose your non-dairy drink of choice (Yes, they have dairy, but this is my blog so imma let my vegan bias shine and tell you to get something else – your body will thank you anyways).

Starbucks has a nice selection of almond, soy, or coconut milk for an extra 70 cents. However, if you order a grande-sized drink, or befriend your baristas, sometimes you get away without being charged which is neat. Personally, I like the almond milk. It doesn’t add a lot of sweetness, and it even ends up being less calories than the 2% milk.

For sweetness, Starbucks adds a classic syrup to pretty much all drinks. Three pumps of this syrup is added to a grande, and six is added to a venti. Typically, I find this to be too sweet for me so I tend to ask for half the sweetness in all my drinks unless I’m in the mood for it.

Alternatives to the classic syrup are pretty much anything they add to a Frappuccino – but Vanilla or Caramel syrup are safe bets for people new to Starbucks who still want to experiment. Simply say “Sub caramel” or “Sub vanilla” to substitute the classic for the syrup of choice.

5. MY RECOMMENDATIONS

This is my fave part of the post, right here, right now. I may not be able to tell you how to live your life, but I can tell you what to get from Starbs, which is kinda the same thing.

  1. Grande Pike Place Roast (aka a “Medium Coffee”)

    Pike Place is a medium roast, so it’s neither too strong nor too weak. Starbucks offers all the milks and sugars for you to use as you see fit (plus tons of fun and powder shakers, like cinnamon and chocolate) to tailor your drink as you wish.
    Perfect for: When you wanna be more basic than I am.

  2. Grande Vanilla Ice Coffee with Almond Milk, half-sweet (aka an Iced Coffee)

    This is my go-to. Seriously. It’s so darn good. And perfect for the daily. Note that I subbed the vanilla in instead of the classic. It really complements the almond milk nicely, and since it’s half-sweet, the bitterness of the coffee is present. A basic, cold drink with a subtle sweetness.
    Perfect for: When you wanna try to get to know who I am at the core of my being.

  3. Grande Mocha with Coconut Milk (aka Hot Chocolate, with espresso and notes of coconut)

    This is a nice, treat-yourself-drink for when you’re feeling a little cold and heartless. It has all the childhood comforts of hot-chocolate, with the adult comfort of espresso. The coconut milk is a great addition with literally ANYTHING mocha or chocolate-y because chocolate-coconut is just a winning combination. Besides, the chocolate Starbucks uses typically errs on the darker side, making it a little bitter, especially in conjunction with the espresso, so the coconut milk is a super sweet addition.
    Perfect for: When you catch a case of the feels late at night, but still need to be a productive human being because of work and adult shit.

  4. Grande Double Chocolate Chip Frappuccino (aka a chocolate chip milkshake)

    So this was my first EVER beverage from Starbucks, and it remains a winner. In high school, this is the drink I told my friends about in attempt to get them to ride the Starbs Bandwagon with me. It usually worked. Even my mom loves this drink, and she is NOT a Starbucks fan. **PROTIP** A coffee frappuccino tastes just like an Ice Capp from Tim Hortons if you’re a transfer coffee-drinker.
    Perfect for: When you want to make someone happy, or make yourself happy. Or pretend your five years old for a few minutes – because who doesn’t want to be five again?

  5. Venti Peach Green Tea Lemonade (Basically juice)

    Could not round out a top-five without including one of the many options that don’t offer coffee. This drink also is a favourite, a summer classic, and essential key to unlocking happiness and manifesting your dreams. Truly. It is an iced bevy, so it’s cold and refreshing, with some tangy lemonade, peach syrup, and cold green tea.
    Perfect for: When your perusing expensive stores in a shopping mall OR taking a carefree stroll through a park and in need of something light and sweet to offset the heavy bitterness that may or may not have accumulated in your heart.

ANNNND THAT’S A WRAP. I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know your favourite drink and stay tuned for more ramblings from the fingertips of a bonafide Starbucks connoisseur.