Shopping Ban 2019…

I have attempted a shopping ban a few times over the past few years, and I have failed.  I don’t think you can go hog wild on ceasing to shop all together unless you have a reasonable outline of what is allowed and what is not allowed, and you check in monthly for accountability.  I am feeling a lot more confident now in my ability to say no to shopping.  Part of the reason for my new found confidence is I realize how unimportant having material things are, and I have been practicing gratitude and I have a good understanding that I have some beautiful clothing, books, and stuff in general.  I honestly don’t need anything, besides my wee family.

Much of my inspiration came from Cait Flanders formerly known as “blonde on a budget” who paid off $30,000 of debt in two years. Reading her book “The Year of Less” opened my eyes to some of the reasons I used to shop so excessively. I would say five years ago I was definitely an emotional shopper.

Here is her book below and I highly recommend:

I have come a long way over the past five years where I would shop for the sheer joy of shopping and being able to have something new.  I wouldn’t even need anything new, and I would just mindlessly buy for the thrill of a deal.  You save 100% of your money when you don’t buy something on sale (I believe the Minimalists created this quote not verbatim).

I believe I have everything I could possibly need right now.  I was going to allow a new pair of sneakers to be added to the allowance list, but my Mom got me a pair for Christmas.  I am getting married June 15, 2019 and I already have my dress, and I do need a few things which I would be happy to borrow if I can, but may just buy if I have to, so these will be going on the allowance list too.  So, let’s see what is allowed.

My Christmas gift which I truly needed and will use below:

Allowance List for Shopping: 

  • Necessities (groceries, feminine products, replacement mascara, replacement moisturizer, replacement hygiene products, cat food/litter)
  • Gifts for others 
  • If it helps the environment & reduces waste (for example, I am planning on buying reusable produce bags so I am not using the one use plastic bags they give out at grocery stores)
  • Shoes/sandals for wedding dress
  • Cover up shawl for wedding dress
  • Might wear a veil for wedding
  • Hairdresser appointments
  • Second hand shopping for needed items (for example, a picture frame for a painting my friend painted of my two cats)
  • Dinner out with friends (no more than once a month; can invite over for dinner too)
  • One keep sake from each country Brian and I visit during our honeymoon (October 2019 is what we are aiming for)

Not Allowed:

  • Hygiene products unless they are being replaced (including: toothpaste, body wash, soap, moisturizer, make-up, shampoo and et cetera…)
  • Clothing (besides items for wedding)
  • Books (borrow from library or friends and read the many books sitting on my book shelf which have not been read or completed)
  • No more than one dinner out with friends
  • No buying lunch no more than twice a month (as I have to be realistic and pay day is turkey dinner day at my cafeteria for a great price!)


At the beginning of each new month I will report my success or lack thereof….  The goal in not spending is to focus on paying down my debt, and using plus appreciating what I already have.  I also want to reduce the waste I produce as most of us are aware of the harm plastic is having on the environment, and most especially impacting our oceans and the life within our waters.  I believe the luster of shiny and new is becoming dull as we enter 2019.  As we strive for more work life balance and simplicity we are understanding how having a lot is more of a burden and tying us down with debt, clutter, chaos and confusion.  So, my shopping ban is a little more meaningful to me this year with what I hope to accomplish and my ability to not only improve my life, but the world.  

Plan to spend a lot of quality time with these two:

I will update sooner if I fail, otherwise I will be checking in at the end of the month.

Peace and Love, 


The Number One Lesson of 2018 is Health is Everything…

The most important lesson 2018 taught me is nothing is more important than your health.  I have said it many times before, Health is Wealth.  Having a fantastic career is worthless without your health.  Having the financial means to travel, owning the opulent possessions, fancy cars, gorgeous mansions, it all means nothing without your health.  Having a beautiful relationship with another will be challenged without your health.  Having a gorgeous slender body is nothing without your health.  

 I cannot drive this point home enough to all my readers, friends and family, you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else.  You need to look after your physical health and your mental health.

We can become so busy with life, such as working long hours, tending to young children or elderly parents, putting time into friendships and relationships; we forget about doing good things for our bodies, our minds and our souls.  We go to a doctor and receive a referral for blood tests, and we let a couple months pass by before we go in for that half hour wait to have blood taken within two minutes, and why do we wait so long?  What do we say?  We’re busy.

We don’t go to the gym at lunch hour because we’re busy and we don’t go after work because we’re busy or too tired.  We fuel our bodies with ready made junk such as fast food, or processed foods which are easy and generally cheap, because of our busyness, but at what expense?  Weight gain, fatty livers, oversized omentums, all the while fueling our lethargy and lowering our already damaged self esteems.

 I have watched my parents who are both over weight slow down rapidly and struggle with their mobility due to their age and then also for not being very active.  They eat a lot of processed foods now because it is easier than making meals from scratch.  I have preached and pleaded for the past two decades for them to become more active, to try and lose weight, to not eat junk food, to go for little walks with me and I see two beautiful parents of mine being trapped in bodies which continue to fail them.  I have seen men and women in their 70s and even 80s running marathons or walking marathons, and I want to be like that if I am so blessed to reach these decades.

In my 20s and 30s, I just wanted to be “hot”.  I wanted to be attractive to others, and I wanted people to notice me, to think “oh she is pretty and she looks good”.  Now, in my 40s, I just want to be healthy.  I want to be slender not because I want a “thigh gap” or to look amazing in a bikini, I want to be slender because I don’t want to be carrying extra weight around which my poor tender feet & joints have to carry around.  I don’t want to develop type two diabetes which my Mom has recently developed. I don’t want to have to go on cholesterol medicaiton or blood pressure medication.  I don’t want to be skinny, but I want to be strong, lean and healthy.  Now if I were to think of a compliments I desire, they would be, look at how strong she is for her age, look at how mobile she is for her age, look at what she can do for her age.  

I haven’t had the healthiest year for 2018. No, I am not sick, nor am I dying, but the future is unpredictable as it is in all of our lives.  I had my blood pressure checked and my doctor said if I go up any higher, he will have to treat me for high blood pressure.  I was devastated, but I plan to get it down through diet, exercise and having more calm in my own life, whether through meditation, or going for nature walks.  I am not sure how, but I am going to get it down.  I also had a mole removed shortly after my trip to South Korea, and it turns out I “had” melanoma, I had to be rescheduled for a second surgery to remove more skin and tissue from around the edges to make sure they got it all.  I used to use tanning beds in my 20s wanting to look like a blonde California beauty, but I am naturally pale, pasty and anything but sun kissed.

I am waiting for the second pathology report, and my surgeon is confident I will be fine.  I am scared.  I am not going to lie, I am scared.  Two weeks today have passed with no word, no news is good news, but we are in the midst of the holidays.  I won’t feel good about this until another two weeks pass.  Not knowing initially what the surgeon wanted to discuss when I received the call for the pathology report was absolutely awful, as I knew I had melanoma, but I didn’t know how bad it was, and my mind automatically went to the darkest place imaginable.  When it comes to cancer, there are no guarantees, and it disturbs me to no end that I had cancer on my body.  I am told I should be fine…  Still terrified.   We shall see.

Aging parents, melanoma, high blood pressure, a few more grey hairs and staring straight into the eyes of my own mortality, I realise now, all I want is to be healthy.

All I want is to be healthy and all I want for those I care about is for them to be healthy.  Nothing else matters.  I cannot love my wonderful, kind Brian the way he deserves to be loved if I am not healthy in my mind and soul and if my body is not healthy.  2019 is going to be about Rachel becoming the healthiest version of herself.  Losing weight to not only fit in my wedding dress (June 15, 2019 is the date), but losing weight to hopefully help lower my blood pressure.  I want to eat to nourish my body, not to just merely fuel my body.  I want to take care of my skin and for once not care about looking like I “got some sun”.  My healthy look is pale and pasty.

I also must ask God and many of you to forgive me for ever having said “I wish I were dead”, what a stupid, selfish thing of me to say in my moments of despair and first world problems.  Life can be incredibly hard and painful at times.  Life can be utterly unfair and cruel, but there is so much good out there.  I want to live as long as I reasonably can and I want to be healthy.

Me in South Korea in early November 2018.

2019 will be the year Rachel is a bit more wise and understands health is a gift, but I must work towards.

Think about the future, yes, be present, but if you have any health issues or concerns, do not delay addressing them. Your life is a gift, but good health makes life so much better.

Peace & Love – Rachel

The Legend of Pepero Day 11.11

Tomorrow in South Korea is Pepero Day. What is Pepero? It is basically Pocky as far as I am concerned, but don’t say that to any South Korean! My sister in law who is Korean is adamant that Pepero is different from Pocky (Pocky being the original chocolate dipped stick from Japan).

Pepero is a Lotte product and is specifically “Korean”. According to my research the cookie stick came into existence in 1986 and there are nine flavors, including a yummy cookies and cream flavor and a plain hollowed out stick full of chocolatey goodness.

The word pepero means skinny stick in Korean. The legend of Pepero Day comes into play here when supposedly two South Korean middle school girls were eating Pepero on November 11th and the one girl said to the other girl if we eat eleven Peperos at 11:11am in eleven seconds on the 11th of November they will grow up to be tall and skinny like a Pepero stick. It is a silly legend and most likely contains little truth to it, but it is also kind of cute…

Above two middle school South Korean girls in their school uniforms which is mandatory for all students to wear once they hit middle school and high school.

Why Pepero Day is on the 11th of November is because the said month combined with the 11th looks like the Pepero cookie sticks 11.11. It is basically a Hallmark holiday like Valentine’s Day (however there was a real Saint Valentine); a day to give your friends Pepero and eat as many sweet sticks to your delight.

I became curious about this fun day of cookie stick consumption when I noticed stores having an unusual amount of Pepero on display and gift packs which I did indulge in myself. I bought some for my niece and nephew and some to take back to Canada.

There are games to be played on Pepero Day and if you dare you can attempt a Pepero kiss; it is a bit like Lady & the Tramp in the spaghetti scene… You take a stick and share it as per the below advertisement and eat as much as you can without touching lips. Or maybe you do kiss? I am not sure…

You can buy K-pop Pepero designed boxes or what I purchased, the KakaoTalk friends.

You can buy elaborate gift sets of Pepero or some choose to empty a box and roll up wons instead. It is a day to exchange Pepero and related gifts to friends and loved ones.

It is a fun day for kids & and many make their own Pepero sticks and decorate them in colorful icings and sprinkles to exchange with friends and crushes.

All in all, Pepero Day is meant for fun & 11:11 has been known to be a magical number combination, and the time of day when you make a wish.

For those who may be celebrating; I hope you have a fantastic Pepero Day!

Peace & Love – Rachel

Cafes Abound in South Korea

I remember back in 2001 when I first traveled to Europe, the only place I could find a big cup of strong coffee was at McDonalds. I went to countless cafes and always ended up with a teeny tiny demi-tasse of espresso or a large bowl full of cafe au lait.

Coffee has taken over the world since 17 years have passed and it has become a beverage of choice for many including Koreans (thank God).

A popular South Korean cafe is Paris Baguette where you can find yourself a sweet or savory snack & coffee. They offer adorable take out coffee cups with a Parisienne character clearly who has joie de vivre.

In the above, I snapped a pic of the Paris Baguette less than a five minute walk to my brother’s place.

I remember when I came to Daejeon, South Korea in 2012 and there were a number of cafes, but it was once again more specialty coffees like a caramel macchiato or a latte, but now in 2018 you can order a straight up coffee or an Americano just about anywhere. Even at a convenience store; you can pick up some ramen noodles and coffee to boot!

Another popular cafe in South Korea is Angel in Us Coffee. It is a strange name for a cafe, but quite popular and several are set up across the country.

They have angel winged back cozy chairs to snuggle up in and it would be a great spot to sip on a coffee and read a good book.

Even their lamps are decked out with the Angel in us Coffee logo and the cage is in the shape of a mug. Adorbs, I know…

You can also order some simple food like sandwiches or pastries and of course other non-alcoholic beverages if you don’t fancy coffee.

My sister in-law and I went to Nonsan on Friday to visit the Mr. Sunshine TV set and in the Glory Hotel they had a Dal.Komm cafe inside the hotel where you could order coffee, tea or a cold juice to drink. It was pricey but the fact a cafe was set up to serve tourists just goes to show you how popular coffee is considered a necessity.

Of course in any major city of South Korea you will find your standard number of good old American Starbucks, but the menu items are quite different including the beverages offered.

I had an Americano with green tea cake which was delicious. A sweet treat I cannot purchase in Canada is always fun to try.

The juices and sandwiches are different from what you will find in the US or Canada and some of the lattes offered were unfamiliar to me. You can still have sugar with your hot or cold beverage of choice but they offer simple syrup if this is your preference.

There are many more cafes I did not feature in this blog and because of the priciness of take out coffee in Korea, I brewed my own at my brother’s place. I would say a common price point for an Americano at size medium ran between 4,000 wan to 5,000 wan which is like four dollars and some change to five dollars and some change. Presently, the Korean wan is worth more than the Canadian dollar if you were to look at 1,000 wan to one dollar.

I bet you are now in the mood for a hot cup of java. Go for it and enjoy.

Peace & Love – Rachel

Korean Translation Failure

I am living proof that illiteracy can hurt you, but in my defense it was early in the morning and I didn’t have my glasses on & therefore didn’t see the small English print.

I was unable to locate my deodorant so I went into my brother’s medicine cabinet to borrow his. The closest thing I found was the below.

Okay, maybe the bee on the front should have been an indication that this wasn’t a roll on deodorant, but in my defense, my sister in law has other products like toothpaste with bees on it, so I thought whatever, Korean signage often doesn’t make sense.

For example look at the above, if it weren’t for the English saying “Cold Brew” one might think this is a hair product or skin product… Yet, it is a cold coffee beverage. Okay… I should have seen the small print but I didn’t….

And I wasn’t lying about the toothpaste. It has a bee on it. Not sure if it is honey flavored, not planning on finding out.

So, epic fail on my part, I applied the insect relief with the large like deodorant roller ball and found my armpits on fire within minutes. I went back to look at the deodorant and then saw the small print, and proceeded to wash the antiseptic off. I was okay, no hospital visits or anything like that…

A lot of Korean products don’t have any English on them and really why should they? It is arrogant to assume everyone will know English and Korean products should have both languages.

This product is distinctly Korean (I think); it is milk soda. Did milk soda ever hit Canada or the US? I don’t think so; it is a Coca-cola product. My brother told me it was very popular with young kids, so I bought a can from the vending machine, had a couple of sips and gave it to my nephew. It wasn’t terrible, but it was very sweet and a bit weird.

The above two photos are of a popular snack which is dried seaweed wrapped rice with a variety of different flavors including tuna fish, cheese steak, kimchi and bibimbap. Relying on pictures alone is a risk, my sister in law translated for me. By the way, we found these at the local 7-11. No nacho chips and hot cheese sauce here!

There is the fun novelty of trying stuff I haven’t had before, and cannot try in Canada, but after two weeks of eating my weight in rice and kimchi, I am ready for some home cooking from home.

Above is a pic of the popular side dish kimchi which is fermented cabbage in a hot spicy red pepper sauce. You can find it served with every meal including breakfast. You can have kimchi fried rice or kimchi stew and have kimchi on the side if you like. The taste is growing on me, but the smell almost always offends my nose at first whiff.

Below is kimchi fried rice my sister in law made with seaweed sprinkled on top.

Only a few days left before I return home.

Peace & Love – Rachel

When You are the Foreigner…

It has been five days since I came to South Korea, and I am visiting with family who can show me around, translate for me and explain to me cultural differences. And there are a lot of differences which I will talk about in another blog.

Picture of me with my niece and nephew:

I am the minority and painfully obviously Western from my blonde hair and blue eyes to my large hips & height of 5’10”. I don’t mind being the minority; I am here to enjoy my family & try to experience Korean culture.

What reminds me that I am a foreigner is my inability to communicate besides a few necessary words I have learnt, mainly hello and thank you. I just learnt the words milk and sugar as that is what I take in my coffee and I need my coffee!

A face mask my sister in law translated for me, otherwise I wouldn’t have known it was a moisturizing mask:

I am not able to read Korean, I am 100% illiterate. Words are just a bunch of incomprehensible symbols. I have been to the grocery market a few times and I have to rely on pictures to figure out flavors or what are the main ingredients. I cannot ask for help as I don’t have the words and believe it or not many Koreans don’t know a lick of English. This whole go anywhere in the world and people know English, some do, but many here do not. Being illiterate is frustrating, not being able to communicate with your words is even more exasperating.

What does it all mean?????

I had a situation yesterday where I saw an older lady trying to carry a massive bag of radishes and she was struggling, taking breaks every few steps. I wanted to go up to her and offer to carry her bag to where ever she was going, but I couldn’t. I went over some scenarios in my head of how I could communicate non-verbally, and they all ended with her screaming and hitting me, so I did nothing. Many others passed by her who could have spoken to her, and maybe culturally it would be insulting to offer help, but I suspect it was because I am on vacation I was able to slow down enough to notice.

Kitty and restaurant close by to where I am staying; what do they serve? I have no idea, but they have take out…

In Canada it is not a big deal to smile and say hi or good morning to a stranger on a beautiful day, but I get the impression from many rejected smiles I have offered, it is not customary here.

The few people who have approached me have spoken pure Korean to me and I don’t understand a lick of it. They figure out pretty quickly the conversation is going no where.

I am illiterate, I am unable to speak the language, I am unsure of all the cultural anomalies, but I am returning to Canada on November 7th. Only five days in, I have experienced so much and it is daunting at times.

Downtown Daejeon:

I now know how important it is to be aware in our own countries the struggles immigrants or refugees must face, but they are not able to go back home and they don’t have family who can help them along the way.

Don’t get me wrong, I am having a wonderful visit, but it is a visit. I am going home in a couple of weeks; if I had to stay longer or indefinitely, I would be discouraged. However, I am grateful for this eye opening experience and have a new appreciation for literacy.

A new favorite drink, banana milk:

More to come in the next couple of weeks.

Peace & Love – Rachel

Tips for Traveling on a Long Flight

I am writing this blog while regrets are fresh in my mind and the things I did do right I am ever so grateful for. Last early Friday morning, I left for South Korea, and right off the bat I did a few things wrong. The main flight from Toronto to Seoul was 13 and a half hours. Learn from my mistakes my friends.

Don’t pack the night before an early morning flight

I really didn’t plan things well; I worked until 6:00pm as I didn’t want my coverage feeling overwhelmed with a list of things to do. I got home in a bad mood and I had to pack, and barely had any time to spend with my fiancé besides barking at the poor guy.

Book your seats in advance & pay the extra money if you can for the extra leg room

I missed the check in and seat selection which I could do 24 hours before my flight. The only seats left were the monkey in the middle seats & the emergency exit seats which cost an additional $120.00 to upgrade. My fiancé took pity on me and spotted me for an upgrade.

Get a good night’s sleep!!!!

If you are traveling for more than five hours it is going to be a long day; if travel time including connections, cabs, subway, or whatever is over 20 hours, you really need your rest the night before. I went to bed at 11:30pm and got up at 4:30am. I packed until close to 11pm and then called my parents hence the lateness, hence the pack in advance.

Drink lots of water before the flight(s), between connections, during the main flight and after the flight

Drink copious amounts of water, especially if your flight is longer than ten hours. Don’t worry about how often you have to get up and use the teeny tiny airplane toilet; it is so important to stay hydrated.

I did drink water and probably a liter of it with the 24 hours of travel but it wasn’t enough. Traveling by air is super dehydrating and it also can contribute to the dreaded “traveler’s constipation” where you cannot “go” for days. Hydration is your friend.

Wear a moisturizing lip balm.

I did not wear a lip balm and my lips are now chapped to heck. Didn’t even think about the dry air impacting my lips, but it did. Chapped lips are super uncomfortable. I have been soothing my lips with Burt’s Bees, but preventing the issue would have been better.

If you plan on sleeping bring a sleeping eye mask.

In case of screaming babies or chit chatters when all you want to do is grab some shut eye, be sure to put a pair of ear plugs in your carry on.

And a neck pillow for comfort and so you don’t end up rolling over on the passenger sitting beside you. I did bring a neck pillow, thank goodness.

Bring hand cream and wear comfy shoes. Recycled air wreaks havoc on your skin and the dehydration causes your body to retain water, and your feet will swell, I have had friends who have taken off their shoes to rest and then struggled getting them back on before landing.

I like my Birkenstocks and I love L’Occitane’s hand creams; lavender is a nice relaxing scent.

I have done my share of long flights, but I have had some bumpy rides along the way and a few landings which brought me to tears. My anxiety around flying is intense now, so attaining a prescription of Ativan has been a life saver for me. If your anxiety around flying is preventing you from traveling or making you a nervous wreck for hours on end, I recommend talking to your doctor about what options might work for you.

Bring snacks with protein for in between flights or domestic flights

In Canada, we no longer get a snack on our domestic flights (unless you are flying Porter). Food, water and snacks at airports are comparable to buying popcorn at the theatre now… EXPENSIVE! So, if you’re hoping to not drop big money before you reach your destination bring snacks. I like almonds, and a piece of fruit. However, the fruit has to be consumed before crossing seas. As for water or beverages, you will have to bite the bullet and pay a high price or bring a container and fill up with tap water.

Enjoy the free alcohol BUT don’t over do it…

International travel usually includes cooked meals and free booze and they don’t limit you on how much alcohol you can have, but when you are 30,000 plus feet above the ground, the altitude can make you susceptible to feeling your drinks a bit more intensely. Also, alcohol is dehydrating and you’re likely to obtain a wicked headache. Make sure you drink water with your beverage of choice.

I enjoy a glass of red!

I am using a picture from Air Canada as they are the ones whom I chose to fly with for this trip.

During a long flight get up and walk around a bit. Stretch your legs to avoid cramping

Be kind to the flight attendants and be kind to those sitting near you too. Just be kind and be patient. Flying is stressful for a lot of us and many of us have connecting flights and limited time between flights. If you are not in a rush, step back and let others take the lead when exiting the plane.

Happy travels! Stay tuned for more on South Korea as I try to embrace a culture tremendously different from anything I am familiar with.

Peace & Love – Rachel