Author Archives: Sincerely, Gracie

Happy 4th Birthday, Wrigley!

Wrigley Turns 4!

Four years ago today, on April 4th, 2018, Wrigley was born!


If you know me at all, you’d know that I really (and I mean really), love my dog. I’m constantly snapping cute photos of him, updating his Instagram account, and doting over how much of a “good boy” he is! So of course, his birthday is treated as an extra special occasion.


This year, we picked up a cupcake from the Three Dog Bakery in Port Moody to treat Wrigley. And as you can see from the photos, he thoroughly enjoyed it. At Wrigley’s last vet appointment we were told he needed to lose 5 pounds, and since then, he’s been on a pretty strict diet… but birthday calories are exempt! The poor dog though, I wouldn’t let him eat the cupcake until he cooperated and let me put the party hat on him. He was not thrilled, but in the end, he got his cupcake, ad I got some adorable pictures!


Wrigley’s birthday has me feeling like an emotional mom whose child is growing up. It feels like yesterday my mom surprised my brother and me by bringing home a puppy, and I can’t imagine these last four years without Wrigley in our lives.


Happy 4th birthday Wrigley! May this year be filled with lots of walks, time spent playing ball, and yummy treats (but not too many treats… you still need to lose 5 pounds!)

Check out Wrigley on Instagram!

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Pitt Meadows: A Hidden Gem

Pitt Meadows: A Hidden Gem

When people ask me, “Where do you live?”, some are confused when I say, “Pitt Meadows.” It always suprises me, how many people don’t know where Pitt Meadows is or even that it’s a city.  But to me, that’s one of its appeals. To those that live here, Pitt Meadows is our hidden gem. 

Across the Pitt River and Golden Ears’ Bridge lies the city of Pitt Meadows. With a population of just over 19,000, Pitt Meadows has a home-town intimate feel that most cities in the lowermainland lack. Unlike the sprawling cities of Burnaby and Vancouver, Pitt Meadows has one of everything: one highschool, one movie theater, one rec centre, etc. Because of this, the sense of community is strong.

Between Pitt River, Pitt Lake, and the dyke, Pitt Meadows offers great outdoor scenery and activities. Osprey Village, located by the river and the Katzi First Nation reserve, is a hub

© 2021 All Rights Reserved.

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SFU Rowing

1, 2, reADY Row

Based out of Burnaby Lake, the SFU Rowing team is a competitive club representing Simon Fraser University. Through the guidance of coaches Ryan Takagi, Ian Ceholski, and Meaghan Stratford, the team trains 6 mornings a week at Burnaby Lake and SFU. Within SFU, the team is classified as a club, not a varsity sport. This classification means the team receives very little funding from the university and relies on fundraising to buy equipment, cover travel costs, regatta entrance fees, and coaches’ wages. Student-athletes are also responsible for a portion of these costs. Behind the fundraising initiatives is SFU Rowing’s student-led executive board, which in addition to fundraising, works on team events, recruitment, and media. 

I joined the team this past February, and I’m so glad I did. I have fallen in love with the sport of rowing— I look forward to every practice. The feeling of using your strength and power to move through the water is exhilarating, and working as a team to achieve a common goal is unlike any sport I’ve done before. The speed of the boat depends on every person to do their part, and I feel lucky to have such a great team behind me. My teammates make waking up at 4:45 am six times a week to train on a cold and rainy day at the lake, worth it. I’m thankful to my coaches, Ryan, Ian, and Meaghan for giving so much of their time to the program and expecting so little in return. Driven by their passion for rowing, they are committed to developing us as high-level athletes and overall good people.

© 2021 All Rights Reserved.

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Peer Review #3: Chii’s Sweet Home

This week I will be reviewing my classmate Chii’s website, Chii’s Sweet Home. This website shares “Home-cooked recipes, inspired by Asian cuisine with a touch of Western-Style.” Check out her website if you want to learn some do-able and delicious at-home recipes!

Initial Thoughts

Hi, Chii! First off, I want to say that I like the concept and backstory of your blog! I think it’s awesome that since moving to Canada you’ve stepped out of your “cooking comfort zone” and have combined different cuisine styles with your cultural roots in Vietnam. It’s great that you’ve taken your passion for food and turned it into something that you can share with other food lovers. I see great potential for your website to expand into a business of its own and for you to capitalize on monetizing the content you create.


At first glance at your website homepage, my eyes are immediately drawn to the large background photo of food. This gives readers an idea right off the bat, what your website is about. I also like the colour scheme you have chosen on your homepage and throughout your website; the bright orange adds a pop of colour to the clean and simple aesthetic. The title, tagline, and picture on your homepage present a compelling brand centred around cooking. One thing I would suggest is to consider adding a photo of yourself to either the home page or the About section. Since your website is called “Chii’s Sweet Home”, including some personal photos of yourself would help readers put a face to your name and strengthen your brand’s image. Adding a picture of yourself on the sidebar above the posts calendar or the About page are fitting places.

You might also want to think about creating an Instagram account for “Chii’s Sweet Home” to increase audience engagement. Given that the content of your site is so visual, Instagram would be a great platform to post images of the dishes you make! If you do so, link your Instagram account to the homepage of your website so readers can find it easily.


As for the content of your blog posts, you have done a wonderful job adding a personal touch and an intimate feel. The difference between your website/brand compared to other cooking sites is that it is about YOU and YOUR culture. Taking it a step further from simply posting a recipe, you have done a great job explaining the cultural significance of the dishes, plus adding your connection/ experience with these foods. I encourage you to continue with this business strategy because it is what sets you apart— lots of people can post recipes but no one will have “Chii’s” personal stories and perspective on the food.

At the bottom of each of your blog posts, you have a comment section where readers can leave a reply by giving their name and email. I think this is a great idea to create reader engagement, however, I would suggest adding a public comment section instead. This way, readers aren’t required to give out their email if they don’t want to, and it allows for readers of your website to interact with one another. This allows your readers to connect with each other, strengthening the community of “Chii’s Sweet Home”.

Chii’s Bakery

This page of your website does not have any content yet, but the page description suggests that you’re expanding your website to include baking recipes as well. You explain, Once I am confident with my baking skills, I plan to sell my product on order. The target customers are my friends and anyone who lives in Vancouver, BC.” I think this is a good idea, but I would suggest to first establish yourself and your site with “cooking” before trying to add baking. Once you are ready to expand, I think selling your homemade baked goods would be a great way to increase revenue!


In terms of how you could monetize your content, I have a few ideas in mind! First, you could consider displaying Google AdSense throughout your site. With Google AdSense, you can’t individually choose the ads you want to display; however, you can control the categories and types of ads shown on your site. I recommend curating your add categories relevant to your website content. For example, an appropriate advertisement on your site would be an ad for a Vietnamese restaurant (after readers eat there, they will want to use your recipe and learn to make it at home!), or an ad for an ingredient used in one of your recipes. Another option for monetization is affiliate advertising where a company pays you directly to advertise their product. For example, you could partner with a company that sells a specific ingredient needed to make one of your recipes. Additionally, you might want to monetize your content by following a subscription model. You could offer a monthly subscription to your readers for a price, that would give them access to exclusive content. And finally, you could consider monetizing your content by posting videos to a YouTube channel. On your About page, I read that you started this website as a stepping stone to starting a YouTube channel. I think that is a great next step to expanding your brand and revenue of income.

Final thoughts

Overall, I love the concept, content, and design of your website, Chii! As someone who’s looking to try new recipes, I’ll certainly be keeping up with your posts! I think you have a strong business plan for your brand and I’m excited to see where you can take “Chii’s Sweet Home”.

Best of luck, Chii!

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SFU Aquatic Centre Renovation

Saying Goodbye

The SFU Aquatic Centre located on the Burnaby campus has been a central part of my life. I competed in my first swim meet here when I was 7 years old, and from grades 9-12, I trained 30 hours a week out of this pool with Simon Fraser Aquatics. And today as a student a SFU, I am also a lifeguard and swim instructor at this pool. 

Unfortunately or fortunately (depending on how you look at it), The SFU Aquatic Centre will be undergoing major renovations in January of 2023, shutting the pool down for 2 years to rebuild the facility. Considering that the pool looks the same as when my mom swam for SFU back in the early 1980’s, I’d say the facility is certainly in need of a renovation. However, I am still nostalgic and sad to see the pool I spent so much time in the last 12 years, come crashing down.

Before the renovations start, I wanted to document, at this moment in time, what the SFU Aquatic Centre looks like. In a few months from now, nothing will look the same, but I’ll have these pictures to remember the pool by.

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The Catfé

The Catfé

Coffee and cats, is there a better combo than that? For a coffee and cat lover like myself, this is a dream, and my visit to the Catfé truly was.

Since 2015, the Catfé has partnered with animal rescues to help adoptable rescue cats find loving homes. The Catfé serves as a temporary foster environment for these cats, and a space for cat lovers to meownite! Enjoy cat-themed drinks and snacks while engaging with the feline furry friends. And before you leave, stop by the meowchandise store to buy all things cat-related.

Upon entering the catfé, I paid the general admission fee of $16 and ordered my coffee to take in with the cats. As I walked through the Catfé doors, it felt like I had died and gone to cat heaven. There were about 20 cats— some were sleeping, some were eating, and some were right at the door ready to greet customers. Right away I made a connection with one of the cats named Tollan. He is a 6-month-old male currently up for adoption. If my house wasn’t already at animal capacity with one cat and one dog, I would have brought Tollan home with me in a heartbeat. 

I had such a great time sippin’ coffee, chilling with the cats, and talking to fellow cat lovers about cats! Check out The Catfé to learn more about their rescue mission, meet the cats of the catfé, and book your next visit!

© 2021 All Rights Reserved.

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Social Media and the Painful Fixation on our Looks

Chasing Beauty

I recently listened to a podcast episode called “Chasing Beauty”, by the show, Help Me Be Me. The episode talked about the constant pursuit of beauty in an image-focused environment. Listening to this episode, I was inspired to write about the main take-aways and my experience in ‘chasing beauty’.


Growing up in the digital age of social media has its benefits and drawbacks, but I’d suggest that the most significant downside is the comparison that social media perpetuates. I am a victim of comparison on social media, specifically comparing my looks. I, like probably millions of others, often fall into the mindset of “That person is better looking than me. Why can’t I look like them.” Social media fosters the practiced routine of seeking external perfection, and this mindset deteriorates my self-esteem. In the podcast they made an interesting point, if you’re constantly striving to be perfect, you’re constantly searching for what makes you not perfect. In other words, if you are pervasively fixated on your appearance, you cannot see yourself for what you truly look like because you are blinded by the “imperfections”. The harder you scrutinize, the more distorted something becomes. An example they used in the podcast was when you look at an old photo of yourself and think, “Wow, I was really hot back then!”, but in the moment of taking that photo, you saw yourself as “ugly”. I have done this too many times to recall. It makes me sad that I spent those times hating the way I looked when in hindsight, I looked beautiful. This proves that when you are so fixated on the external, you are incapable of seeing yourself for what you really look like. 


When scrolling through social media, I easily get stuck in loops of negative self-talk, yet it’s hard for me to discipline myself and put the phone down. You’d think if it’s not conducive to my mental health, I would want to stop doing it, right? But social media and comparison are addicting like a drug. It makes me feel empowered— like “if I hate myself enough I can correct and control my beauty.” But this philosophy hasn’t worked out for me. The podcast episode suggests that just like an addiction, stopping thoughts of comparison is a choice. We must choose to let go of the fixation. Easier said than done of course, but catching your brain in the act and telling it not to react is the first step. 


I sympathize with anyone reading this who has ever felt, “not good enough.” I’m working on stepping away from social media when I find myself getting caught up in comparison, and I encourage you to do the same. Be gentle with yourself and your mind.

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Peer Review #2: Joanna Lin

This week I will be reviewing my classmate Joanna Lin’s website, Joanna Lin. This website is Joanna’s outlet to share her creative journey as a graphic designer, videographer, and photographer, in hopes of being a source of artistic inspiration to others. 


Hi Joanna! At first glance at your website homepage, my eyes are immediately drawn to the graphic image of yourself. This image is so cool! I think this graphic of yourself is a great homepage image as this site is all about YOUR creative journey as a designer. I also like how you introduce yourself with the tag line, “Hi, I’m Joanna”, and that the subheader indicates your creative skills. Something I might consider adding to this subheader is your website’s tagline. Instead of sharing your mission statement in your “About Me” section, I think it would fit better on the homepage of your website. This way readers know right away what to expect from your site. 

I’m here to share my creative journey as a designer, videographer, and photographer, hopefully inspiring others and creating some laughs on the way.”

In your last peer review, Briana Carniel suggested “there could be more examples of Joanna’s work on her home page, so viewers get a better grasp at the content she develops.”, and I completely agree. There is quite a bit of open white space, and while I appreciate the clean aesthetic, since your website is about your journey as a “creative”, I think you should utilize the homepage to feature more of your wonderful creations!

Navigation Menu

The JL in the top left corner of your website which displays the menu is a design element that I appreciate! Having your initials there makes the website look more professional and the pink accent of the box makes it obvious to readers that they should click there.

One thing I might consider changing about the navigation menu is deleting the grid option. When I click on the grid option (the second icon to the side of the menu), it makes the menu page options disappear. I’m not sure why this is happening, but since there is no use for this button, I would eliminate it from the side of the menu. 

At the bottom of the navigation menu, I like that you have embedded social media icons linked to these platforms where readers can keep up with your other content. 

About Me Page

I like the way you have displayed the images on the About Me page! The images frame the text nicely and it’s appealing to the eye. Your write-up about yourself is well written and gives readers the inside scoop about you. 

Again, I like the fact that you have added social media icons at the bottom of this page with links to these platforms. The more places for readers to view your content, the better! 

Projects Page

I like the idea of having a Projects page to document your creative work. I might consider changing the title of this page to “Creative Portfolio” as appose to just “Projects”. “Creative Portfolio” sounds more professional and implies that the work you are sharing is completed, whereas “Projects” might give the impression that these ventures are still in the works.

Blog: Photo & Video

I enjoyed scrolling through the content you have on the Photo and Video pages! It’s very cool to see your creative process and the final product come together. I am a little confused however how the blog section of your website is different from the Projects page. For instance, the “Sound Design: Soundscape Composition” post and the “Video: Buttshy” post are both academic design projects that share your creative process and the final product, yet these posts are not under the Projects page. In my mind, it makes more sense to post all completed design work/projects under a “Creative Portfolio” page, and then utilize the “Blog” page for content such as how-to videos, unboxings, your creative journey, etc. 

Posts’ Cover Photos

When your blog posts are displayed, it would be nice to see a cover photo go with the title of the post. Especially since your website is so visual, adding a cover photo to your posts might entice readers to check out your content.

Utilization of Social Media

You have done a great job embedding social media icons with links to their respective platforms throughout your site. If you want to make it even more clear where your readers can follow you, you could consider creating a separate page specifically for your social media links and adding it to your navigation menu.

In terms of how you have used your social media sites, I think you’ve done a good job to post content relevant to the concept behind your website. I would however suggest keeping your user name consistent on all of these platforms (if possible for you to change it!) so they’re easily identifiable as you and align with your Joanna Lin “brand’.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I am very excited to see where you take your website, Joanna! I’m very impressed with your design, photography, and videography skills and I’m excited to see more of your creative journey.

Best of luck!

The Online Creators I Follow

As of lately, it seems like every day I check my phone, the world is inundated with bad news. Between Covid-19, the war in Ukraine, and the effects of climate change (just to name a few), the world feels ‘heavy’. Scrolling on social media was leaving me feeling sad and fearful about the state of the world, and this was certainly not conducive to my mental health. 

Deciding I needed negativity and more positivity in my life, I curated my social media feeds. Now, I deliberately choose the content I want to consume, and I’m more conscious of how the media is making me feel. This strategy has been beneficial to my overall well-being.

Below are some of my favourite online creators. They offer an escape from reality, and I find their content to be uplifting and compelling. Check them out!

Lexi Hidalgo

Lexi is a social media influencer who gained popularity on Tik Tok for her lifestyle videos. She currently lives in Hawaii and her posts are always full of adventure and fun!

Annie MacIntosh

Annie is a photographer and social media influencer from Vancouver, BC. She posts about her travel adventures and takes great photographs along the way!

Esther Cannon

Esther is a photogrpaher based out of Oahu, Hawaii. She’s a master at ‘visual storytelling’, and I love her style of photography.

Wholesome Han

Hannah is a social media influencer who posts about health and wellness. She has a wonderful free spirit energy, and her content promotes a positive outlook on life.

Bree Lenehan

Bree Lenehan is a social media influencer whose content is surrounded around self-love and body positivity. She shows her audience that the way people portray themselves on social media isn’t always real.

Nats Neat Eats

Natalia is a lifestyle influencer who promotes balance and wellness in everyday living. She has a contagious energy, and I can’t help but feel motivated and uplifted when I consume her content.

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Mental Health: Breaking Down The Stigma

It's okay to not be okay.

As I’m writing this, the day is January 26th, Bell Let’s Talk day— a campaign created to combat the stigma that surrounds mental illness. The day invites conversation around the topic of mental health and raises money for mental health projects in Canada. Bell donates five cents for every social media interaction that includes the hashtag #BellLetsTalk, five cents for every view of the “Bell Let’s Talk” video, and if you are a Bell wireless customer, 5 cents for every text message sent. This campaign and its goal to end mental health stigma are so important because stigma often prevents those with mental illness from getting the help they need. 


Bell’s dedication to initiating a conversation around mental health has inspired me to share parts of my mental health journey. As much as I’d like to say that I feel completely comfortable sharing every aspect of my mental health journey with anyone and everyone, I’m simply not there yet. But I’m willing to take a step toward this goal and share parts of my story. I hope that talking about it sends the message that there should be no shame in struggling. In fact, the vulnerability and bravery of people who share their struggles are to be admired.


Recognizing The Signs

This blog is intended to be the sincerest reflection of myself, and there is simply no way to achieve this without discussing the subject of mental health. I can recall feeling intensely anxious as young as age 5. I didn’t recognize it as “mental illness” back then, but in hindsight, that’s how I would label my struggles. My mom knew I was an anxious kid, but she sensed that it was more than just that. She took me to see a psychologist in hopes of understanding why I was feeling this way. It was then that I was told I had anxiety and OCD tendencies. I was only 7 and could not grasp these concepts. All I knew, was it was exhausting to live with my mind. I would be worried about things that most 7-year-olds wouldn’t even register, and I was highly particular about how certain tasks must be completed. Throughout my elementary school years, the anxiety and OCD were ever-present but manageable. 




When I entered high school, I can recall a shift in me. The move from elementary to high school was a big change that only intensified my anxiety. I was only 12 years old, trying to navigate my way through a new school with none of my friends from elementary. For the first time in my life, I felt the feeling of lingering sadness. I was so unhappy and overwhelmed, that my mom and I decided it would be best for me to go to middle school for a year. But even then, I was still not happy, and the sadness and anxiety was seeming to escalate my OCD symptoms. Fast forward to high school, grades 9-12, I was a part of a swim academy, Simon Fraser Aquatics. I trained in the mornings and attended school for 2 hours a day in the afternoons. This meant I missed out on all the social aspects of school— no electives, assemblies, lunch breaks— so I didn’t make many connections with people at school because I was hardly there. These years were very difficult for me. I put so much pressure on myself to be the best that I could be in school, in sports, and in leadership initiatives and this mindset took the fun out of everything I did. 


Breaking Point


In the middle of my grade 12 year, I hit a breaking point. I was incredibly stressed, overwhelmed, and sad. I had been seeing a counsellor, and he suggested that I quit swimming. This was the hardest decision ever had to make. I had dedicated 10 years to competitive swimming, and it felt like my mental health was “forcing” me to give it up. But ultimately, I took a step back from swimming in hopes that it would relieve at least some of the stress and expectations I was putting on myself. While quitting swimming did give me more time to myself, it wasn’t the “solution” to my problems. I had lost my “identity” as an athlete, and I was floundering, searching for something else that I felt made me important. 


OCD and Medication


Realizing it was going to take more than just quitting swimming for me to feel less anxious and depressed, I started seeing a psychiatrist in January 2020. She wasn’t the first psychiatrist I had seen, but she was the first person to explain that OCD is the main culprit of my problems. She said that if I could get a handle on my OCD and the intrusive thoughts that accompany it, my depression and anxiety would start to subside. I had tried medication in the past, but never found one that worked for me. My psychiatrist and I went through several different kinds of medications until we found one that worked for me. And only did I truly start to see its effects when we significantly increased the dose in the last few months, but that doesn’t mean “I’m struggle-free”. I still fight a mental battle every day. My OCD manifests itself in unusual fixations and obsessions. For example, the everyday task of doing laundry takes me significantly longer because I make sure that before my clothes go in the wash, I have removed every single piece of fluff, lint, or hair that clings to the clothes. I know how trivial “laundry” may sound to people, but it is a big deal for me. My OCD also prevails in the form of intrusive thoughts. I have an extensive night-time routine that I am strict about following because if I don’t, my intrusive thoughts hound me until I do. One of the biggest things I’m working on with my OCD is learning live in the uncomfortable feeling of “imperfection”. 


Where am I now?


Right now, I’d say I am the happiest I’ve felt in a long time. I have found purpose in sport again through rowing with the SFU team, and I have made great friendships and connections with new people during my first year of university. Since upping my medication dose, I am more calm and confident in who I am as a person, and that is a great feeling. I will say, the biggest hurdle I’m trying to get over right now is how OCD impacts my time management. My need for everything to be “perfect”, often leads me to push off tasks such as school assignments because I know that even my best efforts, will never be “good enough” for me. I’d rather delay the assignment than have to linger in the uncomfortable feeling of the assignment not meeting my perfect standards. However, I am much more aware of this problem and awareness is the first step to change. I am still a work in progress. 


If sharing a bit of my mental health journey has left one person feeling less alone in their struggles, that’s all I could want. 

If you or someone you know requires immediate help and someone to talk to, please call 833-456-4566.

© 2021 All Rights Reserved.

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