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I’ll Never Be Happy – PTO Week 6 Update

Just finished my entry for the PTO Project, Week 6 – “I’ll Never Be Happy.” When I read research articles on how to be happy, I realized that a lot of people are not really happy or else why would such findings to be significant?!

Happiness seems to be a transient state that needs a lot of upkeep. One can’t be happy all the time I suppose, but being happy more often than not would be nice. It beats the alternative of being depressed and feeling crappy. But trying too hard is also detrimental, because one can try really hard to be happy and if one doesn’t feel like they are succeeding, then they get depressed. There’s a fine balance to keep. Maybe this semi-optimistic idea is the middle road. Hm…I’ll have to keep writing and figure all this stuff out and then make millions to buy lots and lots of chocolate for myself and not share with my kid! WAHAHAHAHA!

Quite frankly I’m not sure who reads my crap, but I hope I’m helping at least one person out there in our dark world by making them laugh at my miserable life!


Presto tried to charge me $4000 for a $40 transaction!

Presto is an electronic payment system that replaces tickets, tokens, passes and cash on local transit systems in Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa. It’s a little green card which you load up with digital cash to pay for your fare. Similar systems have existed in the US and Asia for many years, so we are a bit behind in Canada! In Hong Kong you can use the Octopus fare card at many convenient stores and other merchants.

I’ve never had an issue reloading the Presto card with my credit card…until last week. When I tried to load $40, the machine charged me $4000! I didn’t know what happened initially. After entering my credit card pin number, the screen flashed red and a message told me that the transaction didn’t go through and that I should check the receipt. I was expecting the receipt to tell me that my pin number was incorrect. Instead, it showed an attempted charge of $4000! My credit card company had rejected the charge automatically. Whew!


Since there were many receipts scattered all over the floor near the Presto machine, I guess the moral of the story is to look at your receipt! Also, checking your credit card statements once in a while is a good idea in this age of digital thefts and mistakes!

Update Jan 30/17 – I had tried to contact Presto via phone but couldn’t talk to an agent after pressing multiple menu options. In the end, the machine voice said that I had to go to a customer service desk in person. Other option was to email, which I did. Presto sent an automatic email saying they will contact me within 5 business days. Will see…

Update #2 Jan 30/17 – a Toronto Star reporter contacted me since he was curious about my receipt, so I sent him a copy of the original one for verification. Here’s the article he wrote. A few hours later Sing Tao daily rewrote the article in Chinese!







An Art Show For Those Who Love Fairytales

Wandering around the Toronto Reference Library last week, I stumbled upon the “Once Upon A Time” library exhibit. I had read about it last year, then forgot to go because my brain was mush due to the business of Christmas preparations. Running from from November 5, 2016 to January 15, 2017, this small show is free and very charming. The show featured displays of toys, art and books for the more popular fairy tales: Cinderella, Beauty & the Beast, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel & Gretel, Jack & The Beanstalk, Snow White, Puss & Boots. Below is a video I made of some pics I took of the show:

Since this is a show set in a library, a majority of the exhibit consisted of books that were very well preserved. The books were very beautiful – there is nothing quite like old books, they seem to be printed on magical paper! Of course, the books are kept under glass to avoid people and curious children from touching them. Other items included china, pop-up books, ceramic figurines, toys and prints.

Reading the introduction on the wall about the Grimm brothers reminded me of my childhood, because my mom liked to read all the ones with scary endings. She would tell me that if I was bad, I would end up like some of those characters! Hmm, I wonder why I ended up writing vampire books?

Surprisingly there was some art from fairy tales originating from China, Japan and Korea although I’ve never heard of them. Still, it was nice to see some Asian book illustrations on display.

For children and parents, there was an area with some books and coloring sheets set up with a few stools. For those wanting to test fairy tale knowledge, there were large digital screens set up with interactive displays and puzzle games. The pictures of characters on the walls such as Puss in Boots were gorgeous and would make great photo ops.

Overall I spent about 30-60 minutes walking around. It’s an exhibit suitable for people in offices nearby who have time to drop by during lunch hours. Since it’s such a small show, I only recommend it for people who are already in the Toronto area or live nearby.


My YouTube Diary – Opening A YouTube Channel

Similar to television channels, on YouTube you can open your own channel to upload videos to. You can even make a trailer to promote it, add your social media links and pay for ads to advertise this channel. It’s like opening a free mini tv station which you can brand and upload whatever content (within YouTube guidelines) you want the world to see.

There are step by step instructions and technical tips on Buffer Social’s site write up on how to open a YouTube channel. Basically you need a Google account which will also give you an email account, brand account, YouTube account and Ad Sense account (for collecting revenue from ads or to pay for ads). It’s handy that everything is linked and the interface is quite user-friendly for newbies.

One of my friends told me that somehow they got banned from opening a YouTube channel because someone close to her somehow had access to her email and did some odd stuff on YouTube pretending to be her. Hence she was banned for a few years. Remember that the internet is like an elephant, it never forgets! So be careful of what you write and read the warning emails if they appear because you can get banned!

After opening a brand account and YouTube channel, you may want to think of a logo. This is an extra touch which helps promote brand recognition and it’s kind of fun to have the chance to make a logo for your own channel! To make a logo, you can either 1) DIY with original art, 2) DIY with free royalty-free stock art from Pixabay, 3) DIY with design programs such as the fabulous free Canva (you can upload your own images if Canva doesn’t have exactly what you want) or 4) hire an artist. If you hire someone and buy the copyright, the content is  yours. When you use stock art or Canva, read the fine print for license details for what you can and can not do.

Here are a few of my YouTube channel logos which were created either on my own or commissioned an artist for the art:


Once you have things set up, you can actually open up more than one channel. Why do this? Well, for me, I wanted to have a few different channels due to different interests that don’t really intersect. I actually created the JF Garrard channel years ago to upload a book trailer for my multicultural vampire novel, The Undead Sorceress (looks so cheesy when I re-watch it!). Now that I have a new project, to organize things better, I created a playlist specific to my project on depression, Pessimist to Semi-Optimist (PTO) project so people interested in this project can watch all the videos on this project in one go. It’s like using setting up your PVR to record all the Big Bang Theory shows in a row to watch them non-stop.

Po Po Gets Results!” is a channel I opened to make Chinese language videos with my mom to drill some Chinese into my son because it’s hard to find Chinese/English videos with toys that he likes to play with. “Po Po” means grandmother in Cantonese. Viking husband thought that “Po Po Gets Results” was a funny phrase and describes my mom’s relentless nature in shoving food into our offspring. Anyhow, getting him to learn numbers from a Thomas the Train that sounds like his grandmother seems to be working for now!

Over Christmas, my husband went crazy while watching super boring videos of Disney toy openings with children that we were babysitting. I looked up the person that made these videos and it turns out they make over $1M a year! We have a lot of toys at home, so why not try to make some videos about toys which children would want to watch? However, my interest in attempting to making videos about toys (openings and reviews) does not really fit into my channel on author and depression stuff. As a parent, I would be confused if a channel has videos on toys and advice on how not to commit suicide or vampire book trailers. It might fit into the Po Po channel, but I want to keep that exclusive for Chinese educational videos, so I opened a channel called “Kid Creatures” for toy reviews and toy opening videos.

Finally, some friends wanted to get together to make comedy skits. Good comedy is extremely difficult to do and very subjective, which makes me a bit nervous about doing this. As a big fan of BBC’s Absolutely Fabulous I always wish there was more female comedy that was not only about hot flashes, women being mean or sex. “One Hand Wave” is the comedy channel I opened to upload funny things to. My friends and I haven’t gotten together yet because everyone seems to be busy. Maybe that can be a skit in itself! Funny how the one person with a toddler is the one that set up everything and bought equipment but the single people are still “thinking” about things before they want to do anything…sigh…ok, I’m being a bit mean now…

I admit it’s a hassle to switch in between channels or personas when doing updates, but I think it will be worth it in the long run. Within each channel you can create playlists, so when people are on your channel, you can create lists to link all your videos. This will help people find your videos as YouTube is a vast place with millions of videos.

One software I highly recommend to spread messages about your message on social media is Hootsuite, which allows you to schedule posts. For example, you want to send ten Twitter messages about a new video. Instead of logging into Twitter and typing it ten times every day (and trying to remember!) – you can schedule all ten posts over ten days in a few minutes in Hootsuite. There is a free version you can link to 3 accounts, but if you have multiple things to upkeep, a paid version costs about $200/year for up to 10 accounts.

Opening a channel is the easy part! Now it’s off to the races by making videos to upload!


I Hope I’m Helping People

The thought of “I Want To Die” is the second negative thought of the PTO Project I decided to write about. While I was writing about this, I started to doubt if I was doing the right thing by writing at all. Some friends and family were starting to tell me to shut up…I don’t think any of them have ever been depressed. When you are at rock bottom, any little thing that brings a bit of light into you is welcomed desperately. I know I’m not a medical professional, but I am someone who is struggling on her own journey to find some air before I drown in the shallow waters of depression. You can’t drown in shallow waters unless you sink down and stay there. Doesn’t help when people are beating you with clubs all the time.

Other friends and family tell me that I’m courageous to let people know how I’m feeling. But I don’t feel any courage. What I do feel is the need to throw a rope out to others because the darkness is a horrible place to be. However, I have to be in a good place before I can help anyone else. I am not the best writer in the world and maybe not the worst (though I’ve been told I am a horrible writer…sigh…) but I think my semi-optimistic messages come across somewhat. I’m an introvert at heart and it is difficult to pry words out of me. In a world where extroverts are prized, my confidence is shattered constantly in many aspects of my life.

My Chinese doctor told that when I do good only for myself it is being selfish, I have to do good to others in order to make the world a better place. I just hope that in sharing my story that it will help at least one other person out there.

Colour Unboxed Art Show Review

Colour Unboxed is a local art show put on by the “Out of The Box” fibre artists group based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. You can see the show at the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum in Almonte, Ontario, Canada between Dec 20/16-Feb 25/17. Note they may be closed on certain days due to holidays, so call them ahead of time before your visit.

Approximately 200 pieces from over 60 fibre artists are in the exhibit, displaying interpretations of six colours of a colour wheel (blue, yellow, green, magenta, orange and purple) and black/white. Each piece must contain 20% of the colour chosen by the artist.

Fiber art refers to art made from materials consisting of natural or synthetic fiber and other components, such as fabric or yarn. Techniques includes machine/hand embroidery, quilting, weaving, felting, doll making, silk painting, fabric dying, etc.

The gallery is located inside the annex of the former Rosamond Woolen Company, a building constructed in 1867 which is a National Historic Site of Canada. I wasn’t sure what to expect since I am not a fibre artist, but I was blown away by the creativity and innovation of the artworks on display.

Many of the pieces were mounted on 12″ x 12″ canvases which were grouped according to a color. There were assorted nature themed canvases featuring bark, flowers, bugs, jellyfish, trees to more abstract pieces with hearts, lines and dreamlike shapes.


Larger pieces in the show were just as impressive – a button filled treasure box, space landscapes, animals and texture oriented pieces. The space earth piece (inspired by Apollo) in the picture below is available for sale for $1500 Cdn which I would have loved, but not sure if Viking husband would have supported this. My pictures do not do these works of art justice as a flat 2D picture can’t capture the different textures and vividness of colors in the pieces.


Another amazing piece is the first one in the pic below with multiple images of shoes surrounding a house. Each shoe image is printed onto a piece of fabric and made into a quilt pocket. Inside each pocket is a story of where the shoe was purchased along with other details about the artist. The dragon piece is Smaug from Lord of the Rings who is guarding lots of jewels and baubles. Anne, the artist of the paper houses was on hand to describe how she created this work of art and the techniques she used. The museum is run by volunteers, so you will be able to talk to people about their art and learn new techniques to add to your own creative life!


Lastly, no one can leave a museum without visiting the museum shop! There were lots of beautiful vintage clothing in the front of the store, but alas, I was a bit to big for a gorgeous black ribbon bolero that was for sale. I did pick up a few souvenirs: fabric pins, a needle felt kit and a catalog of the show. The catalog book gives the back stories of all the 12″x 12″ pieces, materials used and how the artist was inspired. In the shop were also gorgeous pieces of art on sale by local artists as well and hand made cards with mini quilts.


If you get a chance, visit the textile museum in Almonte for an inspirational time!

Thomas The Train Party on a Budget

There has been enough doom and gloom lately to make me depressed for a lifetime, so my husband decided that we should do something fun and plan a kid’s birthday party instead of thinking about death all the time.

Since my offsping is into Thomas the Train, I thought a Thomas themed party would be great. I looked up some parties and thought that this kid Max’s party was the gold standard! You can click on the picture to check out the other fabulous treats served at this party.

I’m going to admit this feels like the time I was just watching exercise videos on the couch with a friend and us commenting on how much work it seems to exercise as we ate chips!

Here are collages of my hack party (certain Max’s party had a higher budget!) which ended up to being lots of fun due to the crazy kids running around the room! The younger kids were more interested in playing with the wrapping paper than the presents. Meanwhile, the older kids asked to open presents and acted like wild animals attacking something as they ripped apart wrapping paper with fury…then yelling “eww” when the presents were clothes instead of toys!

The Thomas cake was ordered from Metro supermarket and had a chantilly cream filling with blueberries. The blue/red dyes were really strong and stained a lot of hands!


The adults were civilized, of course, drinking and eating munchies while having polite conversations. Grandma was a bit bored since she doesn’t speak English, but there were a few people who could speak to her and entertain her while I played hostess. We were really grateful for all the wonderful toys given to us as presents! Much more fancy than the toys I had while I was growing up (bootleg Cabbage Patch Kid dolls?)!

The kids I babysat that night (yes, I had to babysit even after the party) wrote on the notepad which I was using to keep track of presents for thank you notes. The word “poo” seemed to render them into hysterics for some reason. I wish I could let loose like that sometimes and not worry so much!


A lot of free resources are available which makes it handy for those who have color printers. To make life easier, I used a 2″ puncher to cut out cupcake toppers which I used to decorate packaged oatmeal cookies.

Here are the links to Thomas party resources  for someone else wants to plan a similar event!

Doodle Bug Designs Thomas “Happy Birthday” banner (free) has Thomas Cupcake toppers, water bottle wrappers, invites, thank you cards (free)

Official PBS website has free coloring pages and activity sheets (free)

Passion for Savings has “Happy Birthday” banner, cupcake toppers, food labels, water bottle labels, loot bag labels (free)

Thomas cake purchased from Metro grocery store ($)

Partycity stores had Thomas decorations, loot bags and assorted party supplies ($)


Working Is A Break From Baby!

It’s been a long while since I blogged. I’ve been tweeting a lot since it’s faster!

After giving birth, I went back to work full time and to writing! Things are super busy and scheduling is the most important thing to keep things balanced in our household.

I am behind on so many writing projects, but I can’t stop new ideas from inspiring me! I’ll be running a new Kickstarter campaign to ask other moms and dads to help me create a book of recipes to feed our children because sometimes I just don’t know what to feed my offsping! Another project coming soon is one with micro tales about race which was inspired by the whole whitewashing debates. It gives me hope that so many people are interested in the topic of diversity!

Stay tuned, project launches coming soon!