#30before30 – Lovin Cali

I may not have made it clear in my last #30before30 blog post, but the reason that I was in San Diego, California in the first place was to attend and speak at a conference. As most of you know, I run my own Canadian immigration law firm and my firm has a heavy social media presence. As a result of all of my online efforts a lawyer’s association in California asked me to come speak at their semi-annual event. Since I had never been to California and saw this as a tremendous networking opportunity, I had to say yes. With everything that has been going on with my #30before30 challenge and all of the other craziness in my life, I have to admit, it was hard to find time to prepare. However, I put together a powerpoint presentation and made some notes and decided to give it my best shot.

I had already been in San Diego, CA for a couple of days before the conference actually started, since it was such a far trip but I still felt like I had more to see before I went home, so we went out to do a little more exploring around San Diego. The morning of the conference we decided to do some shopping at a gorgeous outdoor mall. This mall had some nice stores but the real beauty of the place is that it is all outdoors and yet doesn’t feel like some cheesy strip mall. Even the escalators were outdoors and uncovered, does it never rain or storm in southern California?? However, the highlight of the entire mall was the restaurant where we ate lunch. One of my favorite restaurants in the world is Miami Juice (in Miami for those who don’t know) and this restaurant called True Food was a glammed up version of Miami Juice and four times the size. We first ordered some fresh smoothies/drinks, a Bright Eyes (with carrot and ginger) and a Dr. Presription (with a new berry I had never heard of), delish! Then we split a kale salad with beets, radish and carrots, followed by a caramelized onion and fig tart and spring rolls with shrimp and spicy cashew sauce, this lunch may have been one of my favorite meals on the whole trip. I really hope they expand the chain and if they don’t come to Canada, at least I hope they will open in Florida so I can enjoy it again!

After lunch we went to Old Town, San Diego, the place was a kitschy replica village of old San Diego and it reminded me of those horrible class trips to Lower Canada Village or the Fur Trade Museum where people dress up in costume and try to make you feel like you are living through those times, it was not for us.

The conference went as well as I could have imagined for the most part. Presenting at a conference was on my #30before30 list because I have been to a couple and always thought how smart and put together the presenters always seem and I knew that one day I would want to be just like them. I was the second to last speaker of the day, so I did not get to speak for the full time I was allotted but the real magic happened afterwards where lawyers came to me and told me how much how much they had enjoyed my presentation and how they would refer their clients to me, fantastic! There were also some suppliers at the event and I got a really hilarious t-shirt and handcuff keychains from the bail bondsmen, check out the t-shirt below, they reminded me of Dog the Bounty Hunter, hilarious! I met some really nice and really interesting people at the conference and I will soon have some big news to share as a result of my trip, so stay tuned!

To celebrate we had pink champagne and amazing dinner at a place called Flavor in Del Mar, dinner was amazing. My dad had crispy spicy shrimp and I had lobster tempura to start. Then he had seared Ahi Tuna and I had Ahi taco, amazing! This place was really cool, with the bread and butter they offered 4 different flavored salts: rosemary, sriracha, mustard and miso. I now need to detox after all the amazing food I had in San Diego but that’s another story. I really have to thank my father for coming with me and being such an amazing travel buddy, I had a great time with him.

Now, this won’t seem very impressive to everyone, but those who know me know that it is impossible for me to travel light. I am happy to report that for this four day trip, I packed entirely in carryon luggage and I have the picture to prove it. Another #30before30 challenge, learning to pack entirely in carryon luggage!

Here are some pictures from the second half of the trip!










#30before30 – California Dreaming

This weekend I am knocking a whole bunch of items off the #30before30 list, firstly, I travelled somewhere I have never been before and I put my feet in the Pacific Ocean. I headed out to San Diego, California on Thursday, not only have I never been to San Diego but I have also never been to California, I know, shocking! Most of my travels in the past have taken me South (to NY, Florida, Bahamas etc.) or East (to Europe). Now it’s time for Marisa to go West! It has been a while since I have been out of Montreal because of work but this trip is giving me an opportunity not only to complete some items on my #30before30 list but also to do some business but more on that later.

For now I wanted to share my San Diego and Pacific Ocean with you. One of the things that was high on my list for San Diego was to visit the Zoo. When I was in Grade 2 we had to do a project on an animal and I chose the Koala Bear. At the time the sources for my research included my Encyclopedia and some books from the library. As an extra, my mom suggested that I call the San Diego Zoo to see if they could send me some more information and they did, I received my first fax at my father’s office with all kinds of information on Koalas. At the time they were the only North American zoo with Koalas. Since that time I have always wanted to go and visit their zoo because it amazed me when I was so young that they would send me this information for free (I know, I’m dating myself, but since you all know I’m turning 30 anyway I figure it doesn’t matter).

The zoo was even more spectacular than I could imagine. We did a behind the scenes tour and got to feed some animals and speak to their trainers. Some of my favorites were the pandas, the koalas, the monkeys and the hippo! We pretty much got to see the whole place within a couple of hours because we had a guided tour with our guide Vik who has worked at the zoo for 29 years! The zoo is perfectly manicured, feels like you are in a lush jungle in parts and the exhibits are so well thought out, that in many cases you don’t have cages or netting around the animals because they have designed their habitats so intelligently.

After the zoo we went to Coronado Island, ironically at a place called the Hippopotamus. Lunch just hit the spot and we spent a little bit of time wandering around the island, which reminded me of a cross between Maine and Palm Beach. The town is laid back and quiet but with exquisitely manicured lawns and medians with enormous palm trees.

When we finished on Coronado Island we drove up to La Jolla so I could complete another #30before30 task, putting my feet in the Pacific Ocean. Driving up to La Jolla after a long day with the sun setting over the pacific was just beautiful. I could not get over how the beaches here do not look like any I have been to before. The beach goes on beyond what the eye can see, the water comes in so shallow and so far and the waves are perfect straight lines that seem to go on forever. Check out the pictures of my day exploring San Diego!










#30before30 – Dirty Dancing

One of the things I was most looking forward to for this challenge was what I did Tuesday night. I decided to strap on my heels, grab a girl friend and head out to a pole dancing class. First let me say that as I write this I cannot lift my arms above shoulder level and my legs are covered in bruises, pole dancing is no joke and I have a new found respect for strippers!

The whole experience started with pulling up to a building that looked like an abandoned crack-den but the girl who had taken my reservation over the phone assured me that even if I thought the building looked empty that I was in the right place. All I can say is that the address started with “30” so I felt like maybe it was a good sign?

Anyhow, I go inside through some sketchy looking hallways and come to the door, when you go inside you find a room with a wood floor and mirrors, the walls are bright red, there are 5 different poles in varying sizes, colors and styles and there is a group of middle aged women practicing a strip-tease dance.

I recruited my friend Kim to join me on this adventure and she brought her friend Julie, who I instantly thought was awesome, so great, a new friend! The class started with an intense dance warm up that included a lot of pushups and some intense planks. Then we were ready to get started, we had to catch up on the choreography that was taught the week before, so we got a quick demo of how to booty shake (for those interested, you bend over, hold your ankles, keep your legs very straight and shake your hips until your booty shakes). After some sexy choreography we started to learn how to spin around the pole. We learned three spins, the Fireman’s Cross, the Chair and one other one whose name I cannot remember. Hoisting yourself up, putting your legs in the proper position and getting enough momentum to do this is no easy task, however, I think that I was actually better at it than I had imagined I would be. We tried to take some pics of me spinning around the pole (they are below) but you will see that this was even a more difficult task than doing the moves.

Then it was time to put it all together, the sexy choreography and then throwing in some spins around the pole, for beginners, I was really quite impressed with the final product! We had a great time, I can’t remember laughing that hard for 90 minutes straight, by the end I was very happy and very tired. I have to admit that I always wanted to try out pole dancing, I have no idea why but I’m happy I can check it off my #30before30 list. Anyone interested in trying it out should go to, they are also having a show in December if you would rather watch than try it, check out the pics of our hilarious evening!







#30before30 – Giving Thanks

I don’t know about you but I say thank you all the time. I do it mostly because it is the polite thing to do, although there are really times when I am very grateful and want to express it. However, I find that I say thank you so much that it in some ways has lost its meaning. Even when someone writes a thank you note, you usually end up feeling that it was done out of necessity and not so much out of sincere gratitude.

As a result, I decided that I would write a thank you note, out of the blue, to someone that I am really grateful for. I decided to write the thank you note to my pilates teacher Christina. I should also really write a thank you note to my longtime friend Orly, for bringing me into her pilates group and introducing me to Christina, but that’s a whole other story.

I am not going to go into all of the things I am grateful to Christina for, but I do credit her for changing my relationship with working out, going to the gym and with food. Christina taught me so much about exercise, anatomy and nutrition that my body, my health and my spirit have improved so much since I met her that I barely recognize myself. Working out with Christina is not only an exercise for my body, we also have hilarious conversations as Katherine, Naomi and Orly can attest to and some days I end up laughing for 30 minutes during our workouts. I have also extended my vocabulary by attending her classes, do you know what proprioceptive ability is? Now I do, so thank you Christina.

(Not that this is a sales pitch, but I highly recommend Christina as a pilates instructor and trainer, she works at Vic Park).



#30before30 – Google Ninja

I had an awesome end to my week and weekend. Friday I travelled to Toronto to attend a Google advertiser event. Firstly, let me say that over the last nearly 18 months of running an online business I have had to learn a lot about Google and there isn’t a day that goes by when I consider what I need to do to please Google in order to grow my business. Google had assigned me an account rep, who I speak to fairly regularly, who helps me manage my account and when he invited me to this event in Toronto, I knew I had to go.

So, on my first real business trip, I flew to Toronto and headed over to Google’s offices, which were very cool. They had a cafeteria with the biggest salad bar I have ever seen, fresh soups and so many choices of hot meals, all free for employees and guests! The event was divided into 3 activities, first was a client focus group session where we got to talk about what we would like to see from Google and how they can help us. I was blown away by the fact that such a huge company would want to hear what someone like me had to say. Then we were divided into two groups, my group was called “Google Ninjas”, which is just a really cool name and our group got to learn about the newest Google products and the best practices for using these products. At the end we were divided into small groups (mine had 4 people) with a Google rep who helped us set up our accounts to take advantage of the new product of our choosing. The day was amazing, I learned so much and feel much more confident in my marketing skills. Although this was not originally on my list of #30before30, I could not have not written about this and added it to my list, because having a meeting at google is just too cool!

After the seminar I went to my cousin’s house for a beautiful Shabbat dinner. It was the first time I had ever had been to their new house and to have Shabbat with them made me feel so at home, it was almost like being with my own parents. Dinner was delicious, matzah ball soup, chicken with potatoes, broccoli and green beans and then an amazing apple/caramel tart!

When dinner was over I went out and made a new friend, which was one of the items on my #30before30 list. We had a great time, had some mojitos and observed all of the halloween partygoers.

The next day I went for brunch with my friend Rebecca who moved to Toronto. Rebecca and I used to work together and I was really sad when she moved away to Toronto but I can say that we are very good about always making time to see each other when she is in Montreal or I am in Toronto. We had an amazing brunch at a really cute restaurant where everything, the floors, walls furniture, everything was white washed. It was pouring rain outside so brunch felt especially cozy and it was the perfect end to a great time in Toronto.

Check out these cool pics from the google event, their offices/decor and cafeteria were unbelievable.





#30before30 – Being Badass

Thursday night I was a badass.  I went to the gun range to shoot a gun for my first time.  I figured that it would be a great thing to do before I turn 30.  So my friend Justin and I went to the range, picked a gun out of a catalogue, got some bullets and some targets and followed our instructor Jeremy to the range to learn about how to hold a gun and some basic safety rules.

Not only have I never fired a gun, I have never even held a gun and was surprised at how heavy it was.  Jeremy taught us how to load the magazine, which was probably the most difficult part of the whole experience.  Standing there holding a loaded gun is a very powerful feeling; it’s partially scary and thrilling at the same time.

We first started shooting at a target 5 meters away and on my first try I hit the target 8/10 times!  Jeremy taught me to how brace the gun with the hand that is not actually holding the gun and that 60% of the tension should come from that hand.  He also told me that although I was holding the gun straight out in front of me, I was aiming slightly higher than I should.  He also told me I was flinching right before I pulled the trigger because I was anticipating the shot.  With his tips, my accuracy really improved!

We then moved the target to 10 meters and my accuracy dropped but I still did pretty well, hitting the target 6/10 times.  I left the range with a definite adrenaline rush and it took me a little while to come down from it.  I totally understand why people enjoy it.  But, none of you have to worry (especially you, Mom) I don’t think I will be taking up shooting as a sport or a hobby, although I really enjoyed my experience.  If you have never shot a gun before, I definitely recommend it, I had a great time!



#30before30 – Easiest & Hardest Things on my List!

So Saturday night I decided to once again tackle multiple items on the #30before30 list.  I decided I would try a new restaurant, try a new food and sing karaoke.  So, let’s start with dinner.  In December I am going to Peru, so at the advice of some friends we decided that I should try a Peruvian restaurant and some local Peruvian dishes.  Let’s start by saying this is not a restaurant I want to go back to, however, I did try ceviche for the first time and really liked it a lot!  The rest of the dinner was not exactly my taste, but I certainly fulfilled the challenge requirements because I have never eaten any of the things we ordered!  Eating the new foods and trying a new restaurant was the easy part…..then came the hard part……karaoke.

Originally, we were going to try and do karaoke in some dive bar in St. Henri to ensure that I would not know anyone in the crowd.  Turns out they weren’t doing karaoke, so we had to move on to an actual karaoke bar.  To say I was nervous would be a huge understatement.  I stood in front of the catalog of songs not having any idea of what to sing.  The bar was absolutely packed with people who looked around my age, totally intimidating even if I did not know a soul.  I told the dj what I wanted to sing, thinking that there would be a huge list of people before me and that I’d have enough time to get nice and drunk before I had to go up.  Turns out, there were only 2 other singers before me, so I had to down my whisky, gather my courage and get up there.  I figured that if I didn’t own it, it would be much worse, so I gave it all I have!  This was easily one of the most stressful/difficult things I have done to date.  I was holding the microphone so tight my knuckles were turning white.  But when I was done, I felt fantastic!

People seemed into it and there were even a few people dancing but the best part was the waitress (who is actually a good singer) told me I did a good job!  She then had to make an announcement saying that the guy who was puking all over the place had to leave and if she found out who it was before he left she would kick his ass, it was a very classy joint!  Check out the pics from Saturday night!


#30before30 – Shabbat Dinner

I’ve lived in my condo for almost 7 years, yikes! Every Friday night I go to my parents’ house for Shabbat dinner.  We are not religious but there is a rule in my house that everyone MUST be at Shabbat dinner every week.  When I was young I hated the requirement, as I’ve grown I’ve come to appreciate the tradition.

So, as part of my #30before30 challenge, I decided to have my whole family (ok, there are only 6 of us) to my condo for dinner.  Every week at my mom’s house we have soup, salad, main dish and desert, almost all of which is homemade, so I set the same standards for myself.

It took me all week to prepare everything from setting the table to buying the groceries to doing the actual cooking, but I prepared a homemade 4 course meal all by myself.  My parents were in charge of bringing wine and challah, that’s it.

We had squash soup, salad with green pea sprouts and tomatoes with a balsamic vinaigrette, chicken in a wild mushroom sauce served over gnocchi with green beans with caramelized onions and walnuts on the side.  For dessert, we had champagne and “sticky bun” bread pudding.

I actually killed 2 birds with one stone tonight, as another item on my #30before30 was master bread pudding.  I’m not a huge dessert person because I don’t really like chocolate.  However, I love bread pudding.  I once had an insane bread pudding with crackerjacks at the restaurant Kitchenette in Montreal and fell in love with the dessert.  I just had to figure out how to make a really awesome version myself.  My version is part cinnamon bun, part bread pudding, absolutely delicious.

Dinner was fabulous as my mother would say, everyone enjoyed the food, the wine and the company.  For those of you who know me, when I tell you that my mother said she was impressed, you can only imagine.  My mother is an expert dinner party maker and her seal of approval is like receiving a Michelin star! Check out the pics of the table, the food and my family!


#30before30- Meditation & Mindfulness

I have always thought that learning to meditate would be a good idea.  Meditating was always something I thought I would never be able to do.  As some of you may know, I’m not exactly a quiet person.  I have a hard time not doing, just being.

This past summer I did yoga classes with my friend from high school, Jen.  Throughout my yoga practice, we talked about performing the exercises but also being mindful of what we were doing.  Not letting outside thoughts preoccupy the hour we are setting aside to exercise our bodies and minds.  We used to do yoga outside on the Lachine canal, right near the train tracks.  As trains would pass Jen would remind us that our thoughts should be like trains, should pass through our minds and shouldn’t preoccupy us.  I really enjoyed our weekly sessions despite not being a huge fan of yoga.

Jen suggested that I read about meditation and mindfulness, which I definitely tried.  I bought the book Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn and tried to read it and failed, every time I would start to read it, I would fall asleep!  For any of you wondering what mindfulness is, here is a great quote by the author, that I feel sums it up.

“Mindfulness practice means that we commit fully in each moment to be present; inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are

So, today, Jen came over with my friends Eva and Kim and taught us about meditation.  We were able to ask questions about what it was supposed to feel like, what we should do when thoughts interrupt our mindfulness and how to love whatever we are feeling.  I have to say that I really felt like I finally understood what meditation is supposed to feel like and how to do it properly.  Thank you so much Jen and Kim for making this an amazing experience and for teaching me an important skill that I hope to continue practicing for the rest of my life.


Jen & I meditating


#30before30 – So it begins!

Hello Everyone!

So today is the day my personal challenge to do 30 awesome things in the 30 days before my 30th birthday starts!  I’ve been thinking really hard about things that I’ve always wanted to do, things that challenge me and things that I really feel like I should have accomplished before my 30th birthday.

Each time I complete one of the 30 things I am going to write about it, here on my blog.  I’m going to give you pictures and videos when I can and I really hope that you will find my adventures interesting and perhaps inspiring.  I am a true believer that if you are always trying to improve yourself you will naturally improve the world around you.

I was originally feeling pretty badly about leaving my 20s, in some ways I thought I would be in a totally different place than I am today, by the time I turned 30.  Looking back on all I have accomplished, I feel pretty good about where I am and I am certainly very excited about the next chapter.

So what is item #30? It’s start a blog!  My site has been online for a couple of months now and I never really knew what to do with it or what to write about.  The #30before30 challenge has provided me with a topic that I think will be of interest.  So for the next 30 days I will post regular updates about my progress.  After those 30 days I hope to continue blogging and writing about things I am passionate about.  If anyone has suggestions for things to add to the list of #30before30 or if you want to ask me a question or suggest a topic for me to write about, I am all ears!

For now, I’ll write about what I know best, being a Canadian immigration lawyer. A huge part of my life is my career, I am a lawyer with my own practice and I love my job.  This week is Canadian citizenship week and I for one am very proud to be Canadian  #citwk12 #cdncit.  Last night as I was watching the presidential debate #Romney said a lot of dumb things, but he did make one very profound and true statement:  “Canada’s tax rate on companies is now 15 per cent,” Romney said. “Ours is 35 per cent. So if you’re starting a business, where would you rather start it?” To me, the answer is clearly #Canada!