Travel with me – Ottawa

Winter has got me reminiscing about warmer days and the understated luxury of T-shirt weather. What better way to beat the winter blues than a trip down memory lane, to sunnier times? My family took a trip to Ottawa in the summer of 2021, our first time there. The city made an impression on me in that quiet understated manner of a city that is beautiful without trying too hard. Come along with me as I recount the experience.

We got there by…

Train. We took the Via Rail train from Union Station in Toronto, making a few stops along the way, and disembarked at the Ottawa Via Rail station. Travel time is an average of 4 hours 30 minutes, but we spent nearly 6 hours on the train due to a one hour delay at Oshawa. Anyway, it was such a scenic route! I particularly enjoyed the picturesque beach views along Coburg.

We stayed at…

The Business Inn & Suites, downtown. My top priority for accommodation on this trip was proximity to the Nigeria High Commission, as we had business there. After checking out a few places online and reading more reviews than I care for, I settled on this place. It was nothing fancy, but I’ll rate it a 10/10 based on a few factors;

Firstly and most importantly for me, cleanliness! To know me is to know how squeamish I am about germs. At this hotel I felt truly comfortable with the level of cleanliness, a rarity for me. Secondly the layout. Just like the name, the target guests are business travelers looking to stay a few days and the layout reflects this. Each suite has a decent-sized kitchen, and an office setup equipped with a computer and printer at no extra charge! Breakfast was included, there were so many options and you could take as much as you wanted back to your room. The location was within a walking distance to the Parliament Hill and much of the downtown attractions. The price point was also right for my pocket, so win-win.

Out and about…

We got to our hotel at about 7pm and did not step out until the next morning. Our first point of call was the Nigeria High Commission to renew our passports. Not the best experience, but also not the worst. The queue to get in was long and a tad disorganized, but once you got in everything moved smoothly.

With business out of the way, up next was the fun part. What better way to begin a tour of Ottawa than a visit to the Parliament Hill? We explored the grounds, and the architect in me was delighted! The buildings and surroundings felt like something out of a charming European city. Renovations were ongoing and there were no guided tours of the buildings unfortunately.

Future Prime Minister touring his future office premises? By the way, the shoes were part of a memorial in honour of residential school victims.

The Parliament Hill overlooks the stunning Ottawa River, with views of Gatineau in the Province of Quebec. The sunset views were everything! The Escarpment Stairway connects the Hill with the River, and provides visitors with a stroll through a forest with up close views of the River. We didn’t take the stairway because we had our toddler in a stroller, but it’s definitely worth exploring.

Sunset views of Gatineau

We also visited a suburb in Kanata on the west side of the city. This was pretty uneventful, we just stayed at a neighbourhood park and let our son play.

On the morning of our return, we decided to cross over to the Quebec side and explore a bit of the French-speaking Province since Gatineau was only a short drive from the hotel. We checked out of the hotel and took an Uber to Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau. The park was closed due to ongoing maintenance, but we visited a trail along the River with views of the Ottawa side.

What began as an uneventful visit to Gatineau turned into a nerve-wracking moment for me when I tried to book a taxi to the train station and realized ride-shares like Uber and Lyft are not permitted in Gatineau! With barely 30 minutes to our train’s departure time, we searched frantically for other options. We finally were able to call a taxi, not without explanation over the phone a few times that we do not speak French. I really should take my French lessons seriously.

We got to the train station just in time, and were one of the last people to board. I’m so glad we didn’t miss our train, as much as I enjoyed Ottawa I was excited to head home to the hustle and bustle of Toronto.

My thoughts about the city…

To leave or not to leave?

Ottawa has my heart! I didn’t spend enough time to explore much but I think the city is laid back in a way that suits my personality. Maybe it’s the busyness of Toronto that has me yearning for more calm, but even the air felt different there. It comes across as a pretty boring city if you’re all about that city life, but I can see why it would be a nature-lover’s paradise.

Everyday Living and Inspiring

Lately, I’ve been curious about careers in tech, and it’s such a pleasure to have this tech mama share her everyday living and inspire us. Ngusurun Hanior is a wife, mama of 2 amazing boys, a beautiful singer with a heartwarming smile, and a great cook (you need to taste her jollof rice!) Let’s get to meet her. 

I Live In…

Lagos, Nigeria. I moved here in 2011 to be with my husband. The things we do for love…

I am…

A Team Lead at a global tech company. I manage a team of cloud solution support experts and have been in the Tech industry for three years. Before this, I ran a professional janitorial services and office supplies business for three years. We are still in business, now run under hubby’s management (now you know the plug if in need of those services).

My day begins…

At 4:30 am or at 4:00 am if I have to prepare lunch for the children to take to school. My work schedule changes bi-weekly, so I either have to be at the office by 7 am or 1 pm. On a 7 am workday, I have my prayer time, get dressed, and leave the house by 5:30 am. I’m grateful for my nanny who has stayed with us for six years now and helps to get the children ready for school amongst other chores.

Work for me is…

9 hours at the office with numerous meetings, tasks, performance reviews, and people management. My closing time is either 4 pm or 10 pm, depending on the schedule. Sometimes I have to stay back for some meetings with other colleagues or stakeholders from other countries in a different time zone.

As the day unwinds…

It takes another 1:30 mins to 2hrs to get home. It should be a 40-minute drive but takes that long, no thanks to the typical Lagos traffic jam (I wonder where everyone is going to all the time, but I digress). When I’m back home, I take a shower, have dinner or fix dinner (depending on how early I get home), homework reviews with the boys, and of course, I have to listen to different versions of how their day went and settle scores if any. Creating time to catch up with ‘le hubz’ is also very important to me. We end our day with family devotions, and it’s always such a delight to hear the boys pray.

What I enjoy most about my work is…

The platform to interact with individuals across the globe daily, and dishing out some intelligence to counter the impressions some of them have about Nigerians.

The challenging part is…

Laying off an employee, as my work environment is strictly performance-driven. It comes with mixed emotions.

To unwind, I…

Stay indoors pretty much during the weekends (except it’s absolutely necessary to go out) because of how busy my workday schedule is. I spend time with family, sing while le hubz plays the piano, or just get some sleep to rejuvenate. I love to sing and like to check out the latest releases of some of my favorite artists. If any of the songs touch a spot in me, it’ll be on repeat for at least a week. In recent times, I love to research different areas of interest per time. 

If I were to choose between work-life balance or work-life integration…

I’d say work-life balance. It can’t be over-emphasized as it is essential in maintaining mental health and productivity. Surrounding oneself with people that add value and make life easier while prioritizing family and other goals is essential. Thankfully work from home is now becoming the norm. This has helped a lot of individuals find that balance.

If someone were looking to start a career in my field, my advice would be…

You can attain any height you desire. Invest in upskilling yourself. Don’t just work hard, think and act smart. Life is what you make out of it and the perspective with which you look at it.

Bonus Question: Camp in the desert for a night or go a month without internet connection?

Just a day without internet connection is frustrating enough biko bring the desert sleepover on!

Thanks for sharing, Surun!

This resonated with me so much. Surun’s career advice sounds exactly like what I preach every day! I don’t know about the desert sleepover though.

If you’re looking for top-notch professional cleaning services in Nigeria for your office, home, or post-construction, hit her up here. Tell her Iember sent you and you’ll get a good discount.

Pancake Tuesday and Nostalgia

I don’t think I have a favorite food. I have seasons when I obsess over a dish, but that quickly passes and I’m unto the next thing. I also have certain foods I hold dear, not for how they taste, but simply because they remind me of a certain time and place. Mangos are one of such, not just any mangos, Gboko mangos that my parents lovingly sent to me year in year out without fail, whenever they were in season.

Pancakes are another food that evokes feelings of nostalgia. I don’t remember who taught me to make them, but memories of my time at the University are incomplete without a mention of pancakes. They were my go-to food during my broke student days when I tried to stretch what was left of my little pocket money, and believe me I had lots of those periods. Choosing to study Architecture meant buying all manner of expensive paper and tools when my friends in other departments could get by with a simple pen and a couple of notebooks.

My monthly budget always began with my design supplies, followed by printing costs for my assignments, and by the time I got to foodstuff, there was little to throw around on anything fancy. Simple pancake ingredients it was. If you’re picturing nice fluffy pancakes with a drizzle of honey, please be informed my student budget couldn’t afford that. It was the basics. Flour was affordable and sold by the mudu. Sugar, which thankfully you could buy in small quantities. Eggs, if more than one got into my batter per time best believe I had just received bonus pocket money after a visit to my Aunt’s. Baking powder, the cheapest brand at Oga Emeka’s shop. Kulikuli oil which the villagers at Samaru market sold in anything from a full bottle to a quarter of a bottle. Milk was an occasional luxury. Butter? I laugh. That was the student equivalent of premium caviar.

School of Architecture in my day meant being plagued with endless design deadlines that saw us burning the idiomatic midnight oil. With all-nighters came hunger pangs, and what was my go-to ‘snack’? Pancakes. I remember my flatmate back in the day woke up to me frying pancakes at midnight and asked with so much concern in his eyes if all was alright with me.

Only last year, the third trimester of pregnancy saw me bingeing on pancakes once again. I went from not being able to keep anything down in the first trimester to a second trimester of moderate eating, and then a third trimester of carb cravings.

I hear it’s World Pancake Day today. My pancake recipe has definitely evolved as my pockets have gotten fatter. These days it is go fluffy or go home. To celebrate the day I made a pancake dinner for the husband and me. And because our baby is such a little foodie, he had his first taste of pancakes today.

I’ll share my Fluffy Pancake Recipe with you.


1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons of baking powder

6 teaspoons of sugar (A little more sugar if you’re a sweet tooth)

1/2 a teaspoon of salt

1 egg

3 tablespoons of butter (melted)

1 1/2 cups of milk (I use almond milk, dairy milk will do too)

Mix the dry ingredients. Beat in the egg. Add milk and butter. The milk should be lukewarm, you can melt the butter in the milk for a few seconds in the microwave oven.

Mix and fry in a lightly greased pan. I use a 1/4 cup scoop to get even sizes.

This recipe makes 8 mid-sized pancakes.

Drizzle some maple syrup and enjoy.

Bon appetit and Happy Pancake Tuesday!

Love what you do?

Except you’ve been living under a rock, you have probably heard the famous quote by Marc Anthony, “Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

On a morning like this, I beg to differ. I love to write and it comes naturally, but it’s felt like such a chore in the past few days to be honest. I’ve discarded draft after draft, feeling like I’m not putting out my best work. It doesn’t help that I’ve gotten less sleep lately, no thanks to my son’s new sleep pattern. I’m not sure who told him 2am is a good time to play. I’d rather be asleep then Son, please and thank you.

Sometimes you struggle even with what you love doing and that’s okay. I’m in no way excusing indiscipline, that’s an entirely different topic. This morning’s struggle was getting my workout done. It’s something I’ve enjoyed incorporating in my morning routine, made even more enjoyable since my husband gifted me an array of colorful gym clothes. Working out and looking fancy? Win-win I must say. I laugh when I remember how as teenagers in secondary school, we would do anything to escape the mandatory morning exercise. Fake an illness, fake menstrual cramps, hide under our bunk beds, just about anything to get away from a morning jog. Even fancy gym clothes wouldn’t have made it appealing. In retrospect it was actually a nice way to begin the day, I guess the school administration was also trying to get us to imbibe positive habits but you know what they say about teenagers and routines.

This morning I barely exercised for 10 minutes before rolling up the exercise mat and tucking it away. We live to try again another day.

Everyday Living and Inspiring

Sharing her Everyday Living and Inspiring us today is Doofan Hiikyaa. She wears many hats; wife to the love of her life and best friend Orgem, stay at home mom to two adorable little girls ages 7 and 3, sister, friend, alongside her growing profession which you’d read about in a bit. Doofan loves music, books, journaling, travelling, and pretty shoes. She is an unashamed Christian. Let’s hear from the proverbial horse’s mouth.

I Live In…

Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. We’ve been here for the past 5 years. The opportunity to learn to speak and write French has been the highlight of my experience here. We’re looking forward to a new adventure which includes learning to speak German as we move to our new location soon.

I am…

A Pastor, Marriage Counsellor, Writer and Author. I pastor alongside my husband, we’ve pioneered two branches of our parent church in the past 7 years. As a Marriage Counsellor, I’ve officially worked counselling married couples and conducting premarital classes since 2018.

My day begins with…

What I have on my to-do list which I usually write before bed the previous day. I won’t call myself very organized but I try. Anyway, that list helps me do my work as a wife, mom, pastor and marriage counsellor more effectively. For example, on a school day, I would wake up earlier than usual so I have enough prayer time and prep time to get the girls ready for school in good time.

After drop off, I get back to my home office (a little corner in my spacious bedroom with a table and chair). PS When I build my dream house, I’ll definitely factor in a home office that doubles as a library with walls covered with books. I’ll just be happy looking at my books even if I don’t get to read them all.

Work for me is…

Writing, reading, preparing courses, and even praying, making and receiving calls, over-the-phone counseling sessions, and on few occasions I’ve had to go over to families that need my attention. I allocate a specific amount of time for every task for the day and try to keep to it. There’s of course break time to check on or be checked up on by my husband (it’s our unwritten ritual which we both think is romantic). I nap for an hour every afternoon while our maid watches the children, oh so refreshing that religious one hour siesta!

As my work day unwinds…

It’s time to pick the girls up from school. I start preparing dinner between 4pm and 5pm to be ready just in time for my husband’s arrival. We have dinner together every evening at 6pm, it’s a family tradition. I love that we can unwind and enjoy a nice home-cooked meal together even though I recently discovered cooking seems more like a chore to me. I just do it in loving sacrificial service to my family (don’t judge me), and the fact that they think I’m the best chef ever! What can I say.

What I enjoy most about my work is…

Oh I love everything about it! It’s been such an honour working with individuals and couples to bring help, healing, wholeness and fresh enthusiasm to marriages and homes. Leading many to have and enjoy a successful and happy marriage in the bond of covenant gives me a deep sense of fulfilment. I absolutely love my work, I see it as a ministry but I’m thankful I found a way to bless lives, enjoy myself and make some money at the same time. As a pastor, nurturing young believers until we see crystal clear growth and transformation in their lives is priceless, this I do not for monetary reward. No man pays like God, He never uses and dumps a man or woman yielded in service to Him and others. I count it the highest honour after being married to my husband.

The challenging part is…

Getting emotionally attached to people’s problems. Some nights I find it hard to sleep when there’s a couple whose marriage may come to a sad end if things don’t go right. I feel responsible but I remind myself that I didn’t call myself, God did, so I trust him for the right words for every uniquely troubled relationship. There have been good and not so good results, but I like to focus on the good, it gives me hope.

To unwind, I…

Watch movies every weekend with my husband, have sing-along sessions with our girls, read a good book, just lay on my back and meditate with calm music in the background, or do nothing!

If I were to choose between work-life balance or work-life integration…

Hmmm it’s complicated when you’re working at home, but I believe everything that’s important in my life should be properly prioritized, nothing and no one should suffer neglect. My relationship with God comes first then my husband, my children, my ministry/work. When I was writing my book Marriage Dipped in Blood, my husband suffered the most! It felt as though I was cheating on him with my book writing project. Lol! But we talked it through. I can’t ignore wife duties, the Marriage counsellor must practice what she preaches, right? We may not be able to balance work and family life but we could come to a compromise…sort of, so I’d say I believe in work-life integration.

If someone were looking to start a career in my field, my advice would be…

Make sure your motive is love for the people and let God’s Word be the basis for whatever you teach or whatever advice you give don’t let your emotions get in the way. Be as discrete as possible, you must never use anyone’s story as an example without their permission, relationship matters can be very sensitive. Finally, live what you teach and preach, the life you live is the loudest message you could ever proclaim.

Bonus question; Go skydiving or eat raw fish?

Sky diving definitely. I’m not adventurous with food.

Thanks for sharing, Doofan!

Doofan considers herself a loyal friend. In her words, ‘If we connect in any way, you can count on having me in your life for a long time, relationships are my greatest assets-priceless!’ You can connect with her here

Destination Addiction

“Beware of destination addiction, a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job, and with the next partner. Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.”
– Robert Holden

All in or feet first?

Someone close to me recently bought a house. When I called to congratulate her she told me how gruelling a process it was, with hidden charges springing at her left, right, and centre. I asked why the charges weren’t explained at the time of making the initial down payment.

Her response was food for thought; “I really don’t know, but maybe it’s a good thing. If I knew every detail I probably wouldn’t have gone ahead with the process.”

I’m such a planner by nature. I like to make plans ahead and know as much details as possible before embarking on a venture. I’ll read reviews and product descriptions before buying even the simplest things like diapers.

Today however I made a spontaneous purchase. It’s been a long day trying to figure out how to navigate the product I bought. The more I look at the features, the less I understand. Will I return it and go for a similar product with details that I fully understand? Time will tell.

Tell me, what’s your style? Do you go all in or like me test the waters with your feet first?

Right away!

To know my Dad is to know that he likes to take his time. In doing things, in making decisions, it’s even seen in his easy gait, sauntering into a room with that quiet confidence of his.

As children if our schedule for the day involved going out with Daddy, we knew to start asking early enough what his plans were.

Daddy what time are we heading out?”

“Right away!”

Right away could mean after he had a long relaxing bath, enjoyed a good breakfast, watched the morning news, and entertained the never-ending stream of visitors while having his leisurely cup of tea.

If it wasn’t an emergency, there was no rushing him. It even became a joke amongst us, “I’ll get to it right away!” became a response my siblings and I gave each other when we didn’t want to be hurried.

The events of the past year have got me acting like my Dad. Prior to March 2020 early mornings used to be a blur; wake, pray hurriedly, rush to shower, get dressed so fast you’ll think it was an Olympic sport, pack my bags, head to work, and if at all breakfast featured it would be eaten while responding to emails.

These days it feels so good to have a more relaxed routine, more time to pray and meditate, workout, prepare a healthy breakfast, and even have a leisurely cup of tea like Daddy.

If we do go back to working fully from the office I hope I find a way to strike a balance and remember to enjoy the little pleasures of the morning, Daddy-style.

The power of persistence

“A river cuts through rock, not because of its power but its persistence.” – Jim Watkins

This is me cheering you on, encouraging you to go for your goals this year. Take things in bite sizes, but remain tenacious. You’ll win if you persevere.

It’s also a note to myself.

Cheers, Iember

Weight loss secrets?

Years ago I uploaded a photo of myself on Facebook, and someone commented ‘watch your weight.’ I don’t even remember the photo but I remember that comment clearly. This isn’t someone I’m friends with. I hadn’t seen or spoken to this person in ages, we once sang in the same choir in university and that was it. (I know, I know! I should tell you guys all about this chorister side of me, and how my music career packed up before it even begun.)

I was surprised at the audacity and irritated by his rudeness. If BMI is anything to go by mine was borderline underweight at the time, so I wondered what it was about the photo that made him post that comment. I guess I’ll never know.

I don’t know what it is about the New Year that makes people resolve to lose a few pounds and jump on every weight loss challenge out there. In my opinion you’ll see longer lasting results by building healthy habits over time, rather than jumping on a fad. Good health after all is beyond the figures on a scale.

If weight loss is one of your goals this year, go for it! If it’s not, just as well. Either way, do you and let others be. Also remember “You have put on weight” is not an appropriate greeting. You’re welcome.