Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: A Year in Review

It's that time of year again - my annual year in review. I've done this a few times since I started blogging and I like doing it because it forces me to reflect on the past 12 months and take in all that's changed in my life. So, let's go:

- I hit the big 3-0 this year and celebrated with family and friends in style with a fancy pink and gold sparkle party. The glitzy glam night was exactly how I wanted to enter into my next decade. 

- I spent some time in the hospital and had emergency gall bladder surgery! What a whirlwind three weeks that was. As painful as the experience was, I know I'm much better off now that the ordeal is finally over. 

- My wonderful brother married the love of his life and I finally gained a sister. The wedding was one of the most beautiful I've ever been to and I was so honoured to be involved as a bridesmaid. 

- Some of my girlfriends and I began a monthly brunch club, where we tried different restaurants around the city. It was so good to have a regular date with friends, to catch up over delicious food and of course, obligatory mimosas. We love brunch club!!

- After a hectic first half of year with work and surgeries, I finally took a vacation in August and went back to my second home, Toronto for a week of friends, food and familiar haunts. It was so good to be back and to get the city into my blood again. 

- I celebrated the ten year anniversary of the term that changed my life. I've mentioned time and time again in the blog how my experience in Harlow changed my life. During the autumn, I remembered where I'd been on a particular day or what I'd been doing during a certain period of time. It's hard to believe ten years has passed since I was with this group of people. 

- I took another last minute trip to Toronto in December, this time meeting up with my folks and taking my mother to a taping of one of my favourite television shows, The Social. We had a great time! 

- I also popped outside of Toronto and spent a weekend with two of my favourite gals, shopping and visiting wineries in the
Niagara-on-the-Lake region. Lots of laughs were had those couple of days! 

- I enjoyed a magical Christmas break packed with brunches, lunches, coffees and parties with friends from home and friends from away. It's always a whirlwind time of year, but it's always so good. 

So there you have it. 2015 is in the books. It was a good year with me turning 30 and my brother's beautiful wedding, but I have a feeling there's big things to come next year. 

I usually like to come up with some kind of motto or quote to live by for the upcoming year. This year, the one I'm really feeling is one I've used before and even blogged about recently during my #NaBloWriMo challenge. "More fun, less fear" is what's going to push me through into 2016 and stay with me throughout the next 12 months. Let's see how it goes. 

Here's to new beginnings, new experiences, fresh perspectives. 
Welcome 2016: more fun, less fear!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Countdown to Christmas...

The countdown to Christmas is really on, with only a few days left to trim the tree, wrap the presents and get those gingerbread cookies baked. It's been pretty green the past few weeks, except for a snowstorm I missed while away in Toronto, but last night, we had a little snow, just in time for Christmas. I don't think it's supposed to last, but at least we had a little dusting of white at some point during the season.

It looks so peaceful and pretty when it's first fallen, don't you think?

Monday, November 30, 2015

More fun, less fear

As I wrap up my #NaBlowWriMo blogging challenge, I wanted my final entry to be a bit special. It's been a long November and there were days when I forgot to blog and had to write a couple of entries in a row, but I made it. So let's end off with something that I've been saving...

I've been using a hashtag over the past couple of years - #morefunlessfear. I didn't invent it myself but I can't remember where I originally saw it. What I do know is that I've been trying to apply it to my life ever since.

"More fun, less fear" seems like a pretty good motto for making sure you take the time to try new things, get out of your comfort zone and really live.

#morefunlessfear has encouraged me to take steps towards living more in my life - both baby steps and giant leaps. It's been the final push over the edge of making decisions that have led to interesting experiences that I know I would've regretted not trying. It's made me more of a "I'm glad I did that" person instead of a "I wish I'd done that" person, and I'm grateful for that. 

Regret is something that I try to avoid and as I get older, I'm more and more conscious of it. You only get one life, so don't live it on the sidelines. Take the trip, spend the money on that Kate Spade bag (no arguments here, I'll always spend the money on the Kate Spade bag) and rarely turn down an opportunity to try something new. You never know where it will lead you and how it will change your life. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015


I have a few vices in life but one that's particularly noticeable is my love of nail art.

I've been getting regular gel manicures for over ten years now, trying different types of gel, various nail shapes and a number of nail techs. There's so much you can do with nail art and I've always felt that it's a neat way to show a little bit of your personality while having clean, presentable fingernails. 

The girl I've been going to for the past number of years is the best nail tech I've come across. Her attention to detail and amazing artistic skills keep me coming back time and time again. 

When I'm having a bad day or when I just want to relax and feel pampered, I go and get my nails done. It's one simple pleasure that always leaves me feeling happy!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

DIY: Gallery walls

I've written before about my love for Pinterest and how I've found some great recipes, creative home decor ideas and beautiful clothes and accessories. When I moved into my new apartment last year, which is twice the size of my previous apartment, I didn't know what to do with the giant 25 foot wall that ran from the front door to the living room window. How do you fill a space like that?

After much investigating on Pinterest, I discovered a recent home decor trend: gallery walls. I knew it was the solution to my long living room wall problem! I collected a bunch of prints, paintings and photos and bought a couple of big letters to include on my wall. Some of the prints were of my favourite sayings, the paintings were by one of my favourite artists in Toronto, and the photos were of some of my favourite people and I.

Once I had all of them framed and ready to go, to organize the artwork, I laid everything out on the floor, to help me visualize how it would be arranged on the wall. This helped a lot. But when it came time to actually hang everything, it wasn't really a one person job. Luckily, I had the help of my best friend and her husband! They saved my wall from lots of teeny tiny nail holes and helped make the arrangement great.

If you have a blank wall and you're unsure of what to do with it, consider a gallery wall! It's a great way to personalize your space and brighten up you walls!

Friday, November 27, 2015

This is 30

This year, I turned the big 3-0. Eight months ago to the day, actually. I have to admit, I felt pretty anxious about it. There was something about leaving my twenties that made me feel uneasy. I think the start of a new decade always does that. When I turned 20, I thought about how much had changed from when I was a wee 10-year-old up to being so old at 20. Twenty saw lots of changes and lots of growing up for me. It was a year that held new experiences, new adventures, new relationships. It was a good year.

As I was approaching 30, I reflected on how much I had grown since I was 20. In 2005, I had the opportunity to participate in a term abroad that I've blogged about before. It really was a life-changing experience for me, one that I continue to cherish to this day.

I think about how my career path changed from what I thought I wanted to do with my life, to what I'm doing now. I think about how ten years ago, I didn't know some people existed, and now they're the closest friends I have. I think about the people who are no longer with us, who left unexpectedly, and wonder what they'd think of the world and the people in their lives now.

I even think about things like technology - being able to live-stream video chats from my phone to loved ones thousands of miles away while standing in Piccadilly Circus or in front of Il Duomo di Firenze. I think about how fortunate I've been to travel to some amazing countries and see beautiful sites. All things that happened in the past 10 years.

As I turned 30 this year, I said goodbye to a decade that changed me so much. My twenties were pretty good, but I'm looking forward to seeing what my thirties have in store. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Early morning musings

I'm not a morning person. Never have been, most likely never will be. On the days that I do have to wake up at the crack of dawn and I see how beautiful the world is at first light, I'll sometimes say to myself, "that sunrise is so lovely, maybe I should get up this early all the time."

And then my love of sleeping wins every time. Anyway, maybe a beautiful sunrise would get a bit boring after a while, if you saw it every single day. Maybe it would lose its specialness...that's my excuse and I'm sticking with it. 

Though, on mornings like this morning, when the sky is brilliant hues of orange and gold with the sun beaming through my window, I'm not sure such beauty could ever be considered boring. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

In London, there is life

There's something about London that fills me with joy. The feel of the city seeps into me and races through my veins. I know I've said it repeatedly, especially over the past few weeks, but reliving last year's trip over the last little while brings up all those feelings and memories again, of how much I do love it there. I don't get that same feeling in any other place, even Toronto, where I lived for a few years and loved very much. I get a different feeling in Toronto; still very pleasant, but nothing like the hum of excitement that London fills me with.

I thrive in the hustle and bustle of a tube station - actually love the feeling of being swept up in the crowds. I enjoy weaving around fellow pedestrians on the side walk and feeling black cabs and double decker busses whoosh by me. I truly believe there's no better city in the world.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Last day in London

I remember the final day of our trip last year pretty clearly. Knowing it was my last day in London, I woke up at the crack of dawn and was out the door of our hotel pretty quickly. I was determined to not waste a second of my time left in that wonderful city.

I had made a list of all the places I wanted to visit one last time, shops I'd wanted to pick up certain items from and special foods I'd wanted to eat before I said goodbye. I didn't stop the entire day, hopping on and off the tube, choosing to walk most places instead of taking a double-decker bus or a black cab, because I wanted to see everything I could, absorb everything I could about London. I felt that same hum of excitement and energy course through me that I'd felt the moment I'd stepped through customs at Heathrow.

I stayed out until almost midnight that day. Standing in Piccadilly Circus, I soaked up as much as I could, took one last look around and then said "see you soon" to the city I love.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Pizza making in Florence

Pizza has to be one of my favourite foods. Sometimes I like a simple pepperoni and cheese pie, other times I want the works loaded on. While we were in Florence, we wanted to do some kind of Italian cooking class. What better than homemade pizza?!

The Food & Wine Academy Florence offers numerous cooking classes, including the pizza and gelato class we did. Our instructor, Andreas, taught us how to make our own pizza dough, including the recipe for the dough and making sure to let it rise for half an hour.

For something so simple, with basic and natural ingredients, it was absolutely delicious. I topped mine with homemade tomato sauce, salami, onion, oregano and fresh basil, and it turned out brilliantly. I've made it since and loved it every time!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

O Mio Babbino Caro

While on vacation in Florence this time last year, my good friend and I were walking along the Arno River and came across a violin player. I immediately stopped as my ears picked up the tune - it was one of my favourite classical pieces: O Mio Babbino Caro, from Puccini's opera Gianni Schicchi.

I've loved this piece for as long as I can remember, and walking by the Arno, listening to it being played on one of my favourite instruments filled me with such joy. I love the Italian version of the song, (everything sounds more romantic in a foreign language) which tells the story of a young woman pleading with her father that she loves a certain young man he has conflict with. In the piece, she sings "if my love were in vain, I would go to the Ponte Vecchio, and throw myself in the Arno!"

Below is the beautiful piece played on the violin by the amazing musician, Joshua Bell. If you listen, you might recognize the tune as it's quite famous, and you might understand why I love it so much. :)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Ah, Florence!

Ah, Florence. An Italian city I'd wanted to visit for some time and finally got to see last year. I can't put my finger on one specific thing I'd wanted to see in Florence all this time, it was just something about the city itself that drew me to it and made me want to visit.

Once I arrived though, and seeing how close our apartment was to the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, I knew it was the architecture that drew me to Florence.

Growing up in churches all my life and having an admiration for architecture, it's no wonder that I fell in love with the massive Duomo as soon as I saw it. The exterior is unbelievably gorgeous and intricately detailed. It really is a spectacular site. 

We had the most incredible view of the beautiful Duomo from our airbnb apartment balcony - a view I never grew tired of.

Other pieces of architecture around the city drew me in as well - from ornate buildings and palaces to Florence's own Jelly Bean Row along the Arno River, Florence almost made me feel at home. I know I have to go back again some day. We have a bond now, Florence and I.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Holidays are here again

As it's nearing the end of November, I'm already in the mood for Christmas. Decorations, music, shopping and food - the holidays are (almost) here again. While my apartment isn't decorated just yet, the lobby of my building sure is. I have to give the residence managers credit - they do an amazing job of decorating for every occasion and holiday in our building. Stopping in the lobby to pick up my mail, I can't help but smile at how festive it looks, especially around Christmas time. Doesn't it look like a magical Christmas market?

Thursday, November 19, 2015


So I know I said I'd blog every day this month, but sometimes, life just gets in the way. Let's see if I can get caught up again and get all 30 entries in before November 30!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

La Dolce Vita

Italy. One of my favourite countries. The architecture, the people, the wine...the food. Ah, the food. Upon arriving in Florence this time last year, my dear friend and I headed out to a restaurant for some dinner. Being absolutely famished, we ordered appetizers AND mains AND dessert.

Prosciutto and melon. Or, in Italian, prosciutto e melone. Simple, yet so, so delicious. The sweetness of the cantaloupe paired with that tasty, salty meat is an interesting combination.

Spaghetti carbonara, or spaghetti alla carbonara. Notice the colour of the pasta? The colour of egg yolks in Italy was such a beautiful, rich orange colour, it translated into their fresh, handmade pasta. We bought eggs that night and had them for breakfast the next morning, again seeing the bright orange yolks. Beautiful.

Gelato. I think we had gelato every single day we were in Italy. Because, why not? Where else would you eat gelato every single day but the place that made it famous? Out of all the flavours, I think my favourite is stracciatella. Or maybe mint chocolate chip. Or maybe hazelnut. I guess I'll have to go back to Italy and try them all again!

The food in Italy was incredible. Every meal, even if it was a simple sandwich or a classic Caprese salad, was delicious. I think I'd like to go back and do a food tour of Italy. I'm sure those exist, right?! If they don't, then they definitely should!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


There's lots of things that I love about London (I mean, lots) but one place that I find particularly magical is Harrods. This luxury department store has been around for a long, long time, and to me, is the ultimate in glamour. Sure, in Canada, we have The Bay and Holt Renfrew, which are both fabulous, but Harrods is just a bit different, a bit more special. 

While perusing the different departments last November, I wandered into the Christmas section and fell in love with the ornately decorated trees and the delicious looking "fairy cakes" (what they call cupcakes!) Growing up, my parents would always buy an ornament from whatever place we visited on vacation during the summers, so our Christmas tree was a map of all of our favourite travel spots around the world. Now that I have my own tree to decorate, I've started to do the same as well. So while in Harrods, I treated myself to a little British phone box, much like the one found here.

I almost treated myself to a sweet-looking fairy cake, but at £6.50 each, I couldn't justify spending that much on a cupcake. Plus, I'm afraid I'd have decided it was too beautiful and couldn't eat it! Ah well, maybe next time! 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Nice is nice this time of year

I spent a few days in Nice, France this time last year. My best friend's sister has lived there for a couple of years and always raves about how beautiful it is, so I've wanted to see if for myself for quite a while. When planning our trip, my girlfriend and I wanted to travel to a couple of places we'd never been before, so Nice, France and Florence, Italy made the cut.

Arriving in Nice, we spent a couple of days wandering around the city, exploring some historical spots and taking in the beautiful scenery. Something else we did was a pastry baking class. Our teacher was actually a chef who'd been on Masterchef France!

I really enjoyed Nice. The architecture, the food, the atmosphere - it's somewhere I'd like to spend a bit more time in the future. I have a sneaky feeling I'll be back again some day.