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.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Winter is coming...and so is Christmas!

Another weekend comes to a close. The days are growing shorter and the nights longer. Winter is definitely on its way, which means Christmas is just a few short weeks away. I'm finally, slowly, starting to get in the mood for it. Especially when the lobby of my apartment building starts to look like the picture below, it's hard not to feel a little flutter of excitement for the holidays.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Puttin' on The Ritz

One of my absolute favourite movies is Notting Hill, with Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. I love how London itself is a character in the film and is such an intricate part of the storyline (heck, even the title is an area in London.)

There's a couple of scenes that take place outside and inside The Ritz London Hotel. Ever since I saw the movie in 1999, I've always loved The Ritz and make sure to visit it anytime I'm in London. 

My trip last year was no different; one night on my own, I made the trek along Piccadilly to see those bright lights once again. There's something about that charming, bright beaming sign that fills me with happiness. I can't wait to go back again. 

Friday, November 13, 2015


My heart is heavy tonight for Paris and the terrorism that's taken place there this evening. For the people I know in Paris and France, I hope you're all safe and your loved ones are safe. I pray for the dead, their families and a country left to heal as they undoubtedly struggle to make sense of the horror they experienced tonight. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A snapshot of happiness

A year ago, I was at a bit of a crossroads in life. Things were up in the air and I felt like I didn't have control of my life - something that always makes me feel uneasy and unsettled. My trip to Europe was something that came about very quickly and while I was on the trip, there were times I had to force myself to enjoy it. One time that it wasn't forced, however, was a year ago last night.

I'd spent a couple of hours wandering around on my own, visiting favourite haunts in London and feeling gleeful that I easily remembered my way around. When I finally felt a bit tired, I found a Starbucks to pop into to charge my phone and have a little rest. I bought a Peppermint Mocha and sat in the window and pulled out my book to read for a bit. I looked out the window to see some wet snow had started to fall. Watching double-decker buses and black cabs zoom by, along with dozens of people hurrying about their business, I felt the most amazing sense of contentment, happiness...just generally at peace. It was the happiest I'd been in a very, very long time.

I sat there, recognizing this fact and took in that feeling, really being in that moment. It was something that's stayed with me ever since, and I hope I get to feel that way again soon. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

In Flanders fields...

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
We remember.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Oxford, we finally meet

After years of longing to visit the bustling academic city, I finally made my way to Oxford this time last year. I'd first learned about the famous English metropolis from a television program almost 20 years ago and had always wanted to visit, but never got the chance, even while in Harlow ten years ago.

I made the trip last November and spent a few days exploring the beautiful spot with a couple of friends of mine. From colleges to cream tea, it was pretty much everything I'd imagined and everything I'd hoped for. My time there was short, though, so I'm looking forward to going back again in the (hopefully) not-so-distant future.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Hello, Heathrow

A year ago, I landed safely at Heathrow airport; back in England after a long absence. I couldn't believe I was finally there again. There's something about England that gives me butterflies - an excitement that I can barely contain. As soon as I saw that welcome sign outside the airport, the butterflies came pouring back into my system and didn't leave for another two weeks.

I think John Keats said it best: 

"Happy is England! I could be content, To see no other verdure than its own; To feel no other breezes than are blown, Through its tall woods with high romances blent..."

Sunday, November 8, 2015

So long, weekend.

There's something about Sunday nights that always makes me a little melancholy. I sometimes tend to reflect on people I miss, past experiences I wish I could re-live but can't, things I wish I'd done but I didn't...

But usually, it's because the next day is Monday, and Mondays are rarely fun.

Here's to Monday. Please go by quickly so we're even closer to the weekend!