Month: November 2014

Battling the Winter Blues

The aftermath of last winter's snowstorm

The aftermath of last winter’s snowstorm

I’m a summer baby in every sense of the word, I was born on a hot summer night in August and have reveled in warm weather my entire life. As a child I spent my summers running around the park behind my house, playing in the forest, or pool hopping. If it was above 20 degrees Celsius you could count on me being outside soaking up every ray of sunshine I could. While some people complain about blistering 30 degree weather, I’m completely in my element – those days with heat wave warnings, they’re my favourite. I’ve always associated the heat of summer with absolute freedom; as the days grew warmer I was that much closer to ridding myself of the responsibilities of school and whatever stress came with it. Summer is synonymous with happiness to me, so when the cooler weather inevitably rolls around you can imagine how my mood plummets.

Living in Canada means that I’m subjected to seemingly never-ending winters. The first snowfall marks the beginning of my own personal hibernation season – my motto is if it’s below freezing count me out. Aside from the obvious social drawbacks of being cooped up all winter, living as a weather-induced recluse is mentally draining.

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This year, I’m trying to brainstorm ways to keep busy during these frigid months in hopes of improving my outlook on the snowiest season. In typical list-loving fashion I’ve created an index of activities and things I want to accomplish between November and March. I’ll probably be adding to it over time, but here’s what I have so far!

1. Host a dinner party
2. Learn how to make chicken pot pie
3. Build a snowman … while singing do you want to build a snow man :)
4. Take my younger cousins out
5. Decorate my house for Christmas
6. Host a fondue/cocktail party
7. Make all of the hot chocolates on this infographic
8. Go to the Toronto Christmas Market
9. Go skating at an outdoor rink
10. Knit a scarf
11. Take photos of a fresh snowfall
12. Make a festive bread pudding
13. Make homemade dog treats
14. Make a printed t-shirt
15. Sew another shirt – I made one before Europe but bought material to make a second, the design’s from this blog!
16. Buy another onesie … I’m on a hunt for a panda one!
17. Make a list of New Years resolutions
18. Make a perfectly roasted chicken
19. Clean up my Macbook
20. Organize my closet
21. DIY some Christmas gifts (maybe bath bombs? I LOVED these when I was little)
22. Create a monthly meal plan – and stick to it
23. Learn to make gnocchi
24. Perfect my hummus recipe
25. Learn to make falafel balls
26. Make a croquembouche tower – preferably for my dinner party
27. Learn to make my Dad’s beef stew
28. Make a mini terrarium for my room
29. Organize my new Filofax (it should be shipped just in time for Christmas!)
30. Write Christmas cards to both my Great-Grandmothers
31. Visit at least 2 restaurants on this list
32. Make a custom ceramic mug with a sharpie (I love this one!)
33. Make my own body butter – I need to find a good recipe for this … my Bath and Body Works bill has been getting out of control.
34. Redecorate my room
35. Continue planning my next international adventure
36. Perfect my mussels recipe (I’ll be doing a post on this soon!)
37. Find the perfect winter soup recipe
38. Purchase the perfect over-the-knee boot
39. Go on a winter hike
40. Go tobogganing
41. Bake the perfect chocolate chip cookie
42. Learn to make the Butterbeer that was at Harry Potter World
43. Make a photo album of my last Eurotrip
44. Make a Cake Batter Protein Shake (recipe here)
45. Watch all the old Christmas classic movies – I’ll never grow out of watching Rudolph
46. Learn how to waterfall braid
47. Clean out and reorganize my closet
48. Learn to make sushi
49. Redecorate my bathroom
50. Spend more time with family and friends

As you can see a lot of them have to do with food – the only upside I see to cold weather is that gaining a pound or two isn’t as easily detected under big sweaters – not to mention that it’s near impossible for me to lose weight while stuffing my face with turkey around the holidays!

I’m hoping by the end of this winter I’ll feel more like this …

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Do you like winter, or dread the season like me? What are some things you do to keep busy when it’s cold out?

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My Current Beverage Obsession

Aside from my complete obsession (it’s not an addiction I swear) with wine, I adore smoothies – especially after a tough workout. Ever since I bought my magic bullet I’ve been experimenting with different fruity concoctions, my favourite being strawberry banana :)

I personally find bananas are an extremely underrated fruit – they’re a fantastic source of potassium and magnesium and make the most delicious, thick smoothies! If you haven’t noticed from previous posts, I’m in a constant battle against time, always trying to use up ingredients before they spoil. My former banana usage was the most perfect case of this.

When I lived away at school I would typically buy a huge bunch that, of course all ripened at once, and would eat them leisurely for one and a half days, or what I like to call my perfect-banana-ripeness window. Following my 1.5 days of banana snacking bliss I’d go into panic mode and be forced to eat smoothies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a last ditch attempt to consume them all before they turned into black piles of goo and caused yet another fruit fly epidemic. The fruit fly war that my roommate and I battled in our senior year deserves a completely separate post, so I won’t go into much detail now, just know it was horrible and to never trust your semi-hoarder roommate to take out her own garbage. Anyways, one of my roommates (a non-hoarding one) at the time noticed that I kept trying to pawn bananas off on everyone in the house and asked why I wasn’t just freezing them. DUH. It had never actually occurred to me to freeze bananas – I guess I had always just pictured how gross they look when they turn brown in the fridge, but this is easily remedied by peeling and cutting them first! Needless to say, this was a revolutionary moment for me in smoothie making history. Not only do frozen bananas add a ton of flavour my smoothie, but freezing them cuts the need for ice and makes them seem more like ice cream!

Without further ado here’s my delicious healthy strawberry banana smoothie!

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5 medium sized strawberries (frozen or fresh)
3/4 cup frozen banana slices
1/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup of fresh baby spinach (you can use more or less, I usually just go with a handful)
2 cubes of ice
1/2 scoop of vanilla protein powder

Blend together and enjoy!

What are some healthy smoothie recipes you love? I’m always looking for new ideas! :)

Day 7: Split

Never. Drink. Croatian. Moonshine. If you don’t take any other advice from the TYW Croatia section of my blog, please remember this. I have five years of university parties under my belt and only once have I ever felt as bad as I did that morning, and that happened to be the last night I drank tequila. The only silver lining of the situation was that I wasn’t nauseous, I was just plagued by a skull-splitting headache. Luckily I had also woken up pretty early and was able to down a few bottles of water before really being forced to get up.

By noon all the girls were up and we were cleaning off the deck in preparation for the regatta! We unfortunately still hadn’t learned to put away all of our cups before going to bed so our boat was housing a small army of bees. I actually have a serious bee allergy – the last time I was in Croatia I got stung and my ankle swelled to the size of my thigh and I couldn’t walk for a week – so I spent the greater portion of my morning hiding below deck.

Once the bee infestation was taken care of we changed into our regatta costumes and said goodbye to Hvar! We had been looking forward to the regatta all week – our costumes were pretty great if I do say so myself. In true Canuck fashion we had ordered Canada flag bathing suits and those ridiculous umbrella hats that can be found at Dollaramas around Canada Day. The other boats thought they were hilarious, especially because of our boats “Canadian Girls” nickname that was coined at the beginning of the week.

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The day of the regatta was also my birthday, and there was no better way to completely rid myself of that pesky Croatian Moonshine hangover than to do a birthday funnel as we sailed! The film crews boat was beside us most of the time and later said they were having a hard time getting usable pictures of us because the funnel was in every shot. Ooops.

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James was quite possibly the best skipper on TYW and so naturally we were one of the leading boats in the regatta. We were about halfway to Split when tragedy struck! Ok maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but we realized we were missing the papers we needed to be able to dock at Kastela so we had to turn around and head back to Hvar, forfeiting the race :(. I ended up napping once I heard the bad news and actually slept until we arrived back in Split. Apparently our boat had gone through almost two cases of beer – no regrets during regatta.

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Docking back in Kastela Marina almost seemed surreal – it felt like just yesterday when we had checked-in and packed up the boat to depart on our yacht week adventure. It was really bittersweet. On one hand I was very excited to use the showers at the marina, but on the other I felt as though I would gladly sacrifice the health of my skin, liver, and sanity for another week of fun. I opted out of a fancy birthday dinner in favour of pick-up pizzas and some red wine that could be enjoyed on the boat. We sat and reminisced about the week and all the fun memories we had made before gearing up for our one last hurrah at the Vanilla Club in Split.

We took a bus arranged by TYW into Split and arrived at Vanilla around 11:30pm. The venue was great, it had a massive patio and two large bars. It didn’t actually reach capacity until much later in the night; I imagine a lot of crews were stuck packing up their things in preparation for our early disembarkation the next morning.

If I haven’t mentioned it enough, the music on TYW was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G and the DJs really outdid themselves the last night. My favourite of the week by far was Roman Cleiss (Here‘s his Soundcloud), he’s a French DJ who played a lot of Oliver Heldens-esque sets throughout the week. Towards the end of the night TYW set off a huge firework display, whether this was something they did to end every week or just because ours was the last week of the summer, I’m not sure. I of course lost track of time and ended up missing the last bus (it left at 3AM) so I stayed back with one of my friends.

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Saying goodbye to all the friends we had made during the week was really sad – but I’m hopeful that we’ll be seeing each other again next year (I’ve already started tentatively planning my next yacht week)! True to their tagline, it really is nothing like the real world. When you’re on TYW it’s like being in your own little universe full of amazing parties, places, and people. You only really understand how amazing it is after living it – I know it sounds somewhat cult-like, but once you experience it, you’ll understand. Looking back, it still seems surreal and somewhat unexplainable. All I can say is that it was the best week of my life and the perfect way to celebrate my 23rd birthday!

Have any of you been on TYW, something similar, or want to go?? If you have any questions about TYW I’d be happy to answer them :) or what are some of your vacation-of-a-lifetime stories?

Day 6: Hvar

The second day in Hvar marked the start of our boats birthday celebrations! We woke up fairly late Thursday morning and were all well rested and ready for the day ahead.

I’m not ashamed to say the first time we showered properly was in Hvar. We had become pretty accustom to ocean baths and using the hose at the back of the yacht to clean off, but I must admit the prospect of a fresh water shower made me absolutely giddy. Six days of salt-caked skin had really taken a toll on my moisturizer supply.

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After our showers we took a water taxi over to the main part of Hvar for Alex’s birthday lunch at Adriana Hotel. There’s a little restaurant/bar area on one of the top floors that has an amazing view of the port.

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We decided to do a little souvenir shopping before heading back to the boat so we could get ready for the Carpe Diem day party that started at five. I know a 5 o’clock seems ridiculously early for a party, but it was definitely the best one of the week and it only runs for a few hours before dinner! Make sure you get there on time!!

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One of our friends who worked for TYW made a reservation at Spice, an asian fusion restaurant just steps from Carpe Diem, for Alex and my birthdays’. We all had a GREAT time at Carpe Diem and were significantly buzzed by the time we headed over for dinner. I felt awful for our waiter, he ended up having to circle the table twice asking for our orders because we had made so many changes. After enjoying a heavenly crème brûlée in lieu of birthday cake we walked around town taking in the Croatian nightlife.

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Thursday was definitely the most action packed day event-wise, there were two other parties to attend after dinner – the first was at Kiva Bar in town, and the second was an after party back at Carpe Diem Beach Club. After sharing a bottle of wine (and a few vodka redbulls) over dinner I was definitely feeling warm and fuzzy, so when I walked into Kiva bar and saw how packed it was I walked right back out.

Being 5’1″ has some serious disadvantages – a main one being that when I go out without heels on my head is about shoulder level with every average-sized person. Typically I can deal with it, but the bar was so crowded that I literally couldn’t move without banging my head on someone and my alcohol-induced claustrophobia was in full effect. Instead, a few of us decided to enjoy one of the patios back near Spice.

Right before midnight, the official start of my birthday, I was thoroughly enjoying my glass of wine when one of the waiters headed over with a large tray of “surprise birthday shots” that the girls had ordered. I of course assumed they were vodka, but was severely mistaken. After the first one I realized no vodka in the world could taste this strong, especially after my tastebuds were numbed by the numerous vodka redbulls I had during dinner. After fighting back my urge to vomit, I asked the waiter what they were shots of and he said it was their homemade liquor and to be careful because it was very strong. In other words we just had Croatian Moonshine. I’m not going to lie, they were awful and tasted exactly how I imagine rubbing alcohol would, but we each shot back another before grabbing a water taxi to the Carpe Diem Beach after party. It was my birthday after all.

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As we approached the party I could already hear the DJ dropping some absolutely unreal tracks. I’m a big fan of deep house and techno and I felt completely spoiled during TYW, the DJs were great at mixing in songs other than the typical big room bangers you hear at most nightclubs. After my feet were nice and sore from dancing, I headed back to the boat where I was once again convinced to go swimming. I would honestly live in the ocean if possible, so there was really no arm-pulling necessary – night swims really are the best way to wind down before bed.

Day 5: Hvar

Early Wednesday morning I was unceremoniously awoken by loud banging noises coming from the back of the boat. I quickly arose from my makeshift couch cushion bed on at the front of the boat (the hammock had been removed for the video shoot the day before) and tried to figure out what the hell was happening. It seemed as though the strong winds were causing our yacht to violently thrash into the dock, luckily it had woken up Carolyn as well and she alerted our skipper. Turns out another boat had actually dragged our anchor out of position when they were leaving … James was not a happy camper.

In an attempt to escape the yelling match between our skipper and the owner of the other boat I decided to wake up our friend who actually slept on the riva and grab breakfast. And by breakfast I mean and pastry and a few beers. When I’m on vacation I’m of the mindset that any hangover can be avoided by continuing drinking. After the amount of drinks I consumed at the foam party the night before I was fairly certain that I didn’t want that hangover catching up to me anytime soon.

Once we got back everyone was pretty ready to set sail for our last destination (and my favourite) – Hvar. I’m pretty sure our longest sail day was between Komiza and Hvar, the waters were a little rough, but it was a great tanning day none the less.

Five days of partying was definitely taking its toll on me – I had contracted a mean case of Skippers cough and felt pretty exhausted. For anyone who’s going on TYW, Skipper’s cough basically refers to the nasty respiratory illness that you get from too much drinking, germ sharing and not enough sleeping. Most of the skippers said they caught it after a few days – close quarters and drink sharing was definitely to blame.

Once we arrived in Hvar we docked at Parmesan and I went exploring with a friend. We ended up on the other side of the island and sat on the rocks near the beach for a few hours chatting. We actually lost track of time and had to rush back to change, which for me meant throwing on a bathing suit cover up, my token Croatia captain hat and mascara, so that I could join all the girls for our pre-dinner party.

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A water taxi picked us up from another dock and took us to a TYW exclusive party at Carpe Diem Beach – my favourite venue by far. The open air club itself was built into a mountain and was surrounded by the sea – the sunsets here were epic. They also had these massive beanbag chairs along one of the hills which were perfect for star gazing!

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We headed back to the boat for dinner and by the time we were finished I was beyond ready for bed. Yep, you heard it right, I was out on drinking. Instead of heading out I ended up laying out on the top deck with a friend and catching up on my zs. A few of the girls went out, but most came home early since the next two days were going to be eventful – both Alex and I were celebrating our 23rd birthdays!

I woke up when the girls came back and was somehow convinced to hike to the other side of the island to go swimming. If you’re planning on doing any late night nature walks bring a flashlight because Croatia is DARK at night – the path to the beach didn’t have any lights and I’m not ashamed to say I was mildly terrified. I must admit, the night swim was a pretty perfect way to end my my first day in Hvar.

Day 4: Komiza

I don’t think I could ever grow tired of waking up in the middle of the Adriatic Sea. My hammock bed was absolute heaven – I got to experience the beautiful stars every night, and I awoke to the warm sun every morning.

When I got up early Tuesday morning I assumed that I had turned in pretty early the night of the circle party, though I’m not sure how that would have been possible. We apparently had a party on our boat until the wee hours of the morning.

Despite the throbbing pain behind my eyes, there was really no time to nurse my mini-hangover, today was the day we were meeting with the film crew to shoot some scenes for the aftermovie! This fact alone was enough to get all the girls going fairly early. I imagine it was pretty humorous to watch 11 girls scramble across the deck trying to clean up, “shower” (I use this term extremely loosely), and do our makeup all the while trying not to throw up the vodka shots from the night before. By some grace of God by 11am the deck was clear and we were sailing towards Komiza to meet the film crew!

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It was a beautiful day to shoot – we met the guys and girls of Orillo in the middle of the ocean where they boarded our boat and we got to work! They had a few specific shots they needed to catch first – the opening scene where all of us hung our legs over the side of the yacht and laughed, one of me steering the boat (with a LOT of help from our skipper James), and a one of the girls laying in the hammock giggling.

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At first it was really awkward having a camera thrust in our faces while trying to look natural, but the crew really helped us loosen up. Drinking between shots may have assisted in the overall relaxed feeling too :)

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There was a hilarious scene where we are holding onto a rope and getting pulled (AKA dragged) behind the boat in the middle of the ocean. My friend Carolyn was behind me with a GoPro strapped to her chest in attempt to capture some of the action, but I’m fairly certain the only thing that camera caught was shots of me hiking up my bikini bottoms every few metres. Not only were we all struggling to stay decent, my friend Milly was in front of me screaming things like “NOW I KNOW HOW IT FEELS TO BE DROWNED IN A WASHING MACHINE”. My overactive imagination merely caused me to envision the eleven of us as the perfect shark shishkabob trailing behind the boat. When the aftermovie was released I was genuinely surprised this shot actually made the cut because when we were shooting I was almost certain the scene could have been used as evidence in the case that one of us had drowned.

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The last scenes of the day were shot at the Green Caves which were home to a massive cliff jump site. I opted out of the jumping – with my luck I’d be walking around with a massively bruised backside, to accompany my already destroyed shins and thighs, from hitting the water at an awkward angle. I did enjoy climbing to the top of the caves though! This is when you’ll be VERY happy you brought water shoes, the rocks on the way up were extremely sharp and slippery. Despite my best efforts I left a chunk of my left shin on the Croatian cliffs. Once we had scaled the Green cliffs the crew had their drone pan over top of us – the shot they’d use for the aftermovie’s closing scene.

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After a few more hours of playing in the water we set sail for Komiza where we were promised food and the chance to restock our store of booze – the party from the night before nearly cleared us out.

We had dinner at a pizzeria just off the riva and started to get ready for the night’s festivities – a foam party in an open air club. Coming from Toronto where foam parties are usually associated with slimy all-ages events at our infamous Guvernment nightclub we weren’t quite sure what to expect. If you share my usual sentiment that foam parties should be banned from existence you’ll be surprised to know that TYW Foam Party was a great time. The venue – foam seems less disgusting when you can wash it off in the ocean a few steps away, and the music were absolutely amazing. I haven’t talked about TYW DJs yet, but they are absolute top notch – Toronto has an expansive music scene and I consider myself fairly picky, but every night I remember thinking that the DJ could sell out shows back home.

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Around 4am I once again I found myself wandering around town with friends looking for drunk food, and once again I ended up at a bakery, but this time I chose a decadent nutella filled pastry because there is apparently no such thing as a diet on vacation. Oh well, I figured I deserved it after struggling not to drown behind the boat that morning anyways :)