Life

A homage to my iPhone

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I’m actually quite ashamed to admit how crucial a role my cell phone plays in my daily life – it’s the first thing I check every morning and the last thing I look at most nights. I use apps like Buzzfeed for a lighter, more visual, take on the often depressing news (yes I’m also lazy and refuse to seek out a proper newspaper) and Instagram for entertainment while on break. My phone is my connection to the rest of the world – texting, emails, appointments, reminders, photos – they’re all there, which is why the thought of trading it in seems so daunting.

This is the cell phone that got my through the majority of my undergrad, if I had an assignment that needed to be completed, it was in my calendar, if I had an exam I needed to wake up for be prepared for, the alarm never failed me, if I was waiting on the cute guy of the week to text me back, it was ready with full bars, and probably most importantly, if when I went out on a Thursday night with my friends, it held the photo evidence of how many jagerbombs we really did (for $2 it was actually a steal mom :) ). I probably sound a bit crazy, being so attached to an inanimate object, and an ancient one at that *shout out to my iPhone 4S peeps*, but my little iPhone has been by my side through a lot of memorable moments (and a lot of not so memorable ones – thanks for not giving up on me when you were literally submerged in beer).

On the day of the much anticipated trade-in I can’t help but to reminisce on our time together.

The first day I brought you home and you proved how much you were going to up my we-fie game…

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Your first DJ show where you proved you were worthy of the protection of a Ziploc bag (Dada Life doesn’t mess around when they say champagne showers)…

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Our first Christmas together where you snapped this picture with my great grandmother…

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Just one of the countless parties you attended (and helped keep tabs of others drinking accomplishments – note the hand) …

partyparty 2You were there for me when I wanted to capture the daily cuteness of Jake and Khloe…

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You stuck with me through Homecomings – mine or others ….

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You were there for Halloweens, Christmas, New Years, and St. Paddy’s …

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Music Festivals …

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You were there for some big milestones…

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You were first to tell me the days when my selfie game was strong …

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And when I should avoid the front-facing camera like the plague …

NO PHOTO AVAILABLE. hehe

You crossed the Atlantic with me, and braved the craziness that is The Yacht Week and made it back in one piece …

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You were there for all the beautiful sights and sunsets in Greece …

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And all the food, WINE, and shenanigans in Italy …

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You were there to help me Snapchat my first day in the real world …

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And how I felt by the second day …

second dayWhat I want to say is THANK YOU my little iPhone, for being there through it all – I wish you all the best in your retirement to technology heaven.

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Planning

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There aren’t many things I enjoy more than planning vacations. Call me crazy, but I love the lists, research, and scheduling that goes into it almost as much as experiencing the trip itself. Give me my iPad, an Excel spreadsheet, and wifi and I could peruse SkyScanner all day.

While planning, I find my Type-A personality is actually a blessing instead of a curse. I’m a firm believer that chance favours the prepared meaning that I’m the one who not only always has a Plan B, but also a Plan C and D. Just a note to the ‘go-with-the-flow types – I’m aware that most people aren’t quite as rigid as I am with plans, but this method works for me. You may prioritize certain aspects of your travels different than I do, these are just my personal suggestions. If I had the guts to buy an open ended plane ticket to a foreign country I would, but I know myself and that sounds like stage one of a minor panic attack :)

My next big trip is going to be backpacking across western and central Europe. Like many other recent grads I feel as though it’s a right of passage to be able to say I roughed it in hostels. I’m hoping to be able to spend 2 months taking in all the sights, culture, and food I can.

The first thing I did when I started conceptualizing my trip was print out of map of Europe. If you’re a geography whiz you can probably skip this step, but I found it useful to be able to visualize where each city was in relation to the others. I then went through and highlighted the cities that I wanted to see – don’t hold back, you can pare the list down once you take time and money into consideration.

At this point you need to start looking at limiting factors, the main ones being time and money. Both will unfortunately dictate the extent of your trip, with money usually being the most unforgiving. Once you determine a rough budget you’ll be able to determine how long your trip can be.

The beauty of Europe is that there are so many ways to stretch your dollar – one site I found useful was TrekHard, which has a calculator that will show you an estimation of your daily cost per country based on a number of factors such as accommodation and transportation. It’ll also give you an idea of which countries are more expensive so you can either limit the days you spend there or avoid them all together. I originally wanted to stay in Zurich for a festival, but after seeing how much it would cost decided Prague was a much more viable option! The time of year you travel will also come into play, summer will be much more expensive than winter for obvious reasons.

After deciding on the where and when comes the fun part, IMO – scheduling. To get stated you’ll need the map you highlighted, a list of each cities’ main airport or bus/train terminals, a calendar, pencil and LARGE eraser – you’ll be doing a lot of revisions. My absolute favourite flight app is SkyScanner, it’s similar to Kayak, but specializes in flights within Europe. You have the option of “watching” flight searches and they’ll send you emails when flight prices change. The explore feature is amazing as well – it’s really useful when you’re trying to find the cheapest way to travel between cities – it lets you choose your departing airport and then shows you the prices of flights going into surrounding airports… if you’re really brave you could theoretically plan an entire itinerary using it! I redid my itinerary 8+ times during the planning process, it was a lot of extra work, but this way I ensured I was taking the most economical route.

Trains are another option to consider when going between cities in close proximity. Eurorail passes, especially with student and off-season discounts, are extremely affordable. Overnight trains also kill two birds with one stone, you avoid paying for a hostel and wake up in your next destination!

When looking for somewhere to stay I turned to Hostelworld and Airbnb. Both are great because they include reviews from people who have recently stayed there. When reading through reviews I scan for three main things: location, amenities, traveller tips/suggestions. The location is always most important to me – I’m looking for somewhere that’s close to the metro/public transportation lines. Second thing I look for is an overview of the amenities – were the showers clean? were there any recent bedbug complaints? were the people at the front desk friendly and helpful? As I’m reading the reviews I also like to write down any suggestions the commenters have left, these could include anything from what time is best to see the sunset or the name of a fantastic restaurant around the corner. If there seems to be a never-ending list of reviews try and keep to the most recent – I usually go as far back as year then call it a day. I wouldn’t want to be judged presently by how I was a year ago so I figure the hostels shouldn’t be either.

What steps do you take when planning your trips? Are you more of a planner or a go-with-the-flow type?

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?