Welcome to Our Home!

It has been exactly one week since Colin and I moved into our new place in New Westminster!

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And I’d have to say, I think we’re doing very well for our first week together. We had the place all unpacked by Day 2. And in this first week we’ve managed to get rid of all of the empty boxes, go on multiple trips to IKEA and Walmart, grocery shop, clean, hang pictures and not kill each other ūüôā

Our first night here was exhausting. We spent all day moving from my house, moving from Colin’s house, unpacking the essentials and cleaning. Luckily we had some awesome friends help us, but the 28th was still a very tiring day. We both felt like we were staying at someone else’s house for those first few nights. But now it¬†is really starting to feel like home.

I love that our bed is finally not shoved up against a wall so we can both have nightstands. I love that we have photos of our friends and family on the wall. I love that we have giant windows which let the sun stream in (on the rare Vancouver spring day where we get sun). I love that we have fresh tulips on the table – a gift from Colin’s mom. I love that we take turn making meals in the kitchen and go grocery shopping together. And I really love¬†that we have a garbage shoot on our floor so we don’t have to go outside to take out the garbage!

Okay, enough rambling! Basically, I am really loving our new home and living with my guy. I’m excited to finish up the last touches we need to settle in, have people over and explore our New West neighbourhood. Here are some shots of our place:

Colin’s desk and our stunning view of a construction site that will be a 40-storey building one day. Yay….

Kitchen table, bookshelf and some artfully arranged photos

Our second bookshelf, which is pretty much all Colin’s

Our collection of Funko Pop Dolls and shot glasses. Do we sound like an 18 year old boy?

Our kitchen! Check out that fancy fridge

The other side of our kitchen. Eventually we’ll get a dishwasher where those bags are sitting

You would not believe how much crap we have shoved into this closet

Our bedroom! Featuring Bear and the curtains that we struggled to put up

My little desk. Grainy photo but we spray painted and papered that desk ourselves

Tulips! I love fresh blooms in the house ūüôā

Our bathroom!

Our closet. It was a work of art to get all of our stuff in there

Our couch with some new pillows and our first piece of “artwork” (a print from IKEA, but we like it)

Home sweet home!

Fixed life or a big trip?

Today Colin, my friend Malindi, and I stumbled into a few open houses after grabbing lunch in Olympic Village. ¬†Every time we see an “Open House” sign,¬†I always joke with Colin that we should go in but today we actually did it. ¬†And even though we are no where close to being able to afford a house, it was interesting to walk through and consider what it might be like a few (or maybe a dozen, given Vancouver’s housing market) years down the road.

We ended up looking at three places: two one-bedroom condos in Olympic Village and then a three-bedroom here in Kits. ¬†That last one was a bit more serendipitous than realistic; I kept saying we had to see three places just like they do on House Hunters and we happened to pass an “Open House” sign on our walk from the bus stop to my apartment.

And, oddly enough, the prices didn’t really shock us. Sure, half a million for a one-bedroom sounds horrendous but after all of the Vancouver housing market horror stories we’ve heard, it really didn’t seem that outrageous. ¬†And after talking to the real estate agents, it became easier and easier to picture us house hunting for real.

But just a few days before this, I was knee-deep (aka on the 4th page of my Google Doc) into planning a 2-week Central America vacation for Colin and I: exploring the jungles and mountains of Costa Rica and then relaxing at a resort in Cancun. ¬†And the night before that I was researching Alaskan cruises. ¬†And then just yesterday I got all caught up in figuring out how Colin’s x-ray technologist certification would transfer abroad if we were to say, live in the UK for a year.

Travel has been a huge aspect and aspiration of my life for the last 5+ years. It’s been tough living full-time in Vancouver since I returned in Sept 2014 and not having a plan for a big trip anywhere. I can feel myself sort of grasping at straws to make any kind¬†of vacation or travel plan come to life. I just want to go.

But at the exact same time, I love it here. I love that I have my own place, relationships, a job. ¬†I love having a community and a cute neighbourhood (that’s not too far from the beach!). And while I know I could find all of those things abroad, I’m also starting to love the idea of a permanent fixed life in Vancouver. ¬†Yes, real estate prices are insane but this city has really become my home and I do find myself wanting to put down roots here for a future.

So basically, I don’t really know what I want! I mean, in an ideal world, I have the money to take big trips, experience living abroad for a while and then return here to settle permanently. ¬†And maybe that ideal world will come to be one day. ¬†But for now, I almost feel like I have to make choices between enhancing my fixed life or planning for something bigger farther away. ¬†When I put money into my savings account am I saving for a down payment or for a plane ticket?

Maybe the answer is both? A down payment is not a reality in my near future but a two-week trip to Central America definitely could be. ¬†So maybe I save a bit for both of those things. And then maybe we put off moving abroad for a longer stretch until we’re more settled. ¬†I guess I just don’t want to miss out on anything. I don’t want to have a mortgage but look back and wish I had traveled more or taken that opportunity to live overseas. ¬†But I also don’t want to look back on years of travel and wonder why I can’t afford to buy a home or figure out my career path.

I think about my Aunt Deborah in times like this. ¬†She traveled extensively when she was younger: living in Australia, backpacking through China, studying abroad in Europe. ¬†But she also got married, had children and bought a house in Etobicoke. And despite having met those fixed life goals, she, and her family, still find the time to travel. ¬†Deborah and my Uncle Chris took their first child Nathaniel backpacking through Southeast Asia when he was still being carried in a sling. ¬†And right now, they’re on a house exchange in Europe with their two children for the summer. ¬†So, I guess it can be done. Maybe I just need to call up Deb for some tips ūüôā

 

How to visit everyone you know in 4 days flat*

*So¬†“everyone” might be a slight exaggeration, but let me have it

In the last week of August, my guy and I headed back to my hometown of Toronto for an absolute whirlwind trip of family, friends and (of course) food. ¬†We also had to sneak in a few tourist highlights, as it was someone’s first trip to #the6ix.

***

Wednesday (Day 1)

We started with a delayed red-eye on Tuesday evening that didn’t have us flying out of Vancouver until 2 in the morning! My family met us at the airport and greeted our groggy bodies and blood shot eyes with giant hugs.

Back at home we dined on a lovely homecooked breakfast before passing out hard for a much-need mid-morning siesta.  By 1:00pm we were awake and on our way to the Toronto Zoo with my siblings.

Getting to know the wildlife at the Toronto Zoo!

Getting to know the wildlife at the zoo!

The zoo was actually a great time. I’m not always a huge fan of zoos and I hadn’t been to one in about a year, and not to the Toronto one in many years. ¬†We took in the special exhibit on the Giant Pandas and then made sure to see everyone’s favourites: gorillas for me, wolves for my sister, careful following of the map for my brother, and a Beaver Tail snack break for my guy.

After a few hours at the zoo and right about when we had had it with Lee’s complaints of sore feet, we headed back to the car and home for a Lee Family BBQ!

It was so nice to catch up with my aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents from the Lee side. I love our family get-togethers and know I had missed quite a few. It’s always tough to find time to actually chat with everyone especially when there are dogs trying to steal food, baseball games to watch, adorable babies to play with and way more food than necessary waiting to be consumed.

After all that family fun, our fivesome (who were six for the night) decided to fit in a little more bonding over a friendly game of Texas Hold ‘Em. My sister and I spent the majority of our childhood trying to convince our parents to play boardgames with us or attend disco parties we had planned. ¬†It was kind of nice to spend a few hours doing the adult version of that. ¬†Everyone enjoyed it, even Lee, who I think ended up winning a few hands and then pulling a Robin Hood (stealing from the bank to help his sisters out). ¬†I don’t know who won but I’m pretty sure I came top 3 ūüôā

Day 1 recap: arrival, zoo & family bbq
Day 1 total # of fam/friends visited: 14

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Thursday (Day 2)

We had to head out straight away Thursday morning to make it downtown in time to join the Ladies Lunching (my mom, aunts and a few cousins) at a cool spot between the financial and entertainment districts.  The food was a bit strange and the company was all female, but my guy pulled through.

After lunch, we loaded my mom up with our suitcases (sorry, mom!) and headed over to The Hockey Hall of Fame. I was preparing for 3-4 hours of absolute boredom.  Turns out, it was actually a good time (and only 2 hours!).  I needed a lot of interpreting but even I could appreciate some of the awesome trophies, the 4D movie and the interactive areas.  Partners of hockey lovers: do not fear! The HHOF is not all that bad!

From there we headed up to Nathan Phillips Square to pose with the newly iconic Toronto sign (courtesy of the Pan Am games) and to meet my wonderful friend, Kimberley, over a few beers.  We got to catch up with Kim, I got asked to be a co-MOH and then we jumped on the subway en route to the Annex.

 

#typicaltourists

#typicaltourists

Reunion over board games!

Reunion over board games!

In the Annex we met up with some more of my high school friends for a great night of cheap food and board games at Snakes and Lattes. I’ve been to S&L lots of times but it’s always more fun with a big group. The 7 of us thoroughly enjoyed ourselves over a number of fast-paced and quick-witted games.

Day 2 recap: lunch, HHOF, beers, boardgames
Day 2 total # of fam/friends visited: 13

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Friday (Day 3)

Friday started with Toronto’s must-do tourist attraction: The CN Tower! Again, I hadn’t been for years so it was a kind of cool (and horribly expensive) experience for me to go back up. ¬†The security is tight (at one point, you walk through a machine that blasts air at you while supposedly searching for explosives) and the views are awesome. ¬†It was fun to get a great view of the city on a non-cloudy day and to try and point out different spots (“I used to live right there!” “Where?” “Look where I’m pointing!”)

View from the top!

View from the top!

We stopped for lunch at the Jack Astor’s outside the big ScotiaBank Theatre and then carried on to Yonge and Dundas where Buskerfest was in full swing. ¬†It was a pretty great time to experience the area, though the mob we got stuck in on the way home (when I desperately needed to pee) was not the best.

Back at my mom’s, we packed up our stuff and caught a ride with my cousin. ¬†Thanks to rush hour traffic, we got to Mississauga about 90 minutes later. ¬†In Missisauga we picked up my other cousin and then headed on to Fort Erie where the Ang Family would be cottaging for the week.

Around 9pm, we pulled into the cottage site and got to explore our new home for the weekend. It was too dark to head down to the beach so we lazed around the living room and got our butts handed to us in a few rounds of Big 2 by my pre-teen cousins.

Day 3 recap: CN Tower, Buskerfest, cottage
Day 3 total # of fam/friends visited: 9

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Saturday (Day 4)

On Saturday morning we woke up and got to appreciate the beautiful lakefront cottage we were staying in.  Our room that night looked right out to the water and we decided to take our breakfast out on the lawn.  A little while later (because it takes a while to get 10 people going) we headed out to Niagara Falls!

Another off the tourist bucket list: seeing the falls! We got to experience them up close with a ride on the Hornblower (formerly known as the Maid of The Mist which apparently the US has copyrighted for boats leaving from their side). I remembered the Maid of The Mist as, just that, misty. ¬†I knew you got the plastic ponchos but I didn’t remember actually needing them. ¬†Well, either I was wrong or something has changed because on the Hornblower we got SOAKED! Even in our ponchos, it felt like we had gone swimming. But it was a great time and no better way to appreciate the beauty and power of Niagara Falls.

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We followed our swim with a walk up Clifton Hills and lunch at the world’s slowest burger joint. ¬†From there we headed back to the cottage for the main festivities: Grandpa Ang’s 80th Birthday! The rest of the family started pouring in and the cooking began in earnest. ¬†We feasted on fish, chicken and 4 different cakes until our stomachs ached.

When you turn 80, you get 4 cakes

When you turn 80, you get 4 cakes!

Family by the fire

Family by the fire

After dinner and dessert, we headed down to the beach so my man could earn his keep by building us a campfire. ¬†12 years in the Boy Scouts proved useful and soon we were roasting marshmallows, singing along to a ukulele and praying the rain would stay away. ¬†There’s something about singing with my family, whether it be to Jason Mraz tunes around a campfire or classic carols on Christmas Eve, that always warms my heart.

Day 4 recap: Niagara Falls, birthday dinner, campfire
Day 4 total # of fam/friends visited: 8

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Early the next morning my extremely kind cousin drove us to Pearson so we could catch our noon flight to NYC. ¬†I love every opportunity to see my family and I think we really made the most of four very short days in Toronto. ¬†We got to see a lot of people and fit in a few tourist classics. ¬†Granted, it wasn’t the most relaxing trip and it sucks that I could only see most people for a single meal, if that. ¬†But any chance to be with my loved ones in Toronto is always worth it.

Grand total:¬†44!¬†We managed to see 44 members of my friends/family in only 4 days! And that’s not double counting; 44 different people were graced with our presence ūüėČ

Until next time, Toronto!

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6 months worth of updates

So about a year ago, I realized I had been neglecting my blog. ¬†It kind of made sense, since this blog was born out of dream to travel and I wasn’t doing too much traveling a year ago. ¬†But I found new things to write about: simple pleasures of everyday life, moving to a new home, family vacations and enjoying the on-going adventure that is living in Vancouver.

***

And then in March, I forgot I had a blog again.

This time, it wasn’t for any lack of travel or adventure. ¬†In fact, too much was happening in my life and I kept forgetting to write it all down. ¬†So here are a few of the biggest updates from the last few months:

March:¬†In March, I moved (again!) into an adorable and cosy 2-bedroom with my wonderful friend from work, Sophie. ¬†Sophie and I had only met in January but barely a month later we were already looking at places together. ¬†While it was rushed, here we are 6 months later and I couldn’t be happier. ¬†Living alone was exciting, but I do tend to hermit when I’m solo (read: late nights in front of the TV with take-out and week-old dishes in the sink). ¬†But now I have someone to watch TV with! We’re in a bit of a suburban neighbourhood of East Van but we’re enjoying it so far. ¬†This was the first time either of us had signed a year lease and was the biggest step in settling that I’ve ever taken.

The bed I ordered and put together myself in my first unfurnished room!

The bed I ordered and put together myself in my first unfurnished room!

April:¬†April was a pretty busy month for me! Unfortunately, it started on a sad note with my grandmother’s passing. ¬†I flew back to Toronto for a quick weekend visit to be with family. ¬†But back in Vancouver, things did seem to turn around. ¬†I met a very special someone and we’ll be celebrating six months together in October.

Grandparents Canning on their wedding day :)

Grandparents Canning on their wedding day ūüôā

May:¬†May (and you might start to notice a trend here) was also incredibly busy. ¬†It started with me fostering a gorgeous little puppy named Waffles who was the cutest and most clingy dog in the world. ¬†We only had Waffles for 3 weeks and I still miss her, but I think I realized I’m not quite ready for full-time dog ownership. ¬†Maybe when I live with a partner and have a flexible work schedule, I can revisit the dog situation. ¬†But I wouldn’t be opposed to fostering again!

How cute is this puppy??

How cute is this puppy??

May was also the month where I officially graduated from UBC! My parents and siblings made the big trek from Toronto to watch me walk across the stage with 300+ other students at the ungodly hour of 8:30am on a Friday morning.

Quick snap of my diploma while I get ready to walk the stage!

Quick snap of my diploma while I got ready to walk the stage!

June: June was a bit of an up and down month.  Most notably, I set off for 6 weeks of facilitating in China through my job with Free The Children.  And while I have no desire to rehash the details, suffice to say that trip did not really work out and I was home shortly after Canada Day.  I also finished up my 10 months of serving at the Arbutus Club in June!

Last shift selfie!

Last shift selfie!

July: Coming home early was actually a huge blessing in disguise.  I got to take part in so many amazing summer activities and finally spend this season in beautiful Vancouver.  Bonus: I also got to see my mom who was in town for a wedding! Some of those summer activities included: concerts (One Direction, Journey and Taylor Swift (in order from worst to best performance)), camping (without running water, unless you count the insane amount of rain we got), kayaking (not my forte), FIFA World Cup soccer games and visiting Pender Harbour on the Sunshine Coast. I turned 23 in July and got to celebrate with my mom, my guy and some wonderful friends in my beloved city.

The beautiful Pender Harbour

The beautiful Pender Harbour

Kayaking: not my sport...

Kayaking: not my sport…

Swifties for life!

Swifties for life!

I don't know about thee, but I'm feeling 23!

I don’t know about thee, but I’m feeling 23!

August:¬†August was a month of some big changes. ¬†I decided to move on from my position at Free The Children to try something new. ¬†And I got to go on another trip! This trip was a whirlwind 10 days in Toronto, Fort Erie and New York with my guy along for the ride. **I’ll probably do a separate blog about this trip, so more stories & photos to come!** ¬†We did a lot of family bonding, friend meeting and sight seeing in a crazy but so wonderful 10 days. ¬†I can’t wait to see my loved ones again, do New York in a less humid season and get in some more air miles with my new travel companion.

Brooklyn Bridge! One of my fave NY spots

Brooklyn Bridge! One of my fave NY spots

September:¬†September has been all about settling into my new routine. ¬†I’m working in an admin role at a counselling office which has a much different feel and different hours than my previous job. ¬†I’m enjoying my new position, but it’s definitely a change from what I had been doing for the last nine months. ¬†I think it was a good change, and important for me, but it does come with a few low points – such as missing all of my wonderful colleagues at my old job.

What’s next?¬†I can almost guarantee that whatever I predict here is going to change but here I go!

I definitely want to continue blogging. ¬†I love to write and use this medium to express myself and share my life with loved ones far away. ¬†I should problem tie myself down to a schedule, but I’m not quite ready to make that commitment. ¬†Can we tentatively say 2x per month?

I intend to continue in my current position and keep learning and growing in it. ¬†But I also want to take on some side projects. ¬†In January, I’ll be taking a course online at UBC in preparation for hopefully applying for a Master’s program in counselling. ¬†Less than a month working at a counselling office and I’m already seriously considering a future in this field. ¬†I’m still doing my research and won’t apply for some time, but I do want to start lining things up to make it happen.

In addition to my school course, I want to look for a volunteer or part time job opportunity. ¬†I’d love to get some counselling experience, maybe through a mentorship or crisis line volunteer position. ¬†I’d also love to do some freelance writing. ¬†I’m still in the research stage on this too, but I’m definitely open to some new opportunities.

And then, in terms of my personal life, I definitely want to be more intentional. ¬†Now that I don’t spend my 9-5 with most of my friends, I have to put in the effort to make plans to see the people I care about. ¬†I have so many amazing friends here, one of the reasons I feel at home in Vancouver, and I want to cherish those relationships and not let them slip away. ¬†I also want to do some things to better my daily life: try new recipes and pack lunches for work as much as possible, plan fun date nights that take advantage of this awesome city, head to the library and always have a book in my purse, keep on top of house cleaning, institute some sort of workout regime (my new office has a gym in it that I really need to take advantage of!) and still find time to indulge in take out sushi, my colouring book and nightly ritual of Jeopardy and House Hunters.

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And I’m off again!

So after anticipating a slow travel year for 2015, what with my full-time job in Vancouver and no convenient school holidays to take advantage of, it struck me that I’m already off to a not so slow start.

***

In less than 24 hours, I’m headed back to Toronto (wasn’t I just there?) for a week of training at Free The Children HQ. ¬†I’m pretty excited to go through this FTC process and meet a bunch of new long-distance colleagues in our Toronto office. ¬†But I’m a little nervous for keeping up with my on-going work in the Vancouver office at the same time. ¬†And the onslaught of out-going people I’m sure to meet is a little daunting. ¬†However, I am really looking forward to catching up with a few friends and family members during my short 5 day visit. ¬†If only the frigid negative temperatures could stay away for those 5 days!

And then I’ll be back in Vancouver for a week and a half before taking off to… San Francisco! I found a pretty cheap flight (less than $200 roundtrip, leaving from Bellingham) and wanted to take advantage of our Family Day long weekend. ¬†It was a fairly spontaneous decision, and I’m sacrificing 3 vacation days (of my 10 for the year), but I’m so stoked to be going to SF. ¬†I first visited “Frannie” back in 2012 with my mom. ¬†In fact, it was one of my first blog posts and moments of solo travel. ¬†I’m really excited to revisit a city that I love and to spend¬†time with some awesome friends who call Frannie home.

I cross back into Canada during the wee hours of the morning on Feb 10, only to return to the States two days later! This time, it’s for work. ¬†And, it’s only to Mount Vernon (2 hours from Vancouver). ¬†But I’ll be meeting with some of my Washington State youth and educators for the first time and get to practice some facilitation skills. Plus, I’ll be going down with my Team Washington crew and rumour has it we might stop at the outlet mall on the way back ūüôā

Granted these upcoming trips (to Toronto, San Francisco and Mount Vernon) kind of pale in comparison to where I was headed in Jan/Feb of 2014 (5 days in Iceland before moving into my new apartment in Amsterdam and spending a long weekend in Milan). ¬†But that’s okay. ¬†Now that I’m more settled, I anticipate many more small trips to closer places. ¬†There are a ton of places around Vancouver I’ve only been to once (like Victoria and Whistler) or haven’t explored at all. ¬†And with my position at FTC, I have the opportunity to head down to Seattle a few times a year.

That’s not to say I’m turning my back on big trips and far off cities. ¬†My scratch-off world map isn’t going to scratch itself! But I do plan to appreciate the more local travel opportunities that I can take advantage of at this point in my life. ¬†I get to be a tourist in my own backyard and keep the ever-present travel bug at bay!

***

Holy blog updates, Batman! Seriously, this is like the 3rd post I’ve written this week! I doubt I’ll keep up this publishing schedule, or stick to any schedule religiously, so bare with me during my wordy weeks ūüôā¬†

Coming home?

Okay, I’m way behind on blog posts. Like 3 weeks behind. But in my defence, I’ve been really busy!

***

In the last couple of weeks I’ve flown to Toronto, celebrated Christmas, flown to the Dominican Republic for a family vacation, rang in the new year, flown back to Toronto and (finally) flown home to Vancouver.

And while I’m no stranger to flights and coast-hopping, this time felt a bit different. ¬†To start with, it was a whirlwind visit. ¬†I only had about 4 days in Toronto before we left for the DR. ¬†In those few days I managed to squeeze in quite a few family and friend catch ups. ¬†My Toronto days essential broke down to: gift wrapping, brunch with James & Zab, gift shopping, x-mas dinner with my high school girlfriends, Brantford visit with my grandma and cousins, dinner with Auntie Hayley & Kaitlyn, brunch with Shelby, more gift shopping and wrapping, dinner with Kim & Sash, lunch and shopping with Simon, hair cut, dim sum dinner and sleepover with Pamela & Andrea, brunch with mom and, finally, Christmas Eve dinner with the Angs before getting to the airport for 4am for our DR flight! So, you could say things were busy ūüôā

Christmas Eve with the Angs!

Christmas Eve with the Angs!

Donated 10 inches of hair!

Donated 10 inches of hair!

Dinner at Origin with Kaity, Mom & A. Hayley

Dinner at Origin with Kaity, Mom & A. Hayley

Headed to Brantford full of Christmas cheer

Headed to Brantford full of Christmas cheer

Christmas dinner with PRALM

Christmas dinner with PRALM

Brunch with my favourite Toronto boys

Brunch with my favourite Toronto boys

But busy was beneficial; I got to see so many people who I love and haven’t seen for a little while. ¬†My dearest (but not necessarily nearest) are still in Toronto and it’s so important to me to be able to catch up with them whenever I can. ¬†But, something did feel a bit different this time.

Toronto will always be my home. I’ve spent most of my life there. ¬†All of my family and childhood friends are there. But this time didn’t feel like a homecoming. It felt like a tour. ¬†Part of that is definitely due to the crazy schedule of dinners and brunches I set up for myself. ¬†It’s hard to feel like you’re home when “home” is a series of meals with different people all around the city. ¬†But the other part was my new definition of “home”.

Home¬†has always been a bit of fluid term for me. ¬†I attach it pretty loosely to just about anywhere. ¬†The hostels of Europe became home to me in the Spring, my tatami mat bedroom was home for a month this summer in Japan and now, Vancouver is definitely home. ¬†I don’t know if I could rank one home as more “homey” than the others, but there is definitely a new permanency with my Vancouver home that is pushing the status of Toronto home.

Now that school is done and I’ve started a full time job and am living in¬†my own apartment, my Vancouver life is a bit more established. ¬†My residency here is no longer determined by a four month school term. ¬†There isn’t a set date when I’ll be leaving Vancouver. ¬†And there isn’t a set date when I’ll be returning to Toronto for anything more¬†than a week-long visit. ¬†That both terrifies and excites me.

Sitting in my apartment, lunch packed for work tomorrow and a mountainous recycling box staring at me, I do feel at home. I’ve put up some photos, and my treasured scratch-off map, and things are really starting to feel homey. ¬†I’m excited to get into a work routine and start some non-school after work activities. ¬†But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss my family and friends in Toronto. ¬†And it doesn’t mean I’m done with Toronto or closing the door on ever living there again.

***

Because no matter where in the world I’m calling home, Toronto will always have a huge part of my heart.

Welcome Home

When you’ve moved 20+ times in your life, what’s one more? Well, turns out it’s still a little exciting when that move is to a place all of your own!

***

On Dec 14 I officially moved into my new place, affectionately nicknamed “The Closet” due to it’s incredibly small size. But what it lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality!

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The Closet is conveniently located a ten minute bus ride from Free The Children. I now get to leave the house at 8:05, instead of the ungodly 7:25 departure I was doing at my old place. However, my new digs are a pretty far hike from my weekend job – but I never have to be there before 4pm!

Rent is not cheap in Vancouver, period. So no, my place isn’t inexpensive. But it’s also not over my budget. And, it conveniently includes utilities, internet and cable!

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For a tiny place, The Closet sure comes packed with amenities. The place came fully furnished (and pretty cute furnishings, I might add). It has an in suite washer/dryer, gas stove, coffee maker, large screen TV and dish washer! I’ve yet to use the dishwasher as anything but a drying rack….but I’m sure that’ll change once I start (attempting) to do some cooking.

Lastly, while The Closet is the size of, well, a closet, it’s perfect for just me. My previous roommate Courtney was wonderful, but there’s something kind of nice about living alone. Being able to play embarrassing music, walk around in questionable outfits, leave the dishes dirty for too long or go to bed at a scarily late hour (or more like scarily early hour these days) is kind of freeing. There’s a fun sense of independence that comes with living alone – and knowing I am solely responsible for any leaks, creaks or visiting spiders!

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So I moved into my new pad just 2 days after my final final of my undergrad at UBC (yay!). Which means I didn’t start packing until the Friday night before my Sunday morning move. Luckily my lovely roommate and her boyfriend helped me load 3 suitcases into his car so Sunday wasn’t a series of painful bus trips. After the move, I had 4 nights in my place before flying home to Toronto. And I spent each of those 4 days working. So while I was pretty rushed and busy, I did manage to unpack and get a little settled. But I think my busy schedule was a good excuse for not buying any groceries and living off of takeout for those 4 days!

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But I am so excited to get back to my place in January. I’ve got a list of really thrilling things I want to buy – like a bath mat and tissue boxes! I’m looking forward to walking around the neighborhood and finding cool restaurants, family-owned produce markets and some sort of 24 hour takeout place. It’s a part of Vancouver I’ve never discovered and a type of independent living I’ve never experienced – I’m stoked, but cross your fingers for me!

Note: this was written and uploaded on my phone, so apologies for any crazy formatting or typos!

The little things

One thing I’m trying to do more often is to take note, and be grateful for, the little things. ¬†The last year+ of my life has been about a lot of big things: new school, new jobs, new friends and new countries. ¬†But now that my life is settling a little bit more into a routine, I think it’s important that I still have those things that make me smile when I get up in the morning. ¬†My life has always been filled with a lot of wonderful, and now it’s time to appreciate it all!

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Flowers

Bring on the bloom!

Bring on the bloom!

I love fresh flowers! They instantly brighten a room and brighten my mood. ¬†My friend, whose room I’m subletting, welcomed me back to Vancouver with a gorgeous bouquet of flowers and I’m vowing to keep that vase full until her return. ¬†So every week or two, I treat myself to a small bouquet and watch the petals and pollen fall onto my dresser.

Candles

I’ve always loved candles but that love grew to obsession during my months at Bath & Body Works. ¬†While I (somehow) resisted buying the entire candle inventory, I do have a few great smelling ones on hand. ¬†Currently burning: Winter Cranberry (delicious, I highly recommend you sniff it, if given the chance).

Tea

So after trying for about a year to get into tea, I finally made the conversion! It took living for 5 months with two tea addicts in Amsterdam to get me into the routine of brewing (almost) nightly. ¬†I stocked up on some delicious flavours from David’s Tea (my favourite: Forever Nuts) and get to feel a touch more sophisticated when I sit down in front of Netflix with my loose leaf cup of heaven.

Snail Mail

Yes, it’s dated and practically useless but I LOVE snail mail! I love sending letters and I love receiving them (hint hint!). ¬†If I ever won the lottery, a good chunk of it would go to stationary and cards so I could send to my heart’s delight.

Photos

My Amsterdam wall :)

My Amsterdam wall ūüôā

If you’ve ever seen my room, you know it to be covered in photos. ¬†I still haven’t graduated to a more adult sense of interior design so my walls currently have about 50 photos and postcards lovingly taped and sticky-tacked to them. ¬†I love reliving my best memories and seeing the smiling faces of friends and family who might be quite a few miles away. ¬†Eventually, I’m hoping to refine this habit with some fancy frames and artistic lay-outs, but for now it’s mainly a smorgasbord of smiles and very little bare wall space.

Library Books

I’ve always been a huge reader. ¬†Having so much reading to do for school has put a bit of a damper on my leisure reading these last few years but whenever I travel, I love having a book in my bag. ¬†So I decided to continue that tradition here in Vancouver by getting my own library card and becoming a regular at my local library (just 2 blocks away!). ¬†Currently reading: Three Cups of Tea.

Church

I was first introduced to Coastal Church way back in 2011 by a UBC friend. ¬†I immediately fell in love with the passionate worship, uplifting sermons and beautiful people. ¬†While my attendance has been spotty (at best) over the last few years, I’ve committed to making the Sunday trek to Coastal a part of my life this year. ¬†I enjoy it every time I go and am hoping to get more involved with the church once school lets up.

And…everything else!¬†

Of course, there are many more awesome things in my life: a line-up of new TV shows, wonderful friends, a new workout, interesting classes and lots to learn at work. ¬†But when I get stressed, for example by a midterm and essay due on Thursday that have gotten very little attention, it’s the little things above that keep me smiling.

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Week 3 – I’m not doing too bad so far!

Amsterdam: Doei en dank u wel!

Coming back to Amsterdam after almost a full month of being away was like returning home. ¬†My apartment felt bigger, my fridge seemed emptier and my city had never looked so beautiful. ¬†With only 3 weeks left to call Amsterdam home, it was time to take advantage and make sure those “last times” were the best times.

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Of course, this essential meant we had to eat our way through the city ūüôā

Beginning mere hours after our plane landed, we were at the Saturday night version of our Sunday favourite: The NeighbourFood Market. ¬†The food options weren’t as good but the ice cream and music were rocking. ¬†The next day, we did it up right for our last NeighbourFood visit. ¬†I went for hirata buns, after falling in love with them in London, and this delicious burger:

Best burger at NeighbourFood!

Best burger at NeighbourFood!

A few days (or it could have been the next day) later, we were back at Westerpark but this time for the famous scones! I can honestly say these scones are the best I’ve ever had; even better than the ones served with afternoon tea in London! ¬†They are warm and come with tasty cream & jam. ¬†Of course, this wasn’t our last scone tasting!

These scones are as close to heaven as humans can get

These scones are as close to heaven as humans can get

Next on the gastronomical tour down memory lane: Pannenkoeken! Or, Dutch pancakes! Our favourites are at the Pancake Bakery by the Anne Frank house. ¬†The only was to enjoy these is with friends: everyone orders a pancake, you eat a share and then rotate the plates. ¬†This way, you get to try everything and don’t have to choose between savoury and sweet!

PANCAKES!

PANCAKES!

We couldn’t leave Amsterdam without taking a ride on the iconic canals. I had been tempted by overpriced tour boats before but am so glad I waited until we rented a boat for ourselves. It was so fun to be out on the water, manoeuvring the boat ourselves, while enjoying good music, good drinks and good cheese. ¬†Despite almost hitting a few other boats and struggling to “park”, we had a blast on the boat.

We're on a boat!

We’re on a boat!

Low bridges are no joke!

Low bridges are no joke! The blue pads were the seats!

How can I be leaving this city?

How can I be leaving this city?

How else could we top off a typical Dutch day than enjoying the football match with our fellow Nederlanders at an outdoor pub? While I’m not a huge soccer fan (and not scoring for the first 70 minutes didn’t help) even I loved the atmosphere when we beat Chile 2 – 0!

HUP HOLLAND!

HUP HOLLAND!

June 25th brought us to the Grumble Gig, which was actually the reunion of 6 friends over dinner and not a group of pugs playing instruments.  It was the final date the 6 of us would be in the city and we celebrated with a meal at Everything On A Stick (actual name of the restaurant).  And while the service may have, the food did not disappoint! Everything was literally on a stick and the beef was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Better than the food and novelty of eating off sticks was the unstoppable laughter erupting from our table all night long. I miss the grumble!

Some stick-licking good food!

Some stick-licking good food!

All the sticks!

All the sticks!

‚̧ The grumble

The next morning, Stephanie’s family arrived and we showed them Gabby’s favourite kiwi brunch spot. ¬†Somehow she managed to find a New Zealand-owned brunch place in Amsterdam that serves some serious food. ¬†My plate of pulled pork, poached eggs, avocado and mango salsa was SO GOOD I’m a little upset I didn’t go back a second time. ¬†And making our breakfast date even more special: I got a quick visit from my wonderful friend Mel, who was en route to Ghana from Vancouver!

SO YUM!

SO YUM!

Sadly, after a delicious brunch it was time for me to hunker down. ¬†Over the next 48 hours I crammed and wrote my final exam (24/30 baby!) and joined my flatmates in the most intense clean our apartment has ever seen. ¬†After all that mental and physical work, it was time to relax and enjoy Gabby’s last day in Amsterdam! After starting our day with scones (what else?) we missioned into town to find Thai food and for another visit to the zoo. ¬†Unfortunately, the zoo wasn’t accepting our student discount on a Saturday, so we decided on a place with fewer kids and better smells: Gabby’s favourite brewery!

Finally getting the much-craved Thai food!

Finally getting the much-craved Thai food!

Brewery time!

Brewery time!

The last chips :(

The last chips with mayo in Amsterdam ūüė¶

Saying goodbye to Gabby on the 29th was tough. ¬†It had been an emotional week of goodbyes with Steph and Candy already having left the city. ¬†But Gabby was especially hard, given that “see you soon!” doesn’t really apply to someone living in New Zealand. ¬†But we have a pact: before I turn 25 (in 3 years!) we will be living together again in the wonderful city of London! See you there Gabs!

To celebrate Carlie’s last few days she had friends in town and we had a few last minute things to check off the A-dam bucket list. #1: utilize that student discount at the zoo! We saw all the animals, even the gorillas this time! And Carlie even dragged me into the insect and reptile houses, though I squirmed the whole time. ¬†The highlight was definitely watching Carlie get a proper Amsterdam send off from a friendly elephant ūüôā

She speaks Elephant fluently

She speaks Elephant fluently

Another thing I’ve been doing a lot of in the last few weeks: watching MasterChef Australia! The show is wonderful and crazy addictive. Plus, it airs 5 nights a week, so there is always something to watch. ¬†Gabby & Colin got me hooked on it and then we pulled in Carlie. ¬†After being inspired by a good 30+ episodes of MasterChef, Carlie and I decided to try our hand at chocolate noodles. It was so fun (and simple!) to make and it made our chocolate treat feel way more posh!

MasterChef 2015 - we're coming for ya!

MasterChef 2015 – we’re coming for ya!

After failing on finding a cheap and near by Indonesian restaurant for Carlie’s last supper, we settled for take away Chinese and frivolity on the swings!

Their feet touched!

Their feet touched!

Who let these nuts get on a swing?

Who let these nuts get on a swing?

Don't leave! :(

Don’t leave! ūüė¶

And before we knew it, July 2nd was here and our place was spotless. It was so weird to see our place empty and to roll suitcases out our front door.  It was especially weird for me, since I was only moving downstairs.  I hugged Carlie goodbye, with promises to catch up over sushi in Van this fall, and entered my new apartment.

Bye apartment!

Bye old apartment!

It has been a strange week: I’m still in Amsterdam and I’m still in the Gevleweg apartments but I’m not in my apartment and I’m all by myself. ¬†I’ve never had an issue with solo travel (see most of my trips) but after starting out in a place with people, it’s tough to lose them. ¬†I think Amsterdam understood my feelings: the whole week has been a weird mix of humidity, wind and rain; which makes staying in my PJs till 1pm much easier. ¬†I’ve definitely had a pretty lazy week but I’ve been able to get ahead on some Tokyo prep and get some time to myself before I’m thrown into 3 weeks of students, teachers and host families.

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Tomorrow I leave for Japan. ¬†It’s weird to be leaving on another trip when almost everyone I know is ending theirs. ¬†And it’s strange to be going even farther abroad after spending 5 months living in Europe. ¬†People keep asking if I’m excited and I can see why: 3 weeks working a nice job in a new country that has as much culture and good cuisine as Japan does is definitely a dream experience. ¬†But despite all that, there is a part of me that wants to go home. ¬†And there’s another part of me that wants to stay in Amsterdam (bringing back all my friends, of course). ¬†That’s not to say I’m not looking forward to Tokyo, but “excited” doesn’t seem to capture my current emotion. ¬†But, to be honest, I wasn’t exactly excited on my way to Amsterdam. ¬†I was nervous to be starting a new life in a new city at a new school with new friends. ¬†I was disappointed that I wasn’t going to London. ¬†And I was regretting leaving behind my family in Toronto and my job/school in Vancouver. But from all that worry, disappointment and regret came 5 amazing months and one of the best experiences of my life. ¬†I suspect something very similar will happen with Tokyo.

Siyabonga, See You Later & ‘Ello!

Over the last month I’ve stepped foot in 5 countries (4 continents), chalked up almost 50 hours in the air (possibly more in airports) and have finally made it to my next adventure: Australia!

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We left Swaziland on August 19th and boarded a bus for the longest ride of our lives (close to 12 hours) to Durban, South Africa.  The next week in Durban was fairly blissful.  We walked along the beach, visited cool markets, met up with friends, went to a South African braii, got our haircut, took part in amateur shark cage diving, went surfing (I just watched) and enjoyed some delicious seafood, hotel breakfasts and Indian cuisine.  There were a few hiccups, including a mouse-finding adventure in our hotel room, but overall it was an amazing week and a perfect end to our African experience.  Before we left for Durban, we were working really hard to finish everything for our project at our placement.  After finishing our final workshops, binders and reports, we had a last hurrah with our host family, went horseback riding, and savoured our very last chicken wrap an hour before the bus left.

From Durban I flew to Joburg, to London, to Vancouver and, finally, to Toronto.  Very exhausted, I collapsed into two weeks of visiting friends and family, celebrating birthdays, sending my sister off to university, helping mom pack and move to our condo and trying to get everything sorted out with my UBC online courses and upcoming trip to Australia.  On September 10th, I boarded my flight (with an extremely light and well-packed luggage, I might add).  Final destination: Yamba, Australia!

I landed in Sydney and took a connecting flight to the Gold Coast.  Once there, Anne picked me up and drove me to her home in Yamba.  Yamba is a small town on Australia’s east coast.  It’s known for fishing, golfing and tons of beaches, lakes and green space.  I arranged to spend my first two weeks in Australia house and dog-sitting in Yamba.  While Anne and her husband Paul are off in New Zealand, I’m hanging out with their collie, Molly, and settling into Aussie life.

Aussie life has been pretty relaxing so far.¬† I spent the first few days getting to know Molly and touring around Yamba.¬† I got to walk Molly along the dog beach and explore the ‚Äútown‚ÄĚ (approximately 2 blocks of shops) before Anne took me to the local golf course to see‚Ķ.KANGAROOS!

The roos were amazing! As soon as we walked onto the course, I started snapping away.  But we were able to get so close without the kangaroos moving at all.  At first we came across 4 of them grazing by the 8th hole.  They barely looked up; the kangaroos could care less about some over-excited Canadian hiding behind her camera.  And then we noticed a mama with a baby in her pouch. It was the cutest thing! And those pouches really stretch; there was one joey trying to jump in who I didn’t think would fit.  After a few more minutes, the roos hopped on and we took it as our cue to head out.

Since then it’s been relaxing and rainy.  I’ve enjoyed spending time with Molly and having the house to myself.  I even managed to make a pretty delicious pasta featuring the famous Yamba prawns.  Looking forward to getting ahead on these online courses, taking a river cruise, chilling by the beach and spotting some more kangaroos! 

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Author’s note: I intended to include some photos with this post but my super slow super unreliable internet is not having it. ¬†So just imagine a cute baby kangaroo, beautiful white sandy beach and adorable puppy!