The Mommy & Me Adventure Express

We just got back from our latest trip: The Mommy & Me Adventure Express!

The MMAE was a trip down the west coast by train with me, Colin, my mom and his mom. Adorable, right? Not only were we going old school and travelling by train but we were doing it with our moms. None of us had travelled extensively by train before (actually, I did a train through France and an overnight in Spain) and our moms had only met once before. But despite that, the trip was a huge success!

We started our adventure bright and early, arriving at Pacific Central Station for 5:30am on September 15th. We boarded our train and got to watch the sun rise over the coast. It was stunning!

Train views! Excuse my terrible phone camera…

Portland

Many hours later, we arrived in Portland, Oregon – our first stop of the trip! We took an Uber to our AirBnB, an adorable basement suite just a few minutes from downtown. That night we walked over to the local Hillside area and had a delicious Mexican feast (complete with giant margaritas, of course) and locally made ice cream. Yum!

Hanging out with the mascot of the Mexican restaurant

The next day we headed out to pick up our rental car and then spent the rest of the day exploring Portland. We hit up Powell Books, which was amazing. It was a bit overwhelming; I can’t imagine actually just browsing for a random book in there. Next we walked over to Voodoo Donuts, but couldn’t justify the line (don’t worry, we get to Voodoo eventually). So we settled for some delicious oysters and a glass of wine.

Powell Books!

Next up was the Saturday Market. By the river, a huge multi-block market sets up every Saturday selling food, crafts, clothing and everything else. It was awesome! We enjoyed browsing, picked up a few things, and then hit the food stalls when we got hungry.

Mom enjoying her mango on a stick!

After eating, we walked over to Old Town Brewery, which is supposedly haunted. It wasn’t quite as eerie or tourist friendly as we were hoping. In fact, the only creepy part was the bathroom. But we enjoyed a tasting flight of beer nonetheless.

By this point, my mom and I had pretty much converted Colin and Margie (his mom) to our preferred family-style sharing techniques. And by that, I mean that instead of each ordering our own beer or even splitting up the tasting flight so everyone got their own beer, we took each tiny tasting glass and passed it down the line, each taking a sip. We all gave our rating and the person who enjoyed the beer the most, got to finish it off. Genius, no?

After our beers, it was on to even more food (you’ll notice a theme over this trip). Our first Uber driver recommended the Portland City Grill, a restaurant on the 30th floor of the US Bancorp building. We arrived just before the 4:00pm happy hour to find a line up in the lobby. The elevators don’t start operating until 4:00pm but we learned quickly that you have to get there early if you want a window seat.

Despite being in the second or third elevator car up, we didn’t manage to snag a coveted window seat. But we did get a booth with some views. It was awesome to see the city and the happy hour food was really yummy. Would’ve been better if Portland wasn’t so smokey, but it was still great.

After eating, we walked to the downtown area and decided to pop into Target for a quick shop. Of course, we ended up spending a good 2+ hours at Target. They have everything! I honestly could’ve spent a day there. But we all packed only carry-on sized luggage, so we had to be careful not to overdo it.

With full stomachs and full bags of Target goods, we walked back to our car and drove home. We watched some Netflx and then headed to bed.

Florence/Eugene

The next morning, we got up bright and early to start our day. The plan was to drive down to Florence, about three hours southwest of Portland, to check out the famous sea lion caves and sand dunes. Then we would drive east an hour to Eugene for lunch and to catch our train.

Sadly, the weather and the roads weren’t so cooperative. The way down to Florence was pretty much one single laned winding road. And while the scenery was nice, save for the rain clouds, the car sickness was not.

Even worse, there were no sea lions to be seen in the caves! But since we had driven all that way, we headed down to the cave anyway. Even without the sea lions, it was a very impressive cave. And at the viewing points, we saw a few sea lions playing in the waves and a whale!

Sea Lion Caves

Walking the path down to the cave

No sea lions – but still a cool cave!

We didn’t have time to do the sand dunes – and weren’t so interested in doing them in the rain. So we went into the old town of Florence for lunch (such a cute spot!) and then drove some more winding roads to Eugene. In Eugene, we stopped into the other Voodoo Donuts location where we only had to wait behind five people, instead of 50. But even with five in line, it was a long wait. We picked out a few interesting looking ones and enjoyed them on the train. Like many people had told me, the donuts were a bit overrated. Or maybe we just picked the wrong ones. I liked them, but I wouldn’t stand in line for them.

And then it was back on the train! We boarded our train around 5:00pm in Eugene. This time, we were in Business Class where we got a couple seats each to ourselves that reclined way back and had a foot rest. It was almost as comfortable as you can be on a train.

The train experience was interesting. The WiFi was spotty and the steak dinner was scary. But the scenery was awesome. We sat in the Observatory Car for a while, which is all windows, and it was so cool to see the sights of Oregon passing around us. Of course, sleeping in reclined seats on a moving train right next to the dining car doors that kept slamming wasn’t ideal for a restful night. But it wasn’t the worst sleep I’ve ever had!

The Observatory Car

San Francisco

We pulled into Emeryville around 8:00am where we got off the train to take a bus into San Francisco. Our bus was supposed to drop us off in SF for 9:30, giving us an hour to make it to our Alcatraz tour at 10:30. Sadly, that didn’t happen. The bus took FOREVER to leave the station and then forever loading and unloading people at each stop before ours. When we did arrive in SF, we had to run to drop off our bags, use the bathroom and rush onto the boat. We just made it!

This was my 3rd visit to Alcatraz in the last five years. But I still really enjoyed it! The tour was the same but there were lots of parts I had forgotten. And as a cool bonus, an ex-prisoner of Alcatraz was in the gift shop signing copies of his book! We bought a copy so it will be interesting to learn more about his perspective.

Alcatraz in the background!

After Alcatraz, we met back up with my mom and headed to Boudin for the famed clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. You can’t come to SF and not have a Boudin bread bowl! We then walked over to Pier 39 to see the sea lions and do a bit of browsing. The sea lions were so adorable! It totally made up for missing them in Florence.

Next, we went to Enterprise to pick up our rental car. It was convenient having a car, but such a headache to rent one. Once we finally got everything sorted there, we headed to Lombard Street to show Margie the most crooked street in the world. And then it was on to Ghiradelli Square for some more shopping!

After shopping, the last iconic SF site on our list was the Golden Gate Bridge. It was super foggy in the morning so we hadn’t been able to see the bridge yet. But because the weather in SF changes every time you blink, it was nice and clear when we decided to drive over. We drove over to the other side of the bridge and checked out the views from Battery Spencer. I’ve never been to that viewpoint before. It was GORGEOUS! It’s clear to see why all the SF postcards get their shots from this angle. The wind was insane but it was so worth it.

Can you tell it was windy?

We then drove to dinner. Colin and I wanted to take our moms to Surisan, the Korean fusion restaurant we had really enjoyed during our July visit to SF. The moms loved it too! It was a delicious dinner and we got to try lots of new things. My mom liked it so much that she’s heading back again on Friday.

Napa Valley/Sonoma

After dinner, we drove out to our hotel in Vallejo, which is just outside Napa. The hotel had some issues (broken phones, broken toilets) but it was nice to be in a big king bed, especially after spending the night before sleeping on the train.

The next morning, after breakfast at the hotel we drove out to Artesa, a winery in Napa that boasted the best scenic views and a reasonable tour price. We were blown away by the views. It was so stunning! Artesa is up on a hill so you can see all the wineries in the area.

How gorgeous is Artesa?

After picking our jaws up off the floor, we went inside to join our tour. We got to see the cellars, bottling process and hear from someone who had worked in wine production for 10 years. It was interesting to learn a bit more about wine. We also got to do a tasting of five wines, plus one to drink during the tour. Sadly, the red wines were wasted on me but I’m sure my mom and Margie enjoyed my leftovers. We also met a very sweet couple from Florida who were heading to Vancouver and Victoria.

We drove out to Sonoma for lunch at The Girl & The Fig. It was such a cute place for lunch! We sat in their beautiful little back patio area and enjoyed really yummy meals (steak, scallops, duck confit!). After lunch, Colin and Margie checked out the square while my mom and I indulged in some chocolate-y goodness.

Next was a quick trip to the Cornerstone, a nearby outdoor mall. It was a bit out of our price range ($50 placemats? Hard pass) and we were losing steam, so we didn’t spend too long there. We headed back to the hotel for a bit of a break.

For dinner, we had a mish mash of leftovers from Surisan and our take-out order from Red Lobster. It was way too much food, as usual. We had also stopped at Kohls while we waited for our Red Lobster order, and couldn’t wait to go back in the morning.

Alameda

The next morning, us ladies got up a little bit early (well, early for me) so we could get to Kohls for their 9:00am opening. That gave us one hour of shopping before we had to be on the road at 10:00am. We walked out at around 10:15am with baby clothes, leggings, shoes, dresses and more. A successful shoppng trip indeed! I think a Bellingham trip is in order soon because there are just some things in the States that we can’t get up here. And now that we’re moving, there’s so many home goods I want to buy!

We then drove to Alameda, a suburb of SF, where we were meeting our family friend, Kaitlyn, for lunch. Kaitlyn is from Toronto but is out in Alameda for a semester of co-op. We met her at Hang Ten to enjoy a seafood boil lunch.

It was Margie and Colin’s first time doing the seafood boil, and they loved it. We all did! It’s so fun to eat with your hands and, of course, the fresh and flavourful seafood doesn’t hurt. We finished off our big meal with cute little macaron ice cream sandwiches.

Seafood boil!

And then it was time for the Mommy & Me Adventure Express to come to an end. We said goodbye to Kaity and drove back to SF. We dropped my mom off at her AirBnB (which was in a classic SF building with views of Alcatraz!) – she is staying in SF a few more days, going to Santa Barbara, then to Santa Monica and flying home to Toronto from LA. We returned our rental car and took an Uber out to the airport. Sadly, our flight was delayed by a couple of hours, so we just got to hang out at the airport for a while. We finally arrived in Vancouver around 9:30pm.


The Mommy & Me Adventure Express trip was so much fun. It was very cool to take the train and see parts of the west coast I’ve never seen before. Highlights definitely have to be the food – we ate so well! And I still have to say that SF is my favourite city in the States. If I had to live anywhere in the US, it would be San Francisco (as long as someone else can pay my rent to live in the city).

Of course, it was awesome to spend that much time with my Moo (who I’m sure is reading this. Hi Mom!). It’s been a while since I’ve seen her last so it was great to spend time with her here in Vancouver and then on our train trip. The whole trip was her idea and her planning, so thank you Moo for doing such a great job! It was a blast!

And now it’s back to real life! Which for us means all of the crazyness of moving into our first home in a couple of weeks. There’s been lots going on with that (which probably means another Becoming a Homeowner blog post coming your way) and it’s getting so real. We’ll have the keys in just over two weeks!

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Five Days in Frisco

Colin and I just got back from “frolicking in Frannie” – our trip to San Francisco!

We’ve been looking forward to SF for a while now. I bought Colin tickets to the SF production of Hamilton (our musical obsession) way back in December when they went on sale. I gave him the tickets for his birthday in March and we’ve been planning our trip ever since. Even though this was my third time to San Francisco, I discovered there was still so much to see and do. I love the city by the bay and if I had to move to an American city, it would probably be this one!

Here’s an overview of our five days full of Frisco!

Day 1:

We arrived on Friday after what felt like a full day of skytrains, getting through customs, flying and finally taking an Uber to our hotel. We don’t have Uber in Vancouver so we were psyched to use it in SF. Once we arrived at the Fisherman’s Wharf Marriott (we scored an awesome deal on Priceline), we headed right down to the wharf for a famous bread bowl of clam chowder. Colin LOVED the Boudin Bakery sourdough!

If you squint, you can see apx 6 sea lions behind us

After dinner, we walked over to Pier 39 to see the sea lions and the shops. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many sea lions in the summer. And then it was back to our hotel for a change of clothes – I still can’t believe how chilly it gets in SF! We were in California in July and I was freezing in long pants and a sweater. We put on our warmest and headed out for ice cream sundaes at Ghiradelli’s. We both forgot that we are pretty lactose intolerant so those sundaes didn’t sit too well.

Day 2:

Started our next day with brunch at a nearby diner. After that we headed to Pier 41 where the Alcatraz cruises depart. Unfortunately, we had not booked ahead and were informed that the next available tour wasn’t until August 20th (this was July 15). Whoops! So instead we headed for Coit Tower. Google Maps said it was a 12 minute walk. They neglected to mention that it was also 450 steps up to the base of the tower. My legs were DEAD! Luckily, to get up Coit Tower itself you take an elevator, so my legs got a break. The views were awesome! It’s a San Francisco landmark I’ve always known about but this was the first trip I actually went to visit it.

View from the top! With a foggy Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.

Coit Tower!

After taking in the view we walked back down the hill and hung out in Washington Square admiring a beautiful church while we waited on a table at Tony’s. 30 minutes later we were enjoying a delicious wood-fire pizza and a giant meatball. YUM!

We didn’t go for a ride but we did pose next to a cable car – that counts, right?

From there we decided to walk through Chinatown to Union Square, taking in lots of SF sights. We took a break at the Starbucks in Macy’s after doing some window shopping. Next was an impromptu wardrobe change when we went to Target and bought new outfits. And then we took an Uber over to West Portal where my friend, Robert, is a chef at a little diner. We had a delicious dinner there and then visited crooked Lombard Street before getting back to our hotel. It was a busy day!

Hello, Lombard!

Day 3:

Day 3 was our Golden Gate day! We started our visit on Baker Beach with awesome views of the Golden Gate Bridge. I wish we had thought to bring a blanket and a picnic so we could have enjoyed it more. Then we moved on to Sutro Baths, another SF first for me. These are the ruins of old public baths that existed in SF before the 1906 earthquake. There were also awesome lookout points, caves and Seal Rock (with sadly, no seals).

From there we drove over to Golden Gate Park (which is actually nowhere close to the bridge). We walked around Stow Lake and saw waterfalls, gardens and the California Academy of Sciences. We had lunch in the park and then walked out on the other end into The Haight. I love this unique neighbourhood of San Francisco. Colin and I both admitted that it was probably a little too cool for us, but we appreciated walking through nonetheless.

Back at the hotel, we got changed and then went out for dinner. We headed to Surisan, a Korean fusion place by our hotel. And it was DELICIOUS! Probably the best meal we had all trip. The atmosphere and decor were really cool and all of the dishes were so tasty. With full bellies (and light wallets), we headed back to our room for the season premiere of Game of Thrones! Yes, the Marriott had HBO!

SO YUM!

Day 4:

Day 4 was my birthday! I turned the big 2-5! Unfortunately, it was also the day that I woke up with an awful head cold. I had a runny nose and watery eyes all day – it was the worst! But despite my gross-ness, we trekked out to enjoy the day. We started with breakfast at IHOP and then took the ferry across the bay to Sausalito.

Sausalito is a super cute little waterfront town with lots of great shops. I’m sure if I was feeling better I would’ve enjoyed it more. We shopped around a little and then went into a fancy restaurant for drinks and an appetizer. We took the ferry back, picked up a late lunch at the San Francisco Ferry Building (awesome food options!) and then returned to the hotel so I could have a Nyquil-induced nap.

Colin woke me around 6pm and we made our way to the Giants baseball game we had gotten tickets for. I’m not a huge baseball fan but it was the only day the Giants were playing while we were in town and live sports games are always a good time. It was a fun evening, even though I was still sniffly and the Giants lost. Back at the hotel, Colin held up a video of a candle behind a mini cheesecake for me to make a birthday wish before passing out.

Day 5:

Our last full day in San Francisco was the reason we had come in the first place: Hamilton! We started off our day by going for brunch at Mama’s in North Beach. Mama’s is a famous brunch place that, according to the lady in line in front of us, is always lined up no matter what time of day and is Michelin rated! We waited 90 mins from the time we got in line until the time food arrived on our table. Colin even went to get us pastries to tide us over while we stood in line. The food was great but, if I’m being honest, not worth the wait.

Worth the wait?

After Mama’s, we had to lie down in the park for a little while to aid in our digestion. Then it was off to walk through some neighbourhoods and explore some more. We started in the Castro where we got to see the home and camera shop of Harvey Milk. Then we walked through the Mission and Delores Park. And then we took an Uber to San Francisco City Hall – the most beautiful building! It was so gorgeous and we got to see a few couples taking their wedding photos there.

How gorgeous is this building? The inside is even prettier!

We grabbed a beer and then a quick bite before it was Hamilton time! Colin and I (and everyone else in the theatre) were so excited to be there. Even though our tickets were for the very back row, the show was amazing. Everyone was on the edge of their seats – the energy was so electric. It’s the kind of musical where you cheer, laugh, cry and dance in your seat the whole time. It was 100% the best part of our trip and I would give my right arm to go see Hamilton again.

HAMILTON!!!!!

Leaving Day:

On our last morning in SF, we thought it would save time to get room service breakfast delivered to our room. Sadly, we didn’t read the fine print about service charges and delivery charges and ended up paying $81 USD for breakfast! Not a great note for our last morning. We checked out and then headed down to Anchor Brewing Company where we had booked a brewery tour. It was fun to learn about America’s oldest craft brewery and see how they make their products. But I’m not a huge beer fan to begin with, so I think all of the free samples were probably wasted on me.

After the brewery tour and one too many sample beers, we went across the street for sushi lunch. And then it was time to Uber to the airport and head home! We got through security with little trouble and were back in Vancouver before 7:00pm. And by 9:00pm we were reunited with Ellie and at home on our couch watching Parks n’ Rec!


An awesome trip to San Francisco for sure! We had a great time and were so psyched to finally see Hamilton after singing along to the soundtrack for the last year and a bit. And we’ll be back in SF for a day in September with my mom when we visit Portland and Napa Valley! But I think that’s it for summer trips for us – save maybe a couple days in Kelowna when Colin’s sister in law has her baby.

Down by the bay

This past weekend I decided to tack on a few vacations days to our Family Day holiday and spend them down in San Francisco (aka Frannie) with some lovely ladies who I first met in Amsterdam a year ago!

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Carlie and I ventured down from Vancouver to meet our friends, Stephanie and Candy, who both live in Frannie and go to San Francisco State.  I’ve been to Frannie before but it was Carlie’s first time. And lucky for us, we had our own tour guides! It was the perfect way to see the city: enjoying the tourist highlights while also getting a bit of a local perspective. And while the forecast called for mostly rain, we did luck out with some awesome rays of sun. My blissful 5 days in Frannie were filled with friends, sights, fabulous food, photos and so many laughs.  It was an awesome way to catch up with people I haven’t seen for a while and recharge before going into a pretty busy stretch at work.

And here is Frannie in photos:

Alcatraz!

Alcatraz!

Chilling with the sea lions on Pier 39!

Chilling with the sea lions on Pier 39!

It doesn't get more Frannie than clam chowder in a bread bowl on Fisherman's Wharf

It doesn’t get more Frannie than clam chowder in a bread bowl on Fisherman’s Wharf

JUMP! Our classic "jumping shot" from Europe made it to the Golden Gate Bridge.

JUMP! Our classic “jumping shot” from Europe made it to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Take me back to the beach please!

Take me back to the beach please!

<3

According to Candy, the most authentic Mexican tacos in all of SF!

According to Candy, the most authentic Mexican tacos in all of SF!

Welcome to the Castro district!

Welcome to the Castro district!

That one time we ended up at a comedy show in a hidden bar in the Mission

That one time we ended up at a comedy show in a hidden bar in the Mission

One of my favourite Frannie neighbourhoods with my other favourite: a puppy!

One of my favourite Frannie neighbourhoods with my other favourite: a puppy!

Winding down Lombard Street!

Winding down Lombard Street!

Golden girls by the Golden Gate

Golden girls by the Golden Gate

The stunning view from Twin Peaks! Our first sight of Frannie was off to a good start :)

The stunning view from Twin Peaks! Our first sight of Frannie was off to a good start 🙂

The gorgeous Moraga steps!

The gorgeous Moraga steps!

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.

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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 🙂

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!

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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 🙂 

2012: A Year in Review

As I finished my final final (at 8:30am, mind you), I was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief: first term is over! Christmas is 10 days away! I’ll be home in 3 days! And the world might end in 6… 😉

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Looking back, this year has been kind of crazy and filled with many firsts for me.

In January I was returning for my second semester of second year and of advising. I was comfortable with my job and with school…probably a little too comfortable, in hindsight. I wasn’t motivated and I really wasn’t happy with what I was doing. It was around then that I started to unearth my passion for travel. I started this blog, stayed up late searching for flight deals instead of studying for midterms and began dreaming my great escape. I had applied to be an English tutor in Italy for the summer, which unfortunately didn’t pan out (they did offer me a position in late August), but it turns out it was for the best.

In February I got my first taste of solo travel when I spent a day alone in San Francisco! It was pretty uneventful but I impressed myself by getting from the airport to the hotel, dining solo and finding the sea lions on Fisherman’s Wharf. Looking back at it now, I can’t believe I went from 24hrs alone in the States to 3 weeks alone in Europe in only 4 months! My mom showed up the next afternoon and we spent the next few days together. It was a great escape from school/advising and I kind of fell in love with SF.  The city is gorgeous and I can’t wait to visit “Frannie” again.

Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco

Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco

March was Musical Madness Month! The residence musical I was helping to run had our 3-night run and it went so well! I was really proud of my cast, crew and colleagues – though I’m pretty sure I didn’t touch any school work for most of March.

Urinetown The Musical!

Urinetown The Musical!

School winded down in April and after finals ended and I moved out of Shuswap, it was time to face reality: I was homeless and jobless! It wasn’t as dire as all that, but I had been hoping for a tutoring job in Italy or cushy office job in Vancouver.  Instead, as April ended I boarded a flight home to Toronto with no real job plans.

In May I was able to catch up with my friends and family at home. I spent a lot of time applying to jobs online and managed to get quite a few writing gigs.  Unfortunately, most of the gigs were unpaid, but the experience was great! It was exciting to be doing something I actually loved.  Still, my days felt a little empty.

By some miracle, I found the world’s greatest flight deal and in June I packed my bags, booked hostels and trains, said my goodbyes and jumped on a flight to Europe! I blogged daily while I worked my way through a whirlwind tour of London, Paris, Nice, Barcelona, Madrid and Lisbon.  It was an insane 3 weeks and I still can’t believe how quickly it came together and how much I managed to squeeze in. I still shake my head sometimes when I see photos I took of the Eiffel Tower or remember that I stood outside Buckingham Palace waving at The Queen and her family. It was my first solo adventure and one I’m never going to forget. I can’t wait to go back!

Mastering the art of the selfie in front of London's Tower Bridge

Mastering the art of the selfie in front of London’s Tower Bridge

In July I began working as an Editorial Intern at The Kit Magazine. It was a great job and I really got to immerse myself in the magazine culture. Not only did I get to handle swanky clothing samples and luxe beauty products, speak with top brands and retailers, but I got to write and see my work in print and online! And in July I joined a new decade: my 20s!

August started off with an amazing family trip to Atlantis in The Bahamas.  It was nice to spend time with my sister who had been in Quebec for the month of July and just relax the 5 of us.  After that I had a few more weeks in Toronto before I headed back to the west coast for Advisor Orientation in Kelowna.

Me and my sibs at Atlantis

Me and my sibs at Atlantis

September was pretty much just a blur. I was settling back into advising with a new team, new floor, new house and new residence area.  Classes started up again and I was actually excited about my courses.  Ambitiously I joined the Pre-Law Society and Psychology Students Association to see if my future lay in either of those directions. FYI: Psychology has been taken off the table. Law is still in the cards along with Journalism. 

Mawder wins Vanier Olympics!

Mawder wins Vanier Olympics!

In October my mom came out to visit me and we had ourselves a Thanksgiving Staycation. It was so nice to see my mom and relax away from school/work. The rest of the month consisted of midterms, papers and handing out candy to adorable children at the Acadia Park residence on Halloween. Oh, and I casually won $100 from a random draw costume contest.

In November I found out that I had been accepted to an International Service Learning program and would be spending Summer 2013 in Mbabane, Swaziland! I’m so excited about this because I’ll get to go to an un-visited continent, embrace a brand new culture and have the opportunity to work at an HIV/AIDS advocacy organization. In November I also went to Disney On Ice (pure magic), the Twilight premiere and our Winter Formal in residence.

All Disney princesses get their own Lego carriages.

All Disney princesses get their own Lego carriages.

Our team looking classy

Our team looking classy

15 days into December and I’ve already accomplished quite a bit! I wrote my 5 finals, celebrated birthdays with good friends, visited The Vancouver Christmas Market and got a co-op job for next term! I’m so excited that in January I will be working for one of my favourite organizations, Free The Children! I’m joining the team as a youth programming intern and will be helping make the first US We Day come to life. The whole thing came about rather quickly but I’m so stoked! It’ll also be a really cool change to be on a co-op job term instead of just school.

Looking ahead: The next few days will be full of Christmas shopping, packing and taking care of all the home stuff I’ve ignored during finals (dishes, laundry, etc.). And then on the 18th I fly back to Toronto for 12 days! I’m really excited to see my friends and family.  I’m also hoping the cold holds off and it only snows once or twice. I’ll be filling out my application for exchange as well over the break. My plan is to go to The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia in January 2014. It’s a pretty cool feeling to look ahead and know that 2013 will be filled with a lot of happy moments: I’ll still be RA-ing with my amazing team and house. I’ll be working for Free The Children.  I’m seeing Lady Gaga on the 12th! I’m going to Africa in June! And I’ll probably be living on my own in Vancouver at some point. My expectations at the start of 2012 were vastly different from how the year turned out.  There were some low points but there were way more highlights and reasons to feel so incredibly lucky.  I’ve ended the year on quite the high note and I’ve got a great feeling about 2013.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!