Loving…

The day spent outside yesterday at the Arts & Crafts Field Trip Festival. 2013 marks the 10 year anniversary of this amazing Canadian label (which launched acts like Broken Social Scene, Feist, Metric and Bloc Party) and they put on an incredible party to celebrate. Held at Fort York in downtown Toronto, the festivities took place on Saturday from noon until 11pm, and included some amazing collaborations: Uber Toronto and Scion Canada got together to offer free rides to the festival (a sweet perk in and of itself, but there was musical trivia as you rode and getting 5 songs right meant you get a ticket upgrade to VIP – which came with its own viewing area and food stations), Toronto Underground Market offered up a ton of awesome food all over the venue (from food trucks like Gourmet Gringos and Caplansky’s to food vendors like La Carnita and The Saucy Pierogi) and the Drake General Store and various Etsy vendors were on hand in case you wanted to commemorate the day with shopping.

After a Friday that had us waking up to a very punctured car tire which had to be replaced, this festival was a welcome distraction. Oh, and beach chairs? Best investment ever for day-long events.

field trip festival

I hope everyone is having a great weekend!

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Herb-y Update

Quick update on my mini-herb garden – my thumb is actually a little green (much to my surprise)! First signs of life…now how long do I have to wait to actually use them?

herbs update

You learn something new everyday

The last month has been bananas. To the point where “Hollaback Girl” is constantly running through my head (this s*** is bananas…b-a-n-a-n-a-s). And while there is a lot going on in my life (moving next week, starting a new job, my boyfriend is moving back – for GOOD! – next month, he’s starting a new job, and we are getting a car) it feels good to know that things are changing for the better (hopefully).

For this Friday (the first Friday of spring), and in the spirit of constantly growing, I give you: My Top 5   3 “Learn as You Go” Lessons of the Last Month (or so).

1 – Don’t get too excited about the first apartment you see to rent:

Rookie mistake. We found a place to rent. The day I went to view it, it was a rainy Sunday night and I had a headache. I fell in love with it – or, at least, the idea of it. When my boyfriend and I went back about a week later to take some measurements, reality hit: I’m completely spatially challenged. The space is…smaller than I had remembered it being. Don’t get me wrong, it will be a great first apartment together and we will make some awesome memories there. We picked Leslieville and I’m really looking forward to exploring the area – it’s top of our list to buy in. But I certainly think I was more excited with the idea of being done with hunting for an apartment than with the actual space itself. Now, when we go to buy in a few months, I will be on total high alert. I’m playing hard to get with real estate from here on…

(I’m loving the tips on Apartment Therapy on how to make your rental feel like home and their ultimate renters guide)

The new 'hood!

The new ‘hood!

2 – There’s more to cars than colour:

Admittedly, I’m not that naive when it comes to cars. But until we started to seriously look at cars to buy, I hadn’t given anything else much thought. Now I’m deep in a world of insurance quotes, diesel vs gas engines, safety ratings, add-ons, heated seats and parking considerations. I’m enjoying looking around and learning what’s what in the car world, and educating myself on all the terminology. Plus it’s our first big purchase together, which is doubly exciting. But I still want it to look pretty.

(Some tips for buying a car once you’ve picked the colour can be found here and here)

Top car choice. And look at that colour! Source.

Safe and reliable. And look at that colour! Source.

3 – Dessert is meant to be shared, and only shared (apparently):

My friend and I went to dinner the other night. I had a pasta dish, she had a seafood and rice dish. And wine. We had wine. Then came time for dessert – we got the menus, discussed, and decided that we had each had rough enough weeks and were hungry enough that we could safely get our own rather than share. The waitress came back to take our order. “The giant cookie, please.” She started walking away and said “great choice, I’ll bring you two spoons.” Then we had to awkwardly break it to her – the cookie was just for me. My friend ordered her own apple pie. After my friend and I both looked at each other in shame and horror, we burst out laughing – then proceeded to finish our desserts, because That’s. What. You. Do!

(If you don’t want to share, try this easy cheesecake-in-a-mug recipe for one)   

Two spoons? Naw. Source.

Two spoons? Source.

Design Within Reach #Trending 2013

dwr

On Wednesday night, my mom and I attended a session on interior design at the one of the ubiquitous home furnishings store in Toronto, Design Within Reach. The theme of the evening was “#Trending 2013”, with 3 industry experts talking about what’s hot/on trend in design this year. On the panel was Andrew Sardone (editor of the Life & Style section for NOW Magazine), decorator Alanna Davey, and art gallery owner/designer Alison Milne. In addition to the fact that we got to spend an evening surrounded by timeless classic furniture in an awesome venue (and the fact that there were snacks and beer and wine), the panel was a really interesting way to spend a Wednesday night.

Waiting for the panel discussion to start. DWR was transformed into an auditorium with noting but designer (timeless) chairs and couches.

Waiting for the panel discussion to start. DWR was transformed into an auditorium with noting but designer (timeless) chairs and couches.

While the theme was #Trending, in reality the key message was “A Return to Rooms”. While the last few years have been all about entire house decor, bringing every aspect of a home together, all the panelists agreed that we are making a return to focusing on individual spaces and rooms. A lot of that has to do with how open life has become, especially with constant online activity and interactions – solitude, a space to call your own, is the hottest commodity right now.

A key trend that the panelists touched on is the idea of rooms becoming what they are meant to be. Kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms – rather than becoming multi-purpose entities, there seems to be a trend towards using these rooms exactly as they are meant to be used. This even goes as far as a pretty permanent design element of built-in furniture, designed to last. There’s definitely no commitment issues in interior design these days.

When it comes to the subject of materials that are on trend right now, there was a lot discussed about more earthy/natural feeling textures. Gone are the days of chrome-on-chrome – there is now a movement towards metals like brass and copper (which Alison pointed out actually work well with most decor and colour schemes, as they are neutral tones) as well as more of a “bringing the outdoors, in” mentality (living walls, brick and stone accents).

The panel also talked about my favourite part of home design – colour. The end takeaway for me was that you need to be completely comfortable in your colour choices – don’t pick something super bright because you think it’s hot, but don’t dull down your colour choices because you’re afraid it’s “too much”. Use your favourite colours as accents (be it through furniture, art on white walls, colour blocking with monochromatic or complimentary colours) or use a blush of colour in your painting or wall paper as a means to add warmth and dimension to what could be a “blah” neutral room.

I think the two biggest takeaways for me from the panel were: don’t be afraid to be bold and consciously invest in good furniture (when you can). In terms of being bold, ideas like painting or patterning a ceiling in an otherwise white room, finding modern takes on traditional patterns in furniture (like quilted chairs), or using a giant painted wood panel as a commitment-free way of adding colour to your space, all inspired me. And the panel completely reinforced the idea that, rather than buying cheap pieces to fill a space, take your time and save your money for quality, long-lasting pieces of furniture that can live on for generations.

All said, I’m now even more excited to start decorating a real home sometime soon!

DwR

Interlude

When it rains it pours. The past couple of weeks (and the next few, as far as I can tell) have been very hectic. Between selling a place, trying to find a new place to live, packing, a very hectic (and time-constraining) project at work, and my boyfriend gearing up for his move back over on this side of the province, I’ve felt a little overwhelmed and like I’m constantly running. Times like these, I eat a lot of chocolate and chocolate-themed desserts.

All this to say, I’m feeling a little like the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.

How do you deal with stress?

A few of my favourite things…

I like to catch up on my blogs whenever I have downtime and, ever since I started writing here, I’ve been a lot more diligent about flagging posts or articles that I love for inspiration. Even still, I have a ton of starred and bookmarked articles that I haven’t quite found a place for – they were really just things I liked, for whatever reason.

So as I sit in my favourite chair, browsing the things that make me smile, I thought I would share a few miscellaneous ones that I just love:

chairsThe other day, Design Milk posted these awesome dent chairs. I love that they look wrinkly (i.e. dented), but very comfy. I’m a big fan of unique chairs – they can bring a look together really nicely in any room and these ones in particular add a lovely pop of colour.

Keys to the Kitchen

I got the Keys to the Kitchen for Christmas. I absolutely love it – it’s got everything you’d ever need to know (from knife skills, to how to deal with and recognize different cuts of beef) and some stellar recipes. It’s also so gorgeous – beautiful photography, and awesome graphics – that it actually makes for good bedtime reading.

Teatro VerdeTeatro Verde is a complete gem in the city. They have quirky and unique home accessories, and one of my favourites is this vintage motel poster. I love wall art that draws you in and stands out in a room.

EQ3I absolutely adore the look of ladder shelves. This one from EQ3 is deep enough that you can actually use it for books or plants or even hold towels in a bathroom. They’re great because they are space-savers (until that mansion comes, I have to look for anything that does the trick without taking up an entire room) and fit that “rustic-chic” vibe I so love.

kate spade

This Kate Spade outfit makes me happy because it is gorgeous and gets me dreaming of glorious spring weather…

And these are a few of my (many) favourite things.

72 Hours in Ottawa

Now that my boyfriend and I are coming to the end of the long-distance part of our long-distance relationship, I’m starting to learn to appreciate the perks of it a little more. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that the train trips, scheduled weekends and countdowns between visits will soon end. But there is a certain romanticism – even fun – that only seeing each other once every couple of weekends brings.

Take this weekend, for example. Because of Ontario’s Family Day long weekend (thank you, Dalton McGuinty!), I was able to spend an extra day in Ottawa, and it was a fantastic 72 hours. But…what do you do when you’re visiting your long-distance boyfriend for a longer stretch than normal?

Friday Night: The fun began when I arrived, to this…

photo (46)

As a (very nice and highly unexpected) surprise, I was treated to freshly shucked oysters, my favourite non-meal meal of charcuterie and cheese, and a nice bottle (ok, two) of wine. Plus, he had made a playlist for the occasion – one thing everyone needs to know about me is that I’m a sucker for a good playlist (I’m not nearly as devoted to them as John Cusack’s character in High Fidelity, but I get his obsession).

Saturday: Ottawa has an incredible attraction that nothing in Toronto can ever match – the Rideau. Whether you’re one for skating and winter activities (or not), it’s a gorgeous part of the city, a little haven that just lights up on clear winter days.

photo (45)

This weekend happened to be Winterlude, so there were lots of activities, kids, ice sculptures and skates all over the place.

photo (44)

As I’d mentioned before, there are many good places to eat in Ottawa, and Saturday night, we tried a new one that (almost) makes the list. We went to Navarra Restaurant in the Market – a tapas-style, highly rated, but tiny restaurant. Dinner overall was good – we shared a foie gras appetizer, something called a “Mexican Bricklayer Dip” (kind of a spicy guac, with cactus in it!), and then shared mains of duck belly and an interesting take on penne carbonara (with crispy pork belly in place of bacon). Dessert was kind of a miss for me (with a spicy chocolate panna cotta) and a total win for him (citrus-infused creme brulee), and the wine/cocktails we had were great. The service wasn’t stellar (we awkwardly waited around in the doorway for a few minutes while our table was getting ready), which made it sadly less than perfect.

Sunday/Monday:

My favourite part of most long weekends is the implied approval at being totally lazy – while we went out to watch a movie, we spent most of the time inside (aka away from the cold), just hanging out. Pizza for dinner, apartment hunting online, another movie…the works! And these are the moments that I always look forward to when visiting and that I miss most when we’re apart. It’s nice to be able to just span time with someone (a la Vincent Gallo in “Buffalo ’66”).

All this is to say – I had a really good weekend (even though it already feels like it was eons ago…).

Neighbourhood Hunting

You know the saying “Location! Location! Location!”? It’s typically used in the context of picking an area for your business, or shooting a movie, but in reality it’s crucial when deciding where you will live. I’ve lived within a subway stop of my childhood home for my entire adolescence, and even when I moved out on my own as an adult, I lived a 15 minute walk away from my old house. It wasn’t anything that I did consciously, it just so happened. As a result, I’ve grown very used and accustomed to the 4 square blocks around my place. But now that it’s time to move on, I’m making the very deliberate decision to spread my wings and fly to a new neighbourhood. Toronto is full of great areas, and this is the perfect opportunity to explore a new one.

Top neighbourhood contenders - the Annex, the Danforth, Leslieville and Little Italy

Top neighbourhood contenders – the Annex, the Danforth, Leslieville and Little Italy

I will admit, this is giving me a bit of anxiety – we are always anxious about the unknown – but I’m also feeling a bit of a sense of adventure. And overwhelmedness (a word I just made up). There is a lot to consider when choosing a neighbourhood, especially if you’re looking to buy – things like will you have kids while you are there and, if so, what are the schools like? What happens if you switch jobs – what will the commute be like/how close are you to transit? How dog-friendly is the neighbourhood? What kind of people tend to live there? Is it an up-and-coming neighbourhood or a totally settled area? How long are you planning on living there? And the list goes on and on…

Thankfully, before we buy we will be renting for a while, so we can test-drive our top neighbourhood and see what it’s like. But in the meantime, as the time to move approaches, this is a decision that requires some thought and research. I’ve found 3 great resources that can help make the decision.

 

But the one thing we will start doing is actually visiting the neighbourhoods for lunch or dinner on weekends in order to get a sense of the vibe and character.

Oh, and in the case of inspiring moving music, I’ve been listening to this as I search for places because 1) it’s got the word “neighbourhood” in the title and 2) it’s a fantastic song.

 

Love Day, 2013

It’s coming up on Valentine’s and you all know what that means – the start of Hallmark holidays! I actually quite like Valentine’s day. Don’t get me wrong, though – I’m not in the camp of needing a dozen red roses, chocolates in a heart-shaped box, a fancy dinner and over-the-top card. In fact, my Valentine’s Days with my boyfriend weren’t, on the face of them, anything out of the ordinary. Last year, because we were apart on the actual day, my boyfriend sent me a card in the mail (in the physical mail, which, given the connectedness  to technology we all have these days, is romantic in and of itself) and the year before, we watched hockey and ate homemade chocolate-covered strawberries together. This year? I’m heading to Ottawa for a long weekend (thank you, Family Day!), and we will try out a tapas restaurant called Navarra.

Despite the seemingly casual Valentine’s we have spent together, it is a day I look forward to spend with him every year. When it comes to February 14th, I’m a firm believer that it’s not worth the stress and pressure to have the “perfect Valentine’s” when all you really need is to be together, without interruptions (cliche aside). And even though we should always tells those we love that we appreciate them, this particular day always gives me that extra push to show how much I care. I mean, really, who can avoid all that marketing pressure?

On that love note, here are a few love-themed things I adore…Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

valentines day

1. Martha Stewart’s Valentine Heart Pops
2. Quirky and fabulous cards (if you feel like using snail mail, maybe) from Oh My Word
3. Bacon-themed e-card from SomeEcards
4. DIY Heart Dice for games night via Design Sponge
5. Wearing your heart on your sleeve…and all over, from French Connection
In the centre – sparkler heart!

Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” (classic from “Say Anything” AND my parents’ wedding song):

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros “Home” (no purer sentiment, but so upbeat):

Movin’ On Out

View from my condo

View from my condo

 

As of 2 days ago, the condo is officially on the market to be sold. I know – what’s the big deal, right? Well this move signifies the start of a whole new (sometimes kind of scary) chapter in my life. After living on my own in this condo for nearly 5 years, I’m getting ready to pack condo living in for (hopefully) buying a house with my boyfriend this year. Oh my god.

The selling process is very interesting and something I have never been through. Staging a condo for viewings is fun (albeit a lot of work). I think we did a pretty bang up job with mine, to the point where I almost (almost) don’t want to move. It’s also fascinating to me how attached we can get to our houses. If you ask me, this condo is the best. thing. ever. And anyone who doesn’t want to buy it is just silly. But then again, everyone thinks the same thing about their own place.

The most eye-opening part of this whole thing, though, has been the overwhelming amount of information that you need to know or consider when buying/selling. I was shielded from it as a kid, but man oh man, is there a lot to think about. There is also a lot of math involved, which is not my strong suit (thank you, Excel!). Not to mention the market – the Toronto housing landscape right now can be hit or miss. Houses are often going for well over asking these days, and it can certainly put a strain on finances (and financing). Plus, there are a ton of real estate acronyms to learn (what is an ELF?)

All in all, this is a really exciting, albeit stressful (you guys, it is really hard to keep the space you live in, in pristine shape 24/7 while you have showings) time. The thing I’m most excited about in this whole process, though? Decorating a new place!

My home for the past 4 and a half years.

My home sweet home  for the past 4 and a half years.