Wednesday, September 29, 2010

lost and left behind

Having stayed in several hotels since I was young, I’m not a stranger to a home away from home during my holidays. And having traveled with several different people, I’ve come to learn that everyone has their own way of living life on the road whether it’s unpacking everything as soon as you arrive or spending your stay living out of your luggage. No matter how you choose to live or relax while away, it’s probably not uncommon to forget a shirt stashed deep in a drawer or a shampoo bottle still in the shower, right? But would you forget a shark in your bathtub, your pet cockatoo or €20,000 in cash? These are only three of the top ten strangest items found left behind by the members of Great Hotels of the World. I can’t say I’ve ever had any of those items with me on a vacation but you can bet I wouldn’t be leaving them behind.
Leaving something behind is just not an option when I go away. If you’re anything like me, you can’t help but check, double check and triple check every corner, drawer, nook and cranny to make sure that every item you came with has made it’s way back into your suitcase. Even when I don’t use a drawer or open a closet during my stay, I won’t feel right about leaving if I haven’t taken a few peaks inside just to make sure my pants didn’t miraculously grow feet and walk their way into the closet. It doesn’t make sense but it’s what I do. While I may be a compulsive closet checker, I get a sense of satisfaction knowing that I haven’t left a sock sitting under the bed or a towel drying on the balcony. And even if I always get the feeling that I’m forgetting something, I can at least be satisfied knowing that I made a valiant effort to repack all my possessions…especially that pesky shark or my pair of false teeth!

Have you ever left anything in a hotel room? Do you live out of your luggage or unpack everything?

Monday, September 27, 2010

guilty as charged

I have a confession to make.
I’m not proud of it, I’ve only become involved recently and I don’t like to tell too many people. It’s not something that is a big part of my life but when I’m into it, it’s hard to break away. I have to confess…I like The Real Housewives shows. Judge me all you want ( I deserve it!) but there is something so captivating about these women and their network of family and friends that seem to live a life so completely different from anything I’ve ever experienced. Getting a glimpse into their world of luxurious spending, catty gossiping and daily drama is my unexplainable guilty pleasure.
I think we all need an escape like my love for the ladies of Orange County, New Jersey or Atlanta – not only for the downtime it provides to tune in to the TV and tune out of my brain but also because it presents a far fetched 'reality' that allows me to either laugh at the outrageous or dream of the lavish. I don’t watch and wish I was living the life of any of these women but it easily draws me in so that I’m involved in someone else’s life and I can step away from my own. With all the stresses that we deal with on a daily or weekly basis, I think it’s necessary to have a guilty pleasure. Something that isn’t our norm, something that allows us to treat ourselves, something that puts a smile on our face if only because it’s different from our everyday occurrences. And sometimes it takes something a little unusual or out of the ordinary to help us realize that our lives are full and fabulous. So as much as I’m not proud of my current choice in entertainment, I’m happy I have it. I'm happy I have something that lets me unwind and whether it’s a trashy tv show, a romance novel or a piece of chocolate cake, I hope we all have something to indulge in that takes us away from our day-to-day lives.

Care to share your guilty pleasure? What allows you to escape the everyday?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

fading into fall

I’m one of those stubborn summer lovers who refuses to believe that the summer ever ends. Even as the cool breezes blow in and the leaves begin to fall from the trees, I’m still holding on to the sunshine with two flip-flopped feet planted firmly on the ground. However, considering it is now officially fall, I think I’m ready to say so long to the summer and embrace all the wonderful things that this time of year brings.
Considering I’m a little late to the party when it comes to welcoming fall, all the things I love about autumn won’t come as a surprise. There is something special about a cool, crisp fall day with the fallen leaves dancing in the wind that makes me want to throw on a warm sweater with my favourite scarf and frolic through the beautiful orange, red and yellow. Follow the frolicking with a large mug of hot tea while I curl up under a soft blanket with a good book and suddenly saying goodbye to summer doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. The thought of warm fireplaces, cute jackets and Thanksgiving turkeys are enough to make me happy that the end of September is here - autumn seems to equal being cozy and that’s really nothing to complain about. As I break out my thick socks and add hot soup back onto my dinner menu, I am easily reminded why there are so many fans of the fall. As much as I will always be sad to see summer go, having four different seasons and being able to celebrate the change between each of them is something I truly look forward to. While I may be sad to pack away my beach towels and sunhats, knowing that blankets and toques will be keeping me cozy for the next few months is enough to keep me comforted on these first few cool days of the season.

What are your favourite fall things? Is fall your favourite season?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

happy birthday turbo

Today, my mom celebrates her 38th birthday.
She’s been celebrating her 38th birthday for the last 14 years but you’d never know it. She is one of my closest friends, my favourite shopping partner and a truly amazing mother. My mom is a health nut, a personal trainer, a 3-time Ironman Finisher and a dedicated volunteer to a variety of community causes. I’ve never met anyone with more energy at 5:30 in the morning than she has and her ability to eat a salad the size of a large mixing bowl is hard to beat. While I may not have inherited my love of accessories from my mom, whose Ziploc baggie works wonders as a purse, I will definitely give her credit for my love of all sweet treats as well as my need to always have a clean kitchen counter.
Mothers have some incredible talents that seem to come only with motherhood. Mom’s have an amazing ability to see dirt where no child ever will. They are especially skilled at making sandwiches so that they always taste better than any I could ever put together and their built-in lie detector seems more accurate than any used in an FBI interrogation. Mothers seem to have motion-sensor alarms that will arouse them just as you’re creeping in after your curfew and their magical power that seems to kiss away pain is greater than that of any superhero. I’ve been lucky enough to have grown up with a super supportive single mom who can’t help but laugh when she tells me “I’m getting serious now!” and always found ways to make sure we were well taken care of and well loved. Parenthood is a tough job and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without the love, laughs, support and daily emails my mom has provided me throughout the years. Thanks to all moms for being moms and thanks to my mom for being you...Happy Birthday!

What is your favourite thing about your mom? Or about being a mom? Are you like your mother?

Friday, September 17, 2010

spreading the love

I was reading my local newspaper this morning and stopped on a quick story about a young good deed doer who is making his way across Canada in an attempt to spark an increased level of trust and kindness among strangers. Stefano Andriani’s project, Travel Kindness, will see his team making their way across the country for the next few months doing everyday good deeds along the way. Efforts like Stefano’s, attempting to make our world a kinder place, are such necessary reminders that there really is so much good in the world, especially when the newspapers seem to be full of bad news.
{via - do you agree?}
A good deed, no matter how big or small, can really put a smile on a stranger’s face. To be able to brighten someone’s day by offering some spare change or a helping hand is often such a simple yet satisfying task and I truly believe in the value of being able to pay it forward. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a stranger's smile, you know how good it feels to get that extra push in your day whether it’s because someone gave up their seat on the bus for you or offered you an extra nickel for your morning coffee. I remember when I was young, my class at school was challenged to commit a good deed and not tell anyone about what we had done – a secret between ourselves and the stranger we had so kindly helped out. How hard does that seem? I mean, I could lend a hand to someone in need or go out of my way to be kind to a stranger and just keep it to myself, right? I remember that keeping my selflessness a secret, so that it did indeed seem selfless, was tougher than I could have imagined. We all have a need to share with others and I really don’t think it’s a bad thing to want to share the good things we do...even if it’s because we’re proud or just want recognition. As much as I do believe that challenge taught me not to worry about acceptance and to be kind no matter who is watching, I think hearing stories of goodwill are motivating. They encourage us to look at out lives and find ways to help those in need. They inspire us to take an extra second to notice that the world is a good place and by being in it, we can help make it better. I am thankful to people like Stefano and the many, many others that constantly remind me that common kindness can go a long way.

Have you received any random acts of kindness lately? Any heartwarming stories?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

where in the world

Vacations, no matter how long or how incredible, always seem to be too short. Coming back home and back to reality is always a bittersweet moment. As much as I am happy to be back in my own bed with the comforts of home cooked meals and my familiar routine, I can’t help but wish I was still soaking up the sun on the Spanish coast.
Spain was amazing! The early morning walks to the beach, feeling the soft sand between my toes as I lay taking in the Mediterranean and the late nights sipping sangria as the sun set over the sea. It doesn’t get much better! I was taken aback with all that Barcelona had to offer. La Rambla was busy and bustling and the perfect place for people-watching. The Sagrada Familia took our breath away with its inspiring detail and demanding presence over the city.
Spain was certainly just what I needed. The weather was perfect, we relaxed in the sun and there were certainly enough sights to fill our days making the recipe just right for some time away (and I did manage to pack pretty light!...thanks for all your tips!).
The problem with, or rather, the appeal of travelling, depending on how you look at it, is that after spending a short time in an amazing place with beautiful beaches and spectacular sights, all I want to do is see more of the world. You’d think I would just be grateful for my getaway - and believe me, I really am – but when you get a taste of all the world has to offer, it’s hard to stop with one visit to the Spanish seaside. Considering there are so many sights in Spain that I didn’t have time to take in, it’s exciting to think of all the other cities, countries and continents that I’ve yet to be able to visit. The world is so full of breathtaking views and interesting architecture, there are cities full of stories from so long ago, the landscape is so varied from one town to the next. My list of places to visit is constantly growing and I can’t imagine that it will ever stop. Talking to other travelers during my holiday has filled my head with dreams of my next vacation…hearing about cruising the Greek Islands or pub hopping through the Scottish countryside makes me wish my next vacation was weeks away instead of too many months. I am so inspired by the amazing holiday that I was so lucky to indulge in that I am so looking forward to the next one. The travel bug gets me every time!

Where do you dream of travelling to? Any suggestions for my next trip?

Friday, September 3, 2010

my bags are packed

As the last long weekend of the summer begins, I am sad to see my favourite season slipping away. However, I couldn’t be more excited because it is finally time for my much needed and highly anticpated holiday! (Is it weird that I’m little sad to be missing out on a long weekend?!) My husband and I are about to take off on our delayed honeymoon and head to the home of the World Cup winners - we are off to Spain for some sand, sun, shopping and stumbling through speaking Spanish. However, taking a trip means it’s time to pack my bags and that is one task to do with travelling that I actually dread.
I am the worst over-packer. I tend to pack whatever I think I could possibly-might once-if I’m in the right mood wear. A weekend away turns into 6 outfits, 4 pairs of shoes and way more clean underwear than I could ever go through. Even when I was growing up and would spend the summers at my dad’s house, my mom would always have to remind me that my dad did indeed own a washing machine and that she was sure he’d be happy to let me use it while I was there. I seemed to have a hard time believing her. On the other hand, I’ve never seen a boy pack more than he might need. A couple pairs of shorts, two or three t-shirts and a simple rotation between the few seem to be more than enough for a week away. But what if you’re not in the mood for the outfit you had planned on wearing? Or what if an unexpected hike in the woods or fancy dinner out is suddenly on the agenda? There are too many variables for me to worry about that I get stressed thinking that I might not have the right outfit for the daily outing…so why not pack it all and then I won’t have to worry about it while I’m away? And if there’s space in my suitcase, don't even get me started! My theory tends to be that I might as well fill it…but that’s a whole other story!

What kind of packer are you? Got any tips for an over-packer like myself?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

dinner is served

I don’t watch too much TV, but when I do, I can’t help but drool over the scrumptious shows showcasing the talents of professional and amateur chefs. Last night, I happened to catch the end of Masterchef, a cooking competition that sees amateur cooks with a variety of backgrounds challenged to be crowned the champion chef. As the four contestants in danger of losing their apron whipped up homemade pasta dishes in 90 minutes, I couldn’t help but wish I was a wiz in the kitchen just like them.
I really enjoy cooking. I can’t say I’m too good at it but it’s so satisfying to put time and effort into preparing a meal only to have it come out as tasty and well-cooked as you imagined. On the other hand, a disastrous meal can be so disappointing - I've learned the hard way that lemon meringue pie is not my specialty! I’m definitely the type of cook that needs instructions…give me a recipe and I promise you I will follow it step by step (my husband? Not so much…reading a recipe isn’t his thing!). This doesn’t always create the most amazing meals, as a little creativity in the kitchen isn’t a bad thing, but I’ve definitely treated my tastebuds to some delicious dishes over the years. While not the most sophisticated of cookbooks, I’ve found Eat, Shrink and Be Merry to be the perfect cookbook for a recipe reader like myself. It not only provides mouthwatering meals but all the recipes are healthy and super easy to make…throw in a little humour (…The Ladle in Red anyone?) and some fun facts about food and cooking with my husband or some good friends becomes one of my favourite things to do. For me, cooking with someone or cooking for someone is much better than cooking by myself or for myself. I just don’t put the effort in when I’ll be the only one eating it. But if it’s time for dinner party, I will happily be helping out in the kitchen. I may be no masterchef but I am definitely a willing participant!

What do you like to cook? Do you follow recipes or create your own masterpieces?