Sunday, March 23, 2014

Catching Up

Hi everyone! I’m back after almost a month of being M.I.A. I’ve been extremely busy with projects, exams, travelling to Europe… you know, the usual! As much as I enjoyed Europe, I was expecting to come home to a brighter, warmer Canada. Unfortunately, spring hasn’t arrived yet which I’m taking quite badly since I’m not very fond of snow and -20° weather.

On a lighter, warmer and sunnier note, my school trip to Europe was absolutely amazing and I really cannot wait to go back.  We visited Budapest, Vienna, Prague, Nuremberg and Munich and were treated to wonderful weather the whole trip. The fashion, the architecture and the men were oh-so beautiful. My favorite part of the cities I visited was the lovely produce and artisanal markets. Wow! I am truly amazed at how delicious, local and vibrant these markets were. Surprisingly, even after full days of walking on old stone walkways and running around in alleyways; my feet did not even get sore. I even had a nice sprint-session on my first day I Budapest because we had taken too much time choosing a restaurant and thought we were going to be late to our meeting point.

 I really enjoyed the group of people I was with. The friends I made and the overall atmosphere shared between the students and teachers was much more enjoyable than I had anticipated. Even with mild cat-fights and a little drama, we all pulled through and were able to have a memorable vacation before getting back to the daily grind of our final year in high school.

I’m truly blessed to have had the opportunity to travel to Europe and still have trouble believing it happened even with over 700 pictures as proof (oops!). Although the jet-lag has passed and my life is back to normal, I feel like things have changed. I’m not quite sure what ignited this spark of change but I feel like all the big late night discussions I had in Europe made me impatient to move on from my current life. Right now, the only thing on my mind is getting my diploma and graduating. I cannot wait to run out of my school on the last day of school because I know that much greater things are waiting for me in college.

Sorry if this post ends abruptly. I’m still in the process of organizing my travel pictures. It’s been long and tiring but I thought I would write a quick post to bring you up to date on what’s been happening. I've also been trying to plan my trip to Arizona which I'm quite excited about!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Where Has The Time Gone?

Hello friends! As you all know, I’ve been long awaiting my trip to Europe for Spring break.  My excitement is quickly growing and my suitcase is slowly coming together.  It feels like only a few months ago I was telling myself I’d be leaving in 365 days. Where has the time gone? The countdown snuck up on me before I even realized that I am leaving in 2 days.

I’ve been pretty occupied getting ready for this trip and finishing the last few projects and exams I need to do this week.  January and  February were WAY to hectic but at least I have 10 days of vacation to look forward to before getting back to Canada and finishing my last few months of high school.
It feels like this whole year has been calculated in hours, in days, in weeks, in countdowns, in months, in deadlines, in projects, in days off, in presentations, in obligations, in rants and in television series. *sigh* constantly counting time gets extremely tiresome (no matter how you calculate it. Since the next 2 days will go by in a flash, I thought I would spend part of the evening writing to myself in order to remind and refocus my intentions and expectations for this trip. Most of all, I hope Europe will help me lose track of time. Or at least not be intimidated by it.  I won’t be bringing my phone or my laptop on this trip so it will be quite refreshing to no be constantly reminded by what time it is. Of course we’ll have to follow a schedule but I can fully enjoy this trip knowing that I have no projects or essays to hand in for the next 10 days. I don’t want to let the future and what might happen after this trip dampens the excitement and beautiful experiences that are waiting. In other words, I won’t allow time, individuals or negative situations to ruin this vacation I’ve been planning for over 3 years.

Here are some of the intentions I have set myself for this trip in order to enjoy it as much as I can.
1.       Be patient
2.       Be tolerant
3.       Be open to new experiences (cultures, food, languages, traditions, etc.)
4.       Avoid sowing negativity
5.       Do not let an individual ruin your experience
6.       Put aside differences for the sake of group harmony
7.       Take pictures
8.       Share your experiences with others
9.       Brush off frustrations
10.   Write everything down in a journal
11.   Stretch at least once a day
12.   Pay attention, Be attentive
13.   Be sociable
14.   Step outside your comfort zone

I know this post isn’t as filled with content as my others but unfortunately, I only a have a few days left and I’m afraid I won’t be able to blog any more before we take off. I hope you all have a great Spring break wherever you are in the world! See you 2 weeks!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Girls In White Dresses by Jennifer Close

Don’t you hate it when you explain the plot to a book you’re reading and people look at you like you’re illiterate and brainless? Yeah, me too!

People don’t only judge a book by its cover; they also judge it by its summary. After sharing the plot to Jennifer Close’s Girls in White Dresses, a few of my friends gave me a puzzled look as to say: Why are you wasting your time reading another predicable young adult romance novel? I don’t believe in reading a book to impress people on the bus. I don’t choose my books based on what I want people to think when they see it on my coffee table. This book wasn’t written by Freud, Bukowski or Dickens. It wasn’t intellectually challenging nor is it a classic. However, the time spent reading those 300 pages was so satisfying I'm glad I picked it up because it allowed me to turn my brain off for a second and take advantage of my free time.

This book pleasantly surprised me. I realised after only 2 chapters that it was much more than your typical young adult book. It was witty, charming, funny and extremely refreshing. It got me thinking about how much appreciation I have for authors like Close. Her characters were extremely relatable and wonderfully portrayed. The resemblance between their adventures and those of every 20-something adult made it so easy to picture one of these girls being your older sister’s best friend or a girl you met in college. These girls are real. They have flaws, they’re ordinary people. Contrary to the judments made by my peers, these girls are so far from being vain and shallow. They have opinions, they’re charming, and they’re smart. They get dumped, they get fired, they cry, they date, they drink (a lot), they fight and they question themselves. That’s what made reading this book so pleasant for me. It was really comforting to be reminded that not everybody has their sh*t together once they graduate.  

Although there are mixed reviews about this book, it was a perfect release from real life. It’s quite different from the books I tend to read.  It made me look forward to my own post-college adventures. Somehow the future doesn’t seem so scary. Overall, it’s comforting to know that when the time comes, I will eventually get over student debt, self-doubt and years of not having any idea what I’m doing with my life. I guess that’s all I could ask for from such a short and sweet novel.

I definitely recommend if you're not in the mood to do any deep-thinking. My overall opinion: It's a relatable chick-lit with interesting characters living realistic, every-day problems. I think that my appreciation is much less for the actual content of the book but for the reflexion that it brought and the relaxation that came from getting back to reading for pleasure vs. schoolwork.

Nonetheless, my thoughts written above remain the same. Read because you enjoy it, not because it looks good to others!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

God Help The Girl

Hi guys. Happy Wednesday!
I wanted to share some information about a project that recently caught my eye.
I’ll start by letting you know that I’m not a big fan of movies. I know the horror! Who doesn’t like movies right?

Over this past year, we got rid of our television and I somehow lost the ability to pay attention to the same story line for more than half an hour. Oops! Unless I’m watching a documentary or a horror movie, I lose interest quite quickly and I always end a movie feeling like I’ve wasted 2 hours of my life. I do on occasion watch movies if I happen to be with family or if I feel like I need background noise to help me study. While I avoid most Hollywood blockbuster movies, I find that independent films or more creativity driven movies are further adept at maintaining my interest. (Think anything Wes Anderson!)

Lucky for me, I stumbled upon this little project called: God Help the Girl. This description that follows was taken directly from the movie’s website.

God Help the Girl is a musical feature film, written and directed by Stuart Murdoch, lead singer of the group Belle and Sebastian.  It was produced by Barry Mendel and stars Emily Browning, Olly Alexander and Hannah Murray.
Stuart aspired to tell the story of “a better summer, or at least a summer when something happened. It happened to a boy and a girl and a girl in a city roughly the same size and population of Glasgow. Perhaps the canals were a bit grimier, the high-rise buildings taller, the streets emptier when you needed them to be, and the beat clubs busier than the ones around here. But on the whole the city was this one.”
According to Barry Mendel, “It’s a simple story – about the brief moment after you’ve realised what you want to do with your life, before your dream settles into becoming your job, when you’re filled with enthusiasm, meeting like-minded friends and the possibilities are endless.”
The film was shot, edited, scored and mixed in Glasgow over the course of 2012-2013 and will be released in cinemas around the world in 2014.

This is a movie I definitely look forward to seeing simply because I’ve admired Belle & Sebastian for quite a while.  I’m positive the musical soundtrack to the movie will be amazing and I’m really excited about Emily Browning (The Host, Sucker Punch) and Hannah Murray (Skins UK) being cast as the main female characters.

Finally, I love how the creators of the project are constantly including their fans and accepting contributions from everyone interested in creating this beautiful movie. Primarily funded with Kickstarter, it’s the true definition of an indie movie. Nonetheless, solely after reading the character descriptions and the plot, I’m hooked and left wanting more. I wish I could be friends with these characters and I’m looking forward to seeing them come to life on screen. You can find out more about the project on the official GHTG website. The release date for the U.S and Canada is remains unknown.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Rise & Shine Smoothie

Here’s a quick little smoothie recipe I tried out and completely fell in love with! Laura from Blogging Over Thyme calls it her Rise & Shine Smoothie.

It’s quick, filling, delicious and nutritious!

1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 frozen banana
1/2 cup coconut water
3 dried medjool dates, pits removed
2 tablespoons unsalted (and unsweetened) almond butter (or any nut/seed butter)
2 tablespoons hemp seeds (+ 1 tablespoon for garnish)
pinch of ground cinnamon

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Pour into glass and sprinkle top with reserved hemp seeds.

Although Laura suggests it can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days, I always prefer to make my smoothie fresh, on the day I’ll be drinking it. Also be sure to use a really ripe banana. Bananas with darker patches are digested quickly and have a higher level of antioxidants. Unripe or green bananas can also cause gas and bloating which isn’t the best way to start the day :P. If you’ve never use dates as a sweetener, you’re missing out! They’re Mother Nature’s candy!

Due to some digestion issues , it’s not something I can have every day but it’s definitely an amazing morning treat if you’re in a rush or in the mood for something cool and refreshing.
I hope you try it out and let me know if you enjoy this smoothie as much as I do.  Thank you Laura for sharing this recipe! She has a beautiful blog with amazing recipes and gorgeous photography!
Hi everyone. I hope you all had a happy Valentine's Day. Being single definitely doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate just as much. It’s a perfect opportunity to pamper yourself or to do the things you love.

My aunt is visiting from Belgium so she brought me back some of my favorite European treats like Speculoos  from Pain Quotidien and a Valentine’s Day assortment of designer chocolates from Pierre Marcolini. Yum! I was definitely feeling the love. I was snacking on chocolate throughout the weekend while simultaneously trying to tie up the loose ends to various projects. They say that cocoa flavanols increase blood flow to the brain. I’m not saying that divine European chocolates can credit for the 52-page essay I wrote but they certainly kept me going.

Looking back on this week, I’ve realized how much space and time is occupied by talk of others. Although it was challenging and quite strange to distance myself from situations concerning rumors or gossip, I definitely think it was a positive experience. Not talking about others for a week isn’t a huge accomplishment. Far from it! But in a private, girls-only high school, it’s undeniably harder than it seems. Throughout the week, I started to let go of the things that bothered me and vowed to stop talking negatively about the people who bothered me. Instead to focusing on their actions, I focused on my reactions. I wasn’t constantly reviving small feelings of anger or annoyance. By not ranting and not venting, I was able to forget the pointless judgments and disputes I had with those people in order to focus on finding long-term solutions.  I didn’t feel like I was keeping things bottled up inside because 99% of my frustrations weren’t entirely caused by the person but rather the situation. It’s easier to direct our anger towards our surroundings the people closest to us instead of digging down and finding the true cause of our frustrations.

All in all, I benefited from this little experiment and I’m going to challenge myself to keep it up. Although they’ll be hard to avoid for the rest of my life, conversations based on rumors, judgment and speculation are things you knowingly decide to participate in. I will make a conscious effort to remind myself not to engage in gossip and focus on judging myself before judging others.

Have a lovely week! And if you can, try to bribe someone to bring you back some chocolates from Belgium! If that's highly unlikely to happen, Truffle Treasures in Ottawa is much more accessible and just as delicious! xox

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Up in the Air

In a few weeks, 80 girls from my school including myself will be flying to Eastern Europe for a historic 9 day vacation starting in Budapest, followed by Vienna, Prague and ending in Munich. It’ll be my first time visiting Europe and I’m extremely excited to be able to take a break from schoolwork and deadlines. Although I’m no stranger to airports, jet-lag and layovers, travelling definitely takes a toll on our bodies, our mood, our energy and our sleeping pattern. The flight from Montreal to Budapest is approximately 9 to 11 hours depending on how many stops we have and which airport we arrive or depart from. The time difference is 6 hours, so it’s definitely noticeable and I expect the first day to be a little challenging. To help me prepare for my European adventure, I thought I would compile a list of a few tips and tricks I like to use when I’m travelling.  I’ll limit this post to the flight portion of travel because I will get more into detail about tips and tricks for airports, hotels, sightseeing and dining out in another post.

Stay hydrated: The air on planes is usually very dry and tends to accelerate dehydration. Drink plenty of water and use eye drops if your eyes dry out easily. Keep lip balm and a travel size container of hand lotion in your carry on.

Keep it moving: The change in pressure and the time you spend sitting can make the flight very uncomfortable. Improve blood circulation by getting up and taking a stroll up and down the aisle. Stretching prevents aching and can also help reduce fatigue.

Bring toiletries: After a few hours of travelling, it’s pretty normal to feel uncomfortable and uneasy. I like to bring a toothbrush, mouthwash, deodorant and some moist wipes to feel a little fresher. It also helps if you’ll be sleeping in the plane. Going to bed without brushing your teeth is NOT pleasant.

Never a dull moment: After the excitement of departure fades, flights get pretty dull. To avoid getting bored or making the trip seems longer than it is, bring magazines, reading material, music, cards or a travel guide to keep you busy.

Get some rest: If you’re landing in the morning, those in-flight hours are precious sleeping hours. Bring a sleeping mask, comfy socks, ear plugs, a small pillow or a shawl to make the flight as restful as possible.

Embrace the chaos: Sometimes you need to let go of things you can’t change. Leg room is often limited and you won’t always get the window seat. Sometimes you’ll be stuck with an overly chatty seatmate and you’ll be unable to sleep. Remember that the plane ride is only a small part of your journey. Make the best of what you’ve got.

Keeping the peace: Remember that travelling in a group is different than travelling alone. Your mood will influence and be influenced by others. Complaining and judgment of an activity or a situation will worsen the mood and the experience for everyone. Despite the fact you might dislike some of the people you’re travelling with, try get the most out of the experience.

I’m definitely looking forward to this little getaway. I’m expecting to take loads of pictures and make beautiful memories. Have a lovely week!