• VANCOUVER, BC, CANADA

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    Last week, I went to visit my friend in Vancouver. It was my first time in the city and it was beautiful. However, I didn’t exactly have the best weather while I was there. It rained. A lot. None the less, I tried to explore and experience the city as best as I could in the short time I was there. Below is an over-view of my experience, which should give you an idea of what to expect if you’re planning on heading that way!

    Accommodation – I stayed in my friend’s apartment in Gastown, which was a great location. The streets are really cute, even if it is a bit touristy. It’s magical at night as they have lots of lights strung up in the trees. There’s a steam clock there, modelled after Big Ben in London, that plays a song every 15 minutes. There were constantly a lot of people taking pictures but it was a cute thing to see none the less.

    Prices –  In general I found food to be well priced but everything else was a bit of a rip-off. Store that I knew from Europe and the U.S. were definitely more expensive, such as H & M, and the little boutiques dotted around the city were very cute but definitely more expensive that they should have been. I didn’t buy anything other than food except 2 postcards made of wood as a souvenir. Because of this, I was able to eat in a few nicer restaurants while I was there, but food was definitely very affordable. Transport was also reasonably priced while tourist attraction/activities were priced high.

    Getting around – It’s a very easy city to walk around, I only used the public transport to get to and from the airport, but it was very reliable and easy to use.

    Things to do – I spent the first day just wondering around and exploring Gastown and along the water front; it really is a great city to walk around. The second day, I took the hop-on  hop-off bus (well actually I took the one that they call a ‘trolley’ but it’s a bus that’s made to look like a trolley) . I know they’re so touristy but I genuinely like doing them when I’m in new cities. They give you a good over-view, and for me they help give me an idea of how the city is laid out. I only got off at Granville Island, where I found a fun store called made. that I would totally recommend checking out.

    Food – One of my favourite things about Vancouver was the food. It was very reasonably priced and tasted great. Here’s all the place I checked out:

    Lost and Found Cafe I loved this cafe! It had a great vibe and lots of options for  vegetarians! I got the Veg Sandwich with soup and it was delicious. They also have wifi which is a plus when you’re in a foreign country and don’t have data roaming.

    Noodle Bar I loved how customizable their menu is; you pick the sauce, then protein and spice level. I misunderstood the menu and put shrimp in mine which made it a little expensive but in hindsight, I would have been perfectly happy with the meal if it didn’t have shrimp so lessons learned. It was quite a big portion though and I did get lunch the next day out of it, so it was’t too bad.

    Cactus Club – Coal Harbour This was the only place that I think I would have struggled to find something to eat if I didn’t eat fish. The view was lovely and I really enjoyed what I got, the Prawn Spaghetti. I believe this is a chain restaurant, but the one at coal harbour is a bit more fancy and has different options on the menu. It’s a nice place but not anything too special in my opinion, but I’m not really the biggest fan of fancy restaurants anyway.

    Nandos I’m a big fan of Nando’s in Ireland and I’ve missed it while living in the US.  So when I found out their was one in Vancouver, I had to go. Despite being a known for their chicken, they actually have great vegetarian options. I think the menu was a little different to the one back home but the food was still familiar and great! Love a bit of Nandos (pictures below).

    Alibi Room We went here on the first night I got to Vancouver so it’s a little bit of a blur. I wasn’t sure how hungry I was until I started eating, then I realised I was starving. Not a lot of options for vegetarians but I loved the food I got, the Broccoli and Mushroom stir-fry. It was just want I needed!

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    While I did enjoy my trip, it started to frustrate me how everyone kept talking about how great the city is when the weather’s good. I get it, it’s definitely makes things easier when the weather’s nice but if you live in a city where is rains a lot, you should be able to deal with it. I like cities that embrace their weather and have a fun atmosphere all year round; it seems like Vancouver goes into hiding during the winter! I would definitely like to go back at some point in my life during the warmer months, but it’s nit top of my list right now.

    Jane x

  • MY SCRAPBOOK

    I’ve always loved the idea of scrapbooking. I literally have boxes of tickets and other mementos at home. I have such a terrible memory so I think that’s part of the appeal, I’m just drawn towards different ways to keep records of events and things that happen to me because I know I can’t rely on my own mind. The problem is, I also love crafting so I always get carried away and in the past, I’ve spent over a week working on the first 2 pages of a scrapbook before getting distracted and not continuing it.

    However, I was really inspired by Gabriella Lindley’s (VelvetGh0st) scrapbook, which was mainly pictures.  It wasn’t as detailed as the ones you see on Pinterest but it was something I felt was achievable. Last year was pretty crazy for me; I moved to another continent and did lots of fun new things, so I decided to back track quite a bit and make a scrapbook for all of 2016 using the photo stream on my phone as a guide.

    I order a bunch of photos from here and sorted out all the mementos I had. I bought a black paper sketch pad (here) and a silver gel pen (here) from Amazon. I also used multiple glue sticks, super-glue and the label maker my boyfriend got me for Christmas (here). I love scrapbook paper and washi tape but I knew if I started down that rabbit hole, I would never get it finished.  It still did take me a bit of time but I’m pretty proud that I managed to complete it.

    PLAYING AROUND WITH LAYOUTS

    When I printed my photos from the Social Print Studios website, I got 5 different types that they offer: Mightly photos, Miniprints – Rectangular layout, Miniprints – Square layout (these are the ones that look like polaroids)  and Squares. I tried to play around with different layouts, some pages have a lot going on, some are more simple. I dedicated multiple pages to bigger events, but put multiple smaller fun times on the same page. I used my label maker to make headings for different events and used the silver gel pen to write little things to explain the photos. I wanted someone who wasn’t me to be able to look at my scrapbook and know what had happened to me.

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    KEEPSAKES

    I also tried to add texture by adding all the little mementos I collected through-out the year. Tickets are the easiest thing to keep but there’s a lot more you can add into the mix.

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    Lanyard from a work conference

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    I cut out different parts of the ferry schedule pamphlet and added a picture of us on the boat.

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    While we were in the metro parks one day, my boyfriend picked this flower and gave it to me. I pressed it for a few months so I could keep it.

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    My cousin, my boyfriend and I won tickets to a Cavaliers game, so I included the tickets as well as our winning raffle ticket.

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    During the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA Champions parade they shot confetti everywhere and I saved a few pieces.

    INTERACTIVE ELEMENTS

    I added some interactive elements, different cards and things like that so that there was some fun movement in the scrapbook.

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    A Thank You card from a friend

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    Map from the hotel I stayed at in Florida

    CAPTURING A FEELING

    As well as capturing the big things that happened, I wanted to capture the atmosphere and the feelings I had as well. This proved to be a bit difficult but I played around with a few ideas. I think if I want make another scrapbook for this year, I need to make a conscious effort to photograph the little things around me.

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    I included a page showing some of the little Christmas details around our apartment to remind me of that time.

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    Unfortunately, my cousin had a miscarriage on Christmas Day. Everything else in my scrapbook is about happy times and I did struggle with whether or not to include bad things that had happened. This had a big impact on me and my family, and I wanted to make sure the baby was remembered so I decided I had to include it. 

    Jane x

  • CHRISTMAS DECOR IDEAS

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    I love Christmas. I love the cold, the magic, the hot chocolate. I know people hate it, but I feel more myself in the dark sparkly cold winter months than in the sweaty hot disgustingly sunny summer days. However, this year is the first that I wouldn’t spend Christmas in Ireland with my parents. I know Christmas in Ohio won’t be bad, there’s even a chance it’ll actually be white. But it won’t be the same. So  I’ve tried to surround myself with lots of holiday cheer. Little pieces of magic that bring a smile to my face to distract me from the longing I have to book a flight and run home to snuggle with my doggies.

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    I put lights up around the top of my apartment the week we moved it (and by ‘I’ I obviously mean my boyfriend). I love fairy lights, they just make any room better. So in the run up to Christmas, we added red tinsel all the way around the ceiling where the lights are and some silver baubles (which match our tree) on our green accent wall. Nearly all our decorations are from the Dollar Store or Family Dollar, by the way.  Cheap and cheerful!

    Little Touches
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    I didn’t realise how much I loved flowers until I had my own apartment. I get annoyed at how expensive they are and I get sad when they die but for some reason, I still love having them in our apartment. And I’m enjoying incorporating Christmas colours into my blooming choices. I popped some Nutcrackers (again from the Dollar Store) in front of my potted Poinsettias and voila! Instant Christmas vibes. We also used command hooks to put some special Christmas ornaments on the wall by the door, just because I did’t want them to get lost in the tree. We also have little ornaments on every door handle in our apartment, like the little Santa pictured above.

    Sidetone – also important at the holiday season: candles. Remember, ABLC. Always be lighting candles.

    The Tree
    img_6144Ahhh the tree, the pièce de résistance. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but our tree is beautiful. Most of the ornaments came from the dollar store and I think it still looks fabulous. I have to give credit where credit is due, my boyfriend did a great job of arranging the baubles and lights and tinsel, while I instructed him on what worked and what else was needed. I’ve never picked out a theme for a tree. At home we use the ornaments that have been collected over the years, most of which don’t match. So suddenly standing in the Dollar Store faced with different options, I felt very overwhelmed. I decided on red because the ornaments didn’t look as cheap and we have a lot of red accents in our apartment already. Plus I thought it would look good against the green tree. Then we went with silver to compliment it. We bought a silver multiply pack of ornaments, which came with dark silver and a few goldy silver ornament too. I think these helped to bring some colour and dimension to our tree. We also added some candy canes cause tis the season and all. Now we just need a tree topper… oppsss…

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    Jane x

  • HOW TO BUY THE BEST PRESENTS

    I’m good at buying presents.  There’s very very few things that I think I’m good at, but buying presents is definitely one of them. I like shopping and I like curating things, so buying presents is an extension of that. I mean, it’s shopping without the guilt, what’s not to love?  I think anyone can be good at gift-giving, it just take preparation and planning.  Even though I enjoy it, I still think finding the right gift can be very extremely stressful. So here’s how I approach it to try and make the holiday season go a bit smoother:

    Make notes
    It might be a little late for this one this year, but I think it’s one of the most important tools. Whether it’s on a phone or on a piece of paper, make notes when your friend and family say they like something. I have a notebook where I write down thoughts and ideas, along with things they’ve said they like. It might seem silly in January to write down that your aunt said she liked the necklace she saw online but you’ll be glad in November.
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    Search general topics
    If you don’t know what specific item you want to get someone, try searching some bigger topics on online stops; just more general interests will give you some inspiration and help give you an idea of what’s out there. Brain storm about what you know they like; food, movies, products etc. For example, I know one of my friends loves The Nightmare Before Christmas. So I went onto Amazon and literally just searched for ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’. I scrolled through a few pages, and found a mug that said ‘Skellington Coffee’ in a copy of the Starbucks logo. This is perfect because the person I was looking for loves Starbucks too. I would never have thought of searching for this exact item, so sometimes just approaching it from more a general perspective means that it’s not only less daunting but you might something you didn’t even know exists.

    Don’t be afraid of gift cards
    People think they’re impersonal, but it’s all in the delivery. For example, I’m going to put a Starbucks gift card in the Skellington Coffee cup I mentioned above. Sure it’s a gift card but it’s something she will use and it’s presented in something thoughtful. You don’t have to buy a mug, you could make their card, buy some chocolate you know they like etc. Or really just buy a giftcard to a place you know they love. Maybe it’s because I know I’m hard to shop for and I’m very picky, but I would never be mad at a giftcard. On a sidenote, did you know you could get Netflix giftcards? I didn’t!! But that’s so cool!

    Gift guidessushi-socks
    It’s time consuming but look at gift guilds, both on YouTube or online stores. They tend to have more general presents but they may get your imagination working. Most websites have them, I love ASOS for random gift ideas (really I just love ASOS in general), but there are tons of different options out there. I found socks on ASOS that I’m going to give people this Christmas (sushi socks and Star Wars socks – both are sold old but they have tons of other options).  I think funky socks are a fun idea because they’re a classic – the ultimate socking stuffer – but if you find a cool pair with something somebody likes on them, they are also thoughtful and useful.

    Keep an open mind
    You never know when you’re going to see something for somebody. Recently I went away for the weekend and ended up in a wind-chine store (who know they were a thing?).  They had a bunch of random things, and in a corner I found some fossils. Now I know that seems like a ridiculous present but the person I bought it for will love it! So the moral of the story is, you never know when you’re going to find something, so if you’re struggling to find something for someone, try not to stress about it, just keep your eyes peeled and your mind open.

    Experiences
    Remember, presents don’t have to be a physical object, you can always go for plays or concerts.  That’s what my parents are getting me for Christmas, tickets to see the King and I in February.  I normally get that kind of thing for my parents too. It gets more expensive, but in the past I’ve gotten them tickets to something in the UK and bought flights and a hotel for them too. Food is also always a good options, so whether that’s a cooking class or a giftcard to dine somewhere, everybody’s gotta eat!

    Remember that giving gifts should be fun and about the thought, don’t get too stressed out about! Have fun with it and enjoy the holiday season.