Happy New Year From Paris!

December 31, 2012 § 2 Comments

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After staying in and watching When Harry Met Sally for the past four New Years Eves, Nick and I went out with a bang this year. First of all, we’re in Paris. Second, we had a delicious, rich 5-course meal at Pinxo tonight where dessert was the best part.

Third, after walking over the bridge from the Left Bank to the Louvre last night, I was reminded of all of the love locks on the one foot bridge. After doing a bit of research,  we found out that by placing a padlock on the bridge, it is a sign of a couple’s everlasting love. (We also found out that the Parisians hate it, but what else is new.) We decided this morning that this would be our New Year’s celebration rather than going to the Eiffel Tower, which was sure to be packed with people.

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After watching the countdown with the Eiffel Tower from across the Seine, we walked over to the Pont de l’Archevêché and put a brass lock on the bridge with a billion others.

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A very romantic start to 2013! Happy New Year, everyone! xoxo

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Christmas 2012

December 27, 2012 § 1 Comment

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It wouldn’t be Christmas without a visit to Canada to see my family. Nick and I flew up very early, a 7:45 am flight, on Saturday and headed to my parents’ place in Fenelon Falls.

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We spent the first two days of our Christmas visit in the woods, on the river, which was lovely and quiet. It was great to catch up with my parents, just the four of us. On Sunday, I scanned about 300 photos from my old photo albums that are still being stored in their garage (stay tuned for a post from that later!) and that night, we went out for a really nice dinner at Pane Vino in Lindsay.

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On Monday, we all drove down to Oshawa for the Christmas celebrations with the rest of my family at the Martin’s house.

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I hadn’t seen Ryan and Suzanne since May!

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And it was so good to see my cute little niece and nephew.

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We all hung out, eating and drinking and talking until it was time to eat. Lucky for Jenn, my Mom still makes the turkey even when dinner isn’t at her house.

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For the past couple years, my family has celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve, which means eating our big turkey dinner and exchanging presents that night.

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Ben and Jillian got their first Alfie toy this year and they fell in love with him.

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When it was time for bed, Ben was so sad that Alfie had to go back to the North Pole that he kept getting choked up, telling us it “pulled on his heartstrings” that he had to leave until next Christmas.

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He’s pretty much the sweetest little boy there ever was.

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On Christmas morning, the kids actually slept in until almost 8:00!

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Ben was thrilled to get a Polar Express train and Jillian was so happy just to get her “baby seal named Pearl” from Santa.

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That day, we relaxed, visited, and ate even more.

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I love my family!

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I hope you all had a great Christmas too!

My Favourite TV Shows Of 2012

December 21, 2012 § 1 Comment

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TV was good in 2012! It seemed that once a show ended for the season, another one would start. Nick and I love having our nights, especially Sundays, to hang out on the couch and watch our favourite shows. Here are mine from the past year:

MAD MEN

Season 5 was the best yet! I just finished re-watching it and caught even more subtleties and underlying themes the second time. Seriously powerful and amazingly written television.

THE WALKING DEAD

Another AMC show that finally hit its stride. Season 3 of The Walking Dead was the best one yet. The character development has hit a peak and now the serious action and story can begin. The mid-season finale had me so worked up, I couldn’t go to bed afterwards!

30 ROCK

Ahhh, 30 Rock. My humour-twin. Sadly, this is the show’s final season, but I find comfort knowing it will end before it jumps the shark.

THE NEWSROOM

A great first season of this new HBO show. Sure, it’s a little corny and not completely realistic, but the way they tell stories based around news events from the recent past is very smart. Plus you gotta love its optimism. Looking forward to season 2.

LOUIE

Louis CK’s show definitely found a different way to entertain in its third season. He has ditched the pure offensive, shocking, and silly humour for something more. Many of the shows are comments on life and humanity. The season finale actually made me tear up. A pretty huge departure from the first two seasons.

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Another great new HBO show! Nick and I loved to watch this, almost through our fingers, laughing along and being extremely grateful that we are in our thirties and married and no longer have to deal with some of the insane, but realistic, shit that young people in cities go through growing up.

THE BIG BANG THEORY

The silliest guilty pleasure of the year. For a year, BBT would pop up on our TV, syndicated on TBS, Fox, and every other network with sitcoms. We’d always change the channel, until we just didn’t. We gave in and now Nick and I love this show, often watching it to wind down before bed on weeknights. If you were a fan of Roseanne, That 70’s Show, or Scrubs, you have to give it a chance.

My Favourite Books Of 2012

December 18, 2012 § 1 Comment

I am proud to say I met my goal of reading 15 books this year! Of those 15, here are my favourites, not necessarily released in 2012.

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1Q84 – Haruki Murakami

This book was great. Almost a Japanese Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, but with Fantasy and Science Fiction mixed in. Although I wasn’t very happy with the ending, the entire 900-page collection of all three books provided a great ride and really original story.

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Broken Harbor – Tana French

I read the first three books of the Dublin Murder Squad last year and couldn’t wait for the fourth to be released! I mean, I was so excited, I forgot to check which Kindle I was downloading it to the day it came out and accidentally sent it to Nick’s. Oops.

Each of Tana French’s novels features a characters you met in passing in another book and tells the story from their perspective. If you’re a fan of mysteries and thrillers, this page-turner is for you.

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Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

After voraciously reading Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad books, I wanted more mystery! The cover of this book grabbed me, and then I saw that Tana French herself gave it a glowing review. What an interesting story with a great twist. All the Best Of lists this year are right – definitely recommended.

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Water For Elephants – Sara Gruen

Don’t even bother with the Robert Pattison movie – Sara Gruen’s novel is fantastic and all you need. Water For Elephants was the perfect book to read in two sittings, on the plane ride to and from London this Spring. The characters are lovely and the story grabs you.

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Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson

If you are a techie or an internet lover, you MUST read this book. Learning how much of a ridiculous person Steve Jobs actually was – how he’d actually cry and throw tantrums to get his way, how he created a “reality distortion field” to convince himself his daughter wasn’t his own amongst other things, how he refused to wear shoes and decided he didn’t need to shower because he was a “fruititarian” – was eye-opening, but also makes me respect him even more for allowing these things to be printed and made public knowledge. I’m not old enough to remember the first launches of Apple products in the 80s, but everything is so interesting to read about, especially the product launches for items like the iMac and iPod. I can’t wait for the movie!

What were your favourite books of 2012? I’m always looking for suggestions on what to read next! 

More: My Favourite Books of 2011

A Weekend Trip To Sweden

December 17, 2012 § 7 Comments

Sure, it sounds a little crazy to take a weekend trip to Sweden, especially the weekend before we fly to Canada for Christmas, which is followed immediately by a New Year’s Eve trip to Paris, but we did it anyway! Why? Because there’s only a few weeks left in The Year Of Yes and we’ve got to make it as incredible as possible.

Nick and I took the 6pm flight from Newark on Thursday, which landed us in Stockholm at 8am Friday, Sweden time. We took the very speedy and enjoyable Arlanda Express train from the airport to Stockholm City and enjoyed a 20 minute ride with views of snow and snow-covered trees.

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We immediately checked into our hotel which was walking distance from the train station, and after barely sleeping on the plane ride there, fell asleep for a couple hours. When we woke up around 2:00, we realized from the amazing view from our room that the sun had begun to set. Apparently the sun sets at about 2:45pm in the winter there! This was an interesting addition to our bodies’ confusion of what time it was.

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We decided to venture out and find some lunch/dinner/breakfast/whatever meal it was supposed to be at this point, and found this great area full of shops.

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Oh, Conor Oberst is big there too.

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Even though I felt like I should be eating meatballs and lingonberries, we ended up eating fajitas. 500 dollar fajitas! Just kidding, it was 500 kronor. $1 USD = roughly 7 kronor. Which means these fajitas were still pretty expensive.

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We left our meal and decided to explore the shops. Then it started snowing!

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Big, fluffy, pretty snowflakes.

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Found a mall with some great stores, including an awesome designy-type, full of fun trinkets.

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Including the “i-Woody” wooden iPhone for kids. Made by “Donkey”.

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Chocolate balls are huge there. Like giant donut holes, covered in crunchy, minty things. Yum!

I loved being able to shop at Vera Moda! As soon as I saw a giant photo of Alexa Chung outside the store, I knew it would be good.

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We relaxed in our hotel room that night – our very Swedish, subtly well-designed hotel room.

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And enjoyed being dressed in matching flannel.

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Saturday’s outfit. I was so glad I packed my Tretorn boots. We got up fairly early to say goodbye to Stockholm and take the train to Linkoping.

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The train stations and airports in Sweden are awesome. Very clean and modern, with great and subtle design. This room was designed to be an “oasis” to relax in while you were traveling. It played bird noises from speakers so it sounded like you were in a rainforest.

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Maybe we could go to Uppsala instead to visit Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist?

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Nope, we are going to Linkoping to see Nick’s band, Ghost!

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They were debuting their new stage show with the new (but equally terrifying) priest outfit.

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Hard to see, but the “white Papa” priest was saying goodbye to unveil the new “black Papa”. Their fans went bananas. It was interesting to experience a show in Sweden. Although a show full of metal heads, everyone was pretty respectful and well-behaved. Swedes are awesome. And also really good-looking.

Some backstage doodles in Ghost’s dressing room.

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After the show, we went to the after party, but only after hanging around the venue after the show had ended for way longer than expected. We both knew we weren’t getting a decent sleep since we had to leave our hotel at 5:30am to head back to Stockholm for the airport. We just went with it and ended up talking Batman with the singer of Watain while he tried (unsuccessfully) to get me drunk on gin.

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(Beer can-filled snowbank in front of the venue)

And just as quickly as we arrived in Sweden, we left it, landing back in New York around 1:00pm. Nick and I are both so grateful for the opportunity to visit, even in our overtired state. We would love to visit again someday!

Back Bends

December 12, 2012 § 2 Comments

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As of this morning, I have reached two of my goals for 2012: headstands and back bends. By no means do I consider myself an expert in either one, but both scared the hell out of me to begin with and now I’m actually practicing them! This is a huge feat that I had to tackle not only physically, but mentally. Being upside down was so foreign to me, it took me about 10 months of working on my headstand (with lots of love and a bit of trickery from Alana) before I gained the confidence to get up on my own.

Alana, my cherished teacher, started me on back bends in September. Back bends begin with wheel pose in Ashtanga, but move on to bending backwards from standing up, and hand stands into back bends. I had wheel down, so my next move was bending backwards from standing up, so that my hands would come over my head and touch my mat behind me. At first, I was pretty sure I was going to seriously injure my back. I practiced bending back and breathing in a controlled manner with Alana holding my hips. I experienced the growing pains of my back stretching, becoming stronger, and my posture changing. Some say that this pose causes the practicer to experience very strong emotions, as it’s a heart-opener. I was lucky to get off easy with just a week at the end of October where I was getting angry at myself that my body wasn’t listening to my mind; I couldn’t make myself let go and touch the floor. After that, I mellowed out and set the goal to achieve this by December 31, but that I had plenty of time and wouldn’t force myself just yet.

Last week, I told Alana my biggest fear is just that the ground was so far away. I was worried what would happen to my back when I got down in that position. We came up with the solution to have me drop back so that my hands would land on a pile of blankets behind me, about 2 feet off the floor. I tried it and was finally successfully letting myself go! On Monday, Alana decided to pull away 95% of the blankets while my back was turned to them and I came down, not realizing how far I was bending. When I looked back and saw I basically did my full back bend, I knew I could do it.

This morning, I finally let myself go. I let my hands come all the way over my head and I gloriously touched down to the mat in a full back bend. GLORIOUSLY, YOU GUYS.

Moments like this make it all worthwhile. I am far from an expert and I know achieving this pose just opens more doors for me with more things to learn, but thank god! I am not done yet and can’t wait for the next step.

Watch the video below to see Ashtanga’s back bends in action:

Kate & Bryan Get Married

December 9, 2012 § 4 Comments

After being engaged for over 3 years, two of my favourite New Yorkers finally tied the knot last month at City Hall!

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It was a surprise wedding, so there was no talk of it before and even after for a few days. Kate told me about their plan to get hitched the Monday before the Friday they had both taken off work. I was very impressed by their secret-keeping abilities!

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I felt so honoured to be one of only a few guests. Bryan’s Mom, Dad, and brother came, then also a few friends of Kate’s since her family lives in Kansas and Colorado. Of course, I offered my photography skills to them for their last minute wedding – just because you’re only spending $65 to get married doesn’t mean you can’t have photos to remember it!

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We all met at City Hall around 2:00. Bryan’s brother was their witness.

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The place was packed so we entertained ourselves for an hour. It was much busier than when Nick and I were married around noon on a Thursday. As always, it was so fun seeing all the other people getting married, especially what they all chose to wear. Check these guys out! I hope they were marrying each other in those suits.

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Kate looked stunning.

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The groom and his Dad didn’t look so bad either!

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Finally, it was their turn.

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The ceremony at City Hall is about 2 minutes long. Just long enough to make it official with a bit of sentiment and about 10 seconds to tear up in happiness for the lovely couple.

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Bonus: They were married by the same officiant as Nick and I!

It’s official, the Vastanos (or Vastanleys, as I like to call them) are finally married!

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After the ceremony, our group walked around the neighbourhood to take some photos. Only in New York, will you get some wedding photo gems like this.

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But also, this.

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Kate is still Kate, even on her wedding day.

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Lots of walking was done.

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When we snapped enough photos, they decided it was time for one last surprise.

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Bryan and Kate gave his parents a card with a sonogram in it.

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They both agreed, it was one of the best days of their lives.

Congratulations, Kate and Bryan!

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Where Am I?

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