Monday, July 3, 2017

The Bean in The Bean - Chicago Trip

One of my ultimate life goals was always to visit Chicago (the Bean) aka Windy City aka Chi-town. Whatever you call it, its a fabulous place! More specifically, I've always wanted to get the famous Tiffany Bean by Elsa Peretti in Chicago and visit The Bean in Millenium Park.

We were invited to a wedding in Indiana to see some of Patrick's family, it just happen to fall on the Canada long weekend and just before his birthday (June 29th). Why not make a long weekend trip of it? That's exactly what happened. After we got back from Montreal we looked at flights to Chicago and the best price was with Porter Airlines. We had never flown with them but it was super cheap compared to other airlines and timing was perfect. Patrick found a great little hotel in The Loop, which was near everything!

Since we would be in Chicago on his birthday, I researched some great restaurants to celebrate and followed by a great bar for after dinner drinks that was all close enough to where would be staying. We decided on Devon Seafood Grill and followed by The Gage. We also found a Groupon for a Pizza and Crime Tour (a perfect pair while in Chicago!) and made plans to visit the Magnificent Mile - to visit Tiffany's, of course - then to Navy Pier and down to Millenium Park to finish off the only full day we had there before heading out to Indiana.

Devon Seafood Grill was delicious! We started with wine (of course) and Patrick had their famous Crab cakes which smelled delicious (but i'm not a seafood lover). I ordered the Blackened Hen with mashed potatoes and veggies. Patrick had a seafood pasta. The service was amazing from start to finish - definitely a good one to check out if you visit.

After dinner we walked back to our hotel, stopping along the river for some great shots of us and to take in the entire city. Its beautiful! We changed from our dinner clothes and headed down the street to The Gage - another great spot, where we started with Champagne to toast Patrick's birthday. Along with some drinks we ordered a charcuterie board to munch on which included some great cheeses and smokey meats. The Gage had great service and great music - located across from Millennium Park, which we realized the next day *sip sip*
We walked the streets of Chicago around our neighbourhood (The Loop) and had no issues of crime or felt unsafe. Granted, we both are street smart so if something didn't feel right we changed direction or dipped into a store along the way.

The next day was our first FULL day and it was jam packed with spots. We grabbed Starbucks from downstairs (it was beside out convenient!) and walked to meet our walking tour guy for the Pizza and Crime tour. We started outside Pizzeria Uno (my favourite) and walked through the streets with a history lesson, stopping a few times to dip into restaurants - one in particular was a small museum of crime history within Chicago (so cool!). We visit the famous McDonald's Rock N' Roll location and then continued to a small park where we sat and shared another pizza from Giodano Pizza. I still preferred Pizzeria Uno's pizza.

When the tour was done, Patrick and I walked up the street to the Magnificent Mile. One of my bucket list checks was to visit Tiffany's and buy The Bean by Elsa Peretti while in The Bean (aka Chicago). This would be my first Tiffany's jewelry and I wanted it to be special. Its a beautiful location spread out on 2 floors. We browsed the first floor which seem to be their newest collection along with a wide spread selection of watches, sunglasses, and scarves. Heading upstairs to the second floor - I knew exactly what I was going for - scanning the glass boxes full of classic collections. BAM! found it. As the lady takes it out for me, I don't even glance over at Patrick with his smirk. She boxes it beautifully with a crisp white bow over top the blue box and places it in the bag. I pull out my wallet to get the cash I had specifically put aside for this trip's expense, when Patrick says "Stop. Put that away!" I didn't catch it at first, so he repeated it. Paid for it and we left....
I was speechless - my boyfriend just bought me my first Tiffany's...The Bean in The Bean! I carried that little blue bag the rest of the day because when we made our rounds and got to Millennium Park, that's where he would put the necklace on me. We made it to the bean, in the bean, with the bean and took our picture at the bean. Life Goal...Check!

Dinner was a quiet place nearby called Trattoria No. 10. Another great service, great food, great wine. We were bagged so took our time at dinner, followed by a walk through the streets at night. It was different to see the same thing during the day and at night. Our last night in Chicago - the next day we were off to Indiana for the wedding, only coming back to fly out on the following day.

I can honestly say that Chicago is at the top of my list of favourite cities I've visited. It has so much character, culture, and food! I'm already planning our next visit.

Loved this window decal!

Navy Pier

Does this fountain look familiar? Its from "Married with Children" show

At the Bean, in The Bean, wearing The Bean

Thursday, June 8, 2017

We Moved Downtown

This has been planned since the beginning of the year - to move into a condo together. We each set out our needs and then compared; most of them were the same! Back in March we started looking, reached out to a rental agent to double up on the search for the "perfect" condo. We knew we would like to move in June or July because that was close to when Patrick's current condo lease would be up. We had a (what we thought) was a generous budget that we could live comfortably and still travel.

That last part was the biggest factor for not renting a house. Not only did we only need 2bedrooms but we also didn't want to spend the extra few hundred and with no amenities. Condo life was what we were headed for.

We looked online for about 2 weeks, just casually browsing through every website I knew of including Kijiji. I came across this beautiful listing that literally had every single one of our check points and fell UNDER budget. The best part - it was in Patrick's current building on a higher floor. Is this for real? I had to jump on it so I sent him the listing and asked if he had a minute to call them because I was busy at work. Withing the next 30minutes Patrick called me and said "We have to go 6pm" Deal!

Later that night after we viewed the condo, we sat down and filled out the paperwork. We were both filled with excitement when we left and didn't want to wait - it was a GREAT deal! It literally was the most ideal option for us as we were familiar with the building, area, etc. That was a Thursday, by Saturday we got the phone call that it was ours. I cried. He hugged me. We celebrated with dinner and wine, of course.

We spent the next few months packing up and planning the best way to tackle it - Patrick ended up having his knee surgery booked for the day we got the keys but it was necessary. I got this, no worries! We were able to start on a Wednesday to move any of the small stuff or things we could take apart easily to bring up in the elevator - Patrick was on the 12th floor, we moved to the 26th floor! That helped a HUGE amount. Friends moved most of it for me - at least the big stuff - while i tackled Adriana's room.

Over the last few months we took her shopping to pick out a few things that would make her room - HERS. She got a new bed, bedding, pillows, etc. (Thank you, IKEA, for your in expensive and uniquely designed furniture). Adriana loved making the big decisions for her room and she hadn't even seen it yet!

The plan is to spend all day today building her bed and preparing her room for when she comes tomorrow. Her dresser and toys will come on the weekend with her clothes but at least most of the decor will be done beforehand. I can't wait!! She has this fabulous view of City Hall and Celebration Square (corner windows). With such a fun room, I hope she enjoys her own space - I know we will enjoy ours on the other side of the apartment!

This is a huge step - Moving into a downtown condo with my boyfriend and Adriana. I didn't think I would ever get to this point in our life this fast. I held on to the hope that everything will work out; that my time will come to be where I've wanted to be for awhile. I believe that my ability to keep pushing forward no matter what is what got us here. I never gave up, not once. I refuse to let anything or anyone hold me back from what we deserve. We have our own space - shared with a very patient, caring and loving man. I can't wait for  the next big thing for us. We eventually want to buy a house in a few years time but for now renting is what's calling our name!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Happy Mother's Day

I can say that I am truly blessed to be Adriana's Mommy. Today she actually surprised me for the first time ever! I cried and all I could do was stare at her all day...she's all mine <3

On Thursday she brought home a gift bag and asked me not to look instead (Fine!). She placed the bag on her nightstand and it sat there until Sunday. I had no idea that beside it was another gift wrapped in tissue paper too. She was VERY excited to have me open these gifts that she had clearly made for me.
First was this lovely "All About my Mommy" art she created. Although most of the answers are incorrect (I do not weigh 200lbs lol) I love her answers anyways. My favourite is "I love my Mommy because...She loves me" Yup how true little girl!

The gift bag had this beautiful mug inside with a picture she drew of me (with snails for some reason). On the back it says Love Adriana in her writing. The wrapped tissue paper was the picture of her blowing me kisses attached with the card.

Nothing would be complete without flowers on Mother's Day - these were from Patrick along with a card. We spent the afternoon dining at the Old Mill Toronto with my parents and my older sister. The food was delicious and service was quick. It was a buffet style lunch and the trays were replenished repeatedly (no food left in the bottom). It included breakfast items (bacon, eggs, sausage, waffles, etc) as well as a carving table with roasted ham. Adriana's favourite was the chocolate fountain for dessert - she picked strawberries and marshmallows. Like most buffets it also had a salad bar, bread table, veggies and a seafood table.
Thank you darlings for making my day very special! 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Old Port, Montreal, QC

I love this city...for all the reasons below:

Although it was a rough start to the trip, it turned out to be an amazing time! Personally, I will never fly with Air Transat again - our easy peasy, 30mins flight turned into 2hrs in delays. They served cold tap water (I expected at least a pop or juice), and there was no communication as to why we're still sitting at the gate 45mins after the last announced delay. Once we landed in Montreal it was much better.

We took an Uber from the airport to the apartment we rented - so much easier than a cab and it was cheaper! The driver was fantastic, he was conversational, polite, funny, accommodating, etc. Quick trip but great service. I would expect nothing less considering Uber was created in Montreal!

We arrived so late that we missed our reservations at Modavie - however we still went to grab apps and some drinks. I had been looking forward to this place since I saw it last time we were there. It was so packed that we had to skip it but future planning allowed us to sneak a table reso for late when we arrived on the Friday. It was worth the wait - I had the braised lamb poutine and Patrick had the charcuterie board. Paired with a glass of wine each, of course! The live jazz band was still going and they weren't overly loud like some places in Toronto. It was very enjoyable! Beautiful decor, great location, service was amazing, and the food was delicious. Well worth the visit.

It was an early rise in the AM to get ready, pick up some quick breakfast and a cappuccino, then head to Bota Bota. We planned to do just the water therapies to relax and enjoy the company. If you arrive before 10am, its cheaper then the rest of the day and you can stay up to 3hrs. We checked in, changed and headed up to the 3rd floor hot tub. This was a great view of the city - we left our phones in the change room lockers and really tuned in with each other. Thankfully the weather cooperated and we had no rain, just a cool morning breeze off the river that was was refreshing. We moved down to the outside garden, where they had a heated pool, huge hot tub, cold plunge pool, sauna, steam room, fire pit, lounge chairs and (what i called) nap rooms. It was a good way to shut off and just enjoy - we didn't really have a timeline, except for the show that night. We soaked in the bit of sunshine that was coming out from the clouds, commenting on the high water from all the rain, talked about the new apartment (another post to come!), and our plans. It was beautiful and much needed.

After we left there, we went back to drop off our bags and head for lunch. We just walked until we saw a place we liked and went in. it was almost 2pm when we started eating. It was a small pizzeria where we sat and have a glass of wine (Rose for lunch!) and an appetizer. We took our first horse and carriage ride together to let our lunch settle. Our guide was funny and informative as we whisped through the streets with our Starbucks drinks. Then a walk up through the cobblestone streets, stepping into shops to browse, site seeing - all in the direction back to the apartment for a rest before we get ready for the night. I had closed by eyes for  about 30mins before we had to get up. Dinner before the show and we hadn't decided where to eat yet. Didn't really matter to me...its all good food!

We walked over to Jacques Cartier street and eventually settled down at Trattoia Gio - a beautiful restaurant that had a quiet patio to sit and people watch. It was good service, great wine list and delicious servings. We didn't have a big dinner, because we knew we would have to sit through the show and stay awake - which won't be hard. The show was absolutely beautiful!! I cried twice - but to be fair...I was emotional all weekend! It was different to hear the show in French (very little English) but we could understand most of it. It was a captivating show like always and our seats were fabulous! (CAA memembership is key) We saw a few new things in this show like a tight rope walker, an acrobat whose line was attached to her hair (ouch!) and the grand finale was BMX bike runs that basically were AT the crowd. It was just amazing!

After the show, we walked around the streets (twice) just experiencing the night. The weather was perfect, people flooded the streets, there was a few weddings going on, music everywhere. I love watching the lights off the river, hearing conversations as we pass groups of people, the cobblestone streets, etc. Its the entire atmosphere of Old Port, Montreal that really gets me every time.

The next morning we were up early to head over to the station. We made sure to grab a tea and some food first - even though we were in business class, we would get snacks and lunch, not breakfast. It was super easy to find the station (all kinds of signs pointing the direction). We had priority boarding so it was a short wait in the Business Lounge before we headed down the escalator to our car. We planned this in advance to only do carry-on bag so we didn't have to wait for luggage to be offloaded. Everything was on time the entire way - include open bar service ready to go at exactly 11am! (Thanks Via Rail!!) Service was great, it was quiet enough to take a nap, we had plenty of room to stretch out, I enjoyed the window seat and the lunch options were great. We arrived into Union station (Toronto) at exactly 2:07pm, hopped off the train and across the street for the GO Bus back to Mississauga.

It was a jammed packed weekend but not overwhelming by any means. We definitely enjoyed this trip without the driving (traffic) much more. Next time I'd love to do the train there and back, now that we know how easy it is! Also, next time we're bringing Adriana to finally experience this beautiful city. She would love everything - especially the food!

What are some of your favourite places in Canada? in the world?
Have you traveled by train before?
What was your experience?

Friday, March 31, 2017

Happy Spring

March 22nd is a beautiful day which (hopefully) is the last sign of snow for awhile. The weather warms up, the sunshines more, people work through the garden/storage clean up. Its a refreshing time; motivational even! It encourages people to think about the summer and plan vacations, like to Montreal...

We are booked to go the first weekend in May - fly there and Via rail home. I have fallen in love with Old Port and this time we're scratching things off the bucket list. The train home is a first for us - last time we went it took 10hrs to drive (long wknd traffic) so we said nope, never again! Booked us a fancy Business Class train ticket and plan to relax on the way home; maybe take a nap. In order to do this we would have to take the train or fly there. Since the timing for the train wasn't the best, we were able to find a flight in the evening. Easy Peasy.

Another, bucket list check for us is to see the new Cirque du Soleil - Volta, in Montreal! Tickets....check. Great seats? Double Check! Its brand new and opening April 20th, so we we will be there a few weeks into the show. Last summer we saw the tent still set up and I had tried to get tickets beforehand (sold out). This will be my 4th show - all others were seen in Toronto.

One last check of the bucket list will be to visit Bota Bota Spa. Its a former show boat, converted into a full on spa. We saw this on our "touristy" boat trip up the river when we were there in July. I said yes, definitely, must do next time. Hopefully the weather cooperates and we'll be able to enjoy the full experience inside and out.

The rest of the time we will fill in he gaps with eating, wine, walking around the shops. We use Airbnb and found a great place just around the corner from the Notre Dame Basilica. We chose it for the location mostly - its a beautiful apartment, complete with a full kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, laundry, living room, large windows and  a fireplace (just in case its cold!) We are about a 10min walk to the central train station. Starbucks down the street, about 8mins to Bota Bota, Jacques Cartier is about 12mins, beautiful view of Downtown Montreal (at least in the pictures). Can't wait to go!!

We love these weekend trips - a quick jaunt across the provincial border. Seeing things that are different than the typical Niagara Falls trip, or cottage. Don't get me wrong...I love those things, we are just looking for different sometimes.

What are some favourite spots in Montreal? Food? Site seeing?
Favourite weekend getaway?
Have you tried Airbnb before? Experience?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Spring is Around the Corner

I know what you're thinking - is this lady crazy? Well...yes, yes I am. So March isn't off to a good start weather wise. I promise you its coming though. I can feel it! Spring is around the corner.

With our peak temp hitting on the 6th and 7th then dropping again - We are still above average for this time of the year. I'll take it! Secretly I've already started packing away my winter sweaters to gear up for tshirts and flip flops. Not even joking. I love the warmer weather, regardless of the time of year. I was meant to be on a beach somewhere, with WiFi. Like the Bahamas ;)

I already have plans for the Spring (and Summer, because thats how excited I get) for travel, beach days, pool, walks by the lake, etc. All the fun stuff happens in the warmer weather seasons! People don't run away from the summer like they do for Winter. They embrace the little rain we get and the heat waves (for the most part). I skip most of Fall - once my birthday hits (Oct 1st), then its basically Christmas as far as I'm concerned. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy the little holidays in between but lets face it, Christmas is the most popular.

I told Adriana that its getting warmer and Spring is almost here - her response was "Can I go in my pool tomorrow?" Oh crack me up. No. She gets just as excited for Summer as I do and she JUST started school! Wait until she's a bit older and has a true appreciation for those 2 mths in between one school year and the next. I want to plan a trip for a week during that time - get away where its hotter than here and relax! It doesn't have to be a beach - although that's preferred over anything else. Peak season travel time - challenge accepted.

What are your summer perks?
Do you go away anywhere? Cottage?
Do you get out more? Exercise? Parks? Hikes? Canoe/Kayak?
Where are your favourite places to visit?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

February Fourteenth Twenty-Seventeen

Happy Valentine's Day Readers!

"Valentine's Day, also called Saint Valentine's Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is an annual holiday celebrated on February 14. It originated as a Western Christianliturgical feast day honoring one or more early saints named Valentinus, and is recognized as a significant cultural and commercial celebration in many regions around the world, although it is not a public holiday in any country." (reference)

I want to call out the keywords in this blurb - commercial celebration. This date easily multiplies staple gifts - such as cards, flowers, chocolate - by three times the original price.  Cash grab. What a waste and takes away from the meaning of celebrating love. Personally, I don't expect anything...its thoughtful to at least get a card though. Don't care for flowers since I usually kill them within a few days anyways. I am simple :)

Do you make Valentine's day a big thing?

What's the worst Valentine's day gift you ever received?
How often does your significant other forget about this day?

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Vacations: Worth every Penny

For the past one and a half years, I have wanted (needed) to go on a vacation. I wasnt entirely picky at first; I just wanted to get on the plane and go somewhere HOT. I researched everything I could about places I've never seen, starting small of course. I saved my money for months - including Christmas and birthday presents I had to buy for! And in the new year, we booked our first big trip away. We had a budget and already booked the time from work that would make it a bit easier to be away from Adriana. I needed that break. I had such a busy work season from August to end of December, and then again for the pass few weeks. Treat yo self.

Here we are in...The Bahamas!!

So admittedly this is not my first time to the country - however this is the first time visiting this island. I've been to Freeport a few years back for my sister's wedding. We are visiting Nassau this time. Staying on the beautiful Cable Beach at The Breezes Resort and Spa. I have to say...first impressions are everything! I about nearly died from excitement when we got to our room! See above picture (no joke!). We can see Atlantis in the distance and watched a few cruise ships come and go!

After reading the reviews, I had hoped for a high room, odd number and in the west tower - these were supposed to be the best rooms in the hotel beside the Presidential suit. Every room is ocean view, which is amazing. We are on the TOP floor (8th), odd number and in the west tower - Winning!!

From the bus transfer to the view, its been amazing! Jeremiah helped load our suitcases on the bus after guiding us to the bus area from the airport doors. A quick drive down the left side of the road and through a few roundabouts, we arrived at the front of the resort. Its an open concept lobby, which let's the breeze flow through nicely. Checking in was easy least and after we went to check out the menus for the restaurants again.

At the same time, they had a political party staying at the hotel for a few days. They were all polite, friendly (said hi to us all the time) and was never overwhelming in common areas. Plenty of seats, sun loungers, food, drinks, space for everyone.

The beach is my ultimate favourite thing! If a resort doesn't have a good beach...I probably won't go. White sand, clean, lots of sun and shade available. I read its the best beach in all of Nassau. I can understand why now! Its over 1000ft long against the crystal clear water.

Only Day #2 here and we have some adventures planned for the next several days we are here. I miss Adriana because I know how much she loves the beach - and kept asking if she can come back here one day! Most definitely will plan a trip with her - just not here because its Adults only ;)

Time to finish breakfast and head to the beach for the day!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Adriana turns 5yrs old

I have a FIVE year old. Five!

When the heck did five years go by so fast. OK to be honest, I knew this day was coming and I knew at some time I would have this reaction.

It wasnt when she turned one; I loved watching her grow, hit the milestones, etc. It wasnt the year after or the one after that. Instead it hit me when I realized all the teachings from birth to now, all the challenges, all the blessings, long nights, laughs, memories...they all lead up to her turning 5yrs old. What's that saying...

"The years before five last the rest of their lives"

How so very true. So here is to hoping I've instilled some great values, taught her morals, and of course manners, over the years. I hope that she never loses that sassiness. That she stands up for herself, when she doesn't agree with something. I hope she remembers right from wrong. I hope she makes good choices most of the time. And when she doesn't, I hope she learns a lesson for next time.

Dear Adriana,
I hope today was special for you - I try every year to show you the love and support that is around you every day. Family and friends who are part of your life to help you grow and be the best you can be. I love you baby girl - my one and only! You have taught me so much. You remind me to laugh more, imagine the biggest and brightest things, you are stubborn (but I still love it!). After these 5yrs with you, I can't wait for many more!!

Loves you tons and tons Babes!