What It's Really Like To Move Away- Part 1 (New York)

When I was 18 I moved to New York alone to go to NYU. I distinctly remember the feeling of sitting at a deli with my dad after a day of moving in and furnishing my dorm room, getting up to say goodbye before his flight back to Montreal, and getting this incredible sinking feeling in my stomach: what did I just do? I barely knew anyone in New York. Most of my friends were still in Montreal or not far away and most of my family was still home. Somehow I decided to leave everything I knew to live in a place alone, entirely on my own accord. Did I just make a big mistake?

Let's back up a bit. When I was 14 my brother moved to London to attend LSE. We would go visit him a few times a year and he would come home for summers. Every time he left to go back, I'd get this feeling like "wow, he's experiencing something so different and so magical- living abroad, meeting new friends, experiencing a new culture." I felt jealous and I knew I had to do the same. When the time came to apply to university, I applied to 50 (no joke) all around the world. Eventually, it came down to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, USC, and NYU. I visited Scotland and immediately decided it wasn't for me: it rained the entire time, I couldn't understand a word the teacher was speaking as his accent was so thick it no longer resembled English and the food was...not for me. I loved the idea of USC but it seemed too far for me. While New York is an hour flight from Montreal, Los Angeles is a 5-6 hour flight. So NYU it was.

The night my dad left New York after helping me settle into my dorm, I felt an incredible mix of emotions. On the one hand, I was living a life I saw my brother live: moving somewhere new alone. On the other hand, I hadn't really thought through what it would be like to live somewhere new alone at 18. I kind of just did it. Fast forward a few months, I really got into it. While I spent the majority of my weeks studying like crazy, my friends, boyfriend at the time, and parents would visit frequently. Plus, to go home was just a short one hour flight away. I was okay. I was happy.  There were still times I felt a bit lonely, and so in my third year I decided to get a dog, and in came Luca. By the end of my time in New York, I truly felt like a younger Carrie Bradshaw, living my best early 20s life in NYC. I loved the city and my time there but I did feel a sense of relief knowing that it was limited and I'd be returning home soon.

When I moved back, I got an upper duplex apartment that was amazing in my favorite part of Montreal. I was back with my friends, family, and my normal Montreal routine. And a few months later I met Ray. One day we were standing in Starbucks waiting for our drinks when he said he couldn't wait to move away one day. Uh oh...When I moved back from New York, I really thought it was for good (or at least a while). Should we just end our fling right there? After all, it had only been a few weeks. He definitely wasn't thinking long-term and moving away with me. But I was definitely thinking do I want to get serious with someone who wants to move away. He had never moved away but I just had.

We continued to date and didn't talk about it again. By the end of my first year in law school, and the end of my first year back in Montreal, I was kind of over it again. While I cherished the things I had missed (like regular girls nights and family dinners), I couldn't really ignore the things I didn't like about living in the city. I had recently experienced three years of incredible growth: the excitement of living in a new city, independence of learning to live alone, new routines, new restaurants, a new way of living. Montreal just didn't provide that. Moreover, it didn't help that I hated law school and desperately wanted to escape that environment. That May, Ray and I took a trip to LA. We stayed at the Four Seasons on Doheny and would spend our afternoons wandering the streets of Beverly Hills (the residential parts, not even the shops). We would talk about what we wanted our life to look like and how much we loved this city. I remember saying we should come back for longer next time.

Somehow over the years, the idea of coming back for a week turned into finding a way to move here full-time. People always ask who wanted to move here and the truth is we both did, at the exact same time. And so, we made it happen. After four years of dating, on March 31, 2014, we moved to LA.

To be continued in Part 2. 

Jacket: Forever 21, Jeans: Rag & Bone, Boots: Marc Fisher, Sunglasses: Ray-Ban

Weekend Getaway: The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe

A few weeks ago Ray and I decided we needed a little weekend getaway. We started researching hotels and came across several perfect ones. However, when it came to logistics, most didn't work. Ideally, we needed somewhere driving distance from LA. Our other criteria (particularly mine, lol), was cozy and quaint with a beautiful spa. We came across the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe and it was exactly that: a charming inn with a famous day spa. Booked!

We packed up Saturday morning and left the city around 10:00 am. We arrived just in time for lunch. Even though it wasn't time for check-in yet, the women at the front desk were so sweet and accommodating and found us a room that was available for early check-in. We dropped off our bags and Luca (sorry Luca!) and headed for lunch.

The room was bigger than our condo, I kid you not. There was a living room with a fireplace, a kitchen, two bathrooms and a huge master bedroom with sitting area. The space is pretty ideal if you have kids. In the room was a dog bed and bowls for Luca. Any hotel that is so accommodating towards pets is a winner in my books. There is nothing worse than fighting with a hotel that he's a service dog and they don't have a choice (thank you, next).

We had dinner at Morada, the restaurant in the Inn. The decor is rustic and cozy. It kind of reminds me of a Ralph Lauren store. The menu had so many options for me, which is rare (I'm a pescetarian, fyi). Chef House came over and offered a tasting menu. It was the first tasting menu I could actually enjoy, since normally I can't eat half of what is brought out. My favorite dish was the bass.

After dinner, we didn't feel ready to head back to the room. We took a seat at the Huntsman Whiskey Bar and started chatting with Dutch, the mixologist. I complained to him that I never know what to order, and always end up ordering one of the following: Aperol Spritz, glass of champagne, glass of rose, Dirty Martini or port. I've never sat down with a mixologist to find creative drinks that I'd like. He was so patient and asked me tons of questions to figure out what I like and what I don't (which was surprisingly difficult for me, since I'm not quite sure when it comes to hard alcohol). He created a drink for me, and a few for Ray. It was the perfect end to our evening.

Sunday morning we started the day with a couples massage. I don't think I've ever had a massage first thing in the morning. Normally, I book them for the later afternoon before dinner. I have to say, it was SUPER relaxing. The bed was heated (a dream in the morning) and the massage therapists were incredible. We then spent some time having tea in the lounge before heading back to our room to pack up and go back to LA.

People always ask if we travel a lot around LA. The thing is: 1) it's expensive, and 2) we work (duh). But seriously, it's not so easy to find a place that is relatively close by, making a 24-48 hour trip worth it, and that's in our price range. The Inn totally satisfied our criteria, was relatively well priced and close to LA. We can't wait to make this an annual trip and go back next year...or maybe next summer, if I can convince Ray ;).

What I Want for 2019

Starting to write this post, I had a look at my intentions for 2018. For some reason, I completely forgot what I had intended to accomplish over the past year. It actually made me giggle. I had baby fever in 2017? Oy. I wanted to finish decorating my office and then decorate my kitchen nook? At least I got to the office! (lol). Create more youtube content (uh oh...). Slow down? I actually think I wasn't so bad at that. If anything, listing your intentions for the upcoming year is a nice way to chart where you are that year (emotionally or otherwise). So let's get started on my intentions for 2019!

- Redecorate my kitchen nook and dining room.  So this has found it's way on my list again this year. However, I actually think it will happen this time. I've already picked the table and chairs I want and have started to think about how I want to decorate the shelves in the nook. Plus, I moved the big Ikea mirror that was awkwardly in my dining room into my bedroom, so I'm ready to replace that with something more appropriate. To be honest, it's never a lack of motivation to redecorate. It's all about the cost. Somehow, that extra $1,000 I need to redecorate these spaces always ends up going to something I prioritize more. This year, it's going to be a priority.

- Work on managing my anxiety.  This will probably make its way on to every list I write for the rest of my life. It's kind of a reminder for me of how important it is to try and manage my anxiety. Last night I got into bed after a really fun day and evening out, Ray fell right asleep and sure enough, I spent three hours worrying about everything (and I mean everything). Two hours into this anxiety attack (it wasn't a panic attack), I realized that if I could change my thoughts from worry to worry in less than 15 seconds each, it was clearly anxiety and not my rational self. And so, I let the thoughts just come and go, knowing in the morning I'd forget about 98% of these worries (or, at least, they wouldn't seem nearly as big). And that's what happened. Learning to manage anxiety is key. Who wants to waste so much energy worrying about things that may never happen? Some weeks are better than others and that's okay. It's a work in progress, lol.

- Figure out my fertility and when we want kids.  A few months ago I went off the Pill after 15 years to give me body a break. Will this year be the year for kids? I'm not sure. Ray is definitely ready. I have my days. Some days (especially those I spend with close friends and family who are pregnant), I think to myself we're totally ready! We've been married for 4 1/2 years, have stable jobs, are obsessed with spending all of our time with Luca (lol) etc. Other weeks I get a sinking feeling in my stomach. How am I supposed to balance a law career (which is growing so quickly), my blog (which I want to grow more and more), my marriage, my personal well-being (mental and physical health), and children (especially with no family in LA). It's terrifying.

- Unsubscribe to emails.  I am subscribed to so many useless emails that I just delete every morning. Along with my goal to declutter my house (see below), I am going to declutter my inbox. Who's with me?

- Write more blog posts.  I have failed at posting consistently on my blog this year. And the sad part is, I love to write. I love to post. I'm just having a hard time finding the motivation to do so. I work all week in my law job and I'm exhausted when I get home at night. On the weekends I just want to spend time with Ray rather than working.  So finding the time to sit down and write has been difficult. But I am going to prioritize it this year. My goal is to post once a week. If I could post more, great!

- Declutter.  This is key if we want to start a family. In all likelihood, we will stay in our apartment for a while. While I absolutely love it, there isn't a ton of storage space and most cupboards are overflowing with my clothes (clothes that I rarely wear). I gave away and donated a ton of clothes this past year, but it's time to give away even more. I also need to declutter my decor. I have some decor pieces that have followed me for the past 10 years. While I like them, it's definitely time for them to go. The fake plants I bought for $20 fit the bill after college, but now they're kind of over. I want less stuff in the house, including those chachkies.

Anyway, it'll be fun to see next year which intentions I follow through with and which I don't. Wishing you all a Happy New Year!  xoxo

Friendsgiving brunch

A couple of weeks ago a few friends and I got together for a Friendsgiving brunch. Any excuse to get together with the girls, dress up, eat delicious food and sip on mimosas (my favorite part, duh) is good with me! Our vision for this brunch was to stick with the fall theme. Let's be honest, seasons barely exist in LA. It goes from really hot, to warm during the day and cool at night, to really hot. In a way, we need to fake it. And coming from Montreal, I need to find some excuse to wear half of my wardrobe (i.e. my 100 jackets and knits). So fall theme it was!

Once we decided on a theme, we discussed the details. What kind of menu we wanted (aka meeting mostly my food requirements since I'm always the pickiest!). What kind of drinks we wanted (anything with prosecco- duh!). What we should wear (give me all of the cozy sweaters). And how we should decorate the table. And, if I say so myself, it came out pretty amazing.

So let's get into detail. First and most importantly was the mimosa bar. Of course, I start with the alcohol. We created a very DIY Pinterst-esque bar, with freshly squeezed orange juice, grapefruit juice and lemonade, and Danzante Prosecco. The Prosecco was bubbly and dry (pro tip: If the Prosecco is too sweet, it can really ruin the taste of the mimosa). This was the perfect prosecco to drink alone or to add a splash of juice (OJ was my preference).

Camille hosted us at her home. Her house is pretty perfect. The dining area is bright, clean and spacious. We decided to keep the decor relatively neutral. The color palette was mostly white, light blue, silver and gold. All of the pieces were from West Elm Los Angeles and it made me fall in love with the store all over again. It's incredible the difference nice dishes and serving plates make when hosting.

I've been looking to invest in new dishes lately and I'm considering purchasing the ones we used- simple and classic. The coasters were my fav and such a good stocking or secret santa gift idea.

Natasha did all of the cooking, which is a really good thing considering I'm an awful chef. Not only did she do all of the cooking she also did all of the food shopping at Whole Foods beforehand.  Whole Food guarantees you'll find all of the ingredients on your list without having to run all over LA (and with the traffic who has time for that?). Plus you know it's all going to be fresh and delicious.

She prepared a vegetable frittata, an arugula salad (with the best salad dressing ever), smashed potatoes, and a beautiful fruit salad. While she was working away in the kitchen and I was stealing bites of the potatoes, I actually picked up a few really good tips from her. For example, when building a fruit salad, start with the heavier items first and then add something green at the end to switch up the texture and flavor (like rosemary). Another tip was to add various things to water for some flavor (and makes it seem much fancier). She took a clear pitcher from West Elm and added rosemary and pears.  Brilliant! 

The girls all wore pieces from Splendid. When trying to decide which clothing brand to work with on this brunch, Splendid was all of our top picks. It's probably because they make the best fall clothing (you guys know how obsessed I am with the Dune and Sherpa jackets). 

Camille, Christine, Natasha and I were thinking of making this kind of blogger brunch a series (different homes, different occasions etc). What do you guys think?? xoxo

Prosecco: Dantanze Wines
Decor: West Elm
Groceries: Whole Foods
Clothing: Splendid
Camille's Blog: Charmed by Camille
Christine's Blog: Daily Kongfidence
Natasha's Blog: Nosh With Tash

Dry Brushing: What's It All About?

If you're anything like me you've probably heard about dry brushing, considered incorporating it into your routine and then got too lazy to follow through. I mean, I spend so much time taking care of my skin, nourishing my body, exercising and focusing on my overall wellness, why not incorporate dry brushing? I was sent this Joanna Vargas brush this week and decided to refresh myself on the benefits of dry brushing.

Dry brushing is just as it sounds: brushing your dry skin. The bristles on the brush are pretty firm, which helps to exfoliate, to promote circulation and stimulate the lymphatic system. So why is this important?

Skin's appearance.  The most obvious is that it'll improve your skin's texture. Just like using the Dr. Dennis Gross Facial Peel Pads, or the Joanna Vargas Exfoliating Mask, your body needs to be exfoliated as well. And I'm definitely guilty of neglecting that.

Minimizing cellulite. Dry brushing is said to help reduce cellulite. Cellulite is fat under the skin. When you brush your skin, it increases blood circulation which helps to flush fat out of your skin. Are you going to lose pounds from dry brushing? No. Am I willing to spend 2 minutes a day to try and reduce the chance of getting cellulite in the future? Hell, yes.

Improve the immune system.  Promoting circulation in your body is said to increase the level of white blood cells, clean the body's tissues and help to filter out waste and toxins.

As I mentioned, I've yet to incorporate dry brushing into my wellness routine. But reminding myself of the benefits definitely makes it tempting. I'm going to start this week and keep you posted!

My Grocery Checklist

It took me a while to get good a grocery shopping. What do I mean by that? When we first moved to LA we would go food shopping, spend over $200, get home and feel like we had nothing to eat. Slowly, I figured out what meals I cook the most and what ingredients I need each week. We've also realized what to buy at each grocery store (i.e. if you buy everything at Whole Foods you'll be broke). Every Sunday afternoon Ray and I go to Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and Bristol Farms. Here is what we typically buy at each store:

Trader Joe's
  • 4 bags of lettuce (usually a mix of romaine and spring mix)
  • Veggies (cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, mushrooms)
  • Fruits (bananas, strawberries, blueberries, a bag of lemons)
  • Dates
  • Avocado (bag of 4-5 small ones)
  • Sweet Potato (2-3)
  • Protein bars for Ray
  • Earth balance (once a month)
  • Cold Brew for Ray
  • Eggs 
  • Peanut butter and almond butter (once a month)
  • Chips/popcorn for Ray
  • Frozen wild miso Cod (so good and easy to prepare)
  • Some other frozen stuff depending on the week, like gluten free pizza made with cauliflower crust, veggie dumplings, shrimp stir fry etc. 
  • Any sauces we may need
  • Tea 
  • Wine (so cheap!) 
  • Water

Whole Foods 
  • Cranberry tuna salad (small container)
  • Salmon (premade, I hate cooking it)
  • Spinach empanadas 
  • Quinoa salad (small container)
  • Dave's killer bread (thin slice)
  • Miso soup packs
  • Unsweetened vanilla Ripple milk
  • Vegan chocolate pudding

Bristol Farms
  • Ray gets all his meat here and if I'm going to cook fish, I'll buy it here (usually a white fish, salmon or smoked salmon)
  • Freshly squeezed orange juice with ginger or green juice (2-3 bottles for the week)
  • Starbucks breakfast blend coffee (twice a month)
  • Gluten free chia waffles for Ray
  • Beer for Ray 
  • Bio K probiotic yogurt (twice a month) 

Hawaii Recap

Ray and I went to Hawaii for my 30th birthday. We both had never been and didn't really know what to expect. Everyone kept telling us that it was the most magical place. To be honest, we expected it to be a bit like Bali- beyond magical, tropical and foreign (even though it's part of the US). When we landed and noticed all of the strip malls and giant chain stores we were a bit confused. It took us a few days to genuinely appreciate it. While it may not be foreign in the way we had expected it, it was definitely breath-taking and unlike anywhere we've seen before. It also helps to know where to go and what to do.

Island.  We went to Maui and stayed there for 5 nights and 6 days. I think this was the perfect amount of time on the Island.

 We stayed at the Ritz in Kapalua. We only stayed there because we used points. It was okay. The service was amazing but the facilities and rooms were just okay (i.e. not very luxurious). I would recommend it if you wanted to use points but I wouldn't stay there if I had to pay.

Restaurants.  When we landed we stopped at a food truck called Like Poke?, which was 5 minutes from the airport (in a Costco parking lot). I found it on yelp. The poke was UNREAL. We ended up stopping there on our way back to the airport. Our favorite dinners were Mamma's Fish House and Merriman's. Mamma's Fish House sits on the most beautiful piece of land overlooking the water. They have something called a rolling menu. The menu starts off with the fish they have that day and as the fish sells out, the fishermans' come and bring more fresh fish and they update the menu with whatever catch comes in. Merriman's also has the prettiest view (we ended up eating there twice).

Sightseeing.  We spent a day doing the Road to Hana. It's long but worth it. It took us about 9.5 hours of driving in total. I won't lie, I was really nervous since I tend to get pretty car sick. Surprisingly, I was okay. Just make sure to drive with the windows down and sit in the front. The valet driver at our hotel told us about the Shaka App and I don't know how we would have done it without it. The app is like a virtual tour guide. You download it and it works off of your GPS (since you lose service pretty quickly). The guide describes each stop and even offers helpful tips like whether it's worth it stop and see (since there are so many stops you can't possibly do it all in one trip), whether it's family friendly (aka the hikes aren't too difficult- perfect for me haha), where to park, how far you are from Hana etc. It also plays Hawaiin music and tells you stories about Hawaiin culture. It was like having your own private tour guide. I honestly don't know how people do it without it.

Clothes.  Bring cute beach clothes, sandals, running shoes and windbreakers. It rains a ton, but for a few short minutes each time. I didn't wear any of the heels I brought. And I definitely overpacked (oops!).