In Nov 2014, my boyfriend Bo and I did something pretty crazy..
I was at work, casually scrolling Facebook (Hey, I’m allowed to, it’s my job ;)).. and I saw a Facebook post for a “Mistake Airfare” .. An “Around the World” ticket on Priceline for $177.
The ticket was from New York-Milan.. and then a connecting flight a week later from Prague to Thailand.
I scoffed at it, obviously, there’s absolutely NO WAY that could be remotely true. I clicked through and started seeing screen grabs and people freaking out about how their bookings went through, and that it was legit.
So..here I am, at work, half way through my first coffee.. freaking the f*&^ out. IS this real life? Milan?? THAILAND? Thailand has literally been at the top of my “dream destinations” list since, forever. What should I do? I started looking at my calendar.. (This was in May.. I actually hadn’t taken a single vacation day for the year up until that point)..
But then the “realities” started coming to mind. You don’t have enough time! Are you really going to spend two days in each country? You’ll be spending the whole time in planes and on busses.. You want to fly across the world to Thailand for ONE week??
I actually got kind of jittery and was texting my boyfriend like a mad woman. So then I casually strolled over to my boss and said something along the lines of.. “If I wanted to take some time off in November, would that be cool?”.. To which he replied “Of course, you haven’t taken time off yet”.. probably not assuming I was about to book a pretty insane trip AROUND THE GLOBE less than 10 minutes later..
So I called Bo, and clearly he was on the fence. Is this legit? Can we get the time off? …Are you crazy? After refreshing the screen 55 times in two minutes I thought..
I typed in the dates that the blog post recommended- you needed a “secret formula” of dates to make the flight deal go through. As more and more people started to find out, the price was fluctuating. After playing around with the dates for a few minutes- BINGO.. $250.
I plugged in all our info, put in my credit card information.. and sat staring at the computer- my heart literally pounding..
Millions of thoughts were going through my head from logistics to being rational to … IT’S THAILAND AUTUMN, GO GO GO!
SO, I closed my eyes held my breath and pressed CONFIRM.. I think I actually let out a little peep scream from my office chair..
Then I breathed out and texted my boyfriend “Oops, I booked it”.
Moral of the story…Follow your heart. Be Spontaneous. Life is short. JUST GO.
PS: This flight mishap even made it into the news. We were so fast to jump on it that they had to honour our ticket. Pretty freaking awesome.
Wondering how our trip went? Well, we successfully traveled the entire circumference of the world in 13 days. We took 11 flights. We stayed in 5 hotels. We took too many shuttles to count. We made it work.
It was the best 13 days of my entire life, just saying. In two weeks we did everything from walk around in castles in Milan, partake in some questionable activities in Amsterdam ;), stay in an unbelievably cool 60’s design hotel in Prague, hand-feed monkeys in Thailand..and that is just the beginning of it.
Stay tuned for all the deets, I am planning to share posts from each trip. And if you’re looking for mega flight deals, here’s the secret Facebook group.
I love design. L-O-V-E love it. But I’ve been feeling kind of like a phony lately because I pin, and I aspire, and I dream about all of these unique, interesting, thoughtful spaces.. all while living in my mediocre basement apartment in a boring part of Toronto…
I’ve had this mentality of.. “Why put money/time/effort into it? You’re not staying here anyways.. Who cares, you’ll decorate nicely when you have your dream loft”.. (ha, lofty goals- literally). “This is temporary. Just wait until you have a real space.”
Well folks, I’ve been living in this “temporary” basement apartment for five years now. That doesn’t feel very temporary. And contrary to what my mind may tell itself- it is a real space. Not only that, is it MY real space, and I need to start treating it as so.
No, it’s never going to have sky high windows and an exposed ceiling.. but I gotta give it some cred. I’ve got a MASSIVE backyard and a full vegetable garden. (Which this year I vow not to neglect!). I’ve also had some great luck with planting beauuutiful flowers.
AND I’ve also got an amazing 85 year old landlord who sometimes cooks for me and my boyfriend.. Like Hello.. Show me a loft that gives you hugs and home-made spaghetti.
Anyways, since we’ve been here 5 years and we’re not really ready to give up fresh cucumbers all summer, I’ve decided that instead of fighting with my little space, I’m going to embrace it and be grateful for what I do have.. And you know, maybe just give it a little bit of a mini facelift. There are lots of small tweaks that I can make to my space that won’t cost an arm and a leg and will make it look and feel a little bit more like my lofty dreams.
The first step for me is going to be DE CLUTTERING.
My eyes are a lot bigger than my apartment.. let’s put it that way. Vintage furniture shopping is hands down my favourite recreational activity.. and anyone who shops vintage knows it’s kind of a sink or swim way to shop. If you see a matching set of velvet art deco lounge chairs for $80, chances are if you don’t buy them RIGHT NOW and cram them into your house, you’ll lose them forever.. and then you’ll live with the guilt of “the ones that got away” for the rest of your life.
How could I possibly let these beautiful chairs lead life without me?
While we’re on the topic of bragging about my greatest hits, check these out. Here’s some solid finds from a flea market in Hanover Ontario near my hometown Walkerton. Side note// I also picked up the credenza above there.. for $25.
I have a thing for brass boots. (This image doesn’t show their true size, they are bookends, they are close to the size of my feet..that means nothing, I have baby feet..but they are pretty damn awesome.)
And I also grabbed this set of vintage paintings of cowboys contemplating life in the dessert at a small second hand shop on the way to Toronto from my home town in Walkerton. If you look closely, it’s actually a paint by number.
The moral of the story here is that I have found out that it is really hard for me to me to look a sofa, or a credenza, or a teak chair in the eye and say “No.”
Usually I say.. “I’ll make room ..and I’ll bring you to my future new house where I will have lots of room”.. because it’s a dream land in my mind with beams of sunlight and giant exposed brick walls and airy open concept space where all my vintage furniture laugh happily together and tells stories about all the people that missed out on the opportunity to have them forever.
Actually, what usually happens is I get the furniture home (Usually in pretty unconventional fashions, like.. bringing it on the bus..Or hiring my boyfriend to chauffeur it in his bands murder van)..
BTW, in this case I was a little strapped for time, and was willing to take any means of transportation to get these babies home- if I were you, putting down something between your new furniture and the dirty floor of an old van is probably the way to go.
So usually I’ll trek my newly beloved furniture home, regardless of it’s shape or size.. and stuff it into my 1000 sq. foot basement apartment. It doesn’t fit. It never does. There’s no room in my apartment for MORE stuff. So what happens is I leave it there for a few months in an awkward manner.. something that looks SUPERB, like stacked in my bedroom ontop of a dresser.. or crammed in a hallway so you can’t walk through it. You know, places that embody the elements and principals of design without interrupting flow.
Then once it’s percolated in a weird spot in my apartment for a few months, I try to pawn it off onto my parents to “save for me”. (You know, for my future house).. So far, my Mom hasn’t minded THAT much, and has been sporadically spreading my art deco chairs allover the house.. but I think my Dad is starting to become aware of the influx of velvet sprinkled in every corner and I’ve got another credenza and an 8 foot tufted sofa that I have a feeling he may notice.
I haven’t really figured out an ending to this story yet, or this blog post… Basically, I am pairing down my things and it might mean parting ways with some of my treasured finds in the name of sanity and space. I’ll keep ya’ll posted.
Side note.. weird timing. I was listening to the Jess Lively podcast this morning, a usual routine- and on the show she mentioned the book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”.. which, ironically in every sense.. is a book that was given to me by a co-worker (am I really that bad??) and is currently stacked (and unopened)..among a pile of books, collages, art supplies and canvases in my ultra-clean room.
I think the universe is trying to tell me something.
Bo and I decided randomly one night while sitting on the couch at home that enough was enough, we had to go away again. The year previous we had traveled our epic journey around the world (Milan, Amsterdam, Prague, Thailand), and since stepping foot back in Toronto it had been all we thought about. (And it still is!).. We started the usual process for figuring out where to go. Usually I’ll start somewhere like Pinterest and type in a few places to start getting inspired. We knew we wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t across the world.. as we only had a week to travel we had to plan something that wouldn’t eat up too many of our limited vacation days.
I had personally always wanted to see Costa Rica. Seeing wildlife is a big thing for me, it’s probably one of my favorite aspects of travelling. After a few Google searches I discovered that I could see TONNES of animals in the wild in Costa Rica.. everything from dolphins to crocodiles, to toucans, monkeys and lizards. (spoiler alert: we saw all of those!)
After a few hours of Googling and daydreaming about sloths, we decided.. let’s just do it.(Kind of our travel motto.) And in a complete act of spontaneity we pretty much immediately booked two tickets..
Well.. back that up a second. As soon as we had decided Costa Rica was the place.. I immediately hopped on Airbnb. This was actually my first experience using Airbnb, I had heard really positive sentiment from a blogger I follow so I decided to give it a shot.
For anyone who isn’t aware, Airbnb is this tremendous website where you can rent peoples houses for your trip. You create a profile and join this cool community of travelers. Everything is based on reviews, so every time you stay somewhere you have to leave a review (the host also leaves a review on your profile). The host can approve or deny you, and there’s a messaging feature to let the host know a little bit about yourself. Why is this so awesome? Well, there’s like a million reasons but here’s my top few.
A lot of times the pricing on Airbnb is SUPER reasonable. Not to mention- sometimes the price is for renting the entire house! (Actually in all my experiences so far it’s been for the entire house!)
2. ADVENTURE BABY.
An experience with Airbnb is so much different than a hotel because you’re getting all the insider-super-secret-hyper-local tips on what to do in the town based on the host, you know.. actually having lived there. This my friends.. is pure gold. An example of this in action? Oh, I don’t know.. maybe the secret 20 foot waterfall that was a half an hour hike through the rainforest in our “back yard” that ONLY US were at. (Instead of the tourist waterfalls with 30 people wielding selfie sticks) ..I digress.
There’s a big difference between staying in a hotel room that is a carbon copy of 20 other rooms on the same floor as you, with the same mini bar, the same curtains and the same boring ass carpets- or staying in a house that is oozing with character, stories, and thoughtful design. As someone who really loves design, being surrounded by a carefully curated space makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. With little hints at past stays (sometimes Airbnb hosts will keep a guest book and you can read little tidbits from previous guests), to quirky and adorable little touches.. (Like handwritten notes and fresh flowers)..I just think there’s a lot more heart involved in an Airbnb trip. (And if you’re waving your finger about how staying in a stunning house decorated with vintage mid century furniture MUST be like quadruple the price.. you’re totally off. You can find gems all over the world for reasonable prices, you just have to do some digging.)
Choosing to stay in a hotel on Airbnb might have been the single greatest decision we made the entire trip.
Back to my story.. Not even an hour into my Airbnb search I found it. The money shot. The DREAM HOTEL. You know when you stumble upon something and your heart just lurches out of your chest? That was this. It’s like we were meant to find each other. I went into a frenzy reading all the reviews, 5 stars, 5 stars, 5 stars.. Not a single bad thing to say about this hotel with like 20 reviews to back it up. I was already envisioning sipping my morning coffee looking out into the rainforest.
“You can hear howler monkeys when you wake up.”
“The entire front of the house is screen so it’s like sleeping in the jungle.”
“Hummingbirds, toucans, the most incredible view of my life.”
“A fantastic place where time stops.”
At this point I was like, kind of freaking out. We HAD to stay here. I showed my boyfriend, who- obviously wasn’t was psycho about the hotel as I was and he said, “Yeah.. That’s cool.. We should do that!” I am not sure he was even really 100% listening to me.. So I booked it. I didn’t even Google the address. I had no idea where in Costa Rica it was. This is not a travel tip blog. LOL. So, my boyfriend, dear Bo.. Was a little bit annoyed that “You don’t even know where in Costa Rica it is?”.. The new rule is we need to Google the addresses before we book things.. Duly noted.
So where did we stay?
I promise you, photos don’t even begin to do this home justice. My heart literally swells just thinking about this place. We stayed in a sustainable living eco-home with rain water catchment & solar panels 4 KM up the mountains in Uvita Costa Rica.
I have never seen anything like it. Rainforest kissing the clouds. Like being on top of the world.
As soon as we arrived we saw toucans hopping on trees right in front of our balcony. Side note: One of the shuttle drivers that drove us told us that Toucans are actually a little bit evil and a lot of people don’t like them because they prey on birds eggs and baby birds.
The entire front of the house was made out of sliding screen doors, with full glass walls in the bedroom. I can’t even describe the sounds at night and in the morning. A symphony of nature. You can hear howler monkeys hooting at 5Am.. The birds all singing together in chorus. At night, all the insects and nocturnal animals can be heard clear as day. Unbelievable and truly indescribable. (Just go stay here please, you will thank me a billion times over).
All throughout the property there were fresh fruits that you could harvest and eat yourself. We had Guaro and Squirt.. a Costa Rican version of vodka & 7UP with fresh limes from our backyard the entire trip.
The house sits on 4 acres with views of the Costa Rica Whale Tail, so you really experience the best of both worlds with beach and water on one side, and lush mountains and clouds on the other.
Are you convinced yet? I want to bring everyone I know here. It’s like the best kept secret ever. If you’re looking to make the trek, here’s a few more details:
We flew from Canada to San Jose. From San Jose we hired a shuttle to drive us to Uvita for around $100 US. (As opposed to renting a car). It was approx a 3 hour drive.
We loved this shuttle company! Our driver’s name was Ronnie and he was awesome. (Everyone in Costa Rica was!).. Ronnie pulled over on the way to our Airbnb and let us check out all the crocodiles at Darcomes Bridge. (We saw 27 people!) He also stopped and bought us fresh mangos- what a guy! When we got to town, we had Ronnie drop us at the grocery store so we could stock our fridge at home.
We then flagged a cab to take us the rest of the way. You will need a 4×4. Since we like to have a few drinks whenever we’re out, we didn’t bother renting a 4×4 for the entire trip but that is an option as well. To save some cash we would walk to town each day and cab back each night for around $20US.
We took a cab back to the airport when the trip was over.. we just arranged it the night before with a cabbie from town and he was there bright and early at 3:30 AM the next morning to take us to the airport.
You can read about the rest of our trip here. (Where I talk about ziplining, snorkelling, and the night we pretty much almost died.. How’s that for a cliff hanger?)
If you have any questions, leave them below. Happy travels!
I loooooooveee collage! When I saw that Gladstone was offering a collage class I jumped at the opportunity! Because 1: Collage is AWESOME and I have always wanted to learn the tricks of the trade. & 2: Hanging out in the Gladstone is seriously the coolest. There’s wine there, the most inspiring architecture, decor, art galleries.. seriously, what more could you want? Not to mention their completely unique artist designed hotel rooms– #goals.
I just love juxtaposing visuals that don’t belong together. I love art that is a little bit mind-bending, surreal and grabs hold of your imagination.
This is one of the first collages that really made me appreciate collage- this image turned into countless nights of “just one more pin”..
I found out about the class from the Gladstone Hotel Instagram account- they actually offer lots of really great classes- a part of their GetSchool’d workshop series. Get with it. No, I don’t work there.. but I should. Actually, a life goal is to design a room there. Wait for it.
Danielle is a Toronto collage artist from who creates collages filled with humour; robots encountering animals, strange creatures speaking in tongues, out of control white picket fences and most recently, the explorations overly confident women, dinosaurs and domestic accoutrement.
I fell in love with her series of domesticated birds in fancy vintage homes. Her precision and attention to detail is extraordinary. (Seriously guys, just try cutting out bird legs.. )
And look at this photo she posted the other day of a work in progress- the SIZE is incredible!
The class size was small, so it’s a really intimate experience- Danielle was able to answer all of our questions and she showed us the ropes & taught us all the basics for cutting & pasting- with all the supplies readily available for everyone to use (including her totally priceless stacks of vintage National Geographics, Space textbooks, Dinosaur books, Deep Sea books + more).
She also gave us a few REALLY great tips.
Tip #1: cut all your white space before you cut the edges. (DUH!) Anybody else remember in public school how cutting around your object was the first thing you instinctively did? Nu uh. Get dat whitespace.
Tip #2: Find images that share a colour story to make it look like the items belong. If you look at her work, she practices this a lot. Like the chairs in her bird images have similar colour tones to the birds themselves- making it seem almost as if they belong there.
And I’m sure you’re DYING to see what I’ve done with what I’ve learned ;)!
This was an old record.. in preparation for the class I grabbed a PILE of them from a local thrift shop. Old records=awesome vintage imagery. I tried to maneuver the under water scene to look like he still had his eye. I also added the mountains to the bottom and all those cutie urchins.. and you’ll notice a sneaky bird off to the left- using Danielle’s colour trickery ;)!
This one is a work in progress. I cut out those vintage plants from an AMAZING Value Village book haul. That monstera leaf plant was definitely a sit in my cozies with lots of tea and take my time project. I’m currently still looking for appropriate frames for these guys- I’ve got a few of them! Keep you updated on how they pan out.
Here’s another idea I was playing around with. Using glass frames to create a 3D-like collage. (& how about that combing her hair in the tropical jungle swinging plant babe?)
Lastly, let me know if you have any questions about the class be sure to leave them below!
Upcoming collage classes at Gladstone can be found here.