Quebec City Getaway

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I hadn't returned to Quebec City in nearly 25 years, so it's been long overdue to go to the province's capital city. It's really quite incredible how much of the old city has remained in the old part of Quebec City. Lots of refurbished cobbled stoned roads but most impressive are of course, the stone buildings so impeccably maintained. Hills are abound all over the city, so you really get beautiful vistas of the city.

Modern art hangs in great contrast in Vieux Quebec.

Though I actually didn't snap any photos on my DSLR of Chateau Frontenac, I spent my creative juices on a little known library (at least in Montreal) called La Maison de la Littérature, a renovated former temple of the neogothic style. The marriage between old and new complemented by it's beautiful arched windows was basically a photographer's wet dream. At least it was mine. This building basically satisfied all photography lust in me. Simply a must visit. 

The library was equipped with ultra modern equipment such as touch screen computers, high styled designed poles about famous Quebec writers, secluded and quiet study rooms, and light. Lots and lots of light.

We didn't have time to visit the Musée des Beaux Arts, but I suppose that will have to wait for another time. Or, whenever we return to Quebec, perhaps in another 25 years.

Beautiful British Columbia

In Sidney, BC with a great view of Mount Baker.

After hearing so many stories of how much Canadians love BC, I finally took a vacation to visit our beautiful west coast province this summer. Quite frankly, I'm not exactly sure why I've been kept away from such majestic sceneries. While I had once visited Vancouver on a rainy April month 7 years ago, I wasn't quite sure what to expect about Victoria.

With the help of my significant other's parents, who were more than happy to give me the grand tour of their amazing place they call home, I have been charmed off my pants, as they say. 

After visiting Santa Barbara while I was working in LA, I simply adored the calm and quiet coastal life of Santa Barbara. It was a retiree's dream: the coast, the mountains, the wine, the sunshine and the friendly people. It was all so perfect. Who knew I would find myself in the same situation again but just over the border?

At Ogden Point, where you could watch cruise ships park at the port.

I went around quite a few places during my vacation: Tofino, Cowichan Lake, Sooke, Victoria, and, my favorite, the West Shore. Sure, Victoria is mainly made up of two demographics: the newlyweds and the nearly deads (picked that up from the bf). Indeed, the city is chock full of young families and retirees. They are bulldozing their way through beautiful trees to make room for all the new homes and subdivisions they're building. My guess is to accommodate the overflow of Vancouverites who are looking for more affordable homes in the area.

At Hatley Castle's Japanese Gardens.

At Hatley Castle's Japanese Gardens.

Anyway, while Victoria and Vancouver Island are seriously lacking in public transit, we had to make do in going around in a car. This is not to say that the quality of life diminishes greatly without them. From my observations and my future father-in-law's enthusiastic touring the West Shore, life in the suburbs was abundant and picture perfect. From the recreational activities you could do like lake swimming and golfing, they were also blessed with amazing trails where you can observe wild life like bald eagles and seals, and on many occasions, local deer on the roads. The views over water were also something pretty exciting to behold, to watching cruise ships go buy, to seeing a bird sanctuary, to touring the grounds of Hatley's Castle.

I don't know what these flowers are, but I would love to have these for my garden!

On Vancouver Island, I made my second official camping trip with a stop at Cowichan Lake and Cathedral Grove to look at some really tall and really old trees. Our destination on the island was Tofino, a surfer town chock full of young, international millennials there to surf and camp. I captured amazing shots of the fog rolling into the beach where the tide went out so far that it left the sand gleaming and reflecting like a mirror.

Fog regularly rolls in at Chesterman Beach in Tofino, BC.

Evanescence...

Back near Victoria, we also went to the beautiful beach town of Sidney, where you can spot Mount Baker on the horizon on a clear day. We went as far South East as Sooke to see another coastal community with perhaps the most charming and idyllic B&B called the Sooke Harbour House.

At Sooker Harbour House. Wouldn't you love to have breakfast to this every day??

Of course, the trip wasn't complete without a drive down south to Portland, OR where we ventured into so many breweries, dispensaries and final stop at Bridal Veil to snap the beautiful Multnomah Falls.

Multnomah Falls, feels like a scene out of Legend.

All in all, I can definitely see myself settling in BC. There was no convincing needed for me to move back out West again. Who knew that BC had so many similarities of beach front communities, but also a fair weather to match during those summer days. Clear blue skies, not too hot, not too cold, friendly, clean, proud to be Canadian, what more could you ask?

Work in Progress

Malm dresser in white, simple and functional.

It's been two weeks since I moved into my new apartment, and we're finally (and slowly) putting together some furniture for the apartment. While the S.O. has claimed the balcony and back terrace, I'm hoping to claim our bedroom and living room as my decorating initiatives. Our bedroom is quite bare at the moment, but it's only because I've been slowly assembling our IKEA furniture together to give us extra storage space. Our apartment has these great Victorian-style doorway mouldings and I'm reluctant to paint any walls, but really would love to make those mouldings pop like Jenna Lyons' former abode in Brooklyn. Our bedroom actually gets incredibly bright in the morning, so maybe having a darker wall wouldn't be such a bad idea considering Lyons' room gets direct sunlight and having an all white room would be blinding in the morning.

I'm going the way of Sarah Sherman Samuel's guidance of Boho chic with Mid-Century modern furniture and geometric touch ups. I know...IKEA is completely Scandinavian and far away removed from Mid-Century modern, but unfortunately that style isn't readily available in Montreal, as well as West Elm is currently out of my price range of a quicky storage solution, so I will need to be patient. 

However it doesn't mean I can't find good stuff at IKEA.

I absolutely love this Brusali wardrobe! It took me like 5 hours to assemble it but it looks great! And yes, I did 90% of the work because my boyfriend can't follow instructions and really only needed him for muscle power (like pulling this upright). The shelvings inside are optional and I can move them higher or lower. I also love that there's space at the top, which is where our air conditioner is stored for the moment. 

I got this incredibly fun nightstand/side table from IKEA's newest crop of furniture, the Sandhaug. It literally took 5 minutes to put this one together and has storage space beneath the removal metal top. It's light as a feather and it's nice to have something different from your run-of-the-mill wooden pieces.

I have yet to decide what to put on the walls but I definitely am looking for a faux persian rug in reddish/orange hues to go underneath the bed. Urban Outfitters usually has some pretty nifty rugs in that style. I'll also need to find proper curtains for the window as right now it's actually a plastic shower curtain, but I'm liking the soft glow it's giving in the bedroom so I might not need a new one.

It'll take me another couple of weeks to assemble the rest of the wardrobe and dresser for the other room, but I'm in no rush. 

To A New Life

Nothing like family to give you more perspective on life. This past weekend I attended my cousin's wedding in St. Petersburg, Florida and enjoyed my mini vacation by putting in some beach time and walking around the area for some much needed city exploring. I've been confined to my apartment this past winter and after spending some time in the sun, I realized that although I probably had too much of it in California, it's been sorely missed this time around. It's true when they say sunshine plays an elemental role in keeping you happy. Your mood simply improves upon being in it for a while. It wasn't particularly sunshiny in Florida, but my last day there at the beach was perfectly sunny and breezy. 

A bird breeding ground on that sandy beach across the water. Best of all, it didn't smell like algae, so that was nice!

I also learned that I was going to be an aunt in the fall! My brother offered my mum and I custom t-shirts as a surprise, so that was really sweet! There are already talks of visiting them soon, and I learned that air tickets are dirt cheap ($280 RT!) so there's really no excuse not to go. It feels a little strange knowing that I will now have a nephew (science, they can tell you anything even at 12 weeks) that is connected to me by immediate bloodline. While I love my second cousin's kids and they're all great and super cute, there is a certain disconnect. I suppose it's different when your own sibling is going to be a parent. Like whoa, reality hits! I peppered Marie with a bunch of questions about maternity leave, how daycare works over there, how they knew it was a boy (chromosome testing, it exists!), and when she was due. I haven't had much chance to know her, and turns out that she's a Transportation Planner! Um, hello, totally what I would want to do if I really think Urban Planning was for me. Oh, did I mention? I'm going back to school in the fall. More on that later. So there will be some rearrangement of travels this fall, hoping everything works out without breaking the bank.

The other news I have is that I will finally be moving in with Cory and living in our first apartment together. It's exciting but I'm also anxious at the same time. I've never lived with a significant other before and I know I had to have made some adjustments when I first moved back to Montreal. I wasn't used to sharing my time anymore, so it took a while to readjust having someone in my life again. We found this beautiful apartment with a large back balcony, skylight, and bright interiors, this will be super important as missing light in my apartment has been a huge downside in moving back here. I miss California every day because of it. 

All of this news has made me ponder about my life and future. I realized that my life can't always be about me and my happiness. I mean it plays a huge part, and I'm pretty confident in my happiness now than ever before, and because of that, I'm able to focus on something I wasn't quite able to give before, which is well, giving back. Giving up on thinking that I need to feel like I deserve whatever it is that I want. Feeling entitled. Because you're not entitled. You have to work for it. This relationship that I'm in has taught me that it simply can't always be about what I want. It's a team effort, it's cliche but true. Watching my cousins with their little ones, I realize how much they must sacrifice for the sake of their children. Also watching that Jada Pinkett Smith video about being a working wife and mother - thinking about what could she do to keep the relationship with her husband going, what can she do to keep her kids happy and motivated, above what she wanted for her own self. That takes a lot of "me time" away when you have other obligations. Of course, that could lead to personal unhappiness, so you're obligated to carve out some "me time" as well. 

I think this speech went over her daughter's head, but the point is that it has resonated with many other mothers who are trying to juggle family, work and self life.

People can decide what they want to do with their lives obviously, some have children, some don't. I've always thought I'd be in the latter team, but now I don't really mind the thought of having one. Also, I was so self-absorbed in my 20s that obviously marriage was out of the question. But I always knew that I envisioned and even envied 30-somethings because I knew that many of them have got their shit together and have been past the dramas and they're settling into a nice quiet life. Now I'm pretty much open to both ideas of marriage and children. Who knew?

I also have been thinking of doing a mid-career switch, which brings me to my point of going back to school in the fall and into Urban Planning. While I'm super grateful and will probably keep using my skills I learned as a Graphic Designer and Web Designer, freelancing isn't for me, and I've had a growing interest in public transit, design and how a city works. My current job has allowed me to see this new side and I had actually previously applied for this major like 10 yrs ago as a second or third choice. So, I suppose it's come full circle. I've been dancing around going back to school for a while, but I didn't want to go back until I was sure what I wanted to major in, as well as knowing I would be much more motivated at this stage than I was when I was in my 20s. Working for a city on a provincial or federal level would be pretty good in the long run, education costs are incredibly low and I could always get a Masters elsewhere in the country for a fraction of the cost that I would need in the US. So, I have some progress in the direction of my career, unlike Graphic Design in which I couldn't see my 40-50yr old self trying to sustain myself on freelance contracts, a nice governmental job would be much more suitable. In the arts, benefits aren't really offered, freelancing is a crapshoot, but it's a flexible job and you could work just about anywhere in the world with those skills. Which would be fine if you're dedicated and love to travel around the world when you're young, but your perspective changes when you're looking into the future, if you wanted to have a family or buy a home, it's just not really possible unless you're a Creative Director or founder of your own company, or are incredibly talented. I'm neither, and have no interest in creating my own company. It might be a long time in the making, I'm sure I should've figured this out sooner, but were it not for my path in Graphic Design and how my life turned out, I wouldn't have met Cory. If I had stuck to Urban Planning from the get-go, I probably would still be single, I would've never have gone to Los Angeles, or traveled to Asia for work and have experienced the life that I did. So I don't regret going into this new direction now. Not one bit. I'm glad I have those experiences under my belt, maybe it could be useful in the future, who knows. I know how hard I worked to gain my independence here and abroad, so no one can take that away from me. If all goes well in the fall, I may go as a full time student to finish this as quickly as possible. Only time will tell and I get excited just thinking about it!

Pink Hotels and Pineapples

I'm excited to be making my first trip of the year to attend a wedding in Florida. I mean when you receive a wedding invite so on point, doesn't it make you excited for the potential Instagram opportunities to photograph a hotel that looks straight out of The Grand Budapest Hotel?! 

It's going to turn out to be a pretty exciting year. Two of my friends (who are BFFs) will be having their first babies within 2 months of each other, I will be making a rather big change this coming spring (because I gotta keep my life spicy like that), a rather ambitious travel agenda that includes West Coast Canada (and maybe Pacific Northwest if our CAD isn't crashing to be worthless...), a trip to Iceland in the fall and bringing my boyfriend for Thanksgiving to meet the extended family.

2016 will turn out to be a busy one indeed.

2015: A Year In Review

What a whirlwind of a year it's been! Every time I look back on the things that have happened, I'm always surprised how much I've done when on the day to day, I often feel like I'm just lazing around bumming on my bed with my cat. 

I've moved from LA to Montreal, hopped on the plane 6 times to travel near and far, from Halifax to South Korea. To having caviar in West Hollywood to indoor skydiving in Houston with my family. I went to my brother's wedding, zip-lined in the Old Port in Montreal, and ate BBQ ribs with Woodchuck Cider in Ottawa. I took part in a subway photoshoot, greeted both my parents on different occasions back to Montreal for their short trip, met up with old friends and made new ones at work. I've picked up where I left off in returning to work to my non-profit job and rejoiced in working in one of the most beautiful offices in the city. I got to see my friends, my best friend, my childhood friend, my elementary school friends sprinkled throughout the year. 

But most of all, I couldn't have experienced most of these things without my boyfriend Cory. Who is the reason why I moved back and why I was lucky enough to travel as much as I have and be loved as much as I have been in the past year. I'm incredibly happy and I couldn't deserve a better person. So grateful to you my love, and thank you!

I feel incredibly blessed and extremely lucky to have the life I have right now, especially considering the tragedies that are growing across the world. Keep your loved ones close, tell them you love them and always appreciate what you have (this coming from me typing on a very comfortable mattress on the floor - but hey, I have a couch!). 

Looking forward to 2016! DMP wedding in Florida, Iceland on the horizon and who knows, many more!

The K-Experience

Dongdaemun Plaza by Zaha Hadid, a project that stemmed from World Design Capital Seoul 2010. 

I had to navigate the intricate non-English speaking lands of Korea for work 2 weeks ago. Everything from buying a printer at Hi-Mart (Best Buy equivalent) to trying to explain to an Art Store clerk what "spray glue" was (they call it spray bond, btw). I did experience great service on Asiana Airlines, stuffed my face with Korean BBQ, fried chicken, and pastries, and attended Seoul Fashion Week at Dongdaemun Plaza, in which we got a personal tour from one of the managers there. Of course the best part was buying as many beauty products I could afford to buy in my 24hrs in Seoul. Got some free stuff from my hotel and fashion week.

It was an exhilarating week and time flew by so fast that I was on a plane back to Montreal before I knew it. 

Also I was extremely pleased with my room at Hotel Loft in Seoul, it's pretty much the style I would go for in decorating my home. Low bed, white marble counter tops in the bathroom with intricate floor tiles and a bath tub so large that I couldn't really lean back without being beneath the water line. They also had the most flattering full body mirror, which I made a mental note to get something similar when I move into my new apartment next summer.

Happiness lies in your own hands

I think it's about time to have a proper, deep-thinking, blog post. I can't remember the last time I wrote one of these.

I mainly wanted to write about how much I've changed over the years. It's come to a point where I've changed my mind about something that I thought 10 years ago wouldn't be possible. 

Of course, it's everyone's favorite topic: love. Like most people, I've always wanted to be in mutual love with someone. But it's not until you actually find The One, that you realize that the answer to finding happiness with someone you love could be so simple. We all have our ideals of who that person is, and yet the person who is right for you, doesn't really fit any of those ideals in the perfect sense.

Let me explain. 

The person I'm in love with now, ACTUALLY takes interest in what I have to say and creates these amazing conversations. No bashing of my interests, no snuffing at my comments and no dismissal of my opinions. You know what that's called? Respect. He genuinely is curious and wants to know what I like and tries to share his tidbits relating to my interests. Not only that, but the feeling is mutual. Hours go by like minutes when we talk. There never seems to be enough time in the day to be together, and babble until the sun goes up. I've had one-sided relationships where the other person's interests were the only things that mattered, and that my life was basically just an appendage to theirs. My opinions and interests? Didn't matter in their world. In my current relationship, I'm always asked what my thoughts are, just by pure courtesy and genuine interest, not because he wants to be a doormat. I can't say enough how refreshing it is to be with someone who really takes a true interest in you while also keeping their own interests and doesn't overstep any boundaries. I am eternally thankful to have met him. 

Needless to say, I'm already discussing marriage, living together and heck, even kids. Which by the way, I never thought in a million years I would have a desire to have kids, but I believe I would be up for the challenge with him by my side. These are things I didn't think were possible even a year ago when I was stuffing my face with food in Los Angeles. Now it's so clear and it's the most logical step to move forward with my life. When I asked my cousin years ago how she knew she wanted to marry her husband, she simply said "I wanna have his babies." It was an extreme, short, but surprisingly true answer when I think about it. I feel the same way about my bf. Us, a larger apartment, with 2 cats, a dog and a couple of kids. We're not the wedding-types and it's far too expensive to be in debt for a one day celebration, we both agreed that we'd rather use that money to travel around the world instead. 

What's funny in all this, is that it doesn't feel like some grandiose thing that I'm thinking this far ahead. It's like almost natural to think so, eventhough years ago I vehemently was against the idea of getting married (I equated it to being tied down) and having kids.

We just spent the long weekend in Ottawa as a mini getaway, and we got along smashingly well. This is it. I don't need to look any further. No gorgeous or charming guy will be able to measure up, because he respects me, and I him. 

Now...if only next year would come by faster...

 

Sometimes an iPhone Will Do

Sometimes it's just easier to take photos with my iPhone. I hiked up all the way to the Mont-Royal Scenic Point with my DSLR. Took a bunch of photos, none of which pleased me. After much frustration and a bathroom break, I came out and took this snapshot on my iPhone. I feel like my compositions are so much better on my phone than on my DSLR. Maybe I just need more practice in feeling comfortable with the camera. I just wish I had more free day time hours to photograph more.

M&M Wedding

I went to my brother's wedding last weekend in Houston for a very small but very elegant celebration at Ashton Gardens. By no means am I an event photographer, much less a wedding photographer, but I figured it would be good exercise to flex my skills with my newly acquired 35mm f/1.8 in tow, and realized that maybe I should've borrowed my brother's 55-200mm lens for the occasion, since those all too important close up shots were unfeasible with my prime lens. Nonetheless I think I was able to capture some pretty nice shots. Since the ceremony took place at 7pm, it produce some really lovely magic hour light in the chapel, which I have to say, has been one of the nicest chapels I've ever been to. The floor to ceiling windows with the tree background and the side windows letting in the light, it really did make the entire ceremony pretty magical.


To Halifax and Back

An escape to the Canadian Maritimes was just what the doctor ordered. We rented a car and drove to Peggy's Cove and Lunenberg, weathering through wind, hail and rain. Luckily for us, the sky cleared up a patch on arrival and I was able to get some great shots. The cloudy days made up for some great bright lighting. I was a little bummed that I don't have a prime wide lens to take in the street scene, so all of these were shot on my 50mm, despite the blistering cold wind and frozen hands, I managed to work through the manual focus and aperture, challenging to say the least.

Lunenberg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, at the harbour

Study: Focus and lighting

I haven't grown comfortable yet with my camera and have been pretty busy at work to devote any time to shooting more. Excuses, I know. But I was also doing research on what kind of lens I would like to buy since this 18-55mm beginner lens is just not cutting it for me at all. I was looking into getting a 28mm f1.8G lens, which has a little pricey tag of over $750CAD. I will need to put some money aside. Eventually I do want to go full frame, but the thought of lugging around a big heavy camera simply turns me off. 

In the mean time, I've reverted back to my 50mm f1.2 lens to do a little shoot of my newly acquired iron tea pot. I bought it because I found a store that sold Ahmad Teas, which, so far, have delivered the tastiest teas. I didn't yet own a tea pot but with me  buying a rather large box of loose leaf Assam tea, I figured a good time would be now. 

Found this pot in Chinatown, and now need to find some cute tea cups to go with. 

Le Couteau / The Knife

I've been using Foursquare for years to find recommended spots, Le Couteau / The Knife (there's no official sign, its logo is an illustration of a knife) came up as a high ranking coffee shop. I dropped by and loved their modern industrial touch, and relatively hushed atmosphere. Also loved the little cacti table tops. Of course, hexagon tiles are a must to photograph.

Club Monaco / Café Myriade

I am totally loving Club Monaco's new artistic direction, especially their beautifully tiled floors in their Ste-Catherine store. In the floor below, I found more beautiful tile work at Café Myriade.