Thursday, March 18, 2010

A hidden gem

This past weekend, Cam and I had the opportunity to take a little weekend getaway to what some people call America's hat...that's right, I'm talking about Canada! Living in Southeast Michigan, the Canadian border is very close, but besides the occasional trip to Windsor, most people my age that I know haven't spent much time there. However, in my opinion, I feel that people are missing out--Canada is honestly a hidden gem with a lot of great places to discover! Since we started dating, Cam and I have taken 3 trips to our neighbor to the north, and each time, we've really enjoyed ourselves.

During our first trip to Canada together two summers ago, we went to Stratford, Ontario, which is only about 3 1/2 hours from Ann Arbor. Situated on the Avon River, Stratford's main attraction is their Shakespeare Festival, which runs from April-October each year. The festival features works by Shakespeare, as well as other plays and musicals. The town is very picturesque and features lovely gardens and manicured paths along the river, as well as an adorable downtown. If you like Shakespeare and want to have a relaxing weekend in a beautiful setting, then Stratford is definitely worth exploring!

Last July, we had the pleasure of visiting Tobermory, which is a quaint little town on the northern tip of the Bruce Pennisula in Ontario. To be honest, I had never even heard of the Bruce Pennisula, but Cam had heard that it was a great place to go hiking, so we made the 6 hour drive through the Canadian countryside around Lake Huron. We stayed at a cute little place where they rent out individual cabins, and let me tell you, if you are ever looking for a place to go for a long weekend in the summer, I would definitely recommend it! Much of the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula is a national park, and there are abundant hiking trails, which overlook breathtaking views of Lake Huron. I was really blown away by just how beautiful it was, the coast is quite rocky with some very large cliffs, it's really just a gorgeous setting. Besides hiking, there are many other outdoor activities you can try such as kayaking, biking, or just sitting out on the deck of one of the restaurants around the harbor eating fish and chips! We were also able to catch some beautiful sunsets during our weekend here, so if you're looking for a peaceful, natural, refreshingly untouristy destination, I would strongly recommend checking out Tobermory!

Then this past weekend, we visited Canada's largest city, Toronto! I had only been there once when I was young, and Cam had never been, so with it only being less than 5 hours from Ann Arbor, we thought it would be the perfect destination for one last weekend getaway before things start to get busy for Cam with school. I think we both weren't sure what to expect, but Toronto is a major metropolitan city with lots to see and do! Unfortunately, it rained most of the weekend we were there, so that was a little bit of a bummer, but we still had a great time exploring the city. We stayed right downtown at the Hilton on the 26th floor, and lucked out getting a room with a perfect view of the CN Tower! Over the course of the weekend we were able to see many of the city's attractions including Steam Whistle Brewery, St. Lawrence Market, Eaton Center Mall, as well as going to the top of the CN Tower. We were even able to catch Supercross Race at Rodgers Centre, so Cam was especially happy about that! One of our favorite areas of the city was the Distillery Historic District. This area of town featured unique shops and restaurants on brick-lined streets with historic architecture with lots of modern details, making it a great place to walk around (despite the rain!) On Sunday morning, we were able to have brunch at a great restaurant called The Boiler House, and if you're ever in Toronto, it's definitely worth a visit! On the way back from Toronto, we stopped at Niagara Falls for the afternoon, as Cameron had never seen them. Areas around the falls were still frozen, so it was actually a really neat time to be there and see a little bit different side of this landmark. Then on the way home, we stopped in the adorable town of London and had a lovely dinner downtown.

All around, I think that Canada is the perfect place of a weekend away. There are some great destinations that are easy to get to from Michigan, but it really does seem like you're going much further away. Once you cross the border, the subtle difference in your surroundings such as regal-sounding street signs written in both French and English, help to really transport you, even if you're only a few hours away from Michigan! So if you've got a free weekend, grab your passport, grab some Tim Horton's, and hit the road!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Little things I ♥

Every now and then, I happen to find things out shopping that I think are just wonderful...Are they necessities? No. They are just little trinkets here and there that brighten my day, and I found such an item the other day. I am a compulsive list-maker, which is why I usually carry a notebook around with me on a daily basis. I love notebooks, well actually, I love anything stationary-related (my dream in life would be to open up my own stationary store), however, I recently switched to a smaller purse, and the notebook I was using was too big for it. I discovered a brand called ecosystem while shopping at Barnes & Noble, and I'm currently obsessed with their products/brand concept. They produce a line of adorable, eco-friendly notebooks that are produced entirely in the USA. Their notebooks are very simple, well-designed, and come in your choice of either black or 4 vibrant colors-kiwi, clementine, lagoon, and watermelon. The journals come in small, medium, and large, as well as featuring a variety of different page styles to choose from (Artist-blank pages, Author-lined pages, Architect-gridded pages, Advisor-planner style pages). I chose the small Author notebook in Watermelon (shocker) and it fits perfectly in my purse. I also really like the fact that it has a pocket in the back of the notebook, perfect for holding receipts to keep them from floating around the bottom of my purse, along with an elastic that goes around the notebook to keep it closed. Another cool thing about these notebooks is they each have unique book ID printed on the back inside cover, and you can then take that ID and go online and register your notebook, and then in the event you lose it, you go online and try to track it down (kind of far fetched in my opinion, but I still thought it was a cool idea). However, the best thing about ecosystem notebooks is that the company has really gone to great lengths to make sure that each notebook is as environmentally-friendly as possible. Each notebook is made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper, as well as making sure that every ingredient and step of the manufacturing process has as small of an ecological footprint as possible. (Also, the fact that they are entirely produced in the US further reduces the ecological footprint of production by reducing shipping distances). If you check out their website, there are a lot of really interesting environmental facts, but one that stuck out to me was that in 2009, ecosystem will have saved over 3000 trees by using PCW vs. virgin paper fiber! These notebooks are available at Barnes & Noble stores throughout the US so I highly encourage you to check them out :)

Pink & Green Sale!

So, I've been a little bit behind in posting for March, so today's the day I'm getting back on track! This morning, I happened to see that Vera Bradley is having a 25% off sale on their "Cupcakes" pattern, and I decided to post this because the 2 colors the "Cupcakes" pattern comes in are--you guessed it, pink and green! So from now until March 17th, anything in either the "Cupcakes Pink" or "Cupcakes Green" is on sale! I became a VB devotee during my sorority days in college, as their preppy totes we're basically an obligatory part of the uniform. However, my affinity for all things Vera wasn't merely a passing school fad, rather I genuinely do love their accessories because they're just so darn cute and colorful! I think it's awesome how they come out with new patterns biannually, and I've found most of their products to be fairly well made for the price. Some of my favorite VB pieces I've had have been the Villager tote, the Brush & Pencil case, and the Wristlet. However, I'd have to say my absolute favorite item that I own is their Large Duffel. It's the perfect size for a weekend, it's machine washable, and you're definitely not going to get your bag confused with someone else's at the airport! I've had my Java Blue duffel for a few years and it still looks brand new! I also have to give a shout out to Vera Bradley's stationary & gift line as well, as I've gotten quite of few of those products over the last few years, and they are adorable! They make everything from photo albums to thank you cards to notepads, and everything is just darling! So if you're looking for something to help you transition into spring, a colorful shot of Vera Bradley's pretty, preppy patterns in either "Cupcakes Pink" or "Cupcakes Green" is the perfect solution!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bachelor Party

Last night, I lost 3 hours of my life I'll never get back. I got together with some friends and watched the epic conclusion of the Bachelor: On the Wings of Love (the most dramatic season ever!), and after investing my Monday nights over the past few weeks watching this "journey" unfold, I feel kind of let down by the outcome. The Bachelor, Jake, ended up choosing the much-loathed Vienna over the sweetheart, crowd-favorite Tenley. Initially, I was very disappointed in Jake's choice. In the beginning of the season, he talked a lot about being really serious about finding a wife and desiring someone who would be a partner for him to go through life with. All of the qualities that he talked about wanting are the qualities that Tenley seemed to possess, and they just looked adorably athletic and all-American together as a couple, they just seemed to "fit." Vienna on the other hand, while she may have been outgoing and able to joke around with him, she also seemed immature and trashy (my opinion has been a little skewed by all the tabloid pictures that have surfaced of her in recent weeks). However, as much as I (and the rest of the country) wanted Jake to pick Tenley, I understand that sometimes even though a person may be totally perfect for you on paper, for whatever reason, you just don't have that feeling in your gut. So if in his heart he really didn't feel like she was the one, then I think it's a good thing that he didn't choose her just because she was the safe option. I do think that Tenley seems like a very sweet, beautiful, pulled-together, Christian woman (I'm kind of obsessed with her haha), and I'm sure that after the show, she'll meet someone who is right for her. As for the thing that Jake didn't feel with Tenley that he did feel with Vienna, it would seem from outside observation that it's just the classic case of the pecker, not the brain, doing the picking (as Patti Stanger from Millionaire Matchmaker would say!). Obviously Jake was very physically attracted to Vienna (even though I'm not sure how he could see past those atrocious dark roots); I truly hope for both of their sakes that their feelings really go deeper then that. In all the interviews they've done in the past week since the finale, they seem happy, but only time will tell. Granted, I'm not putting any stock in a "relationship" created by a reality show over a 6-week period, so if they defy the odds and actually do make it, good for them. I'll admit, I do love the Bachelor (and Millionaire Matchmaker, and basically most reality shows having to do with finding love). However, in the back of my mind I know that the majority of these shows are really terrible, as they reinforce unrealistic expectations about love and marriage. Now not to get all "Comm major" in this post, but it's no wonder the divorce rate in the US is so high when young women in this country are being constantly bombarded by ideas that the road to marriage consists of being able to stand out from other women in a cocktail dress and going on fantasy dates in St. Lucia. One thing that I kept hearing on the Bachelor this season (especially from Vienna, which is what worries me) is the word "fairytale." Hear me out, I'm not saying it's wrong to want roses and romantic dates. I think that it's a desire that most women, myself included, have, and I know that I have been really fortunate to have a boyfriend, fiance, and now husband that loves to do sweet things for me. However, I just think that it's really important to keep in mind that what's truly important in sustaining a marriage in the long run isn't the fairytale, but rather the foundation that your relationship is built on. Without things like trust, open communication, similar values, and a desire to take your lives in the same direction, all the fairytale stuff is empty. Sure, I love when Cam gets me flowers, but what I love more than that is knowing that he is a man of integrity and that his word means something. His character, morals, and faith are things that I love about him, and those things, not expensive dinners (as much as I love them), are what made me want to spend my life with him. Developing a foundation for a strong marriage isn't easy in here in the real world, so I feel it's even more unrealistic to think that it can be done through the lens of reality TV. So while I do love to watch the Bachelor for entertainment, that's really all it is.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Miracle in a Can

This weekend, I was at Somerset with a friend and I stopped in the black hole that is Sephora (seriously I could spend all day/all my money in that store!) and I picked up a product that I honestly don't know how I lived without for the last 23 years. It's called Ojon Rub-Out Dry Cleanser--it's a spray cleanser that claims to revive and refresh your hair without water, and let me tell you, it works wonders! I read about the product online, and was instantly intrigued because I have SUPER oily hair. While I have a lot of hair, each strand is really fine, and with it being so light blonde, it gets greasy fast. Literally, I can take a shower in the morning and by that evening, my hair is already getting flat and looks slightly dirty, so frustrating! So rather than having to shower twice a day, I thought I'd give this product a try. It contains a mix of Soapbark extract, Amazonian white clay, silk powder, rice and potato starches that all help to absorb oil, just be warned, you have to shake it up really well before you use it! This morning, I woke up late, and my hair was not looking so hot, so I decided to try it out, and it worked like a charm! All you have to do is just spray in on, brush it through, and the greasiness disappears! The smell is a little overpowering, but it did such a great job of degreasing my hair that I didn't mind the fragrance. One of the reviews I read about this product online said it makes it look like you just showered and blow-dried your hair; I wouldn't go quite that far, but it does make a huge difference in making your hair look move voluminous and less oily. So while I'm not promoting not showering, I'm definitely glad I stumbled on this product for those days when I'm in a bind and don't have time to wash and dry my hair! Yay for more sleep and full, pretty hair :)


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