Mystics of Northern Ireland

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I'm incredibly excited to share some amazing photos of our honeymoon shoot from our photographer, Paula O'hara, whom, as I mentioned before, we had such a great time doing this multi-location shoot during our brief time together!

It's difficult to just choose a favorite as there are so many that I love. We'll be creating photobooks for our parents (and ourselves). Currently debating several options in the vendor we want (or more like, I want, I convinced the hubby that since I'm the Graphic Designer, I should choose one that does it best, no?). I've had my heart set on Milk Books because they give you some control on the kind of details like paper type, cover type and color. And I've read conflicting reviews about Artifact Uprising in terms of print quality. Anyway, I will probably spend the week deciding on the vendor and laying it out.

I can finally share a few more details of our shoot. We shot mainly along the Antrim Coast, which conveniently gave us a Whiterocks Beach, Dunluce Castle ruins, cliffs, and the Giant's Causeway within a 30 min ride. That was the initial plan, and then Paula, being an adventurous photographer, suggested we could probably hit the Dark Hedges before any crowds came through. Along the way we came across misty fields, and a forest of greenery that shone the light in just right (thwarted by an unaccessible but beautifully untouched pond). 

We went at the crack of dawn to catch its incredible morning light and it was SO worth it. Golden hour only happens twice during the day, at dawn and dusk, it's when the sun's light becomes an incredible golden color and only lasts for two hours tops if you're lucky. We were blessed with good weather that day too, so we were SUPER fortunate! I couldn't have asked for a better person to shoot to capture that light and be spontaneous as well. 

I wholly wish to work with Paula again (if only she lived closer!), or even attend one of her photography workshops, it would be really cool to learn a few things from her. Anyway, I leave you with more dreamy pics!

The Aman Experience

Amanyara, Turks and Caicos

Amanyara, Turks and Caicos

Let me begin that given the weather we've been having in Montreal, I have to say that I wouldn't mind spending a week doing a little R&R in a place that belongs to Aman. This hotel chain, I discovered through Instagram, is as exclusive and as luxurious as they come. Honestly, there seems to be no better looking place than Amanyara in Turks and Caicos. I mean...just look at it.

A standalone tub in Amanyara's villa.

A standalone tub in Amanyara's villa.

Can I sleep here?

Can I sleep here?

Amanyara's "library".

Amanyara's "library".

Oh. My. God. 

They are 5 star without a doubt on all fronts. Not all are beach resorts though, which is what I found most interesting that they're offering you the best of the area's natural settings, such as Rosalia Park's (co-founder of Cereal Magazine) current jaunt into Amangani in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in Yellowstone National Park. Wow, wow, WOW!

How's this for a winter escape? Amangani, Wyoming, USA.

How's this for a winter escape? Amangani, Wyoming, USA.

The best part of these exclusive resorts is that it's not crowded with people (I would assume). They are typically smaller in numbers, offering something like less than 50 rooms total. I also applaud the branding, architecture and design for the whole company. Stunning photos, with stunning views, and probably stunning experience.

Unfortunately just a few nights can set you back easily in the five figures. Yes. Five. Figures. Mere mortals like us who are just passing by could only hope to stay one night here without breaking the bank. I have to say that this must be a hotel photographer's wet dream to capture these magnificent places. And the light!!! Alice Gao totally captured Aman Tokyo's light so beautifully, like you can't get better shots than that. It sort of ruins all other major luxury hotel chains by the sheer scale of it. 

Amanjena in Marrakech, Morocco

Amanjena in Marrakech, Morocco

I have to say that to stay in one of these places will be on my bucket list. I'd like to experience both a beach resort and the mountain/deserty resorts as I've never made a winter getaway to another wintery/cold places before. But I would gladly and happily stay in one of these.

Was That You I Saw on TV?

As I'm typing this on my work computer, I think it's safe to reveal a little bit more of my side gig that I've been doing  as a TV extra.

Look for me in this new TV show called The Bold Type, which premieres 11 July on Freeform. Honestly what that means on Canadian TV I have no idea. Maybe it'll be on Slice or some other channel, but maybe we'll be able to catch it online somehow ร  la CTV and watch one episode a week.

Anyhoo, The Bold Type is based on the life of Cosmopolitan editor Joanna Coles, set in New York. I've been part of an interesting ensemble of women (and a few men) who have been chosen to work in continuity, meaning, we come back onto the episodes several times as office workers (at least in my case). 

The Set
I obviously can't reveal any photos of the office set, but you can see a few things from The Bold Type's Instagram account. Quite honestly, I'm super impressed at the level of detail the crew has gone towards making this look as authentic as possible. Everything from the faux magazine covers (and there are hundreds) to fake book covers, to actual functioning computers, moving presentation screens, to even the master plan for the magazine layout (very Devil Wears Prada) down to the post-it notes and cut outs. No details spared. I've been in their "fashion closet" though not the one with all the shoes and handbags (I think that's another set), and have played around their jewelry tray in my one day being relinquished there (pictured above). Needless to say, with so much shooting going on in this office, it would be a shame not to showcase all the details there. For that I feel pretty lucky to get an up close and personal look at the set. 

The Actors
As this is a new show, I didn't recognize anyone except for Melora Hardin, whom most people would know as Jan from The Office. She's super profesh, whips her long lines like a pro, and have seen her dance between takes with her co-actors. Even if there were known actors on set, there's little chance for anyone to interact with them (not that you can anyway, they have to talk to you first) as most of the time, the re-sets are done relatively quickly and chaotically.

Hair, Makeup, Wardrobe
What I didn't expect is to have hair and makeup peeps on site for the extras. The actors have their own wardrobe and hair & makeup crew, but the extras also have theirs. But typically, we're asked to come already done up and that the crew only do touch ups. Though I have had my hair done because it sagged in the damp air when I came onto set. I get compliments from the makeup artists who really just run over a powder on my face and I'm done.

The wardrobe is really just our own clothes, with a select few who have the costume peeps accessorize them here and there. Our outfits are pre-chosen before the shooting begins, and I basically left like 1/3 of my closet in their hands, lol. They pre-select the outfit you'll wear for the day and it's really just putting on your own clothes. So I'm in both dresses and my cardigan & tie outfits. The yellow cardigan and blue tie that I wore on Million Dollar Listing may make an appearance in an episode again!

My "role"
As I have been part of the reoccurring office workers, I didn't get to have a designated desk in the office, so I'm a wanderer. I wander from point A to point B, bringing props, accompanying the photographer, and yes - have walked in front of the camera more than I had anticipated. The PAs on this set get 5 gold stars for simply remembering everyone's names by heart. And maybe I feel like they're being super generous with people to walk in front of the camera too, everyone gets their chance to swing by for a 1 sec pass. 

I can't say any plot details because honestly I don't know where or when the scenes we shoot happen in the timeline of the show. I don't know if we're doing episode 5 or episode 9. And even if I did, we're not allowed to say. Even if it was Game of Thrones, it would be hard to say what exactly is going on when you're reshooting a scene five or six times, you sort of zone out and numb yourself to the repetitiveness that you forget what the story is about. All I care about on the set is what the PA tells me to do and that I do it well. 

Filming Environment
After chatting up one of the few male BG actors, he admitted to me that we have it pretty sweet to be on this particular TV set. So far it has rained 3 out of 4 times I've been on set, but since it's being shot in a sound stage, we don't have to deal with bad weather. If it's too cold, there are blankets, and if it's too hot, they have AC. Many productions that are shot outside are at the mercy of the elements, whether it's -20C, or 35C, you still have to be outside for long hours and pretend to be happy and not melting (or freezing) in your outfit. You also get better craft services if it is a union production, as the non-unions will not serve you gourmet meals, and you are supposed to be fed every 3 hours (!) on union sets. So yes, as a first gig, it's easy to hope that all productions are like this, but as I've read elsewhere, TV productions usually treat you the best because it's small and they want everyone to be happy.

I just got an email about a blockbuster film production and it doesn't sound pleasant at all. Long hours, early call times, outdoors and hot as fuck. No thanks, I'll stick to my TV gig where it's temperature controlled. Call me a fair weather extra. This is why I could never be on The Amazing Race Canada, lol.

Overall, you can't ask for a better gig than this. This type of show was right up my alleyway. You know when you fantasize being part of a fashion magazine, that it's as glamourous as you dream it to be? Well, this is the best way of making that experience come true. I'm not really working on the magazine, but I get to be surrounded by fun props and an amazing set. It reminds me of my days at The Agency with larger than life characters that would walk through that office.

Whether or not I make any of the cuts remains to be seen, while it's true the long work hours have taken a toll on me (I nearly fell sick the next day after being on set two days in a row), I'm glad that at least this was the one summer gig that breaks up my routine. But as someone who has the freedom to choose the gigs I want to work on, I'm thinking I can do this again next year if the right project comes along.

I Need A New Computer

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I've been meaning to post and work on my photos from my honeymoon these past couple of weeks, but my computer has been acting up. The browser (doesn't matter which kind) keeps crashing repeatedly and I probably need to face the fact that it may be time for me to buy a new laptop. I thought I would be able to eck out more time on my 7yr old MacBook Pro ๐Ÿ’ป after a change of the hard drive and RAM upgrade in 2015, but I knew that it could only keep it going for two more years. Lo and behold, it's been two years and now it's acting up. Le sigh.

I have to admit that it's been a good run. Even though at the time I thought the laptop was pricey, it's been worth every penny. I've been an Apple convert ever since and refuse to go back to Windows, I don't care how much cheaper their laptops are. So I've been researching for a replacement and thought to settle on the 12" MacBook since the MBP have more power than what I need (just using Lightroom and Photoshop) and glad to see their recent upgrades of up to 16GB in RAM. True, the dongle issues will be annoying now that I won't  have a direct SD card slot anymore, I'll just need to be more creative in finding ways to upload my pics. ย 

Anyway, I'm now updating this from my phone, which goes to show that some things can still be done remotely without a computer. I leave you with a few shots that I've been posting on Instagram.ย 

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Cleaning Wars

After living a year with my husband, it's become clear to me that there are some fights you just can't win. Before I delve any further, I have to say that if these are the only things that bother me in our marriage, I'd say we have it pretty good. 

There are three things that we constantly bicker about: cleaning, recycling and gardening. 

I know, we're so granola. 

He and I have different ideas of what IS recyclable and what isn't. I keep telling him soiled thin plastics like meat packaging and saran wrap aren't recyclable, he begs to differ. I also harp on him about his gardening fantasies. We have a skylight and he wants to grow stuff in the edges or put mirrors up to reflect light like some kitchen scene from Ridley Scott's 1985 Legend movie. I've already given him the front balcony, the back deck (which is huge) and part of our living room. I don't want our house to be THAT green, and those plants are so messy with their dead leaves! Couple that with rolling balls of fur, it's just a recipe for disaster.

Anyway, my biggest beef is typically cleaning. I dream of a spotless, nicely decorated and minimalist apartment. We're not anywhere close to it yet. We spend most of our time in the kitchen, so the mess thankfully only stays there. But I like having clean counters and an empty kitchen sink. It is never so, not with his habits. Coffee spoons left on the table, counter, kitchen edge sink but not in the sink, and stains of honey and sauce are everywhere. It drives me bonkers. It's fine to make a mess, but I typically expect people to clean up after themselves. But this isn't the case and no matter how much nagging I've done, it just doesn't get done.

Being messy with the bed or leaving trinkets around the house, I'm actually ok with that. It's the stains I hate. The dirt and grime on the table, the bits of food. It just spells unsanitary, you know? And we have stains galore in the kitchen.

But I see that after a year of nagging, my progress is zero. So I basically have come to the conclusion that on Fridays, I'll simply have to clean the kitchen spotless when he's not around. Despite the protest of my colleagues who say that it's just a trick for me to clean up after him, I simply can't take it anymore. The dishwasher is also a case of complaint on my part, but he insists on loading it, but always overloads it and thus always end up with dirty dishes regardless. Taking control of the kitchen is the only way I can keep my sanity.

He's pretty good with everything else, takes out the garbage, recycling and composting, he sweeps the floors once in a while and takes care of the mopping. My duties are pretty small compared to his where I make the bed, clean the litter box, vacuum and do house laundry. 

Again, it's difficult to get rid of anything in the house as he's keen on reusing things and the clutter simply piles up. I can't imagine that if we lived in a bigger place, it would just gather more clutter. Unless we had a large basement or storage area so he can just put all his stuff there and I don't have to see it. Ahh the dream apartment.

We also have these crazy vines that have suddenly blossomed in the two weeks we were gone so when we came back, our back deck was an amazon forest and the neighbour's tree has left hundreds of helicopter seeds that I also have to clean up.

As I've said before, my complaints are small, they're things that we bicker about, but never really escalates to anything more. We have a busy summer lined up for us with a bunch of concerts, a standup show, two trips in the fall and discussions of getting a new bed frame. It's a simple and chill life, but goddamnit he needs to put those spoons in the sink!

Post Honeymoon Thoughts - This Be Deep

We're finally home! A whirlwind tour of Iceland and Ireland has been at once exhilarating and exhausting. A part of me is glad to be home because I've really missed my cats and our life at home after experiencing some odd differences in Ireland. The power switches for every outlet in our hotel rooms puzzled us both, and the illogical installation of two faucets for hot and cold water. You will never get tepid warm water, it's either scalding hot or ice cold, there are no happy mediums! Also, I'm just glad to go back to a normal diet instead of eating out. You could say as I'm getting older, I'm becoming more and more of a homebody.

During my return flight, I finally finished Mark Manson's book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, and the last two chapters had me cheering "Yes! YES!!!!" because he explained the concept of the entitlement that our generation has seemed to absorb. The whole "I deserve happiness" is such crap, as most people haven't really worked on themselves to be happy, and/or depend on others to provide that happiness for them. That in a situation where you think everyone is crazy, it's most likely just you who's the crazy one.

Cocaine Love
My favorite part is the weird public adoration of the Romeo & Juliet storyline. Which, when explained in laymen terms, are two teenagers who fall in love at a party and decide to get married the next day, and kill themselves in the process due to miscommunication. That's basically Romeo & Juliet. And people find this romantic? ๐Ÿ‘€ Toxic love is so out of touch with reality, that it's basically like cocaine. You just want to be high on love the whole time, that when things aren't as exciting or as explosive as you want it to be, you lose interest. But always banking on that high, those first pheromone months, that fantasy that Hollywood loves to glorify - that shit doesn't last! And like a drug addict, people break up to keep seeking for that high again. Real love doesn't work that way. In fact, during our honeymoon, my husband and I snapped at each other I don't know how many times during the trip because of a missed flight, missed bus connection, or shitty weather. Yes, we snapped at each other during our honeymoon. That's life. And I still love him just as much and we still say "I love you" and tell each other that it was such a fantastic trip, lol. In fact, I'm glad we're able to be honest with each other, even if it means that honesty equals hurting each others feelings over petty shit like getting wet from the rain.

When I read that passage about cocaine and love, I knew that this Manson dude understood and justified my thought patterns on relationships, on life, and learning a few things from him. On the last chapter about death, I came to this particular conclusion:

The meaning of life is death.

Without death, there is no meaning to life. Manson perfectly illustrates this when he explained that he edged to a high cliff, feeling his body tighten, sweat and heart beating furiously at the thought of the immediate physical danger of falling from it and dying. That the adrenaline of the possibility of death helped him realized that he was, in fact, very much alive. We all are very much alive. And we love being alive so much that the thought of death propels us to do things that will make us immortal like being famous, being successful in career, life, and having children. We like the concept of having our names pass down through history, our blood passed down through our children, our images kept on photographs as a sign of still "living" beyond physical death. It's so true though. Why do we strive to "make something of ourselves" if not for the vanity of being remembered aka immortal? We don't want our lives to be "in vain" but according to who? Society? Manson mentions pets as a good example of creatures who don't understand the concept beyond death. They're just living their lives, day to day, eating, sleeping and playing. Their lives are much simpler and without the complexities of human-made concepts, I think they're a lot less stressed than humans are.

After my trip to Iceland, a country that has extremely different landscapes, you start thinking of the simplicity of life against this nearly barren land. It just makes you think a lot. No one cares how I look or how I feel in a barren land, nobody knows or cares who you are from one country or the next, and nothing happens unless you take action to do something. It's difficult to separate insignificance in the world when you're surrounded by things that remind you that you should be significant. But not out there in nature, surrounded by clouds, wind, rocks, and birds. You're just another being, and this is what Manson is trying to make a point: you're not special. No one is. We're just creatures on a planet. It's not to say that the relationships you make won't be significant, but it's not by any means so special and unique that you need to glorify or be glorified for doing something so mundane as date or marry someone or have children with them. Again, the entitlement, the special treatment attitude that we've come to adopt in our culture, thinking we're all uniquely special in some way - we're not. And that's something you simply need to come to terms with.

Anyway, I'm glad I've had this trip and finished this book. I feel like I can just sit down and focus on doing things that make me happy, and roll with the unpleasant moments that will come. Maybe some of those unpleasantness will make me grow into a different and better person.

The Height of Afternoon Tea

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As we're prepping for our journey back home, I just wanted to share my experience at the Glenlo Abbey for afternoon tea. Having now been to nearly a dozen different places for afternoon tea, I can say that so far, the Glenlo Abbey takes the cake in terms of overall experience. It is what I would define the ultimate experience of what afternoon tea should be like: quiet, calm and refined. When I say quiet, I mean it like library quiet, you speak in a hushed toned and you're left to a lot of privacy with a musician playing in the background. We had a pianist who played a very broad range of songs, so it wasn't always classical. I prefer a harpist like the one in the St Regis Houston though, but that's just my preference.

The River Room overlooks the golf course on their 138 acre estate, and saw glimpses of falconeering (saw a falcon hop on the hood of a car!). The room is grand with tall ceilings and glittering chandeliers with a lower level seating section. There were enough tables to house perhaps 100 people but I saw only maybe half a dozen tables occupied. So it was quiet and very private, which you don't often get in other places where the noise from the hotel lobby or entrance makes the tea room much louder than I would like. In the River Room it felt almost zen-like and very relaxed which I think is how afternoon tea should be. 

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Just the tableware alone made me go ๐Ÿ˜ I definitely felt spoiled that day, and we also dressed up for the occasion, though I wish we took a standing photo in front of the hotel, but it was quite cold and windy that day. ย 

I did go to the Westbury Hotel in Dublin to have afternoon tea but it was a completely different experience and one that I think most people are accustomed to. We had the best view of the room but the whole day was marred by the pouring rain, so we came in soaked and cranky. The service was very attentive though so that was appreciated.

So far from my experiences, the most expensive afternoon teas certainly did not live up to their price tag. I would say midrange prices ($30-40) have been worth the experiences than the +$50. The Glenlo Abbey falls within the mid-ranges โ˜บ๏ธ

I would write and upload more photos but it's difficult to do on a phone and slow wifi so I'll give a proper longer update when I get back.

A Taste of What's To Come

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It's been a harrowing journey to Ireland from Iceland after a missed flight. We've made a mad dash in the last 36hrs, with very little sleep, to Northern Ireland with our shoot with Paula. It was the crack of dawn, we chased the light around the Antrim coast, and captured some amazing photos. The photo above is just a sample of our shoot that morning.ย 

We're currently in Derry and slumbered for 10hrs straight. For the rest of the trip we can relax and wake up late. I got tons of photos on my camera and can't wait to edit and post them. ย 

I couldn't help myself and joined Instagram again at @tutrampham ๐Ÿ˜…The few mishaps that has happened on this trip made me appreciate our life in Montreal even more and so far despite the stressful snaps here and there, there's no one better I would like to spend my life with.

I leave you with a couple of snaps that Cory took on his phone, but we can thank Paula for finding that amazing light for us!

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Hello Iceland! ๐Ÿ™‹๐Ÿป

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We're here and spending our first day in Iceland in our homebase of Reykjavik! 

We got a free upgrade to our hotel by being transferred to the absolutely lovely A Townhouse Hotel where past cast members of the Game of Thrones stayed here during filming. Who knew? We have a gorgeous industrial style studio with an ultra modern kitchenette complete with mini dishwasher! I wish I had pics to do this place justice but will only be to link to their site for a look. 

We're still in the heart of Reykjavik on their most popular street. It's a very walkable neighborhood. 

We've seen and been to some pretty cool places in the city, it's small like Halifax but has definitely Scandinavian roots and aesthetics.  I also had the best chai latte I've had in YEARS since I've gone to Stockholm in 2014. I was afraid the weather might not cooperate but so far we're doing pretty well, it's cloudy but with some bursts of sunshine here and there. Tomorrow is going to be a big long day going around a day tour so that will be interesting! More to come!

The dude approves. ย 

The dude approves. ย 

I have th best work place

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How many jobs do you know give you a bottle of champagne because you got married?! ย 

No doubt my jobs have been very generous with me. The agents at my old work place gave us champagne and bottles of wine for Xmas. This gift was for the honeymoon. 

Feeling super blessed!!

Homeware realities

I've been torn between wanting to get nice things vs. the practicality of said nice things. When it comes to furniture, there's no world like West Elm's. Eventhough in the States, West Elm is really a mid-range furniture company that you graduate to after IKEA, as the prices are a little expensive but nice. Pottery Barn & Crate Barrel on the upper end, and Restoration Hardware is at the top, and if you're really into spending the big bucks, 1stdibs. Unfortunately, Canadians have to contend with terrible exchange rates, so West Elm sits on the higher end of the budget. Hence if I were to pick something from that store, I'd have to be 110% sure that this is what I want.

Our bed broke a couple of months ago, and though it was a West Elm bed frame, when we moved, the movers partially broke the middle beam when they moved it out of my apartment and the tiny screw and lack of adjustment of the middle beam was just a recipe for disaster. I was very sad when it broke permanently and could not salvage anything, except the slats that came with (which are now used as garden beds that the hubby recycled, he's so crafty). So we're on the hunt for a new bed frame. I'm typically one who pours over hours on websites looking for the best deal, quality and style. But I always came back to West Elm, simply because I just want something simple but sturdy.

Of course, there's the dream bed frame.

Logan bed by West Elm.

Logan bed by West Elm.

You have no idea how much I LOVE this. Unfortunately it's an iron bed, meaning it's incredibly heavy, and practically unmovable (but gotta love the sturdiness!), and would definitely need a rug beneath so as not to scratch the floor. It weighs a whopping 130lbs. It would squeeze into our bedroom, but I'm too afraid of it damaging our door frame or any kind of wall if we maneuver it and it dents something. Also, it's $2600CAD vs. $1600USD, tax & shipping not included. Way too expensive and not practical for our small space living.

So we're looking to settle for one that was similar to the old West Elm frame, but without the upholstered sides (which they've run out of in the size we want, it's too bad because I'm super clumsy and knock my shins and knees on bed frames). And I think this one would fit us best.

Narrow Leg Bed Frame in acorn color.

Narrow Leg Bed Frame in acorn color.

The pic makes it seem like there's only 4 legs, but all beds have a middle beam with like 3 extra legs in the middle to support the slats. The hubby is tired of seeing white and I refuse to get chocolate anything, so this is a good middle ground. It retails at $660CAD + tax & shipping, so we're probably looking at $880 total. A much more affordable scale, not IKEA affordable but I'm looking for sturdiness and durability. Let's just hope the shippers don't mess up the frame when they deliver it.

Dining Chairs
Unfortunately, my beautiful dining chairs that I've bought from Structube are not holding up the weight of my husband's bum slamming down into the seat. He's already damaged both seats I have where the screw is so worn down, it doesn't screw in anymore, and the metal bends are so bent that the paint is chipping off and looks like it's on its last legs. ๐Ÿ˜ฃ I've thought about going authentic and get the real Herman Miller plastic molded Eames chairs, thinking perhaps the higher price tag would serve for better quality, but what if he damages those too?? The great thing about these molded chairs (as attested by my co-worker who has two small kids), they are childproof and easy to clean. I can't say the same for upholstered dining chairs (my cats will probably scratch them to death and spills are common in my household). Also, they're SUPER comfortable (except in the winter). I won't replace them until they're actually broken, but perhaps I will try to go for the metal frame rather than the wooden dowels. Knowing I'd be too paranoid in getting the originals damaged, I'd rather spend the money on Structube's version and see where that takes me. If I lose those two as well, then at least it would not be a total loss on the wallet.

I have the dining set on the left with the wooden dowels, but looking to get the metal frame instead. The Herman Miller originals are over $500 a pop, but with a much wider range of colors, style and materials. You can also choose the fiberglass version or the plastic version. They're beautiful but I can't afford to lose $1000 for daily use. The originals are said to hold up to 300lbs, but that's only if you gently sit in them, as in you ease into them, but I'd have to see them and test them in person if I'm going to be spending that much if I get them.

Some Not Good Decisions
I bought these plastic place mats from Simons last year, thinking that my blue IKEA place mats were old and dirty and needed something that was easier to clean. The thin plastic things I got were such a TERRIBLE idea. They stuck to the table and eventually the dirt an grime just made an ugly ring around them. Can we say worst decisions ever? I also couldn't move them freely because they were suctioned to the table. We recently visited Zone Maison, and I absolutely love their kitchenware this year! I found these super cute cloth place mats and had to have them. I'm much happier with these, and if they need cleaning I just throw them in the wash with the laundry.

Hopscotch place mats in turquoise from Zone Maison, $8 each.

Hopscotch place mats in turquoise from Zone Maison, $8 each.

This year's crop of dishware is very similar to Anthropologie's artsy, flowery, print covered wares. Zone went Japanese this season, with lots of rice bowls and sushi plates in cute Japanese motifs like cherry blossoms or traditional indigo ink art. I definitely like these a lot, but as it stands, we're low on cabinet space and there's nothing wrong with what we have now in terms of functionality. I know these won't be available in the future, but let's be practical for now, we don't need these right away. Le sigh!

As much as I have a penchant for greatly decorated rooms, there's just no way I can adhere to it living with my husband. We've been living together for a year and it's impossible, lol. I myself am pretty messy, so to keep our house tidy and clutter free is a constant battle. I don't know how these lifestyle bloggers who have children are able to keep everything so clutter free. Our kitchen counter and sink are always a hot mess, there's rolling hairballs, knick knacks and junk everywhere. I've tried in vain to get rid of stuff earlier this year, but it didn't make a dent. The best that I can do is buy storage furniture and boxes to hide everything because a cluttered house makes me feel disorganized and I hate that feeling. It doesn't help that whenever I try to get rid of something, he comes up with an idea of reusing what I'm trying to throw away. Eventually once we get back, I'm definitely getting rid of stuff, this is my main mission!

Confession about Instagram

I miss Instagram. ๐Ÿ™Š

I've been pretty good in leaving out Twitter, and Facebook hasn't really generated much interest for me other than liking family posts and photos, and work related stuff. 

But Instagram. I revisited some accounts I used to love looking through my account before, and miss the pretty photos and fussing with the filters. Although I have to say that urge to photograph every single thing for the sake of posting it on Instagram doesn't really interest me, but I guess I have the occasional urge to style something nicely and then post it on Instagram. Even just to curate my own gallery of photos for my own interest and probably not hashtag it at all.

It would be much more liberating for me not to jump into the bandwagon of hashtags and just take photos and post for my own pleasure rather than for others to judge, like and comment. I miss that aspect of photographing though.

So I may enact a return to Instagram in the near future, probably after my honeymoon where I would be eager to post photos. As well as summer approaches, our apartment will be bathed in bright light once again.

I also came to the conclusion, that I have been living the life I've always wanted to live. A great job that allows for a lot of flexibility, occasional travel, and the freedom to pursue my creative impulses. I have that life/work balance that I've been seeking and would never want to jeopardize or trade that for something seemingly greener, because there is nothing better than what I have right now. I've been looking at apartments and jobs on and off in Victoria, but the pros of moving out West so far don't really seem to equal much to the quality of life that I'm currently living. A bright apartment, an easy way to travel, money to spare, and proximity to public transit. I have to say I don't really love Montreal, it has a lot of conveniences and cheap cost of living, but the population could stand to be nicer. It doesn't have the natural landscapes or temperate climate like Victoria, but at least I don't have to drive everywhere or worry about finding another job that would give me the flexibility I seek in order to pursue other hobbies.

So after much consideration, I think in the next couple of years, we'll be sticking it out here in Montreal. We just need to find a way to escape the dreadful winters and I think we'd be set!

As for my future Instagram endeavours, I want to dive back into the pretty photos I had once curated. I think the winters here have affected my positive outlook and I simply need to change my mindset on how I look at things. I also came across some cool new services that I found would be perfect for brief photoshoots so will be looking forward in using those to my benefit.

We always seek to have something more or better than what we have, but maybe it's just time to look at what we do have right now and count your blessings daily. After speaking to that girl from the shooting set, she told me that where she comes from, creativity is a luxury compared to how to survive for the next day. You have to count yourself super lucky to pursue things like photographing pretty places and objects like flowers because in other parts of the world, such things are non-existent. So to be a creative is to be lucky, if you have pursue such things as a hobby, you're already better off than most people in the world.

I'd like to approach that mindset when I photograph and not complain if I don't have 10 or 50 likes when I post it on social media. I would post them for my own satisfaction and be proud of the work I can produce and be inspired by others. I wouldn't want to be a photographer/lifestyle blogger as a career, again a creative endeavour can be irregular (though rewarding) career. You can live like a king one year, but live like a pauper the next year. Hence, I'd rather do this as a hobby rather than a business. But I could be convinced otherwise if I think it's worth the jump, but for now, let's just keep it simple and fun.

The Side Project

I've finally gotten around to start reading this book by Mark Manson. As I've mentioned in an earlier post, I like Mark's approach in viewing life. Luckily the book is not really just curse words, but practical advice. I'm only about 1/3 way through, though I feel like much of his advice so far, are conclusions that I have already come across on my own. 

But that's not the point of my post. It's just an anecdote of what I've been doing, which requires a good dose of not giving a f*ck of what other people think. Honestly, I can't really mention much of what I'm working on because of a non-disclosure agreement, lol. 

What I can share is that I've been (now not so) secretly working as a TV extra for the past couple of weeks. I've never been in the entertainment industry before despite my extreme proximity to it in L.A. I was ill equipped to work in L.A. anyhow - I didn't have a car nor the free time. Although thinking back, my first two months living in L.A. could've been spent being an extra, but I wasn't into that at the time, so there was no point. 

Anyway, so far all I can say is that it's much more exhausting than I had thought. There's a lot of waiting, repetitive action doing, and more waiting. When I'm scheduled for a shift, it's like any other job, I'm expected to work at least 8 hours, my last shift was 12 hours on the set. But if you're on set, the hours go by pretty quickly, though by the last 4 hrs of a 12hr shift, I was getting pretty tired and drowsy. The perks are few but very welcomed: we are fed extremely well. Their catered dinner are gourmet style stuff, a welcome relief spending most of your time in fluorescent light and being hidden indoors all day. The crew on any production deserve a lot of credit for their hard work. They all work quickly and tirelessly without much complaint, I'm fairly impressed with their stamina. I also realized that as you're spending so much time with the people are around you, you're bound to start talking to people.

To my utter surprise, considering this was extra work, I would say 99% of the people there are part of the entertainment industry. Everyone was either an actor or some sort of creative person, thankful in getting a regular gig like this one. Given how inconsistent work is in the acting biz, I can see the strong interest in landing any kind of TV show gig since it would require you to work many days, and if you're part of the union, which many are, you get paid much higher wages. 

While the hours are long, I'm also learning a lot on set of how things are run. I found it difficult to relate to the extras working on set as all they want to talk about is the industry or how to have better self confidence (rejection is part of their line of work, so they have to constantly work on a positive attitude so as not to crumble under the negativity). But like my introverted self, it's not to say I wasn't able to chat up a couple of people. One girl I befriended was very sweet and it was great getting to know her on a deeper level. 

So that's what I've been working on, I'm actually due to work until the summer, though I realized that the days I can work, I don't necessarily get called on all those days. Like I gave 3 days I was free, but they only confirmed one day for me. Unpredictable schedule indeed. Though regardless of the outcome, whether my scenes get cut or not, I still feel very lucky to be part of a long production, especially since I came into it with zero expectations. The food is amazing, and I'm already pretty happy with that! I'd be happy just filming 5 days worth out of the whole experience.

Whether I'd want to do this again afterwards will remain to be seen, it would be a nice part-time job to do once in a while but I can see that having union wages would be much better. Though in the case of extras, to get union wages I would have to work 15 total days to qualify, and work a minimum of that every year to keep the wages. Once you're part of the union, you have better chances of being "bumped up," like getting a line or doing something else. But like I said, the gigs are inconsistent, and not all gigs are long productions. In fact, when I signed up with the agency that hires extras, it took about six months to actually get an email from them for a casting call. Even if you answer the call, there's no guarantee that you'll get chosen for the production.

So there you have it. I haven't really told anyone about it except my husband, and since quitting social media, I didn't join to impress or brag to anyone. It was really just for me. When people on the set ask me if I was actress, I always chuckle and say "oh no, I'm just doing this out of curiosity." The baffled look that answer generates is priceless. I'm like a unicorn, an outsider there, and there's something that's incredibly satisfying about that.

In love with May

Hand picked these beauties at Kyoto Fleurs. ๐Ÿ˜ย 

Hand picked these beauties at Kyoto Fleurs. ๐Ÿ˜ 

May is my favorite month of the year. It doesn't matter what location I'm in, this month always holds a particular fresh feeling for me. So much transformation happens from the beginning to the end of the month, and it's also a great month to travel where air fares are still low and you're not overcrowded with tourists yet.

I've been super into flowers as of late, ever since I had a beautiful bouquet put together by Zen, and had been obsessed with the flower shops on the Pretty Cities instagram account, I've been patiently waiting for the spring/summer flower crops to come into the stores. I wanted to get my hands on some ultra light pink peonies, and lo and behold, one flower shop had just posted a photo of a bouquet made of these beauties! So I hopped over to Kyoto Fleurs on Mont-Royal St and was SUPER stoked to see pink ranunculus aka buttercups too! I was like a kid in a candy store lol. I paired both flowers with baby's breath and a couple of light pink tulips, cannot WAIT for the peonies to open up a little more. Ahhhh I love spring!!

We've tried to grow a peony in a pot but I have yet to see any signs of life, or that my husband forgot which pot he planted the seed in ๐Ÿ˜‘ So my chances of growing these are slim, same with the ranunculus, though I think they may be easier to grow (peonies take about 3 years to flower). Anyway, I'm so not a gardener, I'd rather just pay for the flowers can all it a day, lol.

Hoping to snap up some more photos of these beauties before they're gone and snatched up for weddings. But I would really love to see more flower shops with gorgeous displays like these, it just makes you want to buy flowers every week. And they just put me in such a good mood. The simple things!

Photo by Polaburย near Sydney, Australia.

Photo by Polabur near Sydney, Australia.

Photo by Siobhaise in London.

Photo by Siobhaise in London.

Iceland & Ireland

๐Ÿ˜ฑ ย I wish I was a talented photographer to take pics like these. Iceland.

๐Ÿ˜ฑ  I wish I was a talented photographer to take pics like these. Iceland.

Waaaaah, it's been a week being married and we're just weeks away from our honeymoon trip to Iceland and Ireland! 

Now I know what most people are thinking, why did we pick the cold over hot warm sunny beaches and living like a king & queen for a week or two? 

Because we'd be bored out of our minds and we don't have that kind of money to blow and also why blow money on being pampered when you can see glaciers, and volcanic beaches, fjords, a blue lagoon, dramatic cliff sides, Game of Thrones filmed sets, natural waterfalls, puffin & whale watching, and experience cultures galore?

There was no doubt in my mind I had wanted to make our honeymoon memorable, but we both wanted something we hadn't seen before. Beaches and blue waters? Been there and done that. Let's move onto something we've never done or seen before. 

Wow Air was the perfect airline to pick (so to speak). We had so many destinations to choose from? Should we go to Copenhagen and the Canary Islands? Should we do the Baltics? How about Italy and Croatia? Ugh! The choices were endless and we had to decide fast. Luckily Wow Air offers stop over destinations, which means that if you've never been to Iceland, it's a great way to make it your first leg of your trip and then catch a flight from Reykjavik to your other destination. We picked Dublin because my hubby is of Irish descent, and I have never been to Ireland and there are some pretty spectacular natural beauty there (along with lots of heavy drinking and partying, bwahaha - no seriously, we're too old for that stuff, a couple of pints to drink and we're ready for bed - ahh to be mid 30s). So that's the story of how we picked Iceland and Ireland.

Skellig Island off the coast of Ireland is where they filmed that last scene in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We probably won't have time to go there but it would've been cool to visit!

Skellig Island off the coast of Ireland is where they filmed that last scene in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We probably won't have time to go there but it would've been cool to visit!

I'm extremely excited for this honeymoon, I've been prepping for the past few weeks trying to get a few things in gear, namely the gear itself. I had to purchase a hiking backpack as we'd be traveling quite a lot in Ireland, and Iceland has some pretty rugged lands, so needed to get a pair of hiking shoes. The weather in both places can be pretty unpredictable, rainy, windy, cold, sunny and hot. So we're basically having to dress for all kinds of weather, though after some research Iceland would already be experiencing some midnight sun activity (the sun would set at 10:30pm by the time we're there). Ireland should have more bouts of clear sunny days, but I'm prepping for all kinds of weather just in case it doesn't turn to our favour! But that's part of the fun and that's what will make it a unique honeymoon (with photoshoot in our wedding gear included). 

It all goes down next month and I'm excited and sad at the same time because I know it'll go by so quickly and before you know it I'll be back at work sighing for another moment of vacation. Plans in the fall are falling into place, it looks like my hubby may join me in Italy after all! It'll be some pretty whirlwind days in Southern Italy but I'm sure it'll be all worth it. Hopefully we can make it to Positano without losing an arm and a leg in hotel costs ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Found a beautiful and cute hotel in Positano, hoping to get this one!

Found a beautiful and cute hotel in Positano, hoping to get this one!

I'm already dreaming of the warm coast of Italy this fall. This trip would make it to 3 foreign countries in a year ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿผ We're already talking about a future trip in 2018 maybe to Thailand, though Australia and New Zealand are also strong contenders for me to strike off my bucket list as well. We're also always discussing visiting Copenhagen for a quick jaunt while visiting the Baltics, so perhaps that could also be a possibility for spring 2018. I'd rather explore than relax at the beach, I would take a beach vacation maybe in 2020. 

Minimalist Wedding - Victoria's Final Tally

Ok wow, so much has happened in the last couple of days, I haven't had time to take a proper break and write up about how things rolled out on Wedding Tour Stop #1 in Victoria, BC. 

As I've said, we've lucked out on the weather and many other things, but when all has been said and done, here's the final tally. 

Groom
Custom Suit (pants, vest, shirt, jacket, bow tie): approx. $1000
Shoes: $80
Total: $1080

Bride
Skirt + Top: $500
Shoes: $220
Hair Band: $40
Earrings: $8
Makeup + Hair: Free, did it myself
Total: $768

Other costs
Commissioner: $250
Marriage License: $100
Catered Food: $400
Champagne: Free
Alcohol: Free
Bridal Bouquet: $15
Decorative Flowers: $35
Event tents rental: Free
Decorations: Free
Rental seating chairs: Free
Party favours: Free (homemade soap + sachet of potpourri)
Event photographers: Free
Wedding dinner celebration + Afternoon Tea: $460
Total: $1260

Wedding Event Total: $3108

Most items we got for free were either covered by my in-laws or really there was no charge at all (like the event photographers). Even then, the costs for decoration and whatnot (except maybe the chairs and champagne flutes, which I don't know the cost of the rentals) was only $100 as a lot of it was bought from the dollar store. We were very fortunate about the alcohol and champagne bottles that were given to us. Because the party was only up to about 35 people, they only ate half the food, and used up only half of the booze. So net loss on those two typically expensive items, were really minimal.

Clearly we spent more on ourselves than we did for the guests, lol ๐Ÿ˜… But we were very lucky to have this many show up and receive as many gifts as we have had. So a big thank you to all who came!

We were treated to a night at The Empress Hotel, which is one of the cornerstones of Downtown Victoria. I'm told it had gone significant renovations and that it finally looks like modern luxury and no doubt, those renovations paid off into a handsome room!

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FullSizeRender.jpg

We also had Afternoon Tea in their main room, which had a grand Victorian air about it with tall ceilings, columns and patterned wooden floors. The tea sets were very English, though some of the seats were left to be desired (though some have winged chairs, ours were much like these pictured above. We were seated next to a window with a great view of Victoria Harbour, so there wasn't much to complain about. Still, having done Afternoon Teas many times in other places, The Empress did not meet my expectations for the price you pay in terms of food quality, though the experience itself was quite lovely. 

For the next celebration in Houston, I can already see a lot of costs being halved since we have already paid for the initial outfits and marriage license & ceremony. So Houston would really just be about eating and celebrating with some decorations. There is already talks of having Afternoon Tea at the St. Regis again (!!), and my mum seems to insist on having a wedding cake made from the same bakers as my brother's wedding, though I already enlisted my friend to make homemade macarons for the occasion, but who am I to be in the way of what a parent wants at their married child's wedding party? lol. I told my mum to bring lots of banh cuon and Vietnamese food fares, because that will be my main mission in Texas: to eat. I would still like to have a Texas BBQ, but having just Viet food would be just as awesome for me ๐Ÿ˜‹ 

Houston will entail some initial expenses such as buying our own air tickets, since last time that was covered for us as well. Can't you tell we're incredibly spoiled already?! I'm really not ready to swing big money on this cake, but I will pull my negotiating skills to the test and see if I can talk my mum out of it (besides, we don't need a big one and I definitely don't want her to tell them it's a wedding cake!). We've learned that as soon as you say "wedding" the prices jump up for no good reason. I reckon after Houston, given how we've spent a little more than I thought in Victoria, we may be slightly over our $5000 budget, but this is a given as events usually turn out more expensive than planned on paper. But it's fine, I think so far we've done a pretty good job in saving money and splurging on things we find worthwhile.

Such as these $8 earrings I got. These rhinestones shine brighter than my wedding ring, who knew?

Aren't they fabulous?! I'm totally hooked on buying at Yesstyle.com now.ย 

Aren't they fabulous?! I'm totally hooked on buying at Yesstyle.com now. 

I'm also glad that I got my hairband on sale since now the price went back up to over $50.

So it's been a fun ride so far, I feel terribly blessed and lucky to have married the most wonderful man with an amazing family. I can't wait to celebrate with my family this fall!

So This Happened

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Married! ๐Ÿค—

Our day turned out to be really nice as we had beautiful weather yesterday! We had some concerns that we would get rainy weather since just the day before we had hail coming down the tents.

But luckily everything turned out fine, the ceremony was short and sweet. Even with just 30 people, I thought we had a lot of people as it was quite noisy and busy. 

We actually had two photographers who took our photos, which was very sweet of them. So we'll actually have some photos of this day. I didn't need bridesmaids or a hair and makeup artist. I did everything myself. My bouquet was store bought mostly with purple and violet flowers. My whole outfit was bought online, from the earrings to the shoes to even my wedding ring. I only needed my skirt to be hemmed in. It wasn't stressful at all and even if I did a little flub during my vows it was all good! I had a great time.

We were treated to stay at the Empress Hotel for the night. We walked in with our wedding outfit and we got a free bottle of Prosecco! Then we headed over to a gastronomy restaurant called Saveur and the food was delicious! We also came in dresses up be they gave us a free glass of Prosecco. And because we had the wine pairing with our food, we got pretty hammered by the end lol. I loved the dish with the tuna albacore tatami with this strange mix of a terrine of radish and mushrooms but once you eat it all together it's actually quite good. I also loved this chicken dish that reminded me very much of Peking Duck meat with the onion sauce, the crispy skin and this marshmallow of foie gras! ๐Ÿ˜ฑ So good! The whole experience was relaxed, we chatted up two of our waiters and learned a couple of them were from Montreal originally and that a group of people next to us were from Dorval. So funny that all the foodies went to this place. And of course, everyone is SO nice. Ugh, wish we had that kind of friendliness in Montreal in the service industry.

We're having afternoon tea at our hotel later on so that will be exciting! More updates later!

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What Wedding Jitters?

My co-workers have been peppering me with questions if I was nervous for the big day. Since I don't have to really plan or organize a huge party, I don't feel nervous at all. I'm excited to get married but I'm not stressed about it. 

Hubby gave me these a few days ago. Always so sweet of him โ˜บ๏ธย 

Hubby gave me these a few days ago. Always so sweet of him โ˜บ๏ธ 

Because we kept our party to a small group and decided to have lunch over dinner and no venue, it makes it so much easier! Although everyone told me to give myself extra time to get ready, which could only tops take me an hour to do hair and makeup, I'm not sure what else I could be worrying over other than food and flowers? I don't know. I don't get nervous beforehand, typically I get nervous DURING the event, lol.ย 

So it's all going down this weekend in Victoria! After that it's another party to plan for Houston. I'll be a Mrs before you know it!