Celebrating St. Paddy’s Day with my favourite Irish writers!

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{Cliffs of Moher on my last trip to Ireland}

One of my favourite things about visiting Ireland is their admiration for their literary heros. I’m not sure it’s possible to not be reminded of James Joyce or Oscar Wilde while you’re there. Their literary history is constantly referenced throughout the country. I love that. I don’t see a lot of monuments to Canadian literary icons when wandering around here. Not to say that there aren’t any, I just haven’t seen them.

Anyway, last year I posted My 5 Little Bits about Ireland and this year I thought I’d add to it. As I mentioned, Ireland has a rich literary history. Without a doubt, that tradition has continued to this day. In fact, I find that many of my favourite writers are Irish women. Here are my top two. If you haven’t read a book by these ladies recently, I suggest you pick one up!

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{Source}

Sheila O’Flanagan: I was introduced to Sheila O’Flanagan’s books when my parents received a recommendation from a bookstore employee. I was working at a resort at the time and they included it as part of a care package. I’m not sure which book I read first but after that moment, I made sure to finish her entire catalog. Her latest, “Better Together” focused on life in a small town from the perspectives of two different women. The first, Sheridan, a young woman who’s just lost her job, boyfriend and apartment and Nina whose husband of decades has found national fame and isn’t sure if the small town life is right for him anymore. The book struck a perfect balance of the romance of new love and the difficulties that may come with older relationships.

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{Source}

Marian Keyes: Upon my discovery of Sheila O’Flanagan, I started looking for Irish authors specifically. Marian Keyes was another terrific find. I loved the way she marries serious situations with romantic comedy. I particularly like her series about the Walsh sisters which has been spread out over a decade with a book focuses on each one. The latest in the series, “The Mystery of Mercy Close“, has sister Helen a private investigator, trying to track down a missing member of a newly reunited boyband. While trying to solve the case, she’s also struggling with depression which she has been hospitalized with before. Although, you would think this would be a completely maudlin story, it’s actually very interesting and quite funny.

Who are you favourite Irish writers? How are you celebrating St. Patrick’s Day?

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Out & About : Toronto!

Happy Monday everybody! I hope you’ve enjoyed your long weekend. I spent this weekend recovering from the last week in Toronto.  Even though I’ve been back since late Wednesday, it seems I needed a few days to just sleep. I think my feet have recovered from all the pavement pounding by this point.

Last Friday morning, I flew into Toronto to enjoy the weekend by myself before a work conference. I love Toronto! I know it’s kind of frowned upon for anyone to say they like Toronto (at least in Western Canada) but I love any chance to hang out there for a few days. Due to a last minute error with hotel reservations (LONG STORY), I found myself the night before my flight with nowhere to stay.  That’s how I ended up in Scarborough two hours after I landed via bus, train, train and bus.
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I’ve found myself in some hairy situations while travelling but being in Scarborough is not one of them. I loved the reactions of some of my Toronto based colleagues when they found out though. They acted as though it was the most dangerous place to be (even though some live there). It was well worth the trek out there just for their reactions alone.

After I checked in, I boarded the bus again to head back downtown to the Art Gallery of Ontario. The AGO has been on my list to hit up every time I’ve travelled annually to Toronto. For some reason or another, I can never get down there. I’m still kicking myself for missing last year’s MoMA exhibit. This time around, it was the final weekend of their Picasso exhibit. There was no way I was missing that.

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Unfortunately, attending the exhibit a few days before it closes made it really crowded and busy. I can’t imagine how much worse it would’ve been on Saturday. It was definitely worth going to and I feel like I learned a lot. My only regret is that the rest of the gallery was closed by the time I finished the Picasso exhibit. I was trying to check out the Group of Seven but didn’t get very far. 😦 Another reason to return in the future.

Day 2

My plan for Saturday was to hit up Kensington Market. I hadn’t been there for a couple of years and I love checking everything out.

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I really didn’t find a lot but I had a gorgeous brunch at Kensington Cornerstone. I’m a sucker for anywhere that says they’re serving fresh squeezed lemonade. I had their poached eggs with brie and hollandaise. Soooo good. Why they don’t just call it eggs benedict is beyond me.

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After this, I headed down to Queen St. W and found this cute wallet at Cards & Presents. I always seem to pop into this store when I’m nearby and was so happy to find a wallet. It’s so hard to find a wallet you like, you know?

They also had a soft grey one as well but since my last wallet was a neutral, hot pink was destined to win.

Day 3

On Sunday, I was only going to have a bit of time as I’d have to check in for our conference around 4 pm. So I decided to head to Leslieville. I had never been before so I was really excited to find something new. I always tend to head to Queen St. W in Toronto because it’s where I know but sometimes you have to check out other places. Can I just say that I love Leslieville!? I wish I had more time (and that it wasn’t so hot) to check things out.

Outside of the Arts Market, I fell in love with these chairs. Honestly, they’d be perfect for my soon to be dining room.
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I bought some wool (it had to be done!) at The Purple Purl, (love it when wool stores have customers knitting away when you visit), and picked up some macarons (and homemade pink lemonade) at Bobbette & Belle. I’d love to live at Bobbette & Belle. It’s my dream aesthetic with candy as an added bonus. Finally, I also stopped by Tango Palace Coffee Company for (you guessed it), fresh squeezed lemonade and a shortbread cookie. I love the atmosphere at Tango and I could definitely see that this would be where I’d hang out if I lived in the area. So relaxing and cozy.

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So that’s it! By the time the conference started I could barely walk thanks to running all over the place. Where are some of your favourite bits of Toronto? Let me know and I’ll start a list for my next visit. 🙂

Music Monday : Ariel vs Lotus – Limblifter

Happy Monday!

I had an ok weekend. It was a bit chilly but very sunny so it felt warmer than it was. Bingo was a lot of fun. There is such a random assortment of people at bingo that you can’t help but love it.  I also caught up on some long overdue knitting. I’ve also been watching a lot of Hotel Babylon on Netflix. I really watch the most random assortment of things on Netflix. If you have Netflix Canada, please send me some recommendations!

Today’s song just popped in my head yesterday completely out of nowhere. I don’t even know the last  time I heard this song. It could be years. Limblifter was Canadian band in the 90s. I don’t think they’re still together but I could be wrong. I was a bit obsessed with them and their previous band Age of Electric. The 90s were a great time for Canadian music. That was pretty much all I listened to at the time. I really have to upload some of my old cds to my ipod.

This week sees me heading to Saskatchewan for a few days (looks like 4 at least) for work. Hopefully the sun stays out for the drive!

 How was your weekend?

Happy Belated St. Patrick’s Day! My 5 Favourite Bits of Ireland

I’ve been so out of it for the last week or so. I’ve been stressed out about various things and when I’m stressed, I kind of shut down and hide away.  I even started grinding my teeth again which is awesome! Fortunately, everything has been sorted out for now. 🙂

Here’s a post I meant to create on St. Paddy’s Day! I’ve been fortunate to visit Ireland twice. The first time was during my nine week European backpacking trip in 2003. Yikes! That’s a long time ago! During that trip I spent the weekend in Dublin. The second trip was a couple of years back to visit a friend who moved to Galway for the year. I spent two weeks on the western side of Ireland and I absolutely loved it. Ireland is such a magical place I’m sure everyone who visits falls under its spell.

I apologize as this is likely to be a long post.

My 5 Favourite Bits of Ireland:

1. Aran Islands
I only visited the Aran Islands during a day trip but if I had an endless supply of time and money I’d definitely spend several days exploring the islands. I only ventured onto Inishmore and it was as though this bit of Ireland was stuck in time. Just beautiful. To find out more about the Aran Islands, visit their website.

Here’s a view from Dún Aonghasa. I have to admit I was afraid to blow off.
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From within Dún Aonghasa
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Other shots of Inishmore
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Leprechaun house! You have no idea how much this made the trip for me. On Inishmore, a lot of the homes had these mini leprechaun houses. Apparently they bring good luck but I imagine that it could also be for the tourists. Either way, how cute! I’ll so be building one when I buy a home.

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2. Once
Everything about this movie is perfection. It’s the perfect thing to watch while you’re having a lazy day in with a mug of tea. This song is perfection.

3. The Claddagh
Both the place and the ring. I’ve wanted a Claddagh ring ever since Angel gave it to Buffy in the nineties. So when I found myself in Galway, I had to get one. Of course, now people like to tell me that the Sister Wives use them. 😦
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4. Connemara
Such gorgeous landscapes!
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5. Galway Girl by Sharon Shannon & Steve Earl.
Not exactly Irish but I heard it everywhere when I was over there. I’m sure every band in every pub has to play it.

More photos can be found on Flickr.

Have you ever been to Ireland? What did you love? If you haven’t been and want to go, what would you like to see?  I haven’t been to Northern Ireland yet but I’d love to go particularly for Giant’s Causeway.

Pretty Eats: Banff

I can’t believe I haven’t posted this yet! I’m so behind!! Unlike Kelowna, Banff is very familiar to me. For 4 years (on and off), I lived in the neighbouring village of Lake Louise. It’s about 30 minutes away. Hereafter, anytime I refer to “living in the woods”, this is what I mean. Banff is incredibly popular and often, I would just drive past Banff to get to the more non-touristy Canmore or Calgary.

Here’s some tips from a local:

Best Coffee: Evelyn’s Coffee hands down. It’s not hard to find one, there’s 3 locations in Banff and two are on the same street (Banff Ave). Great coffees and atmosphere. There is a Starbucks on Banff Ave as well if you’re wanting that but for a classic latte or cappuccino, Evelyn’s is superior. I love Starbucks but let’s face it, they’re not really known for their espresso. There is also a Tim Hortons in Banff as well. BIG NEWS FOR ME! I used to drive to Canmore if  I got a timmies craving. Now one is located a little out of the way, in the Brewter Bus Station.

Best Breakfast: Wild Flour Bakery Cafe
Their breakfast menu isn’t the longest but it doesn’t need to be. For something quick and delicious, look no further. They make all their own breads and all coffee is organic and fair trade. What’s not to love? Check out my latte and breakfast sandwich. Yum! I wish I could click my fingers and make it reappear!
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I should note that of course the Best Breakfast / Brunch of all time would be at the Banff Springs Hotel. However, if you hit up that buffet, you better not make any plans. It will destroy you…in a good way! 😉

Best Snack:  Beavertails!

This is also a new place since I lived in the woods. We don’t even have beavertails in Winnipeg anymore. I so miss them! Don’t worry! It’s not an actual beaver’s tail. Just a fabulous pastry with some cinnamon and sugar.

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Best Dinner: Nourish

This was a fantastic surprise for me! Nourish is a fairly new vegetarian restaurant that just opened up in the Bear Street Mall. I told my friends that just because I’m a vegetarian, doesn’t mean we have to eat at a vegetarian restaurant but they were so excited. It turns out that anytime anyone visits them in Banff, they take them to Nourish. It’s just that good. At Nourish, everything is served Tapas style so be prepared to share!

First up, nachos! But these are unlike any nachos I’ve ever seen. There are over 27 toppings! I would never have thought to throw strawberries on nachos but they did and it works! Sorry for the fuzzy photos! It was so dark in there.
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King Kong Noodles – The overwhelming favourite:
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Shepherd’s Pie: I really have to get on making a veggie version this Fall. I really miss it!
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I have to admit that I didn’t just eat! I also, went for a 3 hour hike for a better look at the Banff Springs and the falls! Hurray for me. What a great way to spend the day in the rain. 🙂
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Ok. Now I’m seriously hungry.

Pretty Eats: Kelowna

I’m finally getting around to posting about my holiday. It was fantastic! I absolutely love eating out in the Rockies. Local restaurants in the mountains generally put a lot of emphasis on local & sustainable eats. Yums all around! My first stop was Kelowna. What a gorgeous city! Incredible. I would move there in an instant if it wasn’t so completely expensive! I spent a lot of time enjoying the gorgeous mountain views Unfortunately, I did not see Ogopogo, but I did find some fantastic places to eat.

Here’s my recommendations for the next time you find yourself in Kelowna:

For Breakfast:
Without a doubt, it’s the Bohemian Cafe & Catering Co. Everything is fresh and delicious. The decor is eclectic and interesting. It’s exactly what you’d expect a bohemian cafe to be like. I had the eggs florentine which was amazing. I hear their pancakes are terrific as well. For some reason their website is down but I’ll link for when it’s back up.

For Coffee:
Bliss Bakery is a gorgeous little bakery in Peachland right on Okanagan Lake. The cookies are delicious! It’s the perfect place to stop while out shopping.

For Dinner:
If you’re going to treat yourself, you have to go all out. The last night I was there, my friend & I headed to RauDz. RauDz stresses fresh and local foods. I just have to say everything was absolutely delicious.

Look! I took photos!

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The way to my heart is through a fabulously made cocktail and this blackberry martini was just the ticket! RauDz makes all their own fruit syrups for their cocktails. Definitely worth the effort!

I neglected to take photos of the appetizers but we tried the bruschetta & the poutine. My friend also got the appetizer special which was coconut shrimp. 5 stars all around!

The main event:
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I can’t stress enough how delicious this pasta was. There are no words. I think I will forever be trying to recreate this dish. There is nothing like fresh pasta, is there?

Desserts:

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The next time I go (I’ve already invited myself back), I’m hoping to go a little later in the summer when the fruit is ripe. I’m also hoping to hit up some wineries. My friends’ daughter is just 3 months old so not the most appropriate outing.

Do you have any recommendations for what to check out in Kelowna? Let me know! I’ll check them out next summer!

5 Things: Greyhound Survival Guide

Tomorrow morning I depart to Kelowna, BC to visit friends. The trip will take approximately 36 hours. Yikes. It seems ridiculous to post another survival guide but I feel it’s a must. By the way, camping went great and the cinnamon buns were delish! I definitely recommend that recipe.

I’m an experienced Greyhound passenger. However, 36 hours will beat my personal best of 26 hours. Here’s what I’m bringing to make the time fly by:

1. Packed lunch – Ok so I’ve turned into my grandmother. The truth is that the last bus trip I took, the moved all the stops so I was stuck on the outskirts of the city at no name gas stations. All they had to eat was chips and pop. I’m not making that mistake again. I’m bringing granola bars, grapes, peaches, sandwiches, pretzels and water. If I feel like a pop or chips I’ll pick them up.

2. My ipod touch – It’s safe to say this will be on each and every survival guide I do. I’ve loaded it up with a couple of audiobooks from our eLibrary. I have to say the available books were disappointing but since I get car sick while reading, it’ll have to do.

3. Magazines! I was good this time and waited to buy the latest UK Glamour & Cosmo until today. I’m very much looking forward to flipping through them.

4. An actual book – So I have something to read during layovers.

5. Baby Blanket – Still have some crochet to do

Bonus: Change of socks and underwear along with various toiletries. – It’s a must. It really helps to break up the days. Besides, nothing’s worse than showing up somewhere feeling gross. I mean, it’s going to happen but it helps if you can spruce up a bit beforehand.

After Kelowna, I’m heading back to Banff to meet up with some old friends (I used to live out there) and then up to Edmonton to visit my brother. I’m looking forward to taking lots of pics to share with you all when I return.

Talk to you soon!