Saturday, April 22, 2017

Cottage Life: Finding The One

We've been searching for a cottage on and off for a few years. Mr. and I both have a very demanding job we are committed to. As much as I love travelling around the globe (43 countries and counting), I often felt they were those I-need-a-vacation-to-recover-from-my-vacation type of trips. Not to say it was always challenging to sync up our schedules when we could both be off. I've always imagined us going somewhere reclusive on a Thursday night, doing a bit work, and starting our weekend early during summer months. Or just take off whenever we feel like it, without any planning or buying any plane tickets, and get to a place where we can decompress. We've looked at all the cottage country hot spots but decided they weren't for us, mostly because of the crowded waterfronts and the impossible cottage traffic. 

Enter Prince Edward County, a consummate cottage country with 35 wineries all within 20 minutes driving radius, a historical town called Picton as pretty but not as bustling as Niagara On the Lake, and numerous antique shops for a vintage collector and design aficionado like me to boot. What really pushed us across the finish line was the traffic, lack of that is. With Highway 407 now extended to 412, we easily cut down 20 minutes of our travel time. It was also a stress-free easy highway drive pretty much all the way. 


The post in the picture above indicates the centre location of our future cottage. Beyond the woods up the ramp lies the lake, a mere 1 minute walk from our front door. The door and a covered porch will be facing the woods - I can't even imagine how stunning the views will be during the fall! 

Maybe like this?
Picture taken during our Bruce Trail hike in the fall 

Or this?

Another reason why I really love about this project is that it's a new build so we can enjoy the cottage life from day one, no dated decors to fix or worse yet damages to repair. The cottage will be built with all the intricate colonial features including exterior sidings and interior window headers and windowsill aprons. 


The exterior sidings will be painted in this peppy pale yellow shade called Woodland Cream. We didn't choose this colour - our lot only came in this finish which was predetermined by the builder. 


(not our cottage, just the same Woodland Cream sidings)

I could so live in a pastel yellow cottage like this! This is indeed my perfect cottage dream come true! 

We expect to take possession in July. Are you surprised I've started the design boards? I am so thrilled to have a blank canvas to work with, a place where I can bring my new design inspirations to life. Unlike my primary residence, my cottage will take on a much more modern style, with quite a bit mid-century Scandinavian influence. Here are the two boards I whipped up so far for my cottage living room and dining room. 

The to-do and shopping list is a mile long but I am super excited. I will be back to blog about anything and everything about our new cottage life. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

How to Design a Boutique Master Bedroom

~ This is a featured post.~

Do you find yourself falling in love with the bedroom designs of the boutique hotels that you visit while on vacation? Then why not recreate that atmosphere in your own bedroom so you can enjoy it all year long? Check out the tips below so you can design a boutique master bedroom of your own. 

It Starts with Your Bed
Your bed is the focal point of your bedroom, so dressing it up right will definitely take your overall design to a new level right away. That’s why this is the first step that you should take when you’re redesigning your space. An attractive set of sheets and a luxurious comforter, along with plush pillows, will transform your ordinary bed into one that will be fit for royalty. Check out some of the many Woolrich bedding options to start generating some ideas. 

Choose European Pillows
Speaking of pillows, stick with European pillows, which are used in many boutique hotels because they’re super comfortable and perfect for when you want to lean back without lying down, such as when you’re reading before bed. These pillows are square and big, and they also provide an impact visually, so they’re just as attractive as they are useful. Just be prepared to purchase the special pillowcases that these pillows require. Once they’re on your bed, you won’t regret taking this route, though, as these pillows are really luxurious and totally worth it.

Clean Off Your Bedside Table
Provided that you have the room for one, a bedside table is a useful and attractive addition to any boutique styled master bedroom. Make sure it matches the rest of your design scheme in terms of color and style. Then keep it clean and free of clutter. While an alarm clock is certainly fine, you don’t want to overdo it. Maybe place a bottle of hand lotion on the table that you can use before bed, along with a book or magazine that you’re currently reading and your phone. Remember, less is more. 

Add a Place to Sit
You can also set up an additional seating area in your bedroom, provided that you have the space, of course. This is a great way to make your bedroom feel more like a hotel retreat than an ordinary room that looks like everyone else’s. Choose seating that is comfortable and luxurious, and make sure it matches the rest of the room’s overall vibe. Then place it in a convenient area, not too close to the bed but not too far away, and in a spot that’s out of the way. 

Keep the Lighting Warm
When you walk into the most fabulous hotels, you’ll notice that their lighting is warm and minimal. Sconces and lamps are common, rather than just relying upon harsh overhead lighting. So, when you design your bedroom, be sure to include lamps, and maybe even some sconces, to add some warm and calming lighting to the space. 
By following the easy tips above, you can transform your bedroom into a boutique inspired space that you’ll never want to leave. Have fun with the process and then enjoy the rewards of your efforts.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Brita Hard Sided Bottle #worldwaterday

Years ago while in university, I participated in a global economic sustainability study. I gained tremendous appreciation for environmental preservation and how the quality of our natural surroundings impacted the quality of people's life. Clean water, as a basic human right and something we take for granted, can be such a luxury in certain parts of the world. I am religious at recycling, and I rarely, rarely buy bottled water. Instead, I carry a portable Thermos with me just so I could have a sip of cold/hot beverages on the road. When Angie from Devon Consulting approached me to write about Brita's new limited edition water filter bottle, I was beyond excited to be able to participate in this good cause. 
Brita's new hard sided water filter bottle

Brita Canada and We.org have partnered on a sustainability initiative to provide a community in Kenya with clean water, through the build of a borehole (a series of water wells). This particular campaign supports a borehole in Irkaat, Kenya that provides the community of more than 1,800 with access to clean water. 

With each Brita Hard Sided Bottle, you can get 700 ml portable bottle with replaceable water filter. It's NSF certified to reduce Chlorine (taste and odour) and particulate (Class VI). Just ONE Brita Bottle filter can replace up to 300 plastic water bottles. Best part is, with the purchase of every bottle, someone in Kenya will receive a year of clean water. Not only is this a wonderful way to give back, using a Brita to-go water bottle saves hundreds of plastic bottles from ending up in the landfill. 

As the warmer months are upon us and our lives become more active, remember to take a Brita bottle with you. Buying bottled water may be convenient, but drinking from a Brita is the right thing to do. 



Sunday, March 12, 2017

Copenhagen in 4 Days

It was nearly impossible to take 15 days off work between the two of us, but we finally made it happen this late May. We spent just over 4 days in Copenhagen, then took a 10-day cruise to Berlin, Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm, and back to Copenhagen. 

Picture below: the obligatory tourist photo of Nyhavn. 

Copenhagen is the home of Smørrebrød, Scandinavian design and street names we can't pronounce. To thoroughly take in what this vibrant city has to offer, you will need a healthy budget (Copenhagen is undoubtedly one of the most expensive European cities we've ever visited) as well as a generous amount of time.

Similar to my other travel posts, I will summarize our Copenhagen trip into the following categories: weather, hotel, transportation, architecture, art, food and shopping

Weather
Thanks to El Niño, the heat wave persisted throughout our stay. It was unusually hot for Copenhagen this time of the year - the weather from the rest of our trip would attest to that as we nearly froze our butt off. It was sunny and high of 30 degree Celsius plus humidity every day. Thankfully it was quite breezy due to the fact that the City is surrounded by waters. So if you are visiting the Nordic in late May/early June, it could be quite tricky to pack because it could be scorching in cities like Copenhagen and Berlin, but as cold as 10 degree in others such as Stockholm. 

Hotel
I found hotels expensive in Copenhagen. We spent over $500 per night at a reputable hotel but were quite disappointed at the quality of the room. It would appear the hotel gave up guests' comfort for the Nordic minimalist style: there were no towel rings/bars or hooks in the bathroom; there was no closet but rather a few hangers tucked behind a draped area; King-sized bed was essentially two twin beds pushed together. Call me spoiled but I am pretty sure $500 would get us a pretty decent hotel everywhere else in the world. 

Transportation
Let's just say taking shots of the stylish Central Station was as far as it went for us in terms of public transportation. We found the multiple train/bus/Metro lines confusing (plus each street name is a mile long), so we ended up taking taxis all the way. We would've rented bikes if it wasn't for the heat wave. Copenhagen didn't earn the "City of Cyclists" title for no reason: there must be more bikes and cyclists than cars in this city. Forget about "text and drive", how about "text and ride" :) It's equally scary and entertaining to see some cyclists giggling while reading texts on their smartphones. 

Picture below: Copenhagen Central Station. 


Architecture 
Copenhagen has a wide variety of architectural styles, ranging from the Rococo late Baroque mansions and palaces, to the utilitarian residential boroughs, to the modern and futuristic Danish designs. 

Pictures below: views from the tower of the Church of Our Saviour. 


Picture below: the block with graffiti walls would be Christiania. It took me one full minute to realize it's a complete waste of time visiting there. 

Picture below: Grundtvig's Church (Grundtvigs kirken), known as one of the world's 10 most unique/famous/grand churches, among La Sagrada Familia, Temppeliaukio Church in Helsinki, and Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik, is definitely a must-see in Copenhagen. It's a typical expressionist style architecture so grand that it's guaranteed to give you goosebumps throughout your visit. 

Picture below: organ inside the church which inspired the exterior style. 

Picture below: Christiansborg Palace (Danish Parliament) from Ved Stranden perspective. 

Pictures below: a typical quiet and functionalist-styled residential block.


Pictures below: Rosenborg Castle and gardens.





Art
If you only have time for a couple of museums and galleries, I would recommend Statens Museum for Kunst and Danish Museum of Art & Design. 

I was very much taken by the Danish artworks from the 1700-1800''s, in particular, the two paintings below by Jens Juel and Vigilius Eriksen: their techniques of depicting silk and lace fabrics was so meticulous that it's mind-blowing. 




Food and Shopping
Now this category probably deserves a post all by itself. 16 restaurants in Copenhagen were awarded 20 Michelin stars in 2016. My roomie from university, who moved to live in Copenhagen 10 years ago, was trying to get us into the none other than the world's best restaurant Noma. Sadly the restaurant was closed until May and the wait list after that was a year out. We also tried the 3-star Geranium but we could only get bar seats so we decided to go with Amass, a Michelin guide restaurant.

Picture below: the interiors of the Amass restaurant. I am still trying to track down those chairs - they were the most comfortable dining chairs I've ever sat in! 

Picture below: my friend and her husband treated us to the 9-course extended menu. It was an eye-opening experience dining at Amass. Each ingredient was fully traceable and as fresh as hand-picked from their own herb and vegetable garden. I also like the whole time-sensitive spontaneity concept as the restaurant uses the products at the peak of their deliciousness, so you can expect their menu to change or as least be tweaked on a daily basis. 

Pictures below: Royal Smushi Cafe, a Michelin guide cafe in Copenhagen. Smushi is short for smørrebrød + sushi. The ambience and food was amazing, but the service was a bit lacking. 



Copenhagen is not short of places to shop, and especially so for a home-decor aficionado like me. Illums Bolighus had me ooh and aah over some famous Nordic designers' latest collections. 

Picture below: I might just start collecting Iittala's Festivo candleholders. 





Overall we had a blast while in Copenhagen. I hope to come back to write about the rest of our trip shortly. Tell me, have you been to Copenhagen and how did you like it? 



Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Is a Dog a Good Pet for You?

~ This is a featured post ~

I've been putting off having a dog for the longest time, mainly due to sever allergies my significant half suffers from it. I grew up having dogs and always enjoyed their company. While I may not necessarily be in love with them yet, but there are hypoallergenic breeds that I could consider as a good compromise. If you are like me sitting on the fence, I hope this guest post lends you some perspectives into your decision-making. 
Image source
When it comes to creating a home there are a lot of different elements that you need to get right. Choosing the right type of property in a good area and decorating it comfortably is only part of the story.

How you live in your home is just as important a consideration. If you are a naturally sociable person, taking the time to invite friends and family over, every so often, will help you to enjoy life.

A great way to complete a home is to get a pet, or maybe two. They bring a lot of joy to their owners. However, it is important to find the right pet for you.

Most people love dogs, but this does not mean that everyone that sees a mixed breed puppies for sale sign should go in and buy one. Far from it, not everyone has the right lifestyle to be able to offer a dog a good home.

A dog is for life
Before you go out and get a puppy you have to think careful about whether you can really look after him or her. An awful lot of people seem to forget that dogs can easily live for 16 years, often more.

You have to be sure that you can look after any pet for their entire lifetime. Therefore, if for example, you are planning to move abroad once you have finished your studies getting a puppy may not be a good idea. It would break your heart, and his, if you were to discover that you could not afford the cost of taking your dog with you. In some countries, it is all but impossible to find affordable dog-friendly accommodation.

Dogs need plenty of space
All pets need space. If you live in a small bedsit, with no garden, getting a Great Dane is not likely to work out well. They need a lot of exercise and the chance to spend time outside. In this situation, a small Yorkie is a much better option. They still need to be taken outside every day and walked, but do not need anywhere as much exercise as a Great Dane does.

Do you have enough time?
This brings me to another important consideration, which is do you have enough spare time to look after a dog. All dogs need to be fed and exercised every day. They also need grooming and to be taken to the vets at least once a year, more if they are ill. If you lead a hectic life, owning a dog is not a good idea. Especially when you consider that dogs are pack animals, which suffer emotionally and mentally when left without company for more than a few hours at a time.

If you are still not sure if owning a dog is right for you, completing this comprehensive questionnaire will help. It will make you think and enable you to work out whether you really can offer a dog a happy and secure home.
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