Round Up | March 2017

March was one of those months that flew by under the radar. Especially on the blogging front. While I could write a whole blog post dedicated to the difficulties of the past month, I’d rather not bore you. Let’s just simplify it: it was tough. I am missing home (South Africa) so much and our ‘travel ban’ with immigration did not help. I’m just SO glad that our Permanent Residency Cards arrived on time and that we didn’t have to cancel our LA trip coming up in a few days. So, things are indeed looking up. There’s a lot in store for us over the next month and I’ll be sure to blog more. 

I BLOGGED.. LIKE ONCE?

I know. Here I’m aiming to blog as much as possible and this month has been one helluva let down. There is no other excuse other than life. With things being uncertain and unsettled with us here in Canada, plus studying as much as possible, it’s been so difficult to blog. So this blog might be packed full of news to update everyone. Bare with me.

WE FOUND ANOTHER COFFEE SPOT IN EDMONTON.

We spent one Snowy Saturday exploring new spots, like Iconoclast on 105 Ave. The garage-style coffee-shop is super cosy, the coffee is great and the view is amazing. We snuggled in with two macchiatos and a game of chess! Yes! Seriously. It was actually so fun.

WHILE EVERYONE WENT TO MEXICO… WE WENT TO WINNIPEG. 

Not joking. Yes, I know “Winterpeg” is not exactly at the top of most people’s to do list. To be honest, the only reason we ventured there was to visit family who were there on business. Any excuse to see family right? Regardless, it was seeing a different city (especially because at this stage, we were still on our travel ban).

We tried Carnaval, an all you can eat meat restaurant and it really hit the spot. The South African in me, missing braais back home, felt a little comfort in tasting all the different grilled meats!

WE WENT TO A DOUGHNUT PARTY.

It’s the latest craze in Edmonton. So if you’re lucky, you’ll get some donuts before they sell out. We had driven into Edmonton early for a well-planned Cafe Linnea breakfast as Craig and I were both craving it, only to realise they have started opening at 10am now! We killed an hour with doughnuts and coffee from Doughnut Party just two doors down.

WE TRIED BAIJIU… AND FELL IN LOVE. 

My word. This little piece of heaven has been on my radar since they teased us with all their “opening soon” social media posts. The food is incredible: I loved the brussels sprouts! And the pork was divine too. We ordered way too much but I don’t regret a thing. The cocktails are just as amazing. This place is a winner and we will be returning!

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WE BOOKED TO GO TO MEXICO. 

After being unable to go for the WHOLE of Winter, we spontaneously decided to book on Monday, leaving this Thursday. You cannot believe how much we are yearning for sunshine and cocktails – after all, we basically grew up on Vitamin D throughout the year in South Africa so I know that 5 days on the beach will do us some good.

We booked through Sunwing as we wanted an all-inclusive, hassle-free holiday – so let’s hope it all goes according to plan! I’ll be sure to do a review when we return but here’s a sneak peak at the hotel we’re staying at!

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Photo: From the El Dorado Sensimar Seaside Suites Website.
HIGHLIGHTS:
  • I got some more online love from 124th Sreet – one of my favourite streets in Edmonton! Check out their Facebook page here. They shared my blog post on my brunch at Canteen, check that out here.
  • Booking a trip to Mexico! Check out the blog on what to pack here. I need the sun so badly!!
  • We found a new coffee spot, Iconoclast. It’s a new favourite.
  • We got our Permanent Residency Cards so we’re officially residents of Canada!
  • We kitted out my study/office a bit more, with a desk and chair from Wayfair. It’s so nice having my own little spot to study. I’ll upload photos when I do a blog post specifically on our Wayfair purchases. 🙂
LOWLIGHTS:
  • Not blogging and keeping up with all that’s on my plate. This is more life a self-reflection on the past month rather than an actual event.
  • Besides being stressed all month that we may have to cancel LA, no other real lowlights.
WHAT’S NEXT IN APRIL?

April is absolute chaos. There isn’t a weekend that is unaccounted for. We will be arriving back from Mexico and a few days later are off again to Los Angeles. Then we arrive back and a few days later head off to Calgary for a one nighter to fetch our new little family member (a kitten). And then, Craig’s dad arrives on Craig’s birthday for a week in Canada, during which we might tack on a quick visit to Jasper. I know, crazy right. It’s funny how everything happens all at once after months of quiet!

So excited for this next month! So stay tuned! 🙂

Leigh

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Mexico | What to Pack

I know, I know. I’ve been a little MIA. I don’t really have any excuse except I let the month get away from me. Studying & adulating is just hard in general and we’ve had our fair share of admin this month. We were on a little “travel ban” while waiting on our permanent residency documents to be processed in Canada, which meant no leaving the country at all. Hence, us not travelling since September last year! BUT last week we received our PR cards and all is well in the land of travel now. WE CAN LEAVE! 🙂

We wasted no time in planning a quick getaway. While we do have Los Angeles on the horizon, we need Vitamin D in the gallon full and quick! So we are doing as all Canadians do… Retreating to Mexico for a quick refuel and touch up of a tan… just in time to arrive in LA (hopefully) olive-skinned and glowing.

I have been to Mexico before (you will have noticed here), but it will be Craig’s first time. So, I thought I would write up a post on some important packing tips for Mexico:

WHAT TO PACK

THE OBVIOUS:
  • Passports + Visas (If needed)
  • Credit Cards / Cheques / Cash (Cash in small denominations for Tipping)
  • Flight + Booking Info
  • Cellphone + Charger
  • Camera + Charger + Memory Space
  • Any Prescription Medication / Glasses etc.
  • Parking Arrangements at the Airport (In Edmonton, we park at Park n Fly)
BUT REMEMBER:
  • If you plan on using your credit card, inform the bank that you will be going to Mexico.
  • Charge your Camera for the arrival.
  • Make sure you have the right Plug Point / Travel Adaptor.
  • Do not drink the tap water!
  • Do not put anything sharp in your carry-on luggage and also watch out for liquids.
THE BASICS:
  • Flat shoes / Slops / Flip flops
  • Multiple costumes / Swimwear options (2 -3 options)
  • Sarongs (or throw-over beach dresses for lunch)
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun hats
  • Sunscreen Cream + Aftersun Lotion + Lip Balm
  • Toiletries
  • Casual Clothes + Evening Wear (For the guys, that means collared shirts!)
  • Underwear (Obviously)
IN CASE:
  • Tylenol + Advil + Antacids
  • Plasters
  • Stool Softeners or Laxatives (No joke, for those who get digestive issues while travelling, it’s important!)
  • Travel Size Detergent
  • Insect Repellant / Bug Spay (Everyone moans about the mosquitos)
BEACH HOLIDAY EXTRAS:
  • A Beach Bag
  • Hair Ties
  • A good book
  • Earphones (to listen to music)
  • Workout Gear + Takkies + Socks (If you care to keep up your health routine while on holiday – we do!)
  • Empty Packets / Ziplock Bags for any wet clothes on the way home.
DON’T BOTHER:
  • Hairstyling Tools (It’s far too humid for that)
  • Your ENTIRE Make Up Collection (Only pack the basics / bare minimum)

While I can’t promise that I’ll be blogging erryday again, I can promise to keep Instagram Stories updated so follow along here.

Here’s hoping I come back browner!

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Edmonton | Foodie Scenes to Try

This is my Edmonton Foodie To-do List! With new places opening up nearly every week (lately), I am barely keeping up! Here’s what I’m dying to try:

Breakfast/Brunch:

Cafe/Coffee Shop:

  • Lock Stock Coffee (Downtown Jasper Ave)
  • Coffee Bureau (Downtown Jasper Ave, opposite Lock Stock)
  • Farrow (Sandwiches near Whyte Ave/Garneau)
  • Da Capo (Quick snack near Whyte Ave/Garneau)
  • District Cafe & Bakery (Downtown)
  • Duchess Bake Shop (124th Street)
  • Iconoclast Coffee

Baked goods & Treats:

  • Duchess Bake Shop (124th Street)
  • Bon Ton Bakery (Deli Shop on 149th Street)
  • Doughnut Party / Moonshine Doughnuts (119th Street, closed Sundays & Mondays)
  • Reinette Cafe & Patisserie
  • Cafe Bicyclette

Lunch:

  • Farrow (Sandwiches near Whyte Ave/Garneau)
  • KB & Co (Health/Smoothies on 104th Street, off Jasper Ave)
  • The Local Omnivore (Near Cafe Linnea)
  • The Marc (Downtown)
  • Elm Cafe

Dinner: 

  • Uccellino (Italian on Jasper Ave)
  • El Cortez (Mexican on Whyte Ave)
  • Rostizado (Mexican on 104 street off Jasper Ave)
  • Guru (For Indian on the West End)
  • XIX Nineteen (St Albert)
  • Chartier
  • Rge Road
  • Woodwork (Off Jasper Ave)
  • Three Boars Eatery (Garneau near Whyte Ave)
  • Solstice Seasonal Cuisine (124th Street)
  • Hardware Grill (Jasper Ave)
  • Corso 32 (Jasper Ave)
  • Red Ox Inn (91 Street)
  • Tzin Wine & Tapas (Downtown off Jasper, 104th Street)

Best To Go:

  • Love Pizza (Off Jasper Ave)
  • Seoul Fried Chicken

Cocktails/Drinks:

  • Baiju (New Cocktail Bar by Mercer Tavern, Downtown)
  • North 53
  • Woodwork (Off Jasper Ave)
  • Bar Clementine
  • Have Mercy
  • Bar Bricco (Jasper Ave)

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Any suggestions? Please comment below! I’d love to hear!

Eating my way through Edmonton,

Leigh 

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Italy on Tour | Dinner in the Chianti Hills in Tuscany

Ever had dinner in the Chianti Hills? Well, you should.

Chianti is located between Florence and Siena. I loved driving through the medieval towns and picturesque rolling hills covered in vineyards and olive groves, to reach our dinner destination, Ristorante I tre pini.

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We were welcomed with blue champagne (which looked odd but tasted great) and live Italian music before we were shown to our tables.

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There was plenty wine to go around. Obviously.

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The Antipasti:

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The Primi:

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The Secondi:

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The Dolci:

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All this reminiscing is making me want to go back! The food was amazing and the experience outstanding. If you don’t believe me, check out the reviews on TripAdvisor.

Besides all the good food, there was live music and entertainment which added to the atmosphere of the night. It truly was a highlight and I can honestly say, it wouldn’t have been a place I would have planned to go on my own. It’s gems like these that make tour groups like Trafalgar worth it (in my opinion).

If you haven’t already checked them out, you should check out the posts on:

I’m hoping to get a few more blog posts up on the Tour in Italy this week so keep checking in!

Craving gelato as I write this (diet evidently going well),

Leigh

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Round Up | February 2017

February was far too short. I feel like I wrote the January Round Up just a few days ago! Nonetheless, we still got so much done this month. While we kept it pretty local, we got away for a night or two!

I BLOGGED SOME MORE.

I haven’t yet caught up on most of our travels (as you can see from our travel summary here). But I did catch up on our 5 day trip to Paris in September last year – which took quite a while to write!  If you haven’t checked that out yet, then you should. It goes into depth on what we did on each of our days on our second visit to the city of love and it can give you some good ideas about what you should include on your dream trip to Paris. Let’s face it, this city is on most people’s bucket-list. And, as I said on my blog post about which cities I would return to: Paris nearly topped the list.

I started two new series too!

#ItalyonTour recapping my Trafalgar Tour around Italy in 2012. So far I’ve blogged about Rome, Venice & Tuscany!

It was 6 weeks to Los Angeles this last Saturday so I started a new series #6weekstoLA in a bid to get Venice Beach ready in that time. I’m a health freak so it was bound to come out on the blog sometime. Who knows, you all might enjoy watching me torture myself into a bikini. And so, a new category arises: Health & Fitness.

ATE THE BEST FOOD IN EDMONTON.

Uccellino is by far one of my favourite restaurants in Edmonton. Check out the blog post here. I cannot wait to return!

HAD A STAYCATION USING AIRBNB.

I wrote a post all about why we use Airbnb here. Sign up here to receive $61 travel credit from me off your first stay! 🙂 How’s that saving!

SPONTANEOUSLY, DROVE TO CALGARY FOR A NIGHT.

Check out the blog post here! It was a spontaneous visit, we booked on Friday night and packed the car Saturday morning. Sometimes you just gotta live in the moment and do it. So many times we don’t make plans and go on adventures – but trust me, time won’t stop for you, nor will it give you a wake up call all those times you should have just taken advantage of it. Do something spontaneous – you won’t regret it.

HIGHTLIGHTS:
  • Our dinner date at Uccellino. Check it out above. Seriously. I’m still dreaming about that chocolate dessert.
  • Our night in Calgary. Check it out above.
  • I got so much love on social media. The Champagne Daily re-posted my Reims post (Hello to all my French readers). The post was also re-pinned a few times on Pinterest. So if you haven’t yet, PIN the picture below.

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  • Booked tickets for the Wine Festival & Big Brunch at Canmore Uncorked Wine Festival in May. SO excited for this one!
LOWLIGHTS:
  • Fount out very depressing news (on a personal note) that I have to complete nine more exams in Canada, before I can work as a lawyer in a firm. So, I am back in study-mode, trying to balance blogging, working out and dominating these exams. That means, if the blog posts slow down, the books are piling up.
WHAT’S NEXT IN MARCH?

A weekend visit to Winnipeg is coming up mid-March. Craig’s sister and her step-dad are in Canada for business so we’re planning to visit old Winter-peg and explore a new city.  If you have any suggestions on what to do – let me know!

Other than that, it’s going to be rather quiet, with me being back to studying! Anyone else suffering from cabin fever and way too much reading to do?

Bye for now!

Leigh 

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#6weekstoLA | The Beach Body Plan

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Guys… It’s 6 weeks till LA (Los Angeles) and I’m rocking a serious Winter bod – no jokes. The plan is to be in the sun, soaking up the rays on Venice/Santa Monica Beach (with all the Hollywood wannabes) in 6 weeks time so obviously something needs to change! Ie. my diet, workout schedule and overall life attitude. I can’t keep sitting around hoping abs are going to fall from the sky. Come now. Let’s just be realistic.

So, here’s my plan:

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Workouts:

The plan is 6 days a week, with only one rest day (resting as in only doing a light one hour walk). A daily walk is kind of like therapy to me. Without it, I do start to go a bit nuts. But besides the benefit of preserving my sanity, it also helps me maintain my weight or weight loss. In fact, I don’t remember a time where I haven’t incorporated a daily walk in to achieve any kind of weight loss.

So, the goal is 45-60 minutes daily at a brisk pace. But besides that I want to achieve 10,000 steps a day. And my phone will keep track of that for me.

Then, my workouts will include resistance-training and high-intensity circuit training at least 6 times a week. These will be 30 minute sessions each (unless I’m lazy and take my time – which let’s face it, I can’t really afford to do – I’m on a time crunch here). If you don’t know what all that mumbo jumbo means, basically I’ll be squatting, lunging, planking, jumping, etc till the cows come home. But I’ll try include all the workouts in future posts. Think Khloe Kardashian Revenge Body. (And if you haven’t seen that girl workout, then you should google that now).

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Diet:

I really want to adopt an eating lifestyle, rather than a diet that can be sustained for the long term. I eat extremely healthily already (in fact, I am an annoying health freak) but I find that I, too, indulge far too much (even) on healthy food. Yes, that can happen.

So, what I’m hoping to achieve in my diet over the next 6 weeks is a more Paleo-based/Whole30-type lifestyle. That means no gluten or grains, no dairy, no refined sugar, no processed foods, no legumes (goodbye peanut butter, my lover. Also, bye peas, beans, and soy – but I won’t miss you guys), and no vegetable oils. These are all highly inflammatory and will make your stomach bloat, so cutting them out will not only make you feel better, but will leave you looking leaner in that bikini.

So you might wonder what’s left in the food pyramid? Well, I can eat grass-fed meat, fresh fish/seafood (wild, not farmed), eggs, fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds and approved oils (coconut, avocado, macadamia, and olive oil but be aware of the heat levels of each).

Personally, I am going to try keep red meat limited to once or twice a week. This has nothing to do with anything other than personally feeling better on white and lighter meat.

I’ve also ordered a vegan protein powder, because I am staying away from dairy (and whey). The brand I ordered is actually Australian, and came with a hefty delivery price tag, but I’m hoping it’s worth it! My favourite youtube, Sarahs Day, uses it and in turn, has heavily influence my decision to use this brand, Tropeaka. (She also has a discount code: SSYT20). And if you watch any of her videos, you might notice that she’s also heavily influenced my new way of eating. (Slightly obsessed with her abs? and also just her vibe?) But keep an eye out for when that delivery arrives and I’ll be sure to do a review of what I think.

If I haven’t already said it, I’m also back to studying – which kind of makes dieting reeeeally tough. Spending all day at home studying makes it difficult to not graze all day. Here’s where willpower is necessary and that’s why I will be setting out a meal plan for the day in order to not let unnecessary calories sneak in where they aren’t needed. Let’s face it, you aren’t exactly burning millions of calories while sitting and studying (as much as we’d like to think we do). For my particular goal, counting calories might be necessary. But I still need enough to fuel my workouts and my brain. It’s a balance.

Will I have cheat meals? Probs not. Let’s be real, six weeks isn’t that long. And while adjusting to this new way of eating, I don’t think it would make much sense to my body to sneak in foods that I have decided to cut out above. Dairy is going to be tough – I have milk all day in my coffee, and yoghurt on the daily. While I might later re-incorproate it, for now, I want to try detox. Gluten? Well that’s not really a problem for me. I can’t eat it anyway. Peanut butter will be sad to say goodbye to, but almond butter will do.

Will I still eat out? Of course, that’s just part of our lifestyle. We love going out and trying new restaurants, but I will certainly make a more concerted effort to go for grilled meats with steamed vegetables or salads minus the dressing. Most restaurants use canola oil in their dressings which is not permitted, so I’ll opt for olive oil and lemon (which most restaurants are happy to provide). But no to alcohol. I know I’ll be drinking in LA, so in the lead up to it, I’m planning to cut it out. Because I’m fun sober too.

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What do I hope to accomplish in 6 weeks?

Well, a lot. You can actually accomplish a lot in 6 weeks. Especially when you put your mind to it. And that’s exactly what I’m doing. While I have no set number in mind. My goal is to achieve consistency throughout the 6 weeks and to continue with it even in LA, even after LA, and even till the next beach holiday (Hint: there is another one coming up. But where??? I’ll let you just sit and guess for a while).

But basically, I just want to look a little better in a bikini than I do right now. And I want to feel a bit better in my summer clothes (when I can start wearing them). And I want to get back into healthy routine. LA just happens to be the current motivation.

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So, lets summarise:

  • Wake up early to lemon water. And drink more water throughout the day.
  • 45 – 60 minutes fasted cardio in the morning + overall 10,000 steps a day.
  • Resistance training 6 times a week.
  • No dairy, no gluten or grains, no legumes, no refined sugar.
  • Don’t overeat! Willpower Leigh!
  • 8-9 hours of sleep a day.

So tomorrow is official day one. Let’s hope it goes well!

Keep tuned for more #ItalyonTour blog posts this week! Capri, Chianti and Verona are coming up!

Currently trying not to late-night snack,

Leigh 

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Italy on Tour | Venice in Photos

If you haven’t already checked out the Rome blog post, check it out here.

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Venice:

Venice, funny enough, wasn’t it was all cracked up to be – granted, we were hot, feet sore, budget tight & we could not avoid queues or crowds wherever we went. I truly believe that I need to return to fully make up my mind about this city, but here are some tips for when you go:

#1 Tip: Do NOT go in peak season! That is June, July & August. Not only will it save you money, but it will be way more enjoyable with less crowds & bearable temperatures.

#2 Tip: Stay on the island of Venice. On the tour, we didn’t & I think that might be one of the reasons Venice lost it’s magic for me. I really can’t wait to return to stay on Venice & be able to look out onto the canals from my hotel. Obviously, this isn’t exactly a budget-friendly tip. That being said, you could opt for a Bnb, Guesthouse or even an Airbnb.

#3 Tip: Definitely do a Gondola Ride. We did it, & it was legitimately my favourite part of the Venice trip. Not only did we get to rest our feet a bit, we saw more than we did on foot. But beware, they do come at a price. Agree on a price before the ride! Additionally, I would research prices beforehand to know exactly what you’re in for.

#4 Tip: In general, don’t get sucked into the popular plaza (tourist trap) restaurants, especially in St Marks Square. These are generally, overpriced, low-quality meal options & definitely not worth your Euros! But if you’re saving for a gondola ride, bring a packed lunch instead & picnic along a quiet canal. Restaurants have surcharges & you can rack up a pretty nasty bill for nothing.

#5 Tip: Head to the outer islands (Burano or Murano) on day trips like we did below.

We also learnt all about the Italians & their hand gestures! So we took a picture below. 1st from the Left: “Delicious!”; “You’ve seen something you like!”; “what are you talking about”; & sadly, I cant remember the last one!

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Island of Burano:

Believe or not, we were very happy to leave Venice! In June, the crowds are crazy and the heat is real. It was nice to relocate to a nearby island in the Venetian Lagoon, called Burano, that was much less crowded!

Needless to say, had we not been on the Tour, I’m not sure we would have found this hidden gem. It’s a stunning day (or half day trip) from Venice & it’s incredibly picturesque as you can see below. Burano is packed full of brightly coloured houses that make for amazing photos.

We took time on the island to grab lunch and you should too – but order seafood! Being a fisherman island, the seafood is super-fresh! While we didn’t eat here, everyone recommends: Al Gatto Nero Da Ruggero.

Found out about the vaporetto lines which run from Venice to Burano: the 12. The express ferry runs from Venice’s San Zaccaria stop (near St. Mark’s), to Burano as well as Murano. It takes about 45 minutes, and costs €6.50 per person.

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Here’s a picture of some of the people on our Trafalgar Tour through Italy. 

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Keep checking back for more updates or follow my blog to receive updates to your inbox!

If you liked my blog on Rome, you might enjoy:

  • What we did in 5 days in Paris, here.
  • Or, our whirlwind 2 days in Berlin, here.

Missing Europe,

Leigh

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