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I can’t believe it’s that TIME again (pardon the pun). One of my favourite annual lists recapping the best and worst of 2014 is here. Here are my two cents in some of the categories:

Arts & Entertainment

Top 10 Movies: I honestly hadn’t heard of most of these films. I’ve seen Lucy and although I liked it, I don’t think it would have made my top ten. I want to see Boyhood as well. But that’s about it.

I also hadn’t seen any of the worst 10 movies, most of the best movie performances, most of the Top TV shows and episodes (totally agree on Outlander’s “The Wedding” and the Game of Thrones episode of Joffrey’s death).

Top 10 Songs: Again, hadn’t heard of most. surprised to see Chandelier by Sia on the list (top 10? really?) and happy to see Taylor Swift (Blank Space, although I liked Shake it Off better).

Top 10 Worst songs: Surprised at some on here. Rude by Magic? All About That Bass? Black Widow by Iggy Azalea?  Weird.

Top 10 Albums: Only one I’ve heard of is Taylor’s 1989. and agree.

Science & Tech

Top 10 Gadgets: Not many surprises here: iPad air 2, iPhone 6 Plus, GoPro. We’ve been waiting for Oculus Rift for a while now – it’s on the list again this year. Jawbone – the device that tracks everything about you (calories burned, minutes of REM sleep) – could be cool. Apple Watch – something to look out for; this type of device will likely be the next big thing.

Top 10 Apps:  I love “2048” – the simple logical game with 70s style color scheme and easy yet addictive goal.

Top 10 Things that broke the Internet:  I laughed at a lot of these…  Like Kim Kardashian’s butt. The “sexy felon” photo. Renee Zellweger’s makeover. Taylor’s album release. The iPhone 6 release. The Ice Bucket challenge. Solange and Jay-Z’s fight in the elevator. And of course the leak of the celebrity nudie pics. LOLs all around.

Pop Culture

Top 10 Viral Videos: IKEA’s Apple parody – “it’s a bookbook”. :) Love it. Emma Stone and Jimmy Fallon’s amazing amazing lip sync battle – so good!  “All by Myself” video by lonely dude at the airport.

Top 10 Moments for Women: Some good stuff here this year: Emma Watson’s speech about feminism, female-lead movie Frozen highest-grossing animated film ever showing that people will go see movies with female leads, Malala wins the Nobel Prize.

Top 10 Selfies: My faves are the queen’s photobombing and Ellen’s Oscar night celeb-packed selfie. Great shots.

Ellen Oscar Selfie

 

 

Life List Recap 2014

When I first started preparing for this post, I didn’t think I had crossed many items on the list (seems like I say that every year lol). But, it was another great year filled with new adventures, travels and attained goals.

As of today, I’ve completed 279 of 432 items. :)

I did well on my other annual challenges as well, but didn’t complete the reading one this year.

  • Watch 50 movies: As of December 21st, I’ve watched 65! Not sure how I found the time!!  Two long return flights helped here for sure. And I’m not including the repeats I watch when I catch them on TV or during the holidays like Home Alone, Love Actually and the Sound of Music.
  • Cook 40 new recipes: As of Dec. 21, I’m at 38 so will complete this one for sure.
  • Read 40 books: As of Dec. 21, I’m only at 32 so probably won’t hit 40 before the end of the year. I tackled a few large novels this year which contributed to the lower number.

Some other things that I did this year but weren’t on the list:

  • New hair:  I cut my hair short again so it’s now a bob style. My first cut was short in back, long in front, but I got it evened out so I can have fun with a messier look. :) Love it. Got highlights too.
  • New job: After being in my current role for 6 years, I decided it was time for a change in order to continue to grow. I start my new job (same firm, different department) in January. I’ll have been with the same firm for 19 years in March. Change is good once in a while.
  • We’re very close to having our dream backyard: We worked with a designer for our deck. The contractor says it’s actually almost done – about a week and a half to go! Super excited for outdoor living next year!
  • Started exercising regularly: I’ve been exercising more regularly, doing both strength training and cardio at home mostly, along with hikes in nearby parks and conservation areas during the warmer weather.
  • Turned 40! Woohoo!

Not too shabby indeed! I’ll be reviewing my list to add/remove some items and plan my goals for next year as well.

Wow. We’ve been back since Saturday night and I’m still dreaming of the resort. :)

First off, I apologize for the relatively few pics as I forgot my camera on this trip. I know…very uncharacteristic of me. It was on the packing checklist and everything! So, the few pics I did take were in the room using my iPad because I didn’t want to carry my iPad around the resort taking pics with a tablet. lol :)

We booked this vacation about 6 months ago and have been looking forward to it ever since. We chose the all-inclusive Sandals Regency La Toc Golf Resort and Spa because 1) it’s adults only like all Sandals resorts and geared towards couples, 2) the number of restaurants available and 3) the fact that it offered rooms with a private plunge pool. We were looking for privacy to spend time relaxing on our patio in our very own pool since that was on my life list.

The room we chose was the Honeymoon Hideaway One Bedroom Butler Suite with Private Pool (scroll down). It had a garden view, which was fine with us as it offered lots of privacy with a relaxing tropical feel. We were originally unsure about the butler service but all rooms with pools came with it so we went with the flow (more on this later). Prior to vacation, we had to fill in our “butler preferences” online so they could prepare everything prior to our arrival; things like what we wanted our minibar stocked with (wine, vodka, tonic water, diet coke, water), our food preferences so they can make dinner reservations for us ahead of time, any food allergies or dislikes, etc.

Day 1: Our flight was good, about 5 hours direct, I watched the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles which I really enjoyed. We were greeted at the airport and brought to a lounge where there were couches/chairs, a bar and drinks to keep us comfortable while we waited for our transfer to the resort. We only waited about ten minutes then had a private car drive us to the resort – about an hour. We were dropped off at the Butler’s Lounge for our private check-in (Butler guests had a private check-in experience) and were presented with cool lemon-scented towels to freshen up and fruit punch. Very nice after a long flight. We were checked in and a butler escorted us to our room via golf cart. He brought our luggage, walked us through the room (pool, minibar, etc.), gave us a cell phone and explained how to contact our butlers (2, one in the AM, one in the PM) and asked us that if we were planning to eat dinner in to review the room service menu and he would take care of it while we filled in some of the other forms needed for some of the activities we planned during the week. So, we chose our dinner, poured the sparkling wine that was already chilled and he returned very quickly with our food! We ate, called the butler to come and pick up the tray and filled-in forms when we were done, he also took our breakfast order for the following morning. We then unpacked (albeit the butler offered to help us do that) and went to sleep, looking forward to exploring the resort tomorrow.

Day 2: We enjoyed our breakfast on the patio by our plunge pool. Turns out we’d be spending most of our time out here all week – it was awesome!

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We ten headed out to explore the resort to find the restaurants and take a peek at the fitness centre since we planned on fitting in some workouts. We spent the rest of the morning on the patio. We headed out to Neptune’s for lunch which was a Mediterranean Seafood place on the beach. Great view, great food (Val: appetizer – grape leaves, main – trout with veggies and couscous; Chris: appetizer – greek dips with pita triangles, main – trout as well). We spent some time on the beach watching the waves, then back to our patio to enjoy a 3pm snack of chocolate cake and coffee.  Got ready for dinner then called our butler for a ride to Armando’s (the resort was pretty hilly so having the option for a golf cart lift was great). Armando’s served Italian food. Val: App: antipasto, Main: spaghettini Bolognese, Dessert: tiramisu & cappuccino. Chris: App: antipasto, Main: penne all’amatriciana, Dessert: tiramisu & cappuccino. Called our butler when done for a ride back to the room.

Day 3: Breakfast on the patio again. :) Took it easy, enjoyed the sun, pool, patio. We went to workout at the fitness centre, then more relaxing, sun, pool, patio. (See a recurring theme here?)  We did a lot of lazing around all week…felt really good! We had lunch at the Pavilion (buffet) and it was quite good with lots of choices and several local dishes to try. Dinner was at the Pitons restaurant. Our butler gave us a ride and escorted us to our seats in the restaurant and made sure we were comfortable, then told us to call when we were ready for a ride back. We were really getting used to this special treatment!! Val: App: Mini quiche and jerk quesadilla, Main: surf & turf. Chris: App: Callaloo and chicken soup, Main: Chicken Roti.

Day 4:  Breakfast at the pavilion today; it was fun to eat by the sea. We ate later than usual since we had our couples’ massage today at 1pm and planned to eat lunch afterwards. We were both a bit nervous since neither of us had a massage before. We got to the spa and filled out a form, then were each led to a separate changing area to change into a robe and flip flops. We were then brought to our couples’ room which was candlelit, smelled amazing and was very inviting with two massage tables side by side. They had us light some candles that when melted turned to oil that would be used during the massage. The two masseuses told us what to do (hang up our robes on the back of the door and go under the top sheet on the table) and they left for a few minutes to let us do that. They came back in and the amazing massage experience began! Wow – it was really amazing. It was for about an hour and I felt like a rag doll at the end of it.  We ate at Neptunes for lunch again: We were so relaxed…can’t even remember what I ate. LOL  Did more relaxing on our patio. :)Tonight was our private candlelit dinner in one of the gazebos on the property. This dinner was really special; we chose our 5 courses on the night of our arrival, then our butler escorted us to the lobby where our private server was waiting for us, then led us to our gazebo, which happened to be the one high up on the edge of the main pool We had an amazing view of the beach and the resort – it was candlelit, in a really beautiful setting, with sparkling wine and a long-stemmed rose for me. Very romantic. We ended up choosing the same courses except for the app (Val: Shrimp and scallop scampi / Chris: Shrimp and salmon) followed by pumpkin spicy soup, then a tomato & mozzarella salad, then a pineapple granite to cleanse the palate, then the surf & turf, then we shared a chocolate mousse for dessert. Everything was delicious! When we got back to the room, a surprise was waiting for us:

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Day 5: Breakfast on the patio again, sun, pool, relaxing… Lunch was pizza and salad. More patio, sun, pool, napping, wine. That never got old. :) We had dinner at La Toc – the formal French restaurant which was another 5 course meal. The ambiance of the restaurant was really great, decorated in beiges, golds and dusty rose. Very elegant, very romantic, with French music playing in the background that Chris was singing to… They served an amuse-bouche to start which was a blue cheese canapé. Val: soup du jour (fish chowder), coquilles St. Jacques, salade maison, chateaubriand. Chris: French onion soup, escargots, salade maison, chateaubriand. We shared the assiette des amoureaux (lovers plate) for dessert which included macaroons, crème brulee, a pistachio cake and a chocolate cup. The portions were small as per the French custom but we were very satisfied and the food was great.

The food has been really delicious – normal sized portions in all the restaurants as opposed to super-sized dishes and very flavourful. The service has been excellent as well, from our awesome butlers, to all the wait staff, to the resto managers who came by to check in on us, to the pool guy who visited every morning, to the guys who stocked the fridge, to housekeeping, to the spa staff. Everyone we met was polite, friendly, asked how our vacation was going so far – we were very very impressed.

Day 6: Surprise – another veg day! We were really getting the hang of it. Breakfast on the patio, then a visit to the fitness centre. We visited the Pavillion for lunch (Mexican theme) and enjoyed margaritas both for lunch and afterwards on the beach.  We kept it simple for dinner and went to the sushi bar. When we got back to the room, we found rose petals leading from the door to the bedroom, the ice bucket stand holding the door to the bathroom open with a bottle of sparkling wine chilling and a bubble bath with flower petals floating in the water. So nice! Since there was no way both Chris and I would fit in that tub, I took the wine and Chris took the bath. :)

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Day 7:  Breakfast in. Patio, pool, sun, napping. Enjoyed our last day and really vegged out. We rolled ourselves down to the Pavillion for lunch then stopped by the shops to pick up some rum cake (a must when we’re in the Caribbean). We took relaxing to a whole new level on this trip. I think I napped more than I was awake… :)  We had to catch the shuttle to the sister resort (the Grande) to go to Gordon’s for dinner – the Grande’s formal restaurant which is on the pier right on the water and reserved for butler suite guests (those in other suites have to pay a fee to dine there). The view and ambiance were super romantic and the food was amazing – it was a four course meal. They served an amuse bouche – pork loin with a tangy sauce. Val: chilled lobster medallion, conch salad, veal shank, coconut tart. Chris: pan-seared tuna, house salad, rack of lamb, coconut tart. Delicious! We got to scope out some of the other restaurants and areas of the Grande, then zipped back to catch the return shuttle to La Toc and finished packing (which our butler asked if we needed help with).

Day 8 Departure: Breakfast in (of course). Last bit of packing then our butler picked up our luggage. We had lunch at Neptunes again, then got a ride to the Butler’s Lounge to check out and wait for our private car transfer to the airport. Our return flight was good 5 hours 40 mins. I watched Guardians of the Galaxy, and Jersey Boys. Both pretty good.

Impressions: We would totally do this again. The butler service was amazing and it really made me feel pampered. The private pool was really nice and felt luxurious. The food was amazing. The resort was run very well, professional and friendly staff. The grounds were well-kept and everywhere you looked there were areas for couples including benches, hammocks, all kinds of little nooks and crannies. Although we were surrounded by other couples, we always felt that we were being taken care of in our little private romantic bubble. We probably could have asked our butlers for more services (i.e. reserving pool or beach chairs in the morning, having cocktails brought to us, etc.) – but we were more than happy with everything. We left feeling relaxed, refreshed, very happy and vowing to return. Two thumbs up!!!

Life List items crossed off:

  • Stay in a room with a private plunge pool
  • Get a professional massage
  • Go to a spa

Sh*t Chris Says

It all started with Chris giggling at something he was reading on his iPad during dinner. He tilted his iPad to show me and it was this:

EarthClean

Me (thinking of the shame of telling people on what planet you live on if humans ever left Earth):  We’ll never colonize Uranus.

Chris: Of course not, it’s a gas giant.

 

Bahahahahhaaaaaa

Hello 40!!!

40th birthday

Looks like I made it! :)

There was never any doubt that I would make it to my 40th birthday. If you had asked me when I was a kid if I would have reached this milestone with so many experiences and accomplishments under my belt, I probably would have laughed. Laughed unabashedly and really loud like I always do – because life is too short to be quiet.

So, to properly review these past 40 years, I looked at my Life List. My first reaction was “Holy crap, when did I find the time to do all that?!??” Especially with everything else going on in my life like school, marriage, career, family and friends, staying healthy, enjoying hobbies and day to day life and responsibilities. As of today, I have completed 273 items of 432 on my ever-growing list.

I’ve visited 17 countries. I’ve visited 6 provinces and 11 states. I’ve taken 8 cruises and too many trips to count.

I’ve celebrated 11 years of marriage. I’ve owned 6 different cars. I’ve lived in 5 different places I could call my own (2 apartments, 3 houses). I’ve lived in 3 different provinces in my lifetime and 6 different cities. So far.

I’ve worked at the same company for 18 and a half years and have held 5 different jobs there.

I’ve learned lots of skills and tried many new things. I’ve enjoyed numerous activities:

…from the amazing (ziplining in the rainforest in St. Kitts, cave tubing in Belize, attending a luau in Hawaii, a salmon bake in Alaska) to the fun (learning ballroom dancing, participating in a flash mob, learning the Thriller dance, going to a rave, singing in a talent show) to the cultural (the Louvre, the d’Orsay, the Eiffel Tower, the Parthenon, Old Town Rhodes) to the food-related (wine tasting in Niagara on the Lake, whiskey tasting in Ireland, having a meal at a chef’s table, eating shark / ostrich / escargot / duck / rabbit / caviar / venison / wild boar…) to the vehicular (ride in/on a limo, segway, catamaran, cruise ship, sailboat, go-kart, double decker bus, canoe, horse)…and so many more!

Life truly is a journey and it’s really what you make of it. Dreams are to be achieved; goals are to be attained. At 40, I don’t think I’m halfway through life yet and I’m looking forward to many more adventures, travels and learning experiences. I’m really excited for what’s to come. :)

forty

 

 

Adventure: Albion Falls

This morning we visited Albion Falls and hiked in the surrounding area to enjoy the fall foliage. It was a cool day and partially cloudy. It took us about 20-25 minutes to drive there and there are a few parking lots in the area (free) with signs to the viewing platforms. It was very scenic and the colours of the leaves are pretty close to their peak right now. Great morning!

View from the bridge on Mountain Brow Rd – you can hear the falls from here.

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View from the viewing platform on the opposite side:

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You can actually see our parked car in the distance, just above the falls in the pic and to the right – ours is he white one :)

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On the trail…

 

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Ok, I nudged the yellow leaf closer to the red and green ones but the contrast was really too great to pass up. :)

 

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There’s a short staircase (maybe 15 steps) and a dirt path down the other side of the falls:

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