Spain Bound (Toledo, Madrid, & Barcelona)

My friend has been living in Spain for the last seven months teaching English. This provided me with the opportunity to visit her when her school was on vacation for Easter! I am so glad I made the decision to go and visit her, as I finally got to tick of “go to Europe” from my bucket list!

Here’s a few highlights from my visit, not everything is listed but it provides you an idea of my trip:

Toledo – Day One to Three

Taledo is the City of Three Cultures with major architecture influences from Christianity, Islam and Judaism. It was lovely to be able to go and see the Old City and be able to visit Cathedrals, Mosques and Synagogues. If you ever find yourself in Toledo, I recommend purchasing a cultural pass that allows you to visit 7 of these religious spots (available at purchase directly from the attraction).

Museo Del Ejército – This is the Army Museum of Toledo which is free on Sundays! Lovely views from this museum that is built from the city’s historic castle.

Museo Del Greco – El Greco Museum is a small museum which celebrates the work of the painter El Greco. It was a pleasant surprise we came across that was organized as if you were walking through his home.

We also went on a hike around Toledo. The landscape of Toledo seemed to include everything; so picturesque. Valleys, Mountains, and many historical ruins that just existed along the trail. You are also able to see a gorgeous view of the fortress and the many bridges that connect the city.

Madrid – Day Four and Seven

We went to Museo Nacional del Prado which is an art museum. The museum has many sections covering mostly Renaissance paintings from Spain, but also includes Renaissance paintings from Italy, Germany, Britain and France. The highlight of this museum for me was seeing the Goya collection – amazing collection.

The other highlight for me in Madrid was the Real Jardin Botanico. The Royal Garden was spectacular! Loved going into the greenhouse and seeing the variety of plants they had from all continents. Fantastic collection.

Barcelona – Day Five and Six

Visiting Barcelona was much different than Madrid and Toledo. English seemed more prevalent within the city and much more liberal.

There were two highlights from Barcelona worth noting. We went to the Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site. The building is a pre-existing hospital that was functioning up until 2009. It appeared not many visited the site, however it is definitely a place worth checking. The hospital consists of several different buildings that were connected by underground tunnels (haunted af). Architecture is unconventional and the murals within were astonishing.

The other highlight was visiting Park Guell which was a residential complex planning project between Guell and Gaudi. They wished to revolutionize the way the elite lived and change their connection to nature.

We were unable to visit the unfinished Temple de La Sagrada familia as it is obviously a main attraction for tourists visiting Barcelona. If you plan on seeing this Temple, be sure to purchase tickets online!

Barcelona also has a Picasso museum that hosts many of his originally works that were donated in 1970. The collection is extensive and includes many pieces from his earlier works to his later pieces. I did not know he painted more realistic pieces during his earlier years, and it was amazing to see the talent he had at such a young age.

There is also a small Egyptian museum we just had to visit given that Cady loves everything Egyptian related. We had perfect timing when visiting the museum as it was not too busy and they current had a King Tut exhibition on.

Overall a great trip!

 

June Self-Care

May was the month of Mental Health. And it’s okay for me to realize that my mental health is not where I want it to be. My thoughts have become negative & obsessive, I am unhappy most days, I’m lost with what I want out of life, and feel that everything has become too repetitive that I need to change something.

So for the month of June I’m working on slowly getting myself out of this slump. Here’s how:

Go for more hikes & walks.

It’s amazing how much your mood will improve just by getting out of the house and hiking/walking in nature. So, I will try to go on at least two hikes this month and walk on the trails surrounding my house when I can’t make it to the conservation areas.

Limit technology one hour before bed.

You know that endless scrolling before bed. And it’s damaging our psyche. No one posts their real life on Instagram. They post the moments that make them happy and it’s not helping us mentally because we feel we are not achieving the ideal lifestyle that THAT person has. To get over this, I am cutting off technology around 9pm at night. Airplane mode: ON.

Read More

Which brings us to #3. I will aim to read three books this month. Let’s cut the technology out and read before bed! Going to finish Thrive by Arianna Huffington, Beartown by Fredrick Backman and Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz.

Start Journal-ing again

I used to journal almost every day and I remember that it did help me mentally. You are able to write down your stresses and what felt good about the day. Let’s get back into that habit Victoria.

 

We shall start with those four self-care tips for June and see how it goes.

Be Kind.

I’m glad I kept a journal from when I was younger. But it also upsets me. The thoughts I had from when I was in elementary school are enlightening. One’s own perception of themselves develops at a young age, isn’t that sad?

May 19th, 2004 I was eleven years old when I wrote (original spelling & grammar kept):

“Thanks a lot to J.K. I’m now self concions of my weight because he kept calling fat in pizza things”

Not sure what the pizza things refers to, but I knew what it meant to be self-conscious at this age.

It doesn’t get better. One year later I wrote:

“No one is going to like me, I’m fat and ugly. U-G-L-Y ugly and F-A-T FAT! I’m probably going to marry…. No one. Date… no one. like… no one.”

Those perceptions of myself were unfortunately reinforced by what others were saying around me. Middle school kids are mean. I may be 24 now, and “should” be over the words that were said to me. But, I’m still working on getting over them. How does one get over being called “a piece of blubber?”

So please. With everything that is currently going on, let’s start by being nicer with what is coming out of our mouths. Be careful what you say to one another. Even in a moment of complete frustration, words stick with someone. No matter how many apologies that are said later, in the back of their mind, you said those words in the first place. You said those words in the first place because you knew they were going to hurt.

And that’s what the person will always remember.

 

To the little girl in Grade Five that lost herself for a while. You’ll come back. You’ll get lost again a few years down the line, but we’ll end up finding our-self again. Don’t you worry.

Winter Brewfest 2017

Second year for attending Winter Brewfest: Saturday Session. Last year I summed up the event as follows:

They definitely have work to smooth out for 2017, if they want to be successful. This would involve ensuring volunteers show up, hosting in a larger venue, trying to have tokens at a reasonable price, and switching the cups to plastic. Booths for the breweries should also have better displays, felt too tight and you could not appreciate the beers they had to offer.

First Impressions

While the organizers advertised that it was in a larger venue, it was actually in the same room at the Enercare Centre from last year. They did however cut back on the carnival games which opened up some more room for vendors. Were there still lines? Yes. And despite switching to a cashless system to “make lines quicker,” I felt the lines were actually longer this year. Did we let that stop us from having fun? Heck no.

Our game plan was to get a sample, then once acquired, move to another line and drink our sample while waiting. When we were near the front of the line, we were usually finished with our previous sample! Genius.

The organizers were also smarter this year and switched the cups to an enviro-plastic cup to cut back on the shattered glass. While the cups were not nearly as cute as the mason jars from last year, it was nice knowing I could not shatter this glass as easily in the event a good song came on.

Last Thoughts

At this point, I’m not too sure if I will go in 2018 as the organizers are still relatively new and – despite changes made this year – they still have work to do to make the whole event enjoyable.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a grand ‘ol time. I’m glad I was with people who were just as ridiculous as me. We made the concrete our dancefloor, when everyone was too serious standing in lines or sitting down to eat. They were so concerned how they presented themselves to others, it made us laugh.

This life is for living, and if I feel the need to dance? Boy, you better be ready because I’m going to dance.

Overall, I give the event three beersteins out of five. I had a fantastic time, there were improvements, but it felt that with the improvements that were made, did not actually change much from last year.

[2016] reflection

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Formal Introductions

Last year I wrote “[2015] reflection,” so in effort to make this a tradition, here’s my review of 2016. To add to the reading, play this in the background. It’s my top ten songs of 2016.

Now, by looking at all the memes of 2016 – it appears that 2016 was a crazy ride for everyone. We lost many iconic musicians, there were numerous questionable political events (notoriously Brexit & Trump), the scandals, etc. But let’s not focus on the scary portion of 2016. That’s not what a reflection is supposed to achieve. No. My reflection is to remind me the growth I have accomplished over the year and to bring positivity.

A Taste for Adventure
Ottawa

I started the year off right by overcoming my fear of driving, by deciding to make my first real long-distance drive to Ottawa. May not seem to be much, but for a first-time car owner, a long-distance drive is a huge accomplishment. So with ten+ hours of driving in the snow, this helped elevate my confidence with driving. Now the QEW & 427 commute is a piece of cake.

Ottawa was a great decision to ring in the New Year surrounded by the good ‘ol Marshall crew.

Yukon

From long-distance driving transitions to first-time-flying-by-yourself-all-the-way-up-North trip. I would like to thank AB for allowing me to visit her in The Yukon in May. I came back with a new sense of purpose and other clichés. But seriously, Yukon has given me that much-needed push to add more adventures to my life. The Yukon is so beautiful that I encourage all to visit this magnificent place at some point in your lifetime. I miss being surrounded by mountains. For my full telling of the Yukon, continue reading here.

Cuba

The next step? We go from flying within Canada to flying outside of Canada sans-parents for the first time. And to Cuba! Cuba was just the escape I needed in November. And it will forever be memorable, as of course I went when Fidel Castro passed away. It’s one thing to go for the all-inclusive, but it’s also important to leave your resort bubble. Havana is a beautiful city with so much culture imbedded. I am glad we were still able to visit Revolution Square the day before Castro’s ashes were brought for mourning. It’s one place I would definitely visit again.

Concerts & Festivals

Compared to last year, Miss Victoria Chiasson went to the most amount of concerts and festivals. Although Mumford & Sons did not make the list because TicketMaster did not come through, I still went to four other great musicians (and probably for the price of one Mumford & Sons ticket).

Experiences, my dear reader, is what you need to focus on. Here’s a sum of what added value to my 2016:

  • Winter BrewFest
  • TSwift Dance Party
  • Drake & Rihanna Dance Party
  • Bread n’ Honey Festival
  • KONGOS @ Velvet Underground
  • BeerFest
  • Cider Festival at Yonge-Dundas Square
  • Dan Mangan @ Union Station
  • TURF
  • Nuit Blanche (first time going!)
  • Adele Concert
  • July Talk Concert
  • Christmas Market at Distillery District (first time for this as well!)
Reading

Came short on my reading challenge this year, as I am still learning to balance work and life. I am still pleased that I managed to read 12 books. Also by looking at my stats, my books equaled 4043 pages, which I’m happy with. My top books of 2016 you should get around to are: Missing, Presumed and A Year of Marvelous Ways. Both well written with life lessons that stick around.

Follow my life of reading over on goodreads.

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Conclusions & Other Rambles

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I did not set a resolution for 2016 when I wrote my first reflection. Rather, I went into the year with a general attitude. I hoped that 2016 would be a year of transformation. I think from this general reflection, that yes. I have grown as an individual by focusing on experiences and creating memories. I have gained confidence in some places, but I know that I still have work on gaining confidence in other areas.

2017 will be the year of no excuses. No excuses to making things happen, achieving dreams, and moving forward. No excuses for those around you and for yourself.

Dear 2017. I’m ready. Bring it on.

Getting Back to Happy

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Here’s something different, a brutally honest post, because as humans: why are we so scared to talk about our mental health?

Having now been out of University for over a year, I have been having difficulty coming to grips that this. is. it. University made me feel like I was working towards something; I had a goal in mind – my diploma. Now with being in a full-time job, what is it that I hope to accomplish?

Changes

The first big change was moving back at home. Which – don’t get me wrong – has been great as I’m seeing my parents more, my rent is cheaper than it would have been if I was on my own, and I have a support system. But then there is the flip side, you are seeing your. family. more.

The second big change was my circle of friends became further apart. Instead of waking up and them being there, they aren’t. And it gets weird, because you shared a house with them for THREE years.

So that is where “getting back to happy” comes from. A way to remind myself that living isn’t quite so scary if you keep doing things that make you feel good.

Classes, Classes and oh! More Classes

For starters, I started signing up for leagues that would keep me active and allow me to step away from the house. This first started by signing up for volleyball, which was an excellent way to step out of my comfort zone. Sure I had gone to Olympia for volleyball for multiple years, but I never played on an actual team. I then started to incorporate yoga back into my life. Attending yoga really helped bring my mental focus back into place. I have even started to attend more challenging power yoga classes. Next was getting back into soccer, again a way to challenge myself. Leagues & fitness classes are a sure way to push yourself. I find that if I just go to the gym, I will take the easy way out since I don’t have others to overcome obstacles.

In order to fill the time outside of work, I have also been working towards a certificate in Digital Marketing Management. By doing online courses I have in a way forced myself to keep learning. It is so easy to go to work and then come home watch television. I was doing this routine in the first few months of my new job. Was that particular routine benefiting me in any way? No. Signing up for online courses helps add value to my skill set.

Final Rambling Thoughts

Am I unhappy though? No. I’m just unsatisfied. I realize where I currently am in life is not where I want to be indefinitely. There is so much more I want to accomplish.

A Defense for “Today’s Music”

DSC_0155_edit_bfWho’s tired of the overused phrase “music just isn’t as good as it used to be?” Raise them, raise those hands high.

This past weekend I had the most pleasurable experience of engaging in conversation with an older gentleman, let’s say late 50’s to early 60’s. He thought it was best to – in his beyond drunken state of mind – to argue that my generation won’t get to appreciate music, as we have no defining icon to represent us. He then continued to explain how Rihanna receiving an MTV Lifetime Achievement award is fallacy and how artists stick to music for a year – tops – have a single, and call it quits.

Of course it was at this point in time, after many attempts to explain how we should not dismiss “my generation’s” music that I called it a day. There was no use getting through to someone who was not going to listen to the points I had to express.

As you can see, I’m still bothered. It’s best to write and get this point across:

It is with each generation that they will complain about the younger generation, this is nothing new.

“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”

This is a quote from Socrates. Yes, Socrates, and yet did you not just resonate with the statement centuries later? Don’t tell me you haven’t complained about an 8-year old owning a cellphone. Heck! I just did that today.

Oh my reader. Do not give up on me just yet, keep pushing through my rambles. This quote still applies to music, don’t rush me now. It relates in that with each new generation comes a new wave of sounds. The generation preceding will complain of the new wave of sound, as they are accustomed to the sounds that define their own generation. A GENERAL overview would look like: 70s – disco, 80s – rock, 90s – age of boy bands, etc. (Of course within each decade is a mixture of even more sounds depending on the crowd you associated with.)

Going back to the nameless man, if we look at his generation, he identifies with the sounds of the 70s-80s. If we look at his parents, they would not have appreciated the sounds of the 70s-80s and enjoyed the sweet melodies from say 40s-50s. Both groups – as you will – have different ways in which music was organized. 70s-80s we get into more of the classic rock guitar sound, while 40s-50s was more focused on the frontman with a band behind.

Overall, for the case of “today’s music” it is really a matter of how it is presented to the masses. Unfortunately there has been an increase in top40, as it is obvious that there is a formula to successful songs. Does that mean that there is no good music for my generation? Hell no. There are so many musicians out there that are still undiscovered just because it is harder for them to get airtime. My generation is dealing with an increase in content that we have to spend more time sifting through what is presented. As an individual, you just have to put a bit more work into finding the great artists. Once you start getting into the digital world and looking about, you will realize all the amazing sounds that are readily available to your ears.

Right now I suggest: “Shake” by The Head and the Heart, “Tornado ‘87” by The Rural Alberta Advantage, and “Giant” by Banks & Steelz.

The Head and the Heart

The Rural Alberta Advantage

Banks & Steelz

A Trip to the North: Yukon Bound

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I should not have gone to The Yukon, because now nothing will compare to the amazing surroundings I had for a week.

Initially, I was pretty ignorant in my perception of The Yukon; I thought it was going to be purely small independent stores, expensive to purchase anything, and just “alright we’re up North away from anything!” Oh how I was wrong.

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Whitehorse is so much different, I am thankful to have visited The Yukon for it has given me another perspective on life. In sum, the Whitehorse is just like any other city and includes many of the same amenities you will find in Toronto:

  1. There are franchises if you want to grab a quick Tim’s or Starbucks. However be sure to check out their cafes, as they are adorable!
  2. Prices were on par with Ontario prices (gas was even $104.9 when I arrived)
  3. There’s a nightlife if you want to hit the town
  4. Lots of amazing Museums and centres to check out, there are so many things to do that a week was not enough

Museums
20160502_122400Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre

Yukon Bergingia Interpretive Centre looks at the mass of land that covered between Russia and Yukon during prehistoric times. This land mass was used as a way for migration during the inter-glacial periods, and is speculated that prehistoric humans also used it as a route. The centre looks at these prehistoric times and explains in a hands-on fashion the migration patterns that would have occurred.

Oh, and woolly mammoths. Tons of woolly mammoths to see.

 

Yukon Transportation Centre

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Near the Beringia Centre is the Yukon Transportation Centre, which has an innovative layout full of vehicles that were used to transport people, items, and goods during the Gold Rush up to roughly WWII. I really liked the license plate display, as this is something unique to the Yukon. Earlier plates had a small dot of gold paint painted inside the miner’s dish (Alicia made sure I was informed the moment I landed in Whitehorse)!

MacBride Museum of Yukon History

One of my favourite museums, as their graphics and displays were well done. Whoever their graphic designer is, is definitely a keeper. As the name suggests, MacBride Museum looks at the History of Yukon documenting from the Gold Rush up to present times. There is a mixture of exhibits both inside and out which I find makes it unique! It was nice to see Sam McGee’s cabin, the different animals which can be found up North, artwork, as well as a set-up of artifacts from the gold rush to roughly WWII. This layout is pretty creative, as they have actually created realistic ‘rooms’ in which the items would have been found in.

Additionally, we were lucky enough to be visiting during the Jim Robb special exhibit, which included a mixture of his artwork as well as items he collected (predominately from Dawson City). This was my favourite exhibit as the display was put-together in such a creative and fun way.

Yukon Wildlife Preserve

20160506_161630Why not see animals in a way you know they are being treated fairly in! Some of the animals were unfortunately shy and did not come out (ahem, those moooooooose), while others were a-plenty (dem mountain goat were showing off their balancing skills).

Be sure to dress for a 5km walk/hike (I did not.)

Beer
Yukon Brewing

20160508_025733Yukon Brewing is the main beer to be found in the Yukon, but there are still other beers that can be found both on tap and in bottles. I really enjoyed Yukon Brewing, they have some neat tasting beers, and I hope they find a way to start distributing in Ontario!

For those interested in the beer industry, they also offer daily tours inside their brewery. The tour was both informative and fun, as well as gave an insight to how their brewery strives to remain local and environmentally friendly.

At the end of the tour, you have the opportunity to sample a number of their beers (of course working your way from their lighter brews to the darker brews so that you can appreciate each one thoroughly) as well as sample their new vodka. My favourite still remains with Yukon Gold!

Related to Yukon Beer are of course the Bars… My ranking for the ones I got to visit are as follows:

The Dirty Northern Bastard (classier) // The Miner’s Daughter (connected to TDNB) // 202 (Pool tables available, somewhat of a dance floor ) // Lizards (larger space, dancing available) // 98 (Fiddling on Thursday)

Mini Roadtrippin’ Around Yukon

Haines Junction

Haines Junction is a village roughly 1h 40min from Whitehorse. It has a spectacle view of the mountains. This is really the only reason to drive out: for the sights.

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Dawson City

Dawson City is a must for The Yukon as it is the original capital. This is also where gold was first struck causing the Klondike Gold Rush. It’s hard to believe that at one time it was a booming city with a population of 40,000! Big difference to the current population of roughly 1400. Visiting Dawson City is surreal as it’s essentially what the wild-west would feel like in the 1890s (boardwalks and dirt included).

It was a neat experience to visit old buildings, stay in the “Aurora Inn” (if you plan on staying a night I highly recommend this inn!) and enjoy a relaxing walk around the town.

If you decide on visiting Dawson City, you must complete the “Sourtoe Cocktail” at the Downtown Hotel. The famous drink costs $5 for the toe, and roughly another $5 for you liquor (depending on your taste). I chose a classic shot of Yukon Jack for this.

“You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips must touch the toe.”

Yukon was by far the best decision I have made. I am glad I had the opportunity to visit this amazing place in Canada, as it has provided me with a new perspective: Strive for adventure. Experience everything. Take moments in. Be courageous.

Take a risk.

Winter Brewfest 2016

Ended up going to the first Toronto Winter Brewfest: Saturday Session this weekend. All and all I had a great time, because I didn’t let the lineups, crowds, etc get to me. Because it’s a beerfest, what were some people expecting?

Going into it, I had read some of the reviews from the Friday night crew, it was a mixed review with a divide between 1 star ratings, and 5 star ratings. Those leaning on the former complained of overpriced tokens, and long lineups.

I didn’t let these negative reviews rub off on me, as I knew tokens were going to be pricey — they want to make money, right? Also, being a “Brewfest” rather than a “Beerfest,” most of the breweries are on a smaller scale, therefore do not have the money to subsidize their product.

It would have been nice to do more “sampling” of the beer, but it’s just not plausible in a setting like this. Shout out to Muskoka, Great Lakes and Innis & Gunn for being there though.

I give this event a three beer rating, as I did in fact have a pretty, pretty, pretty good time.

They definitely have work to smooth out for 2017, if they want to be successful. This would involve ensuring volunteers show up, hosting in a larger venue, trying to have tokens at a reasonable price, and switching the cups to plastic. Booths for the breweries should also have better displays, felt too tight and you could not appreciate the beers they had to offer.

(p.s. My mason jar ALMOST made it home, but a good song came on while leaving coat check, that it slipped and broke. shame shame.)

Outgoing Introvert

I’ve been meaning to write this post, because a lot of people don’t understand what the “Outgoing Introvert” is, and no the label does not contradict itself.

During my time as a TA during fourth year, I had students who were in disbelief that I was an introvert. They kept questioning my identification to introvert-ism, thought it was not possible, and that “Introverts are socially inept though.” How could their TA possibly be someone who was introverted, if they had to lead a class each week?

Good questions posed by my students, which I’m still learning to work out. I figure there are two methods which allow me to come across as someone who is more outgoing: Preparation & Sarcasm.

As an outgoing introvert we are socially selective. This means that we are not totally against going out. You just have to let us warm up to the situation. Personally, I also like to know about an event ahead of time so that I can mentally prepare myself to going out.  I still have trouble with large crowds, so concerts have been a task. If I know I’m going to a concert ahead of time, I can prepare myself to handle the crowds (eg. Osheaga).

Small talk is also a difficult task for us, as we feel it doesn’t achieve anything.  I want deep conversations, stories, humour. Let me actually get to know you. What keeps you up at night? What makes you happy? Do aliens exist*? These are the questions worth living for.

Small talk leads to environments. In large crowds, you may find me still talking quietly. That’s because I only want the people I’m with to hear my conversation, not others. No I’m not going to raise my voice, because then others will hear… get it?

Another big part for introverts is that social situations exhaust us. At the end of the night, I need to be alone to recharge my batteries. Reading, Netflix, etc. Whereas with extroverts, social situations charge their batteries (being alone drains them).

Yep. That about it. Being a person is truly interesting.

*Firm believer that aliens exist.