When I did my yoga teacher training in 2013, one of my goals was to ‘figure out’ how to meditate. I had been practicing yoga for many years, but there was a piece of my practice missing. And I was so desperate to calm my mind the **** down and find some stillness for myself after a couple years of health issues and and overall stress.
Instagram has become more than a fun place to share photos. It has become a community. I know that social media has its downsides, but a fun part for me is connecting with people via the app and then having the opportunity to meet them in person. The Blog Pod girls are an example of this and so is the lovely Gill Murray, a Scottish food photographer and blogger that I met a few years ago when she liked one of my Scotland photos. We’ve kept in touch and I was so happy to meet her in person last year when I was back in Edinburgh. She is a gorgeous human being inside and out.
Instagram is probably one of my top five favourite things about the 21st century, so far. One of the reasons is that I have met so many lovely people via the app in the last couple of years; one of those being Shamiza Ali, girl boss and designer of a local apparel brand, Edna SMaK. Yep, Edna SMaK. Just the name made me want to further explore, and she designs lofely clothes that work for every body. She is a super sweet girl with a motivating entrepreneurial spirit, and I am so excited to share a little collaboration we worked on together for a pair of leggings. But first, a little bit about her!
Friendship. Something I am very grateful for in my life. My friends have held me up in very precarious times and cheered me on in the really wonderful ones. I have amazing friends and I hope I am just as lovely of a friend to them. They are my are my tribe and I love them.
I recently joined a local blog pod – basically blogger support group to share ideas and cheerlead on social media – started by my friend, Orla, from travelorlabout.com. When she moved to Vancouver, we went for lunch and she asked me if I’d heard of any blogger groups in the city. I hadn’t, so she asked if I wanted to join one with her. I said sure, and off she went! And through social media and a couple friends of mine, we’ve become a nice little group. Local and ex-pat #westcoastcitygirls, we are all focusing on something different, but have a lot in common including travel, food, and a love of blanket scarves.
I knew I had found my people when we got together for brunch for the first time. As soon as our food arrived, the smartphones came out and everyone captured their meal, an Instagram story, or a Boomerang. It was hilarious, and so very 21st century – and ridiculous. But it’s what we enjoy, and once we got that out of the way, we tucked in and kept talking. We get each other. 😉
“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.”
~ Jim Morrison
When I was putting together the #12DaysofHygge, I thought it would be fun to learn about everyone’s Christmas (my favourite time of year!) traditions and what makes them feel hygge and cozy.
Favourite Christmas tradition: Spending Christmas Eve with my family for dinner and opening presents in the evening! Santa comes on the 24th in Slovakia (we brought the tradition to Canada)!
What do you miss about your hometown at this time of year? I want to visit Slovakia (my hometown) one year during Christmas so that I can really see the magic of Christmas/how it is truly celebrated there.
What is your Christmas wish? My Christmas wish is to be happy and not worry/stress as much as I do. I also wish health and happiness to all my family and friends as well.
Item of clothing or thing that makes you feel the coziest: A warm knit makes me feel the coziest!
Favourite Christmas food: My mom’s halibut and potato salad that we have during Christmas Eve dinner!
When do you put your tree up? We usually put it up the first or second week of December!
Favourite Christmas tradition: Decorating the Christmas tree while listening to fun Christmas music! And a new tradition is going to the Vancouver Christmas Market since I moved to Vancouver.
What do you miss about your hometown at this time of year? I miss all the snow from Montreal as well as my family’s home baked goodies.
What is your Christmas wish? That everyone gets some time to really enjoy their friends and family! And to stay healthy. With health, we can do anything!
Item of clothing or thing that makes you feel the coziest: Definitely slippers and a very soft blanket by the fireplace!
Favourite Christmas food: Mashed potatoes and gravy – my cousin and I call it the volcano – Inspired by The Berenstain Bears (you make a volcano shape with a dip in the mashed potatoes and add the gravy to it ) so good! I miss all of my mom and grandpa’s cooking. I also love the desserts everyone makes including these German ball cookies by my step-mom and Americanas by my Auntie Karen.
Favourite Christmas tradition: My favourite Christmas tradition is going to Montreal for a few days to visit family and then spend a few days in Florida until New Years – I get the best of both worlds, the winter wonderland for Christmas in MTL and the warm sun in-between the holidays in Florida.
What is your Christmas wish? Tough one…might have to be cliche and say to have my dreams/goals come true.
Item of clothing or thing that makes you feel the coziest: My throw blanket from Chapters – they have them every year, comfiest blanket ever!
Favourite Christmas food: A popular Italian traditional dessert called Struffoli (Italian Honey Balls) – It’s basically fried dough with honey and some sprinkles.
When do you put your tree up? I usually wait until December but this year I started to put up my tree and decorations Nov 25-26. I remember when living in the States, people would normally transition into Christmas right after American Thanksgiving, and I sort of got used to that.
Favourite Christmas tradition: On Christmas Eve my family used to go to church. Even though we are not religious at all, I always liked that tradition. It served as a reminder why we celebrate Christmas and that those days are not only about gifts, shopping and boxing day.
What do you miss about your hometown at this time of year? Definitely the Christmas market in Zurich. I used to go there so often just to have a mulled wine, some food or to enjoy the Christmas atmosphere. The market is free, really big and beautifully located right in front of the Zurich Opera.
What is your Christmas wish? Honestly, I don’t know, but I guess that is a good thing. If we are honest we probably have already everything we need. But I am always happy about books, you can never have enough books. Besides that, I am just looking forward to my first Christmas with my boyfriend.
Item of clothing or thing that makes you feel the coziest: I have are Christmas pajama pants from American Eagle. They are so cozy, fit perfectly, and have snowflakes on them.
Favourite Christmas food: With my family we always have the most Swiss dish on Christmas Eve: Cheese Fondue. I love it, it’s just the coziest food.
When do you put your tree up? In Switzerland, my family puts up the tree just a few days before Christmas. And we always got the tree from a local farmer that we know.
Favourite Christmas tradition: One of my favourite Christmas traditions is the way my family would all gather on Christmas Eve to open our gifts from each other. Then we would go to my Granny’s house to spend time with all our relations and of course have a few tipples!
What do you miss about your hometown at this time of year? There is a real magic feeling in the air at home in Ireland around Christmas. Anyone who lives abroad usually returns home at Christmas time and you get to catch up with people you may not have seen for a long time. This year as I will be spending Christmas in Vancouver (away from home for the first time). I will miss my family dearly, and my dog, Missey (I still hope my family will dress her up in a ridiculous and festive costume).
What is your Christmas wish? I don’t have a Christmas wish, per say. My boyfriend just treated us both to the DJI Mavic Pro drone, so I think that is all a girl who loves to travel and document her adventures could ask for. I also wouldn’t say no to a trip to Cuba, just sayin’!
Item of clothing or thing that makes you feel the coziest: I do love chilling in a fluffy onesie, with a cup of hot cocoa by the fire watching a classic Christmas movie. It’s the simple things!
Favourite Christmas food: It goes without saying that Irish Christmas dinners are pretty full on. Mountains of food and an endless supply of alcohol to wash it down. My favourite Christmas food is turkey with lots of gravy sauce and potato croquettes. I also am missing my granny’s homemade brown soda bread, big time. Delicious!
When do you put your tree up? This year I am house/dog sitting in Vancouver over Christmas, so if I am putting up a tree, it won’t be my own. Usually, we put the tree up back in Ireland around the second week in December. Decorating the tree is one of my favourite activities.
Favourite Christmas tradition: My favourite part about Christmas is that it presents an occasion for friends and family to get together and celebrate some quality time. As a child, I loved walking around the neighborhood and looking at the houses with elaborate Christmas light displays!
What is your Christmas wish? As I get older, I realize how important it is to make time for our parents. I would love to find a way for my sister and I to spend time with both our mom and dad (separate continents!) in the new year.
Item of clothing or thing that makes you feel the coziest: A warm blanket or scarf or.. blanket scarf!!
Favourite Christmas food: My first job in High School was working at a Dutch Bakery and they had these amazing almond kringles that came out only at Christmas, it was a a flaky croissant-like pastry filled with almond paste. I haven’t had one of these in years so I can’t say it’s my favourite Christmas food, but I’d love to use this opportunity to see if anyone else has tried this or a Copenhagen pastry, and also, see if anyone knows of a bakery that makes this in the Lower Mainland 🙂
Favourite Christmas tradition: My Christmas’ have rarely been the same, so I can’t say I have a tradition. Sometimes I’m at home with my family, sometimes travelling to be with my guy’s family, and other years I;ve been travelling overseas. I would say the only constant has been to spend Christmas with my partner, wherever we are (unless one or the other is working abroad). We don’t separate for Christmas and go to our respective families, we celebrate the holidays together.
What do you miss about your hometown at this time of year? What I missed most when traveling overseas and away from family was the feeling of home. Christmas feels like a time to be with family, and during the holidays on the other side of the world I missed all the traditional food, the company, and the feeling of being cozy and relaxed.
What is your Christmas wish? To spend quality time with friends and family.
Item of clothing or thing that makes you feel the coziest: Toques! I have a bit of a collection going.
Favourite Christmas food: Stuffing and brussel sprouts!
When do you put your tree up? Usually, the last week of November, because I love the soft lighting from the tree lights on dark evenings.
Favourite Christmas tradition: The thing I love most about Christmas is tradition – and my family has TONS. My parents were brought up very differently, so we have the traditional Canadian-Anglophone traditions from his family and the Ukrainian traditions from my mom’s side. Everything from stocking hanging, to certain drinks while we decorate the tree, to the twelve-course meal on Christmas Eve. It all takes me back to being a kid again.
What do you miss about your hometown at this time of year? It’s been a while since I was away from home, and luckily when I was it was London, which is incredibly festive. The thing I miss is family: the company, the same jokes, the familiar smells. Being away at Christmas is a toughie.
What is your Christmas wish? Just one? In all seriousness, this year I’m hoping for some tranquility. I’ve had an incredible year, but a little time to slow down and be truly present is the goal.
Item of clothing or thing that makes you feel the coziest: Christmas Eve pajamas. That’s one of those family traditions, and I keep them on until moments before Christmas dinner.
Favourite Christmas food: Turkey with gravy and cranberries. Hits those sweet and savoury cravings all at once!
When do you put your tree up? Usually the first week of December. It depends when my boyfriend and I can find a cozy few hours alone. We still head out to my parents’ house to help them with theirs. That’s around the same time!
As for me…
(Blog: You’re here! 🙂 )
Favourite Christmas tradition: I have a few!Going to VanDusen Gardens’ Festival of Lights (every year!!) and watching White Christmas with my mum on Christmas Day. Another is the annual fancy restaurant date that I have with two of my best girlfriends. Because of schedules, it’s never the same date or restaurant, but we’ve had our dinner going since longer than I care to admit!
What is your Christmas wish? I had two and they already came true: have a Christmas tree again and to spend the holidays with the Brit. He went back to England for a couple weeks last year and I had missed him terribly. But I also have a few overall goals and wishes that I hope will come true for 2018!
Item of clothing or thing that makes you feel the coziest: Warm socks and a blanket scarf. Or my guy’s Beatles t-shirt.
Favourite Christmas food: Christmas dinner in general!
When do you put your tree up? When I was growing up, it was around the first week of December. As an adult, it has varied, but the last few years have just been plugging in my beautiful ceramic tree with its pretty lights. We just bought a tree and put it up today and it unexpectedly brought a happy tear to my eye. I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed having a proper tree.
Do you have Christmas traditions that you love or something that makes you feel especially cozy or hygge at this time of year?
Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection.
Candles are… Practical. Sensory. Fanciful. Romantic. Celebratory. Cozy. The perfect lighting for a photograph. A major player in making a space feel hygge.
As Buddha once said:
“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the single candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”
Cocktails are… Practical (they are, I promise). Sensory. Fanciful. Romantic. Celebratory. Tasty. Fun to photograph in the perfect lighting. And, in my view, another player in creating some hygge – because cocktails are best enjoyed in good company.
When I stumbled upon Vancouver based French Seventy Six, a dream I hadn’t realized I’d had came true: locally made soy wax luxury candles that are inspired by their champagne cocktail namesakes. Who doesn’t want a little champagne inspired living?? The candles are the French 76, Blackberry Fizz, and the Bees Knees; all of which make you want to smell the candles with their respective cocktails in your hand! They are also beautifully packaged and come with the recipes for said drinks.
I couldn’t make it to their debut at a recent Vancity Business Babes event, but got in touch with co-owners and sisters-in-law Britt and Keirstin Feltan a) to purchase a Bees Knees candle (it smells fab and looks so pretty on our mantle!); and b) to do a City Girl Connects interview as I love what they are doing, not just as #westcoastcitygirl entrepreneurs, but because I love hearing about people following their passions. There’s also a Bees Knees cocktail recipe at the end of this post!
WCCG: We will start with the difficult question: do you each have a favourite of the candles, or is it just too hard to choose? (Mine is the Bees Knees!)
F76: It’s definitely tough to choose a favourite! Each of our candles are inspired by some of our favourite Champagne cocktails and too be honest they are equally as delicious cocktails as they they are fragrant candles. BUT if we had to choose…Keirstin’s fave would be The French 76 and Britt’s the Blackberry Fizz.
WCCG: What sparked the idea for French Seventy Six?
F76: We love to be surrounded by beautiful fragrances, luxe details and chic packaging. One girl’s night (while sipping on French 76’s) we casually played around with the idea of combining our two favourites things, candles and cocktails. Fast forward almost two years, French Seventy Six is now a brand and product we are proud to share! Our passion for fine details and delicious cocktails definitely inspired our vision for it.
WCCG: As entrepreneurs in Vancouver, how has the journey been so far with a start-up company and what advice would you give someone looking to make a go of their side hustle?
F76: To go from an idea to a product takes a lot of blood, sweat and (many tears!) While it’s been an amazing journey with lots of learning along the way, it can be challenging to find the balance of entrepreneurship and the full-time 9-5 (Keirstin is a court reporter and Britt is a recruiter.) Both of us were missing the creative aspect in our 9-5, so we love being able to put our creative energy into French Seventy Six. I think that’s our advice for budding entrepreneurs, finding things you’re passionate about because it definitely makes the challenging times easier…and more enjoyable. Also, don’t be afraid to take risks!
WCCG: The French Seventy Six hashtag of #champagneinspiredliving is one that resonates with me both in my life and as a consumer. What influenced this tag and what does it mean to you?
F76: Again, we are obsessed with fine details and love to surround ourselves with beautiful pieces. The hashtag #champagneinspiredliving evolved from the idea that we want French Seventy Six to encompass more than candles, we want it to be a lifestyle that resonates with people. #champagneinspiredliving means you appreciate fine details, enjoy life’s little luxuries and surround yourself with people and things that make you feel special and happy. Champagne is also associated with celebration and we believe that everyday tasks and moments can feel celebratory.
WCCG: This sounds a lot like hygge, a Danish concept that I’ve been exploring, which is essentially about being cozy and living well. Candles a huge part of hygge as they provide ideal lighting for relaxing by yourself or in good company (and in my opinion for gorgeous photos). How important to do you feel candles are to atmosphere in a home or restaurant?
F76: We definitely agree with you! Candles and scents play a huge part in creating a luxurious, warm and inviting atmosphere. We love that French Seventy Six candles are soy wax based, because they burn cleaner and longer than other candles on the market. The warm glow of a our candle creates a warm, inviting space and the luxurious scents and packaging adds a touch of elegance to a home.
‘Tis the Season Tip – Keirstin and Britt recommend cutting a candle wick to 1/4″ before each burn. This will allow the candle to burn evenly and prevent tunneling.
WCCG: Speaking of hygge and coziness, what makes you feel cozy wherever you are?
F76: Both of us often get cold so we love curling up with a cozy blanket or if we’re travelling, a blanket scarf! Having a soft and warm item immediately makes you feel cozy regardless of where you are.
WCCG: What is your favourite cocktail?
F76: We both love tart cocktails, so we’re huge fans of French 76’s! We appreciate Gin based cocktails and love when they have some type of fresh herb.
WCCG: All you want for Christmas is…?
F76: Champagne? Who doesn’t love a good bottle of bubbly!
‘Tis the Season Tip – Candles make an excellent hostess/host gift for all those holiday parties and dinners you are attending!
French Seventy Six’s luxurious candles can be purchased in the Lower Mainland by visiting FrenchSeventySix.com or emailing here, or you can buy them at Bella & Wren in Fort Langley. They often do pop up shops and more info on those can be found here.
1 oz. Honey Simple Syrup (Easy how-to can be found here!)
2 oz. Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Fresh or dried lavender
A bottle of your favourite bubbly
Method: Pour over ice in a cocktail shaker, shake well and strain into a cocktail glass. Top with your favourite bubbly and garnish with lavender.
(I pulled my cocktail set out of the glass cabinet last night and shook up a couple of post-dinner Bees Knees for the Brit and I. They were incredibly tasty, but in my enjoyment of the lavender scented honey-lemon-bubbly goodness, I forgot to take a photo! Epic fail. Making these again tonight to remedy the lack of photo. Oh, the hardship. 😂 But the F76 gals saved me with the beautiful photo shown below.)
A big thank you to Britt and Keirstin for sharing their story and time with me!
“A cocktail done right can really show your guests that you care.”
The Brit and I spent Thanksgiving long weekend on BC’s Sunshine Coast. While there, we had the opportunity to visit Powell River’s award-winning Townsite Brewing, and I was given the reins of their Instagram account. The opportunity for that and this interview came from me taking a chance to reach out and Townsite coming back to me with an open mind to try something new. It’s very similar to the Townsite Brewing story. I sat down with Michelle Zutz (Townsite Brewing Co-Founder, Boss Lady, Director of Sales, Working Mum, and all-around Great Gal), both in person and electronically, to talk about how a perfect storm of events became a Sunshine Coast success story and what it’s like being female in a mostly male-dominated industry. Also, a fun giveaway for one lucky Vancouver beer lover!
WCCG: Let’s get the most obvious question out of the way. What is your favourite Townsite beer?
MZ: Gah!! That’s like asking which of my three children is my favourite! Well from our flagship lineup – I love our Tinhat IPA. But from our specialty lineup – the Assemblage Wild Blend. A mixture of vintages turns this lovely creation into a dry, effervescent wild ale with mineral-like qualities.
WCCG: How did Townsite Brewing come to be?
MZ: It was the “Perfect Storm”! People from all over and with all different backgrounds, strengths, and attitude coming together. From, truthfully, in the beginning calling a “for lease” number that was on our historic building about what the owner thought about starting a Craft Brewery. His response “Sounds like a great idea, do you need some seed capital, and help with a business plan?”…..UMMM YES! We, fortunately (hallelujah!) then found Cedric (Brewmaster) and Chloe (General Manager) to add to our team.
They came with a brewing business background and were attempting to start their own place in Saskatoon. They married up with our plan, which had the building and the capital – and of course, we all had the attitude! BAM. The Perfect Storm. Cedric then brewed an amazing Stout by the same name – which I understand you were quite fond of!
WCCG: Having met you in person, first of all, you have become a new role model for me; and second, you have a really positive “let’s do this!” energy and attitude. Do you find that energy is one of the keys to your success as a not only a female leader but an overall leader in a mostly male-dominated industry?
MZ: A role model – wow, thank you! That’s a humbling statement. For me, with so many balls in the air – the business, my family, the constant and chaotic lifestyle of my children and their activities – I would say my energy level is part magician, part circus act and part “we can do this” attitude, with a huge influx of caffeine driven stamina! You can look at a wall that is in front of you, and decide whether you should climb it, go around, turn around – or break it down! All but one is getting you to the other side and your goal. I am fortunate enough to be part of a business that allows my strengths to be appreciated and often exploited!
WCCG: What is your favourite part about running a business?
MZ: Constantly changing, and having no choice but to think on your feet and run with that ball when it gets dropped – or handed off. I have an amazing team that keeps evolving right along with our business. The perks of having a business in a small town where you live, play and spend your dollars is that you are just like Norm from Cheers: everywhere you go, everyone knows your name!
WCCG: What learning opportunities have you encountered since Townsite’s inception that have helped make positive strides at the brewery, and have helped you grow as a businesswoman?
MZ: Everything has been a learning curve for me with this endeavor. Early on when I would be asked for “budget” – I truly had no idea what was being asked of me. I would smile, and say “well, we don’t have much of one, but you have me! And maybe some coasters one day”. Many would keep asking for budget, and some would straight out ask me what the kickbacks would be for them bringing my beer on. To say that I was shocked is an understatement! Kickbacks?? I was offering them a superior craft product delivered to their door and created by a Belgian-born Brewing Engineer! Being the Director of Sales, but also an owner gave me the unique position of actually understanding both sides. The fact that kickbacks are illegal in our industry didn’t make it shocking that folks were asking; I was just surprised that they expected me to follow big beer’s awful tradition of paying for taps! So I have to say, naiveté of the industry at the beginning and fully learning from the ground up allowed me to be stronger in both my position of sales as well as a businesswoman.
I have created relationships with my customers that go far beyond my business. I am not only an ambassador of Townsite Brewingbut also to fellow BC craft breweries that share our philosophy of business, and to our region of the Sunshine Coast, with all that it brings. When folks say they don’t want to share another piece of the proverbial pie, we say loud and proud: “JUST MAKE THE PIE BIGGER!” There is definitely room for all of us.
WCCG: After spending time in the tasting room, the main vibe I got was community and comfort. The Brit and I didn’t want to leave! Everyone knew everyone and it was a really cozy space to be in. As you and I have chatted about, I’ve been digging into the Danish concept of hygge. To paraphrase your tagline, the tasting room seems to be where it’s at for being hyggelig. How did Townsite approach the design and feel when expanding the tasting room?
MZ: We absolutely felt that expanding the tasting room was going to give our regular patrons more elbow room (previously, there was only room for 10!) We didn’t envision it changing the patrons to our space as much– but it did! We always had tourists making their way in, and the local superfans,but the expansion created a space for more of Powell River to hang out. From various games and cards (and crib tourneys!) available, to retro video games, (Ms. Pacman anyone?) to locals sharing stories of what makes our region so magical with locals. All things that make people want to keep coming back! Townsite IS where it’s at, and we are excited to be a part of the resurgence of the area as a popular destination for people of all life experiences.
It’s a place to come as a group to make some memories and visit with our friendly and knowledgeable staff. You might want to just kick back on your own with a book and a creamy stout, or a bright and tart sour ale, or perhaps a rich Belgian Dubbel… Or if you aren’t a beer drinker, we have local Kombucha on tap from our community partner, Raincoast Kombucha.
WCCG: Thank you, again, for the opportunity to take over the Townsite Instagram account! It was a lot of fun and it was a great way to bridge our followers. Do you feel that social media has impacted the way craft brewers do business? Has it made everything more ‘local’ in your view?
MZ: I would not say it has impacted the way we do business, as our “head down, boots on” attitude is how we keep moving forward. However, social media was our one and only mode of advertising in the early years, and it worked. Now we need to utilize its strengths – but also use our own creativity to step outside the bounds of what is considered “the norm.” Which is why we were excited to have the Townsite Instagram takeover with your blog!
WCCG: You may have noticed that I like to end my blog posts with quotes. Do you have a favourite quote?
MZ: Better to be the one who smiled than the one who didn’t smile back!
WCCG: Thank you for taking time with me!
MZ: Thank you, thank you for your fabulous insight, your great photos, and your inspirational attitude!
WCCG: And I’m blushing.
Thanks so much to Michelle for taking time with me and to the Townsite Brewing family for making the Brit and I feel most welcome! Be sure to check out my guest post on the Townsite Brewing blog about their tasting room. Also, as promised…
As part of our recent collaboration, Michelle and Townsite have offered up a great giveaway prize for me to give to one lucky Vancouver beer lover: one of their stainless steel, double-walled growlers! Perfect for a refill of your craft beer or even as a thermos for soup. (I am very practical!) How to enter: *THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED*
Better to be the one who smiled than the one who didn’t smile back!
It’s still the first full week of January, but as soon as January 1 – dare I say even Boxing Day – hit, the Valentine’s Day cards hit store shelves. Cinnamon heart season is around the corner, folks!
With this in mind, I present to you the first WCCG Connections profile for 2015: the lovely Leanne Govier, talented owner and designer at the Little Me Paper Co. Leanne is a British ex-pat living in Calgary; an honorary West Coast city girl, having lived in Vancouver prior to moving across the Rockies. She creates sweet custom illustrations for greeting cards, posters, and other paper items. She was a busy girl this Christmas season, but took some time mid-December to have a virtual chat.
WCCG: Where did the idea for Little Me Paper Co come from?
LG: I have always dreamed of owning a little paper goods shop. I would make cards for my friends and family to celebrate special occasions and they would always tell me that I should sell them. Then last Christmas I painted a tiny portrait of my mum and I, I wanted to give her a special card as I couldn’t get home for Christmas (I moved to Canada from England 3 years ago). She absolutely adored the little illustration and how personal and special it was. After making a couple of other portrait cards for friends and family, I opened my etsy shop in August with a handful of examples and within 3 days I got my first ‘cha-ching!’. It all kind of snowballed from there and I branched out into prints, greeting cards, wedding stationery, quotes and other customizable items. I actually just celebrated my 130th Etsy sale!!!
WCCG: Based on your Instagram posts, it looks like you have a lot of holiday card orders coming in. How does it feel to know that your artwork will be given and mailed all over the world?
LG: It feels absolutely amazing. I get so excited to pile up my packages and imagine them traveling all over the world. Knowing that my artwork will be displayed in peoples houses is so special. I have Christmas cards being sent around the USA, Canada and the UK this holiday season, it is so special and gives me goosebumps.
WCCG: What has running your own business felt like? Favourite things, challenges?
LG: It has been exhilarating. I am excited to keep working hard and to hopefully take my company to the next level. I work another another full time job, so that has definitely been my biggest challenge as I always have more ideas than time. But my favourite thing has been seeing my ideas come to life and connecting with people all over the world . I love my job and I cannot wait to see what 2015 holds for LMPC!
I’ve heard tell that what you imagine sometimes comes true.
~ Grandpa Joe / Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
WCCG: Outside of LMPC, what are your interests? I know that you are also a talented actress.
LG: Yes! I work as an actress several times throughout the year which is my other passion. I also love to write and am currently writing and illustrating my first children’s book which should be published next year. Apart from that, I am happily engaged and looking forward to getting married in the New Year.
WCCG: And the wedding stationery will be amazing!
With Valentine’s Day coming up, a Little Me Paper Co card or portrait is the perfect way to say “I love you”. Visit the Little Me Paper Co shop on Etsy and enter code WCCG10 at check out for a 10% discount off of your purchase. Ready made and custom quote options are available. Just click away!
I’m very proud to post my first City Girl Connects profile featuring my beautiful friend, Julie Barata – fellow alternative baking enthusiast, mom of two – soon to be three! – beautiful children, and owner and designer of All A’glow Designs.
I have some lovely jewelry designed by Julie; and she makes fantastic custom pieces (like the earrings I commissioned a few years ago for my bridesmaids and the cute bracelet she made for our flower girl). She has a knack for making quality pieces that are fresh, pretty, and classic – all at a great price point.
WCCG: What made you start designing jewelry?
JB: I have always had a creative side to me. Growing up when most of my friends dreamed of becoming teachers, doctors, chefs or firefighters, I wanted to become a fashion designer. Jump ahead to 2008, when I was planning my wedding…I wanted to give my bridesmaids jewelry that would match mine. When I couldn’t find anything from a store, I thought, “I bet I can make it myself!” I spent about half an hour chatting with the owner of a beautiful bead shop close to my home, purchased some tools and supplies and got to work! I instantly fell in love with designing and creating jewelry.
WCCG: Why “All A’glow”?
JB: All A’glow is taken from a line in the song “So This is Love” from Cinderella. When I was little, I watched Cinderella every day. Every. Single. Day. Often more than once. It drove my three older brothers nuts. When I got married, my husband and I used that song for our first dance. And now, although not surprisingly, my 3 year old daughter’s favorite movie is also Cinderella! So “All A’glow” has a lot of sentimental meaning to me.
WCCG: As the proud owner of some of your pieces, some of them custom, I can safely say you have a good eye. I actually nearly cried when I thought I had lost a particular necklace when I was away this summer. Where do you get the inspiration for your designs?
JB: First of all, I’m so glad you like your jewelry so much! I find inspiration in many places. I grew up loving to look through my grandmother’s jewelry. I’m inspired by vintage jewelry as I find such pieces tell stories and have character which is often lacking from modern designs.
I’m also very inspired by nature. I’m fortunate to have a view of tall trees and sky from my living room. Some days I’ll make myself a cup of tea and just sit and stare outside in awe. I think that’s why I love to work with recycled wood. With the help of a local woodworker, I’m fortunate enough to be able to bring my ideas to life with one-of-a-kind accent pieces and pendants.
WCCG: Your pieces are a combination of classic and fresh. Who are you designing for?
JB: I’m designing for women who want to wear pieces that are unique, simple and beautiful. I strive to make things that you just can’t find in a store, no matter how hard you try! I design for people like myself, who appreciate quality and style but don’t want to spend an arm and a leg to get it.
WCCG: What has running your own business felt like? Favourite things, challenges?
JB: Running a business is challenging but also very rewarding. I never realized just how much work goes into launching an online shop and I have an entirely new appreciation for other small business owners.
My favourite thing is the flexibility I have to design as I feel inspired. I can go days without making anything. Then one day, an idea will pop into my head and I know that’s the night to get to work! Nothing is forced and I hope it shows in my designs.
The most challenging thing for me is being seen. I do sales through Etsy as well as Facebook and have posted a few things on Instagram, which I plan to focus on more in the future. I find there are so many vendors on these websites that it’s tough for people to find my shop unless they’ve heard of me by word of mouth. I’ve spent the last few months networking with other crafters, trying to cross-promote each other and gain more followers.
WCCG: You are a busy wife, and mom of two (soon to be three!) beautiful children. Has being able to work from home made balance easier?
JB: I absolutely love being able to work from home. It’s a joy and a blessing to be able to spend my days with the kids. Jewelry has definitely taken a back-burner to watching the kids as they’re 3 and 1, which are both very demanding ages. But it is nice that I can work online, fixing up the shop, adding new items and networking while they’re entertaining each other during the day and bedtime is 7pm which leaves my evenings free for designing…when I have the energy!
Shop: www.allaglowdesigns.etsy.com(Still have some holiday shopping to do? Until December 24, enter code HOLIDAY25 at checkout for a 25% holiday discount on your purchase!)
I recently had dinner with my friend Stef, who I hadn’t seen in years but had stayed connected with through the wonders of technology. Thank you, Facebook. Stef is one of the most adventurous people I know. (Who else would semi-randomly move to Ghana??) Her most recent adventure has been living in London the past two years.
Stef is also a blogger*, so while we were having a proper catch up over a delicious Asian fusion dinner at Wild Rice (on the Quay in my stomping grounds of New Westminster – check it out. Tasty stuff.), I asked her if she would do a guest post about her adventures as an ex-pat in London. When I read what she sent, it made me think of this quote and what nice segue it would be:
We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.
From the time I was born I was always a little restless – my curiosity can only be satiated for a short while before I’m onto the next musing or adventure. Although this constant need for change and stimulation has brought on many challenges – not to mention occasional sleepless nights – it’s also brought me more riches than I could ever imagine!
Back in the spring of 2012, I knew it was time to end my current adventure in West Africa (That’s a whole other story!) and my next step was an easy choice. Over the course of my time in Ghana I had spent many extended weekends visiting London, and I had completely fallen in love! A little research, picking the brains of some friends and a thorough visa process, I made a quick whirlwind trip home to Vancouver to pack and give my love before becoming a UK resident.
And what a crazy couple of years it has been! I could spend hours talking about my love for this city without exaggerating one iota. It’s the epicentre for all things art, which means weekends are full of shows, galleries, exhibits or strolls through neighbourhoods laden with incredible street art. London is a foodie’s dream, and I credit this on its incredible tapestry of culture. Coming from a diversified city like Vancouver, I thought I understood multiculturalism – but the “melting pot” I was used to at home is nothing like the clearly identifiable nationalities you see in London. You know that your local eats – be it Peruvian to Lebanese – are as authentic as can be.
Yes, this is one of the world’s biggest cities and is full of hype and bustling in the city centre, but there’s no place that feels cozier to me than my little Chelsea neighbourhood where my coffee shop knows exactly what I caffeinate with, and I can cycle through the market on a Saturday to get fresh produce. With so many ex-pats living in one spot, London has been the most welcoming and easiest place to make friends with everyone in the same boat.
Moving to a new city always comes with its challenges, and by far, London posed the most for me. I’ve never been a person to worry about buying a coffee every morning or what wine I was ordering in a restaurant, but let me tell you, job hunting for eight months while converting Canadian dollars to British pounds will suck the fun out of any purchase! My £1,200 rent didn’t seem so “reasonable” when it syphoned more than $2000 out of my Canadian account each month. Also, little surprises like what’s referred to as “counsel tax” in the UK – aka: a neighbourhood specific tax paid by the residents, NOT the home owners, for park upkeep, garbage pick-up and other common amenities. Surprise! You owe another £170 this month – oh, wait, that’s $300. Needless to say, when I finally landed my permanent job I celebrated hard… with really cheap wine.
I have spent the last two years of my life outside of my comfort zone in many different ways, and am definitely not the same girl who arrived to Heathrow in 2012. I’ve made more mistakes than I can count. I’ve nearly fallen flat on my face a time or two, and undoubtedly would have had it not been for my incredible family and friends! But, all in all, I have learned more about my own strengths and limitations, and who I am and what I want out of this life in a way I never thought possible.
If you were to ask me if I would do it all again, the answer is yes. A million times, yes. Would I do things differently? Absolutely. But this is how I know these years have been pivotal for me – if I were to do everything the same way I did, then what would I learn? Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is never, well, comfortable! But it’s truly where self-discovery comes from, and for me the most important lesson was appreciating all of the little things around me that are so easily taken for granted.
Have you been to Australia? I have not – it’s on the list. Therefore, I have been living vicariously through my lovely friend Kate. She has been living and travelling throughout the land down under for the last six months and is now getting ready to come back home (yay!). While I am still sifting through my Japan and Taiwan photos and writing related posts, I asked Kate if she’d be so kind as to write a summary of her trip and share some photos for a guest post. (Idea courtesy of another lovely friend, Stef, another West Coast city girl, who writes her Broad World blog from across the Atlantic while on her own adventure in London.) Kate is one of the most inspiring and brave people I know and I am really happy to share her musings and photos.
Kate’s Adventures in the Land Down Under (October 14, 2013 – March 30, 2014)
Australia is the home of the kangaroo and koala… my childhood favourites, especially because my name starts with a “K”. In Spring 2013 I was living in Vancouver, Canada, had a good job, life and friends etc… but I was ready for a change. No new jobs were looking interesting so I thought why not travel?
I was fortunate to take a six month leave of absence from work and planned to arrive in Australia in October. They say everything is backwards and in some cases it is… but they could say the same about us.
When I arrived it was spring, where it was fall (or autumn as Aussies call it) in Canada. They drive on the other side of the car/road, as a courtesy you walk to the left not the right, same with escalators. Pedestrians do not get the right away. So many new and exciting things to understand.
I was fortunate to start my trip with my parents and we did quite the road trip starting in Sydney and then renting a camper van (I was the designated driver) and traveling along the coast towards Melbourne. Soooo many beautiful sights along the way, including blow hole, lighthouses, penguins, 12 Apostles, London Bridge and rain. The weather was very spring like with rain and cool (I didn’t come prepared). I suggest every person should try camper vanning here as the facilities here are very good (and I am not typically a camper). We continued on to Adelaide then over to Tasmania then up to Brisbane back down to Sydney. These are memories that my parents and I will share forever.
Following my parents’ departure I went and stayed with some friends in Melbourne – such a unique and fun place. I enjoyed a food festival, bike ride along the river, runs along the beach, and amazing sunsets. It was relaxing! At the same time, I was trying to find work but the market wasn’t there for short term jobs.
So I made the jump back to Sydney where I have now been for 3.5 months, have lived in 4 places, some including flatmates, and got used to taking transit everywhere instead of driving. Finding temp work was still a challenge and even though I was able to pick up a few shifts over my time with the only consistent work being the last 5 weeks, I have come to even more so appreciate my life in Vancouver and having that consistent pay check allowing you to pay for the necessities and enjoy some social outings; it was a bit of a disappointing feeling that I needed to restrict activities etc.
But I really found great ways to fill my time including walking everywhere, even to just check out an area or enjoy the beautiful coast and the beach. Those activities were truly enjoyed and I want to make sure I keep doing them more often when I return to Vancouver. Note to anyone who is wanting to or is planning to travel to Australia and especially Sydney: it is very costly for accommodations, etc. So just be ready for that and also that there is no drip coffee here!
In late January I had my roommate come and join me from Canada, this being her first time. As with any adventure there is a lot to see and do, we have done some great hikes and have shared absolutely everything together with only a few moments of frustration! Now that’s a true BFF! For our last week in the land down under we are doing a trip to Brisbane, Cairns and Gold Coast. I have been lucky to have been to a number of these spots once or twice already but to have that last week for fun is going to be great.
I have met amazing people, done amazing things and have just had a great life break. I am excited to see what my next chapter of life in Vancouver looks like: going back to work with a hopeful new love for my job, seeing old friends, and continuing a relationship that was newly formed before I left.
Everyone needs to remember that taking breaks is good and can make your life better, physically and emotionally. I have chronic kidney disease and my function reached new heights while I have been here. I hope to take my experiences home with me and continue to grow into a person who appreciates everything in life and make a difference one day at a time. Now to plan my next adventure… maybe not as far or as long but I am a traveller at heart.