#12DaysofHygge – Day 12: Tourist in my town + Giveaway from LUQL!

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Dating an ex-pat, I am very accustomed and happy to be a #touristinmytown. It’s fun to see familiar things in a new light, and I always enjoy going somewhere I’ve never been or trying out a new activity. When the people at a new travel app called LUQL (http://luql.io) reached out to me last month about taking a tour in Vancouver, I was intrigued. As you may have read, I love a good tour when travelling, but I’ve never taken a tour in my own city. I suppose most people haven’t(?)

Continue reading “#12DaysofHygge – Day 12: Tourist in my town + Giveaway from LUQL!”

#12DaysofHygge – Day 10: Friendship & Christmas

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.

Our first brunch in September!

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.

DOMINIKA

(Blog: The Nova Scoop)

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!

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EMILY

(Instagram: @emilykiloh)

Favourite Christmas tradition: Christmas PJ’s on Christmas Eve and baking with my family!

What is your Christmas wish? That everyone gets some time to really enjoy their friends and family!

Item of clothing or thing that makes you feel the coziest: My boyfriend’s clothes!

Favourite Christmas food: Gingerbread!

When do you put your tree up? Mid-December

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KARLIE

(Website: Karlie.ca)

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.

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MELISSA

(Website: MelroseAvenue.com)

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.

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NINA

(Blog: Nina Worldwide Blog)

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.

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ORLA

(Blog: travelorlabout.com)

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.

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Po On

(Blog: poymeetsworld.com)

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 🙂

SARAH

(Blog: sarahhendersonyoga.com/)

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.

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STEFANIE

(Blog: broadworld.co)

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!

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As for me…

YASMINE

(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.

~ Sir Winston Churchill

#12DaysofHygge Day 9 – My Favourite Craft Beer Tasting Rooms in Metro Vancouver

Vancouver is a hub for many industries, including tech, film, and mining. But a more relatable ‘industry’ is the craft beer scene – no, craft beer isn’t just a ‘hipster’ thing. (Are hipsters even a thing anymore? I’m not a ‘hipster’, and Brit most certainly isn’t one.) In a city and province where ‘big beer’ has strong roots, craft beer has taken over with creative spins on classics, focus on flavour, and top-notch tasting rooms.

The Brit and I have been exploring these tasting rooms, on the hunt for the perfect IPA (for him) and stout or porter (for me). If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve likely seen me documenting this as a #pintandaflight. I love the brewery tasting rooms because they are usually on the smaller side and you immediately feel at home when you sit down. There’s a community feel – which I touched on in my guest post with Townsite Brewing – and they can be quite cozy during any season. Perfect for a date or an outing with a few friends. (We experienced another couple’s first date at a place called Brassneck last weekend (as they were sitting across from us at the long table), and it was fairly entertaining and very sweet. 🙂 )

When we moved to New Westminster, we had a stroke of luck that not only did we move to a beautiful area, but said area is a five minute walk from what is currently the city’s only brewery and tasting room: Steel & Oak (1319 3rd Ave, New Westminster). There’s also a winery nearby, but that’s an entire post of its own!

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Until recently, Steel & Oak did not have an IPA or a porter on tap, but both our hop dreams came true a couple weeks ago with their seasonal releases of the Eleven Boroughs IPA and Windrose Porter. They also have a seasonal brew called a Smoked Honey Doppelbock, which gave the Brit a me moment when he tasted it and said: “this tastes hygge” (which he always pronounces “higgy” to make me laugh). He was serious, though, and absolutely right. It absolutely tastes hygge.

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The Steel & Oak team very kindly let my friend Jessica and I take over their tasting room for a mini photo shoot (part of an upcoming blog refresh!) before they opened last weekend, and Jessica made me look very glam while having a flight and some snacks and listening to Amy Winehouse and Carole King on the record player. I also found A Charlie Brown Christmas in their record collection and that made me especially happy.

IMG_2079-EditI like to get a flight for two reasons. One is that I occasionally have a hard time choosing just one thing from a menu, and the other being that I like the variety and trying new things. My flight that day consisted of (L-R):

  • Royal City Ale*
  • Eleven Boroughs IPA
  • Windrose Porter
  • Doppelbock

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*Need a Refill? – Steel & Oak has partnered with Monarch Place for the month of December and is donating $1 from every growler refill of Royal City Ale to the organization. Monarch Place provides safe environments and alternatives for women and children in need in the community – especially important at this time of year.

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Steel & Oak has clearly been added to my tasting room favourites list. My other favourites in the Metro Vancouver area are:

  • Faculty Brewing Co. (1830 Ontario St.) – A newer brewery, I really like their tasting room. Also, try the Oddity Kombucha that they have on tap.
  • Brassneck Brewery (2148 Main St.) This place can get quite crowded with lineups down the sidewalk, but when you’re in, it’s golden. Dog friendly.
  • Off the Rail Brewing Co. (1351 Adanac St.) – Hidden up a set of stairs, I consider this place a bit of a gem (and very hygge! and not just because they always have some darker beers all year round.
  • Luppolo (1123 Venables St.) – Italian for ‘hop’, Luppolo has a varied selection on tap and really nice bread rolls. Dog friendly.
  • Green Leaf Brewing Co. (Lonsdale Quay Market, North Vancouver) – Located inside Lonsdale Quay Market, the beer is good, but my favourite part is that you can bring your meal in with you, or order it market vendor and they will deliver it to you at the tasting room.
  • Parallel 49 (1950 Triumph St, Vancouver) – Check out their new tasting room and street kitchen!
  • Alibi Room (157 Alexander St, Vancouver) and Craft Beer Market (Salt Building, 85 W. 1 Ave, Vancouver) aren’t tasting rooms, but their beer selections are on point and the food is very good. Reservations recommended.

Do you have a favourite tasting room in Vancouver or where you live? Tell me all about it in the comments below! Cheers!

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Doppelbock = taste happiness!

This post was created partly in partnership with Steel & Oak. A big thank you to them for letting us use the tasting room for our photo session! As always, all opinions are my own.

P.S. I love my glasses! They are the Derek Lam 10 Crosby (551 TTBLU Tortoise Blue) from Clearly.ca. They are currently SOLD OUT, but Clearly.ca has similar pairs here.

“In a study, scientists report that drinking beer can be good for the liver. I’m sorry, did I say ‘scientists’? I meant Irish people.”

~ Tina Fey on SNL’s Weekend Update

#12DaysofHygge – Day 8: Candles & Cocktails + City Girl Connects with French Seventy Six

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!

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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.

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Photo: French Seventy Six

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.

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French Seventy Six owners Britt Feltan and Keirstin Feltan (Photo: French Seventy Six)

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.

One of those pop-ups will be at the Vancity Business Babes Christmas Party on December 12th! I’m planning on being there and perhaps we can all toast the holidays with a glass of bubbly!

Speaking of bubbly… Here is the recipe for The Bees Knees!

The Bees Knees Cocktail Recipe from FrenchSeventySix.com

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Gin
  • 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.

Enjoy!

(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!

The Bees Knees (Photo: French Seventy Six)

“A cocktail done right can really show your guests that you care.”

~ Danny Meyer

#12 Days of Hygge – Day 7: Date Night In

The Brit recently sent me a link to a Time Magazine clip that was on their Facebook page about hygge. It sums up hygge really nicely as “creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people.” A great example of this is when I go to cook and eat with my friend Karen. It’s also how I feel when the Brit and are at home or off on an adventure.

When we went to the Sunshine Coast in October, we stayed in Gibsons for a night on our way back home from Powell River. We had a cute Airbnb booked and had plans go into ‘downtown’ Gibsons for a date night of dinner and a #pintandaflight at one of the craft breweries the town is known for.

But then we got to our Airbnb and the view was PHENOMENAL. Our Airbnb host must have thought we were simpletons with how dumbstruck we were by the property, the hot tub, and the kick-ass view. I remember looking at the Brit and saying “Let’s just order takeout and stay here.” and he said “I was just going to say the same thing!”

We had just come from Powell River and visiting Townsite Brewing, so we were all set for refreshments. So we had a date night ‘in’ instead of a date night ‘out’ and it was wonderful. We ordered a pizza and sat on the swinging chair, watching a sunny evening turn into a stunning sunset over the water. (Who doesn’t love a fiery coloured sunset??) You couldn’t not take take a hundred pictures, so we did and then we settled with our Townsite brews.

I’m so glad we took the opportunity to appreciate our surroundings and just be together and present. It was a very hygge evening and the perfect date night.

Thank you to our hosts for having such a lovely place for us to have stayed! It was beautiful.

What’s your favourite date night in? Have your plans ever changed and become the best evening, ever?

“The sky broke like an egg into full sunset and the water caught fire.”

~ Pamela Hansford Johnson

#12DaysofHygge – Day 6: Stove Top Almond Milk Hot Chocolate + My Favourite Vancouver Hot Chocolate Spots!

Hot chocolate or hot cocoa. However you call it, it’s the perfect winter treat when you’re out and about, or when you’re having an evening in. It is a very hygge beverage in my humble opinion.

I used to be indifferent to this marvelous hot beverage. Likely because I’d only ever had it as the powdered version that gets mixed boiled water. But then I had a an espresso cup sized serving in Naples back in 2011. It was essentially just melted dark chocolate, and it was heaven. I asked the barrista if there was milk in it, and he said “No latte. signorina. No latte.”

Since then, hot chocolate has been my jam, and every now and then, I like to make it from scratch on the stove. I add almond ‘latte’ to mine otherwise I would be incredibly hyper, but every time I make it, I smile thinking of that little cup of melted chocolate.

The first time I made my own cocoa, I was staying in a beautiful house by the beach on Salt Spring Island. I’ll get around to writing about SSI at some point, but I digress. Hot chocolate is actually quite simple to make on the stove. After a couple of years, I think I’ve  finally found an ingredients combination that is exactly to my liking and  similar to my favourite Blenz almond milk dark hot chocolate!) Click here to jump to the recipe.

Making myself a hot chocolate obviously isn’t always possible, so when I am out and about, these are my Vancouver go-to’s for a tasty cocoa to-go (or enjoy in the cafe):

Blenz Coffee (Various Locations)

When I came back from my aforementioned trip to Naples I was obsessed with finding a good hot chocolate in Vancouver. It didn’t need to be solely melted dark chocolate, but it needed to have actual chocolate in it. I honestly wouldn’t have expected a chain to have my favourite hot chocolate, but Blenz does, indeed. And they are consistent. My extra almond milk dark hot chocolate is a mood balancer, treat, something to keep me warm, or all of the above. I also love that the baristas do a little bit of latte art to finish it of and that Blenz is a local chain.

Mink Hot Chocolate & Coffee

Mink’s hot chocolates are very gourmet, and very tasty. I love going there because they have a variety of options, as well as their own brand of chocolates (also available online for purchase). They aren’t in my immediate vicinity of  home or work, so it’s always a nice treat to go here.

Hot Chocolate Fest (Jan 20 Feb 14, 2018)

And if you really want to get your hot chocolate on in Vancouver, Hot Chocolate Fest is coming back in January! More details on participating merchants can be found here. I like to go to at least one new merchant shop every year to try their delicious creations!

~

Stove-Top Almond Milk Hot Chocolate

If you’re feeling homey, or want to inject a little hygge into your day, here is my Almond Milk Hot Chocolate recipe!

Stove-Top Almond Milk Hot Chocolate

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

This is a slightly decadent treat for those winter nights where you want to just snuggle up with your partner to watch a movie or to settle in with a good book.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups almond milk
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 4 tbsp semisweet chocolate chips
  • Sweetener of choice (I use 2 tbsp of maple syrup or honey)
  • 1 tsp vanilla, peppermint or almond extract (optional)

Method:

  1. Heat the almond milk in a small sauce pan on Medium-High heat for approximately 5 minutes
  2. When milk is hot and starting to steam, remove pan from heat
  3. Whisk in your cocoa powder, chocolate chips, sweetener, and optional extract
  4. Continue to whisk until the chocolate chips are fully melted, and everything looks frothy and smooth
  5. Pour into mugs and enjoy!

Serves 2 in large mugs or 4 in regular mugs. Cut recipe in half for 2 regular size mug servings.

Like my tea, I take my hot chocolate ‘black’, but cocoa does look a bit prettier and taste fabulous with a whipped cream (like these great almond milk options, or this coconut milk option by one of my favourite recipe mavens, Angela Liddon from Oh She Glows!)

I haven’t tried this recipe with dairy milk or coconut milk yet, but that will be a Christmas holidays adventure so I can find an option that the Brit enjoys. The almond milk was met with some indifference. 😉

“Love is like swallowing hot chocolate before it has cooled off. It takes you by surprise at first, but keeps you warm for a long time.”

~ Henri Frederic Amiel

#12DaysofHygge Day 3: Unplugging + Staying Present

Despite being fully charged when I left the house yesterday, my phone battery depleted quite quickly. Right in the middle of a murals tour we were taking. And I didn’t have a charger of any sort on me. Boo-hoo, I know. But I’d had some timed posts planned for the blog and on Instagram. And I wanted to take pictures. Total first world problems.

But the universe was telling me something: put the phone away. The Brit’s phone battery was fine. So he took photos for me. And I actually enjoyed having an ‘unplugged’ rest of the day. It allowed me to fully focus on our guide and what she was saying, enjoying the day with him, and having a great time at VanDusen Gardens with some friends later in the evening. It was a fantastic day.

When I was reading The Little Book of Hygge, one of the things listed as a key of this Danish way of life was unplugging and being present. I am an excellent multi-tasker; it’s why I’m good at my day job as an executive assistant. But sometimes, the phone needs to get put away and it takes the battery going down to 4% – where it stayed at for 5(!) hours until I got home – for that to happen. (Ridiculous, I know.)

This really hit home for me today, not just because of my phone battery, but because of one of the murals we saw just off of Main Street:

How powerful is that?? My phone was already put away at this point (so a big thank you to my love for taking these photos!), but the message resonated. How could it not?

(I’ll be posting soon about this mural and the tour we took – stay tuned!)

As a yoga teacher, I guide my students into the present for focus on the mat so they can carry that with them into the rest of their day. As a yoga student, I work very hard to also do this for myself during my practice. But I sometimes forget that this needs to apply to my life off the mat. Particularly during such a busy time of year!

Do you take time to unplug? How do you stay present and calm during the holiday season?  Share in the comments below!

If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.

~ Amit Ray



#12DaysofHygge Day 2: The perfect cup of tea in Edinburgh + Tea-to-Go in Vancouver + Joy Tea Giveaway!

The British are famous for their stereotypical love of a ‘cuppa’. Naturally, my Brit doesn’t like tea. Ha. Anyway, I’m obviously not British, but like Oprah LOVES bread, I REALLY love tea. I have at least one cup, every morning. It’s comforting, it’s warm, and tea always smells lovely.

So for Day 2 of the #12DaysofHygge, it’s all about tea. I’m sharing why my favourite Edinburgh tea shop makes the best cup of tea, my favourite places in Vancouver to grab a tea-to-go, and because everyone needs to have some tea joy… I’m giving away a box of Starbucks Teavana Joy Tea! (Contest details at the end of this post!)

The Perfect Cup of Tea

Aside from my own house, my favourite place in the world to go have tea is Pekoe Tea (20 Leven St, Edinburgh) in Edinburgh. Whenever I go, I always have an Earl Grey or green tea variant, and I usually end up buying a fair amount to take back to Canada as presents for people and to replenish my own stock at home. I have a lot of tea…

The reason Pekoe Tea makes the best pot of tea is that they are savvy about the steep time. Depending on the kind of tea, it’s 3, 4, or 5 minutes, and they have mini hourglasses for each time. It’s a test of patience that is well worth the wait. Particularly if you’re having one of the teas made from the pickings from their own garden just outside of Edinburgh. Add a baked treat from the counter and the world is bliss.

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Awaiting the timer to end
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The best cup of tea at Pekoe Tea in Edinburgh!

Tea-to-Go in Vancouver

We are all on the go, and while I’m still searching for the perfect (and more environmentally friendly and money-saving) go-cup for my loose leaf tea, there are some great options in Vancouver for a tea-to-go.

TEAJA Tea Lab 

The TEAJA Lab in Yaletown is Vancouver based and award-winning TEAJA’s flagship TeaBar. They have over 50 ethically sourced organic loose leaf teas and they use this nifty Teaze infusing machine to prep your beverage. So you don’t have to worry about your tea getting too strong because you forgot to take your tea bag out.

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Photo from the TEAJA website.
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Getting festive at TEAJA’s Tea Lab

I really like their Lady Grey tea, as well as their Ginger Immunity wellness tea. They also have some lovely holiday teas out right now, with the Mulled Berry being my current favourite. My work is a two minute walk from this shop, so you can imagine my willpower is basically nil. Ha.

Great Wall Tea Co. 

When we moved to New West last month, I was so excited when I saw this shop was still open (because you never know!). Like its name says, the shop is literally a wall of tea with the containers all staying as they are due to magnetic magic. You can sit down at the little bar or take a tea to wander around the shop’s home, New West’s River Market on the quay. They have some cute Christmas teas that I need to try, I guess I’ll be at the market a lot this month!

Decisions, decisions…

Allegro Coffee Bar at Whole Foods 

Whole Foods’ Allegro Coffee Bars apparently have excellent coffee, but I quite like their peppermint tea. They have a great #GetThrifty coffee/tea and a muffin deal that comes to $3-ish plus tax. I love their Power muffins, so this is a win-win all around in my books.

Starbucks

Starbucks sells Teavana teas, and the price-point is quite good. I don’t care what anyone says about them being a big-box business. The tea is good. Particularly their seasonal tea (my absolute favourite!): Joy. Check out the below for how to win a box of it!

Joy Tea Giveaway*!

I went a little nuts last week and bought a few boxes of Joy tea. Tea is my shopping vice… But I wanted to share the joy (see what I did there? 😉 ) and give a box to a lucky Vancouver reader!

How to enter: Share your favourite Christmas tradition in the below comments section. (That’s it!) The winner will be randomly chosen on Wednesday, December 7 at 5pm PST.

*This contest is only open to residents of British Columbia. This contest is not sponsored by Starbucks Canada. The prize was purchased by WestCoastCityGirl.com and is valued at $14.95 CAD. Must be 13+ to enter.

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Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world ~ T’ien Yiheng

Happy December 1st! + #12DaysofHygge Day 1: Merry and Bright Vancouver Christmas Activities

Um, it’s December 1. What?!

While I’m gob-smacked at how quickly December came, this is one of my favourite times of year. I tend to contain my excitement until about December 5 and then let it loose; but because I’ve been planning some holiday season blog stuff since mid-October, my excitement started early. It’s partly the Brit’s fault. He sent me a link in October for a Christmas light event that was starting November 24 and it all snowballed from there…

As part of my exploration (okay, obsession) of hygge, I wanted to share all the things that make me feel happy and cozy, particularly during the holiday season – the most hygge time of the year! Starting today, I’ll be posting every day as part of my #12DaysofHygge. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed putting it together! 🙂

Seeing everything lit up and bright is one of the best parts of the season for me, and Metro Vancouver does not have a shortage of lit up events and locations! Here are three of my favourites plus a few more that I hope to get to this December!

Glow Christmas Light Garden and Market

Last year, Vancouver had a light maze and market called Enchant Christmas (which is in Texas this year). This year, we have Glow Christmas (and its over 500,000 lights!) in Langley. While Enchant was outside, Glow is inside the enormous Milner Village Garden Centre greenhouse, which took the experience up a notch in my mind. It was nice to enjoy the lights and market while inside, feeling toasty and warm. The music stage and food trucks are outside, but you can bring everything in, and also enjoy some beverages from the Mistletoe Bar.

We purchased early bird tickets for the first Saturday, which included a food voucher and a complimentary drink each, but the food and beverage prices are reasonable. You can also get a fair amount of Christmas decoration and present shopping done in the market as there are many artisan vendors selling their wares. If you don’t live in the Fraser Valley, I promise you it’s worth the trek sand crossing a bridge or two!

  • Dates: November 24 – December 30
  • Tickets: Various Prices
  • Location: 6690 216 St, Langley
  • Hours and more info can be found here.

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VanDusen Festival of Lights

This is one of my Christmas traditions (usually with my mum, and now with her and the Brit) and I’ve been almost every year for longer than I care to admit. The dancing lights are my favourite part and I like getting a hot chocolate and a warm pretzel to munch on. There are also many areas set up for photo ops and selfies.

It’s a rain or shine event (so bundle up and bring that umbrella!) with a very decently priced entry cost of less than $20 CAD. Which is amazing considering how much power those lights must use, environmentally friendly LED’s or not!

We are going this weekend, so maybe I’ll see you there!

  • Dates: December 1 – January 7
  • Tickets: $18.50 online or $19.00 at the gate
  • Location: 5251 Oak Street (at West 37th Avenue), Vancouver
  • Hours and more info can be found here.

#GetThrifty – Purchase your tickets online. It’s slightly cheaper and less hassle (read: no standing in line at the gate for tickets).

Lights of Hope at St. Paul’s Hospital

If you’re in Downtown Vancouver at night in December, something beautiful that has an amazing purpose is the Lights of Hope display at St. Paul’s Hospital on Burrard Street. Each star is available to be sponsored as a fundraiser for the St. Paul’s Foundation and it’s really stunning to look at. I hope to be able to donate towards a star one day and I love to see them because they remind me of goodness and hope – we need more of that these days. If you are able to do so, it is the 20th year of stars and a lovely cause. More info can be found here: http://lightsofhope.helpstpauls.com/.

  • Location: 1081 Burrard Street, Vancouver

Other Merry and Bright Options in Metro Vancouver

Free Holiday Lights Walking Tour

Hosted by the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA). Reserve a free spot and get more info here. (Dec 5, 13, 20 from 4:30-6:00pm)

Vancouver Christmas Market

Located at at Jack Poole Plaza next to Canada Place, this is as close to a traditional German Christmas market as Vancouver gets. It’s great fun and very festive. The Olympic Cauldron is all dressed up in lights as is Canada Place, so it’s all worth checking out! My Swiss friend, Nina, from Nina Worldwide was just there and had the best time! More info can be found here. (Nov 22 – Dec 24) 

Bright Nights at Stanley Park Christmas Train

A lovely family activity put on by the Vancouver Park Board. This fills up quickly, so make sure to get your tickets ASAP! (Nov 30 – Jan 6) 

The Peak of Christmas at Grouse Mountain

Want to see a winter wonderland? This is the place to go. Makes a nice treat date night, and a lot of companies like to do their Christmas parties up there to give their staff some holiday fun. More info can be found here. (Nov 24 – Jan 7)

Orla, my lovely Irish friend from travelorlabout.com was just up at Grouse for her work Christmas party and it looked magical!

Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

This is probably the most magical of the light displays, because you are wandering through the treetops in a bright light fairy tale wonderland. I haven’t been in a couple years, but I hope we have time this year. Ticket and additional info can be found here. (Nov 23 – Jan 28)

#GetThrifty – Admission to Canyon Lights is a bit more on the expensive side but if you buy or have an annual pass, that is your ticket for year-round access to the park!

Get on a Boat

There are some Christmas dinner cruises that I hear are worth checking out!

Happy December 1, everyone!

Let your light shine. ~ Matthew 5:16