Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Three Years Ago

Three years ago today I woke up to a stunning view of Niagara Falls in the most expensive hotel room I’d ever paid for. I had butterflies in my stomach and a sense of anticipation like I’d never felt before coursing through me. I wanted to wake up slowly and ease into the day but M jumped out of bed beside me. “There’s no time to waste,” he said, giving me a quick kiss. “It’s our wedding day.”

Niagara Falls // the-lifestyle-project.com

Three years ago I felt the most pampered I’ve ever felt. Mimosas were poured, hair was curled, and though the room was buzzing with energy, everyone was calm and laid back.

Three years ago I looked at our wedding timeline and realized that we were only running five minutes late, which is pretty much a miracle if you know my side of the family. As my bridesmaids and I walked made our way out of the hotel, I felt like a celebrity. Little girls were oohing and ahhing and strangers were complimenting us as we walked to the limo. It’s amazing how kind people are to you when you’re wearing a wedding dress.

Three years ago all the emotions that were building up inside of me came pouring out the moment I saw M waiting for me at the top of the aisle. I looked around and saw the beaming faces of our family and friends and paused for an extra moment before I began to walk up the aisle. I needed to take it all in. The love was overwhelming.

Niagara vineyard wedding inspiration // the-lifestyle-project.com
Hernder Estates Winery in Niagara outdoor wedding // thelifestyle-project.comNiagara Falls wedding ceremony // the-lifestyle-project.com
Vineyard wedding inspiration // the-lifestyle-project.com
Winery outdoor wedding photos // the-lifestyle-project.com
Photos courtesy of Dave Biesse

"Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same." Emily Bronte

Happy third wedding anniversary to the love of my life. Here's to many more, my sweetheart ♡ xo.
follow along with:

Thursday, September 03, 2015

An Update on Our Rescue Dog: 3 Months After Adoption

An Update on Our Rescue Dog: 3 Months After Adoption // the-lifestyle-project.com


Three months ago, my husband and I were able to make one of our dreams come true — we adopted a dog, Lexi, and she’s already brought so much joy into our lives. I never realized how much of a presence a pet can have in your home until we brought this little one into ours.
Between her cute expressions and silly quirks, Lexi honestly makes us laugh every single day. I love having her in our family. She’s increased not only our happiness, but our activity level as well, which is always a good thing :) Lexi came from an abusive and neglectful home (here’s more on her rescue story) but has made remarkable strides in her rehabilitation. 
Some people are turned off from adopting a rescue dog as it can often seem like a whole lot of work, and I understand that. My husband and I had reservations ourselves, so I wanted to write this post to share what our experience has been like for anyone who may be curious about bringing a dog into their home. Here are the most common questions that we’ve been asked about what it’s like to bring home a rescue dog and how she’s adjusting to life three months after adoption. 

FAQs about adopting a rescue dog // the-lifestyle-project.com


What did the adoption process require? 

We adopted Lexi from our local Animal Control, and because of the conditions in which she was rescued, she was considered “at risk.” This meant that Animal Control required adoption candidates to have an in-home inspection to make sure Lexi would be going to a safe place. The director came to our house, showed us some pictures and videos from when they found Lexi, and looked at where we planned to keep her. We chatted for a bit, completed some simple paperwork, and found out later that afternoon that we’d been approved.

How much did it cost?

It cost $87 to adopt our dog, which included her spaying and rabies vaccination. From Animal Control she was transported directly to the vet, where she received her operation, painkillers, microchipping, and another round of shots for $150. Total cost of adoption: $237.

Was it difficult to go to Canada and get back into the States with your dog?

Fortunately the answer is no, it turned out not to be difficult, but I was pretty nervous. We were driving to Ontario, and to bring your dog into the province you have to prove that it’s not a pitbull and has its official rabies vaccination. I didn’t look up that information early enough, and by the time I called the vet for a copy of Lexi’s official certificate, the office was closed for two days (during the time we’d be travelling to Canada). I found a receipt from when we’d paid for her vaccination and hoped it would be sufficient proof, but as it turned out, the customs officer didn’t even ask a single question about the dog. On the way driving back to the US we passed through Michigan, and the only question we were asked about Lexi was regarding her dog food (no lamb, purchased in the States). Crossing the border, for once in my life, turned out to be super easy!
My experience bringing home a rescue dog // the-lifestyle-project.com

What was the hardest part about your dog adjusting to your home?

Lexi was incredibly scared at the beginning — new smells, sudden movement, walking from cement to grass, coming indoors — these all caused her to freeze on the spot, no exaggeration, for 10 minutes at a time. The hardest part of Lexi’s adjustment was learning that she could trust us. The first week was trying (she bolted twice!) but after that she began to improve by leaps and bounds. Once she learned that we wouldn’t hurt her, she started to play, cuddle, and share her true personality with us. 

Have there been any challenges with Lexi’s behaviour? If so, how did you handle them?

When we first adopted Lexi, she was dog-aggressive and male-aggressive. She liked to dash out the door but, as mentioned above, hated to walk on grass. We progressively introduced her to other dogs, as long as their owner was right there and the dog was calm. When introducing Lexi to family and friends, we encouraged them to crouch down and allow Lexi to approach them first. I think that taking her with us to Canada and exposing her to so many different experiences helped build up her trust with us and cemented the fact that she’s part of our family unit.
Lexi becoming more comfortable with us has been a double-edged sword, however. She’s overcome her prior issues, but she’s developed others. Lexi is territorial now and tries to bark excessively when someone’s near the door. Her biggest issue is that she doesn’t like children. They’re too sporadic for her, and I can see that she gets nervous and stressed out trying to keep track of their movements. She's particularly bad with little boys and can go from zero to charging in a second. She’s gone after our nephews before, and though she hasn’t broken skin, it’s scary nonetheless. Fixing her child aggression is the biggest behavioural challenge for us moving forward.

What it's like to adopt an abused dog // the-lifestyle-project.com

Can Lexi do any tricks? Does she have any funny quirks?

Predictably, Lexi didn’t know any commands when we adopted her. In three months we’ve taught her to sit, stay, lie down, shake paws, and we’re in the middle of “roll over” — literally in the middle — she rolls on her back but never quite makes it over. The cool part of training her is that I’ve taught her sign language and verbal commands, which probably isn’t really that cool but I’m proud of it anyway! The funniest quirk of Lexi’s is how often she gives me the stank leg — this girl is a sucker for a good tummy rubbing and is always trying to lure me in for a quick cuddle session.

Any other tips you can share about adopting a dog?

I’d recommend reading about characteristics of the breed of the dog you’re looking to adopt. Lexi is probably a yellow lab, beagle, and rat terrier mix. Labs shed quite a bit, and we discounted how strong that trait would be because Lexi barely shed when we were playing with her at Animal Control. We didn’t factor in that she was dirty and oily which is why her shedding seemed so minimal. Weeks later when we realized how much she actually shed, it was too late, and now we’ve learned to keep multiple lint rollers around the house :P

Do you let the dog sleep in bed with you?

As a first time dog owner, I’ve been pretty adamant about not wanting a dog in the bed. The cramped sleeping arrangements, territoriality, and overall dirtiness had me saying hell no. It’s only been a few months and I’ve already become such a sucker about this! Lexi’s still not allowed to sleep in bed with us, but we do invite her up for a quick snuggle quite regularly.

Puppy love // the-lifestyle-project.com

FAQs about adopting an abused dog // the-lifestyle-project.com

I hope I don't come off as preachy, but I can’t finish this post without mentioning that if you’re thinking about getting a dog, please consider adopting one before buying one. If you've got your heart set on a puppy or purebred, there are rescue groups available! It may take a bit more research and time, but there are so many abandoned dogs out there who would love the chance to prove how sweet they really can be.

Have you adopted a dog before? What was your experience like?
follow along with:


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

That Elusive Thing Called Balance

Lately I've been pouring a lot of energy into some new projects, which inevitably has also meant neglecting other areas of my life. 

I know that it’s been too long since my last post when it gets to the point where it feels like words are tumbling out of me and I have to write them down. It may be because it’s the start of my favourite season, because I’m gearing up to pivot/relaunch my business, or maybe it’s just because it’s been so damn long since I was last in the blogging groove, but I’m ready to step back into this online space of mine.

So… let’s catch up, shall we? It’s been four months since I moved to the States. Sometimes I feel like I’m so past the ‘I just moved to a new country thing’ because it’s not nearly as difficult an adjustment as, say, moving to Korea without knowing anyone or speaking a word of Korean. Moving from Canada to the US isn’t that big of a deal, right?

There are other times though where I’m like, damn girl, take a second to acknowledge where you are (<— talking to myself, of course). There’s obviously going to be an adjustment period with living and building a future here. Sometimes it seems like there’s still so much to do in terms of making connections all over again and feeling truly settled in. This Canadian girl now lives in a suburb outside of Nashville, TN, where I see jacked up pickup trucks, cowboy boots, and soldiers on the regular. It’s quite an interesting mix!

We’re renting a cute townhouse and I have my own home office which is pretty rad. I still need to finish decorating in there — nothing is hung on the walls and I’m failing miserably in my search for the perfect accent chairs. The space is more than functional, though, and I really do enjoy working from home. 

I’ve been fortunate enough to supplement our income with my freelance projects, but lately it’s become more apparent to me that my heart isn’t into freelance writing and editing anymore. Though I’m so grateful for the clients I’ve had, that type of work involves a lot of things that, to be honest, no longer excite me. Finishing my projects and figuring out what’s going on with me career-wise has been another big part of adjusting to life in Tennessee. Do I want to go back to full-time traditional employment, maybe something related to my degree? (I have a bachelor’s in criminology and psychology.) 

Or… should I listen to this little voice that’s telling me I could start my own business and do something that fulfills me creatively? 

Travel inspiration from The-Lifestyle-Project.com

I’ve been so inspired by podcasts lately, particularly the Being Boss podcast for creative entrepreneurs. I listen to episodes in the mornings when I walk my dog and it’s a great way to start the day. I’ve turned my dreaming into planning and soon I’ll be ready to share more, I promise. In the meantime, I’m so so sorry for doing that damn blogger thing of referring to something obscure in the vague future! I think that writing about this venture is my way of putting my intentions out into the world... let’s hope good things happen :)

But, back to life as it stands right now, I’m being sensible and striving for that elusive thing called balance. I’ve decided to apply for part-time positions and build up my business on the side. I’ll see about full-time transitioning either way when/if I get there, but this is what feels right for now. 

I’m excited. In a tingly, can’t-stop-smiling kind of way, and that’s when you know it’s something really special.

This summer has been good to me, but whenever these cooler temperatures hit I’m always reminded of how much I love the fall. It’s a new season (the best season — hello layers!), a time for change, and a time for growth. 

What are you up to now that summer’s coming to its end?
follow along with:


Friday, July 24, 2015

My Dentist was on The Bachelorette & other bits of life lately

Wedding Guest Outfits // the-lifestyle-project.com

+ I’ve been a vacation pro lately. It’s a hard job to have, I know, but what’s a girl to say when family wants to come visit or friends invite you to celebrate their wedding in Canada? Yes, you say! Yes to road trips, doggy play dates, and eating bacon every day. Yes to not only going to but actually hosting the after-party even though you know that hangovers at age 28 are a two-day affair. Yes to afternoon naps and late night dancing and everything in between. Carpe diem, right

Vacation photo diary: Nashville, Tennessee // the-lifestyle-project.com

+ I shot an AK47 recently. Two, in fact, plus a whole bunch of other guns. Excessive? Perhaps. Fun? You bet. My family didn't grow up around guns at all, so with my sister and cousin visiting last month, having a shooting day was first on their bucket list. 

+ As much as I’m enjoying finally being able to live in Tennessee, the summers here are no joke. It’s hot down here, a lingering, humid kind of heat, that I’m not used to on a consistent basis as a Canadian. Central AC (which we finally have now that we’ve moved into a new townhouse) is my best friend. Living in a newer place is a luxury I’m particularly grateful for as in the past I’ve always rented older apartments.

+ Lexi, our rescue dog that we adopted two months ago, has been doing so well! We took her with us on our road trip to Canada and loved introducing her to our family and friends up north. It was adorable to see her being friendly with everyone and playing with other dogs. Lexi has already overcome a lot of her barriers and quirks, but we’re still working on things (our big problem right now is how much she dislikes children). Next month I’ll be doing a full update on her and how we've been adjusting for anyone who's interested.

Funny dog photos // the-lifestyle-project.com




+ A few weeks ago I learned that my dentist was on The Bachelorette. I haven’t watched the show since Trista and Ryan — do you remember them? The original bachelorette and the firefighter? I think they’re the only couple who’s still married from that franchise, but I care way too little to google it. Anyway, shortly after moving to Tennessee my husband and I received a promo card in the mail for a new dentist who was starting up nearby. M booked his exam first. His only feedback after the appointment? “Our dentist is exceptionally good looking.” I snorted with laughter as it’s so unlike my husband to say. “Okay hun, thanks for the heads up,” I sarcastically replied.

Next Tuesday when my appointment rolled around, I may or may not have taken a few extra minutes to put on some mascara (I’ve been using this Younique fibre mascara lately and it rocks). When I signed in with the receptionist I could tell she was eager to share some office gossip. “By the way, someone around the office might look very familiar today,” she teased.

“Umm… okay,” I replied. She looked at me expectantly. Clearly I didn’t give her the response she was wanting. “Why would this person look particularly familiar?” I offered.

Well that was all the goading she needed. “Have you heard of the TV show The Bachelorette?” the receptionist asked. She went on to tell me about Dr. Cupcake and how the staff at the office were all Team Chris. I didn’t say anything to him when we first met, but you can bet I went home and googled his ass. I watched the premiere — he showed up in a cupcake mobile! He went in first for the kiss! — and seriously debated cancelling my appointment the next week for a cavity filling. 

“I don’t know if I trust his professional judgment anymore,” I joked. But clearly I couldn’t cancel the appointment or else I’d lose my photo op, so off to the cavity filling I went. What’s a dentist appointment without photos of your hot dentist who likes to burst into song and make out on reality TV, right? 

My dentist is on The Bachelorette // the-lifestyle-project.com


(We’re both better looking in person, I swear.)

And that's what life's been like lately.

Dr. Cupcake from The Bachelorette sobbing gif

(Sorry Chris, I had to!)
follow along with:



Thursday, May 21, 2015

An Adoption Story: Our Family of Three

Yes, that is totally a clickbait title but it is in fact true — we’re so excited to announce that we’ve added a third member to our family! 

Everyone say hi to the sweetest girl with the softest ears in the world, our little Lexi.

An Adoption Story via the-lifestyle-project.com



Lexi is a rescue pup who spent the first year and a half of her life in a wooden box. It’s hard to believe that I just typed that sentence but unfortunately there are some horrible people out there who are not fit to own pets. A neighbour reported Lexi’s abusive owner to the police after she witnessed dogs in the yard who were chained up outside throughout the entire winter. 

Animal Control was finally able to save Lexi on a cold February day. It was 12F (-11C) and Lexi was alone in a simple wooden box without any source of warmth and without any food. She had a five gallon bucket of water that was obviously completely frozen over and she was shivering so violently she had trouble standing.

Stories like hers are what made my husband and I want to adopt in the first place. Once I learned that I was moving to the States and we’d be getting a townhouse, we knew that we wanted to bring a dog into our family but we didn’t know how we wanted to do it. Going through a breeder has its advantages depending on what you’re looking for but the more I researched local rescue groups and shelters the more I knew that adoption was the right choice for us. 

Last week we decided to spend an evening at the county animal shelter. It was my first experience at the pound and I had no idea what to expect. We signed in then were free to roam the kennels by ourselves.

We stumbled upon Lexi hanging out quietly in her crate. We were immediately drawn to her energy. All the other dogs were (understandably) freaking out — pacing, whining, barking to get our attention. But there was Lexi, sitting and alert, with a tail that wagged excitedly the longer we stayed by her side. 

We could tell that she was not only shy; because of her beginnings Lexi is a scared and timid girl. It’s part of what comes with adopting a rescue dog, I suppose. We didn’t want to overwhelm her so it was perfect timing that a volunteer walked in right then (side note: the volunteers at Animal Control were so knowledgeable and passionate about their work — thank you for being awesome!). After some time hanging out with us and people that she knows, we were able to build up her trust enough to lead her outside for a short walk. Lexi warmed up to us quickly and we were thoroughly charmed by her sweetness, her story, and her eager-to-please disposition. 

Between my husband and me, I’m the more analytical one, so I was willing to visit other shelters and take some time to deliberate. Before going to the pound, we took the pressure off ourselves by agreeing that we were in no rush and wouldn’t come home with a dog that night.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Things & Stuff: Thoughts on Minimalism

Are you a minimalist? Thoughts from a 20-something on the-lifestyle-project.com

Does it seem like over the past year “minimalism” has become one of those buzzwords that we’re hearing everywhere? 

I like to think that I’m on the “minimal side” of both travel and life but let me tell you one thing that I know for sure: there’s no better way to determine whether or not you’re truly a minimalist than by packing up everything you own and moving to a different country with all of your possessions in tow.

When we left Ottawa in 2013, my husband and I were like, “Let’s throw away everything! The desk, the couches, the floor lamp, the bookcase  they're outta here. Moving to our next place will be so much easier!" 

The bar was set pretty high  which items were good enough that it was worth it to pack them up, put them in storage for over a year, and eventually drive them 1600 km south to our new home in the States? A lot of our items were older, mix-matched, and on their last leg anyway so it wasn't too hard to say goodbye.

Oprah you get a car gif
Moving day was like an Oprah giveaway episode for Goodwill
I've been sort of travelling and sort of living transitionally since December 2013, so admittedly I felt like quite the minimalist last year. I didn’t buy anything expensive (with the exception of this beautiful lens that I still use all the time). I had limited clothing and rotated the same key pieces. M and I shared a cell phone, scaled down our travel, and didn’t splurge on pricey activities. 

Things feel like they're changing now.

After having my green card application approved last month, I moved to the South and am now living in a suburb outside of Nashville. M and I moved into our new townhouse and  and how's this for awesome randomness  when we went to pick up the lease and our keys, we found out that our rent had been reduced by $30 a month and that we were getting the first month free. When does that kind of thing ever happen?? What a wonderful surprise.

I thought we’d be settled in pretty quickly considering that we barely brought any furniture with us, but it’s hard to put things away when you don’t actually have any pieces to put them into in the first place, ya know? The rational part of me understands this but the organizer in me finds it quite frustrating.

The only furniture we brought with us to the States was our bedroom stuff and a custom coffee/side table set that we received as a wedding present. In the past several weeks we’ve purchased a washer dryer set (used, thankfully, which saved us a bunch), sectional couch, bar stools, patio table and chairs, desk, office chairs, shelving… seriously my head is just spinning.

After going for so long without having the latest things and stuff, I finally have the means and justification to do so now but it feels weird spending all of this money. Do you know how much good couches cost these days? Way more than the $600 I thought they would, that’s for sure! On one hand, I kind of love getting to decorate our home and I have all of these ideas about how I want to make the space our own. There’s a whole new world of home decor shopping that’s open to me, not to mention all the online shopping to be had. With free shipping! In two days! It really is easy here.

On the other hand, we’ve also spent hundreds of dollars at freaking Target and similar stores like that who obviously don’t make their products locally. Or sustainably. Or small business-y, which is how I prefer to shop. It's a struggle but sometimes you just need a vacuum and a garbage can and jumbo rolls of toilet paper, you know? 

I think that’s part of growing into adulthood, though. The older you get, the more you’ve developed your personal style, the more you’re in tune with what you’re looking for and what you really want. Hopefully it also means being able to afford a little bit better and knowing when you’re not willing to compromise. We're learning to balance it all. And maybe that’s the key to minimalism right there  not going overboard, not being excessive, but intentionally spending money on things that are comfortable, get used often, and quality that you know is going to last. 

Could I live with less? 
Yes, absolutely. 

I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist, but a simpler and more authentic kind of lifestyle is one that I’m working towards.  

What about you  would you consider yourself a minimalist? Do you think minimalism is something worth striving for?
follow along with:

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Life Lately

Have you ever had one of those days where there is so much to do and you know you need to be immensely productive but somehow you end up doing nothing at all?

Yesterday afternoon that was my way of coping with the stress and overwhelm: just do nothing.

Spring Outfit Inspiration: Chambray + Pixie Pants >> the-lifestyle-project.com
Madewell chambray shirt / Everlane t-shirt / 
Old Navy printed pants / Caribbean Joe sandals via Sears

Once again I find myself surrounded by suitcases and backpacks and boxes and lamps (and really I could go on but I think you get the point). My husband and I are moving into our new townhouse tomorrow and we are so ready. Not literally, of course, as described by my inaction above. But mentally we’re definitely 100% there.

My in-laws have kindly let us stay in their garage apartment since we came back from Central America and we’ve been incredibly grateful for that. Now that I’ve got my green card and officially live in the States, though, it’s time for us to move into our own space.

It seems like most people our age are already homeowners but M and I aren’t there yet. And you know what — we’re okay with that. I’m 28, he’s 30, and we’re not ready or able to commit to buying a house right now. We don’t even know where we’ll be next year! Hopefully it’ll be continuing with the path we’re currently on but flexibility is key in our lives right now and renting allows us that maintain that maneuverability.

Not being homeowners hasn’t stopped me from planning the shit out of our interior decor in the new place though. If you follow me on Pinterest then you may have noticed that I’m all about the neutrals — grey and white are my jam right now. We finally have TWO bedrooms, access to our own backyard, open concept living space, stainless steel appliances — I’m so excited! Moving from a one bedroom apartment into a two bedroom townhouse is a huge upgrade. I think this’ll be a really good step for us and, once and for all, will be a way to kick any lingering winter blues to the curb. Nesting feels good.

Anyway, that’s the latest with me. Life is good and the weather is warm and there’s much to do. We’re moving tomorrow and this time I’m determined to make it a smoother transition than when we left Ottawa as I was literally painting my nails the day before instead of packing away our kitchen. Not the smartest decision but I’ve since learned haha! This time we’re doing things a bit differently: we’re only moving 20 minutes across town which really helps to take the pressure off of doing everything in one trip and we don’t have any living room or kitchen furniture to move so that helps to simplify things.

For now, though, I suppose it’s time to get back to this mess. I’m making a thank you dinner for my in-laws tonight so I should start prepping for that now. The ball isn’t going to roll itself... 

Hope you have a productive weekend! 

PS: Other ways I've worn this chambray shirt and these pixie pants (the love runs deep).
follow along with:



Tuesday, April 28, 2015

I'm Giving Up Free Healthcare and Moving to 'Merica!

It feels like my US immigration case has been dragging on forever, but when things finally did happen, all of a sudden they actually happened. Really quickly. 

THE PHONE CALL


Tuesday morning arrived like any other Tuesday morning, without the fanfare of Friday but also free from the drudgery of Monday. Little did I know that afternoon I’d finally be receiving the phone call that would literally change my life (and for once I am using literally in the correct fashion). 15 months ago I applied for my US immigrant visa and, after many delays and tears of frustration, last week I officially received the most important stamp in my passport.

Finally receiving my green card to the US! Read more about my immigration story on the-lifestyle-project.com

Within minutes of having my documents in hand, I knew I wanted to leave by the weekend. Why not, right? My things have been in a state of half-unpacked since we left Ottawa so I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to wrap up my remaining projects and possessions with a couple days’ notice. 

Um, yeah right. 

The clock began to count down and I felt the tension building in my shoulders whenever I thought about my to do list and the unanswered emails and wanting to see everyone one last time before I left and cleaning and seriously how was I going to fit everything in my car?

As I packed my clothing and knickknacks into suitcases and boxes I could feel more of my presence and personality begin to fade away from my bedroom. It was becoming blanker with every glance and my impending immigration started to feel very real very quickly. 

Despite the stress, I knew it was worth it to leave on Friday morning and get to spend the weekend wrapped up with my husband. Working in financial services, he had just finished his first tax season and was desperately looking forward to a two day weekend. I wanted to maximize the time off with him so instead of breaking the trip into multiple days I decided to drive straight through and arrive in Tennessee on Friday night. 

Clothing, linens, and the last of our unused wedding presents somehow found their way into my trusty Mazda 3. My dad helped me clean the car and made sure everything was in working order for the long drive (1200 km/745 miles). I spent the rest of Thursday afternoon filling out paperwork to import the car, wrapping up my immigration documents, paying the final fees, cleaning, printing backup maps, and transferring all my computer files onto my new laptop (I got a MacBook Pro! Yay! I’ve had it with all these PCs breaking on me every few years). 

Thursday night I had one last evening in Toronto with my girlfriends to say our “see you soons”. Since we’re all in our late 20s now, a night out isn’t nearly as raucous as it used to be but that was probably for the best. Friday morning I was up bright and early to begin my much awaited road trip.


THE BORDER


I decided to cross borders through Niagara Falls instead of going on the shortest route through Detroit. From my experience, the Customs & Border Patrol officers in Detroit are a lot gruffer and way more search-happy so it was totally worth it to drive an extra half hour out of my way and deal with pleasant and polite staff who actually congratulated me on “doing things the right way.” I didn’t expect kudos for following the law but hey  I’ll take it! Things were off to a good start. 

I knew to expect at least an hour at the border as they processed my paperwork, and it proved to be a little bit longer as a CBP supervisor was teaching three juniors how to handle an immigrant visa case. Always fun being the guinea pig, right? I had two rounds of fingerprints and another set of photos taken to verify that I was who I said I was. Next it was off to the customs section for an officer to import my car. Fortunately they didn’t search my belongings, something that I was quite grateful for as I didn’t want to replicate the magic that was my packed car.

90 minutes later I stepped outside with relief knowing that I was now considered a permanent resident of the United States. An alien resident, but permanent nonetheless. Just as I’d finished reading through the stack of paperwork they’d given to me and began to pull onto the highway, I received a phone call. An apologetic CBP supervisor was on the line begging me to come back as they’d mistakenly given me a whole bunch of documents that they were supposed to keep for their own records. Such is the life of a guinea pig.

A few minutes later I was finally — really!  on my way. Every time I saw someone pulled over on the side of the road fixing their flat tire I’d say a little prayer and give my car a pep talk that we wouldn’t be next (fortunately we weren’t). With pit stops and traffic, the drive ended up being almost 15 hours long but was rather uneventful, which is just how I like my solo road trips.

Becoming an expat again >> the-lifestyle-project.com

THE LAST CHAPTER OF MY IMMIGRATION STORY


My reunion with my husband was sweet and joy-filled and everything you’d expect it to be. We’re now able to live in the US together without a countdown ticking in our ears and I’m able to legally work here too once I get my social security number next month. My green card is valid for 10 years after which point it can be renewed and/or I can apply for citizenship (but I only have to wait three years to do that). Due to American immigration laws, I have to keep proof of my residency status on me at all times, which I’m admittedly already failing to do as it’s a giant pain in the butt to carry around your passport everywhere. I won’t physically be receiving my green card for three months but honestly I’m not too concerned about it. Everything seems very legitimate now.

So, I suppose this technically isn’t the last chapter in my immigration story but it feels like it anyway. I imagine that over the next decade my visa status will be relegated to the bottom of my priority list and far from the daily thoughts in my mind, except every two years or so when it’s time for an election and I realize that I’m unable to cast a vote. 

I haven’t given much thought to whether or not I will apply for American citizenship, but I do know that I’m not keen on giving up my Canadian passport. Being Canadian feels like an inherent part of my identity. 

But that’s neither here nor there. 

I have a new home now. I'm an expat again.

And I’m so freaking excited.

PS: Our immigration drama from the beginning, the middle, and the almost end

follow along with:


Monday, April 06, 2015

3 Things You Can Do Right Now to Beat the Winter Blues

3 Things You Can Do To Beat the Winter Blues (when you can't just pick up and travel)




At just about this time every year I get to a point where winter feels neverending. Gone are the days when a chill in the air is described as refreshing. Snow, once novel and pretty and dare I even say even fun, now elicits a groan when it makes yet another appearance. “But it’s so cold outside,” becomes the default answer to socializing after 7 pm. 

You know how it is. 

You get slow. You get sluggish. Somehow it becomes so much harder to come up with reasons why you should be productive and get up early and throw off those (warm and snuggly) covers with gusto every morning. 

You know what’s happening, right?

The winter blues are taking full effect.


Winter feels like a particularly long season for us northerners. When Instagram is filling up with cherry blossoms and stores are bringing in their spring lines, when the concepts of warm weather and exposed ankles don’t even seem like remote possibilities, and when you don’t have enough money or time to fly away to somewhere warm, it’s easy to fall into the winter blues. 

I don’t know about you, but after a season of grief, indecision, and feeling lost in limbo, I’m ready for spring to show its pretty face. Until it does, here are three things I do (and you can do too!) to beat the winter blues when you can’t just pick up and travel. 

1. LEARN A NEW SKILL OR DEVELOP A NEW HOBBY

This blog actually originated as a winter hobby a couple of years ago (read my first post). Over the past few winters I’ve made it a point to grasp a new skill so that my brain doesn’t become jelly after binge-watching every series I can find on HGTV (what can I say – I feel the urge to decorate my nonexistent home!). Spanish lessons, SEO techniques, photography classes, and business courses have kept me busy over the past few years. Winter is the perfect time to master something new, especially if it’s from the comfort of your own home, or try out a new hobby that’s piqued your curiosity.

2. PLAN A TRIP FOR LATER IN THE YEAR

What does a traveller do when they’re not travelling? Plan for future trips, of course! I am a firm believer that everyone, yes everyone, can travel. It doesn’t have to be international, it doesn’t have to be transnational, and you don’t have to do it with another person. Solo travel isn’t nearly as intimidating as people make it out to be. On those nights when all you want to do is stay curled up on your couch, put those Pinterest skills to good use and start researching somewhere that you’ve never been before. There’s always somewhere new to explore and new adventures to be had! Here are a few ideas to get you started.

3. START A GRATITUDE JOURNAL / GOOD THINGS JAR

This is a technique I picked up after reading The Happiness Project when I was in Utila, Honduras last year. Admittedly, I’m not as regular as I used to be but when I began this practice I’d wake up each morning and before I started my day, before I turned on my computer, before anything, I’d write out three things for which I was grateful. These days I no longer write out a list but I still take a few minutes every morning to acknowledge three good things in my life. When I move to Tennessee I’m going to start a good things jar which is basically the same concept but allows me the opportunity to read through my lists at the end of the year. Have you thought about a good things jar or gratitude journal? Seriously, you should try it. Positivity begets positivity. 

Do you also struggle with staying happy despite the long-term effects of blah weather? What are some things you do to stay on the bright side of life when the winter blues start to bring you down? 

follow along with:

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Five Favourites

Family photos under the blue skies of Tennessee from the-lifestyle-project.com

Fave photo: boys in blue. My husband and nephew – don't they look so alike? I just love these guys! I took this photo before I left Tennessee last week. I don't know about you but considering that it's snowing in Ottawa right now I could really go for those warmer spring temperatures that still seem to be a myth on this side of the border. 

Fave book: I just finished Yes Please by Amy Poehler and thought it was enjoyable. Not my favourite comedic memoir (that would be Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling) as it had some moments that lagged and chapters that didn't flow into each other very well, but Amy had lots of insightful things to say and funny stories to share. It also made for a great way to stay occupied during my road trip last week. I liked Yes Please a whole lot more than Lena Dunham's Not That Kind of Girl which I also finished reading recently.
Fave moment: I turned 28 last week! This birthday was a little bittersweet considering that it was much more low-key than celebrations in years past (like when I turned 27 on the exotic island of Little Corn, Nicaragua), however this is probably the last birthday I'll spend with my parents and extended family for a while so that made it extra special. My grandpa has been very sick the past couple of weeks but he had a rare moment of lucidity just before I blew out the candles on my cake and pulled me aside to wish me a happy birthday. It was such a touching moment.

Fave present: My family completely outdid themselves and surprised me with a brand new unlocked iPhone 6 for my birthday. How crazy is that? I feel so spoiled but incredibly grateful. This is my first (yes first!) smartphone so I'm embracing it with open arms!

My first selfies as a 28 year old!
Fave recent blog post: I'm getting ready to buy a 13" MacBook Pro with retina display next month and have been warned about how it's a blessing and a curse at the same time because the resolution of many web images is seriously lacking. It'll be all the more obvious on a new Mac so this post from Sarah about manually resizing your photos with HTML code came at just the perfect time. My HP is about to bite the dust and I'm looking forward to a new laptop. After all this time I'm finally going to be up to date on my technology. It feels great!

What are some of your favourite moments from the past week?
follow along with:

Thursday, March 26, 2015

We Regret to Inform You...

The process of getting a US Immigration Visa via the-lifestyle-project.com

Oh man. Where do I even begin?

The last time we caught up I had just received my immigration interview date at the US Embassy in Montreal. Somehow six weeks have passed since then where not once did I manage to open up Blogger and finish a complete and coherent post, but we’re going to gloss right on over that and pretend that I’ve been here all along, okay?

The past week in particular has been a busy one. I flew back from Tennessee, picked up my medical results in Toronto (turns out that yes I’m immune to the chickenpox), celebrated my 28th birthday, nursed a wicked hangover that could only be cured by immense amounts of sleep and junk food, took a six hour solo road trip to Montreal and Ottawa (where I am now), and most heartbreakingly, received a denial of my immigration visa application. 

On Monday morning I found myself awake 90 minutes before my alarm as the anxiety knots in my stomach could no longer be ignored. I arrived a whole hour early for my appointment (a definite first for me!) which turned out to be fortunate because just to get through security at the front door took 20 minutes. No cell phones, cameras, MP3s, remote keychains for your car, purses larger than 10x12”, food or drinks... the list of prohibited items went on and on. 

After an excruciatingly long two hours past my designated appointment time (!!?!), I finally heard my number called over the loudspeaker and made my way to the back of the room for my interview. It was surprising how informal it seemed to just walk up to window eight and stand in front of the pane half-shouting my answers to the consulate officer on the other side. 

The officer double checked some of my documents and asked me a few simple questions about my address, my employment, how I met my husband, and what he did for a living. 

“So is your husband still working at the job listed here?” she asked.

“Yes, he is,” I replied.

“Okay, I’ll just need you to prove that. Do you have any of his pay stubs from this month?”

“Um… no. However, I do have originals of the ones we submitted with our application online and a confirmation letter from his employer,” I offered.

“Well, those are from 2014 so they’re outdated now.”

“And whose effing fault is it that my application has been sitting around for six months and the documents are now outdated?!” I wanted to snarkily reply. Instead I simply looked at her, hoping that the message would be conveyed through the subtle raising of my eyebrow. 

“Just a minute please,” she said as she walked away from the desk.

My heart started to sink. This wasn’t going the way I hoped. Why didn’t they just tell me I specifically needed to bring my husband's latest pay stubs to my interview? Why didn’t she want to see all the adorable wedding and travel photos I’d brought along? Why didn’t she care about the emails and itineraries and records proving the longevity of our relationship? 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Immigration Update: One Step Closer to Not Being an Alien

Finally, finally, there’s some progress on our immigration case!

Immigration process Canada to US: finally success!
Photo thanks to Tracey Photography
After already having our processing date pushed back twice, I didn’t have any patience left for another delay with our application. (Quick update: my husband and I are in a long distance relationship as we wait for me to get my green card for the States. I live in Ontario and will soon be moving to Tennessee.)

We were told to expect news on Monday February 2, but our inboxes and phones were disappointingly quiet. I didn’t let myself get my hopes up that anything would be approved early, but am I foolish to admit there was a slight, tiny part of me that thought maybe this time things would at least move along on schedule?

I tried not to be heartbroken and instead channeled my frustration into planning exactly how much hell I would give the National Visa Center when I called their hotline to follow up. I decided to wait until Tuesday so I wouldn’t accidentally tell off the person on the phone who might be able to give me some answers.

Fortunately I didn’t have to make that call as the next day I received an email saying the pre-processing of my immigration visa application was complete! It’s now been forwarded to the US Embassy and I’ve been assigned an interview date in Montreal for March 23.

The feeling of excitement was shortly followed by the realization, “Wait, what?? March 23 - SEVEN WEEKS AWAY? Are you kidding me? We’ve already waited so long!” I was with a friend at the time who reminded me to be grateful because this was a major step in the right direction.

“You’re right, you’re right,” I replied, “This is good news. This means I can book my medical exam now and get the ball rolling with that. Yay!” We did a little happy dance in the kitchen to celebrate.

I was able to speak with my husband later that night and though we both lamented the fact that my interview was far away, at least there was finally momentum with our case: I’d officially moved into the last stage of processing.

Shadows at golden hour
Photo thanks to Tracey Photography

The next day I called to book my medical appointment and was fortunately able to get one within a week. I was a bit nervous as I didn’t know what to expect or exactly how critical this doctor would be. Fun fact: I’m immune to the chickenpox (so is my mom). What do the chickenpox have to do with anything? With all of the talk that vaccinations are getting in the media lately, I was worried because I’ve never received the varicella vaccination which is required if I want to immigrate to the States. 

I didn’t know how much of a stickler this visa doctor would be, but everything turned out to be okay. As long as my blood work confirms I’m immune (or, if I’m not, I get the vaccine later this month before he forwards my results to the embassy), this isn’t even an issue. The only problem I had was getting a $40 City of Toronto parking ticket during my appointment. Boo.

Now for the best news of all: I was able to confirm with a US Customs Officer that I can visit my husband in the States! And my parents offered me a return ticket with their rewards miles! And in March it’s usually 10 degrees (50 F) warmer in Nashville! I’m so stoked. I’ll be spending the next month in Tennessee, Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa then, if my interview goes well, road tripping back down to Tennessee at the beginning of April.

So, cheers my friends! (I’m on my second glass of wine as I’m writing this.) Here’s to being one step closer to not being an alien!

(Sorry for all the exclamation points.)

!!!

follow along with:
09 10