Espresso & Entertainment– My Morning Routine

Espresso

I have to be honest—I don’t always do a great job at going to bed on time (or sleeping well). And that means I don’t do a great job of waking up. To make easing into mornings a little smoother, I’ve established a morning routine that’s full of some of my favorite things.

First off is the way I wake up. I used to use my iPhone but found that I was always waking up abruptly and grumpy. I bought a great alarm clock that simulates the sun and birds singing. It’s so peaceful!

Then I get my Breville semi automatic espresso machine going. Having my own (kinda fancy) machine is an indulgence, but starting my day off with a latte every morning in the comfort of my own home just makes everything better. It may sound silly, but it makes me happy and puts me in a better frame of mind to tackle my day. Plus, I know this is sacrilegious, but I’ve never really gotten into Tim Horton’s.

While the espresso is doing its thing, I stretch. I’ve been having some tightness in my lower back lately, and it really helps to do a few targeted stretches in the morning. It just makes me feel more awake and get the blood moving, even if I only stretch for five minutes or so. It also feels like I’m doing something good for myself and starting my day off on the right foot (literally).

Next is just a few minutes of quiet time. Since the news of the day is pretty depressing, I make it a point to always read something light-hearted like Us Weekly or People—generally something pretty mindless that won’t remind me that our government is going to hell. Taking a few moments to escape the world before I dive into the seriousness of the say is really a mood-booster. Now that I think about it, this would be a good time for some trip planning, too.

After my reading moment, I finally get dressed and sometimes head to the office. On days that I have a commute, I love to pop on a podcast like Gretchen Rubin’s Happier podcast. And, although it doesn’t really fit my theme, I sometimes go for the Nerdette podcast when Game of Thrones is on TV.

All this stuff does add more time to my morning, but I find that it’s worth it because it helps set me up for a good day.

Things I Won’t Do Before I Die

lit cigarette

I wrote recently about the things I definitely want to do before I die, so it only make sense to write the opposite. This was a really fun one to think about—a list of things I intend never to do before I die!

Swim with sharks – I know this probably seems random. I wrote recently about how I want to visit South Africa, and diving with sharks is actually a really big thing there. My husband really wants to do it, but it scares the crap out of me. No. Nope. No.

Have plants – Every green thing I’ve ever tried to grow in my entire life has died. In elementary school when all the kids tried to grow beans in a plastic bag with a wet paper towel, mine was the only one that didn’t sprout. When I got a plant for my first office – died. When I tried to start an herb garden in my backyard – dead. I think it’s finally time to accept my black thumb and move on with life.

Run a marathon – I try to go to the gym regularly, but I’m not really what you’d call a fitness fiend. I’ve also never gotten into running. More than both of those, though, I’ve watched my husband train for and run THREE marathons. That stuff is not for the faint of heart. It’s really a commitment. And it hurts. Do you know the story of Marathon? The guy dropped dead at the end.

Smoke – I’ve smoked a combined total of about three packs of cigarettes in my life, mostly to fit in at different times in high school and college. The stuff has never really appealed to me, and my grandfather died of lung cancer, so I’m quite certain smoking isn’t for me.

Eat spinach – When I was little, my mom would make me sit at the table until I ate all my spinach. I don’t know how long I sat there, but it felt like forever. Even when I told her it was bitter and had sand in it (which it did), I still had to sit there. It may sound odd, but now I have a permanent aversion to spinach.

Become a beer drinker – This one probably seems a bit weird. I love wine and spirits, and cider is my jam, but I’ve never been able to get into beer. I’ve tried everything from radlers to IPAs to stouts, and clearly something in my taste buds does not want me to be a beer drinker. I really wish I could get beyond it because it can actually be a bit awkward socially, but it’s just never going to be my thing.

Six Things I Will Do Before I Die

sunny field

A milestone birthday is coming up so it seems like a good time for some planning! These are just a few of the things on my must-do list now.

Complete my travel bucket list – This may be a little pie-in-the-sky, and it may take me 50 years to do, but I like to dream big. What’s life without big goals?

Go to the Olympics – I am obsessed with the Olympics. Both summer and winter. I love (almost) all the events and am pretty much glued to the TV every time they’re on. One of my life goals is to be able to attend a fee events in person and see all the pomp and circumstance and all the fun energy that surrounds the Games.

Pay off my house – Life many people, my house is my biggest investment, and it was a huge deal for us to be able to make the down payment and handle it all on our own. We make at least one extra payment a year to get that much closer to being mortgage free. It can’t come soon enough!

Become fluent in French – In Canada, learning French is clearly an asset, but my interest in the language goes much beyond that. I studied French in college and absolutely loved it. When I visited Paris, I was surprised that a lot came back to me. I would love to be able to speak it fluently without stumbling for the right words or tenses like I do now.

wine

Really learn about wine – While I’m not looking to become a full-fledge sommelier (that stuff is intense—have you seen Somm?), I would love to really learn about wine in a more formal way. Right now, I just taste a lot, which is fun, but has its limits.

Kick my Diet Coke habit – I know soda—and especially diet soda—isn’t good for you, but I’ve never been able to break the habit. It doesn’t seem like it should be as hard as it is.

My Travel Bucketlist

railroad

My husband really likes Anthony Bourdain. He’s a bit too snarky for my taste, but I try not to complain about the episodes of Parts Unknown that seem to be on an endless loop in my house most Saturdays. I do love watching some of the crazy places that he goes. And the food—oh, the food. One of the most recent episodes on the Basque Country inspired me to think about my travel bucket list at this point in my life.

Greece
I studied Latin in high school and learned a lot of Greek and Roman history as part of that, so I’ve always loved the idea of visiting Athens and the Greek Islands. The Parthenon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and even though I know it’s mostly a shell, I really want to stand there in the presence of all that history. When it comes to the islands, I feel like Santorini is calling my name. Just looking at photos of those whitewashed buildings with the blue domes intrigues me so much.

Provence
Several years ago, I got to go on a business trip to Paris and absolutely fell in love with France. I’m sure I’ve over-romanticized it, but I’d really love to go back to France to visit Provence this time. I have visions of lavender fields and sunflowers and all the places Van Gogh painted just before he died. Plus, there’s kind of amazing wine along the Cotes du Rhone.

Amsterdam
Basically everything about Amsterdam appeals to me. OK, maybe not the Red Light district and all the pot…but everything else. The canals look amazing, and I’m obsessed with the architecture of the 16th and 17th century canal houses. There are also windmills, tulips, and tons of cheese. What’s not to love.

South Africa
I’ve wanted to go on a safari as long as I can remember. I can’t imagine how it would feel to see an elephant just a few feet away or watch a lion stalking its prey. I’ve been to plenty of nature parks in my life, but to see the animals up-close and personal in their natural habitat would be a dream come true.

Barcelona
I feel like when Barcelona comes up in conversations, it’s always one of those things where people sigh and say, “Oh, I love Barcelona!” I want to find out why! I’ve read that the Sagrada Familia might actually be completed in the next few years, and I think it would be spectacular to see that. Plus there’s the amazing Gothic Quarter. And tapas. One must never overlook tapas.

New Orleans
Everything I’ve ever seen of New Orleans looks like it’s nothing but fun. Of course there’s the craziness of Bourbon Street but also the fun of the Mardi Gras decorations and the pretty church downtown. I love the old-style porches and even the cemeteries look kind of cool. Mostly I love that it looks like a marriage of Europe and parts of the South. Hopefully I’ll get there one day!

What to Know When Visiting Toronto’s CN Tower

Toronto’s CN Tower is city landmark. A visit here is one of the things you have to do when you visit Toronto.

On our travels, we like to do a mix of the expected touristy things and things that are a bit more off the beaten path. For this trip, a ride up the CN Tower checked the “touristy” box. Here are a few of the things I learned as part of my visit.

It’s pricey
My ticket was a whopping $40, which is a lot for a relatively quick visit. Luckily, this activity is something you really only need to do once.

Online tickets are a little better
Tickets are available online at a small discount ($36), which I wish I had known before my visit. This lets you avoid the tick line, but you still need to go to Guest Services, which might actually take longer.

It can be crowded
Saturday afternoons, as you might imagine, are the worst time to visit the CN Tower. The wait can take at least an hour before you even get to security. I strongly suggest visiting at an off-peak time or at least being well-prepared for the wait, especially if you’re with children.

Not all elevators have glass floors
Six high-speed elevators zoom you to the top in less than a minute. The experience and view are excellent. However, not all elevators have a glass floor, so you may miss out on some of the experience.

You can walk on the edge
The newest attraction at the CN Tower is the most spectacular—the EdgeWalk. It looks terrifying to me, and it’s the highest outdoor walk in the world at 356 meters.

You can eat with a view
Eating dinner at the 360 Restaurant at the CN Tower is the way to go! We watched the sun set and had a spectacular view of the city below. The restaurant even revolves, which adds to the excitement.

Traditional English Dishes That Actually Taste Good

Fish and chips

Sometimes English dishes get a bad rap just like the English weather, which is dull and boring. This is far from the truth. The English may have some gross looking dishes (think sheep’s offal), but they do actually taste good once you get over the look. The English also gave the world the simple dish of fish and chips which is widely popular pretty much in any city across the world. If you get to London, try out these dishes.

Fish and chips
This is easily the most popular dish in the UK. You will get it in restaurants, bars, and chip shops. Some places are legendary for their crispy chips and delicious fish. Head to Anstruther Fish bar which is popular with A-list celebrities like Tom Hanks. You can review the best places for fish and chips on sites like just-eat.co.uk.

Haggis
This dish is not very appealing to look at, and honestly, it sounds kind of disgusting, too, but after the first bite you realize why it is a popular menu item. Haggis has Scottish origins and is made from sheep offal including heart, lungs, liver, onions, spices and oatmeal. Haggis is typically served with neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes). This dish is a favorite on Burns Supper which celebrates Scottish poet Robert Burns.

Bread and butter pudding
This meal has more humble origins in that it was a quick breakfast made by poorer families who would use leftover stale bread. The bread would be steamed, layered in a dish, added dried fruits, dipped in milk and finally baked. Nowadays, it is a favorite dessert popular with people of different social backgrounds.

Bangers and mash
The English love for potatoes is legendary. Bangers are basically sausages (pork is the most popular choice) that are fried or cooked in the oven. The bangers are served with mashed potatoes that are buttered and lathered with milk. The traditional style also served with onions and gravy. Red wine is a deserving accompaniment with bangers and mash.

Full English breakfast
This is basically a pile up of all the favorite breakfast items including eggs, toast, sausages, beans, hash browns, and pretty much whatever the plate and the stomach can hold. Just make sure everything is fresh and hot.

Bacon sandwich
The bacon sandwich is a huge breakfast favorite in the UK. It is easy to make, or cheap to buy. The best way to have it is when the buns are fresh from the oven and the bacon is still sizzling and crispy.

Cheese on toast
So this one is exactly what it sounds like. Nothing Earth-shattering. I discovered this delightful snack during a month I spent in Oxford. It became an afternoon ritual, and since I couldn’t afford much, it was perfect for me.