Year in Review: 2013

Better late than never, as they say! My annual year in review for 2013 begins now. In summary, it’s been a very full and eventful year. Some of my friends left Hugo & Cat but I also have made new ones this year too. I got a new work visa to stay in the UK another three years, I achieved the next level of kickboxing belt, I went surfing in Spain and I dyed my hair red. I only hope 2014 is even better and just as eventful!

January

  • Sherrie and I attended possibly one of the most cheesy (but very fun) musicals in London, Viva Forever. Sherrie, you spice up my life!
  • London got snow – always seems to come in January! I hope it comes soon again this year.
  • Happy Birthday Miriam!
  • Booked flights home to Canada to sort out a new visa in the summer.

February

  • I started the great cake adventure of 2013, beginning with a red velvet cheesecake which won hearts and fans.
  • I won tickets to the Kensington Roof Gardens for a movie date with my girl Sherrie
  • In the midst of a very bitterly frigid winter, Mother Nature graced us with balmy double figure temperatures. The people of London rejoice.
  • More cake. This time a chocolate peanut butter layer cake. Mmmmmmmmm.
  • Anita took me to see Justin Timberlake at the Forum, where as he walks on stage I promptly reverted to my 15 year old self, squealing like all the teenage girls I despise at concerts. HOW DOES HE DO THAT?!
  • I fell into a massive girl crush for J-Law. F*cking amazing woman. See her awesomeness here.
  • Rich left Hugo & Cat, so I made a carrot cake for him. A carrot cake that still continues to be requested to this day.

March

  • Cake continues… with carrots.
  • I made a Chocolate Guinness Cake for the St. Patricks Day Hugo & Cat bake-off. Disaster ensued. I cried. Further detail of the incident here.
  •  My good friend James left Hugo & Cat, so I made him a carrot cake too. Gee, lots of cake in March eh?
  • Booked a trip to Edinburgh for May. HERE I COME SCOTLAND!

April

  • James’ annual pub crawl. Always a winner. I made it to all 24 pubs this year and by the end of the day was ready to collapse and just sleep on the sidewalk, from fatigue (not intoxication).
  • Oreo cheesecake!
  • I started assisting classes at Springhealth kickboxing and spending a ridiculous amount of time at the gym in general as I also started training towards my next belt.
  • Attempted another chocolate guinness cake. This one managed to stay off the pavement.
  • The weather finally starts to get better and Joelle and I get our annual picnic in Green Park.
  • Due to the warmer climate, we also begin our work lunches in the park.

May

  • I take a lovely first class train journey on a beautiful day up to Edinburgh. Lovely. I meet some awesome ladies at my hostel and proceed to spend most of time with them. Miss you Maria and Lara!
  • Johnny leaves Hugo & Cat, thus continuing the mass exodus of my work friends in 2013. 😦
  • I head back to Kensington Roof Gardens with the lovely Anita for some cocktails!

June

  • The Sound of Change at Twickenham Stadium brought Beyonce and friends to London. Then somebody decided to jump in front of train stopping transport back into central London which meant 3 miles walk, 3 train stations, 1 train, and a £55 cab ride home.
  • I spent a very painful £550 extra for my summer flights home to Canada, having to push the dates back to fit with my new work visa application.
  • I reached my one year anniversary for kickboxing, and I’m still hooked!
  • Went to the zoo for the very first time in my life. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! 😀
  • Went to my very first live filming of a television show, the Graham Norton Show. Guests were Sandra Bullock, Samuel L Jackson, and Nick Frost. It was quite the fun night with my ladies from kickboxing. 🙂

July

  • Business trip to Helsinki – always love these!
  • Nam visits from Vancouver on his way through London to a trip around Europe. We went to see Thriller Live!, which was quite fun.
  • My girl Sherrie and I brought sexy back at the Wireless Festival with Justin Timberlake. JT never disappoints! 😀
  • I graded and passed for my next kickboxing belt, Red 2. Pretty sure it was the hottest day of the year, but we did it!
  • Twenty-fifth birthday celebrations with friends in the beer gardens, whoop whoop!
  • Got my new Nokia Lumia 925 and I still absolutely love it! Wouldn’t go back to iPhone now.
  • I went home to Canada for a couple of weeks while I applied for a new work visa to stay in the UK. I’m now legally able to stay for another 3 years!
  • Got to see one of my best friends play Joseph in the local production of Joseph and the technicolor dreamcoat three times!

August

  • Hugo & Cat summer party! Good times are had as always.
  • Booked a trip to Spain for a surfing holiday with my lovely lady friends from kickboxing!
  • Explored Kew Gardens for the first time with my friend Keith on a lovely bank holiday weekend.

September

  • Went to a burlesque show with Sherrie – was so much fun and a really interesting experience!
  • My favourite season arrived and I commenced celebrate by making pumpkin pie, as per usual.
  • SURFING IN SPAIN with the ladies. I’d never been on a holiday with friends before, but this turned out to be absolutely epic. I faced a fear of open water, and learned a few things about surfing too.
  • My two year anniversary in London came and passed. It’s been a whirlwind so far and it only continues to get better as I expand my horizons. Thank you London and all of my new friends here for what you’ve given me so far.

October

  • The guys at work went to Hong Kong for another Nokia film shoot and brought me back some awesome gifts.
  • I decided to move for the first time since I arrived in London. So far this has been an excellent decision as I’m now so much closer to the gym and all my social activities. Transport has also become infinitely easier.
  • I made cake again, for the first time in a long time. It was easily the best chocolate cake I’ve ever made.
  • Work and kickboxing continue to fill all my empty minutes.

November

  • Two of my kickboxing instructors went to the world’s and brought back championship medals. So proud and privileged to be trained by them!
  • Back to Helsinki for a couple days again – always love this! Unfortunately the trips are always a bit too short for my liking.
  • Kat’s birthday and a great night out in Camden to see Nick’s band Shapes & Colours. Always fun.
  • For the first time in my life I coloured my hair. It was time for a change and a little adventure. Turns out I love myself as a redhead and so do a lot of other people. 😀
  • Moved into my new home in North London. Now I will have more time to sleep and get to my social events quicker – boom!

December

  • Kat and I geeked out and went to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour of the Making of Harry Potter where we squealed with delight over butterbeer, props, and sets.
  • I began a countdown for not only my holidays but also for Morgan’s arrival.
  • Hugo & Cat Christmas party whoop whoop!
  • Morgan arrives with a satchel full of gifts from home – thanks Mum!
  • Christmas with my second family in London was great – it consisted of doing barely anything all day and eating and playing xbox and watching TV. Perfect.
  • New Years Eve was spent in a quiet pub with friends and there was no fuss made – just how I like it. Didn’t have to worry about crowds or stupid people on underground transportation. Perfect.
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Next stop: Spain

Days blur. I work. I sleep. I eat. I kick. I box. Lather, rinse, repeat.

My routine has not changed in the past couple of months, however there is a HUGE difference to my life from the last time I wrote. I have a new UK work visa! My stress levels have dropped drastically and I feel like I have a world of opportunities and possibilities open to me again. It’s a great feeling and I’m so thankful that the pre-visa weight has finally been lifted after 10 months of research, organisation, and planning.

Right before I went home to Canada to apply for this work visa, I got my hands on a new phone. A Nokia Lumia 925 – and I absolutely love it. I know, me not using Apple/iOS must mean that hell has frozen over. It hasn’t though, and there are days I use an iPhone now and realise there’s really nothing that special about it anymore. One of the great things about my Lumia 925 is that it has an amazing camera on it. Here are some photos I took in Canada with it, see for yourself!

You could say that kickboxing has taken over half of my life, and you’d be 100% accurate with such a statement. There is nothing wrong with this in my mind, and my social life is now also incorporated with it. Next month myself and four other friends from the gym are going to Santander in Spain for a 5 night learn-to-surf holiday at Latas Surf House. I never thought I would ever consider trying to surf given my irrationally rational fear of fish and open live water (especially after my friend Alan, upon hearing this, thought I needed to see THIS). However I couldn’t stop myself from going on an affordable adventure with a group of cool people. I also get to add a new country to my list and a couple more stamps to my passport. Win. I’m excited for everything about this trip and I’m looking forward to a bit of beach time. The video HERE should give you a good idea of what we’ll be doing… looks pretty epic, no?

Aside from this, not much else is new. As I said, days blur – so don’t ask me what day I did any particular thing because I probably won’t be able to tell you. I look at this as a good thing – I’d much rather be busy and sociable and maybe even completely exhausted than be sitting around at home bored and lonely.

Stay tuned for ridiculous photos of myself and the girls attempting surfing!

Let it be

It’s been a month since I wrote but I can tell you it’s not for lack of anything to say! Life has been a whirlwind of activity this May and I find nearly all my time consumed by something; and I don’t mean that in a negative way at all.

The first long weekend of the month I went the farthest I’ve been in the UK yet, and ventured on the train to Edinburgh in Scotland. The last little bit of the trip is along the coast, and has absolutely amazing views of the North Sea on a sunny day. The train journey was 4.5 hours but quite nice as I travelled first class on the train and for the whole journey I had a four-seat section to myself.

Whilst in Edinburgh I did see the castle (which is actually pretty darn cool, as most castles are), The Palace at Holyroodhouse, and went on a ghost tour. However I think the best part of the trip was making some new friends that I met in my hostel room, Maria from Australia, Lara from Germany, and Jakie from my own Vancouver. We spent a couple of evenings together between the ghost tour and just having dinner together in the pub but they definitely made the trip for me. While I do love the history and the sights and just walking around taking it all in, its the people that make the difference.

Around Edinburgh though, life has been busy with mainly two things: Work and kickboxing. And I absolutely love it. Monday through Thursday I go to work in the morning, then straight to the gym for 2-3 hours right after work, then sometimes a bit of socialising with a friend and then home by 11:30pm. It makes for very long days but the week goes by fast and I love the time I spend at Springhealth. One or two times I week I spend two hours training, and then whenever I’m not doing my own training I’ve begun to help assist teach the new beginners classes. I’m also at the gym on Saturdays for three hours; one hour learning to spar, one hour training, and the last hour assisting teach new beginners. That means that I’m getting 6-7 hours training a week, and I’m exhausted by Sunday but I wouldn’t rather be doing anything else with my time.

The last thing that’s happened this month is complications with my attempt at acquiring a new work visa. My employer has to apply for a certificate of sponsorship by the 5th of June, and it turns out that the decisions of providing a certificate of sponsorship or not don’t happen until the 11th, which is the day I was meant to fly home to Canada to apply for a new work visa so that I can remain here in the UK. This creates a bit of a problem, as it would be stupid to assume a certificate of sponsorship will be approved and come through in time for me to apply while I’m in Canada. So my stress level escalated to 100 on a scale of 1-10 as I tried to decide what to do. I’m still working it out, but I think what’s going to happen is that I will need to delay my trip home to the last half of July to make sure everything is in order before I go. The downside to this is that I need to pay a £100 flight change fee plus the difference in cost of the flight. I originally bought my flight on a sale in January and the cost difference between June and July is about £450… that I don’t have. The other downside is that it kind of messes with my summer plans as I had planned my summer around going to Canada in June.

This work visa decides the next three years of my life, which means that not at any point have I taken this lightly. It’s easy for my friends and family to say “it’ll be fine” but even if it will, that doesn’t make me any less stressed about it. Mainly because this is something I have absolutely no control over once I’ve done everything I can to meet the requirements. I’ve been working on this since November and as every day passes the more and more convinced I am that I am meant to be here longer. My life is here now in many ways – my friends, my career, my goals for kickboxing and travel… there is so much riding on this. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it means quite a lot to me.

And so in times like this the only thing I can really do is make sure I’ve done everything that is in my control, try to relax, and just LET IT BE.

My top 5 picks for tourism marketing films

My readers will be happy to know that I can no longer winge (canadian translation = moan) as much as usual about the weather. It has finally started to get better, slowly but surely! Today was a beautiful day without a cloud in the sky, although it could have been a bit warmer for mid-April. Nevertheless, things are looking up!

So there’s now less than two months until I return to Canada in an attempt to acquire a sponsored work visa, and I’m not gonna lie, I’m quite stressed! Logically, there’s not many reasons why it shouldn’t work out as it’s a points-based visa, however if things don’t work out…. that’s the part I’m stressed about. However, I will focus on the fact that I AM getting this work visa, as I’ve already started to plan things in London after that date!

My next kickboxing grading comes the first week of July, so if all goes well I will have a party to celebrate acquisition of my new visa, my red 2 kickboxing belt, and my 25th birthday. This summer could be one of epic proportions I hope! Mid-twenties whoa!

On my travelling agenda, next comes Edinburgh. I’m heading up to the great Scotland for three days over the first May bank holiday weekend in a couple of weeks. My excitement hasn’t quite kicked in yet, but it will as the time draws nearer! This trip will be the first one out of London (not counting going back to Canada) since last May when I went to Paris, so to say the least… it’s gonna be pretty awesome and very much needed!

And on the topic of travelling and the spur for my post today… I’ve been curiously looking at tourism marketing videos and found a few I’d like to share with you. It’s interesting to see how they differ and how each promotes it’s respective country and how they all do a fairly good job of making you want to visit there! So, here are my top 5 that I have found:

#5: New Zealand

This film relies firmly on visuals and the idea that New Zealand is the youngest country in the world. I give them kudos for using youth as it seems to be something most people crave as they grow older.

#4: Finland

Who doesn’t love Summer? Finland does a great job with putting forth the one thing everyone loves and saying you can have it at midnight. Good music choice doesn’t hurt either.


#3: Norway

Norway does a great job of showing off both their landscape and their culture and history. Points for making it slightly humorous as well.

#2: Iceland

I have to say I don’t know many people who think of Iceland and put it at the top of their list for places to go. However this video makes Iceland look like a fun and fantastic place to go no matter what the weather and the landscape looks like. Good work Iceland.

#1: Canada

I know I’m biased and all, but you didn’t expect me not to put them first did you? Well, honestly though – they really did do the best job. Canada is already very rich in beautiful landscape and cool outdoorsy things to do so all they needed was for the people who live there to bring it to life. Good job Canada – the rest of the world could take a lesson from your tourism marketing books. 🙂

 

In short, some lessons about tourism marketing films:

  • Make it real and fun
  • Make it play to the countries natural strengths
  • Make it under 3 minutes MAX
  • Put it to sweet music tracks
  • Make it something that people see it and go “YES, I WANT TO GO THERE”.

I would have thought that last one was obvious, but I’m not so sure it is given some of the other films I’ve seen for places like Stolkholm, Dubai, Central American countries and many others!

Perspective

The days are finally feeling longer again in yet the temperature refuses to keep up with the times. Apparently this is the longest, coldest winter the UK has seen in over 30 years and I get to be here for it! I really do get why the British are so obsessed with talking about the weather though, I mean it’s positively ridiculous – how could you not be?

The reason for my post today is slightly linked to the weather actually. You see, I’ve recently posted on Facebook quite frequently about my dislike and contempt for this weather. And one of my very dear good friends posted something along the lines of “oh poor you, in London with bad weather”. I understand you, Leslie – I really do! And she’s right, of course. How dare I complain about the weather when I get to live in as great a city as London with no kids to be responsible for or any mouths to feed other than my own or any hypothetical ropes to tie me to my location? It sure does sound selfish and unaware of me doesn’t it?

I’ve talked about perspective before, I’m sure. The thing is that it keeps cropping up and I always try to remember that behind every argument, misunderstanding, barbed comment, and quietly uttered gossip, there is perspective. Of course, there are situations where one party is right and the others wrong, however I think a lot of the time it is really just a difference of perspective and the inability to either recognise this difference or the inability to understand the other side of the coin.

Every single weekday morning and evening I walk by a Tesco on my way to work. A lot of the time there is a homeless man standing outside asking for change. I know he recognises me because he sees me nearly every day as I pass by. (As a side note I just realised I typed “recognises” with an ‘S’ automatically and now I’m afraid of how English I’m really becoming without my noticing… but I digress). And there are times at the end of the work day where I just feel utterly exhausted and defeated and walk with my head down and shoulders slumped. When I pass him he says, with a smile on his face, “that bad is it?”. PERSPECTIVE. He’s a homeless man asking for change (in THIS weather!) and I’m moping about over a hard day at the office.

That said, let’s look back to my beloved friend Leslie (I hope she doesn’t mind) – she has two beautiful children and a loving husband. She lives in Yellowstone National Park with nature abundant around her. Her likely perspective (which I can understand): she has two children demanding every second of her precious time, her loving husband works nights and there’s nowhere to go because she lives in the middle of a national park with scary-looking buffalo surrounding her backyard. My perspective: she has a man who loves her no matter what and a family she has been able to create with precious moments and memories only children can give you every once in a while. And she has buffalo surrounding her backyard.

I live in London and have a good job with some pretty awesome friends and free evenings to myself whenever I want them. Her likely perspective: I live in a city where nearly anything is possible, I have a great job, and I don’t have anyone to worry about but myself at the end of the day.  My perspective: I live in a polluted rush of life and while I don’t have anyone to worry about but myself at the end of the day, I also don’t have anyone to worry about me at the end of the day either.

It really is all in perspective and, no matter what your religious or non-religious views, thankfulness. I know for a fact that Leslie is thankful for her family although it no doubt must try her patience and strength sometimes, as it does all mothers. And I know that I am thankful for where I am in life as well. That doesn’t stop people (or at least not for long) looking at others and envying what we do not have – I guess it’s human nature and the result of an ever-connected semi-transparent world. It’s also partly a result of people posting on social media about the pseudo-perfect life they want people to see, rather than how their life really is. And how can we blame each other, when if I was to post how my life really is, you would look at me and ask why I was complaining and vice versa? Not only is this perspective but the different things each person values.

Perspective. It is in everything, because we are all unique. And thank goodness for that.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a half-full bottle of wine sitting on my kitchen counter that I believe I shouldn’t leave alone…