Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Things I Love (button-down shirt edition)

This post is for you if:

1. You believe that oxford/button-down shirts are supposed to be the answer to looking 
 a) chic 
 b) professional 
c) casually laid back yet mysteriously pulled together, 
all while being 
d) comfortable. 

2. You have never been able to find a button-down shirt that accomplishes these things. 

Me either.

 Guys, I have zero patience with being uncomfortable. I have a large chest, and I travel a lot. Most oxfords are just not going to work for me. If the buttons aren't gaping, the rest of the shirt is too big. If it's not too big, it's uncomfortable. If it's not uncomfortable, it's still going to wrinkle terribly. Putting aside all of those issues, if I have to raise my arms more than a few inches, I end up with a strange balloon hanging around my neck when I put my arms back down. 

I'm not going to tell you I have the perfect solution, because I don't. But I have discovered an AWESOME shirt that I LOVE and I wanted to share it with the world. 

It's stretchy and comfy and I'm not kidding when I say that it makes me feel casually laid back yet mysteriously pulled together at the same time. It's probably supposed to be for hiking and other ruggedly outdoorsy activities but it can totally work in professional settings. 

My average day can involve driving for six hours on isolated roads, attending meetings in downtown Toronto, flying to remote First Nations communitie, facilitating meetings and exercises in rooms full of firefighters or Heads of Council, meeting people in bars or restaurants, or gulping well-deserved glasses of wine on my couch while watching the West Wing. This shirt is perfect for all those things. 

If you really like the tailored crispness of an oxford, this shirt might not be for you. I totally get that. I wish I loved crispness as much as I love pretending I'm still in my pajamas, but I don't. I do love having clothing that works for more than one purpose. I've worn this with a skirts, jeans, dress pants and leggings. It pretty much lives in my suitcase and it always looks good. 

I bought mine in the dusted indigo, and even though I desperately want to buy one in every colour so I never have to live without this shirt, I actually think it may be the only colour I ever need. It just works with everything. 

Do you have any items of clothing that just "work"? Please share!

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Just when I start to feel smug about being a grown up...

I spend a lot of time travelling, especially with my new job. I’ve flown I don’t know how many times in the last few months, plus several times a year since I was born, and I spend a lot of time thinking about how to make travelling smoother. I want to be able to breeze through security. I want to glide onto the airplane with effortless grace, and place my carry-on in the overhead containers like a pro. For the record, this almost never happens.

With the exception of one day two weeks ago. I had a business trip to Toronto where I was going to be spending my time with all my new colleagues, my manager, his manager, and the head of our organization. To say I was slightly nervous would be an understatement. To my surprise, my trip down went incredibly smoothly. My bag was perfectly packed, I didn’t hit anyone with my carry on, and I was wearing cute, business-y clothes.

Lets contrast that day with my return trip, where I: 

-spilled coffee all over myself in the taxi
-couldn’t find my wallet or ID as I was checking in for my flight
-dropped my L.L. Bean roller duffle I don’t know how many times by trying to lean it up against things even though I know it doesn't stand up on its own. 
-Left my Swiss Army Knife in my purse, which of course, security found. 
-Started crying at the check-in counter when they told me it would be an extra $100 to check my purse as an extra bag.

Yup. Real tears. Which would make it the second time in less than a month that I have cried at an airport. (the other time was the result of a snowstorm, toronto traffic, and a 7-hour delay) 

When I gave myself a minute, I could see there were a million reasons why the morning hadn’t gone smoothly. It was an early flight, at an airport I’d never flown from before. I was up late the night before with one of my stakeholders. It had been a good but stressful week-and-a-half of living out of a suitcase and I had spent it trying to present my best, most grown-up self. It totally made sense that I wasn’t on my A-game. But that didn’t stop my inner monologue from turning completely negative: What is wrong with you how many times have you flown you look like you’ve never even seen an airport this is so embarrassing are you twelve years old.

I think what sucks the most about it is that I was feeling so good earlier in the week. I’d bonded with my coworkers, learned a lot about my job, got to see why everyone speaks so highly of my manager, and just generally felt mature. Like I could hold my own and not only look but also sound and feel professional, too. A lot of times, 25 feels like “two steps forward, one step back”, at least when it comes to my self-confidence.  But then I remember that growing up isn’t a video game with a series of levels that lock once you reach them. Just because I get a high score this week in “using industry jargon” or “rocking a blazer like a champ” doesn’t mean I can’t fall back a few levels in "beverage consumption" or "basic emotional stability". 

Is it just me, or does anyone else ever feel like there should just be some things that get easier as we get older? (like air travel)  

Sunday, 29 December 2013

The inbetween

I just love the week between Christmas and New Years. Sometimes I think I love it more than the build-up to Christmas itself. It feels so much more laid back than the rest of the month, and even though I always expect to feel sad because Christmas is over, I almost feel more festive and relaxed than I do before. It may be because this December has been so hectic with the moving and starting a new job and all the travelling I've been doing for work, but I've been cherishing these last few days so much. 

Some of my favourite activities for this "in-between" week include:

1. Cuddling in front of the tree with a good book

Even when I was living at home, it was always hard justifying reading for fun in December. If I didn't have exams to study for or papers to write, I had Christmas shopping to do or jobs to apply for. But the week after Christmas = no obligations. Absolutely perfect for sitting down with any books I received for Christmas or the magazines I've neglected in the pre-Christmas rush. I have such fond memories of the books I've read around Christmas time. I remember reading Harry Potter for the first time when I was eleven, and two years ago I devoured the entire Hunger Games series. This year I'm reading "The Forgotten Garden" by Kate Morton, but I'm looking for recommendations!

2. Watching a long(er) movie

My favourite is Gone With The Wind. I watched it for the first time a few years ago at Christmas when I was sooo sick I couldn't do anything else. I almost never have the stamina to sit through it during the rest of the year, when it feels like I should be doing more "important" things, but this time of year is perfect for it. Unfortunately for my family, it means that I will now be responding to everything they say with "Fiddle-dee-dee" and "Frankly, my dear father, I don't give a damn."

3. Long walks with my brother

Our family had a tradition of driving around looking at Christmas lights that has been neglected the past few years because of our schedules. My little brother and I have gotten in the habit of taking walks after the rest of the family has gone to bed, and talking about girl problems (him) and work problems (me). This year, I am especially appreciative of the fact that I can walk around outside in Ottawa without risking frostbite, which has not been the case in Thunder Bay.

4. Casual plans with friends

Whenever I come home for a weekend, I always get completely exhausted trying to catch up with every single Ottawa friend. It's just too much to cram into two days. This time, even though I am home for two weeks, I avoided making concrete plans, which means I've had the freedom to have 2-hour laid-back brunches with quality conversations with some of my friends, which I honestly think I prefer over rushed half-hour coffee dates.

What are some of your favourite things to do during the "in-between" week?

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Post Holiday Pintrest-ing

I hope everyone had an amazing holiday! I made it home despite the ice storm and have spent the last few days overdosing on family time, chocolate, and Pinterest.

My life has been really crazy lately, with moving and starting a new job, so I haven't to just gorge myself on the internet. I just moved into my new apartment the week before coming home, and I haven't set up internet yet, which means I've been DYING to get on Pinterest to start planning how I want to decorate my new place.

Here are some things that I've been coveting over the last few years (lets face at home and a million rentals doesn't give you many options!):

A classy gold bar cart

I know, these are all like a million dollars, and I have no hope in hell of finding one at a reasonable price, especially in Thunder Bay. But a girl can dream, right? Also, as this is my first time not living with parents or judgemental roommates, storing alcohol in plain sight has now become a wonderful freedom I plan to enjoy. 

A National Parks Explorers Map

My love of National Parks has been well established. I've wanted one of these for forever, but I wanted it to be nice and framed, and now I can FINALLY do it!

Vintage Marquee Light Arrow

This isn't within my budget yet, but as my apartment comes with a serious lack of overhead lighting, I'd love to have some unique lamps and lights on the walls!

 Nautical Shower Curtain:

I want this. I want it so bad. It's a little pricy for a shower curtain, but I have decided that my bathroom is going to be totally nautical. Suddenly having multiple rooms I can personalize has filled me with so much excitement! 

If anyone can point me to some good resources for pulling multiple styles together, please let me know. As excited as I am, decorating a whole apartment is a bit overwhelming! (and expensive)

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

First Day

Isn't it funny how First Days always stand out so vividly in our heads? I can't remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday, but I can recall EXACTLY what I wore on the first day of fifth grade at my new school (Black bellbottoms, platform keds, and a Titanic t-shirt).

My first day in England was spent bawling my eyes out in the Manchester Airport Crowne Plaza. My first day at Foreign Affairs was spent flinching every time someone walked by my cubicle, terrified that someone would realize what a fraud I was and tell me to go home. Obviously, I have great First Day memories, too. The first day meeting my flatmates at Lancaster, drinking tea in someone's kitchen and thinking it was all so perfectly British. The first day of my emergency management program, listening to the teachers tell us about the industry and knowing I was in the right place (though what came after was a lot more challenging!)

Yesterday was my first official day of my new job, and I have to say--it was great! One of the benefits of my new job is that it's quite mobile, so I started off the day by working from bed (the "horizontal office", as my coworker calls it) and making a million phone calls, trying to get organized for my move this weekend.

(I need to get a block heater installed in my car--one of the not-so-fun realizations of my new location is that it's so cold my engine will freeze without one!)

I also got to take my first "real" business trip. I'm in Huron County today taking a course for my new position, so I drove down yesterday afternoon. This is a picture of my hotel room--I have a feeling this is going to be quite a common scene as my job involves a lot of travel!

Honestly--I'm so glad I decided to take this job. I know that the next few months are going to be really hard, both work-wise and life-wise. Even this week, just trying to sort out the move and my first steps, I've come close a few times to a complete meltdown. But even though I'm a little daunted by the task ahead of me,  I am completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of support that I've had. It's reminded me that as hard as distance can be, it is survivable. It's never been the end of my relationships before, and it's certainly not going to be this time!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

New Adventures!

As you may have been able to tell if you follow me on Instagram, I decided to take the job in Thunder Bay. At first, it was with a sort of ambivalence. I knew I couldn't turn such a great opportunity down, but that didn't mean I was thrilled about it. 

As soon as I took the job, I ran out and bought new boots. Hopefully they will be warm enough! 
Last weekend, I flew up to Thunder Bay to look for apartments, and since then, my excitement has been growing. 

Don't get me wrong--it's was REALLY cold. And apartment hunting was exceptionally difficult, because Thunder Bay has one of the lowest vacancy rates in the entire country. 

But literally everyone I talked to loved living there. And they were all SUPER friendly. And Thunder Bay has a special kind of charm, one that I think comes from being so far north and so isolated from other major cities. 

And once my new manager made the announcement that I had the job, I got dozens of emails and congratulations from people, some of whom I had never even met. It was really overwhelming but so nice. I had people telling me how wonderful the city was, how fantastically lucky I was to being doing the job, and how they knew so-and-so who could help me out. 

(Then someone made the mistake of telling me I was the youngest person in the position by 17 years. And let me tell you, if I thought before that modesty was one of my strong suits, that delusion was quickly shattered.)

So I've been getting really excited to get started. And even though packing and apartment searching and trying to get everything organized has been soooo stressful, it's a good kind of stress. Like anticipatory stress. 

This is going to be the view from my apartment. For real. 

I'm really hoping that this is the start of an awesome new adventure! 

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Big, scary decisions

I have a big decision to make this weekend.

I've been offered a job. A good job. One might even say that it is my dream job, or it was, or it probably will be again, one day.

The problem is that this job is in Thunder Bay. Never heard of it? Trust me, a year ago, I probably couldn't have located it on a map. And now I'm considering moving there. By myself. In like, two weeks.

Here are some of the factors I'm considering:

  • This is an amazing opportunity, especially for someone my age. This is not a position I ever dreamed I'd have by 25. 
  • It's also an incredibly intimidating opportunity. I'd have to confront every professional fear I have. (Public speaking. Flying in tiny airplanes. Dealing with people who don't think I'm capable because of my age. Dealing with people who don't think I'm capable because I'm a woman. Having to know stuff for sure and communicate it with confidence.)
  • I'd also have to confront a bunch of general fears (Cold. Snow. Lots more cold and lots more snow and having to start all over again in a new place with no friends and no family)
  • Did I mention the cold?
  • It's a full time job. With benefits, and a pension. If I were to stay in Toronto, it would be with the knowledge that come January, I'd be going back to part-time contract work with no guarantee that another opportunity will come along. (That's only partly true. I'm pretty smart. I'll probably find another job...eventually.)
  • It would be an ADVENTURE. This is something that has been sorely lacking in my life lately. I would get to see a whole different part of the country, experience the north, figure out what the deal with Finnish pancakes is, and be paid to drive around and visit communities that I would never see otherwise. 
  • It would a CHALLENGE. A chance to get better at the things that scare me. Maybe it will turn out I love public speaking and flying in tiny airplanes!
  • It's far. Really far. For some reason, this wouldn't be as much of a consideration if the job were 18 hours south (anyone want to pay me to move to South Carolina?), but the fact that it is an 18 hour drive north, away from my family, is probably the biggest factor holding me back. 
  • It's gonna be friggin cold, y'all. 
So that's the debate. Do I take a job I feel woefully unprepared for, in a frigid city 18 hours away from my friends and family, or let this opportunity slide and keep doing the job I've been doing with the hope that something similarly great will come along? 

How is it that either decision feels crazy in it's own way?