To Vogue or Bust | Vancouver Based Style, Travel and Lifestyle Blog
My name's Alexandra Grant and I'm the creator and editor of To Vogue or Bust, my digital playground for sharing everything that inspires, moves and excites me! To Vogue or Bust is a space intended to give the modern millennial woman the roadmap to achieving a life that's as stylish as it is adventurous, empowered and fulfilled.
It’s no secret I’m obsessed with Chris Weber Hair (who runs the beautiful Vanilla Loft in trendy LoLo)—I’ve been seeing him for the last few years and every time I see him, I leave with my “new favourite hair.” Every time. A big part of that is that we’ve been building my colour and developing a style over the years, and that beachy brunette that I now consider my go-to (or dare I say, signature?) is totally his doing.
We recently did this gorgeous colour that was inspired by a recent Beyoncé snap at the NBA Finals where she has some beautiful highlights around her face and a really blended root—instead of her full honey blonde or a totally darker look, it’s the perfect summery colour for something that is totally beachy but without going too light. Chris totally nailed it, and hilariously while he was drying my hair I also immediately thought of Jennifer Aniston (not that I look like her, but the hair!). It’s just those perfect honeyed highlights around the face, the seamless blending of colour and that summery but polished vibe—think of it as beachy luxe!
To play up this new colour, after Chris had styled my hair (doing tight curls and then really brushing them out with a flat iron to create some edge to it, followed by Oribe texture spray and texture paste) he created the most incredible hairstyle that once I posted to my stories, I had about a gazillion DM’s about it. Best of all? It’s super easy to recreate!
While I can never match Chris’ skills, the real trick is just texture, clip placement and having some hold. Here are some super easy steps to achieving this gorgeous knotted + clipped half-up ‘do for your next wedding or special event.
This really looks best with some texture so however you want to achieve it, get some curl or wave—I typically do my best to replicate what Chris does by doing tighter curls away from the face and then brushing out well once they’ve cooled, or using a cooled down flat iron to straighten out ends and brush out curls.
Texture! You’ve got to build up the grit, which allows you to get that hold and also if you have fine hair like me, ensures that the knot even shows up, to begin with! We’re big fans of Oribe, which Chris’ salon Vanilla Loft carries (one of the very few in Vancouver that does!). I pretty much never do a style without Oribe’s texture spray, and if I want a bit more grit I use Oribe’s texture paste as well to add some separation.
Now the fun part—you literally grab two pieces of hair as you ordinarily would for a little half-up action and then you knot them together! You can play around with however you think it looks best. Once they’re put in place with clips, you can use your fingers to thicken them and muss them up a bit too.
Use clips of any size or type to hold it all in place (you could also use bobby pins if you have thicker/heavier hair and then clip over top). There are 3 different ways of clipping here—Chris used these gorgeous tortoiseshell clips from Nama, an accessories line created by Vancouver blogger Xander Vintage!
For extra hold, you can add a bit of hairspray (or I love something like the Beach Wave & Shine Spray) or some discrete bobby pins and then just comb everything in place.
This style will really work best on highlighted hair since it’s going to add that depth and texture to your hair thanks to strategic colour placement, though I’d imagine this looking beautiful on most any hair. If you’re in need of a new colour though, I could not recommend Chris (or my “hair guru,” as I like to call him) enough. His appointments calendar is proof enough that he’s beyond amazing—he’s consistently booked up (so enquire now if you’re hoping for a colour soon!) though he has also assembled the most incredible team at his salon Vanilla Loft. When I’m sitting in his chair by the door, I seriously marvel at how every person leaving the salon regardless of who they’ve seen has the best.hair.ever. Seriously!
Book in with Chris or his team here if you’re in Vancouver (or visiting!) and prepare to fall in love with your new style! Do you guys have any go-to wedding or special event looks? Tell me in the comments below!
You guys probably know by now that I’m a beach baby, or more accurately, just a total summer baby. I live for this season all year long, and once it comes I take any excuse to be out in the sunshine with my friends and loved ones, whether that’s upstairs on our patio hosting a little get-together, soaking in the sun at my cabin or at my go-to beaches here in the city. To that end, my absolute favourite beach is Third Beach—it’s situated in Stanley Park so is a bit of a way away from the downtown or west side beaches, and in my opinion, has the best water, actual beach layout (surrounded by the Sea Wall and the park’s gorgeous evergreen trees) and (very importantly) the best crowd.
As a West Coaster, over the years I’ve learned how to pull together a quick little beach picnic in short order—I like to thank my parents for this because we spent our whole childhood on the beaches (where both my parents were lifeguards during their university days) so they taught us all well in the fine art of beach setups! Here are some of my top tips for the ultimate beach picnic (which also happens to be supremely easy).
First of all, you need music—that’s key. I’m so excited to be partnering with Best Buy this year to share some of the most exciting product releases available at your local Best Buy or on bestbuy.ca—as you guys know, I’ve worked with them in the past and they’re a company I really love and believe in. Funnily enough, a lot of my birthday or Christmas gifts (for myself!) are usually from our local Best Buy on Cambie Street—one of my favourite additions ever was a Wonderboom speaker that has been relegated to our cabin for raft hang-outs, but it quickly got me hooked on high-performance speakers that also stand up to water (since so much of my summer hang-outs and relaxing is done near or on the water).
I was so excited to try out the JBL Charge 4 Waterproof Wireless Speaker, which you connect to via Bluetooth. In this gorgeous teal (it comes in a bunch of great colours!), I knew this would become an instant go-to all summer long. What I didn’t expect was all the amazing perks that went along with the speaker, like its charging USB port that allows you to plug in your phone if it’s running low on battery (ensuring your music never gets cut short) or its ability to let two devices connect, which means that you and a friend (or as is often the case for me, my partner who I’m always arguing with music picks over) can take turns playing DJ.
At full charge, this speaker will last you an insane 20 hours—there’s nothing worse than a portable speaker fizzling out in the middle of a party or if you’re out on the water and not near a charge station (which is something that actually happens to me a lot during the summer when I’m out on the raft or on a kayak) so it’s amazing to know that if you charge it overnight it will be good to last you all day (and beyond).
The waterproof design means that if your JBL Charge 4 accidentally takes a dip, you’re safe—its secure housing means that it can handle a plunge in the water and not break on you! I love that even at a low volume (because Third Beach is pretty peaceful and while everyone plays their own music, you don’t want to drown out anyone), the audio quality is so amazing—the speaker has a rich bass (you can actually see on either end the bass radiators do this cool reverberation effect in time with the bass, it’s actually somewhat hypnotizing!). If you have other JBL speakers or have friends who have them, you can team up for even more sound! The speaker can connect to up to 100 other JBL speakers. Anyway, I am absolutely obsessed—it’s the perfect sleek, light style to easily pack, but it really delivers on the sound. If you want to give my current beach playlist that I’ve been loving on my JBL Charge 4 a listen, I have it embedded at the bottom of this post!
In addition to music, you need the perfect lounging area. I love Turkish towels because they’re light and really easy to pack (meaning you can opt for multiples and create a big space for you and your friends), and they also get softer the more you use and wash them! This oversized one, in particular, is a favourite of mine—hilariously, I also got gifted a new one from Sicily by my parents that quite literally matches this one exactly, so I’ll be using them in tandem to create a massive seating area!
If you want to add in some pillows or other throws, I love loading up one of these seagrass baskets with anything else you might need as far as cozies—just load them up and then grab them by the handles to transport everything! Food is also absolutely key—I love fresh fruit at the beach always, so whether it’s watermelon, cherries, peaches, strawberries or pineapple, there’s always some sort of fruit on hand.
I’m not much of a sugar person, but in the heat, I crave a sweet drink, even better if it’s fizzy. This effervescent pink lemonade is such a good beach treat and makes everything feel even more special since I don’t usually have anything sweet drink-wise! A couple more snacks (gluten-free croissants for me, or a bunch of easy-to-snack-on veggies like snap peas or carrot stick), some good sun protection via a straw hat and SPF 60 and I’m set!
Like pretty much everyone else I know, I’m podcast-obsessed—they’re the perfect thing to put on in the background while doing just about anything, from working, commuting, tidying, going for a walk, etc. Being a small business owner, I’ve found myself attracted in particular to any that kind of fuse entrepreneurial tips with how to personally evolve—the lines between personal and professional are really blurred when you run a business and particularly when it’s a one-man job, so these podcasts and the lessons learned from them have been seriously indispensable to me. I love that podcasts are basically exactly that—in a busy world where it can be hard to take the time out always to sit down for a course or open up a book (though I do try to read every day), this is kind of an on-the-go way of still getting a great story, hearing some great tips or educating yourself in a major way. I wanted to share the 5 podcast episodes that for me have been pretty life-changing and I would love to hear your favourites too! Here are my 5.
5 Tips to Structure Your Work Day and Stay Productive
The biggest thing I struggle with working from home is getting distracted (and not being able to make the switch to being an early bird, but that’s a whole other lifelong challenge I’ve always been trying to change!). I put this on recently while tidying with the expectation that it’d be the same old productivity tips, but the tips that Jenna gave have seriously changed my productivity game immensely. The biggest thing was the “create before you consume” tip—basically, that before you start getting to emails, to social media, etc, you create what you need to really move the needle in your business. So for me, that’s getting blog posts done, working on a course I’m super excited to share more about soon, etc—in other words, creative work! I start to get those afternoon sleepies, which is actually a better time to start doing emails, catching up on social, etc. Definitely a must-listen!
So if you guys didn’t already know, I’m a big believer in all that’s woo-woo, but not only because I just enjoy it, but because for me it’s had real, tangible changes in my life. And not just in my business, but personally. The reason that East of Eden is my favourite book ever is because of the message in the book wrapped up in the Hebrew word “timshel,” which directly translates to “thou mayest.” Basically, it’s about how you choose, how as humans we’re not powerless to destiny—you choose your mindset, you choose your attitude, you choose your goals, etc. I was reading this at a really critical period of my life in high school when I had been dealing with years of clinical depression and believed that it was just my lot in life, and it’s what inspired me to make a choice, reclaim my happiness, change my thought patterns, get the tools I need to feel strong and most importantly, to know that I will always be able to choose in the future. Timshel is my life motto and it’s what has kept me happy all these years, but at an even deeper level, hypnosis (and self-hypnosis and even just self-talk) can make such a profound change on your thought patterns and in turn, your life. I won’t get into this episode too much here but it’s a must-listen.
The Science of Hunger, Optimal Health and Body Love
I was lucky through my 20’s to have a really fast metabolism, but not only did it start slowing down a bit as I hit 30 (sigh), but I also got hit with a pretty bad injury and the tummy troubles I’d had for years started to get worse. I needed to officially be aware of my nutrition in addition to being an active person, and while I’d grown up in a house where homecoming reigned and we always ate really well, I felt like I wasn’t quite getting how to fuel my body properly. This podcast episode couldn’t have come at a better time. Kelly Leveque (the nutritionist that Lewis had on) broke down the science behind nutrition so easily and deciphered why so many people struggle so much with common irritants (part of the reason I really avoid wheat usually now). I bought her book Body Love immediately and I’ve been starting every morning with a #FabFour (her signature nutrition guideline) smoothie every morning ever since. I feel like I really understand what I’m putting in my body now, how it helps it run well and how to keep my blood sugar ticking along well all day.
Other than this just being the most insanely soothing podcast ever, it’s one I could listen to on repeat because it also has such an important message for our hyper-connected, hyper-speed times. Learning how to be present, how to find the space and peace we need not only from the world at times, but from our own minds and the monkey chatter that goes on in there is one of the greatest tools and lessons we can learn. Also, hearing these two old friends chat and hearing that intimacy and familiarity between two such huge, iconic figures is amazing.
I talked more about this episode in a whole post here because it had such a tremendous effect on me—I listened to this years ago and still use the 5-second rule at least once a day (usually when I want to lie in bed longer). I won’t get into too much detail because I share so much in that other post, but not only from a productivity perspective but from a general mastery perspective, this rule is key.
I like to think my general sense of self-confidence doesn’t come from any particular willpower or positive self-talk—I really think it about 100% stems from the fact that as far as awkward high school periods go, mine was so tremendously awkward that by the time I started to grow out of it around 19, I was so delighted that I just was really grateful for every new turn of events, whether it was my eyebrows finally taking a shape that wasn’t caterpillar-like or finally shedding my baby fat. So long story short, all in all from 20 years old onwards I’ve always been pretty happy with how I look—it’s one of the perks of having such a rough go of it in high school that everything’s just a positive after that (and if you don’t believe me, take a look at this picture of me masterfully but sadly crushing expert-level minesweeper—it’s a real mood).
The one thing I do still grapple with as far as styling (or okay, two since I also struggle a bit with my chest, but less about how it looks and just how insanely hard it is to dress which I chat a bit about here) are my legs. I love my legs for many reasons: they’re muscular, they’ve carried me through all the things I love to do (swimming, running, weight lifting, volleyball, hiking, and ALL the water sports) and I honestly like the way they look too—they’re not and never will be stick thin, but they are strong and I like strong. But being called “thunder thighs” literally on repeat all through high school has a bit of an indelible effect on your perspective on muscular legs, even if strong legs are in now (thanks Beyonce!) which is something that cracks me up because it’s what I was taunted for most (along with my butt, which is another thing that makes me laugh now as I walk by a “booty builder” machine at the gym).
So again, while I made peace with my body years ago, accept my shape and am really and truly quite happy with not only how it looks, but how it allows me to move through life, I do still find myself coming up against some mental blocks here and there. Take, for instance, cropped jeans—this is one trend I’ve been obsessed with but every time I think about actually wearing cropped, wide-legged jeans, I immediately talked myself out of it. Between having muscular and short legs, I just decided it wasn’t worth even trying to style these up as they’d clearly add a bunch of bulk and shorten my legs in one go.
Finally, though, I decided to give them a go and all I can say is…what was I thinking?! Not only is this an insanely comfy style to wear, but I, for one, think they look awesome! I did play with them a bit by styling them up at home and found a couple of tricks that for me, helped me just feel that much more confident in them. I feel like these would translate for any body shape or body type though, so read on for a few of my go-to tips to make cropped jeans your new signature look.
So this first tip is the only one that might be more specific body shape wise as this is more for hourglass or pear shapes—I usually wear a size 27 in my jeans but took these Mavi Romee Wide Cropped Jeans (which are on sale now!) in a size 28, and the reason for this is that I didn’t want these clinging to my butt or legs. The waist is a bit big (if I was wearing anything more cropped I’d probably cinch in with a belt because you can kind of see the gaping otherwise) but it just made that breezy, loose look that much easier and it’s always easier to either cinch in with a belt or tailor them to take in the waist a bit than to try to make a tighter pair work. If you’re an apple or narrow shape, I’m sure you’re fine just opting for your usual size but if something is meant to be loose, it’s nice to just adjust the waist and really allow for that looseness through the legs!
I’m a big fan of cropped tops—paired with a higher waist in jeans or skirts, they’re the best look for hourglasses IMO so I honestly have a ton of them in my closet. This little eyelet strapless number I got last year from American Eagle is not quite a crop top but it’s got a short enough length that it works really well with these jeans (this similar crochet beauty would also be perfect!). With wide-legged jeans, they just minimize the amount of bulk and balance out proportions beautifully (they’re also amazing with culottes, you can see that combo here!).
A pair of nude heels is something I rely on so heavily as it is because of my short legs (I get put in the back of the car all the time because of “Alex’s tiiiiiny legs” as my friends/family say since I need literally no legroom). Since cropped bottoms can shorten me otherwise, I tried this look with nude heels and then added in some nude flats later in the evening when we had some more walking to do along the Sea Wall and both worked perfectly as far as lengthening my legs. Again, if you’re blessed with long legs you won’t need this but for anyone who wants to add the illusion of length, getting some killer nude-toned footwear is life changing! I get so much use out of these Ted Baker pumps.
Part of the reason I knew these Mavi jeans would be potentially great is because of the fading on them—with a darker rinse on the sides and fading in the middle, they help create a gorgeous silhouette on legs.
Honestly, these jeans will be worn on repeat all summer because they’re super comfy, surprisingly pair really well with my millions of shorter tops and are also really easy to wear! I can’t believe I held off on trying this trend for so long. Also totally unrelated to these jeans but how cute is this market bag?! I got it in Vic from the cutest general store, you can see more in yesterday’s travel guide! Love a travel find like this.
Coming at you with a seriously epic guide to gorgeous Victoria, Canada today and could not be more excited about it! Some of you might remember that Victoria was actually my home for a period of my life—I went to the University of Victoria there (psych grad!) and it’s actually where I met Matt, something I discuss in this post from an anniversary a few years ago. By the end of my university career there, I actually was very intent on staying permanently—I’d fallen so in love with the city and was so comfortable and happy there. But life took us back to Vancouver where both Matt and I are from (which is now somewhere I could never imagine leaving since we’re so settled into our space and love our neighbourhood) so now we just insist on going back to Vic as much as we can!
For anyone not from Canada or BC, Victoria is actually the capital of our province here in beautiful British Columbia and has a ton of really interesting history. Victoria (which is on the Southeast tip of Vancouver Island, very close to Washington, actually) was actually named after Queen Victoria, so it comes as no surprise that it has a lot of British heritage. It’s very different from anywhere else I’ve been in Canada so far—both Toronto and Vancouver are pretty modern (Toronto wins out on some of their heritage architecture though while we have aaaaaall the glass here in Vancouver), Montreal feels more like Europe, the Maritimes have more of a Celtic feel to them and can be quite rugged, etc. Victoria is the only one that to me feels very distinctly British, complete with that calm, quaint quality you’d connect a British village with.
As someone who gets the winter blues (which has improved for me a lot over the years but was actually at its worst in Grade 12, right before going away to university), Victoria was the most amazing change for me because it gets a lot more light than Vancouver and is the mildest place in all of Vancouver. It’s why it’s such a hotbed for gardening—plants and flowers seriously thrive there! It’s also got a ton of incredible wildlife, and if you’re lucky, you might even see some whales or dolphins en route to the island! But now to move onto the actual tips you need to build out your own dream Vic trip—read on to get all my tips!
I was so excited to try the relatively new V2V Vacations (just launched in 2017) for our crossing to Victoria—as someone who went to university here (and who continued to visit the island since I still had friends who stayed on there after I gradded), the number of times I’ve taken the ferry is honestly in the hundreds. To get out to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal is a decent drive in and of itself, but then it’s about 30 minutes from the Vic ferry terminal into downtown Victoria. Not to mention the ferry ride itself is about 90 minutes and involves cramming your car in with a ton of other people, eating ferry food and not exactly having luxe service. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on the ferry—I take the Sunshine Coast route all the time to get to our cabin and that trek never bothers me, in part because the departure ferry terminal is the much more accessible Horseshoe Bay. But it gets grueling for years straight!
What makes V2V Vacations totally different is that it is actually insanely convenient. You leave from gorgeous Coal Harbour (which for us living downtown is a 5-minute commute), which means you get the most amazing views of Vancouver on the way out. Seriously, people pay good money just to do a quick boat ride of the immediate area around Vancouver, so that it’s built into the V2V route is so amazing! You get the iconic view of Vancouver with Canada Place and all the downtown buildings in view as you turn and start taking Stanley Park in (which is equally iconic). Beyond that, you cruise by UBC and if you’re lucky like we were, this is where a resident orca pod likes to hang out! Was so unbelievably amazing to see them all breaching right next to us, I’ve only experienced dolphins or whales a few times before on the ferry and they usually keep their distance a bit more!
V2V isn’t just about the convenience factor and gorgeous route though—the service on board is incredible as well. We got to experience the Royal class, which is aptly named since we felt like we were treated like royalty. Non-stop refills on our go-to coffee (almond milk latte for me), delicious breakfasts complete with 3 courses and check-ins throughout to make sure that we had everything we need—it was such a lovely way to travel, not to mention it was nice to not having to worry about breakfast or making coffee breaks before boarding (which is usually a big concern for me—I typically have a whole bag of snacks and thermoses filled before taking other ferries to make sure I don’t starve on-board).
It was also really intimate onboard since V2V only seats ~240 people, meaning you aren’t doing the mad dash for a row of seats—everything’s seated so you have your own ergonomic seat all for yourself. A few hours after boarding, we glided into the beautiful Victoria harbour, which was also amazing! So nice to just wheel off your suitcase and make the short walk to your hotel.
On the way back, we got to experience something else we’ve never done before—Helijet! I’ve only ridden a helicopter once or twice before but Matt had never done it before so we were really excited about this experience. We got driven the 5-minute ride from the Fairmont (more on that in a second) to the Helijet landing pad in Victoria thanks to a Fairmont shuttle and got checked in speedily. Snacks, drinks and comfy seating abounded in their lounge, and within 15 or so minutes we got the call that it was time to board. We all buckled up and within minutes were in the air (which by the way, is a very different sensation in a helicopter than a plane—so cool to literally just rise up!). The views en route were amazing—from seeing Victoria itself below to taking in the Gulf Islands, I was desperately trying to snap as much as I could.
As soon as we passed the Gulf Islands and it looked like we’d be traversing the big blue for a while, the borders of UBC appeared and we were right back where we started in Vancouver, coming in for an insanely smooth touchdown in Coal Harbour again. All in all, the whole journey was about 30 minutes which blows my mind. The Helijet crew was also beyond lovely ensuring we had a shuttle after landing to wherever we had to go, which was in keeping with the amazing service we’d experienced with them throughout the whole journey.
I could not recommend either V2V Vacations or Helijet enough—it makes me laugh that for years I spent hours upon hours making the grueling commute back and forth from Vic and Van because both of these experiences could not have been more lovely, convenient, unique and really, just super special because of the vantage points and experiences both afford. From cruising luxuriously in the water to getting unparalleled views in the helicopter, both are absolute musts!
There’s so much to do in Victoria—from bike tours to food tours to hitting up its huge brewery scene to simply just eating your way through the city (because Victoria has the most eateries per capita in Canada, so you know it has amazing food), Victoria is a place that somehow caters to everyone. If you’re the more adventurous type, there’s kitesurfing, kayaking, whale watching, etc—if you want to do something more relaxing, there are famous gardens, high tea experiences, etc. Here are some of the things I’ve done and loved but seriously, you can’t go wrong with Vic—you’ll always be able to find something to do that’s perfectly suited to you!
Take a Bike Ride
When I lived in Victoria, I exclusively biked to get around. It’s actually the most bike-friendly city in Canada (which is unreal because Vancouver, as it is, is already a super bike-friendly city) so I could not urge you enough to rent a bike and cruise the city. We rented our bikes from The Pedaler (who also offers guided tours if you don’t know the city well or don’t want to go it alone) but we wanted to do the coastal route since Matt had somehow never actually cruised along there.
Dallas Road is a pretty iconic stretch of coastal splendour in Victoria, with gorgeous houses along both sides and the most unbelievable views of the ocean and mountain range in neighbouring Washington. We cruised along there until we hit Oak Bay, tearing down the hill eventually to get to Cadboro Bay (a place any UVic student knows well as it’s literally just down the hill from the university). We then headed up to the university and cruised around the grounds a bit—always feels so nostalgic to go back! I, of course, had to go say hi to my favourite desk where I spent hours studying because I’m super cool. I actually can’t wait to one day go back to university again (probably when I’m a lot older just to pursue something I’m really passionate about)—I’m someone who loves the atmosphere of a university and actually really enjoys academics, which is something I always feel lucky about because I know not everyone loves it! Just writing this makes me miss my amazing notes system (sounding just like ma girl Hermione Granger).
Whether you just cruise around downtown or do this coastal route (which I would really suggest doing!), you’ll get to take in the city in such a lovely way. I try to bike in every place I go, whether it’s a city like London or a countryside destination like Tuscany—I just think it gives you such a cool perspective on a destination and also allows you to see a lot in a short amount of time without having to drive and focus on the road (plus you get a more beautiful route!).
Visit the Parliament Buildings
With Vic being our province’s capital city, it naturally has some pretty gorgeous parliamentary buildings. What I didn’t know prior to this trip is that it was actually created by the same architect as the Fairmont Empress! Makes sense that the harbour is so spectacular since so much thought and attention went into creating a grand welcome.
You can actually enter the parliament buildings and wander around, which is really cool. I personally love to come back in the evening to visit them because the whole harbour is lit up so beautifully, with the buildings as the main show. It’s really so gorgeous.
You can actually enter the parliament buildings and wander around, which is really cool. I personally love to come back in the evening to visit them because the whole harbour is lit up so beautifully, with the buildings as the main show. It’s really so gorgeous.
I wanted to share a few of my all-time favourite travel snaps as desktop wallpapers—I don’t know about you, but having a dreamy view like the below snaps to look at while getting through work somehow makes the whole work day a lot easier! These are a few treasured shots from Portugal, Greece, Spain and Italy—just click on the link below each one to download directly and then you’re all set!
Finally!!! My gardening guide is officially here! Since my little seedlings have officially grown up (and are all potted and thriving, some a bit too much actually like my mutant dill) I felt the way I presume most other parents do—bursting with advice to share with any would-be (plant) parents. Before you claim that you can’t keep any plant alive and definitely don’t have a green thumb, let me assure you that I for years killed every plant we brought into our place, but when I finally decided to just learn the basics and apply myself a bit, our place has gone from a plant death trap to a literal greenhouse now. So if I can do it, you certainly can. And honestly, having our place brimming with plant life has made me so happy—our air is cleaner, our space feels more cheerful and we have herbs on-hand whenever we need them! Oh, and we’re helping out our little wildlife friends: bees, hummingbirds, butterflies and many more.
Now, this guide will be a bit more specific to urban gardeners because that’s what I am and I can’t unfortunately really speak to gardening in a plot of land (other than the teeny tiny plot my parents let me have at our cabin on the Sunshine Coast for my sunflowers). So I’m really confined to our 700 sq ft apartment (with the outdoor spaces as well, which we’re really lucky to have) but even without a plot of earth, I’ve managed to grow and care for a snake plant, sugar vine, mint, dill, chives, rosemary, delphinium, bamboo, pampas grass, 4 big planters filled with flowers and greenery (some of which I grew from seed, more on that in a second!), sunflowers both potted and in a big planter, lavender, kalanchoe, various cacti and about 2-3 other potted plants. It sounds like a lot but it’s really easy! Well, easy enough—it does take monitoring and you do have to care for them, but most urban gardening is pretty straightforward. So moving onto some of my tips!
A Quick Glossary
Here are some basic terms you’ll need to know to throw lingo around like a pro.
Seedling: think of this as the baby stage between a seed and an actual plant. Seedlings require extra love – as a quick example, your plant might not require a lot of watering when it’s fully established (like a cosmos), but as a seedling they usually need a little extra TLC—more water, sun, nutrients.
Seed leaves: are the first two little leaves that emerge immediately after germination—these typically don’t look like what most of the plants’ mature leaves usually look like and often fall off once the plant starts growing! They basically serve to fuel and the little germinating plant as it first pops out of the soil.
True leaves: as its name suggests, these are the first “true” plant leaves that will emerge above the seed leaves. You can see in the below pic my cosmos seedlings (which are now those big daisy lookalikes – they’re the ones above the chives to the left) have both their seed leaves (those flat ones closer to the base) and a pair of true leaves (the fringed ones), which is what they grow in abundance now.
Transplanting: this is taking a seeding and transplanting it to a new site or container. You need to take good care of your plant at this stage because some plants can go into transplant shock. Having said that, transplanting is a very good thing for your plant—it gives them the space to grow and really establish themselves so that like a human, they can start being a bit more self-sufficient! I find it’s best to do this after the seedlings have at least two pairs of true leaves.
Direct sowing: this means planting seeds directly where you’re going to grow them (i.e. you won’t be repotting it once it turns into a seedling, see the sunflowers below!), which allows you to bypass transplanting altogether. While you can technically do this with any seeds, it’s best done after the last frost (see below) if planting outdoors, and there are even some plants that you can grow indoors which actually need to be directly sown (like dill) because they don’t like being transplanted. It will almost always say exact planting directions on your seed packet to make things easy so don’t worry about having to figure it out on your own.
Last frost: both the last frost and first frost are important to keep in mind when it comes to any outdoor containers/plants you have. All it means is the last day you have frost (so for us in Vancouver, it was mid-April) and the first frost is the first day of the year that you get frost. You don’t want to sow seeds or transplant seedlings until the last frost has passed (which is different depending on where you’re based), and when the first frost is approaching, you’ll want to prep your plants. Which leads to…
Overwintering: basically a couple simple steps to allow your perennials (which means they come back year after year, as opposed to the aptly named annuals) to grow back and thrive again the next year. Think of it as your plant going into hibernation—it usually involves cutting back so that your plant’s lower to the ground (meaning it can conserve its energy towards its roots instead of extending it to its outer leaves/steps), adding some mulch or top soil, etc. It’s a super easy process but critical, something we learned the hard way when we didn’t cut back our lavender last year! We had to replace it altogether.
Deadheading: a super easy way of pruning back wasted or wilted flowers to allow for reblooming. I’ve deadheaded my cosmos and they’ve already rebloomed 2 times, and we’re already in May! It makes your blooming period last longer.
Tips For Urban Gardening
I have a whole checklist below because really the most important thing is just rounding up what you need and then putting yourself to the task, but if I had some general tips, they would be:
For growing from seed, get a bottom heater & a seed starter mix!
Not all plants need bottom heating to germinate but it makes a big difference for those that benefit from it and it really speeds up the process (plus they’re super small so will fit easily even in a tiny apartment). Growing from seed is a really cool process so if you want to try it out, get a bottom heat mat on Amazon (around $20) and watch your little seedlings sprout up! A seed starter mix is basically exactly what it sounds: a soil mix that gives seeds the nutrients they need to germinate.
Use a spray bottle for smaller or more delicate plants
Pouring water from a watering can drown your delicate baby seedlings—a mist will provide enough water and you have more control about where you aim it! Of course, once pants are really established and bigger it’s totally fine to use a watering can but a spray bottle is key, not only for seedlings but also for seeds (since a lot of seeds have to be at a specific depth to germinate, i.e. a few mm to 1 cm under the soil line and a watering can will burrow them too far into the soil).
Herbs and houseplants are an easy bet if you’re a newbie
If you’re feeling really hesitant about taking on anything too ambitious, start with a herb garden—it’ll train you up on different watering needs (dill doesn’t love too much dampness, whereas chives need more watering), you can harvest them year-round and they’re a bit more forgiving. If I leave my herbs for a weekend trip, they always bounce back really easily (though honestly, most plants will—they’re really resilient!). And houseplants are also incredibly easy – it’s pretty hard to kill a snake plant, for instance!
Avoid overwatering by testing dampness
The biggest mistake I’ve made in the past is that I’ve either just watered every day for fear of letting the plant dry out or taken the plant instructions way too literally (on those little cards that come with potted plants). While the latter offers a good general rule-of-thumb, everyone’s space is different—both inside and outside we get a ton of sun and our apartment heats up like crazy, so rather than following a “once a week” rule for something like kalanchoe, I just put my finger in the soil and check just past my first knuckle—it doesn’t need to be wet, but if it’s totally dry then it’s definitely time to water. Because of the way our space is in the summer, I have to water way more frequently than the recommendation, whereas in the winter I can taper way back – it’s all about just testing it instead of trying to make a guess at a glance!
Bottom water for smaller potted plants
Speaking of watering, this is my favourite way of watering for a few different reasons: it doesn’t drain out any soil nutrients by watering from the top, it allows for more control in watering and it means that water won’t pool at the base of a pot (which can lead to root rot), plus it hydrates your plants from the roots, which can sometimes get missed if you’re watering from the top and the water doesn’t make its way down. All you have to do is grab a container (I have a couple designated tupperware containers for this), fill it with enough water that when you put your pot in, the water level is about halfway up your pot. I usually set a timer for 10 minutes and then check the top—usually that’s enough time for the moisture to work its way to the top of the soil but if it still feels dry (using that same method mentioned above of checking at the first knuckle) then allow for more time. Some plants are especially thirsty so you may need to refill if it’s drinking it all up! Usually I can only do up to an 8-inch pot with this but have been known to fill our sink to get in our bigger houseplants like the money tree or snake plant!
Know when to size up
It’s important to repot as your plant grows—the snake plant I got about 8 months ago or so was a teeny tiny thing when I first got it (I kept it on our coffee table) and is now quickly turning into a behemoth. The thing that really helped it grow was taking it out of the 6 inch pot that it was literally exploding out of and putting it into about a 15 inch pot—this ensures that your plant doesn’t get “root-bound” and has the space to really grow. While you can’t really hurt a plant by putting it in a too-big pot, for the sake of space you can just scale up as needed over time. Plastic insert pots are pretty cheap so don’t let cost deter you as it’s super economical to buy new ones as needed, plus you can keep the smaller ones for sizing up seedlings!
When a seedling becomes a plant
This was a tricky one for me to figure out but after doing a lot of trial and research, I’ve found that taking your seedling from a seedling cell to a small pot (speaking of sizing up) is best done when they have their second set of true leaves, as I mentioned a bit earlier. You just need some little 3-4 inch pots for this as they do still need a bit of babying still after their first transplant but this is when you help the plant establish itself before repotting into a planter or even into the ground.
Soil is key
In general, plants need 3 things to grow: sun, water and nutrients in the soil. It’s important to pick the right type of soil depending on the plant so that it gets the nutrients it needs. It’ll pretty much always say on your packet of seeds or on the plant card (or you can just ask for help at your garden centre), but think of any warm-weather, indoor plants like snake plants, money trees, etc as requiring indoor container soil, whereas most outdoor plants (particularly ones that require a bit more moisture/water) will want a good outdoor container soil. Speaking of nutrients, have a good fertilizer that you can add to your watering mixture periodically – it varies by plant but typically I do every other week and just give a diluted mixture. It just gives your plants a boost!
Okay I don’t want to overload you guys so that’s where I’ll leave it with some beginner tips! I have a checklist above that you can pin for future reference or print off now to get shopping (and plant growing)!
What have your experiences been with gardening so far? I want to hear! Tell me in the comments below.
I don’t know about you’re based, but here in Vancouver, it is hot. Well, hot for Canadians. I’m pretty much exclusively in a little dress or shorts now, I’ve broken out the SPF 60 and I’ve swapped my desk for our upstairs patio as my workspace. As far as I’m concerned, it’s full-on summer now and I could not be more excited. Of course, my excitement for the season has probably already been pretty obvious—from my summer accessory report to my bucket list to my bathing suit guide, to say I love this season is a massive understatement (I love it so much I literally start planning everything out in April!). What can I say? It’s my favourite season and it is really and truly in full swing now!
I wanted to do a round-up of something that is so key to summer style: the chic (but very comfy) basic dress. For years, I had a closet made of exclusively colourful, printed or otherwise unique pieces—it made for a very individual wardrobe but in recent years, I’ve been really focused on basics because I just can’t be bothered anymore to “pull” a look together. And by that I mean take a piece with a lot going on and coordinate accessories, beauty, jewelry, etc. I’m 32, I’m lazy and I want to just throw on a well-cut, super comfy tank dress, slip on sandals and call it a day, damn it!
So this goes out to all of you looking for effortless summer style because to me, that’s what summer style should be all about: ease. It should be comfortable, it should be relaxed, it should be easy but of course, it should also be really cute. Here are 5 dresses I would highly recommend as the base of a breezy summer look.
1. The LBD
I did a little mini Forever 21 haul recently because I noticed they actually had some really cute linen pieces and picked up this little ribbed dress while adding things to my cart. This ribbed midi dress surprisingly ended up being my favourite piece that I got and I’ve worn it on repeat (oh, and did I mention it’s less than $30!?)—it’s so comfy and it feels/looks a lot more expensive than it was which is always a win. The wooden buttons are everything and it pairs beautifully with straw and other summer textures!
2. T-shirt Dress
I’ve been in quite the shopping mood recently so also grabbed some stuff from Aritzia recently. This T-shirt dress (on sale now!) is the breezy dress of my dreams—on the oversized side so I’d go for a smaller size. This is totally a personal preference but while I usually prefer slightly more fitted pieces because I’m hourglass (and find anything too loose or flowy kinda clings to my larger chest or hips and makes me look 50 pounds heavier), I actually would always opt for a T-shirt dress on the larger size because the whole point is that it’s supposed to be super comfy! And you can always add a belt to cinch in.
3. The Romper/Jumpsuit
So while technically not a dress, as soon as the temperatures climb I immediately bust out all my favourite jumpsuits or rompers. Speaking of my Aritzia haul, I also got the gorgeous Irène Jumpsuit in Goji Berry (a vibrant red, a bit of a colour pop for me!) and it’s so comfy and stunning on. And speaking earlier about hourglass shapes, jumpsuits are actually incredible for hourglass shapes if they’re on the breezier side as most of them usually have a cinched waist or drawstring!
4. A Linen Midi Dress
I have an obsession with linen—it’s one of my favourite fabrics to wear and I love how it puts off summery vibes more than any other fabric. This Old Navy dress is so cute and only $35!!! I personally prefer linen in its simplest forms: just a well-cut dress or T-shirt, some breezy pants, etc. All about pretty much finding all my summer essentials in linen form.
5. A Romantic White Dress
One thing I struggle with at every wedding (see my latest wedding style story here) is that my favourite tone to wear is actually white—juuuuust the most inappropriate colour to wear to a wedding and yet every single one of my favourite dresses, for the most part, is in white. I love white for many reasons, but most notably because it looks amazing with a tan, pairs incredibly with summer accessories (straw hats, espadrilles, basket bags, rattan, etc) and is super fresh and airy. And it keeps you cool! I’m especially in love with white in eyelet, this one from Anthropologie is so beautiful.
I hope you guys loved this guide! And more importantly, wherever you are in the world I hope you’re starting to get those summer vibes now. It’s been making me so happy to hang out on our patio and have a margarita and read a book—summer truly is the best. I have a few more options below that you can shop from if you’re similar to me in a shopping mood!
Happy Monday! I am so excited to not only be kicking off this week with a major dose of sunshine (the whole week is set to be gloriously sunny and I’m so happy about it) but I’m also feeling just about 100% again which is making me very, very happy. If you guys didn’t catch it on my stories a few weeks ago, I had a bad accident where I fell really badly down a flight of stairs (flew and then landed halfway down them is a more accurate way of describing it, actually) and I was dealing with a lot of issues afterwards, from my body being in a lot of pain to whiplash to post-concussive complications. I just hit the 3-week mark which is what it usually takes for a mild to moderate concussion to mostly heal up and I definitely feel like I’ve turned a corner, particularly in the old cranial area. Not only is a lot of the pain dissipating from where I landed, but my mind is just about full-force again—the hardest part about everything post-fall was honestly the constant drowsiness, sluggishness and inability to really focus or put myself to any mental task. Part of the reason this epic post had to wait a bit was because I couldn’t really look at screens for too long, but hopefully this is well worth the wait—it’s all about a special place, a special weekend and a special event so I’m so excited to dive in and share it all finally!
As you guys know if you’ve been reading for awhile, Whistler is something of a second home to me. I go up a ton all year long, whether it’s in the winter for skiing and a cozy getaway or in the warmer months when this famed resort town goes from being all about the snow sports to a serious paradise for any hikers, kayakers, bikers and really, any other way you love to explore the outdoors. With an early start to spring for us here in Vancouver and a forecast rolling in for Whistler that was in the mid-20’s, I was so excited to take off to Whistler once more, and this time for an exciting event that was pretty perfectly well-timed with the accident I’d had just a week before!
I got to head up to the “All About Me” Whistler Women’s Weekend in partnership with Fairmont Chateau Whistler, which (speaking of homes away from home) is quite literally my Whistler home—it’s the most welcoming, luxe and lovely stay. I always love my Fairmonts and the Chateau Whistler is a particularly special place to me. So not only would I get to stay there which I was already excited about, but I also got to experience one of the Fairmont’s newly renovated suites (more on that in a second, they are so gorgeous I really need to detail what to expect in them a bit more!) and I’d get a chance to take part in a wellness retreat aimed at educating, inspiring and uplifting women about their health—after feeling decidedly not at my peak as I continued to mend that weekend, this was exactly what I needed.
First, the new suites! The Fairmont has always nailed that cozy, alpine luxury that comes to mind when I think about Whistler, but their new suites take this to another level. With dark blue textured walls with brass grommets to exposed wooden beams to a fireplace space so well-designed it deserves its own Pinterest board, the suites are a slightly more modern and stylish spin on signature alpine style, with some serious luxury thrown in for good measure (just check out the famed Fairmont bed made up with the coziest pillows and comforters).
The bathrooms are classic Fairmont luxury: marble surfaces throughout the whole space along with Le Labo products personalized to the hotel (I never pack my own products because I honestly live for these Le Labo shower additions). In addition to the gorgeous bathrooms and living space, the bedroom was the most amazing sanctuary I could ask for with views of the mountain greeting me as I woke up in the morning and beautiful, unique design features like the ceiling structure. I’m honestly in love with the whole space—while being there on my own was actually kind of what I needed to just rest and reset, I can’t wait to bring Matt up soon because it really feels like the perfect romantic getaway (though the Fairmont always feels that way—we always love staying there together!).
Onto the weekend! We arrived on Friday and quickly checked into our gorgeous spaces. After soaking in our suites, we headed off to the welcome reception in the Fairmont’s stunning rooftop terrace. Did you know that the Fairmont grows and cultivates a lot of their own produce in this space, in addition to beekeeping and wildflower growing? So amazing! I like to eat very clean most of the time and have struggled with finding food at retreats/conferences in the past that didn’t make me feel sluggish or set off one of my sensitivities, but I was so excited to see at the welcome reception that all the food was not only insanely delicious but beyond healthy (which was fantastic since the whole weekend was really focused on health!). Delicious veggie curry bowls, vegan sushi, tasty skewers, etc. Everything was so good, and the amazing and healthy food was on hand all weekend at any of the workshop’s events too.
Given that I was still on that 10-11 hour a night sleep train post-concussion, after yin yoga with my lovely friend Lynn (who has a fantastic blog called What Lynn Loves), we got down to sleep early and woke up the next morning to have a delicious buffet breakfast at Wildflower, one of the Fairmont’s most amazing and well-known restaurants. We then soaked in the pool as the sunshine was seriously so amazing and the temps were really rising, taking advantage of the new cedar saunas that have just been put in poolside!
We then towelled off quickly to take in our first presentation. Maureen McGrath, our presenter, has a TedX talk with over 16 million views—not only did we learn a lot about vaginal and sexual health (something just about every women at any age could use education about IMO), but it quickly became apparent why her video has gone viral. She was so funny and introduced all the topics and material in such a fun and engaging way. It became evident in just the one day that the caliber of speakers at this event were all at another level—so accomplished and so engaging.
We had an incredible lunch at Portobello (one of my fave casual joints and thanks to a recent renovation last year, one that also boasts a new gorgeous space in addition to their incredible food) and chilled for a bit before getting ready for the Saturday Long Table dinner. I was so happy that I’d gotten some rest earlier in the day because the dinner was so much fun and well worth staying up past my (at the time) 10PM bedtime. The three-course meal was so delicious and it was amazing to get to connect more with the attendees at this event. Not only were the presenters all so inspiring and exciting, but it was really amazing to connect with other attendees and discover how accomplished, smart and fun they all were too. I’m a girl’s girl through and through so this kind of event was basically made for me—getting to be surrounded by women who were all there to take care of themselves (hence the name “all about me!”) and who were inspiring as hell.
Speaking of inspiring, at dinner Alicia (who I was so happy to attend with, so fun going with one of my girlfriends who was excited about and eager to learn about all the topics on hand too – make sure you check out her guide too!) and I were seated next to the lovely Kim Vopni, aka the Vagina Coach. While talking kegels and pelvic floor health is something that for years was only addressed post-pregnancy or as women were getting much older, I know firsthand how important it is to be on top of your pelvic floor strength at every age. I have some back issues—in addition to scoliosis (which surprisingly a lot of people have, or at the very least some sort of spinal misalignment), I’ve had some trauma to my low back. Actually, not only did I really hurt it when I was younger but writing this out now I probably didn’t do it any good by falling on the SI joint that gives me the most trouble just a few weeks ago—how hilariously fun for me. Anyway, in maintaining my back health and trying to ensure that I’m as balanced as I can be in my body to help out the things already working against my back pain, I have for years been working on my pelvic health. Engaging your pelvic floor is such a subtle and very specific muscle engagement sequence so getting to hear from Kim herself how she cues her clients, doing some exercises and learning more about how your pelvic floor health is tied to wellbeing at any stage of life (whether that’s as an athlete, going through pregnancy and post-pregnancy, keeping incontinence at bay as you get older, etc) was so enlightening. Seriously check her out on Instagram!
Thanks to a late check-out, we had time to go for a little stroll in the village and soak in the beautiful grounds around the Fairmont as well—while there’s always going to be that dreaminess to Whistler in the winter with snow all around, there’s something to be said for a gorgeous spring day too with the cherry blossoms against the mountainscape and lakes to swim in and hikes to take. I seriously just love Whistler so much!
When Matt and I first moved into our new neighbourhood (see more about our real estate journey in Fairview in last week’s post!), one thing we started doing at the start of every season was a seasonal bucket list. We’d always somehow do it on our walk home from our favourite go-to brunch spot Cafe Zen in Kits, with Matt taking notes on our phone as we agreed on each new entry (we’re not nerds at all, I swear!). Being in a new place, we were so excited to explore everything our new hood had to offer and we actually pretty successfully completed list after list for years. I feel like the older and busier we’ve gotten (and maybe the more we’ve taken this beautiful area we live in for granted) the more we’ve forgotten to do it – it’s now become a much more sporadic, once or twice a year thing (usually around the holidays when we’re also just trying to get organized between both of our family commitments!).
Being a bit more offline the last couple of weeks as I’ve healed from this concussion from my fall (and consequently, having time to just sit and think) got me thinking about how fun it was to create these lists and what a good challenge it was every season to not only do things we wanted to do, but that were maybe a bit outside of our wheelhouse or that would require a bit of extra planning. It also ensured that we had easy date ideas or even hang-outs with our friends or family lined up so that come the weekend when we were in a vegetative mental state from the week, we didn’t always just resort to a movie! So naturally, since it occurred to me we should do one again ASAP I forced Matt to plan one out for things we want to do together and also fleshed out a bucket list for myself – I wanted to share a few of the things I’m most looking forward to along with these snaps from my one last hurrah of spring at the beautiful Abbotsford Tulip Festival since we’re really plunging into summertime temps and content now!
Sunset Beach Picnic
We get pretty lazy about al fresco dining because we have our patio so we always default to there, but there’s something about actually being on the beach and packing up everything for an actual picnic that somehow makes everything feel so much more special. While I don’t think we’ll be slowing down on the upstairs BBQ’s or patio hangs anytime soon, I like having the beach picnic as a date idea because it’s a really easy one to actually pull together.
A Tofino Surfing & Camping Trip
We really fell for Tofino on our last trip there and while we surfed in the middle of a rain storm and it was epic, I really think it’d be so much fun to come up here this summer and catch some waves in slightly balmier weather. We really want to camp more this year (so kind of a secondary bucket list item) so talked about coming up and just camping at one of the parks here, renting a couple surfboards and having a really relaxing trip in our beautiful outdoors here in BC!
I was chatting with some of my BFFs this weekend about us doing an epic bike crawl this summer—we already did a little mini one earlier this spring and it was so much fun! I love everyone getting together as a little (road) bike gang and mapping out a few spots to grab food, beer or cocktails—this guide to some of my favourite bike routes in the city lists some of my fave ways to tour around by bike here in Vancouver!
I chatted a bit about this hiking goal of mine here but me and my dad (and maybe my little bro and Matt) have been talking about doing Garibaldi Lake in Whistler for a long time and I really want to make sure we do it this summer. I love hiking but have somehow never done an overnighter, so this is one I really want to make sure I pencil in (and it’s nice that I get the added perk of some solid fam time too).
Sunshine Coast Trail
Speaking of which, we did Tin Hat last year which is part of the famous Sunshine Coast Trail and it was really a solid, all-day hike and absolutely gorgeous—every summer I try to carve out some serious time up at my cabin so want to make sure I explore more of the Sunshine Coast Trail on my trips up to Powell River this summer, hopefully doing most of it in pieces (though some people do the whole thing in one go, something I’d love to do one day!).
Kayak Trip With the Family
I don’t know why, but while I like kayaking it isn’t actually my favourite water sport—I’d way rather canoe or paddle board usually. But the fact of the matter is, kayaking really can’t be beat as far as covering some serious ground (or more correctly, water) quickly and is an amazing way of discovering new places. I’d love for us to set off from either Deep Cove or Powell River, pack our lunches and water, put on some sunblock and spend a whole day exploring a new-to-us area. I’ll never forget when my brother and I set off in our canoe pretty aimlessly in Powell River only to discover the most amazing watering holes in the middle of the ocean (created in the formation of these big rocks, it’s really only accessible at mid-tide). Something about discovering a new place by water a) makes you feel like an explorer, and b) makes the place kind of feel secret and special because you usually happen upon it by accident.
As you can see, most of my bucket list items are super outdoors-focused, which is kind of always my modus operandi but especially in the summer! I’d love to hear some of yours: what would you love to do this summer?