Monday 15 November 2021

48 Hours In Stratford, Ontario - 2 Day Itinerary


Stratford Ontario Avon river

The quest for local travel continues, and my latest adventure finds me in Stratford, Ontario. I have never been to Stratford, but have always heard stories of its beauty and how it's one of Ontario's most picturesque towns. After having a friend move to Stratford and gush about not only how beautiful it is, but also how much there is to do there, I had to experience it for myself. My mom and I jumped into my car and made the 2 hour drive from Toronto to Stratford to stay the night and experience what the city had to offer. I can say that while my expectations were high, they were not only met but exceeded! We had such a good time exploring Stratford and while I had originally thought that 2 days, 1 night would be more than enough, I feel like be barely scratched the surface on what to see, do and eat! Here's our full itinerary on how we spent 2 days, 1 night (48 hours) in Stratford, Ontario.

The Restaurant at The Bruce Dining Room

Leaving Toronto at 10:00 AM to arrive in Stratford at 12:00 noon

Lunch at The Restaurant at The Bruce

After escaping the madness of Toronto traffic, we enjoyed a peaceful countryside drive to Stratford, Ontario and had lunch on our minds as we arrived. Our first meal of the trip was enjoyed at The Restaurant at The Bruce, a showstopper restaurant located within walking distance to Stratford's theatres with a focus on local suppliers and white-glove service. The restaurant itself is located within The Bruce Hotel, which sits on six and a half acres right in the heart of Stratford. We dinned on fresh lobster BLTs, a delicious charcuterie board that included local cheese and meats and enjoyed incredible service - even starting with a hot towel to relax and refresh before our meal! The Restaurant at The Bruce is one of those treat-yourself, celebratory spots that is best enjoyed in good company when you want to feel like royalty.

Stratford's Chocolate and Christmas Trail

Having never been to Stratford before, we appreciated having both The Chocolate Trail and The Christmas Trail to not only guide us in exploring the local goods that Stratford has to offer, but also to help us orient ourselves in Stratford's large and historic downtown. 

The Chocolate Trail is a self-guided tour that introduces you to our world- famous confectioners and bakers - and trust me, there are lots to discover! You’ll get to sample decadent treats and meet the makers who craft these indulgences year-round. $30+hst buys you 6 tickets that are able to be redeemed from a vast list of chocolatiers around the city, many of which are within a short walk from one another. The value is enormous, and I'm still eating chocolate from our trip - over a week later! You may also wish to listen to an audio tour to help with your Chocolate Trail experience, narrated by local musician Dayna Manning.

I was delighted to find out that Stratford is known for their amazing shopping, and The Christmas Trail allows you to discover the city's local shops and offerings! The seasonal holiday trail runs from November 1 until December 20th. It’s a retail focused trail; $30 plus HST and allows participants to choose 6 stores from a list of 26 to redeem a holiday themed gift!

Both The Chocolate Trail and Christmas Trail are available to purchase online, to then be redeemed at the Destination Stratford office at 47 Downie Street (a very convenient downtown location.) Or you can simply pop into the office during their opening hours and purchase both trails on-site.

While you're out enjoying both shopping trails, you may want to find a cozy café to warm up in, get a caffeine boost and plan your route! We enjoyed grabbing at cups at Balzac's in downtown Stratford, their very first location!

Take A Scenic Nature Walk Along The Avon River

After shopping up a storm and orienting ourself in the downtown area, we had a bit of time before checking into our hotel for the evening. The Avon River runs through Stratford and is positively stunning this time of year with the changing fall leaves and colours! The River itself provides a lengthy walking and bike trail, which we enjoyed to walk off all of our chocolate indulgences.  

You can also walk or drive along the river and visit Tom Patterson Island to admire our Lights on Stratford, a beautiful summer pop-up light display! The Winter Festival of Lights will be coming to Stratford beginning December 17 until Jan 28, 2022.

Check Into The Edison Inn

Did you know that Thomas Edison lived in Stratford, Ontario? Not only did we just learn that fact on our trip, we became immersed in the history of it when we stayed at The Edison Inn, a boutique hotel full of personality with 3 eclectic rooms right in the heart of Stratford! We actually stayed in the Edison Room, which was so cool! I loved the unique design of the hotel, as well as how hassle-free the experience was. You receive an email with the door code and your room code on the morning of your stay, and have the owner's contact information should you need anything. Amazing! Our hotel stay also included free parking and because it's so centrally located, we kept the car parked the entire time and explored 100% on-foot.

The room itself offered many practical amenities, such as an in-room coffee machine with large mugs, a mini fridge and freezer and a proper bathtub as well!

Enjoy Dinner and A Nightcap

Getting a preview of how exciting Stratford's restaurant scene is during the day, I was very excited for dinner and drinks out. We dined at The Alley for dinner, a Stratford institution that has recently gone an overhaul with a whole new concept and menu. The food is asian-inspired fusion, and the flavours and portion sizes were incredible. My mom and I wanted to try a little of everything on the menu, so we enjoyed 3 appetizers, 2 mains and were so stuffed that we had to pack the majority to-go! I would recommend the Bao Bun and the Bo Ssam, so so good! 

After dinner, we were able to drop off our to-go containers at The Edison Inn (one of the major conveniences of having a hotel that is so centrally located) and headed to The Relic Lobby Bar,  a neighbourhood cocktail bar that has Cuban-inspired design. The atmosphere is warm, inviting and cozy and the energy was great! We both really enjoyed our cocktails, which were crafted with care and expertise. I would definitely love to return on my next trip.

Because both the restaurant and bar were within close walking distance to our hotel, we leisurely headed back to The Edison Inn for some rest after a busy day. 

Day 2

Breakfast At The Edison Café

As if The Edison Inn couldn't be any more incredible, they have Edison's Café Bar located right at the base of the building! That means strong and delicious espresso-based drinks and a healthy breakfast was just what the doctor ordered to fuel us for another day of exploring. Their menu is mostly plant based and their baked goods are grain, dairy and refined sugar- free. We chose to eat in the café, but you could also take your meal to-go to eat in Market Square, walk down to the river to eat on a picnic table,  or even take to go and enjoy in your room!

Visit Gallery Stratford

Visit one of Ontario’s longest operating public art galleries, which is free for the public and has lots of parking! Founded in 1967, the Gallery has established itself as one of the region’s leading art galleries, organizing exhibitions of local, national and international visual artists. We really enjoyed the highly curated collection and exhibits that were being shown during our visit, and even got to experience a Virtual Reality art piece - something I've never done before!

The grounds of Gallery Stratford are something else, and were a must-visit during the changing of the leaves during Fall.

Grab a To-Go Lunch For The Road

Although we could have stayed in Stratford for for the full day and enjoyed another dinner in the city, we wanted to hit the road to avoid the inevitable Toronto traffic. While our original plan was to enjoy one last sit-down meal before our drive, we were still way too full from breakfast! Thankfully we had heard amazing things about Sirkel Foods, touted as the best takeout sandwich, salads and soups you'll ever have! I'm THE sandwich gal so I was game to try. Listen, when I tell you that these sandwiches and salads are amazing - and the portions are huge! My mom and I actually ended up eating our lunch fare once we got home back in Toronto and both couldn't believe how much food there was - we even had enough to feed my husband! I would 10/10 recommend.

After two days in Stratford, Ontario, both my mom and I agreed that it wasn't enough. I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to visit this picturesque city in the fall, and can only imagine how beautiful it becomes in the winter and during the holiday season. I'm a big fan of Stratford and am so glad that it's always just a short drive away from Toronto. We'll definitely be back!

What do you think? Have you ever visited Stratford, Ontario? Let me know!

xo Joëlle 


Monday 1 November 2021

5 Worst Money Mistakes I Made in my 20s

One of the topics I really want to talk about here in my blog is the business aspect of blogging and freelancing, as well as money management. Now, I know money is an uncomfortable subject to talk about, but it is a fact of life. The more comfortable you become in speaking about it, the more successful you tend to be in terms of accumulating money and living comfortably. So, in the spirit of money management and financial gains, I’d like to share the big mistakes I made with my money in my twenties, which have definitely taught me some really great lessons and have shaped how I deal with money now that I’m in my thirties.

Leasing and Buying a Car

Cars are such a precarious investment, I learned. They basically depreciate as soon as you drive it off the lot. When I leased my first car, I thought I was saving money because I have lower monthly payments. But in actuality, I didn't consider its long-term effects. 

Before I continue this story, though, it’s important to note that when you lease a car, you only get a finite amount of miles you can use. Now, for the first couple of years that I was leasing my car, I was only driving it to and from work, so I wasn’t using it that much. But then, I went back to school and had an overall two-hour-long commute. 

Long story short, when my lease was up, I had gone way over my allotted miles. So, it made much more sense to sell it back to the dealership and buy brand new, which is another huge mistake. I financed this new car for five years, and I was paying way more interest. By the time I paid it off and was ready to sell, it was basically worth nothing. 

Now our family only has one car, which my husband and I share. We bought it used off of a dealership, and it saved us so much money while still giving the benefits of a new car. I wish this is something I had known in my early twenties, but it was also a big financial lesson for me. If you’re thinking of getting a car, just be aware that it’s not necessarily the best way to invest your money, and I hope you will not repeat my mistake.

Living at My Means

What this means is that all of my monthly earnings went to paying my living and everyday expenses. This includes rent, groceries, going out, and everything in between. Back then, this didn’t seem like a big deal, especially since I’m not going in debt and I could afford everything I needed to buy. But, I've learned as I've gotten older that it’s really crucial to live beneath your means and save up, especially if you want to live a comfortable life. This way, you have a cushion, should anything happen. 

While living beneath your means isn’t as exciting as spending your hard-earned money on more things you like, it’s crucial in building up good savings to give yourself that allowance if things don’t go according to plan (because, guys, life doesn’t always go according to plan!). This wasn’t something I was thinking about in my early twenties, and as a result, I started saving for my future a lot later than I could have been. 

Goal-Based Savings

This goes hand in hand with my previous mistake. Now, I did save in my early twenties—I would use the majority of my earnings for my lifestyle and also save a little bit of a nest egg, but it wasn’t for anything long-term. My savings were always for a particular tangible goal, product, or experience, and never for future planning.

One instance was when I used all my savings to cover my summer trip to Europe. I didn't have any plans for that money over and above that trip. Once it’s over and I got back, I was back to square one. 

While I did get into a habit of saving in my twenties, that money was always doomed to be spent and I would start at square one again. Now, when I look at my savings method, it's so much easier to have a savings plan that’s going towards retirement or a rainy day fund. But, I also have savings for anything tangible I may want in the future. 

Buying for Specific Situations / Situational Shopping

We can't talk about money or money management without shopping habits. When you're young, it’s definitely very tempting to just go and blow your money on anything. And, a big mistake I’ve learned I made in my twenties is that I would do situational shopping. Meaning, if I had a party coming up, I would buy a dress for it, and it was a one-and-done thing—buy the dress, wear it to the party, discard said dress, move on. The same thing goes for anything material, too. 

On top of my disastrous money management, I also found that I curated a very disjointed wardrobe with this habit—I bought cheap, fast fashion clothes, which were disposable and bad for the environment.

Now, in my thirties, I've learned to be a little bit more mindful with my shopping. I’m more apt to buy a dress and wait for a certain or multiple locations to wear it, as opposed to buying a dress for only one occasion. When I started implementing this, I found that I've saved so much more money, and I'm less likely to make poor financial decisions.

Eating Out for All Meals

I spent a lot of money on food in my early twenties—and I’m not talking about groceries. I worked as a waitress and a bartender, so I was in restaurants all the time. Because I was working really crazy hours, I ate the vast majority of my meals out—and I don't have to tell you why that is a bad financial decision. It is so expensive to eat out, even if it seems inexpensive at the time. That’s basically money you're never going to see again.

Another detriment to that is I really didn't learn how to properly cook for myself or do groceries—you know, tangible life skills. These came a little bit later for me. 

Choosing to pay for convenience definitely comes at a price. I'll be honest, I still struggle with this “eating out” issue on a weekly basis. I feel like we eat out way too often, but we certainly eat at home a lot more, and I saved so much money than before.

I like to think I have learned a lot from these experiences and, while I'm certainly not perfect, I've continued to learn. It's always nice to look back at what you did before, just so that you don't make the same mistakes. It’ll also help to shape you into being a bit better of a saver and money manager moving forward. 

While money is definitely not the most fun topic, I think it's important to get the dialogue going. The more comfortable we are talking about money and finances, the more mindful we become when we think about these things, and that just leads to a more prosperous future! So, what about you, what are some mistakes you made—or are even making now—in your twenties? What lessons have you learned from it? Let us know in the comments section!

Xo Joelle 


Tuesday 5 October 2021

Montreal City Guide


Montreal City Guide 2021

I'm sure that I'm not alone in saying that one thing that I've missed greatly since March 2020 has been travel. I love to travel so much, and after a pause from a worldwide shutdown I was ready to get back into it! While the boarders have opened up, Brian and I were craving a couples getaway and weren't quite ready to leave the country without Benny yet (we had actually planned a trip to NYC and canceled, a story for another day.) So where does one go when they want to stay within Canada and still feel like they're experiencing a different culture and atmosphere? Montreal, of course!

Montreal is touted as Canada's Island getaway, and honestly with the difference in architecture, language and energy from Toronto, it truly felt like we were getting away. Montreal is a big Canadian city that's abundant with European charm, rich in history and absolutely overflowing with culture. For us, it was an obvious choice as an easy getaway from Toronto and I wholeheartedly recommend visiting Montreal, whether it's a domestic getaway or international destination. Here are some details on our trip, where we stayed, where we ate and what we did while visiting Montreal.

A Note Before You Book

At present time Montreal, as part of the province of Quebec, requires proof of vaccination for a majority of leisure activities; including but not limited to any indoor dining, gyms, music festivals and theme parks. While the province is operating on their own app and QR code, it is not yet available to residents outside of Quebec. 

If you are visiting, are over the age of 13 and you have had your second dose of vaccine over 2 weeks ago, then simply provide government issued proof of your second dose and a piece of photo ID.

Where We Stayed

Knowing that we would be on-the-go the entire trip to Montreal, I wanted a location that was both luxurious and centrally located within the city. I was so happy to find out that we had been booked into the W Montreal, an iconic brand that offers chic and modern designs and is known for their guest experience. 

The location was perfection, within walking distance to both Old Montreal and the shopping on Sainte-Catherine Street. We parked our car with the hotel and while we rarely had to use it, it was always quickly retrieved from the Valet when we needed it. The W Montreal was also the best of all worlds in terms of ambience and comfort; there was a nightly DJ in their gorgeous lobby with bartenders expertly crafting cocktails, but then you couldn't hear a peep once it was time to retire to your room. Perfection, especially since I'm very conscious of noise when I'm traveling! I also appreciated the fact that the in-hotel restaurant Tbsp. offered a delicious breakfast, as well as strong espresso-based coffee. 

Local Cafés

Montreal's independent café culture is vast, and expanding by the day! Every neighbourhood has a collection of independent coffee shops that are unique one to the next, and offer something a bit different. We were lucky enough to have a guided café and pastry tour of some notable cafés in and around Old Montreal. The tour was excellent, and a perfect way to start our trip as we learned a lot about the history of Old Montreal. For example, did you know that Montreal was once a fortified city? I thoroughly enjoyed our tour and had the best time sampling local coffee and pastries. Here are a few cafés that really stood out.

Crew Collective

Voted as one of the most beautiful cafés in the world, Crew Collective & Café inhabits the historic old premises of the Royal Bank of Canada. Built in the ‘30s, the breathtaking space with intricate vaulted ceilings and gold tones has been preserved and makes for a spectacular place to have a cup of coffee and get your Instagram shots. The details are unparalleled and I love how they repurposed old artifacts from when it was a working bank.

Olive & Gourmando

Open 7 days a week, Olive & Gourmando is a cozy bakery/grocery store/bistro that serves up tasty and delicious food for breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch. If you visit, you absolutely NEED to try their butter croissant. I was told that it was the best in Montreal, and I definitely agree. So good.        


Located on the top floor of the SSENSE fashion building in Old Montréal, the SSENSE MONTRÉAL café is a cement-clad, minimalist space with a beautiful shadow show created by the long skylights in its ceiling. The modern design of this chic café is in beautiful juxtaposition to the historical architecture of Old Montreal

Tommy Café Old Montréal

Tommy Café + Apéro is a neighborhood coffee shop and bar. Established in Old Montreal, Tommy offers a wide selection of coffees, pastries, snacks and drinks — seven days a week. A balanced blend of modern design, mid-century furniture and Victorian architecture. I especially love the use of greenery in the space, and it's always bustling with people grabbing coffee to-go, or hanging out on the stairs outdoors.

Maison Christian Faure

A chic pastry shop-café-boutique where you can satisfy your sweet tooth or learn to make delicious treats during a workshop. Maison Christian Faure is very light and bright and the perfect location with water views. I enjoyed a canelé and Brian loved his macarons!

Where To Eat

Much like the local café scene, Montreal's independent culinary scene is absolutely electric and is growing by the year! Big-name chefs that call Montreal home and smaller indie restaurants line the streets of all of Montreal's neighbourhoods and the selection is so vast that it can be overwhelming! We thoroughly enjoyed all of our meals, here are a few of our faves.


I love a good neighbourhood pizza joint, and Moleskine fit the bill! Both casual and family-friendly, and with a more intimate wine-bar upstairs, Moleskine has it all. The pizza is also top notch, and would even make a good option to grab dinner to-go to enjoy in your hotel.

Sho-Dan Restaurant 

We had heard of Sho-Dan long before we had the opportunity to try it out, and it does not disappoint! Outstanding freshness, incredible artistry and a long list of celebrity guests throughout the years - including Ms. Britney Spears!

Monarque Restaurant

I have to say, our dinner experience at Monarque really stole the show and I thoroughly enjoyed our entire meal. The menu is curated to be enjoyed in 3 courses, and is an unforgettable mix of upscale presentation and soul-warming flavours. If you're in Montreal for an anniversary, a special celebration or just want a treat-yourself dinner, you'll love Monarque.

Mandy's Gourmet Salad

Whenever we had to grab a bite on the run, there was usually a Mandy's close by and the chopped salads are healthy, delicious and super convenient to eat on the run! Plus their interior and aesthetic is very whimsical and beautiful, I can't wait for their Toronto location to open up.

St.-Viateur Bagels

An absolute Montreal Classic, St-Viateur Bagels have been defining the art of bagel making since 1957. This is your quintessential, classic Montreal-style bagel and I am not exaggerating when I say that Brian and I brought 4 dozen home with us to Toronto to freeze. They're that good!

What To Do

There is so much to see and do in Montreal, that we barely made a dent on our list in 4 days! The beautiful thing about Montreal as a destination is that there is lots of variety for any sort of travel: family-friendly, the solo traveler, a girls getaway or time spent alone as a couple. Our trip was the latter, so here is what we most enjoyed getting up to in Montreal. 

Take A Bike Tour

I can't say enough good things about our bike tour through Montreal's North neighbourhoods with Fitz Tours. Seeing and learning about a side of Montreal that is not as easily recognized by tourists was incredible, and we learned a lot about the history of Montreal's communities and their continued evolution. My only piece of advice would be to take a bike or walking tour closer to the beginning of your trip; that way, you can map out places that you would like to visit or further explore on another day

Visit A Museum

There are many world-class museums in Montreal, and my favourite has to be Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA or MBAM.) Drawing over 1 million visitors annually, the MMFA is one of the most visited museums in North America. Its highly original temporary exhibitions combine various artistic disciplines – fine arts, music, film, fashion and design – and are exported to the four corners of the world. Brian and I really enjoyed their selection and were really excited to see a Basquiat, one of my favourite artists!

Hop On A Boat

We were lucky enough to also have a quick boat tour to learn more about Montreal from the water!
Le Petit Navire is an ultra-quiet, zero-pollution electric propulsion boat (carbon neutral certified) designed for ultimate touring. I thought this was a great way to spend a sunny afternoon, and also loved that you could enjoy a cold beverage onboard!

After 4 magical days, our trip to Montreal had come to and end. I so enjoyed this trip, and I feel so grateful that such an incredible destination is available to us in Canada. With the world the way it is, everyone's situation and comfort levels will be different when it comes to travel. No matter what the situation, I would encourage you to give Montreal a try! I can't wait to go back.

Have you been to Montreal? What places do you recommend to check out? Let me know!

xo Joëlle

This trip was taken in partnership with Montreal Tourism. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Monday 16 August 2021

Pros and Cons of Living in Toronto

As a content creator living in the city, with most of my content centered around living in Toronto, I get a lot of questions about what moving here would look like. Instead of answering your questions individually, I thought it would be great to address your concerns through a post. 

Now, for context, here’s what you need to know about me. I’ve lived in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area for almost 11 years now. I have a young family—a husband who works in the city limits, a toddler son, and a dog. Prior to moving into a neighbourhood within the city last year, we were living in a condo downtown. 

DISCLAIMER: Everything I’m going to mention here is totally from my point of view. If you’re serious about moving to the city, I highly encourage you to research, so you’ll know if this can work for you and your family.

Pros of Living in Toronto

There’s Always Something to Do in Toronto

This city is incredible! There's always an event, there's always a concert, an art exhibition, artwork on the street on any different night—there's so much to do! And, it’s not only for the single and young who want to meet people in the city. It’s also for young families. Prior to the lockdown, I had so many things available for me to do with my baby. 

As someone who came from a smaller town, I was so impressed, and continue to be impressed, with how much there is to do in Toronto. Whatever your interests are, whatever you like to do for fun, I promise you will find so much to do in the city (even when we’re in lockdown!). Toronto is just a great place for entertainment and finding things to do.

It’s Easy to Meet People in Toronto

As I’ve said, I grew up in a small town in Ontario, and I’ve always interacted with the same people I went to highschool with. Because of that, I found that it was really difficult to meet new people. Everybody kind of knew you, and it was hard to branch out. Also, most people were set in their ways with their own group of friends. So when I moved to the city, I thought it was so refreshing and very easy to meet people. 

There are certainly people who have grown up and lived their entire lives in Toronto, but there are also a lot of other people who have moved here from different towns and even countries. A lot of times, these people are also looking for others to connect with. So, sometimes you do have to put yourself out there a little bit to make that connection. 

I feel like Toronto has a reputation for being mean and snobby, and that might be true. But, if you break through the surface, everybody just wants human connection. And, because of the city’s transient nature it's easy to meet people.

I've always found that when I'm lonely and I put myself out there, the people I meet are usually in the same situation, and a great friendship is born as a result. I've met so many incredible people in this city and continue to do so. 

Toronto is a Mix of Different Cultures

You can often hear people talk about the food scene in Toronto and how amazing it is. This is because there are a lot of different cultures in Toronto, and with that, any and every cuisine you want is available to you, and it is done perfectly! We have a mix of different cultures and, despite the issues there may be, each of them is celebrated and has a strong community behind them.

I’ve had my fair share of traveling, and when I eat delicious food in my travels, I can often pinpoint it back to a restaurant back here in Toronto. I’ve also had a running list of restaurants I wanted to try for years now, and still I’m nowhere near complete!

Walking Culture

A lot of times, instead of taking public transit, I would prefer to walk to my destination. And, although we have a car, we very rarely use it. There’s actually so much to do within the neighbourhood without jumping into a car—I can do all my groceries, get all my essentials, do all my shopping, and eat out at tons of places. I just love the walkability of the city, and I love doing all my errands on foot.

Toronto has a Lot of Green Space

In terms of big cities, Toronto actually has a lot of green space. There are usually multiple parks to hang out and take a load off. In our area alone, we have so many different parks, parkettes, and playgrounds, so it’s been interesting raising a child in the city. Compared to my parents’ place in the suburbs, where there’s only one or two parks within walking distance, our neighbourhood has a dozen!

Cons of Living in Toronto

Living in Toronto is Expensive

Toronto is a very expensive city. To put it into perspective, the average price for a single detached home within the city limit is one million dollars. And it’s not even a mansion a celebrity lives in—it’s a fairly modest and basic 1,000 to 2,000-square-feet home. And because it is so expensive to live within the city limits, it has caused a ripple effect to all of the surrounding cities, which are used as commuter cities for Toronto.

There is an Affordable Housing Crisis in the City

My second point goes hand-in-hand with my first—housing prices and living expenses within the city are definitely a concern, and you’ll hear this a lot in Toronto conversation. Because of this, Toronto actually has a bit of a homeless crisis. People who come from the suburbs or the country may not be aware of this, but the reality of living in the city is that you’ll see homeless people fairly often, if not everyday.

So, if you're thinking of moving into the city, just be aware that there’s not a lot of affordable housing—whether you’re planning to rent, own a home, live in a condo, or share it with roommates. 

Expensive Childcare

Months and months before my son was even born, I was on the waiting list of about 15 daycare centers. Thankfully, we have secured childcare now, which I am so grateful for. But, of those 15 places I signed up for, only one ended up calling me back! I’m fortunate that somebody actually gave me the nudge to start putting my name down before my son was even born, because I would never have known!

Now, this is something that may not affect a lot of you, but if you are a family with young kids, this aspect is something to consider. If you're moving into the city, it’s ideal to look into childcare and, hopefully, secure a spot for your children before you even get to the city.

Public Transit is a Mess

I'm actually from a small town in Ontario. Moving into the city, I learned that having access to public transit, which gets you anywhere, was a bit of a luxury. While you can pretty much get anywhere in the city on public transit, it is not going to be easy. 

We have a fairly inefficient public transit system—there are often delays and work being done on them. If I'm going somewhere on public transit, I usually allocate double the amount of time it should take to get to my destination (and oftentimes I'm hitting pretty close to that benchmark).

So, yes, while public transit is readily available within the city—we have lots of busses, streetcars, subways, and GO trains—it’s not always the quickest and most direct route.

The City is Very Noisy

Having come from a condo downtown, I will say that the city noise was a regular part of our life. You constantly hear people on the street, cars passing by, horns blaring from the traffic—it’s a very, very noisy city.

Now, for some people, this might actually be a positive—it kind of creates this electric energy on the street. But, for a first-time mom trying to get her baby to sleep, the noise can definitely get to you. So, if you're somebody who craves solitude and quiet, it’s wise to consider that Toronto may not be for you. 

Hustle Culture Is Real

This “hustle culture” probably goes hand in hand with how expensive it is to live here in Toronto. I find that it’s definitely pro-work, pro-grind. People want to get it done and respond to emails late at night on the weekend, and most of them have multiple side hustles. This may be positive for some people (it actually is for me)—this mentality can drive them forward, and they may even find fuel and motivation in this (like I do). But, on the other side of the coin, it could be negative for those who just want a simple, quiet life—and there's nothing wrong with that.

I truly love living in the city, and I can talk about it for hours! But, I also recognize that it’s not without its faults.

So, what about you? Did this convince you to move to the city, or have you realized Toronto isn’t for you? Do you have your own pros and cons list of living in the city? If you do, I would love to hear about them! 

Xo Joelle


Thursday 22 July 2021

Pink Home Office Reveal


It's been over a year since we moved into our Toronto home, and about 6 months since I turned our walk-in-closet into my dream home office! I'm so excited to finally be able to share the reveal photos, talk a bit about the process and link the items that have truly transformed the space into what it is today.

Let's talk though behind the process. You may remember from my home tour video that I was very excited to be able to have a walk-in-closet in the city. It had been a dream of mine since I had first moved to Toronto! And while I did enjoy the walk-in closet and the space and storage that comes along with it, the space wasn't the most inviting. The closet unit did not fit the space so it cut off half the window, making it very dark, and because it was customized to the specifications and needs of the previous owners, it just never felt like a good fit. 

Everything changed when we had to disassemble the closet in order to change our carpets into hardwood. Once we saw the empty room, filled with natural light and hardwood floors instead of carpets, we knew that we could never go back to the old, dark walk-in-closet. And so it was in that moment that the La Petite Noob pink, girly and very Joelle home office was conceptualized! 

This home office is so special to me, mostly because I could never have imagined having a space all to myself when we were living in the condo. It feels so incredible to be able to decorate exactly the way that I want and have a space that is a true reflection of me. Workflow wise, it has also been a game-changer having an actual desk and space to work and write. Can you believe that I have been writing every single blog post, and editing every video from either my bed or the couch since 2013! Having a separate space to work is not only great for physical health (hello less back pain,) but also has been great for my mental health to have a separation with work. All around good things!

So without further ado, here is my home office in all of her glory. 

Livette's Wallpaper

When I found out that I would be able to transform our former closet into my home office, I knew immediately that I wanted a really fun wallpaper accent wall. It took me months to find a wallpaper that was both bright and fun, but also muted enough so as to not overwhelm my tiny office space. After coming up short time and time again, I discovered Livette's Wallpaper.

Livette's Wallpaper checked all of the boxes for me: fun and unique designs, pre-cut, a self-adhesive option and the ability to customize colours within their designs. The customization was key for me, as I loved their Paintbrush Maze design and requested the pattern to be customized with the colours Blush and Millennial. The result has far exceeded my expectations and I think the wallpaper accent wall really ties the room together. I just love it!

When it came to the furniture for my home office, I knew that I wanted comfortable pieces that would reflect my personal style. I'm definitely not an interior designer, so I don't have an elaborate thought process when decorating a room. I just stick to pieces that I truly love in the same colour palette, so in this case it was different shades of pinks and neutrals. I am very thankful to have worked with Crate and Barrel Canada to style some of their pieces, and I think they make such a statement!

A tip that I learned while furnishing my home office, especially if you love colour, is to check the kids section of your favourite furniture retailers. The majority of my office pieces are actually from Crate and Barrel Kids and help to add to the colourful, quirky vibe at a fraction of the cost.

Here is a full list of the items used in my home office:

That's it! I'm so much happier working from home in my new home office that perfectly reflects my personal style. If you work from home, I couldn't recommend investing in a separate office space enough. It's made a world of a difference for me.

Are you working from home? Let me know!

xo Joëlle


Wednesday 7 July 2021

5 Blogging Myths Exposed

With every passing year, the industry of digital content creation just continues to grow - it's a beautiful thing!  While it's easy to look on from a distance and wonder if it's a good time to start creating content online, I'm here to tell you that the time is now! Especially when it comes to starting your own blog.

Today, let's continue our chat about blogging, which encompasses a large part of this industry. What exactly is a blog?  A blog is an online space that's totally yours to create, write, design and control, and the best part is that you completely own it to yourself. Blogging has no limitations, and there is so much opportunity for you to share your thoughts, ideas and opinions. 

Sounds pretty good right? So what's stopping you or holding you back from starting your own blog? I know through so many conversations, as well as my own insecurities before launching La Petite Noob, that there are a lot of myths about blogging out there. 

1. You’re too old to start

It can be easy to think that blogging and social media are only for the young, but I believe there is an audience for everyone out there. Age can never be a hurdle to you for anything you want to do, as long as you are determined to dive into it. Through blogging, you have the potential to reach countless people around the world, and the chances of your content resonating with someone is very high - no matter what the age!

Try to imagine who you want to speak to when you start your blog. Or even better, who you tend to follow and connect with online. For me, it's typically those that are my age and in the same stage of life - definitely not the young ones! I imagine my target audience, who they are and what stage of life they're in, and try to speak to them in the most relatable way.

You might be in your 30s, 40s, or 50s+, and it's still the right time to start. You can talk about the topics you can and want to talk about, without concerning about what you should talk about to get the audience's interest. Eventually you will find your own audience if you keep moving forward in your journey. There is a countless number of people who have similar interests as you do and would want to read about topics that interest you. Remember that.

Something else to consider - starting a blog, or social media account when you feel as though you're older than the average user actually comes with a huge advantage : you have less saturation of people trying to speak to your target audience! 

There is no age that is too old to be on social media whatsoever. There is no such thing as too old to start. Considering the fact that a teenager would not understand the thoughts of someone in their 40s or 50s, the only time your age can be a problem for you if you try to go after the wrong audience. So, you should speak, connect and embrace the audience who would be going through similar stages of life as you, would want similar things as you, and is all ears to know your experiences.

2. You need to live in a big city in order to be successful

Considering the fact that a vast majority of people who are a huge face online live in big metropolitan cities, like New York, or LA. You might feel pretty demotivated to start blogging if you don't live in such big cities. The city you live in is not a roadblock for your success. I can tell from my personal experience that this myth is really something that holds people back from starting their blogging career. When I first started out, I actually didn't live in Toronto, I lived in the suburbs. I remember I used to think if I just lived in a big city, it would be so much easier and everything would start going well. Looking back, it wasn't moving to Toronto that made my blog more successful. It was embracing the city I was in, being transparent with my audience and sharing places that I loved that really caused La Petite Noob to originally take off!

Everyone of you has a unique experience, unique perspective towards things, and unique visions. So instead of being stuck back by saying you need to live in big cities in order to be successful, you should embrace your current situation! People just want to feel a connection though your content, and that happens when you're honest and forthcoming about your situation. You may find connections with readers in your own small town or suburb, or with people who live in a similar situation around the world.

As it seems like the entire world has moved online in the past year, it should be enough proof to you that you can connect with people, and make a name for yourself online, without concerning yourself with the myth that you need to live in big cities to be successful.

3. You need to have a large following to be paid

We all know that there is money to be made in social media and in blogging, but there's a myth out there that you need a large following or readership to get a slice of the pie. Needing a large audience to make money off of your content is a myth. I can tell from my experience that social media and blogging is not just about the numbers but more about building an engaging community in this industry. This is 100% a relationship business, both in that with your audience and with brands. As long as you have an engaging following, and take the time to truly connect with your audience, your follower number will not be as big of a barrier to you as you may think. 

The best way to build and focus on relationships is to first understand your audience; what age group do they belong to, what kind of content do they like from you more, where most of them live, etc. Get to know your audience as much as possible, and that information is incredibly valuable to perspective brands and advertisers. You can then showcase the statistics of your following and your engagements as to why you should be paid even with a small following.

Online content creation is truly an industry of relationships, so focus more on fostering those relationships than with your follower or readership count. Not only will this make you more valuable to potential brand deals, but also just make the journey of blogging so much sweeter.

4. You can cheat your way to the top

I am sure it would not be any surprise to you if I tell you that you can buy followers and inflate your numbers artificially. There are several ways out there through which you can simply buy more followers, engagements, and even likes and comments. It's like artificially fluffing up your stats to make it look like you have more followers than you actually do. It can be really tempting for you at the beginning of your journey to make it big quickly using these methods.  But you have to understand, buying anything to create artificial engagement or growth is not sustainable in the long run. 

For experienced eyes, it is pretty easy to tell which blogger has an actual following and which ones are just buying the followers and engagements. That means both your audience, fellow bloggers and brands have been trained to spot bought engagement and likes. Companies nowadays use several ways to filter out those who are purchasing followers and reach, with both experience and also software. Yes, there's actually software now that can detect this stuff!

With the industry being more established now, and with technology readily available to spot fakes, is a huge myth that you can buy your way to the top. It might be true for the short term, but it surely is disadvantageous for those who are in the game for the long run.

5. It is too late to start

Repeat after me: the time to start your blog is now!

There is no bad time to start your blogging journey. If you're wanting to start a blog today (or an Instagram account, Youtube channel, etc,) chances are that you'll also want to start in a year from now. I also should mention that I had these same sentiments about whether it was too late to start a blog for years before starting La Petite Noob - in 2013! I'm so glad that I didn't let that nagging feeling get in the way of living my dreams! 

So why not start now! Today is better than tomorrow. What I've learned in life is that it's best to stop waiting for the perfect time, and to jump in and learn as you go. The industry has changed so much in the last decade, and will continue to shift and change as we move forward. No time like today to just start, get your footing and change and grow along with it.

Moral of the story is if you stay stuck in what-ifs, then you will never get to know what could have been. What do you guys think? What other myths have you come across about blogging? Let me know!

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