Each year, I consider investing in a white Christmas tree. There are so many in the marketplace at the moment, and a lot of them look so lush. And a white tree would fit perfectly into my home!
But every year, I end up with a live Christmas tree. I’m drawn to the smell, mostly, but I also like their irregular shape. Yes, having a live tree means there’s a lot of regular needle clean up, but what does it matter if I vacuum a little more than usual at this time of year? The live tree makes me happy, and my collection of ornaments stand out against the dark green.
1.Music. I’ve been listening to Lizzo for a while now on Spotify. Do you know her? You might have heard her song Juice or Truth Hurts. Whether you have or haven’t heard her yet, you may be interested in seeing her show at NPR’s Tiny Desk concert series. Doesn’t her music just make you want to move?
When you’re done moving, and you need to relax, listen to this playlist of relaxing songs. Apparently research has shown that listening to the song Weightless by Marconi Union “resulted in a striking 65 percent reduction in participants’ overall anxiety, and a 35 percent reduction in their usual physiological resting rates.”
2. Books. I listened to Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules of Life audiobook over the last couple of weeks. Jordan Peterson is a controversial academic who has risen to celebrity status in the last few years. I have followed his work on and off for several years, and I have kind of sat on the fence regarding my alignment with his ideas. The book, however, was an interesting and informative read. I learned a lot. The section on listening and thinking critically caught my attention and made me think not only about my social interactions but also my work environment. I thought about my own listening skills and what and how I teach at the university.
I also listened to David Sedaris’s Calypso, and I really enjoyed it. I laughed out loud all the way through! And I loved the chapter “Your English is So Good” where Sedaris reflects on curious words and phrases in languages such as Japanese and English. In English, for example, he comments on the word “awesome” and the concept of “upselling” in America. He also comments on the “concern for hydration” and why we carry bottled water everywhere we go. I laughed so much! I listened to this chapter twice!
3. Movies. As you may recall, I have an ongoing list of things to do/see/read/watch from my friends and family as part of my 40th year challenge. One of the movies that was on the list was Goodfellas, so I watched it last week. Oh my goodness – why had I never seen this? I loved it. I liked the character development, the dialogue, the cinematography, and the clothing (hellos 70s and 80s). Have you seen it?
4. Instagram. I’m thinking of taking a complete break from Instagram. I lose track of time when I’m aimlessly scrolling through posts. Recently, I watched a time-lapse video of a blogger/influencer/instagrammer making breakfast and then packing it up for the freezer. Why? Why did I watch it? I didn’t learn anything. I wasn’t entertained. What do you think? Should I give it up for a while? Do you still like it? Are you inspired?
5. Relaxing. I have been making more of an effort to relax (see point 1 about relaxing music). We all know I like to stay busy, but I think I need a touch of downtime in my life, so I stay happy and healthy. Last weekend, I shut off all notifications on my phone (and I have since kept them off), and, to my surprise, it didn’t take long to get comfortable with the lack of constantly-checking-of-the-phone. I’ve also gone through the free 10-day basic meditation series via the HeadSpace app, which seems to calm me down at the end of busy days. Just yesterday, I read this post by Julie Zhou over at Wit & Whimsy about solo rituals, and I love the idea. Zhou’s final comment sums up the solo ritual: “Which is all to sayâ€”thereâ€™s no one perfect solo ritual! The only rule is this. That for at least a single hour, once a week (ideally), you are not working, not useful, are exuberantly, wildly, radically unproductive. Everything else is, as they say, your party.” Do you have a solo ritual?
In Italian, the evil eye – or il malocchio – is a superstition of bad luck caused by envy. If one brags too much, then others would become jealous of the person’s happiness and cause destruction in their life. To prevent the evil eye, avoid making people jealous, or carry an charm like a horn (as many Italians do).
In the fashion and design worlds, the evil eye constantly makes an appearance in jewelry, accessory, and clothing collections as well as in trinkets and knick knacks. Here are two that recently caught my eye (wink!).
1.Travel. One of the things I’m thankful my parents did for me was to expose me to languages and countries of the world. They traveled with two young kids all over the world, and even though I may not remember much from those early days of travel, the stories and photos show the excitement of exploring foreign places. The travel bug has stayed with me all of these years, and while I may have made return trips to some favourite spots (Florida, North Carolina, France, Italy), I’m always grateful to explore new places. Japan was on the top of my travel list for so long, and I am thankful that I was able to make it happen this year. I know travel is a luxury for many people (Japan, overall, was an expensive two weeks), but I think it is so important to try to set aside funds to explore places near and far. Travel is such a rewarding learning experience (and we all know that I’m all about learning!).
Several people on Instagram and in real life have told me they are now adding Japan to their travel bucket list after seeing my photos on Instagram and hearing my stories. This makes me so happy! If you like art, architecture, food, organization, and heated toilet seats, go! You won’t be disappointed!
Instagram posts only share so much, though, and I have more to say about my adventures. So if you’d like to read on about some things I noticed about traveling in Japan, please do! If not, that’s okay, too. I understand that Japan isn’t everyone’s cup of (matcha) tea!
1.Communication. Before I left, several people told me that they thought I was brave to travel so far. I tried to assure people that I wasn’t nervous about traveling to Japan (yes, even considering the distance and the language). I don’t think they believed me though. To be honest, I was mostly curious about how I would fare given a major language barrier. But I also figured that I could use Google Translate and hand gestures to get my points across. And that’s what I did. The combo worked perfectly well.
It was rare to encounter people in Japan who spoke English. The people in hotels generally spoke English at an advanced level, but not everyone. I booked all of my hotels in advance (via Expedia, Agoda, and the hotels directly), so check-in was always smooth.
Some train attendants spoke English, but not everyone. To book train tickets, I used the automatic machines at stations to load up my Pasmo card (like a train/metro card), and since the machines had an English option, adding money to my card was quick and easy.
A lot of restaurants have photos on their menus, plastic replicas of their dishes, or English menus, so figuring out what to eat wasn’t generally an issue. Since I’m not allergic to anything, I was never concerned about what I ordered. If I didn’t recognize something, but I liked it, I just ate it. If I didn’t like it, I didn’t eat it. So simple. I pointed to a lot of things during food orders at restaurants and markets. If you’re allergic to something, I would make sure you have this written in Japanese to show the servers. Don’t count on anyone knowing English.
2. Transportation. Using public transportation (buses, trains) was so easy. Unbelievably easy! I wasn’t expecting it to be so easy, but it was. I used Google Maps every day (and hour and minute), which worked out extremely well. Google Maps would tell me what bus to get on at what time and in what direction. It told me when to transfer to what train on what platform and at what time. It also gave me options for routes, pricing, transit, and walking.
Since the Japanese train system is advanced, well-connected, and efficient, I didn’t ever stress about not catching a train (because I knew there would be one soon after) or about a delay. Google Maps provides notifications of delays, but I only experienced one short delay on a subway line during my two weeks away. It wasn’t an issue at all.
The Pasmo card took me everywhere I needed to go – as in, it worked in Tokyo, Nikko, Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe. I didn’t need to switch transit cards for each city! Beyond refilling my Pasmo card, I bought tickets for the high-speed train (Shinkansen) once in Nikko (at an automatic machine) and once in Kobe (at the Shinkansen ticket counter (interacting with an attendant who spoke perfect English). I didn’t book any of my long trains in advance. I just went to the station, and within a half-hour, there was my train.
One option for long distance train travel is to invest in the JR Rail Pass, but after looking up some schedules and prices online before I left Canada (at Hyperdia), I realized that I wouldn’t be saving so much money with the JR Pass, and that I’d rather just take the “figure it all out once I land” approach. I think I spent between $400-500 for all my transportation costs (i.e., local trains, buses, high speed trains).
3. Hotel room sizes. Everyone says that hotel rooms in Japan are small. And you know what? They are. I was very happy with all the hotels I booked, and I would stay at each of them again. With the exception of one (Kai Nikko), all of my hotel rooms were very small. I don’t even know where a full-size luggage would have fit or how two large pieces of luggage would have fit. My carry-on fit perfectly everywhere I went, and I unpacked my stuff everywhere I went, too. There were always plenty of hangers and cubbies for my things. I was traveling solo, so every room I had worked out perfectly. If you need to share a room, you might need to look at different hotel options than the ones I’ve listed below.
4. People. While I didn’t encounter many people who spoke English, everyone I did meet was extremely polite, kind, and helpful. On the bus. In restaurants. On the subway. People smiled. People laughed when communication went poorly. People appreciated trying to communicate with Google Translate. It was awesome! At Kai Nikko, I met a Japanese mother and daughter who didn’t speak any English, but through Translate and gestures, we managed a bit of communication. These ladies were so sweet. They even saved me a seat for the hotel’s evening dance show. So nice!
5. Cleanliness. The five cities I went to were very organized and clean. Tokyo, my first stop, shocked me. How can a city with over 9 million people remain so clean? I was very surprised! There aren’t public garbage cans, so maybe that’s why the streets remain so clean. Japanese people don’t eat in public, so there was no litter related to street eating and drinking. Subways, too, were incredibly clean! It made traveling around big cities that much more enjoyable. The cleanliness and orderliness of the cities and towns made me feel calm, in fact!
6. Wi-fi access. You may be wondering how I stayed connected while away. Japan has this figured out for tourists, too. There are two main options to stay connected: Pocket wi-fi or SIM card. Pocket wi-fi is a little gadget that you pick up and drop off at the airport. It gives you unlimited wi-fi access for your desired number of days.
Another option is to buy a SIM card for the duration of your stay. If you have an unlocked phone, you can install a Japanese SIM card and get connected within a minute. I went this route because I didn’t want to carry around another gadget with me (and worry about it losing power and such). I bought a SIM card (unlimited data) and had it sent to me in Canada before I left (from Japan Rail Pass). I wanted to feel a bit more prepared, and I didn’t want to deal with finding a SIM card seller at the airport after such a long journey. I think my SIM card with unlimited data for a 16-day period was under $50 CAD (including shipping). Next time, I would just buy my SIM card when I arrive at the airport. There were SIM card vending machines everywhere.
Hotels and many department stores offer wi-fi, too, so if you don’t want unlimited wi-fi, you could connect in these places when you need it.
7. Money. Cash. You need cash. I used my credit card twice. In two different stores. Stores and restaurants generally take credit cards, but I think cash is preferred and easier. I bought meals at some old-school restaurants and at the market, so cash was essential. I tried to add money to my Pasmo card with my Mastercard, and it didn’t work, so cash it was!
If you run out of cash while you’re there, not to worry. You can take out money with your Canadian bank card via an ATM that you’ll find at convenience stores like 7-11 and Lawson (they are everywhere!). My bank (TD Bank) charged me $5 each time I withdrew money in Japan, FYI.
8. Toilets. I miss these. Seriously! The Toto Toilets I experienced in Japan were awesome! They are toilet/bidet combos, and, best of all, many of them have heated seats. Heated! Enough said. (Don’t be surprised if I dedicate a whole other post just to Toto toilets!)
10. Be an early bird to avoid crowds. I traveled to Japan during cherry blossom season (so pretty), which meant that it was high tourist season! In Kyoto, especially, there were busloads of tourists from everywhere at each of the very popular sites. In Kyoto, for example, if I wasn’t somewhere by 8am, I would be surrounded by the busloads of people, and I would hate it. So, I woke up early, ate breakfast early, and got on my way! This meant that when I saw the Torii (orange) gates or the Bamboo Forest or the Philosopher’s Path, I went when it was calm and peaceful. I was grateful for this. When I visited the Golden Temple mid-day, on the other hand, I didn’t find any zen or peaceful moments. Not ideal for someone like me.
If you have any questions about my itinerary or experiences, let me know! I’m happy to share!
1. Art in Waterloo. I had quite the art-filled week in Waterloo last week. I saw jazz at TWH Social, Barry Ace‘s exhibit at the Robert Langen Art Gallery, and the KW Symphony at the Centre in the Square. On top of this, I had a tour of Google Waterloo, which was full of awesome design details. For a small(ish) region, Waterloo has much to offer those keen about the arts.
2. Netflix. I watched The Age of Adaline recently It stars Blake Lively as a woman who never ages. There is, as per the romantic movie genre, a love story, too. Beyond the story and the acting, I enjoyed the moody decor and the fashion across eras.
3. News. I am very interested in the #CollegeCheatingScandal, and I am tuning into Twitter every day to see what people have to say about it. I have many degrees as you know (professional student!), and I teach at a university, so this news is definitely of interest to me. Too bad people don’t use all their extra money to do some good in the world. Too bad.
4. Work. I learn so much from my students. It’s pretty amazing all the things they’re interested in and all that they research. This week, they shared research they’ve done about bitcoin, marijuana, and Uber (just to name a few of the broad topics).
5. Weeknight entertaining. I generally save my entertaining to the weekend, but for some friends, weeknights work best, so this week, I whipped up some bruschetta, created a charcuterie plate, and ordered Thai food. It was easy, low-key entertaining, and it was nice to spend time with friends without having to worry about a full dinner prep and clean-up on a weeknight. I think I’ll do it again as it was a nice way to break up the week.
If you’ve seen my house, then you’ll know that I have a several white-on-white art pieces. I have a trio made by nephews in my living room, framed white doilies in my dining room, and a piece stitched by a friend in my office, to name a few. Texture in each of these pieces is definitely important to make the work interesting.
The three spaces shown here highlight gorgeous white-on-white artwork. Even against white walls, they definitely stand out!
Blogger, designer, and artist extraordinaire Christine Dovey has just launched a home goods collection with Hudson’s Bay. It is pink and feminine and edgy which is completely in keeping with Christine’s design aesthetic. I spotted the collection here in Waterloo over the weekend, and it is lovely! My favourite piece was the all-white coverlet (big surprise, right?). Today, though, I’m infusing a bit more pink into this two of a kind feature.
1.Monday. The week started off, well, not great. I left my laptop in Toronto, I got a couple of unnecessary parking tickets (seriously – a couple!? Who gets a couple on one day!?), and major winds made my commute less than fun. I wanted to fall asleep and wake up to springtime sun. But, nope, didn’t happen. The week continued. It sort of got better, but it still wasn’t my most fun or memorable week. C’est la vie!
2. Oscars. I didn’t watch the Oscars. On account of my forgotten computer, I had much work to catch-up on, so the Oscars wasn’t a priority. Instead, I got the highlights on Twitter and Instagram. I know the Oscars are about recognizing brilliance in movies, but I was distracted by many of the gowns that floated across the red carpet. There were plenty of capes, pink, and sparkle. Regina King looked stunning in white, and Ashley Graham looked beautiful in black Zac Posen. Tina Fey looked lovely in royal blue and Helen Mirren in soft pink. I think my favourite gown was by Alexander McQueen worn by Lady Gaga. I didn’t love her hair, makeup, or jewelry that everyone else was raving about, but as soon as I saw the dress, I loved it.
And Selma Blair. Oh, Selma. I loved her soft, colourful dress. She looked incredible. I didn’t know she had been diagnosed with MS. Did you see her interview on Good Morning America? I cried.
It’s a cookbook, yes, but Mimi also weaves in stories of her home and family throughout. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Mimi makes me want to move to France and follow in her footsteps. Not that I have looked up properties for sale or anything…hmm…okay, so maybe I have.
4. Milestone birthdays. My sister and I had a chat about my upcoming birthday. It’s a milestone birthday…hint…I’m not 20. She asked me what I wanted to do, and, really, I have no idea. How’d you celebrate your big number birthday?
5. A Video. Need to smile today? Watch this video.
I’m definitely getting back my travel bug in 2019. Since I was consumed with work/MBA/book writing/renovations for the last few years, traveling wasn’t a top priority (but, yes, it is always a priority). But in 2019, I making travel a top priority. And I’m beyond excited and grateful for what’s to come. I’ll be heading to Paris in the new year, which makes me very happy as it’s one of my most favourite cities and it’s been five years since I was last there, so I’m excited to be back.
The last time I was there, I shared this apartment with two friends. It was perfect. Since that place is too big for this trip, I get to do hotel/apartment research! Who else thinks that travel planning is almost as much fun as the actual trip? I do! I’ve been scouring many hotels and AirBnB spaces, and, oh my goodness, there is so much beautiful design out there in the world! Just when I think I have found the most interesting space, I come across another one. And another. And another one after that. It’s great! And today I’m sharing some of my finds.
I’m thrilled to share the news that White Cabana has been nominated for the “Best Written Blog – International” as part of the Amara Interior Blog Awards. If you’d like to vote (please!), you can do so here.
Way back in December, I had a fight with one of my bifold doors. And that was the last push for me to replace it with a more convenient door set-up. I said #byebyebifold to those doors, and imagined a better door future for my home.
After meeting the Metrie team at Blogpodium last fall, I reached out to them with my disaster door dilemma, and they were generous to offer up some replacements. It’s now April, and I have had functioning double doors for a couple of months now. Oh, the changes that these doors have had to the look of my home and functionality of my space has been incredible!
The short piece of my advice I have is: If you’re contemplating a door upgrade, stop contemplating. Do it.
In my mind, I knew the Masonite Lincoln Park doors from Metrie were more modern than my plain slab doors, and I knew that upgraded hardware would add another level of modernity, but when everything came together, I really couldn’t believe the transformation. You don’t even want to know how many times I said “I love my doors!”
So, let’s take a walk down reno memory lane, shall we?
I had two of these basic bifold doors in my home:
I hated – yes, hated – them both!
The fight with my main floor bifold door resulted in this situation:
Upstairs, I had another bifold (the one on the left):
I lived with this bifold mess for a couple of months while I sorted out my replacement and installation plan.
And then…after installation day, a couple of days of painting, and new hardware, I ended up with this sleek transformation:
Because of a larger area of space, I was able to replace my upstairs bifold with a full-size door. This, too, has given me the impression that I have a bigger closet than before.
Look at those beauties! So modern! So efficient! The double door option works perfectly in my tight hallway. These doors open and close like a dream, and (to my surprise) my closet seems so much bigger because the doors fully open, and I can access every bit of the closet space. The doors and trim make my house feel brand new!
As anyone who has completed a renovation knows, one project will inevitably lead to another (or many others). While my main purpose with the interior door project was to replace two bifold doors, I ended up replacing all of the interior doors in my house. Why? Because I wanted everything to match, of course! And since the new bifold doors required new casing (frame around the door), I had to replace the casing on the other doors, too. And since the casing was more modern and substantial than my original baseboards (framing on the floor), I had to replace those, too! One after the other…after the other…after the other…
So I had original doors like this:
I ordered matching doors from Northfield Trim and Door here in Waterloo. I was thrilled when my doors arrived early one morning.
The doors arrived unpainted.
And after a weekend of painting, I had fresh, white doors everywhere in my home.
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Aren’t they lovely? So darn modern!
I’m so grateful to Metrie and Northfield Trim and Door for collaborating on this project. I received incredible service along the way. Sending a special thanks especially to Justine, Jason, Bob, Mike, and Chris.
While part of this project was sponsored, all photos and opinions are my own.
Our Ontario licence plates are very encouraging aren’t they? For those of you haven’t seen them, our provincial licence plate slogan is “Ontario, Yours to Discover.” And a couple of weeks ago, I did just that! I drove north to explore the region of Grey County.
If you’re like me, you may associate this region with Collingwood and the Blue Mountains, but the county has much more to offer than ski hills. Over a series of blog posts, I’ll take you on a little 3-day tour of the region. If you’re looking for something to do this winter, take note!
I needed the sweet energy boost before I headed out to Hogg’s Falls. The falls are just around the corner from the main intersection in Flesherton (at Hwy 4 and East Base Line). There is plenty of parking, and while you can spend a while hiking the trails, you don’t need to go too far at all to reach the falls. Follow the sounds, and you’ll find them within minutes of parking. I wasn’t certain I’d be too keen on hiking in the snow, but it was absolutely peaceful.
the trail and Hogg’s Falls
As I’m not an avid winter outdoors-woman, I appreciated that I could hike for as little or as long as I wanted. Listening to and seeing the falls felt really quite magical, and I was so appreciative of the natural beauty that surrounded me! Ontario is yours to discover, remember?
Grey County has 9 waterfalls that you can explore, and 7 of them are accessible in the winter. I’m sure each one has something special to offer, and since they’re not too far away from one another, you can take in a lot even on a short visit to the area.
getting caught in the sunlight
As for my outfit? Along with my scarf, hats, and mitts, I woreÂ this hiking outfit (I didn’t even include one piece of athletic wear!), my L.L.Bean Downtek, and Sorel boots. The boots were great. I wouldn’t recommend wearing light boots as if there is a lot of snow, you’ll need footwear with traction (and warmth).
After I had my fill of outdoor time, I drove to The Flying Chestnut Kitchen for dinner. This restaurant is worth the drive, let me tell you! I walked into the restaurant just as it was opening, and the staff was conversing about Saved By The Bell. So of course I joined in.Â Remember the episode when Jessi Spano took the sleeping pills? Sure do! – There’s no time, never any time! – Ha ha. Does anyone remember this episode? People who remember episodes and lines from Saved By The Bell are my kind of people. All this to say that my intro to The Flying Chestnut Kitchen was great!
Not only did I enjoy chatting with the staff, but I also feasted on a delicious dinner at a leisurely I’m-on-vacation pace. The menu changes regularly depending on the local offerings. I began my meal with an amuse bouche – a sausage roll on a layer of mustard. For the main course, I opted for the evening’s special – duck confit. The first time I had duck confit, I was a 16 year old exchange student in France. Every time I order it, I remember that time period in my life! For dessert, I was treated to a delicious mousse. The quality of everything was superb.
The Flying Chestnut Kitchen is run by Chef Shawn Adler. He opened the restaurant in the Old General Store in 2010. The restaurant is quite small, seating about 25 people, so it’s wise to make a reservation. And bring cash since it’s a cash-only restaurant!
Side note: Dark, country roads in the winter are a touch on the scary side. I went slow and used my high-beam lights for just about the whole commute. I was extra grateful for my TomTom since with it, I knew I wasn’t going to get lost, and I could see how windy the roads were via the image on my screen. Other reasons I was a touch nervous on these roads? Well, beyond the snow, I wasn’t even sure if there would be bears and such popping out of the trees. Are there bears in Grey County? Maybe it’s best that I don’t know. If you’re not used to winter driving, I would recommend that you take it slow and drive in daylight hours as much as possible. Oh – and I should also note that the next morning, I drove the same road in the daylight, and it was absolutely smooth and easy. It wasn’t scary at all! It’s amazing what darkness can do to a gal.
Now, to the Pretty River Valley Country Inn! The young staff at the inn helped me with my luggage and checked me into a cozy loft (they call them Crofts). My 600 square foot room had a main floor with a king bed, large bathroom, foyer, and seating area. And a wood-burning fireplace. Oh, the fireplace. So so good. My room also had a second floor with a pair of twin beds.
the Ben Nevis Croft at the Pretty River Valley Country Inn
I had a lazy evening in my Croft. The inn has great options for cozy nights in – popcorn and games are at the ready! I fell asleep to the sounds of the crackling fire, feeling happy for my first day of exploring Grey County.
All photos by Jordana.
Thanks to Grey County and Amanda P. for sponsoring my trip. All opinions are my own.
I learned about the luxury clothing brand Moncler when I was working in the Swiss Alps.Â Since then, I’ve been watching news of the brand pop up here and there in my online and offline travels. The brand was founded in 1952 in Monestier-de-Clermont, France (where it got its name), and it’s now located in Italy. France. Italy. Switzerland. Of course it’s no wonder that I’m interested in this brand!
While I have mostly associated Moncler with puffy, chic ski jackets, its collections for women, men, and children offer much more than this. Take a look.
My blog posts have been scattered this week because it’s back-to-school season, and, well, that means a pretty lively time of year for me! I’m taking a pause from the Friday Five to share with you my recent reading list. This post has been in draft form for a couple of weeks now, so it feels great to finally be able to press publish!
During the academic year, I barely have a chance to read books for pleasure. I know I could/should make time, but the fact is that I don’t. Between my academic day job and my MBA student life, I read a lot as it is, and when I want to relax, I don’t generally reach for a book.
Vacation, though, is a completely different story!
When I’m in Florida lounging around the pool and beach for days and days, I love losing myself in books. I love going to the local library (yes, I have a library card in Florida, too!) and browsing the “what’s new” shelves. And on my recent trip, I managed to read quite a few books. Here’s a brief recap of what I’ve read…in the order that I read them. Do let me know if you’ve read any of them, too, please!
1. Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
Paula Hawkins wrote The Girl on the Train which was a real page-turner. Into the Water was the same. I couldn’t put it down. It was an easy read, and it went by quickly.
2. The White City by Karolina Ramqvist
Truth be told – I picked up this book because of its white cover and its title. When I read the blurb on the inside flap, I learned that the book is a bestseller in Sweden and the winner of the Per Olav Enquist Literary Prize. This is Karolina Ramqvist’s first English novel. Again, it was a quick read, and I read it within one short sitting (lying by the pool!). I felt like it was a lengthier short story than a fully developed novel. The story moved along quickly.
3. Touch by Courtney Maum
I picked up this book after reading the cover jacket’s summary. It got me hooked with ideas of trend forecasting, tech, and relationships. It was another easy read that I got through quickly. I liked following the story of a trend forecaster who contemplates tech vs. touch in an ever changing high-tech world.
4. Swimming Lessons by Clare Fuller
This book was another one that kept my attention throughout. I wanted to know how the characters developed and interacted, and how the story evolved. The story flips between past and present, which I liked.
5. The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion
Graeme Simsion was the author of the Rosie Project – a book that I quite liked, so I happily grabbed this book off the library shelf. I don’t know if it was because I was tired or uninterested, but it took me a bit to get into this story. Maybe it also was because the other books had some element of mystery to them, and this one was a love story. Once I got through the first 50 pages or so, it was easy going. It wasn’t a page-turner like some of the other books, but it maintained my curiosity about the evolution of the romance.
6. Awkward Age by Francesca Segal
I thought this book was okay. It seemed liked it could be easily made into a made-for-TV movie. It’s about family relationships, tricky family dynamics, and teenager drama.
7. Celine by PeterHeller
This was an amusing read. Part-detective story, part-family drama. Not a must-read in my opinion, but it entertained me.
8. My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
I’ve read every book by Sophie Kinsella (as well as all the books she’s written under her real name – Madeleine Wickham). I continue to be drawn to them even though I didn’t really like the last couple of stories. The characters are sort of all the same and the story lines are fairly predictable. That said, I read this recent release, and enjoyed this light read. Sophie Kinsella books area always good for beach-side reading!
9. The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
It was fun to discover that this book was written by a Torontonian. It’s a who-dunnit, what-happened kind of book so I was happy to flip each page to learn more about the mystery and drama involved in one family’s life. I could see this being turned into a movie, too.
10. The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
So many of the books that I read over my vacation were mysteries of some sort. These books really make me want to keep reading to see how my own predictions come true (or don’t). At the start, there were several characters to get to know, but once I kept track of the action, I enjoyed learning about the characters’ personalities, their interactions, their friendships, and, of course, to see how the drama unfolded.
11. How to Be a Grown-Up
This book was written by the authors of the Nanny Diaries. The tone, pace, writing, and setting is very similar between the two books. The story line, however, is different. In How to Be a Grown-Up, the main character is a 40-something mom learning how to navigate a work environment run by millennials. She succeeds, of course, which makes for a happy ending. Predictable, but entertaining.
12. Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love
Of the books in the list up until this point, Lola was by far my favourite. I picked it up because Lola is the name of my friend’s dog (Hi K! Hi Lola!). Yes, it’s true. This book is certainly not about a dog – although there is a dog named Valentine in the book. The story follows Lola – the leader of a drug cartel – and the drama, chaos, mystery, and tension surrounding the drug world. The character development and story line were different from anything else I read, which caught and kept my attention throughout.
13. I Found You by Lisa Jewell
After Lola, I wanted to read a mystery rather than a romance novel, so I opted for I Found You. The story was progressing in the way that I thought it was, but as I read each chapter, more of the story unfolded, and there were surprises along the way. I really enjoyed this one.
14. The Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro
I ended my vacation reading with The Gypsy Moth Summer and I was pleasantly surprised. I loved this book, in fact. Like other books in this list, I enjoyed the development and interaction of the characters.
And that’s it, I think. What have you been reading? Any recommendations?
With positive testimonials from Nicole Kidman and Mick Jagger, it seems like a no brainer to stay at the Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur, India.
While there are many spaces that I could have featured in today’s post, I settled on this indoor-outdoor dining area. It looks to be traditional with a beautiful view. I wonder if Mick Jagger ate here.
In the span of just a few days, I’ve noticed several bloggers pairing olive and white in their outfits. As far as I’m concerned, white goes with everything, but I think we’ll be seeing more olive and white combinations in the coming months in the fashion world.
Yes, yes, I’m still interested in the does-it-all Gwyneth Paltrow. While I don’t read Goop every single day, when I do land on the website, I get totally sucked in. It happened to me last night. One health article led to a detox article led to a nutrition article led to the clothing section of this site. And I got stuck. Everything is just so darn beautiful, but here are my favourite pieces.
From the images above, you can see how versatile the chair is. It fits well at a dining room table as it does on an outdoor patio. It can be put to use as a side chair, desk chair, or dining chair. And, you can’t tell by these photos, but the Tolix (and its reproductions) comes in an assortment of colours making it an easy piece to incorporate in diverse interiors.
I’ve been bouncing off walls for days now. My friends and family must be sick of me texting and emailing messages with an abundance of exclamation marks. People on the other end of phone calls hear my high-pitched squeals of excitement. Why you ask? Well, I know the title of this post gave it away, but…
I’m in Style at Home’s June issue!!!
Yes! You read that correctly!
I’m in Style at Home’s June issue!!!
This has me excited for all sorts of reasons!
Buying my house was one of my proudest life moments. I have been a student for all of my adult life, but all the while, I was trying to save money for my future home. Four years ago, I had just finished my PhD, moved to a new city, and bought my first house. My house. My own house. With a garage. With my money. That I earned. I was ecstatic then, and my home still brings me so much joy now.
The “before” of my house was interesting. Some of you may remember that my house came not only with furniture, but with people. Yes, people. I sold just about every piece of furniture. And I kicked out the tenants once their leases ended a month or so after closing. Yes. A house with furniture and people. Who buys such a house?
My house is in a perfect-for-me location. I walk and ride my bike everywhere. My quality of life is top-notch, and I think much of this is because of the location, size, and design of my house. Honestly. I love my house! And I’m so very grateful for all that I do and all that I have.
My house was certainly not in perfect condition (and up to my design standards) when I bought it. Little by little, I made each space in my home happy. It was a lot of work, but it was fun and rewarding work. I wanted to do as much of the work on my own, and my family lent a hand along the way – as you’ve seen with various posts over the years. Not only did I learn how to tile and how to paint an air conditioning unit (still one of my most popular posts!), but I also practiced my design skills. I created a dramatic ink-blot art wall in my main bath to detract from the grey, 80s jacuzzi tub. I curated a massive gallery wall in my office to showcase all of my art treasures. And I found and bought the perfect couch. I know people make fun of me because I can talk about my couch so much, but it’s true. It’s perfect.
Throughout this reno journey, I’ve shared a lot on White Cabana, and I’ve connected with so many people in the design blogging community. I feel so darn lucky!
Morgan Lindsay, Stacy Begg, and Donna Griffith came over bright and early one day last spring for a photoshoot. It was unreal. They worked their magic while I tried to contain my excitement. (It’s a recurring theme, can you tell?) We moved things around, and we moved them back. Stacy and Morgan organized my books beautifully, brought in a few additional accessories, and made sure each space was looking its best! Donna and her assistant set up all of their cool photography equipment throughout the house and worked quickly and efficiently to take photos of every room. This team was fun, professional, curious, and interesting!
Several months later, Bethany Little called me up for an interview. That was fun, too, because I’m usually the person asking the questions (I do a lot of teaching and researching in my day job asÂ an academic!). While I was trying to squeeze in a question or two about Bethany’s approach to interviewing and writing, she was trying to keep the conversation on my house. Naturally! đź™‚
Fast-forward a couple of more months, and then this happened…
I’m in Style at Home’s June issue!!!
Unreal. Unbelievable. And the thing is…it’s real, and it’s believable!
I have been reading Style at Home for forever. It’s a Canadian design magazine that I’ve always been drawn to because it features design spaces and ideas that are manageable, approachable, and doable. The magazine shines the spotlight on happy and inviting homes, and it gives readers plenty of ideas to incorporate into their own homes. And the team does the high-low feature like noone else! Am I right? I certainly look forward to reading it when it arrives in my mail each month! I hope you do, too!
But the June issue is certainly my all-time favourite issue. I definitely recommend you flip straight to page 44 to start reading about me and my home (no modesty here)!
If you’re a subscriber, you’ve already received your copy. If not, you should see the June issue in stores soon (it has a pink cover).
If you’d like to share your thoughts or have any questions, leave a comment here or tag me @WhiteCabana or use #WhiteCabanaXStyleAtHome on Twitter or Instagram. I’d love to know what grabbed your attention!
Finally, I must take a moment to publicly extend some official notes of thanks:
Many thanks to Morgan and Stacy for making my home look as pretty as possible. You took great care of my space, and you were professional and friendly in your approach. And funny, too!
Thanks to Donna for being an enthusiastic and positive photographer. Your photos are absolutely memorable, and I’m glad our paths have crossed both online and offline.
Thanks to Bethany for taking the time to speak with me. Your writing is inviting. You’ve written my home’s story and my approach to design with accuracy and care.
A large thanks goes out to Erin McLaughlin, Style at Home Editor, for giving the final stamp of approval. If you’re in KW, come on over! My small foyer wasn’t photographed, but it’s a tiling project that makes me very proud (marble laid in herringbone pattern).
Many thanks to other staff on the Style at Home team who have made this feature possible. I appreciate the effort that goes into fact checking!
A super generous thanks to Tim for your encouragement and excitement throughout this process.
When I have a lazy morning, I love to make waffles or crepes. Over the Easter weekend, I whipped up a batch of crepes and documented the process on my first Instagram story. Since those stories only last for a short period of time, I thought I’d more permanently document the recipe here.
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tbsp. vegetable oil or melted butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. butter
Steps: 1. In a blender or food processor combine eggs, milk, salt, oil, flour and salt. Blend about 10 seconds until smooth. Place batter in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let batter rest at room temperature about 1/2 hour or in the refrigerator for a few hours. If batter is too thick, thin with a little water. It should be the consistency of unwhipped whipping cream.
2. To make crepes heat an 8â€ł or 9â€ł non-stick pan. Brush pan with butter. Pour a scant 1/4 cup batter into pan and swirl to coat bottom of pan. Allow to cook 1 to 2 minutes on medium or medium high heat until browned on the bottom (you can lift up one side to check) and turn by slipping a long, thin spatula under the middle and flipping it over. Cook second side about one minute. Second side will not brown as nicely as the first. Stack crepes as they are made. Depending on your pan and your stove, it might take a few tries to get the crepes the way you like them but you can always eat the trial ones! Makes 10 to 12 crepes
Â And how do I eat them? Well, since I’m a Nutella-holic, I usually have Nutella with my first crepe of the bunch. I also really like the classic sugar + lemon crepe. If you’re into more healthy options, I like mixing eggs and spinach and folding a crepe over the mixture. You could use this crepe recipe for both savory and sweet crepes.
I have lost count of the number of marble-focused posts I’ve written since starting this blog. I love my own marble kitchen countertop (now three years old and doing well), but I also love how the form and feel of marble in smaller home accessories.
As you are likely aware, I took part in my first triathlon relay this past Saturday at Lakeside (near Woodstock, St. Mary’s, and Stratford). The idea of the relay came to my friends and I after a summer BBQ just over a month ago. Our friend Chris was training for the full triathlon (750m swim + 20km bike + 5km run), but for the rest of us, we teamed up to form one relay team. Team work is all about drawing on people’s strengths, and that’s exactly what we did!
My job was the 750m swim. In preparation, I bought a pass to Moses Springer Community Centre Pool (50m lengths), and swam 2-3 times per week over the course of a month. Training at the outdoor pool was wonderful. I looked forward to my swims in the sunshine, and it was fun to meet Chris there so we could train and encourage one another. I used to swim a lot when I was a young lifeguard, so getting back into it didn’t take as much effort as I had originally anticipated. I was swimming 1000m+ front crawl on my training days, and I felt pretty good about my endurance and speed.
When TYR agreed to sponsor Chris and I, we were thrilled. Wetsuits, as any triathlon participant knows, are essential for cold lake swims and to increase buoyancy in the water. (I didn’t know all of this when I signed up for the triathlon; I learned quite a bit along the way!) Chris received the high-tech Hurricane Category 2 wetsuit with awesome chest panels and cool graphics. I received the sleek all-black Hurricane Category 1 wetsuit that made me feel like a superhero.
I hadn’t ever worn a wetsuit prior to this one, so the experience was a brand new one. It took me at least 15 minutes to put it on the very first time. The TYR suit came with booties and gloves that I wore so that the suit would slide on better and be protected from my nails. The suit also came with instructions, and I read them before attempting to squeeze into it. Basically, you should put the suit on one leg at a time, easing the legs on, straightening things out at the hips, then carefully putting on one arm then the other before zipping up the back closure. If I video-taped my experience, I have a feeling it could have made a lot of people laugh!
Due to some shipping drama, my suit only arrived the morning before the race. I only had one pre-race practice swim with it, but I’m so glad I did! In the future, I’d definitely wear it a few more times pre-race just to get used to the feeling of swimming in another layer. What I loved about wearing the suit is that (in addition to making me all superhero-like), it made me float. Such a cool feeling! And then when I swam, oh my, it made me go fast! Well, faster than without the suit, of course. Loved. It!
Race day came and it was pouring rain as we drove the hour from Waterloo to Lakeside. Rain. Ugh. Not good for a triathlon day! I was excited about the whole event – minus the rain – and eager to take part in the team relay and cheer on Chris, too. Luckily, the rain stopped before the race began, so we were all relieved.
The race announcer announced, though, that because of the warm lake temperature, wetsuits weren’t allowed. Say what? Swim in a lake without a wetsuit? No thanks. If participants used a wetsuit, then they wouldn’t be ranked in the standings. Chris and I ignored the rule and squeezed into our suits.
I’m being honest when I say that I was completely eager and excited to swim the 750m for my team. I wasn’t concerned about water creatures or slimy water plants because I knew I had the layer of protection from the suit.
I was absolutely not ready for what happened when the bullhorn blew and it was go time. I took my first stroke and I basically freaked out. Okay, not a full freak-out, but I was not fully prepared for the dark water. I was disoriented from the start, and concerned that I wouldn’t be able to swim in a straight line. I’m a strong swimmer, but I was out of my element (I’m a pool swimmer from the city! In Florida, I use a floating mat in the ocean!).
This feeling of (slight) panic was new for me. The only way I could have avoided the panic was to practice lake swimming. I should have. I will in the future. The darkness was not good for my brain.
So, realizing that my regular stroke-stroke-stroke-breathe rhythm would not work, I opted for breast stoke until I got used to things. After the first turning point marker in the lake, I inserted some front crawl, but I opted for breast stroke for most of the swim. I was so thankful for the wetsuit because I know that I would have felt worse without it. Most swimmers as far as I could tell were swimming some combination of front crawl, head up front crawl, and breast stroke. A lot of people were swimming crookedly. A few swimmers were yelled at by the lifeguards because they were swimming off course. Oh man, what a casino!
Our team did really well, finishing the swim+ride+run in 1 hour and 21 minutes. It took three of us to complete the triathlon, but we did it! Chris, on the other hand, finished all three events on his own like a champ!
I’ll be happy to do another triathlon relay in the future, but I’m not yet convinced of doing all three events on my own. Two, sure. But three? How!? Does anyone have any tri experiences they’d like to share? Please do!
A million thanks to Pat B. for braving the rain and taking so many photos! Unmarked photos by Pat B. Marked photos by Zoom Photo for Multisport Canada.
Thanks to Erika for putting up with all of my panicked emails regarding the shipping drama.
Many thanks to TYR for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own.
We’re heading into a long weekend here in the North, and I couldn’t be happier! It’s back-to-school season which means that my work life is extra busy at the moment. The students are back in town, and orientation week at uni starts in just a few days. My MBA courses will pick up again this week, and I’m in the final stages of prepping a new course I’ll be teaching. On top of this, of course, I have my usual work responsibilities. September is always an exciting – but uber-busy – month on my end. It has been for just about all my life!
And sometimes, in between all of the school tasks of September, my mind wanders into gorgeous design spaces. Today’s five rooms all feature two things: round mirrors and white square (or rectangle) tiles. The contrasting shapes work really well in these bathrooms, and make for a clean and modern aesthetic.
I’m still enjoying the beach life in Florida, and there’s plenty of wildlife around these parts. The turtles are nesting, the dolphins are jumping, and there are plenty of birds added into the mix, too.
In addition the the real life animals, I’ve spotted a couple of swan and flamingo pool/ocean toys. And this is what has inspired today’s swan-themed post. Let’s see what’s floating around the marketplace, shall we?
My friend Shannon and I are back in Madeira Beach for our annual girls’ vacation, and in between going to the beach, we’ve been catching up on some HGTV shows. Neither of us have cable at our homes, so this is a treat for us. We watched a couple episodes of Fixer Upper the other day with Chip and Joanna Gaines, and I really like their work. Generally, their makeovers are a bit more country than I generally like, but they do such a good job with the renos and styling. It’s so impressive! Via blogging, I’ve followed some of their projects, but I’ve only ever watchedÂ a few episodes of their show. Have you seen the show?
In addition to the show, they run a bed and breakfast in Texas, and have a beautiful shop called Magnolia Market. So that’s the inspiration for today’s two-of-a-kind.
A month or so ago, I had the opportunity to tour the new spa at Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ontario. It’s a beautiful, large, bright, and welcoming space. The furnishings, like elsewhere at Langdon, are traditional but modern, classic but not stuffy. (I wanted to jump in, I love the walnut, I can’t resist a beautiful orchid.)
During the open house, Julie, the Spa Director, warmly welcomed and greeted guests, and I enjoyed chatting with her about the Valmont products carried at the Spa. (I’ve been using the Valmont night cream, and I’m really enjoying it. I also feel very adult and fancy because I’m using face cream. Honestly, dear readers, I’m so terrible when it comes to beauty products!)
The Spa features spacious treatment rooms, including one I’ve never seen before that is a water treatment room (with large shower heads and such). A soothing blue and cream colour scheme was used in the manicure/pedicure area, and the lounge is set up with a (healthy) drinks station and plenty of comfy chairs and reading material. It’s definitely a calming and beautiful place to be, and I am eager to return!
For today’s hotel to home, I’m recreating the marble-clad bathroom/changeroom at the Langdon Hall Spa.
I encourage you to explore the rest of the Langdon Hall Spa if you’re looking for a day of pampering!
Note: Unfortunately, I have experienced terrible photo luck when it came to the Spa – I mistakenly deleted the photos I took with my camera, and because my iPhone4S (an oldie, but a goodie) broke two days before my trip to Europe, I lost a bunch of photos that were on it. Darn. Darn. I’ll be making a return trip to the Spa to use its services in the future, so I’ll be sure to take plenty more photos to make up for all of the recent deletions! I’ll be sure to report back to let you know if I felt relaxed!
The Anthropologie catalogue arrived last week, and it got me drooling! The store is so full of goodness. While not everything suits my style, I do appreciate Anthro’s overall aesthetic. And the pieces that I have picked out in the past for my home and wardrobe have definitely become some of my favourite items.
These five pieces have caught my summer-loving attention.
Just until about 3 or 4 years ago (or maybe 5?), I completely avoided stripes in my wardrobe. If something had stripes on it, I’d look the other way. Nowadays, though, I can’t resist them. Mostly, I go for the horizontal variety, but I also look for something a bit unusual (e.g., I loved this Banana Republic top as soon as I put it on).
We are heading into puffy coat season here in Waterloo. Each year, I’m on the look out for a new winter coat (I get so tired of mine by the end of a season). Sometimes I get lucky and I invest in something new, but this doesn’t happen every year. Coats are definitely an investment. Now with the brand names and the high-tech fabrics, winter coats can get pricey. Here’s just a small selection of some of the white puffers that are in the marketplace.
My fireplace remains unfinished (yes, it’s been almost 3 months…yikes!), but I hope to make progress in the weeks ahead…just in time for winter! For now, I’ve got my eye on fireplace accessories (not that I need any since my fireplace is gas, but still). Look how these log holders add instant charm and warmth to a home.
My Halloween (and fall decor for that matter) consists of a lone pumpkin by my front door. It’s simple, classic, and easy. This year, I’ve doubled up on my decor; I’ve added a boo-boo-boo garland to my door to welcome the trick-or-treaters. Wild, I know! I picked it up from Michaels for only a couple of dollars. I was actually impressed (and slightly overwhelmed) by the selection of Halloween decorations at the store. Everything was 50% when I was there last week, and if I really loved Halloween, I would have bought quite a bit. (I was sort of close to buying a skull cake pan mold…I thought it might look neat drenched in white icing.)
Last Friday, I had the opportunity to attend one of Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony’s Beethoven concert at the Centre in the Square, and I’m pretty excited to share my experience with you. This was the first time I had ever been to a symphony. I have been to the ballet, I go to random concerts, and I’m a regular theatre goer, but the symphony…I was a total newbie! Was it ever good!
The Beethoven concert that I attended was the first of a three-part Beethoven marathon. It covered his piano concerto no. 1 in C major and no. 4 in G major. The second and third shows, which occurred on the Saturday, covered additional concertos. Full disclosure – I don’t really know much about Beethoven or his concertos…even though it may have just sounded like I do!
The evening started off beautifully with an appearance by the Grand Philharmonic Choir. With them leading (and taking centre stage), we all sang O Canada. From there, the Symphony’s conductor, Edwin Outwater, welcomed everyone, and began the concert. Obviously, I couldn’t take pictures during the performance (obviously), the photos I’m sharing here are pre- and post-concert. They should give you an idea of the orchestra’s organization and presence on stage.
I am convinced that pianist Stewart Goodyear has magic fingers. Watching him play (via a close-up video streaming on a screen) was incredible. He was completely poised, played without any sheet music, and really seemed to love every moment of the concert. I really enjoy watching people who are so passionate about their art.
I have always appreciated the arts, but watching this talented team of musicians work together so seamlessly was pretty amazing. I know actors do it on stage, but this seemed like a completely different approach to team work, you know? Alone, noone could have achieved what was created as the whole.
I enjoyed the concert for more than just the music. The traditions and routines of the performance also caught my attention. The fact that the musicians wore black made their wood instruments really stand out. The pianist, wearing tails, artfully took his place at the piano on a black tufted bench. The conductor graciously thanked his orchestra for the performance and made certain that they shone throughout the evening.
the view from my seat – amazing!
Now, as Waterloo region is a major tech hub, we were treated to yet another something special. A while ago, the region hosted a 36-hour hack-a-thon in collaboration with the KW Symphony. Hackers came together and worked with the musicians and the space to create new experiences. The winners of the hack-a-thon were Adam Fancey and Justin Safa who developed Fractal Orchestra. Essentially, they recorded the performance and ran it through a too-complicated-for-me-to-figure-out program which created algorithms-or-something-equally-complicated that then led to pretty images. Pretty images – very cool. I know I’m not doing justice to their complicated work, so if you’re interested in the details, I’d encourage you to visit their new website. Here’s a look at some of their creations:
I know the images aren’t as clear here as they are in real life, so I’d encourage you to learn more here. They really are interesting pieces of modern art.
Now, on to my initial thoughts of the venue. This was my first time attending a show at the Centre in the Square, and I was pretty impressed by the architecture and decor. The stage was wonderfully lit, the wooden seats were modern and well-maintained. The reception areas outside of the concert hall surprised me, too. They were full of over-sized loung-y grey casual sofas and sleek gold side tables. The audience definitely made use of these spaces pre- and post-concert as well as during intermission. It was really good to see the large space filled with excited audience members.
The lighting was also something to note. Totally modern! Completely hip! Who knew? Kitchener-Waterloo continues to surprise me with its approach to design and architecture. I feel proud to promote this city (read this).
Â Â At some points throughout the concert, I caught myself thinking about how great it is to live in Kitchener-Waterloo. Attending the symphony at the Centre in the Square was easy, convenient, and approachable. I’m curious about whether or not my Waterloo region readers have had similarly positive experiences. Do tell!
It’s been a while since I’ve browsed Etsy, so I had a look around the other day, and picked a few items that I think are cool. As per usual, you can find just about anything you want or need on Etsy. Care to look at five things I picked out?
Puslinch? Heard of it? If you’ve driven on the 401 from Toronto to Kitchener-Waterloo, then you’ve probably seen the road sign for Puslinch. But have you ever gotten off the highway at the exit? Me neither. But…maybe I should. There’s at least one stunning house that I’d love to see.
This gorgeous waterfront home is currently on the market. The 100+ acres that surround the home ensure that there are beautiful views from every room.