Category Archives: The bedroom

8 time tested tips for an easier wake up, early in the morning

For some reason, I always end up having a job where I am required to wake up really, really early in the morning. It’s been like that pretty much constantly for the last 6 years, when I started working at a bakery.

I’ve had to set my alarm as early as 4h45 AM to go to work. Even in the peak days of sunlight duration, it’ still way dark out at that hour.

Getting up and ready isn’t always an easy task, so people are often asking how I do it.

Over the years, I’ve managed to create a routine that works well for me. I’m well aware that not everyone is built the same way and that it may not work for all people, but I still think that some of these ideas could be useful for people who are trying, but having a hard time in becoming morning people (growing into adulthood kind of forces most of us to become that way!). Here are 8 tips to help you wake up early in the morning and have enough energy to get through the day:

1: Have more than one alarm set. This helps so you can wake up a bit more slowly. The first alarm will wake you up, then you can relax a little bit more until the next one sets off (5 or ten minutes later). I usually set 7 different alarms. I’m crazy, I know, but I rarely let them all ring. It’s just a safety so that I don’t sleep right on through and open my eyes 1 hour later, when I should be arriving at work. Knowing that all these alarms will make sure I get up helps me calm down and have a better night’s sleep.

3 alarm clocks

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The ingredients of a perfect day: simple things that make me happy

After two heavy, rather personal posts (on traveling and death), I decided that this week’s piece would cover a lighter subject: everyday moments of joy.

Louise Hung wrote a fun piece for, titled Is happy really that simple? 10 tiny things that make me ecstatic.

This inspired me to make my own list of simple things that I like to do and that are, to me, among the necessary elements of having a great day.
Like most people, I’m at my workplace 40 hours per week. My schedule is tightly packed with long work days from Wednesday to Saturday and although I love my job, I cherish my days off. When I’m not blogging for this site or for Untapped Cities, I love to fill them with the many activities that make life enjoyable: long walks to discover the city, meals at yummy restaurants, going to the movies, getting together with friends, painting and crafting…

Sunday is the day where I best like to indulge. Usually, I’m in no shape to be productive in any manner since I’m coming off of having been through 3 consecutive 11.5 hour shifts (with minimal sleep between), so here’s what I like to do:

Sleep in:
A classic way to enjoy your day off is to sleep a little later than usual. Of course, when your weekday alarm sets off at 5h30AM, sleeping in means a rising time of 8h30AM at the very latest. Still, it feels so nice to rise after the sun has.

Sleeping in

Eat pastries for breakfast:
During the week, my first meal regularly consists of a dry bagel, orange juice and some Sesame snaps later on in the morning (I know, I know, this bad habit shall be changed soon). Come Sunday, I’m craving a good pancake or a gooey chocolate croissant. We are lucky to have a great bakery (Nigelle Café)at less than 3 minutes walk from our place and the walk to get there mostly takes us through alleyways. This means that we can walk to and from the place without changing out of our wrinkled sweats!


Paint my nails properly:
This is what my fingers look like during the week:

Ugly fingernails

Now here is what they look like after a good moisturizing treatment and some pretty polish. A simple, superficial but pleasant thing to do!

CUte nail art

Chill with my cats:
I do this because I love them and because if I don’t give them a bit of attention at least once a week, they’ll come to think of me only as that strange lady who serves the food (some particularly busy weeks I think my boyfriend sees me that way too).

Jack the cat

Experiment with fun hairstyles:
For the last year and a half, I’ve been dying my hair. The new shade I’m trying out is hot pink. I also need some new dos that are cute but practical for workdays. When I get up to go to work, I don’t have time to think about pins, barrettes and elastics. I want to be able to do my hair with my eyes half open and a toothbrush hanging loosely off my lip.
Sunday is the day where I take care of my hair, make it nice and learn how to do those cute fishtail braids or those 40 ways to wear a headscarf, so that when I’m getting ready on Wednesday at dawn, the fingers will do all the work and the brains can stay asleep a bit longer.

Pink hair blue flower

Watch some corny TV.
Ah, the couch. Such a warm, lovely place to spend a few hours. What better a thing to do on this comfy piece of furniture, than to sit, cover yourself in a warm blanket and enjoy the pleasures of turning off your brain for 21 minutes. I’m a sucker for cheesy sitcoms and lately I’ve been watching Will and Grace (I got the box set for Christmas). Friends, Modern Family, 30 rock… Watching hilarious (and often witty) TV shows, is one of my favorite ways to relax.

Cook a nice meal:
I’ve said it before here, I like to cook. For the new year, we are trying to reduce the number of pre-prepared meals we eat, so I try to fit cooking into my busy schedule.


Discover some new music:
I’ve been working on learning Spanish lately (Fluenz software is the best!) and I like to get lost in the deepest realms of Youtube, trying to find some good music en español that does not sound like this (no offense to the fans). I know it’s out there and I’m very open-minded about music (I like electic things ranging from Britney to Buena Vista Social Club or the Black Keys, yes that was me lazily going through the Bs on Itunes).

Here’s one gem that I discovered last week: Los Super elegantes.

As for music in English, I learned about the band Temples last week, through NME music magazine’s 2013 watch list.

Read, read, read and read some more:
I’ve always been a big reader. When I was young, it was babysitter’s club books. Then I developed an obsession for magazines of all kinds and never went back. I rarely read books but I read dozens of articles every day. I guess I prefer the shorter format of storytelling.
I often go to the same websites everyday, as they always release new content, but I still love to find new sites (using Stumble Upon is a great way).
Here’s a list of great websites I discovered lately:

Daily Nibbles

The Jealous curator

Stars for streetlights

This isn’t happiness

Seven spoons

Elise Blaha

Sincerely Kinsey

Poppy talk

comfy clothes leggings and a wool shirt

So that’s it, a list of simple pleasures that make life good on a regular basis. It may be nothing compared to visiting the Louvre, tasting a new dish on a side street of Sapporo or watching your favorite band live but as banal as these small things seem, they are just as important as the bigger, more extraordinary moments.

What are the little things in life that make you happy?

Zen bedroom

As mentioned in the previous post, we’ve hired a painter to redo a few of our rooms.

Here is what the bedroom used to look like:

Here is what it now looks like:

As you can see, I kept the white and green color scheme, but decided to ad some dark brown wood to make the contrasts in color more striking.

I love how nice, breathy and zen it is. Having to move most of the stuff out of the room made me realize that I prefer a bedroom that is less crowded, more zen. I ended up reorganizing our clothes and random objects so I could move out the big white shelf that was on the left side of the bed, blocking easy access to it. I also removed some of the boxes that were on the top shelves.

Much better 🙂

Little Japanese girl

I got this card for my birthday two years ago. A colleague had gone out to the papeterie next to our workplace during her breaktime. When she came back she handed me an envelope with, inside it, this cute card.

She said it reminded her of me.

I look Asian. I know that’s a vague affirmation, but that’s what people think when they first see me.

I have a round face, a small button shaped nose, dark brown hair and almond shaped eyes.

When I meet someone, I know they’ll eventually ask me where I’m from. For some, it’ll come soon after we are acquainted, where as for others, it will take more time. One friend tells me now that she first thought it was a sensitive subject since I didn’t bring it up myself so she was afraid to ask.

It isn’t. The whole truth: I’m the product of many mixes like most people. On my mother’s side everyone has been Canadian for multiple generations and on my dad’s side I have an Italian grandpa and a Canadian grandma. So where do those almond shaped eyes come from?  The most plausible explanation is that someone, somewhere along the line, was a native American. We don’t know for sure and haven’t bothered to check, but it’s what’s most likely.

When I was young, people thought that I was adopted. Whenever I was asked, I laughed it off, but sometimes I’d stare at my parents, wondering: ‘What if? Is there something they are hiding?’

‘No, that’s impossible’.  I’d shake the thought off instantly. Over time, I noticed that I’d inherited the same body shape that my dad’s sisters had, as well as his hair and my mom’s delicate features, so I felt reassured.

For other people though, it isn’t so clear. Just last week my downstairs neighbor asked my boyfriend if I was Japanese. I wish!

I’ve also been mistaken for a latina girl by a flirty counter guy at the Dominican bakery close to my former apartment. He addressed me in Spanish, and when I looked at him, confused, he said ‘You’re not latina?’. ‘No.’ I replied.. ‘Really?’ He asked, seeming doubtful.

When people ask ‘the question’, most times I’ll tell them to guess.  It creates so many possibilities and I love hearing people’s perception when they see someone that looks different enough to them that they’ll enquire about their origin, whilst still seeming local. I’m lucky, I’ve never felt racism because of my features (language is another question but that’s a whole other subject to write about). Once, a kid in elementary school called me a stupid Chinese girl but that hardly counts.

Most times people will think that I’m Vietnamese, Chinese or Korean. My boyfriend, on our first date, guessed that I was Mongolian (no joke!).

I love to hear all the possibilities of what I could be in the eyes of someone else. Sometimes I’ll even play with that idea a little bit before disclosing the truth to the person I’m with.

Like I said before, I myself don’t know all the elements of the truth. I have no idea where this native blood fits into the genealogy of my family. One day, if I have time and money to spend on that type of research I’ll do it. For now, I like not knowing. It kind of makes it more exciting to keep things mysterious.

Who knows what’s real? Does it matter? Will knowing the full truth change my identity or my view of the world?

Another funny story:

In 2009 I traveled to Rome with my boyfriend. We were people-watching at the piazza navona, when suddenly I saw this little girl, about 3 years old, playing with the pigeons. She was the spitting image of me at the same age, face, haircut, colorful clothes and all. When the pigeons stopped being friendly, she started crying and her parents came to comfort her. That’s when we realized that her father was Chinese and her mother Caucasian. Interesting!

I wonder if, wherever she lives, she’ll be faced with the same question over and over again, like I am.

I hope if she is, she’ll have fun blurring the lines of her identity like I do!

Little Japanese girl, little Chinese girl, little Italian girl, little Léa….

The concert ticket stub keepsake box

Note: By clicking on the names of the bands, a new tab will open and you’ll get to hear a song by the band in question. If the band’s name is mentioned more than once, each one will be linked to a different song. Enjoy!

I have box full of concert ticket stubs.

Esthetically speaking, the ticket is quite a banal object in itself. Once the event is over, it has served its purpose and therefore becomes a small piece of paper with words on it. Nothing very interesting there.

So how come I keep all of my tickets and stuff them into an empty shoe box like old polaroids or past diaries ?

Because they tell stories, of course!

I’m quite the music fan. Although I don’t play any instruments (yet), I come from a fairly musical family with, among others, a great-aunt on one side that is a classical music composer, and an aunt on the other side that is a professional musician. Music is a big part of our lives. Both my brother and I are human jukeboxes (unfortunately for me, I have a rather flat voice whilst he sounds like a jazz crooner).

Going to concerts is something I love to do. When a concert is good, you can feel so many emotions at once, and the concert hall becomes sort of isolated from the rest of the world. You feel like you are experiencing something unique whilst sharing it along with hundreds of people. That can be quite magical.

In that sense, the box of tickets serves as a key to accessing many beautiful memories.

I admit that although I don’t go out every week to see a show, I have attended quite a few in my time and I sometimes forget that I’ve seen certain bands. Opening this box can be a nostalgic affair for me. I don’t that think I’m a sentimental person in general, but reliving great concerts and events can bring back certain emotions that couldn’t be rooted anywhere else than through live music. Remembering these moments can bring you back to that state of mind, if even just a little bit.

I like tickets for that. Even when I go to a free concert, I sometimes cut out an article mentioning it in a newspaper, as memorabilia.

When I opened the ticket box to write this article, the one item that popped out among others was the concert pass to the 2003 Warped Tour. I was 17 in 2003 and this was my second time at the Warped tour. (For those not in the know: the Warped tour is a one day festival touring around North America that includes dozens of bands and focuses on the punk, ska and hardcore genres).

All I wanted for that day was to replicate the fun I’d had the year before, in august 2002. All the elements for success were present: beautiful weather, friends and some of my favorite bands at the time (Pennywise, Rancid, Me first and the gimme gimmes). I don’t know what happened but at the end of the day, I found the whole thing had been just OK, not incredible. I felt dissapointed.

Friday August 16th 2002, day of the first Warped tour I attended, had been an important day in my teenage life.

Five of us had gathered and found a ride to go to Montreal (the big city for us small town folk!). We were all decked out in our fiercest teenage punk attire, scared but excited at the prospect of being at our first real punk show. It ended up being quite the introduction!

At first, we didn’t know what we were doing or where we were going. We decided to make a stop at the first stage we stumbled upon.  It was a tiny stage, and some local punk band was playing. Apparently, they never made it big after that because I don’t remember their name, but we did get a free CD out of it!

We then found the big billboard where the day’s schedule was displayed.

One of the nice things about the Warped tour is that they don’t publish the schedule ahead of time. Bands  themselves learn their time slot when they arrive on site in the morning. This means that festival-goers have to come for the whole day just to make sure that they’ll see the bands they love. During pauses between the shows, most people will then go to check out new bands that they aren’t familiar with.

I guess that now that people have cell phones, concert times could be shared via twitter or Facebook, meaning that some don’t show up early if their favorite bands are playing late, but I still think it’s a good idea and I do remember people at the door being strict about going in and out of the site.

We were in luck as many of the bands playing in 2002 were among our favorites at the time: New Found Glory, Something Corporate, Mxpx, Goldfinger, Bad Religion… All favorites of the pseudo-rebellious poppy punk teenager of the early aughts that we fancied ourselves being.

The heat was intense, we were covered in dirt and I don’t remember us eating much throughout the day, but when the concerts wrapped up and we headed back towards the south-shore of Montreal to catch our ride, we were ecstatic.

We’d all been to concerts before but this was one of the first that we had enjoyed by ourselves, as a group of unchaperoned teens. It was the start of many more to come.

I lost the ticket to the first Warped tour I attended so now when I see the one from 2003, instead of reminiscing about that year, I’m reminded of the year before, which was such an epic event that I actually tried to recreate it.

I’ve done that a few times, trying to recapture great moments by going back to the same places, eating certain foods, seeing certain people. It never works. I always end up being disappointed that I couldn’t bring back the moment’s sentiment.

How about you? Have you done that before?

Here are short recaps of other great concerts I’ve had the pleasure to see and that I would highly recommend you attending  if these acts play in a venue in or close to your city:

Arcade Fire: Twice, once for free in the Place Longueuil shopping centre parking lot. Another time, also for free, at the Place des festivals.

Arcade Fire being a local band here, we fans are lucky because the group treats us well! In June 2010, not long before the release of their album The Suburbs, the band announced that a free show would be happening the very next day in the parking lot of a mall in a suburban town close to Montreal. People didn’t believe it at first, as it started out as a rumor, but then the group confirmed it. On their website, they gave instructions as to how to get there, telling us to download a file that would accompany our walk from the subway station to the location where the concert would be held.

News spread quickly on Facebook and twitter and it was even printed in the newspapers that had time to add it to their pages last minute before sending their issues to print.

No one knew what to expect. We all got to Longueuil subway station a few minutes before the scheduled time of start. We found ourselves following a trail that had been drawn on the pavement with chalk. Scattered throughout  the lines and arrows where short phrases, which we would later learn were lyrics from one of the new songs. Everyone put their headphones on and listened to the file they had been told to download: it was a recording playing one of the new songs and namesake of the album: The Suburbs, twice in a row. The file played out long enough to take us from the subway station to the stage. Once we got there, we could see members of the band chilling out on the grass in the backstage area. They also seemed not to know what to expect.

Ten thousand people showed up and witnessed something beautiful.

A little more than a year later, one hundred thousand people came to see Arcade Fire when they played another free outdoor show in Montreal. This one had been well announced beforehand and was happening at the Place-des-festivals. Once again, it was a great show. This band really gives it their all when on stage.

Radiohead: Outdoor show at the Parc Jean-Drapeau (on Ile Sainte-Hélène a small island near Montreal).

Towards the end of the show, the weekly summer fireworks competition held at the amusement park on the same island had started and it made for a beautiful, if unplanned finale. I heard afterwards that Thom Yorke was annoyed and didn’t really appreciate the surprise light show that was competing with their own that was playing out on stage. I don’t care, it was superb and seemed well timed (plus I’m one of the only people on earth who hates the sound of fireworks cracking, so having such gorgeous music covering it up and only being left with the beautiful light explosions was a great thing for me).

Thomas Fersen: Free at the Francofolies music festival.

Crowds that attend free concerts at music festivals are often strange. There’s always a mix of true fans, people that know only one song by the artist, people that were dragged here by friends and people that have no clue and are just here because it’s free. The Thomas Fersen show at the Francofolies 2010 was no exception. Arrogant teenagers screamed random curse words at each other, a group of african mamas stared at the stage and seemed unsure that they liked the music and an obviously stoned middle-aged man danced around spastically. It was beautiful. Beautiful because everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and a large part of the crowd were true fans so it became quite the sing-a-long. That and the fact that Fersen came back to the stage for four encores meant that is was a memorable show.

Amadou et Mariam– Twice. Once at the Metropolis in Montreal and another time at Palais de la Méditérranée in Nice (France). The famed blind couple from Mali make beautiful music together and surround themselves with a great entourage, making for a nice concert even though they themselves don’t move around much on stage (except when Amadou has crazy guitar solos). Most of the music is very upbeat so if you attend one of their concerts, expect to dance! One note: Amadou et Mariam have blind fans who come to concerts for the music. I learned that the hard way. At the Nice concert, my boyfriend and I had a great spot right in front of the stage. During the concert, I felt a guy touching me. Thinking he was trying to grope me (it happens a lot at concerts, sadly) I pushed him away over and over and eventually got my boyfriend to stand right in back of me. The guy stopped and I felt relieved but still irked. Finally, when the lights came on at the end, I saw that he was blind and was just trying to see where the stage was! Needless to say, I felt horrible and tried to apologize but the guy left too quickly.

Karkwa– Undoubtedly one of the best live bands we have here in Quebec. I’ve seen them three times. Once at a rocking Quebec National holiday concert, once when they opened for Arcade fire at the Place des Festivals and another time as a main act, playing at the Metropolis. Don’t expect to mosh or dance like there’s no tomorrow at one of their concerts. Karkwa plays rock music, but more in the category à la Radiohead circa OK computer or even Kid A, so most times the crowd floats into a trance, carried by the beauty of the melodies and the singer’s delicate voice.

Eiffel: A powerful rock band that has a large following in France but is largely unknown here. They came and played at the latest Francofolies festival this summer. Their music is rocking and packed with lots of energy. If you understand french, the lyrics are worth reading as frontman Romain Humeau has a way with words. I attended both shows that they played, the free outdoor one and the paying indoor one. It was strange knowing that they have no trouble selling out large venues across the Atlantic, but that here they are no better known than the next up and coming band. Even though the room at the indoor show wasn’t very full, Eiffel gave it their all and seemed to have fun. We, fans (all thirty of us!) sure did!

I’d love to hear about your favorite concert experiences!  Feel free to tell me about them in the comments section.