Category Archives: Personal

February faves

What an excellent month it has been — for me and for the blog! I’ve finally felt the right combination of inspired and organized to keep up with the blog and create content that I’m proud of. And, astoundingly, people are reading!

Thanks to everyone who has been so enthusiastic in the Urban Garlic “community” (ugh, I need to find a better way to describe “people who like my blog”).

Back when I first started this blog I had a sort of “Things I’m loving lately” feature, which I used to enjoy doing, but I think I got more out of it than anyone else. But ya know what? I’m bringing it back!


“So… are you still blogging?”

Last month, I told my husband that I was pretty sure — 101% sure, actually — that Urban Garlic was done.

The site took too much effort, too many skills that I didn’t have (or have the time to build up) and had pretty much zero payoff. My reach was dismal, and I felt pressured to constantly come up with creative cooking options when I really just wanted to eat and enjoy it. Plus, most importantly (and I still feel this way), I don’t think the world needs another vegan blogger.

I considered writing a post that I was abandoning UG, but I got too discouraged even then. No one would bother reading it, and it felt sanctimonious and martyrish (even saying “no one would bother reading it” sounds super self-pitying, but the fact is, my reader numbers are low, lower than Flo Rida’s shorty ever got).

So what’s changed? Well, not much for me, but I’ve felt more compelled to write for my own blog. Just maybe not in the same ways.

When I started Urban Garlic, it wasn’t even supposed to be a food blog. It was supposed to be a chatty lifestyle blog about what I was into at the moment, what I was doing with my time, new restaurants I’d been to and, yes, some recipes. It was largely as an escape from a job I found boring, an emotionally distant and unfulfilling relationship and a very cold and lonely social life.

Since then, things have changed. I have a new job that I am positively in love with. I married the man of my dreams. I found myself a great circle of friends, just the size I like. In other words, I didn’t feel like I needed Urban Garlic anymore. For a few years I kept it up out of sheer obligation, and I became determined to be the next Oh She Glows or It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken.

Even if I still worked 40 hours a week while other bloggers were able to devote themselves full-time to it.

Even if I had no discernible photography skills.

Even if I had zero room for food experimentation.

You get where I’m going here.

Anyway, Urban Garlic stood still for a very long time. And yet, instead of giving it up, I’m just going back to Urban Garlic being what it was always supposed to be: my blog.

A lot of this content will probably revolve around food, but it might be more focused on things like local eateries, vegan fashion, and generally what my life has been going like. The plan is to make blog posts shorter so they don’t seem as daunting, and to just write as I go, write when I have time, and not feel pressured to build or push a “brand” when all I should really worry about is being myself. Before committing to a specific schedule, I’ll have to build things and get used to what kind of workload I’m comfortable with. I’ll find new ways to promote UG as I see fit, but overall I need to do what I can do stop UG from stressing me out and make it into the blog I’ve always wanted it to be.

How’s that sound?

Photography goals

Yesterday I did something I haven’t done in almost a year: I whipped out my DSLR.

I used it (mostly in auto mode) to take a few clunky self-portraits for my upcoming vegan lipstick post (look for it this week!) and ended up making a fairly crude home “studio.”

What can I say? I caught a bit of a photography bug.


Hey everyone! I’m alive!

Here’s the scoop — for the past two weeks, my editor has been at the NewFronts in New York, meaning I’ve been running the ship here. I’ve also been getting a TON of news because, well, it’s NewFronts! If you don’t know what NewFronts is, just smile and nod. Basically, I’ve been a busy, busy, busy girl, but I have been writing UG content — just waiting to carve out the time to get it online and organize it.

Here are a few updates to share with you:

  • I’ve started writing a lot of lifestyle content! Ever since my “Starbucks experiment” last fall I’ve been really devoted to living my life in a budget-friendly way and I want to share some of the things I’ve learned.
  • I’m also personally getting more into style. I don’t think I’ll start doing style-bloggery anytime soon, but maybe I’ll share some of my outfits of the day!
  • I bought my first purse, which is kind of a big deal.
  • I’m turning 27 in a month! Holy crap!
  • My parents are about to celebrate their 33rd anniversary, and they haven’t even killed each other yet. How about a round of applause for that?
  • Recital season is coming up, and naturally, I’m terrified.
  • I have a new hairstyle I’m working toward! Undercut grow-out? I know it sounds tricky, but trust me guys, I got this!

Anyway, sorry for the lightning-fast update — I’ll have some great new smoothie bowls running out later this week!

New vegan personal/household products I’ve tried lately (including one that almost burned my eyelid off)

Big Shampoo

It’s been a busy start to spring in our apartment (which our friend Molly has affectionately nicknamed the “BJ Supermarket”). We’ve been more productive than ever with clean-ups, new organization systems and personal projects (like finally re-stringing my ancient hand-me-down guitar, or Jar’s continued work on his model train layout. His birthday gift to me can be getting it the f*%^ out of the way of the guest bed).

We’ve also still got big plans, like what we want to do with the balcony, how we want to hang the rest of our art, and how we want our bedroom to evolve, style-wise.

As I’ve eased myself into this new living situation (quite comfortably, I might say), I’ve also settled on products that I’m most comfortable with for doing work around the house, and also, well, work on me. I’ve reviewed a few of my favourite household and personal products before, but I thought I might give an update on some things that have worked out really well for me — and some that haven’t.

I want to state that I’m not strictly a naturalist (is that the right word?) when it comes to my products, even though most of these products you will find are considered “clean” and “chemical-free.” The fact is it’s just easier to find vegan products that also fall under this umbrella — and it’s also easier to track which ingredients were tested on or derived from animals this way.

Note: None of the following products are blog sponsors and no money or personal goods have been accepted in exchange for positive reviews.

Earthpaste natural toothpaste in Wintergreen

  • Price: $6.55
  • Where I bought it: The Big Carrot

I’ll admit I’m a sucker for something just because it seems different. Earthpaste certainly sells itself as different. This is a clay-based toothpaste with no fluoride or foaming agents. It’s the foaming agents thing that makes the biggest difference (again: while I’m not strictly anti-fluoride, since most vegan toothpastes are fluoride-free, I’ve lived without it for years). You won’t get that big foamy texture in your mouth, which definitely feels different. I’m normally one to shrug at this — less foam doesn’t mean you’re less clean. But unfortunately that results in a really thin, runny consistency in the paste. There’s something about the clay that also feels gritty, which I personally don’t like on my teeth. I can’t speak to its long-term success, but I just found no matter what it was difficult to make my mouth feel “clean” after.

Bottom line: Would probably not recommend this product, but it’s more about personal preference.

Green Beaver Cilantro and Mint Toothpaste

  • Price: $4.99
  • Where I bought it: Noah’s (King/Spadina)

Yep, somehow I found a cilantro toothpaste. I actually rushed out to buy a new toothpaste after I decided I couldn’t take another day of the Earthpaste. I was going to go back to my usual Kiss My Face brand, but that was about $3 more expensive, and… I mean, cilantro, y’all. I’ll admit this toothpaste probably isn’t for everyone. Cilantro is already an acquired taste (I used to hate it, now I have it in/on everything!) and it’s not the most common thing to find in a toothpaste, but is a really unique taste. It’s still not as foamy as a conventional toothpaste (it’s more creamy) but it at least isn’t super runny, and a little bit of toothpaste goes a way longer way. After this tube is out I’ll probably spend the extra bucks on one of my older preferred brands, but it’s been a good trip.

Bottom line: Would recommend this product to anyone who likes cilantro, but it’s by no means an amazing toothpaste.

ELF Illuminating Eye Cream

Remember a couple weeks ago when I said I was having “some eye issues” lately? I’d been waking up with a lot of eye secretions (sorry, I know that word is nasty) and even crust on my eye that was so bad I could barely open them some mornings. I also experienced a burn on the outer corner of my left eye. I eliminated all of my face products and makeup for a bit and slowly re-introduced them, and the ELF cream started to look like the suspect. I also took a look at the one-star reviews of the product online (I tend to avoid both five and one-star reviews since they usually exaggerate a lot on either side) and found a lot of people said the same thing! Stinging, burning, redness, eczema… yeah. Anyway, ELF responded to my complaints almost immediately and offered a refund, which I have to say really impressed me on their part. However, that doesn’t change the fact that I’m really publicly not recommending this product to anyone with even vaguely sensitive skin (my skin tends to fall under combination/normal and isn’t very sensitive).

Bottom line: Would absolutely not recommend this product regardless of skin type or needs.

Attitude Daily Shower cleaner in Citrus Zest

  • Price: $4.99
  • Where I bought it: The Big Carrot

Moving into an apartment can be tough — even if the building management cleans your tub prior, one big clean session can’t quite get everything off the surface. Combine that with us both being, well, basic human beings who shower every day, and me being a girl who likes her bath (and bath bombs) it was really hard to get ahead with the tub. Admittedly, most vegan bathroom products I’ve tried don’t have the same scrubbing power as non-vegan ones (although I hated using traditional cleansers like Vim anyway because of how they irritated my hands). Every time I’d give a good cleaning session (that would wear my shoulders and chest out as much as a good climb would) it felt like I never got the grime fully off, then after one shower it was dirty again. Anyway, we spontaneously decided to grab this stuff at the Carrot one day. Upon first use we gave it a super thorough scrubbing (that’s recommended for very dirty bathtubs. I’d like to think our bathtub wasn’t “very dirty,” but still, we wanted to see results) and we now use it after every shower. Woah! Major difference. No grit, no weird shady shit that I try to convince myself is a shadow, just a nice, clean shower (and the smell is barely-there, so you don’t have to worry about some overbearing artificial fragrance).

Lush BIG shampoo

  • Price: $27.95
  • Where I bought it: LUSH (Queen/Peter)

I’ve finally reached a point in my life where I no longer have to shampoo my hair every single day. In fact, I’m down to about 1-2 shampoos per week. This shampoo has proven to be the best possible formula for my hair — which is of the Flat ‘n’ Floppy variety. Most shampoos intended for volumizing tend to dry my hair out too much (my hair has oily roots but once you get down to ear level you start to see the dryness/damage), whereas this is a mild enough formula that it doesn’t leave my hair feeling totally parched. A little goes a long way with this shampoo in terms of lather, and the sea salt sensation is actually really cool.

Bottom line: would recommend this shampoo to anyone with a flat hair problem!

One last thing: I had a few lipstick reviews to add (I’m a total lipstick junkie), but I’ve decided to do a separate post on my favourite vegan lipsticks. You guys have to hold me to that, okay?

Little wins

No losses this week — only wins. Here are some of the highlights of the past week.

  • Last week I attended the Earl Haig Secondary School 2016 Dance Night. What a show that was! One of my studio’s seniors took part in the show and danced so beautifully, along with the rest of her classmates. It was wonderful to see the amazing choreography and dance education that is being taught in this school. At the end of the night she was also awarded the Gr. 12 dance award, and I swear I started crying in the audience. What a great night it was!
  • I found out what was causing the rash in my eye, and I’ve actually gotten it to calm down a bit. I’ll be discussing that in an upcoming post on new vegan household and personal products I’ve been using lately.
  • This past weekend was a total balcony weekend. We spent so much time outside, either on the balcony or taking walks, playing with Ben, planning our dream balcony (on Sunday I’ll be bringing my winter tires, which I’ve previously stored on my deck, to my mom’s place, so that’ll free up some space).
  • My hair has been friggin’ on point lately!
  • So have my pirouettes! Whoop whoop!
  • I’ve been consistently climbing V3s as I get more into bouldering. I’ve spent the past year doing sport climbing 90% of the time so I’ve decided it’s time to get a bit more varied in my climbing. Mainly because I want to be Alex Puccio. Or marry her. One of those.
  • A new vegan soft serve place has opened in Toronto — I should get on that shit!

Dem ugly days

Some days I really, really like the way I look. I feel good about myself. I feel fresh, I feel pretty, I feel bright.

Some days, I look like Johnny Depp in Secret Window.

Yep, that’s the specific look I struck today. Wasn’t going for it, but that’s how it turned out.

I’ve never felt particularly comfortable about how I look. Lately it’s been getting better, and I’ve started to actually really love the things that make my face, for lack of better words, unique (and I mean, they are unique). I love my weirdo broken nose, I love my big chin.

Thanks to Facebook and its weird-ass “memories,” I got a look at myself in a picture from four years ago, while I was on a quick solo road trip after finishing school. I have to say, I barely recognize myself, and not just because I had hair then. I look all wide-eyed and kiddish. It’s hard to believe that that wide-eyed kid was six months away from her first job, which made her grow up so so much, eight months away from her last quarter pounder with cheese, nine months away from starting to climb, which made her into a completely different person inside and out, and two and a half years away from (so far) the best relationship of her life.

So even though yesterday was a super cute day, today is an ugly day, and I’m kind of okay with that. Because things will always change and shift and mess around, and I’m pretty alright with that. The changes and shifts and messes are, after all, part of what makes life fun.

Plus, to be candid, I’ve been having some issues with my eyes lately. Not the deep scarring on my eyes (that’s mostly healed), but they’ve  been extremely dry the last few days, and the skin around my eyes has become red and irritated. I’ve actually had to continuously rub balm on the outside of my left eye (which I’m sure is actually bad for it) just so it will stop burning so badly. I’ve been waking up in the morning with 5000% crustier eyes (sorry, guys!) and overall they’ve just felt shitty over the past week or so. I’m giving myself a week of no makeup, no excessive product on my face, no contacts to see if that does the trick. Hopefully it’s just weather change.

Anyway, the other uglies, they’ll fade… and come back, and fade and come back. You know how it goes. Boo-urns, but hey, at least it keeps things interesting.

Little failures and wins

Little failures:

  • Somehow properly changing my billing address but NOT properly changing my shipping address on Modcloth, so my new amazing little black dress for my cousin’s wedding is getting sent to my Mom’s house.
  • Skipping ballet class on Saturday and regretting it for the past four days.
  • My favourite “nice” shirt has a permanent blood stain on it (that stained it from the inside out since I did not realize my arm was bleeding). Anyone know what gets old blood out?

Little wins:

  • My senior student Hannah has her last high school dance performance next Wednesday and she’s invited me to come!
  • Sweet new red lipstick that makes me look fierce as fuuuuuck.
  • New friends at work!
  • Partner made the most incredible lentil soup that made our apartment smell like heaven.

Thinking about the future

This weekend was one of those rare weekends when my partner and I got in a bit of a tiff. I think it’s silly to brag about being “one of those couples who never fights” because that’s a really weird badge of pride to wear, but I will say for the record that we do rarely fight because we’re pretty good at talking things out (I doubt I’d be this way with anyone else, as I’m the one who gets easily worked up. He is just very good at calming me down). Anyway, like with most fights, it ended up with me being more emotional, then us slowly coming to some revelations, and having a pretty good talk that ended up happy and focused (even though I was still full of tears and boogers).

I’m not going to get into what it was totally about or how it got started (“stay outa my personal space”) but I will share this: it got me thinking about the future.

My 27th birthday is coming up in a couple of months (who wants to buy me a pair of vegan Doc Martens plz?? The high top kind thannnnkkkkks?) and I’m more focused on my future than ever. I’m really satisfied with where I am in my life, but I have big plans. The more time I put into my job, the more time (and love, and experience) we both put into our relationship, every time I scrub the bathtub and sweep the kitchen floor, every time I make a new recipe, I remind myself that it’s all going toward something. Something bigger. Life is about learning and whatnot, right? So I might as well take every single thing I do as a learning experience, and put it toward something.

I think there’s a lot of happy middle-ground between being a blade of grass blowing in the wind and being a chronic (annoying) over-planner, and I like to think I’m somewhere in that happy middle ground. I have plans that I’m flexible on, I have goals that I accept will be affected by changing circumstances and I have expectations that I can lower or raise at any given moment. But those plans, goals and expectations are there.


For example, I’m theoretically fine with never owning a house if I always live in Toronto (for those unfamiliar with our real estate market, it’s pretty much suck city, and a new law requires a minimum 10% downpayment, which is difficult when the average home price is $1mil). However, if my income goes up a certain amount, I will want to look at home ownership, because I look at a home as something that I can build equity on, and something that allows me more freedom. My family doesn’t have any expectations for me in terms of home ownership — one of my siblings owns, one rents, and both are happy in their respective situations — and my partner is also fine with renting for the rest of his life (he does own land up North though), so this is an expectation I have for myself, not one that others have for me.

Another thing that I have some specific(ish) goals are is my job. I’m really kicking ass where I am right now, and I plan on staying here for a little while longer, at the very least so I can learn more and hone my craft. Eventually I would like to get into radio, specifically into producing investigative/feature/doc work. My goal has always been to create the content that I enjoy — I’m the type of person who likes to pull things apart and figure out how everything works, and as someone who has enjoyed radio docs for a very long time, being a part of the team that puts that together is a serious desire for me. Ultimately getting into hosting would be awesome, if only so I could meet and talk to and help tell the stories of amazing people from around the world. I have a lot of time for that, but the fact is I know what the next opportunity will look like when I see that.

Finally, there’s family. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I don’t want children and that is a goal shared by my partner. However, I’m so excited to finally share on the blog that my sister is expecting a little one of her own this summer, and I could not be happier! Becoming an aunt and uncle is very exciting for us — obviously it’s not nearly the same experience as preparing to become parents, but we’ve also started thinking about how it will change our lives in terms of being there for my sister, what kind of examples we set, and how we keep our place. I’ve thought a lot about what kind of role I want to play in my nephew’s life, and while being the “fun aunt” is a huge goal for me, what’s more important is being a responsible, kind and helpful aunt, one that spreads the values my sister and brother-in-law will teach in their home. We’d like a dog one day, but that will depend on what our careers bring for both of us — if one of us ends up working from home a couple days of the week, it may be possible.

A few people have asked me the M-word is in my future (yeah, we both discussed how “marriage” is a scary word to say). The answer? Not now, maybe someday. If it happens, what you definitely can’t expect is a wedding-wedding. No ceremony, no speeches, no reception, no dress, no rings, no engagement. Hey, I have no issue with those things for other people (in fact, I highly encourage everyone in the world to get married and have weddings so I may attend), but they’re never things I’ve wanted for myself, and they don’t jive well with who we are.

Anyway, was this a big post of nothin’? Too personal? Too vague? I feel pretty good about things, even if it doesn’t come off that way in my writing. For now, I’m off to keep kickin’ ass at work. You can expect a new smoothie recipe on the blog later this week!

Writing an actual blog… how do I do this again?

The second I hit the “publish” button on yesterday’s post (after it sat in the queue for nearly a month… silly me) I had one of those dramatic “no turning back” feelings. I was now tasked with actually committing to what I’d said — that I was going to take a more personal approach to Urban Garlic, stop treating it like such a business and, at the same time, give the blog a little more of my (ugh) soul.

I can’t remember the last time I kept a blog that actually had the “log” side of things down (heh. Log). I have a Tumblr, but that’s more a collection of images I find amusing, intermittently spaced with rants about social justice, veganism and Dance Moms. I’d estimate that the last time I used a blog as an actual journal-type blog was in early high school. No, I can’t remember what platform it was on, and no… I’m not eager to re-visit it.

But I am eager to re-visit the idea of actually just writing about my life online.

I don’t mean “Top 10 things I learned from climbing!” or “Eight products I’m totally digging the shit out of lately” — although those types of posts may creep around occasionally. Like I said yesterday, those posts tend to feel a little pretentious to me, like I’m ranting as though I know it all. I don’t. Let’s face it: I’m 26 and am in just as much of a “figuring my shit out” stage as every other 26-year-old.

I think I look that blogs that are successful and see them presented with a distinct style of messaging that makes them seem more like a professional publication than a personal blog, so I’ve tried to imitate that in order to be successful.

But something I’ve started doing lately is looking back at people’s early posts.

It’s hard to feel bad about where I am now when I look at how everyone else started.

But I realize now that I’ve already poured more than 300 words out about this and not anything about what is actually going on with my life at the moment.

This moment? This very moment? I’m taking a bit of a breather after a marathon writing session at work, then back to writing. I’ve just purchased a dress for my cousin’s wedding (trust me, there will be pictures) and am sipping on some “super ginger” tea from David’s Tea (I’ve come a long way from turning my nose up at ginger three years ago), sneaking in a few pages from The Only Average Guy by John Filion when I can.

The near-future? Okay, that’s more exciting! I’m going for a solo bouldering session and then a much needed treat-yoself night featuring bath, shampooing the hair (I’ve successfully gotten it down to one shampoo per week and my hair looks and feels awesome!) and watching a movie (I’ve settled on Martha Marcy May Marlene, which I’ve never actually finished. Side-note: it’s really hard to watch Hugh Dancey play a dick. He’ll always be Will Graham to me). Tomorrow is a ballet day, and I’m also working on a new smoothie recipe, new salad recipe and new burger recipe. I guarantee I won’t get all of those done, but… I can try, right?

At some point this weekend we wanted to get some suit shopping done. Jar really wants to get a new suit for my cousin’s wedding, and I’m looking forward to showing up on his arm. What can I say? We’re shallow sometimes.

Anyway, I suppose I haven’t really said that much of anything, but sometimes it just feels nice to talk about things that make you happy.