Monthly Archives: November 2014

Hooraw for raw?

I have a tendency to avoid food and exercise trends when they first come about. Actually, I have a tendency to avoid all trends when they first come about. So I’ve always been relatively cautious about the whole raw thing. I mean, I’m a naturally cold person. I like my food to warm me up. Sue me!

Last night was my third time ever making a “raw” dessert. I will say that it’s absolutely ridiculous when you have a really small food processor. It was a long, messy and really annoying experience.

It’s not enough to sour me on raw foods — I understand the benefit. I don’t believe that it’s necessary to eat 100% raw, but I do think North Americans need to incorporate more raw foods into their diet in order to benefit from more nutrients. It was an interesting experience, but I’ll admit I was kind of pissed off by the end of it.

Anyway, this recipe was mostly adapted from the Oh She Glows two-layer raw chocolate brownies. The only difference I made was adding a drop of orange extract to both layers, making them chocolate orange brownies.

I didn’t think, after the long and relatively annoying process of making them, that the brownie would be worth it, but… it was.

Sorry for this stub of a post. I’ll have some cool shots from my weekend up on Sunday or Monday — I’ll be learning how to make the most of photos taken with my phone and how to use Photoshop for blog images, so wish me luck!

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Things I’m loving lately: November edition

I can’t believe I sat here racking my brain looking for an idea for a blog post today (I’ll post about my awesome scones on Thursday!) when I remembered that I promised to do an aggregated blog post every month. And since I actually have a small handful of followers, I’d hate to disappoint you! All five of you.

But hey, can I just stop and take a moment to talk about how proud I am that I’ve been able to consistently dedicate myself to a blog for a month? I know, a month doesn’t seem like a lot, but this is better than I’ve done with most blogs, and I think that’s because I’m really “feeling” it this time. I don’t have to force anything or worry about putting on a persona — I’m just putting myself out there. Things are growing organically, and I can’t really complain about that.

Anyway, enough mushy — on to my “love list.”

Obviously, things are cooling down right now (you don’t say!) and yet, I’m doing my best to stand up against November and still be active, productive and happy. Here are some of the things that have been a part of my life lately.

  1. Chimichurri sauce. Ah yes, a zesty, summer steak sauce is perfect for a vegan in November! But okay, hear me out. I’m a woman of contrast. If the weather is cold outside, I’m going to toss some peach salsa on my sandwich and put an umbrella in my coffee. Take that, cold! Chimichurri is a great way to zest up something without it seeming too out-of-season. As for what I like it on, I’m a big fan of glazing it onto roasted corn, cauliflower, in pasta, portobello mushrooms (ESPECIALLY bellos), or, my current kick, which is mixing it in with some mashed avocado and spreading it onto a sandwich. I picked up a bottle of pre-made from Sobey’s, but I had an old co-worker named Leo who was Argentinian and swore I wasn’t having real chimichurri unless I made it myself — this is the recipe I adapted, but with cilantro instead of the parsley (say whaaaa)?!
  2. Pacifica’s Coconut Kiss lip butter in Blissed Out. I’ve said before that I’ve always been afraid to wear dark colours on my lips, but this one really suits me well and seems almost universally flattering because of the mix of warm burgundy with cool blueish undertones. I love Pacifica in general; their Tuscan Blood Orange scent is my go-to for any beauty product.
  3. A Beautiful Mess’s Cinnamon Girl cocktail. I actually haven’t made this yet. But hold up. I didn’t know until just the other night at Hogtown Vegan that Kahlua is vegan. RIGHT?! I can’t explain my thought process on that. Anyway, I love stuff that’s cold in temp but warm in taste, and more importantly, the name is a Neil Young lyric. So… perfect, right? I’m gonna get on making this this weekend.
  4. Scones. Blueberry scones. Raspberry scones. Lemon cranberry scones. Chocolate scones. Peanut butter scones. Daiya scones. I don’t have a favourite recipe (yet) because I’ve only ever actually made scones myself once (last night! HAH!) but they were vegan, gluten-free blueberry scones and I’ve been covering them in Map-O-Spread. Canadian tradition all the way. 🙂
  5. You Are Not So Smart. This podcast has become my favourite thing to listen to while I’m working and having a hard time sorting through all the junk in my head. It very cleverly and astutely identifies a lot of complexes, contradictions and fallacies that we encounter in everyday life and brings in very interesting subject matter experts to discuss them at a highly academic level that never feels like it flies over your head. It helps both bring us all down to Earth but also enlighten and empower us. I think.
  6. Lately, I’ve been interested in making my own hangboard. I’ve seen only a few really well-communicated methods online, but I like the idea of using a chin-up bar and arranging my own holes on it. I’m not a very “handy” girl, but I’m looking to start.
  7. Pantone 15-5309, Pastel Turquoise. I’m going to be painting my room in January, and I’ve decided that I want something that can liven my room up without making me look like a crazy person (my room in high school was bright red to match my angsty teen moods). I’ve always been a huge fan of that kind of light, dusty turquoise shade, which might explain why I always like going to the dentist (yeah, I’m weird, I know). I think I’m going to go with this — it makes me feel calm when I need to but gives me a little boost of energy.
  8. This DIY cork iPad case. This Christmas is going to be all about little pieces of gifts and DIY presents. It’s my first Christmas with my partner, and I’d love to get/make him something that no one else has. He’s a pretty fashionable but low-key dude, so I think this will fit quite well.
  9. A nice simple body scrub. I don’t have issues with dry skin 90% of the time. I have oily/soft skin most places. But two factors wreak havoc on my skin — windy winters (thanks, Toronto, you windy jerk) and climbing. Once in awhile, I like to take a nice long, hot shower (my bathtub stopper doesn’t work, and baths are starting to really weird me out these days) and indulge in a sugar scrub. I don’t believe in buying something you can so easily make. My personal mix is simply equal parts brown sugar and almond milk. I mostly apply it to my elbows and knees, and then work out from there to the surrounding areas. I also follow up with a buffing of Lush’s Ultrabalm.
  10. Alt-J’s new album. I’m going to sound totally pretentious for a second — I don’t really pay attention to current music. I just don’t listen to the radio very much and I’m too stuck in my same-old-same-old music to really find anything new. Fortunately, I was listening to Q the other night and heard Alt-J performing from their new album live in studio and I really enjoyed their stuff. I knew that they were kind of a big deal, but now I see why. Very groovy. Try it out.

Bonus #11: Anything and everything related to Chris Pratt. Oh yeah.

A day in Kitchener with Jane, coffee, bars, coffee, bars and a new tattoo.

I love tattoos. I just wrapped up number four and am currently working on designing my half-sleeve. But I’m terrible at sitting through them. For as much as I love the aesthetic of body mods (too much to ever back out of them), I am certainly not a trooper when it comes to handling the process. I don’t cry, say “ow” or pass out, it just reads all over my face. I’m not exactly cool as a cucumber.

Which is why I got my friend Jane to come with me on my journey to Kitchener to get my newest tattoo done this Saturday.

Processed with VSCOcam with b1 presetMy artist in Kitchener, Darryl, is a friend of my family’s and not someone I’d be willing to let go. He did my amazing CBC tattoo and we have a great bond. So I’m not going to bother finding a “new Darryl” in Toronto — I’ll make the hour drive to Kitchener any day.

Jane, who has never been to Kitchener (but has friends there) was excited to come, and she brought along her friend Jessie to join us.

The day started relatively early (both Jane and I had been at separate parties the night before and had varying degrees of functionality) with a gym sesh followed by some serious writing for me at Broadview Espresso. Yes, I truly cannot let go of that place.

(Like seriously, how yum is that looking?!)

Processed with VSCOcam with se3 presetI may have to eventually share some of my fiction writing on here — I have a lot of rambling feelings about NaNoWriMo and why I don’t participate, which are actually covered in the latest set of fiction prose I hammered out.

Picking up Jane and Jessie resulted in yet another detour — some hangover food for Jane and Jessie (and just plain food for me!) at The Beaver, a bar/restaurant/cafe/whatever near Parkdale (I don’t know if it counts as Parkdale since it’s just East of Dufferin). I rather enjoyed a lot of the imagery in there.

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Please note and embrace this beautiful picture of Jane crying into a breakfast sandwich in front of a quilted David Bowie beaver.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetBut let’s get to the tattoo, shall we?

Processed with VSCOcam with se3 presetI have always been a political person. The importance of voting was instilled at a young age and I have voted in every possible election since I turned 18. But nothing compelled me quite like the 2011 Federal election. I was a huge supporter of Jack Layton, and when he passed away I found myself for the first time crying over someone I never knew.

It was weird.

My mother and I differ quite a bit politically, and on my stance on tattoos. But when I told her I wanted to get “hope is better than fear” as a tattoo, she thought it was very lovely. It’s always summed up the way I look at the world. That’s not to say I don’t feel fear. As a matter of fact, I am a very fearful person. But I’ve always tried to choose optimism over fear, to not let fear be the factor in what makes my decisions. That’s why I voted for Jack Layton’s widow, Olivia Chow, in the Toronto municipal election last month, even though I knew in all honesty that she probably would not win. Olivia lead her campaign with a message to vote based on our heart and our values, not on strategy and out of fear that we would have another four years of a Ford administration (and we almost did)! In the end, though she did not win, I felt so proud to watch a strong woman who came from a poor immigrant life to becoming a successful politician and always being true to herself, even when every critic said she was too meek, too soft, that her campaign lacked the passion to go with her ideas.

So yeah.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 presetHope is totally better than fear.

Just a few pics to wrap up — we hit my favourite café in the whole wide world, Cafe Pyrus in Kitchener (Jessie is vegan too! Yay! ONE OF US! ONE OF US!) and then to my old haunt from the student journalism days, Ethel’s. I ended up having a single Rum and Coke and some water for “dinner” because, holy crap, their “vegetarian” selections were all covered in cheese. The things you take for granted when you’re still eating meat! Anyway, our waiter was really cool and slapped a princess sticker on my water, and Jane looked really cute drinking her Caesar.

Processed with VSCOcam with se3 preset Processed with VSCOcam with se3 presetStay tuned tomorrow for some super-cool breakfast action, pals.

My absolute favourite things in Toronto

Sometimes I still feel like such a tourist to Toronto. I walk down the streets with my head high, looking up at the buildings that seem to stretch on into infinity. I grew up in  Northeastern Ontario where, as the line says in Thoroughly Modern Millie, nothing’s over three stories high. So I’m hardly immune to Toronto’s charms.

Because I grew up and went to school outside of the GTA, I have a lot of friends and family who come visit from faraway places. I get really excited about showing them all my favourite places, and I thought I’d share some of these with you. A lot of these are admittedly in Kensington Market — I live nowhere near Kensington, but I’ve always been obsessed with the place (I ended up there during a class trip in Grade 11 and spent hours just wandering).

Favourite bakery: Bunner’s

How could I possibly not be a fan of Bunner’s? Though I am definitely a savoury girl these days, the little kid in me who loves sweets never went away. So why would I turn down a 100% vegan bakery that specializes in all things tasty? Bunner’s is also 100% gluten-free AND nut-free, so pretty much anyone except for those with soy allergies can enjoy it. The proportions are generous, so I tend to split with a friend.

Favourite bar: Java House

When I first moved to Waterloo and was dating a Torontonian, we met up one night when his shift at Steve’s Music was finishing up. We didn’t know where to go to eat but decided to walk West on Queen, knowing very well we’d find something. The good thing is, cheap doesn’t equal low quality in this place. The food is quite delicious, the vibe is really friendly and cool, and the menu has a huge range of food styles. It’s been Bree-friendly since back when I was an omnivore, through to vegetarianism and now all the way to veganism. Just remember to come with a variety of small bills, because this place is cash only and doesn’t split bills.

Best Dance Studio: Metro Movement

I’ve been going to Metro for two-and-a-half years now, but it’s actually been around for about as long as I have. Metro Movement’s co-owners, Elaine Birkes and Stelia Calagias, opened its doors in 1989 and they’ve been offering really high-quality adult dance education ever since. This isn’t the kind of place where you go to simply dance around and learn combos — there’s legitimate technique taught here, and the teachers are all extremely qualified. There’s nothing wrong with just-for-fun studios (this is, after all, a drop-in studio, so there’s varying degrees of seriousness from the students). But if you want a seriously good work-out, to try a new style, or you want to get back into dance after giving it up in uni, seriously, try this place.

Best coffee shop

Hahhhhh. Like I’d pick just one. My personal favourites around the city:

  • Kensington Market: Moon Bean Coffee Co.
  • The Danforth: Broadview Espresso
  • Midtown: De Mello Palheta Coffee Roasters
  • Downtown: Black Canary

Favourite vegan supply shop: Organic Garage

Okay, this isn’t technically in Toronto — this is up in Thornhill (Vaughan) so unless you have a car it’s not exactly convenient. For the record, I am also a fan of The Big Carrot on the Danforth. But if you can make the drive, this place is definitely worth it. For one thing, I’ve never been to an organic/natural grocer that was so huge inside (besides Whole Foods, but that brings me to my next point) which also managed to make a lot of specialty foods totally affordable. For the record, I actually do the vast majority of my shopping at Loblaw’s/Superstore and the like, but sometimes you need something special, or want more selection. And that’s what Organic Garage has. So yeah. Head on up to Bathurst when you get the chance.

“Why doesn’t my life look like that?” Five things “Lifestyle Bloggers” won’t tell you.

I’m not in the business of hating on other blogs. I’ve been working in creative and performing arts industries for a very long time, and I think that the only way for us to truly thrive is to support one another and learn from one another. So I’m not here to tear anyone down or criticize blogs, or even the idea of certain blogs.

But I do want to issue my readers a word of caution: beware of lifestyle bloggers.

No, don’t stop reading them (heck, I’m a “lifestyle blogger!” I think). And never stop being inspired by them. But just watch that you don’t become so enamoured with them that you start to lose perspective on reality.

This time two years ago, my life was entrenched in lifestyle blogs — nice photography with pretty filters and cute fonts and simplistic layouts and cool DIY projects in trendy, rustic, overpriced studio apartments. I get why I was into them. I was newly employed with my first “real” job and I wanted to express how “adult” I was by gifting my friends beautiful DIY crafts, preparing incredible, colourful food, arranging my room in an innovative way and putting together cute, quirky, vintage-style outfits.

And you know what? It was hard. My DIY crafts always turned out terribly or were abandoned halfway through. My life was still a mess. Thrifting was never as whimsical or effortless as it was made out to be, and even when the food I made tasted good, it usually looked like crap — nothing I’d want to share on a web site.

A cluttered background? The Internet must never know!

A cluttered background? The Internet must never know!

I’ve tried to start up a blog like Urban Garlic before — a few times, actually. Every time, after a few posts I felt discouraged because my life just wasn’t as charming as the blogs that inspired me, and I didn’t have the time to put any more effort into it.

I don’t own a DSLR camera (yet), I’m not exactly a supermodel in my appearance, I can’t afford super nice clothes, my apartment is old and poorly lit, I work a 42.5 hour work week (with an hour commute each way, eek!), and whenever I have the time to actually sit down and edit photos or do some good crafts, I’m like, “Hey, why aren’t I climbing?” It’s a reality I’ve accepted.

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My outfit wasn’t flattering and I needed a haircut, badly. But I share because it was a great day and I felt happy.

Having been on both the reader and blogger side of things I just wanted to share a few bits of reality with you guys to let you know that “lifestyle blogging” is not nearly as real as it’s cracked up to be.

  1. A lot of their content is sponsored. People who have beautiful websites, perfect pictures and amazing content need to generate a lot of revenue just to be able to make that happen, let alone pay themselves. Only the very lucky can afford to make it a full-time job. A lot of the extra revenue comes from brands who are eager to have their product featured on their website in a flattering light. That Vitamix that blends the soaked cashews better, those pumps that pull the outfit together, the fancy camera gear that you’re convinced you can’t pull off your projects without? A lot of it is gifted. Don’t sweat it if you can’t afford it.
  2. They’re not doing it on their own. You are. Very, very few lifestyle bloggers manage to build their blogs from the ground up and maintain it at a professional level without some form of help. They might have financial backers (often, the Bank of Mom and Dad) for the website itself, interns, paid staffers, friends whom they paid to code their website, etc. That risotto looks so good because they had a team behind its presentation. They look so cute in that outfit because someone did their makeup for them. Etc.
  3. It’s their full-time job — they have to be good at it. Making adorable crafts, good food, etc. isn’t just a hobby for them. They’re presenting it as something that should be a hobby for you, but for them it’s a livelihood. It looks good not because it’s effortless for them, it looks good because if it doesn’t, they’re risking their livelihood. If you mess up a craft, there’s virtually no consequence. If they screw up — or rather, if their screwups are shown — they’re not going to attract readers or backers.
  4. You’re only getting a snapshot of their “lives.” You do not see the failures. You do not see the creative block. You do not see the bills they have to pay. You do not see them crying over a botched recipe in their kitchen. You do not see what their studio looks like before they’ve cleaned it up. You do not see the boring stuff. You do not see their secretly-messy bedroom. You do not see their personal issues. Trust me, they are there. Bloggers are human.
  5. That snapshot is extremely posed. The Internet loves happy people, especially happy women. That nice, half-closed eye with a small but peaceful smile? It’s not always real. It’s not always fake, but it’s definitely not always real. Think of when you take a selfie, how many “out-takes” you go through before you find the right one? Now imagine, that it’s you, a project or an outfit you’ve put together, a pretty setting in the background, all of which have to look great, plus you’re trying to generate revenue from that.
Looked like crap, but tasted great. Probably better than anything that would have looked good.

Looked like crap, but tasted great. Probably better than anything that would have looked good.

Overall, remember this one important thing — you might think you’re looking at a personal blog, but ultimately, lifestyle blogs are a brand, not a real life. Even my blog is not my real, honest life — though I try to bring the less flattering aspects of myself into it, such as my mental illness and disordered eating. But just remember, when you see these blogs that take a “sneak peak” into peoples’ quaint little lives, you are not actually taking a candid look at anything. You are seeing a constructed image that was helped along by many people.

This is not meant to be a negative post. This is meant to acknowledge all the work that goes into these blogs, and also to encourage readers to not feel let down because they couldn’t pull off as cutesy a holiday dinner, can’t afford to make that fancy cocktail, and might feel like their lives are “a mess.” They aren’t. You’re fine.

We’re all fine.

A beautiful, sunny Fall day in my priority neighbourhood. Yep, I'm poor. Sue me. No, wait, don't. I can't afford that.

A beautiful, sunny Fall day in my priority neighbourhood. Yep, I’m poor. Sue me. No, wait, don’t. I can’t afford that.

On coffee shops and workspaces. Also, my favourite hummus recipe.

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De Mella Palheta Coffee Roasters, Midtown Toronto.

I am a classic 20something. I overshare on social media, I use my fashion and musical tastes as a way of establishing my personality, and I think my relationship with coffee shops is unique and special.

When I was growing up, all we had in town was Tim Hortons — for those of you non-Canadians, Tim Hortons is our ubiquitous fast food coffee chain. There’s one in every small town and occasionally lurking along the long stretches of highways between small, spaced-out towns up North where I’m from. I don’t normally eat or drink at “Timmy’s” anymore since they don’t have soy milk, and I’ve never been a black coffee gal.

When I moved to Waterloo, that was the first time I had access to a Starbucks. Starbucks seemed like a quaint, indie little coffee shop to me. For awhile I would kill afternoons in Starbucks, working on my novel that would never be or studying haphazardly for my midterms. Then, in my first year of undergrad we came to an interesting topic of discussion — pseudo-individualization. Still one of my favourite topics of academic conversation (that and hegemony. Oooh, the goosebumps I get just thinking about hegemony). Starbucks is just as conscious of a branding effort as Tim Horton’s, but because we are presented with two “different” choices, we get to feel like we made a special, independent little choice, one that was undeniably our own.

So I started turning to the independent coffee shops — the places that had funky wall art and almond milk available as a standard and sometimes had vegan treats under the glass (my personal favourite is still Café Pyrus in Kitchener, which is 100% vegan).

I spent a few years hunkering down in these shops, creating them into “my” space. I’d set up with my tablet or laptop and hammer away, occasionally (hah, more than occasionally) taking to the Internet for distraction. I’d order a water every now and then so I didn’t seem like I was wasting space after buying a single mocha and a cookie. I felt a sense of ownership over the space, like it was my own.

It wasn’t until a bit more than a year in Toronto when I started to lose that feeling of possession over the coffee shops. They weren’t my own. And there were lineups out the door — I’d often stand there, balancing my treat plate on my mug with my tablet in one hand waiting for a table. They were packed to the ceiling with people just like me — people looking for a little coffee place to call their own.

I remember when I told my friend Dave about this and he said that he’s pulled himself out of the coffee shop loop, but when he does go out he prefers the greasy spoons and 24-hour diners. Something about nocturnal nature, I guess. But Dave has also turned into a real coffee gear-head — I still can’t even describe in words the strange coffee apparatuses he has in his apartment, only that there are some glass bubbles involved.

Of course, you don’t have to go that high-concept. I’ve been enamoured with aeropress coffee lately, or even a simple pour-over dripper. Personally, I’ve been using my stovetop espresso maker more and more these days.

I’ve really tried to carve out my own work-and-play space rather than become dependent on a public one. Sure, my desk is a little messy and the lighting is not as cute and flattering, but there’s something a lot more satisfying about the coffee you make yourself (and the work that you do in your own space).

I encourage anyone looking to spend $5.50 on a coffee and an extra $3 on a muffin to try staying home for one this week — try making your own space something you can be just as in love with as those coffee shops.

Here’s a snack I’ve been really into lately — pizza hummus. Pizza hummus is my go-to savoury snack lately. I love regular hummus, but the beauty of it is that it’s so adaptable to new variations.

For pizza hummus, I forego a ton of tahini and instead use a tomato paste, and also give it a nice cheesy, herby flavour. It’s great on naan or celery sticks, but I’m also thinking of putting it on a sandwich soon.

For pizza hummus, you’ll need:

  • One 29 oz can chickpeas, drained (liquid reserved)
  • One 156 ml can tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 large cloves garlic (I’m a garlic fan — use your own judgmnet here)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Dash of Sriracha (optional).

Blend it all up in a processor, and gradually add the chickpea liquid as you see the hummus needing some help mixing. Depends how liquidy you like your hummus.

Enjoy your afternoon in, friends!

Nom nom nom nom nom pizza (hummus)!

Nom nom nom nom nom pizza (hummus)!

Breakfast tacos and a farewell to my floofy hair.

Let me start out with a confession: last night I drove what would normally be a 60 minute drive (closer to 140 minutes, thanks to Friday after-work traffic) to my parents’ place just to do laundry.

When my boss was my age, he owned his own company and had two children.

Okay, I’ll clarify a few things: 1) I did my laundry myself (my parents weren’t even home) and 2) The primary purpose of my venture to my parents’ place in Bowmanville wasn’t even to do laundry. It was to grab an old pair of climbing shoes I’m selling to someone. And I thought, hey, I have a little laundry in my hamper I’d like to get cleaned up, but it’s not enough to justify spending $4 on. So, I did it at my parents’ place. While I was there, I ended up spending some quality time with their pets, playing some piano, taking a dip in the hot tub and using my Mom’s good hairdressing scissors to give myself a much-needed trim.

Good-bye, floof!

Good-bye, floor! My ears, they can see the light of day once again!

But okay, enough of that. We’re here to talk about breakfast tacos.

That’s right. Breakfast. Tacos.

I’m an early riser, even on weekends. And what’s the point of rising with (or before) the sun if you’re not going to really give yourself a damn good breakfast?

I love me a good tofu scramble. And I love me a good burrito. You can see where this is a perfect combination. But yesterday at Whole Foods I found a package of mini corn tortillas on sale for less than $2. For a lot of corn tortillas. So yeah, breakfast tacos suddenly seemed like a funky new thing to start my day with. Tacos are such a nighttime thing. And, since last year’s tacqueria craze hit Toronto, I no longer associate tacos with out-of-the-box, busy-house dinners. No, tacos are actually a pretty fancy meal these days.

Let’s start from the beginning. I make a lot of variations on tofu scramble. But I always follow more or less the same formula in this order:

  1. Oil, onions and garlic on low heat until the onions soften and your kitchen smells amazing.
  2. Diced potatoes, sweet potatoes, or anything else that is very dense (like a bell
    pepper or celery if that’s your bag). I usually have to microwave my potatoes for a few minutes beforehand so they cook more quickly.
  3. Extra protein. Normally I use mushrooms (crimini or shiitake, or portobello if I want to go for a really meaty taste) but sometimes I use black beans or chickpeas.
  4. This is when I toss in my spices and, if I’m using, nutritional yeast. I toss these all around for awhile and let the flavours develop.
  5. Then I add in the softer stuff — anything I want soft but not too wilted in the end. Tomatoes, any greens, olives I guess if you’re into that (I’m NOT).
  6. Finally, the tofu! I make sure it’s nice and pressed, then crumble by hand. Let it soak up all the flavours, add any salt or pepper, and then even add in some Daiya if you want to get some melty cheese in there.

Today’s started with oil, onions and garlic.

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Look how pretty!

Then regular yellow potatoes. Nothing exciting here. Move along, people. But then came the black beans — which also happened to have some corn mixed in from another dish I made. Hey, I’m not complaining! Corn is good for you!

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From there I added some cilantro, parsley and thyme along with some nutritional yeast and let I added tomatoes and some kale I’d found in my freezer. As you can see, my first pan was a bit crowded, so I ended up transferring it over to another.

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And here comes the main event, tofu!

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I added it onto the corn tortillas with a half a slice of Toffuti cheese each and topped with the Whole Foods mango salsa. Mangos and tofu? Hear me out here — it’s a must-eat.

I will admit, four tacos was a bit ambitious. I was originally aiming for three but felt weird leaving a half slice of Toffuti in the fridge. Of course, a kind note for my roommate and the fourth taco sitting in the fridge under plastic wrap gave him a pretty pleasant morning.

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I also enjoyed breakfast with my Yoda mug and a big ol’ homemade vanilla almond latté. Seems like a slow morning? As a matter of fact, minutes later I was on the road and on route to ballet class. I love my ballet classes — I feel such a humbling sense of determination when I’m at the barre.

What’s your favourite variation on tofu scramble? How do you like it — on toast, in a burrito, or solo?

Ten reasons I love winter more than fall — and so should you!

Yesterday’s blog post was a little heavy, don’t you think? And while I think it’s important to talk about those not-so-pretty parts of your life, today I think I’m doing everyone, self-included, a favour by talking about something I love:


Oooh, I was such a cute, helpful little marshmallow!


Yep, that’s right, the girl who wears a jacket inside her office and turns her seat warmers on in October loves Winter.

I think it’s totally possible to be prone to the shivers and still love winter. I’m certain being raised in a town with a record low of -47ºC had a hand in that.

But in case you haven’t been paying attention to the Internet, most of my demographic — 20something hipster white girls — are a little too enamoured with Fall to have any love left for Winter.

I guess I can see why. Fall brings enough of a temperature drop that you can put on a cute jacket, but you’re not bulking up too much. You can enjoy the otherwise utterly pointless fingerless gloves (actually with the increasingly ubiquitous presence of touch-screen phones I retract my statement). And of course, pumpkin spice lattés.


Circa 2011. Yes, it was as cold as it looks.

But consider this: Winter is just better. And I have ten whole reasons why.

  1. You look like crap, but so does everyone else. I cannot stress this enough. Yeah, your jacket makes you look like Mr. Puffy, your lips are chapped, your capillaries are purple and you have serious hat hair. But so does everyone else. And this alone makes up for the temperature.
  2. Rich, dark coloured lips. I mentioned last week that I’d finally found “my” red. But what I’m more excited about is that I’ve found a nice bold purple that I’ve been rocking all week — Pacifica’s Coconut Kiss in Blissed Out. It doesn’t even look garish on my pale white skin. And it covers up the stains I have from all the blueberry juice I’ve been drinking. But seriously, summer is all about sheer, so use winter as an opportunity to layer up on your lips.
  3. Layering up in general. What could be more amazing than having an arsenal of sweaters, blouses, tank tops and jackets with you — you’re always prepared for whatever temperature comes along.
  4. Tea and hot chocolate — together. When I went to WLU, in my second year we got a William’s Coffee Pub on campus. I don’t think I’ve ever seen William’s outside of anywhere in the 519, but I’m sure they exist in Toronto. Anyway, during exams the employees created their own custom drinks, and one was a green tea hot chocolate. I know you’re probably thinking that combination sounds like it wouldn’t jive, but trust me, I’ve been hooked for five years now. Matcha and hot chocolate is also a nice option, but it is more expensive. If you’re unsure about the green, try peppermint with hot chocolate (natural winning combo right there, am I right, ladies?) or chai with hot chocolate… but please, consider going green.
  5. Spending time indoors doesn’t have to be boring. If you’re not as big of a snow fan as I am (and trust me, I still spend plenty of time indoors in the cold months), remember just how productive you can be indoors. Yeah, cuddling and Netflix is one option, but staying inside is also a great opportunity to do something like trying out a new recipe, catching up on some great podcasts (my favourite of the moment is You Are Not So Smart) or even learning a new language on an app like DuoLingo.
  6. Toques. They’re cute and you look cute in ’em. ‘Nuff said.
  7. The Nutcracker comes to town. I’m a ballet nut (obviously), so watching The Nutcracker live on stage is pretty much a dream come true for me.
  8. Sweet and savoury foods mix especially well this time of year. I always get super inspired by warm colours and warm flavours this time of year. Like maybe sweet potatoes, black beans, kale and dried cranberries. That would make an amazing dish… somehow.
  9. It’s flippin’ soup season. Dear soup: I love you. You are cheap, you are easy to make and freeze, you warm me up, and as long as I have some broth on hand I can make you out of pretty much anything. Black beans, chickpeas, mixed veggies, sweet potatoes, tomatoes. But you know what’s better than you on your own? Pairing you with this amazing vegan grilled cheese.’
  10. My winter playlist, which I’ve started assembling already for this year. In the past, I’ve loved really relaxing, sip-tea-by-a-frosty-window music for my playlists. I think, though, last winter’s ice storm tired me out from that. Now I’m all about stuff that makes me think of bright lights, dancing down a street in a snowstorm, or makes me feel like I’m shredding on a snowboard down a mountain (please note that I’ve snowboarded, like, twice in my life).


Yes, there’s only eight songs so far — but that’s where you guys come in. What do you think will fit my “Oh hell yeah I’m excited about winter” playlist?

Five healthy habits I follow every day for my body and mind — plus, my recovery story

It’s only in the past year that I’ve really been open about my struggles with disordered eating, my extremely warped perception of my own body and my toxic relationship with exercising. It was around age 18-19 when I hit my low point, not in my weight (though probably in my weight too — I only weigh myself at the doctor’s so I rarely know my “actual” weight) but in terms of my bad habits. I’d binge in small doses and then exercise and deprive myself in huge doses (I never starved myself, which is why I was able to deny having an eating disorder for so long) by restricting my calorie intake. I became almost competitive with myself to see how little I could get by on on days when I “felt fat.”


Me at 19, at my worst — okay, I look pretty happy. But that’s just the alcohol. I was weak, depressed, angry and oddly lonely, despite being surrounded by people.

It’s a hard cycle to break out of, but I managed to do it. A lot of people remember their “wake up” or “aha” moment. I don’t. It wasn’t really a single moment, but a year of becoming more honest with myself and starting to love myself without actively trying to “love myself” because some magazine told me to.

I actually accepted long ago that I would never be fully free of the demons that plagued my mind when it came to food and body image. And I still believe that. But in my third year of university, I became really happy. It’s funny because early that school year, a good friend of mine passed away only a few weeks after her 21st birthday. I’d never known a person who died so young before, and I was very sad about losing her. But she had a beautiful spirit and fought her battle with cancer with the biggest smile, even when her mouth was too swollen to do so. She was a huge inspiration for me.

Her death came at a time when my life was met with the right set of consequences — I was made a senior staffer for a really successful campus newspaper. I was kicking ass at my job and at school. I lived in a great house with great roommates, and yet I was actually working out the least I’d ever been. I still took dance classes and rode my bike and did yoga, but the long gym sessions panting away on the cardio equipment disappeared to almost nothing. I was in a real mindset of “If you don’t love what you’re doing, why do it?” Which was exactly how Dee lived her life. As a side-note, I probably should have posted this yesterday, which was four years since her passing.


Spring 2011, when things really turned around for me. I felt so light and calm.

That was also the year that I had a huge kitchen and started cooking a lot. I started forming my own recipe book and experimenting in the kitchen. I felt proud of the food I was eating, even if it was sometimes covered in sauce and cheese. It was something I made myself — of course I was proud! At the same time, I became adamant about only being active — not “working out” — if it was something that brought me joy. Working out had always been something of a penance for me, so I decided that I would only do it because I truly felt energetic and like I wanted to be doing it. I actually started dancing more than ever, in class, on my own, in my yard, in the hallways at my campus. I rode my bike long and far. I bought a longboard.

I’ve since gotten back into going to the gym, but it took more than a year of staying away to fully understand how to not treat it as a punishment. I work out totally differently now — hardly any cardio, a lot of lifting, and deep stretching. Flexibility has always been important to me as a dancer, and going about it slowly and deliberately is not only good for my muscles, it’s good for my soul.

Here are the five things I make sure to do every day which has helped me not only live a healthy life, but feel healthy in my heart and mind.

  1. Water. Water. All the time. Now, please remember that it is entirely possible to over-hydrate and consequences of that can actually be dire. But my way of getting enough water has simply been having water every time I eat food, and using getting a glass of water as an excuse to stretch from my desk.
  2. Keeping healthy snacks on me at all times. My drawer has a container of trail mix. My purse has a baggie of celery sticks. Crackers are a must. And of course, I always have hummus or nut butter nearby.
  3. Stop overthinking food. I realize this is ironic coming from a strict vegan, but I really can’t believe how restrictive some people are with their foods. I know a few people who are dieting right now, and when they tell me what they cannot have — not only any sugar, but no sources of sugar (so that includes even a sweet potato!) — I am baffled. I am baffled that this means they can have pre-made, artificial, processed foods that happen to be sweetened with artificial sweeteners, but can’t have a darn apple. Keep it simple with food: does it grow in the ground? Has it not been processed to the point of being unrecognizable? Sounds like you’ve got a winner there.
  4. If you work out because you feel like you “have to,” don’t. Working out is not a penance or an apology. Whatever gets your heart pumping should be something that also makes you grin and jump for joy. If you associate working out with punishment, you may need to speak to someone and find a way of sorting out these feelings — because no one should have to feel that way.
  5. Make food you can be proud of. The best thing about cooking is that anyone can do it and you don’t have to please anyone but yourself. If you’re on a tight budget, use that as a way of challenging yourself (and there are great web sites out there about eating healthily or eating vegan on a budget). It’s easy to just run to Quiznos when the food you could have brought from home is merely some nut butter and jam slapped between two pieces of bread (even if they are whole wheat). Think of food as a project, an experiment. Enjoy the time you spend with it. It’s so much more satisfying to eat food you’re invested in.

If you find you’re suffering from an ill relationship with food, your body or exercising, you are not alone. And do not feel like your problem is “not important” because you don’t happen to suffer from a classified eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. Disordered eating comes in all forms and affects people of all shapes and sizes. Do not be afraid to seek help, and be fully aware that you have a powerful and important body which deserves to be loved — especially by you.


Me this past weekend at the Art Gallery of Ontario, feeling amazing, calm and taking life one step at a time.

Suburbia versus downtown, plus round one of Jenna’s dance portraits!

Let me start with a variation of a line from an old Journey song: I’m a small-town girl.

I don’t really have a set “hometown” because I moved a lot as a child, but it was always within Northeastern Ontario in small towns and cities. I lived in Kapuskasing, ON (pop. 8,000) until the year 2000. We then moved two hours south to Timmins (pop. 45,000 — seemed huge coming from Kapuskasing!) until the fall of 2005 when we moved to North Bay (pop. 54,000 — big league stuff). I graduated high school in the summer of 2008 and only a few days later we moved to Bowmanville, a town of about 50,000 at the Easternmost point of the Greater Toronto Area. I lived in Bowmanville for only about a summer before I went off to school in Waterloo, a way larger city than I was used to (combined with its adjacent proximity to Kitchener). I never liked to imagine ending up in Toronto, but I knew when I wanted to become a journalist that it was an inevitability (I was dating a GTA boy at the time, so moving to Calgary, Montreal or Vancouver was out of the question).

My first year of working in Toronto, I commuted in from Bowmanville. The commute itself wasn’t bad (I have friends who live downtown who had longer commutes on the TTC to our office). But I did feel limited with social opportunities because I always had to drive nearly an hour to get home on the 401 at the end of the night. Many of my friends from Timmins live in Toronto now, and I missed out on a lot of parties and bar nights because I simply had too far to drive.

The next year, I moved into a small place situated perfectly between Church and Wellesley and Cabbagetown. I moved in with a stranger from a Kijiji ad, so I don’t think I have to tell you that the living arrangement itself was quite tumultuous. I found myself stressed out whenever I was home because of how bad things were. But I did love the location. I loved being able to longboard around the downtown sidewalks and walk to do my groceries (I have a car, but I hate having to use it for every little thing). I loved being surrounded by people but never being overwhelmed by them.

But the place was expensive — $1780 for a small two-bedroom, plus very expensive Hydro, plus $80/month to park my car outside (and have to shovel it myself — and if you know what kind of winter Toronto had last year, you’ll know how much work that was). And when my roommate decided to take a trip abroad for more than a month and not pay rent for the time she was gone, I took the eviction notice as a sign that Downtown wasn’t for me.

I moved back in with my parents, tail between my legs. I had already arranged to live with my now-ex’s brother and we knew we were going to end up in Scarborough, since he goes to UTSC. So I decided to wait it out until September.

The place I have, location aside, is utterly perfect. $1130 all in for a huge two-bedroom place, including one underground parking space. Our apartment has high ceilings and nice, big bedrooms, and a kitchen that can hold all my gadgets and more. I found myself in the first few weeks asking, “Why don’t more young people live out here?”

The fact is, I haven’t gotten the feel like I live in a “neighbourhood” yet, even after two and a half months. And when I make my plans for the weekends, I still have to factor in so much travel time. Call me shallow, but I find myself craving those obnoxious 20something things, like a coffee shop (besides Tim Hortons or Starbucks) where the guy knows my order or a library branch I can curl up with and do my work at. I love being able to walk around and window shop and become inspired by the world around me.

But I’ve also found that there are things people take for granted about the suburbs. I can happily walk to Bluffer’s Park or Guildwood Park in no time at all and be surrounded by stunning, natural views that make me feel wonderfully removed from this city and its starless, smoggy sky. Last week I found a mechanic two doors down from my apartment who did amazing work on my car for way cheaper than I anticipated. Sometimes for fun I’ll look up the prices of apartments available in the downtown core and I feel very, very lucky that I’m saving all kinds of money.

But other times I think I’m being way too stingy with my money (I was making less money last year and I managed to live downtown). And that I should try living in the thick of things now, before I’m older and too set in my ways to try something new.

Due to personal complications (see: “living with my now-ex’s brother”) I doubt I will be staying in this place past our lease. It will be easier for him to stay, but I don’t know if I can convince someone else to move out there with me. Next September may be the perfect opportunity to find someplace new.

I still think I’d like to stay East of the DVP. I’ve always loved the Danforth, Leslieville, the Beaches, even old East York. If I do end up on the other side of the Parking Lot, I think I’ll narrow my search to North of College and South of Lawrence. I don’t think I want to go to the Southernmost depths of Downtown — I’d probably pay what I currently pay in rent just to park my car.

As promised, I have the first round of Jenna’s action shots that she took for her school assignment and will be added to my portfolio. We had tons of fun shooting in Liberty Village (even though it was freezing and drizzling) and my friend and climbing partner Alex was an incredible partner! I’m really proud of him and how he stepped up, really amazed at Jenna’s skills and, dare I say it, proud of myself for how amazing I looked!

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