A Toronto Transformation

A Gorgeous Gatsby Garden Party at the Spadina Museum

Gatsby Garden Party - 1920s costumes

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had romantic ideas about travelling to another time and I’ve definitely always loved playing dress-up. So I jumped at the chance to attend this year’s Gatsby Garden Party at the Spadina Museum last weekend.

The Spadina Museum has been on my list of places to check out for years now, but I’d just never got around to it, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

While the horrible weather made for more party and less garden, my gorgeous 1920s posse and I had a great time exploring the stunning time capsule of a mansion in all its jazz age glory (can you believe the family still lived there until the 1980s?)!

Oh, and we had almost as much fun coming up with our outfits. People went all out with their 1920s costumes, which really made the whole event feel about as close to time travel as it gets (minus our iphones, of course)

Gatsby2 The Solarium at the Spadina Museum in Toronto

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The Gatsby Garden Party at the Spadina Museum in Toronto

Low back 1920s-style gown at the Gatsby Garden Party

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Have you discovered any hidden gems in your city lately? Also, if you could time travel to any period, where (when?) would you go?

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Summer Listening List – Podcasts

riflepaperco Iphone case Want to know something embarrassing?

My mom had her own podcast on iTunes before I ever really figured out what a podcast was. While  most of my peers parents were still eyeing the bandwagon suspiciously, she had hopped into the driver’s seat and taken off.

I was too busy joyously singing along with the Phantom of the Opera (the one with the Canadian cast where Sam from Today’s Special plays the Phantom i.e. the best one, to be precise)at the top of my lungs while driving to work to bother with downloading a podcast.

When I moved to the city, I got rid of the car, and thus the singalong commute came to en end. I mean, I guess I could belt out “Music of the Night” to my fellow pedestrians or passengers on the streetcar, but it’s just not the same.

So I’ve become an avid podcast listener instead and thought I’d share the wealth in case any of you are late adopters like yours truly and are wondering where to start.

In no particular order, here’s what’s filling my iPhone lately:

This American Life – A podcast of the hour-long American radio program, This American Life is not exactly a cult hit, but there’s a reason it’ s so popular. The journalistic radio documentaries, essays and memoirs featured are consistently fascinating.

The Moth – collections of true personal stories. I love these little slices of life, both hilarious, unbelievable and tragic told live in front of an audience by people from all walks of life.

Invisibilia – An exploration of how ideas, assumptions and emotions shape human behaviour. They won me over with an awesome story about visually impaired people who use echolocation to get around.

Canadaland – Jesse Brown discusses Canadian issues and politics and how our media is (or isn’t) covering the news that matters to Canadians. I don’t always agree with his take on things, but I think he’s asking some really important questions that the mainstream media has become to cowardly to tackle. Just don’t start with the episode “my Socalled friend.” That episode was staggeringly dull and obnoxious.

Professor Blastoff – Brilliant comedians, Tig Notaro, Kyle Dunnigan and David Huntsberger (very loosely) focus and chat with a guest about a different topic every episode. They frequently make me look like a wildly cackling idiot.

The Bugle – Hard to go wrong with Jon Oliver. He and his co-host are delightfully witty and English as they skewer politics the world over.

The Thrilling Adventure Hour – Old-timey-style radio plays! What’s not to like? The “Beyond Belief” series is by far my favourite. Paget Brewster kills me!

Throwing Shade – I was delighted to stumble across Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi, two of the bright spots from the now defunct infomania, on their hilarious podcast. They make fun of misogyny and homophobia in the most weird and wonderful ways imaginable. It’s an extremely cathartic listen.

Do you guys listen to podcasts? Any I should add to my roster this summer?

Ontario’s Southwest City Fare

Spring-fed Trout Crudo topped with Trout skin chicharron. Photo by Emma Davidson

Spring-fed Trout Crudo topped with Trout skin chicharron.

 

When I was a small-town reporter, one of my favourite weekend activities was hopping in the car, choosing a road I hadn’t been down yet, and exploring whatever village, lakefront town or conservation area I hit first.

As I was living in farm country and only a 15 minute drive from Lake Huron, more often than not these drives would lead me to some picturesque little gem of a tiny town, and better yet, to some amazing fresh produce. I’ll never forget the day I was aiming for the beach and found myself instead, at a cheese factory. It was like stumbling across Santa’s workshop.

Often the only thing missing from these foodventures was the perfect glass of wine to accompany whatever culinary delight I’d come across (which was good, since I was driving).

That’s why I was so excited to stop by iYellow Wine Club’s Ontario’s Southwest City Fare this weekend. And it did not disappoint.

Vendor after vendor from all over Southwestern Ontario plied my pals and I with everything from lamb sausage to aged cheddar cheese to melt-in-your-mouth butter tarts, with the perfect wine, beer or cider to wash it all down.

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Lamb sausage with chimichurri at #OSWCityFare 2015

Lamb sausage with chimichurri. I am a hero for resisting the rest of this platter. A hero!

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We were particularly impressed with a couple of wines from the Bonnieheath Estate Winery (and Lavender farm!). My friend described their Marquette as “wine butter.” It went down damn smooth. And did I mention you can only buy it on their LAVENDER FARM?

I think I feel a road trip coming on.

Are you guys doing any close-to-home food tours this summer? Take me with you?

If you want to salivate more, check out my instagram feed for additional photos of the event!

A Beautiful Balcony Garden for Bees

Fairy thimble bellflower in a wine box An old wine box with a couple holes drilled into the bottom makes a terribly cute balcony planter for this fairy thimble bellflower.

Hands down my favourite thing about Toronto in spring is how the neighbourhoods transform from brick and branches into gorgeous greenery and lush, fragrant florals.

It’s amazing I ever make it home what with all the obsessive stopping to smell the lilacs and peonies in every other garden I encounter.

Apartment living makes it difficult to do gardening of my own, but this year I’m determined to transform my little square of the outdoors into a bee-friendly balcony garden.

Bees are in serious trouble, which means we are all in trouble, since one third of human food depends on their pollination. In addition to supporting ecological farming and calling on our governments to ban harmful pesticides that are killing our fuzzy, buzzy little pals, one of the things we can do to help the bee population is plant their favourite flowers (regional, blue and yellow blooms and herbs) and keep them pesticide free.

So, along with my usual pots of kale, basil and mint,  that’s what I’ve been doing on my balcony, and it’s been a great success. The bees especially seem to love the lavender, deep purple pansies and cheery yellow snapdragons I’ve planted.

I love watching them hover curiously overhead and zoom around the blooms while I’m out on my little perch overlooking the city.

Dill and basil. How to plant a beautiful bee-friendly balcony garden. #ContainerGarden Dill and basil with a view of the CN Tower

How to plant a beautiful bee-friendly balcony garden: lavender & pansies. #ContainerGarden

How to plant a beautiful bee-friendly balcony garden. #ContainerGarden I thought perhaps this scary pretend snake would keep the squirrels and raccoons away. Now it’s just covered in bite marks, and occasionally I look out my window in the early hours to find a squirrel curled up sleeping in a flower pot. So.

How to plant a beautiful bee-friendly balcony garden: snapdragons and bellflowers. #ContainerGarden

How to plant a beautiful bee-friendly balcony garden: fairy thimble bellflower & cilantro. #ContainerGarden

How to plant a beautiful bee-friendly balcony garden. #ContainerGarden

How to plant a beautiful bee-friendly balcony garden. #ContainerGarden

Are you guys gardeners? Any tips for a container gardener like myself to make a beautiful balcony garden?

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Wisdom Teeth: Who Needs ‘Em?

wisdom tooth surgery recovery with ice packs

Sometimes holding ice packs to your face is just too much effort.

Oh hello there blog pals, I’ve missed you!

I’ve been taking some much needed time off from keeping up with this wee internet space to focus first on school and then on my health and emotionally and physically de-cluttering my life a bit. It’s all been very worthwhile, but now I’m hoping to sneak in a bit more regular writing here.

Along with using a Whole30 starting back in March to figure out which foods are having a negative effect on my PCOS, I finally took the advice various dental healthcare professionals have given me for the past ten years, and had all my whacky impacted/partially erupted wisdom teeth removed.

As my decade of procrastination may have indicated, I have long been petrified at the idea of having oral surgery. This was partly because I was convinced that any kind of surgery would put me at high risk of developing a deadly blood clot (for those who don’t know me well, this is not as out of left field as it might seem, since I was very nearly taken out by a clot when I was 19, but my surgeon assured me that even with a clotting disorder, my fear was unfounded when it came to this particular procedure. Whew). It was also because the idea of surgery in general gives me a major case of the heebie jeebies (I can’t even get a needle without risk of fainting). Last but not least, I was scared of going under general anesthetic (not that I’d want to be awake, mind you!) and not waking up OR waking up and telling the nurses or my mom or whoever all my weirdest sex stories.

Not that I’ve ever done anything weird.

Or had sex.

Ahem.

Fortunately, after chatting with me about my concerns and shaking my preposterously clammy hand during our consultation, the lovely oral surgeon I went to suggested I might feel more comfortable if she prescribed me some Ativan to take the night before and morning of the procedure along with some numbing patches for the backs of my hands to make even the IV placement easier.

Yes please.

On top of that, knowing my needle-phobia, they gave me a bit of laughing gas before they placed the IV. I can’t imagine I’ll ever be that comfortable getting a needle again.

The surgeon came in, told me they were going to let me sleep for a couple of minutes, explained to me that my arm might start to feel a little hot as the sedative worked its way in, which it did, and the next thing I remember, I was being helped into a wheelchair and rolled out to meet my mom.

As for weird sex stories, apparently all I did in my post-op drug-haze was sit uncharacteristically quietly, occasionally mumbling through my gauze-filled mouth and staring up at everyone like a big-eyed newborn. Although when we got home, I took it upon myself to shrug off the pal who had come along specifically to help me get up my stairs, adamantly insisting I would prefer to crawl up them myself. Then when he helped me onto my couch and told me to “just put your feet up and relax” I squeaked out “I’ll do what I want!” before immediately passing out.

So basically the surgery itself was far less terrifying than I had built it up to be BUT I will say waiting until I was nearly 30 to have it done might not have been my best move because it is taking AGES to recover. It’s been two and a half weeks and I still haven’t gone a day without taking at least a couple of advil, despite everything apparently healing up beautifully.

It may shock you to learn that I am not a dentist, so certainly take this with a tall glass of salt water syringed into the handy food pockets created by your recently extracted chompers, but I definitely wish I’d got mine out sooner as I’m convinced recovery would be much easier had I not let these suckers wreak havoc on my gums and jaw for so many years.

Lesson learned!

Have you guys had your wisdom teeth out? Anyone else find recovery surprisingly slow? More importantly, did you accidentally tell weird sex stories while under anesthesia?

Rites of Passage

teal, white, gold teacup

It’s funny, the things you remember about adolescence.

When I was in fifth or sixth grade we learned about the process of menstruation via educational video in health class. Other kids giggled and squirmed. I fell off my desk, passed out cold.

Nothing adds to the general embarrassment of co-ed health classes like your male volleyball coach/health teacher frequently pausing in the middle of relaying some new horror that awaited our young bodies to call out “Sarah?! You ok? Don’t forget to let me know if you’re going to faint!”  I mean, good on him I guess, but nothing made me blush faster.

I also remember being MORTIFIED by my well-intentioned mom waving a stick of deodorant at me from across the room while I waited to be called up to the beam at a gymnastics competition. I was, undoubtedly, already sweating through my unforgiving purple, wedgie-inducing gymsuit, just like I sweated through every other garment that came within an inch of my armpits.

When a friend and I got our periods, our moms took us out to a tea room for a little rite of passage acknowledging the start of our move towards womanhood. I was a little conflicted about going, as I felt a bit icky and scared about the whole shedding blood from the uterus thing (see above fainting spell). But on the other hand: scones with cream and jam! I’m so grateful our moms did that for us. That fancy afternoon tea helped make the metamorphosis seem a little less like something to fear and more like something to celebrate.

When I let a babysitter pluck my eyebrows, I remember being elated/terrified, thinking my parents would be furious with me, but that now kids at school would have to stop referring to me as “unibrow.”

I remember scribbling angrily in my heart-covered, generic-locked diary after fighting with my parents, and thinking: “I’ll never forget what this feels like when I’m an adult. I’ll make sure I remember so if I have kids, I’ll understand. I’ll acknowledge what they’re going through.”

And I vividly recall staring at my sweet little brother (5 years my junior) in the car on a family trip and wondering why I couldn’t go back to being like him: happy and goofy, with smooth skin and a cute little baby nose, while simultaneously being unreasonably aggravated by every damn thing he did.

I didn’t understand why I felt so mean so much of the time, why family trips made me want to kill all the things.

I felt like a freak and I worried I’d never feel normal again.

Looking back I realize that if I, a healthy, well-loved girl with strong role models felt so confused and alone with the constant thunderstorm of emotion that accompanied those years, it must have been a nightmare for kids who didn’t have all the advantages I enjoyed.

I think about that a lot when I’m working with my pals at Mother Nature Partnership, about how much worse the confusion/shame I felt could have been if I hadn’t had access to the (albeit faint-inducing) education I did around puberty and

And I think about how much better it could have been if I had realized that I wasn’t the only one feeling mean and confused, if I’d had a better understanding of exactly how much my hormones were affecting my emotions as well as my body.

And I think about how much better the beginning of the transition from child to adult could be if we had better support systems in place to celebrate, educate and demystify the whole process, and especially to let girls know that they don’t need to feel like freaks along the way, that they’re not going through it alone.
Which is why I love the concept behind this weekend’s G Day Toronto event.

G Day was created by the wonderful Madeleine Shaw (founder of Lunapads!) as a way to give girls the celebration she felt was missing from her own adolescence. The Toronto event will feature a diverse lineup of workshops for both Girls and the adults who support them (aka: Champions). Girls will connect with themselves and each other through movement, art, yoga, meditation, and inspiring presentations on sisterhood, women in technology, loving your body, and more. Champions will learn strategies for communicating with adolescents, balancing stress in family life, and promoting self-esteem in adolescent girls.

How beautiful is that?

For more information on this fantastic event, or to purchase tickets, click here. Metamorphocity readers will receive 20% off the ticket price by using the following codes at checkout:

TOBLOG20G – code for girl tickets

TOBLOG20C – code for champion tickets (parents, grandparents, godparents, aunts & uncles, etc.)

What do you remember about adolescence? Did you have some kind of celebration or rite of passage, or did you just figure it out as you went along? Let me know in the comments!

5-9: From the Desk to the Dance Floor

From the desk to the dancefloor - Bo Lam is not defined by her 9-5 Photo by Taylor Aikins

Start calling yourself the thing you are in your heart, the thing your mind bends towards when you dream, the thing your fingers itch to do.

Start describing yourself in terms of the things you do from 5-9. Because we’re not defined by our 9-5s.

I first encountered Bo Lam long before I actually met her. She was performing in a wonderful piece choreographed by my friend Irene. It was a gorgeous piece with four terrifically skilled dancers. Bo stood out for her fluidity of movement, and her distinct graceful energy that made it impossible to take your eyes off her when she danced.

The first time I actually met her, she was one of the friendly faces behind the counter at Barreworks, the magical place that has kept me a fit, sane person who actually looks forward to her workouts for almost 3 years now.

While her 9-5 is at least part of the same world as her passion, Bo says she still answers the question “What do you do?” with “I’m a dancer.”

“Depending on the context, this answer is usually followed by a series of justifications and explanations: no, not the exotic type; no, it certainly doesn’t pay all of my bills; yes, I have a ‘day job'; yes, it’s a crazy pursuit!”

Answering the question with her 5-9 passion, rather than her day job title means that people who ask that question do get a good sense of what kind of person she is. Or at least they do once she’s given them a rundown of what the title of Professional Dancer entails. “For me, this includes: working for an entertainment company (performing at private and corporate events), adjudicating dance competitions, working as a freelance choreographer and teacher (from weddings to full-day workshops), and working as a freelance dancer (from mainstream gigs like the MMVA’s to independent, creative projects),” she explains.

“In addition, I am incredibly lucky to be the Assistant Manager of a beautiful, boutique fitness studio called Barreworks. This provides me with the stability, and financial security, to choose the work I wish to devote time to. Not to mention gorgeous studio space!! Once all of this is explained, I do think that people have a greater understanding of the kind of person I am! I am goal-oriented and creative, I am capable of juggling multiple jobs and managing my time accordingly.”

While all that juggling keeps her busy, it’s Bo’s love of dance (obvious to any who have the good fortune to see her on stage) that sustains her. “I am passionate about dance – about teaching and sharing dance, about healing with and through dance, about the physicality, power, entertainment, and escape that dance provides. The feeling I get when I dance is my inspiration. The amount of freedom…it’s the closest thing to real magic. I can’t live without it.”

Bo says her day job at Barreworks is the perfect fit for her, as it gives her the flexibility to create, it can be difficult to find balance in her days, not to mention the energy to get it all done. Visualization is key. “It is so hard. It really helps to have people holding me accountable. I love deadlines and a wee bit of intimidation! I try to post little things on my social media, so that my progress is public,” she says.

“I find that encourages me to push forward. I always try to do a little bit every day. Sometimes, it’s as small as watching a rehearsal video of a choreographer I admire or journaling. I also need to have a very clear vision of exactly what I want. What is my end goal? I visualize down to the smallest detail exactly what I want to achieve, and that keeps me working hard to get there.”

And how will she know when she’s reached that end goal? Well for now, she says, success means making strides in her artistic development and pushing herself beyond her comfort zone.  “It’s about all the small successes – reaching deadlines, completing grant and festival applications, creating movement sequences and setting choreography – that will add up to big success and fulfillment by the end of the year.”

Bo’s advice for anyone who doesn’t find fulfillment in their 9-5, but isn’t sure how to go about discovering what inspires them outside of it is to start with some personal reflection.

“Start with a little journaling,” she says. “What kinds of activities did you enjoy growing up? What were your favourite classes at school? What kind of games did you play with your friends? There are so many opportunities in this city to volunteer, take a night course, craft your creativity and find your passion! Think about what you have to offer this world, what you want your legacy to be, and then dive in!”

Bo is currently using her passion for dance to run a series of free dance workshops for inner-city Toronto youth. If you’re in the city March 20th, stop by Ganzi Osteria and enjoy a night of “music for movement” in support of Bo’s program. Event details here.

Want to know more about Bo and her upcoming projects? Check out her dance collective’s website: miscellumdance.com, or follow her on Twitter and instagram.

Happy Birthday, Toronto!

In the months of biting cold and neverending slush, it can be easy to forget how lucky I am to live where I do. I am so grateful for the choices and the twists and turns of fate that brought me back to this vibrant, beautiful city of vibrant, beautiful, creative weirdos where I was born. And I’m grateful for this dreamy video by Gary Samson for reminding me what a gem Toronto really is.

Now bring on Spring in the city!

Perfectionism Paralysis: How to do Things You’re Bad At

Start the thing hideously, start it wrong, start it ugly, but start. There’s time for perfection later.  Perfection is not a starting point.

One of the great things about living in a city like Toronto is access to all manner of continuing education courses at the local post-secondary institutions. Want to brush up on your culinary skills? Your carpentry? Great. Going for your Project Management certification? No problem.

While the idea of going back to school full-time gives me hives, I can’t seem to resist the urge to head back to the classroom at least once a year for a structured look at some topic or other, either to satisfy my curiosity or to add another skill to my resume.

I’m currently enrolled in the seventh con ed course I’ve taken since moving to Toronto, and aside from my ill-advised foray into the wacky world of web design a few years back, it’s the one that has me the most out of my element.

I think it’s normal to gravitate towards the things we’re already good at, whether it’s something we have prior training in or just a natural affinity for, but while it has been great to polish and buff my existing skills, I really wanted to give some attention to related areas of knowledge I may have neglected.

For me that means stepping out of my usual arena of monkeying around with pretty words and ideas and delving further into the business/strategy side of communications.

The first few classes weren’t too intimidating and I felt I was following along with the lectures all right. Although I missed the camaraderie of the last class I was in. It was a smaller group with livelier, friendlier discussions.

My first attempt to participate in a group discussion this term was shut down rather frustratingly when I brought up the topic of the #nomorepagethree campaign (encouraging folks to boycott a newspaper until they end their tradition of featuring topless women on the third page of their publication) during the part of the class where we discuss current social media trends/events etc. I was explaining the online campaign and its rising popularity/possible success when a man in the class loudly interrupted me, not to comment on the tactics, or the interesting use of social media, but to deride the campaign itself, exclaiming “Well if you don’t like it, just don’t buy the paper!”

Sidenote: if you’re a man, and a woman is telling a brief story about sexism, maybe DON’T INTERRUPT HER!

Ahem.

Anyway, I haven’t felt much like piping up since.

So I was dismayed to find that our first assignment, worth a substantial part of our mark was to include a presentation.

And, despite my diligent note-taking in class, I felt ill-prepared to tackle this particular assignment. The words “analysis”, “strategy” and “measurable objectives” jumped off the page and made my poetic heart pucker in protest.

It wasn’t long before I’d decided I couldn’t do it. I didn’t understand all the nonsensical business lingo involved, I’d never done anything like this before or even seen an example of what we were being asked to produce, so how could I possibly do anything other than a totally horrible job and embarrass myself in front of everyone else in the class who would undoubtedly use their umpteen business degrees and superior brains, experience, knowledge and talent to put together their presentations in their sleep.

I tried to be proactive about it. Sort of. I asked the instructor if he could show us an example of approximately what he was looking for, which he kindly did provide. But it was too late. Having already decided I didn’t understand what was being asked of me, I just stared at the example, my mind a dark whirlpool of doubt. The thing might as well have been written in an alien language and then run through a shredder for all the good it was doing me in my worked up state of mind.

As time marched on, I agonized more and more over this assignment. It was a steadily growing knot in the bottom of my stomach. My focus quickly shifted from trying to figure it out, to trying to figure out how to get out of it. I tried to psychically deduce whether I could do well enough in the rest of the course to just skip it altogether and accept a zero, but with my confidence at a mega-low, that seemed unlikely.

So. I thought. I’ll just try to do the written component. Maybe if I at least do that, I can just squeak by with a passing grade at the end of the course, and only the instructor will know the secret shame of my idiocy. Hurrah!

I could just sit quietly and pretend not to hear when my name was called on presentation day. I could claim laryngitis, I could faint! Heaven knows I’ve fainted enough times by accident by now, surely I could summon my powers of squeamishness if needed!

So, with that extremely well-thought-out plan in place (look at that! I can strategize after all!), I finally got to work on the written component. When it was done, I still didn’t feel particularly confident about it, but it looked about the right size and shape, so, exhausted, I let my perfectionism go.

Then I thought, “Well, ok, you might as well at least just take what you’ve already bothered to come up with here and transfer it into a slideshow. It doesn’t have to be cool or creative and I’m still not saying you have to get up and present it, but why not just have the format handy…just in case.”

I was still telling myself this on my way to the classroom, talking to my brain like I was trying to make a toddler eat broccoli. “Just go into the room, just sit down and watch some presentations.”

And then, finally, when the instructor asked if anyone else would like to get their presentation over with on the first day “Just put your hand up. You can still lose consciousness if you need to.”

And that’s how I got through the worst bout of perfectionism paralysis I’ve had in a long time. And the payoff is, that while I might not have perfected the particular skills the assignment required, at least now I know where to start.

I had to take my own advice. I’m always telling friends who are stuck at a loss with what to do with their lives/careers etc. to just try something. Try anything. Step off in a direction and see where it takes you. Just take one step. If all you learn is that that wasn’t the direction for you, then that’s one more thing you know about where you want to go (not there).

Stop agonizing over the details and the reasons why you can’t do the thing and just bloody well start. Start the thing hideously, start it wrong, start it ugly, but start. There’s time for perfection later.

Perfection is not a starting point. –Tweet that!

Are you guys ever paralyzed by perfectionism? How do you get past that kind of mental roadblock?

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Strawberry Coconut Overnight Oats

As my quest for quick and easy on-the-go breakfasts continues, I’ve come up with one overnight oats recipe that easily doubles as a dessert parfait. Strawberries, coconut and vanilla. Yum!

Strawberry Coconut Overnight Oats

1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup frozen strawberries
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
Combine oats, cinnamon, vanilla, coconut oil, shredded coconut and flax. Mix in to yogurt and milk and layer with frozen strawberries into a mason jar or other portable container (have an almost empty jar of honey or coconout oil? Perfect! Leave the jar in the fridge overnight and your oats will be ready to eat in the morning!

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