A Toronto Transformation

A Winter Weekend in Ottawa

Ottawa Pennant

What’s a gal to do when it’s crazy-cold in Toronto? Why grab a couple of her best pals and head to Ottawa, where it is about 20 degrees colder, naturally!

It may seem counter-intuitive to  some, but three of us have been meaning to go since one of us made a move to the nation’s capital a few months ago, and it’s so terrifically rare that we all have a weekend free, that we didn’t dare wait until it warmed up to hop a train to see her.

Ottawa can be a strange place to navigate as a relatively young person looking for activities, entertainment and something delicious to eat, but we did a decent job of it and I thought I’d share what we found in case any of you are planning a trip there anytime soon.

Food and Drink

Mamma Teresa Ristorante – We were only too happy to tuck into generous portions of mouth-wateringly delicious Italian food on our first night in the city. Mama Teresa’s, a fairly upscale eatery in an old house was the perfect place to do exactly that and then linger and visit over glasses of wine.

Must wine bar – We kicked ourselves for checking this place out after we’d just eaten, because the menu looked delicious, and if the drinks were anything to go by, it certainly would have been. This bar/restaurant tucked into a heritage building in the market was the perfect place to cozy up with cocktails and wine for the evening. It would make a great romantic date spot too!

Benny's Bistro Ottawa brunch

Benny’s Bistro – Holy brunch, batman! The great thing about dining out with a pack of women is that they will probably all offer to let you try their meals and because of this fact I was able to verify that everything on the brunch menu at this place tucked in the back of a little bakery was SO DAMN GOOD. Go there. Eat all the things. Be happy.

TeaRoom1

Moscow Tea Room – This place gets an honourable mention for ambiance. We went in the afternoon and it was a great place to cozy up with a cup of tea in front of their giant windows and watch the snowy world go by. Unfortunately the food left something to be desired, but if you need a tea-fix, and a pretty place to sit on your way to the National Gallery, it’s perfect.

Shopping

Byward Market – While it’s more bustling in the summer, the market area was still the perfect place to pop in and out of the cute little boutiques

blue quartz necklaces

Victoire – This store, which apparently also has a Toronto location, could be alternately named: Excellent Gifts for Sarah. They have very cool jewelry and carry lots of awesome Canadian-designed clothes. If it had just a little more give, I’d have taken home this fantastic medieval-unicorn-print jumpsuit, despite my clothing budget cut-back!

catcards

Giant Tiger – if you didn’t grow up in small-town Canada, you may not be familiar with the treasure hunt that is Giant Tiger, or as those in the know call it, GT Boutique. While they carry all kinds of weird junk, it’s also the perfect place to pick up some fleece leggings for any canal skating adventures you might attempt, and cheap snacks for your pregnant pal’s midnight cravings. Plus there’s the thrill of the Ottawa location being the original GT. Or maybe that was just us.

Entertainment

Mugshots -We made a very brief appearance at this bar housed, along with a hostel, in the city’s former jail, only because we nattered away so long at dinner that the band we wanted to see was finishing up as we arrived, but I’d like give it a proper chance sometime as the vibe seemed cool and I dug the unusual venue.

Skating on the Rideau Canal Ottawa 2015

The Rideau Canal – There’s nothing more Canadian than skating on the Rideau Canal, unless it’s (as I mentioned on Instagram) the guy I passed who was skating on the Rideau in a toque and plaid jacket, carrying a toboggan under one arm. Or maybe if it’s that guy with a beaver under his other arm and a maple leaf in his lapel? Anyway, being a touristy activity doesn’t make it any less wonderful to have the opportunity to skate for miles without being restricted to the tiny circle most rinks provide. A word of warning though, if you don’t bring your own skates it’s not cheap! Be prepared to shell out $17 for a two-hour rental.

Skating on the Rideau Canal Ottawa 2015 Skating on the Rideau Canal Ottawa 2015

 

 

 

PB&J Overnight Oats: The Perfect Sleep-In Breakfast

Peanut Butter and Jelly Overnight Oatmeal

As I mentioned in my Lifehacks for Procrastinators post, I am a big fan of a breakfast that lets me sleep in as long as possible (my standby is a bowl of boiled eggs in the fridge). So imagine my delight when Pinterest introduced me to the world of overnight oats.

After playing around with a few recipes, I came up with this little on-the-go gem to fortify me on mornings when I’m pressed for time.

This recipe fills one large or two small mason jars.

It’s protein-packed peanut butter and jelly, with a twist!

1/2 cup oats (not quick-cooking)

1/2 cup greek yogurt

1/2 cup frozen fruit

1/4 cup peanut butter

1/4 cup milk (or water)

1 scoop vega choc-a-lot protein smoothie

1 Tbsp coconut oil (melted)

1 Tbsp ground flaxseed

1 tsp vanilla

1 pinch cinnamon (to taste)

Combine oats, cinnamon, vanilla, coconut oil, protein powder and flax. Mix in additional ingredients and layer with frozen fruit into a mason jar or other portable container. Leave the jar in the fridge overnight and your oats will be ready to eat in the morning!

What’s your favourite on-the-go breakfast?

Inspiring Women: Grace Lee Boggs & Naomi Klein

Well happy new year, pals! I hope you all had wonderful holidays with plenty of R&R. As you may recall, it always takes me a few days of getting a feel for the new year to decide what my new year’s resolutions will be, and 2015 has been no different.

Last year’s resolution to not become betrothed was such a smashing success that this year, I thought I’d try my hand at being resolute again!

As I’ve said before, I think it’s so important for people to be engaged in what’s going on in the world outside our own front doors, and if I want to be able to discuss current events and important issues, I should do a little civic homework beyond skimming the paper or tuning in to the CBC over breakfast.

To that end, I’m diving into Naomi Klein’s latest book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate. I’ve just read the first few pages, and I can tell already that this book is going to scare me, and maybe break my heart a little, but as far as I’m concerned, more of us should be frightened and heartbroken over the state of the planet and how little we’re willing to give up to save it and ourselves. But I’m hoping I’ll also find some inspiration for potential solutions. All is not lost, but we can’t be voices for change if our heads are buried in the (tar)sand(s).

Sand is very muffling.

And speaking of voices for change, last week the Moth podcast introduced me to the incredible Grace Lee Boggs. I dare you to listen to this hilarious, sharp 97-year-old (at the time of the recording) talk about her life as an unstoppable activist and her relationship with her “physically and politically attractive” husband without falling totally in love with her.  She talks about him being a “solutionary,” a visionary organizer who “proposed things people didn’t know they could do until someone told them they could do it” and about how that’s the sort of thing we need in the world today.

Immediately after l finished listening to it, I went online to order a copy of American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, because I just had to know more about this fantastic philosopher and her contributions to every major social movement in the United States for the past 70 years, and in my Googling, I was sad to learn that the 99-year-old has been in hospice since September. There is a campaign to support her in her final transition as she lives out her last days. If you have a couple extra bucks to throw her way, funds are being collected here. And, if you’re in Toronto and would be interested in watching the documentary about her, let me know as I’m toying with the idea of setting up a screening of it and sending the funds her way if there’s some interest!

So I guess that’s my real New Year’s resolution: to be more like Naomi Klein and Grace Lee Boggs, to do my homework and be more of a “solutionary.”

(Also to go to bed earlier, bulk up my savings and keep my apartment tidier, you know, if there’s time)

What are your resolutions for 2015?

Last-Minute Stocking Stuffer Ideas

Bare English & Co lip balms make a perfectly sweet stocking stuffer

While 2014 has been a year of getting my budget on track and lassoing my idle consumerism (my clothing spending has been limited to a couple of pairs of underwear and socks and a Halloween costume I put together for $20 since I wrote this, btw!), I do love finding little treats for my loved ones this time of year.

As always, my family will probably do some charitable giving in each other’s names. The Stephen Lewis Foundation, the David Suzuki Foundation and of course, my near, dear, Mother Nature Partnership are all worthwhile organizations (that do not discriminate against the LGBT community like the Salvation Army and their ubiquitous bell-ringers), if you’re looking for a way to give back this holiday season, but it’s still fun to have some things to unwrap under the tree on Christmas morning.

Here are a few ideas for those of you who are stumped for stocking stuffers:

Help your pals stay mistletoe-ready year-round with Toronto company Bare English & Co’s Tea-infused vegan lip balms (pictured above). I love their Vanilla Coconut flavour and am obsessed with the way it smells like popcorn jelly bellys (another excellent stocking stuffer)!

David’s Tea has pretty little gift boxes this time of year along with the regular one-off bags of the stuff in case you’re not sure what insanely tasty flavour to choose! I’m partial to the red velvet cake tea myself.

Bananagrams – I remain obsessed with this game. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s like scrabble without all the waiting around. If this doesn’t help me stave off Alzheimer’s, well, I mean, I’ll just continue playing it, because I am bananas about it. Yeah, I said it. Bananas.

In case you need to spike the aforementioned tea with something sweet (say, for example if you needed a little extra courage to attempt to best me at Bananagrams), Quebec’s way-too delicious Sortilège Whiskey Liquer has you covered.

Give the gift of Canadiana with this adorable mounties toque from the Drake General Store

Help your loved one organize the change having a party in the bottom of her purse with a beautiful changepurse from Scout & Catalogue. If you feel the need to also buy her a full-sized clutch in that gorgeous marbled leather, I’m sure she’d stop drooling at least long enough to thank you profusely!

Have a pal who’s trying to lighten their environmental footprint? Lush solid shampoos are a great way to cut down on the amount of plastic packaging in their shower! Oh, and the Godiva one will make them smell scrumptious!

For more last-minute gift ideas check out my 2014 Holiday Gift Guide board on Pinterest, or last year’s Toronto Christmas Gift Guide.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever found in your stocking (or stashed in someone else’s)?

 

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Five Life Hacks for Procrastinators

  long layered brunette hair I suppose the ultimate time-saving hack would be to hack all this hair off, but for now, dry shampoo to the rescue!

If, like me you are a terrible procrastinator, I mean…terribly busy and important person, you may find yourself running short on time to devote to hobbies like eating food or maintaining personal hygiene. Here are five time-saving life hacks for procrastinators (you know we love a good shortcut!) I’ve adopted recently to help!

  1. Sort your laundry as you undress. On a recent trip to IKEA, I couldn’t decide between a black or white laundry hamper, when it hit me: I could buy both and use one for my lights and the other for my darks and cut out the time spent sorting the two on laundry day. Genius!
  1. Take your clothes into the shower with you after a workout. I often walk home from my workouts for a little extra cardio (and because I can’t stand waiting for transit), so I don’t usually shower and change until I get home. While I’d never throw my gear back in my gym bag until next time, sometimes all it needs is a little rinse between loads of laundry, so I just toss my lulus in the tub , let them share my shampoo or body wash while I shower and then give them a quick rinse and hang them to dry. It saves me from having to buy a workout outfit for every day of the week, and from running a whole laundry cycle without a full hamper. Win-win!
  1. Make friends with dry shampoo. Speaking of shampoo, as a long-locked lady there are definitely times when I just don’t have the time to wash and dry my mane before being seen in public. The solution? Dry shampoo! I experimented with a few brands of the spray-on stuff, which were so full of chemicals and heavily-scented I couldn’t believe it, before realizing I could just store a mixture of cocoa powder and arrowroot starch in a salt shaker and run it through my roots with my fingers before brushing it out to get the same volumizing, grease-absorbing effect. PLUS IT MAKES MY HEAD SMELL LIKE BROWNIES! I’ve since also become a fan of Lulu organics talc-free hair powder. It’s very fine and smells delicious. It might be a better idea than the cocoa powder concoction I use for lighter-haired lads and lasses as it can be hard to brush all of the cocoa powder out.
  1. Steam clothes in the shower. (man, for all this time I apparently spend in the shower you’d think I’d have time to wash my hair an adequate amount. Alas, you would be incorrect!) Because I’d rather spend my time doing (Insert pretty much any activity at all here) than ironing, and since sometimes when I manage to get my laundry through the washer-dryer cycle, it chooses to languish in what more than one acquaintance has referred to as my “laundry chair” rather than folding itself and hopping into my drawers in a timely manner, hanging a few pieces up in the bathroom while I take a steamy shower is one of my very favourite life hacks.
  1. Put all your eggs in one basket. Boil five eggs on Sunday night and keep them on hand in your fridge for a week of ready-to-eat protein to add to your breakfast. I pop mine in my egg slicer (a sanity and second-saving little device) and eat them on toast with a side of fruit before I run out the door. I’ve also taken this to the next level for a month or two by cooking a giant pot of something on Sunday evening and portioning it out for a week’s worth of lunches to save even more time in the mornings!

Are you guys procrastinators? What are your favourite time-saving life hacks for procrastinators (or, you know, very organized, responsible and motivated individuals with a shortage of time)?

The Art of Talking Politics

The Art of Politics - Art Gallery of Ontario

Last weekend my mom and I popped by the AGO to check out the (awesome) Alex Colville exhibit. While we were there, we wandered into the art and politics wing of the gallery, a place where my mom could pretty much be an installation, as it was the intersection of two of her greatest passions.

We came across this quote about democracy in the write-up next to one of the paintings, and both really loved it: “”For all its faults, democratic politics is the brave, hugely important attempt of people who don’t know each other well to try to live in peace together.”

Hugely important indeed.

A lot of people, especially young whippersnappers, can’t seem to see the connections between themselves and politics, which, to me, is really bizarre. Politics is the way we determine the rules we all have to abide by and the values we want to be held sacred in our communities. Do we care about how (and how much) our families pay for healthcare? Do we care about access to education? Do we care about basic human rights? Then we have to care about the systems that govern them. Ta-daa! Connected.

Yes, in this country politics can come with a heaping side of old, caucasian gentlemen posturing or sometimes just spouting absolute unrelated nonsense in response to direct questions. But that’s no excuse to ignore the actions going on behind those (admittedly sometimes baffling) words. It can be easy to become disillusioned, but it’s what we do with that disillusionment that matters, and disengaging entirely is not the answer.

If the system is broken, talk about it, brainstorm ways to make it better and work together to make some noise until it’s fixed.

Of course, we can’t work together for change if we don’t actually talk about it.

A lot of people I know are of the mind that it’s somehow impolite to discuss political issues anywhere outside of Parliament Hill, yet have no problem discussing, say, Kim Kardashian’s various body parts. I don’t get it. It seems like some holdover from an etiquette guide that should have been thrown out somewhere around the time women in North America won the right to vote.

Is the fear that they might be exposed to a different viewpoint than their own? That some sort of friendly (gasp!) debate might take place and cause them to re-examine what they previously believed and broaden their own views? That they might start to understand the person they’re talking with better?

I suspect a lot of people are afraid of offending, or being offended on a personal level, and I will admit, discussing political issues is a good time to be extra-sensitive to the feelings of those around you and keep your sense of humour and your ability to recognize when it’s time to say “I can see where you’re coming from, but I just don’t think we’re going to agree on this” and move on, close at hand.

Perhaps people who refuse to take part in any political discourse, even among friends, simply have not made that aforementioned connection, and realized the importance of politics, of discussion and healthy debate, of engagement among citizens in creating a better world for all of us?

I don’t know.

But I do know that ignorance never bred progress. Evolution doesn’t happen when we keep our heads in the sand.

What do you guys think? Do you follow politics? Are political issues taboo in your circles?

A Moment’s Peace

Cemetary Angel in Snow (A moment's peace)Cemetary Angel in Snow

I can’t pinpoint exactly when time began to feel blurry.

Well, that makes sense, doesn’t it?

Whether it was two or three winters ago when my grasp on it started to slip.

I didn’t think about it too much then. Not when the pieces of the life I envisioned for myself seemed to be so effortlessly falling into place.

I thought we had an agreement, time and I. I thought I had it licked.

But of course, time cannot be beaten, and It damn sure doesn’t care if your plans fall through.

Now, as it whips by ever faster, a quick, clear stream I cup my hands to catch even as it rushes relentlessly through my fingers, I’m terrified of wasting even a drop.

But I don’t know what that means, exactly.

I don’t know how much of it is mine to control, how much I’ll have in the end.

I know there are things that I would like to do, given the choice.

I know I’m hardly ancient, but I also know now, how fast time can move.

My life is blessed, no doubt.

Is it greedy to worry about wanting things like a partner and a little family to raise, when I’m so lucky already?

Would it be foolish to keep letting time tiptoe past without actively trying to cultivate those things?

Which is more wasteful, to spend my time trying to capture a life that might not even be in the cards for me, or to wait passively for the things I want until it’s too late for me to enjoy them?

These are the questions that chase each other around my mind, even as I celebrate friends’ new loves, their weddings, and pregnancies. Even as I celebrate my own accomplishments in other areas.

So it was nice, Sunday night, in the middle of running errands, doing chores and trying to get myself ready for another busy week to dash out the front door into a world transformed.

Even my mind quieted as I stopped on the porch to stare at the snow, coming down in magic slow motion, the way it does sometimes, lit up by the streetlights.

I stuck my tongue out to catch a lazy flake and it really did feel like time stopped.

At least for a moment

Good News, It’s Friday!

Red leaves through Gothic window arch Well done on those leaves, mother nature.

It’s been a bit of a stressful news week (or weeks), particularly for those of us with an interest in issues concerning violence against women,

So, while I highly encourage all of you to pay close attention to even the most unpleasant current events, I thought it might be nice to focus on a little good news, and perhaps a baby animal or two that can make us smile this Friday.

Speaking of current events, in case you missed it, China and the US announced new targets to reduce carbon pollution and fight climate change. Hurrah! A step in the right direction.

Julien Blanc was kicked out of Australia, and thanks to #KeepJulienBlancOutOfCanada, our immigration minister is considering barring him from coming here too. Keep up the good work, and keep the pressure on, guys!

These fabulous Australian men pimped their ride into a free mobile laundromat for homeless people.

A Captain Marvel (feminist superhero based on Gloria Steinem) movie is in the works!

And, oh good gracious, just look at this rescued baby otter, eating snacks and making baby otter squeaks:

What’s made you smile this week?

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Blanc can Stay Home , Toronto has Enough Sex Offenders

slutwalk toronto protest sign "because we've had enough" Trigger warning: discussion of sexual assault and violence against women

For just over a week, Toronto has been abuzz over allegations that Jian Ghomeshi, a much beloved CBC radio host who claimed to espouse feminist values, was fired by the station over allegations he had abused and sexually assaulted a number of women, which rose from 3 to 10 as the week went on.

The women’s accounts of the non-consensual and violent acts committed against them make for stomach-churning reading. And my stomach rolled all over again when I read and heard the reactions to the story. When they got wind that the allegations against him were about to be made public, Ghomeshi and the PR team he hired to help him weather the inevitable media firestorm posted his version of events on his Facebook page. He claimed to be the victim of a smear campaign by a “jilted ex-girlfriend” and that the CBC had objected to his private, consensual BDSM predilictions.

I was amazed to see how many people, many of them lovely and intelligent, took his statement at face value before the Star shared their information about the first three women to come forward. My Facebook news feed was sprinkled liberally with messages of support for the former Moxy Fruvous member.

I guess for some it must have been in part because people felt like they knew him after hearing his voice on the radio day after day. Many were all too happy to believe the “jilted ex” narrative, because I guess Jian has money and status and power and because as we all know, “bitches be crazy”?

But most disturbingly, I think a lot of people believed him simply because we do not believe rape victims. And even if we can be convinced that rape occurred, we still ask them what they could have done to stop someone from raping them.

Some people were genuinely baffled as to why this was the first time we were hearing about these incidents. They couldn’t fathom why a woman who had been assaulted would not immediately report it. If you are one of those people, tweets under the hashtag #beenrapedneverreported are required reading, as far as I’m concerned. There are unfortunately a million valid reasons not to report sexual assault, (in fact, when I think about it, I don’t think any of the people I know who have told me about being raped actually reported it) and you’ll find a heartbreaking number of them on twitter.

I think a lot of people believed/believe Ghomeshi without question even now, when ten women have come forward, and countless others have relayed their stories about his inappropriate and disturbing behaviour, because of all of these reasons. I think they believe him because of rape culture.  A culture where someone like Ghomeshi could convince himself that hitting and choking women who had never agreed to be hit or choked was well within his rights.

Which is why I was incensed to learn that the reptilian Julien Blanc, a “pick up artist” who gives online courses and workshops teaching men how to manipulate women  into having sex with them and posts pictures of himself #chokingwomenaroundtheworld to social media is planning to bring his disgusting misogynistic bullshit to Toronto in January and March of 2015.

Sadly, the choking photos are just the tip of the iceberg for this creep, who advocates approaching women on the street in Japan by grabbing the back of their heads and pushing their faces into your crotch. There are videos of him doing this and encouraging men in a seminar to do the same, because according to Blanc, “if you’re a white male, you can do what you want. I’m just romping through the streets, just grabbing girls’ heads, just like, head, pfft on the dick.”

He’s vile.

He and his company, Real Social Dynamics, are currently facing backlash in Australia, where venues have cancelled his seminars after widespread protests, petitions from the public and tweets sent under #takedownjulienblanc.

His company’s site lists two sets of seminar dates in Toronto in January and March, and while the venues have not yet been listed, I for one will be keeping an eye out, ready to petition whoever is hosting this creep to cancel any of his events.

Because if there’s one thing Toronto doesn’t need, it’s a man who teaches other men that choking women is a good way to get to know them.

Click here to sign a petition to shut down Blanc’s social media pages.

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