A Toronto Transformation

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.

Little Luxuries – Bite Beauty Matte Creme Lip Crayon

bite beauty matte crème lip crayon cognac Cognac, anyone? (Guys, I can’t explain to you how challenging it is for me to hide my toothy grin in photos.)

While I am not generally a full face of makeup kind of woman, I’ve always loved painting my face, and a trick I learned early on, is that even if you have no other makeup on, throwing on a little lipstick can go a long way towards making it look like you’ve put some effort in to your appearance. This is great news for me, because while I choose extra sleep over getting  up early for makeup application every single morning, occasionally a surprise midday meeting makes me wish I had taken a moment to make myself just a smidge spiffier instead of rolling directly out the door from my unmade bed.

bite beauty matte crème lip crayon brandy

Or perhaps a little Brandy? (seriously, trying to smile with no teeth is the most unnatural thing!)

For this reason I like to keep a lipstick or two in my purse at all times. And recently I’ve become obsessed with Toronto company Bite Beauty‘s matte crème lip crayon. Not only does it come in some seriously gorgeous high pigment fall colours, it’s made with edible ingredients, so I don’t have to worry that I’m slowly poisoning myself every time I forget I’m wearing it and devour a falafel.

So far I’ve collected Brandy, Aubergine and Fraise (it’s like My Little Pony all over again!). I’ve also been hoarding samples of Cognac and Truffle while I not-so-patiently wait for my local Sephora to restock them. bite beauty matte crème lip crayon cognac

Portraits: Emma Davidson

“Free at last!!!” – my teeth

Do you guys have any tricks for looking more put together in a pinch? What products are you obsessing over  lately? Tell me all your beauty secrets in the comments!

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10 hours of Street Harrassment is Sadly, Not Surprising

This condensed video of a woman walking around a city for ten hours in jeans and a t-shirt was originally posted on Hollaback’s website under the headline “You won’t believe how many times this woman gets harassed in 10 hours.”

I beg to differ. As a woman who does a lot of solo walking around the city, there is nothing shocking about this to me. I absolutely do believe it.

I love this video though, because I know a lot of people do not view street harassment as a serious issue. Even those of us who experience it on a regular basis become so conditioned to unwanted commentary on our bodies that it starts to seem like it hardly matters.

It matters.

Because even the strongest among us can have our confidence eroded over time, chipped away every time someone asserts his perceived right to tell us what he thinks of our bodies, what we should do with our bodies, and what he’d like to do to our bodies.

Facing this kind of objectification again and again is so discouraging and demoralizing, not to mention terrifying, depending on the context.

I know that I’m more than my body. I am a bright, compassionate, funny and strange whole entire complex human being. But it can be hard to keep that in perspective when strangers insist on reducing me to it.

Here’s hoping this video reaches some of the men who perpetuate this boorish behaviour and that they start to understand that, as I’ve said before, catcalls are not compliments.

Did you guys find this video surprising? How do you deal with street harrassment? I’d love to chat about it in the comments!

Three Years of Metamorphocity

"My head hurts, but I love you" graffiti, Queen Street West, Toronto

Three years ago I was in a state of transformation.

My heart was on the mend and I was eager to try out my new independent-woman-in-the-city grown-up wings. They were barely dry, but they were beautiful. I wanted to see how they worked in my new life.

And so I did.

I went to Spain.

I trained my neighbours to say hello to me.

I went on dates.

I dodged being drafted to a naked volleyball team.

I fell in love, hard.

Really hard.

And then I climbed back out of it, bedraggled, bewildered and shivering from that special kind of cold that comes from being discarded without grace or compassion by someone who has won your heart.

I took candy from strangers.

I took my dad to see Lady Gaga.

I documented the unfortunate life of a lovingly crafted, hilariously disturbing voodoo doll.

I marched in the Pride Parade.

I made a conscious effort to be happier in my own skin.

I got a new job (and a new diagnosis).

I learned to shuck oysters!

An evil dog ate my movie snacks.

Every day, this weird and wonderful city became more my home. And through it all I wrote.

I wrote when I was charmed and delighted by the city around me. I wrote my love, my curiosity, my anger, my humiliation. I wrote to grieve and to heal, to provoke, to entertain, to share and to learn. Sometimes I wrote just to make more space in my brain.

And finally I realized, I was writing because, no matter what I do during my 9-5, I’m a writer.

This city has changed me. It has made me bolder, and braver. It has given me friends I would never have known and now can’t imagine my life without.

This blog has changed me too. It has helped me get to know myself and introduced me to some amazing people. It has opened doors I would never have imagined three years ago. I’ve learned so much here in this wee cocoon of internet space.

Thank you so much for stopping by from time to time and being a part of the ride.

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