A Toronto Transformation

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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8 Ways to Make Your Bathroom Eco-Friendly

8 Ways to make your bathroom eco-friendly

Lately I’ve been on a mission to become a more environmentally responsible citizen. I really feel that humans’ impact on the planet is one of (if not the most) important issues of our time. For those of us who don’t yet feel drastically inconvenienced (or horribly threatened) by the effects of climate change, it is all too easy to push some frightening realities about what will happen if we don’t change our collective behaviour to the back of our minds.

Everyone has seen photos of polar bears stranded by melting ice, but they’re far from the only immediately at-risk species.

Baby puffins are starving to death because they can’t swallow the butterfish their parents bring them now that their usual diet of smaller herring and hake have disappeared from their habitat as the water warms up.

Bees are disappearing because of pesticides and climate change. And guess what? Without them we won’t just lose honey, we’ll lose huge swaths of our global food supplies.

The WWF also lists sea turtles, whales, pandas, orangutans (fuzzy little red-haired orangutans, guys!), elephants, frogs, and tigers as just a few of the candidates for extinction if people don’t act quickly to slow climate change.

Now, obviously cutting down on the amount of garbage I purchase for my bathroom isn’t going to magically reverse climate change. There is much more that I can do, starting with supporting political leaders who aren’t so seduced by capitalism and motivated by greed that they can’t see (or muzzle scientists and willfully ignore ) the bigger picture. I know I need to lend my voice and support to organizations and movements that are working hard to lead us away from environmental catastrophe.

Still, there’s no reason I can’t also do my part to cut down on the amount of junk I send to the landfill (or the giant patch of garbage in the ocean). So here are a few small changes I’ve come up with to make your bathroom eco-friendly:

How to Make Your Bathroom More Eco-Friendly

1. Replace body wash and liquid handsoap with solid soaps to cut down on plastic. One of my best pals actually made some beautiful lavender soap, so I’ve been lucky enough to have that on hand for a while. I also really like Kiss My Face olive and chamomile (paraben-free! Not animal tested!) soap for shaving.

2. Buy eco-friendly dental floss. This one has been a challenge, as even floss made from more environmentally-friendly ingredients tends to be packaged in hard plastic. Add to that the fact that my teeth are super tight, and it’s almost impossible to find something that will work.

I actually went so far as to email Oral B and express my concern about the environmental impact of so many of their dental floss dispensers winding up in the trash. They sent me back what I would describe as a polite kiss-off claiming that they are very concerned about the environment without going so far as to say they will actually do anything about the issue at hand. I suggested one immediate improvement would be to sell the reusable dispensers and 200m spools of floss they sell to dentists to the general public. Shockingly, they haven’t replied.

So far, the best I’ve come up with is Ecodent gentle floss. It comes in a cardboard dispenser, so at least it won’t float around in the ocean for eternity once I’m done with it. I only wish it was a little flatter for my poor crowded teeth.

3. Use solid shampoo. I’ve mentioned Lush solid shampoos here before, and I am still dedicated to them. Godiva, Seanik and Karma Komba are my favourites.

4. Buy Large. If you can’t find a replacement for a bottled product, buy a giant bottle of it. I have yet to find a solid conditioner that I like, so while the search continues I figured the least I could do was buy giant salon-sized bottles of the stuff to cut down on plastic at least a little.

5. Trade in your plastic toothbrush for bamboo. Think about all the toothbrushes you’ve used in your life so far. They all still exist in a landfill somewhere, and as far as we know, they will never stop existing. Bamboo toothbrushes on the other hand, will biodegrade, and bamboo is one of the most sustainable materials on the planet. Easy math! The one pictured above is from WooBamboo.

6. Use solid toothpaste. Good news! Crest recently removed plastic micro beads from their toothpaste after folks realized that…what was it again? Oh yes, they realized that it was INSANE to put tiny pieces of plastic in toothpaste (which is also packaged in plastic) and made some noise about it. Nice work, noisemakers! Meanwhile Lush toothy tabs do not contain plastic AND are not packaged in it. These little sweet tart-looking tabs foam up something fierce, but they do leave my mouth awfully clean. And with no creepy plastic micro-bead residue!

7. Try a menstrual cup or reusable pads. Approximately 20 billion tampons, applicators and disposable pads wind up in North American landfills every year. And none of them are mine! Again, there was a learning curve with this little gem of a product, but after my initial hilarious/terrifying adventure, I’ve never looked back! This one’s not only an earth-saver but a money-saver too!

8. Don’t shave your legs! Or, if like me, you aren’t quite at that point (at least not year-round), ditch the disposables or products like Gillette’s insanely over-packaged refills and try a Preserve reusable razor. They’re made from recycled yogurt cups and their refills aren’t infuriatingly individually sealed in hard plastic.

So there you have it, a few ways to green up your bathroom! And don’t forget, if you think a company’s packaging or product is environmentally irresponsible, you might want to consider letting them know exactly why you won’t be using it anymore. If they hear from enough of us who will take our money elsewhere, they’ll have no choice but to make a change.

Does anyone have a solid conditioner recommendation or any other ways to make your bathroom eco-friendly? I’d love to read them in the comments!

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?

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