Monday, 26 January 2015

Valentine's Day Gift Guide (Feel free to pass this along to your significant other)

Tarte Kiss & Belle Lipsurgence Lip Set (similar

Stella & Dot Rory Necklace (similar)
Stella & Dot Tribute Bracelet (similar)

I'm home sick today, so I thought it would be fun to put together a list of gift ideas for Valentine's Day. Feel free to forward this along to to your partner for a few not-so-subtle hints!


Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Local Love: Toronto Cooks

My husband is a pretty awesome gift giver. Mostly I tell him a few things I want, but he always comes up with a surprise. This year's surprise was the cookbook Toronto Cooks. When I opened it he said, "You don't actually have to make the recipes. We can just pick the ones that look good and go try them at the restaurants." Which does sound fun for date night, but I'm determined to try and make some of the recipes in here :)

Toronto Cooks is a collection of 100 recipes from 50 different Toronto chefs. I've lived in Toronto about 10 years now, and have fully fallen in love with this city. Especially the amazing restaurants we have here.

Globe and Mail describes Toronto Cooks like this:

"If the past 12 months of Toronto’s culinary scene were to be encapsulated in a school yearbook, Amy Rosen’s new cookbook Toronto Cooks, a collection of 103 recipes from 48 restaurants across the city, would fit the bill. The freshmen class would be Drake One Fifty and Geraldine, which opened last year; New York-based Café Boulud and Momofuku Milk Bar would be the exchange students; and the decades-old restaurants, such as Allen’s and 360 at the CN Tower, would be the faculty."

Read their full review here.

So far I've tried 3 recipes from Toronto Cooks. The first one I tried was the Muscovy Duck Breast with Whiskey Blackcurrant Sauce from Allen's. Then I tried the Arcadian Court Chicken Pot Pie from Bannock.

Most recently, I made the Confetti Cookies from Momofuku Milk Bar for my book club last weekend.

Warning - these are not quick, after work recipes. They've each taken me quite awhile to prepare. And I've had to go buy ingredients I've never even heard of. But it has been fun trying new things from Toronto's top restaurants. Although, I'm sad Globe Bistro wasn't included. Rob and I think Globe is one of the best restaurants in the city.

Anyways, if you need a gift idea for a die-hard Torontonian, this would be a great idea. My cousin has been talking about the idea of using her favourite cookbooks as coffee table books, and after receiving this one, I'd have to agree!


Monday, 19 January 2015

The One New Year's Resolution I Won't Quit ...nomatterwhat

Just over a week ago, my friend Kelly sent me and some other ladies an email. How would we like to participate in Mudderella? She told us she thought it would be a lot of fun.

Truth time - I am not in shape. I don't work out regularly, and I love eating gummy bears. When I think of things that sound like fun, that list usually includes: wine, Netflix, reading, and ordering in Thai food. Mudderella is a 5-7 mile long, muddy obstacle course. It would not traditionally fit into the list of fun things I like to do. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that my immediate reaction was to delete the email and tell Kelly to her face how insane I thought she was the next time I saw her.

But before I did that, a small part of me kept saying, "Maybe....." I've seen photos of colour runs and pictures of Tough Mudder and always thought they did actually look a bit fun. Fun in the ohmygodican'tbelieveijustdidthat kind of way. There has been that twinge of "I wish I could do something like that."

The most fit I've ever been was probably about 7 or 8 years ago. I was working out more regularly, had a favourite gym, and even did a handful of 5k runs. Enter baby....

So, after the initial shock of thinking of course there is no way I'm prepared to run 10k, ascend a cargo net or climb over a freaking wall, I thought, maybe....maybe I could actually do this.

What if it did work out? 

Mudderella is not a race and is based on 3 truths:
1. You're stronger than you think you are.
2. There's more to life than going to the gym.
3. You deserve an awesome experience. 

The event is 6 months away, so I have lots of time to train. The 10k isn't a solid run because there are obstacles every half mile or so. And Mudderella provides a training program online to help you prepare for the event. Apart from the runs, I can do a good chunk of the training in my basement. And, most importantly, I won't be alone.

I'm determined and committed to completing Mudderella in 2015 with a team of amazing and brave women.
The Dirty Divas.

I am still very afraid. Mostly, I'm afraid of the run. 10k is further than I've ever run before. And the wall. I'm afraid of climbing over a wall. Or really, not being able to climb over the wall. I'm afraid of dumb things like I'll get my period on game day or it will rain (It's a mud run; I really shouldn't worry about the rain.) I'm afraid my toddler will go into complete meltdown mode, and Rob will have to handle it alone (Which Rob can totally do. I'm clearly grasping at fears here).  I'm also afraid of big things. I'm afraid that despite trying to train as best I can, I still may not be ready. I'm afraid I may get injured. I'm afraid of feeling weak. I'm afraid of giving up.

So, I vow to make this experience ridiculously amazing. That may be the only thing that keep my fears at bay.

I'm excited to make new friends.
I'm excited to deepen the friendships I already have.
I'm excited to have an amazing reason to trek downtown to my favourite gym.
I'm excited to do a few training runs in Quebec City and San Diego when I'm traveling over the next couple of months.
I'm excited to get matching shirts for event day.
I'm excited that in coordinating with my husband when I can do my workouts, we're planning when he can add workouts to his schedule as well.
I'm excited to have this ridiculously amazing experience.
I'm excited to celebrate afterwards.
I'm excited to feel strong.

On July 11, 2015 it's very likely I will be more fit than I have ever been in my whole life. I'm looking forward to feeling what that feels like.

Yesterday I did my first training run. Game on.

Wish me luck!

Images via Mudderella on Facebook and Pinterest.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

My Favourite Skin Care Products

It's cleansing season. Here are my favourite skin care products for feeling refreshed whatever the weather.

Caudalie Make-up Remover Cleansing Water and Caudalie Foaming Cleanser
This cleansing water was the recommended one by the good ladies at Sephora for removing eye make-up. Foaming cleansers are my favourite, and this one is very soft. Can a foaming cleanser feel soft? Anyways, this one does.

Jurlique Calendula Redness Rescue Moisturizing Cream and Jurlique Calendula Redness Rescue Restorative Treatment Serum
My favourite moisturizer and serum!

Juice Beauty Green Apple Organic Peel 
This peel was in my FabFitFun box, and I've been using it once a week since then.

Cleansing and Softening Shower Oil with Almond Oil
I usually get gifted lots of different kinds of body wash, which I love. I don't really have one single type I use on the regular. I recently received this shower oil as a sample with a Sephora order and it is amazing. I'd definitely buy a larger bottle of this.

Sabon Pachouli and Lavender Body Scrub
My mom and I stumbled upon a Sabon store in NYC a few years ago, and we both walked away with this body scrub. I wish I could attach smells to this blog. Their pachouli/lavender is one of my favourites.

NutriMinC RE9 REfinish Hydrating Lotion
This is another item I am often gifted, so I don't have a specific brand I buy regularly. This is the latest one I've started using. I'd also recommend this spray lotion for a less expensive option.

Soapwalla Deodorant Cream
A friend introduced this deodorant to me recently. I was skeptical because I've tried a number of "natural" deodorants, and I've never found one that lasts much longer than an hour or two. In addition to the amazing lavender smell, I've started talking about this deodorant to everyone! It's a bit strange to use a cream deodorant, but I swear it works. Like all day.

Alternatively, last month I was sent Secret Outlast Clear Gel to test out for free. The Soapwalla brand is a bit pricey, so this is a more affordable option. I can't ever remember using a gel deodorant, but I found this one to be really effective. It dried super quickly and also worked really well all day long when I was running around doing errands.

L'Occitane Lavender Hand Cream
I seem to have different types of hand creams all over the place, but this is my fav!

Froosh High Five Manicure Scrub
I bought this at the One of a Kind Show a few years ago. This sugar scrub has avocado oil in it and has a very fresh smell. After using this scrub, my hands felt so clean and also moisturized. And one container lasts a long time. So lovely!


Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Movies I Can't Wait to See this Year!

I go to the movies maybe 2 or 3 times a year. I like going, especially since I've discovered VIP tickets. Have you heard of this? You pay an extra fee on top of your ticket, but you get bigger, leather seats as well as food and drink service. Seriously! Yes I will have a glass of wine with my movie thankyouverymuch. So yeah, VIP tickets. Best new way to watch movies (after Netflix of course).

Anyways, it seems like there are a lot of really great movies coming out this year. This post is mostly just a checklist for myself to make sure I don't miss any. 

Still Alice 

Ok. This is a sad one to start with, but I know it will be amazing. The book was powerful, and I'm sure the movie will be too. Bring kleenex.
Release date - January 16th

50 Shades of Grey

My girlfriends and I are fully expecting this one to be so bad it's good.
Release date - February 14th

Insurgent (Movie 2 in the Divergent series)

Even though they seem to have taken quite a few liberties with the second film, I still happily look forward to this movie. #four4eva
Release date - March 20th


They're back! Rob and I were equally excited to see this trailer last week. We binge-watched Entourage a few years ago and have been patiently waiting for the long-talked about movie.
Release date - June 5th

Jem & The Holograms 

I have no idea what to really expect with this one, but I loved Jem and the Holograms growing up. Plus Molly Ringwald is in it, so the film has legit 80s cred.
Release date - October 25th

Mockingjay Part 2 (Final Hunger Games movie)

I just saw Mockingjay Part 1 last week and really enjoyed it.  It's been so long since I've read the book, so it all felt new to me. (Disclosure - I read Mockingjay about 2 weeks after S was born during the many hours of nursing. I can't say I really remember much in detail from that time in my life. lol) Nonetheless, I can't wait to see Part 2. These movies never disappoint!
Release date - November 20th

So, that's what I'm looking forward to seeing. Well, those and Gone Girl which I think is available next week to rent. I didn't see that one when it was in theaters last year. Current super-duo Jennifer Lawerence and Bradley Cooper have not one, but two more movies coming out together in 2015: Serena and Joy. I'm sure I'll enjoy those as well. Any other movies you're looking forward to seeing this year? I'm sure Jurassic World is on the top of Rob's list.


Monday, 5 January 2015

FabFitFun VIP Winter 2014 Box + Discount Code

I am SO excited to post about this subscription box. As soon as I opened this box, I looked at my favourite pillow and thought, yes, today is a good day.

FabFitFun VIP is a seasonal subscription box that includes full-size and premium beauty, wellness, fitness, and fashion products.

$49.99 for a box with a guaranteed value of $200
Free US shipping ($8 to Canada)
Use the code TRYFFF for $10 off your first box

I learned about FabFitFun VIP boxes last year, and I really wanted to try one, but I thought $49.99 was more than I wanted to spend on a box when I really didn't know the contents. But then I started looking at some reviews, and they had a promotion in December where the winter box was $10 off, plus it had a guaranteed value of over $300, so I thought it was the prefect time to try. I was not disappointed.

What's in the box?
Here's what came in my FabFitFun VIP Box. The prices are all listed in USD and come from the card included in the box that explained each item.

Juice Beauty Green Apple Peal - $39
Half United Fighting Hunger Necklace - $34
Zumba 60-min DVD and $25 giftcard - $55
Passport to Beauty Goji Berry Anti-aging Eye Serum - $88
Daniel Stone COCO Candle - $42
yoursMinerals Eyeshadow Duo - $44
3-month membership to Salted (an online resource for cooking videos and lessons) - $27.97
Lather AHA Hand Cream with Evening Primrose - $30
$30 Fashion Project gift card - $18 (I'm not sure why the retail value listed isn't $30)
Organic Valley Milk Protein Shake - $2.99
Almond Butter Sample - $0.63
Special K Snack bar - $.50

The last 3 items listed were sponsored items, so they aren't included in the total value of the box which is $377.97! If you like the items in the box, this is a pretty amazing value.
Thoughts on the items in the box
I'm excited about so many of the products included!

I used my Fashion Project gift card towards a brand new J. Crew sweater which ended up costing me $5 + shipping. Because of the way Fashion Project works, my order also included an $8 donation to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. #winwin

The eye serum, apple peel, hand cream, and candle are all items I'm looking forward to using but would never buy myself because they're more expensive. It's great to get to try them out now, and I love that these are full-sized products. Not sample sizes.

When I saw the Zumba DVD and gift card, they reminded me of a funny blog post I saw last month called Thoughts I've had during Zumba. I can't promise that I'll start doing Zumba frequently in our basement, but I vow to try this DVD at least once. At least there are no mirrors in my basement, so I won't see how ridiculous I look trying to keep up!

What also impressed me is that 2 of the gift cards didn't have valid codes for Canadians, so before my box even arrived, I received a separate email from FabFitFun with instructions on how to still take advantage of these 2 gift cards.


My favourite item would have to be the Half United Fighting Hunger Necklace. I love shopping for a cause and each item purchased from Half United feeds a hungry child for a week. Again, #winwin. This necklace is handmade from three bullet casings representing the fight against child hunger. Some of the boxes received silver necklaces, but I am so in love with the gold one. I've already been wearing it.

I won't use the 3-month Salted subscription myself, and the eyeshadows I received aren't my style, so I've already passed those items on to friends and family. Even if I subtract their value from the overall total, I'm still way ahead of what I paid for this box.

So, what do you think about this box? With the value they include, I tell Rob that getting one is really kind of like saving money. (He loves it rolls his eyes when I use financial words to talk about stuff like this).

If you're interested in trying it out, you can sign up at FabFitFun VIP.  (Remember TRYFFF takes $10 off your first box). Winter boxes, like the one I received, are still available.


Friday, 2 January 2015

Read Harder

I've always wanted to participate in a reading challenge, but I'm never going to read 50 books in a year which seems to be one of the more popular reading challenges. Even pre-bébé I don't think I could manage that, and I consider myself to be an avid reader.

Last week I came across Book Riot's 2015 Read Harder Challenge. It's only 24 books long which I see as much more manageable. Plus it's going to encourage me to read some books I would have never otherwise picked up.

To help myself complete this challenge, I'm permitting a few liberties:

a)  I started Boy, Snow, Bird last week, but I'm only a few chapters in, so I'm counting it.

b) Toronto Cooks is published by an indie Canadian publisher, and I will absolutely be reading through and making recipes from this big, beautiful book, so I'm counting it.

c) All the Light We Cannot See didn't actually win the National Book Award, but it was a finalist so I'm calling that close enough.

Here's the list and my initial thoughts on what I may read for some of the topics. These may change, and I'd love to hear your recommendations for any of the suggestions below (that's even one of the 24 tasks!). Plus, I'll add my favourites over on the Books page of this blog.  

1. A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25 - Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

2. A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65

3. A collection of short stories (either by one person or an anthology by many people) - The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

4. A book published by an indie press - Toronto Cooks by Amy Rosen

5. A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ

6. A book by a person whose gender is different from your own - Where I Belong by Alan Doyle

7. A book that takes place in Asia

8. A book by an author from Africa

9. A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture (Native Americans, Aboriginals, etc.) - Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden

10. A microhistory - Making Makers by AnnMarie Thomas

11. A YA novel

12. A sci-fi novel

13. A romance novel - Not sure yet but lots of suggestions on Goodreads are for books by Sarah MacLean, so I may try one of those.

14. A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade - All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

15. A book that is a retelling of a classic story (fairytale, Shakespearian play, classic novel, etc.)  - Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

16. An audiobook - The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

17. A collection of poetry - Love Poems by Pablo Neurda

18. A book that someone else has recommended to you

19. A book that was originally published in another language

20. A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind - Maus by Art Spiegleman

21. A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure (Read, and then realize that good entertainment is nothing to feel guilty over) - #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso

22. A book published before 1850

23. A book published this year - Why Not Me? by Mindy Kayling

24. A self-improvement book - The Awe-manac: A Daily Dose of Wonder by Jill Badonsky

Book Riot also has a Goodreads group setup if you'd like to get or give recommendations for the different topics specific to this challenge.

Wish me luck! Even if I only get 70% finished, I'm calling it a win. The Globe and Mail recently published that only giving 70% is better for your health anyways.