Canada Day Essentials

Canada Day is this Sunday and we’re heading up north to celebrate.  Here are some of our Canadiana essentials:

1) HBC Gear.  Our group of friends has a bit of an obsession/problem with the Bay’s HBC Collection.  I personally own a blanket, a beach towel, a coffee mug and a teddy bear decked out in his own HBC turtleneck.  Obtaining your own HBC stripes will set you back a few more dollars than a cheesy red and white Canada flag tee, but these pieces are classics that are actually okay to wear all year round.

2) Can Con.  Whether you’re heading north or staying in the city, no self-respecting Canadian should be without some Canadian Content (Can Con) music this weekend.  For those northern bound, it’s hard to go wrong with Neil Young or the Hip, but when it’s time to rock, our iPods will be blasting Arcade Fire, Tegan and Sara, Broken Social Scene, and Wolf Parade, to name but a few.  For those in search of some newer Canadian talent check out some bands we’ve got on rotation: Japandroids, Austra, Eight and a Half, Coeur de Pirate, The Weeknd, Grimes and Black Mountain.

3) Booze!  We realise you didn’t need a blog to help you with this one, but to help you stay on the Canadian track, here are a few of our favourites:  Beer – Mill St. Brewery‘s Tankhouse and Lemon Tea, Wine – Lailey Vineyard for Reds and Chateau des Charmes for White, Cocktails – the Caesar is a Canadian classic, but for those hot days, try substituting rye whiskey for rum and tossing in a handful of blueberries for a Canadian twist on the mojito.

4) Birthday cake.  If anyone deserves one, it’s Canada!  This cake has been featured by Canadian Living for as long as I can remember.  You can make it as light and basic as you like, or, if you’re traveling with a motley crew of animal lovers like us, try a decadent vegan red velvet base.

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How to: Make a cheap ceiling fan slightly less ugly

I live in an old house without air conditioning and when the heat wave hit Toronto earlier this month, the temperatures in my house soared to the mid 30s.  We’re hoping to have central air installed eventually and so didn’t want to invest a lot of money in short term solutions.  Problem:  ceiling fans are ugly, especially those of the budget variety.  Solution:  spray paint!  It’s cheap, it’s easy, and it changes everything.  I picked up a super basic white fan for about $40 and a can of high gloss cherry apple red paint for $3 at Lowe’s.  I opted not to paint the fancy blade attachment thingies, but the customization options are endless!

Get Moving: Quad

In an attempt to learn to ride a bike two years ago (you read that correctly), I decided that a natural place to start would be on a stationary bike. Makes sense, right?! I could get comfortable on the seat and learn about cycling posture, all the while not having to worry about balance!  After much coaxing, I joined a friend to my first spin class and was immediately hooked! Never before had a 60 minute cardio class gone by so quickly even though I was working so hard.

For the next few months I fluttered around the city with different friends, different bikes, different gyms and different Groupons. I tried Goodlife, I tried Spynga, I tried CYKL. And then I tried Quad and never looked back.

The classes, the studios, and most importantly, the instructors at Quad are in a league of their own. I tend to pick my weekly class at Quad to catch one of my favorite instructors (usually Bruce, Justine, Anouk or Rae), and I have a preference for the Quad East location (near Queen & Broadview), both for aesthetic reasons and because it has a Dark Horse next door (my fave espresso in the city). Sweating and a coffee make for the perfect start to the weekend!

I’ve brought many friends along with for a ride, and they’ve all become regulars. There’s something special about Quad. Many of the spinners are proper cyclists who use Quad to supplement their on-road training regime, and because of this, the spinners mean business, making me work harder and push myself every time. Early morning classes get packed on the weekend, make sure you book your spot online ahead of time!

Quad is bar none, my healthiest obsession.

I Want: TokyoMilk Perfumes

I fell in love with this line of perfumes by Margo Elena at first sight and have since become obsessed since discovering the rest of the collection online.  All of TokyoMilk’s eau de parfums are packaged in simply shaped bottles reminiscent of Demeter fragrances, but are beautifully designed with edgy details evocative of the scent contained inside (a skull and cross bones marks the “Dead Sexy” scent, one of my personal favourites).  The perfume line features natural essences, spices, herbs and plans, crushed and distilled to create a range of light, natural smelling scents perfect for the summer season.  The brand’s newest Dark line has a darker edge, featuring matte black bottles and names such as bulletproof, arsenic, and bittersweet.  At only $25-$45 a pop, these little beauties would make excellent gifts for the femme fatales on your shopping list.  Oh, and they smell amazing too.

Check them out in store at The Future of Frances Watson on West Queen West in Toronto or for shipping to Canada call 1-888-65TOKYO to order direct from the company (if you’ve got a U.S. shipping address, you can order online you lucky duck).  The dark collection is also available at Sephora.

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Try this: The Simply Bar

Am I the only one who finds this time of year ridiculously busy? Between running from work to the gym to visits with friends and family, sometimes I don’t have time to sit down and eat a proper meal.  I’ve got emergency stashes of The Simply Bar hidden in my desk, purse and gym bag for when I need something to tide me over for a couple of hours.

I first heard about The Simply Bar from Gwyneth Paltrow in an interview of sorts (go ahead, laugh), only to recently find out that they are made by Toronto-based company, Wellness Foods! I had been on a hunt for a healthy protein bar for some time, but find that most are extremely high in sugar.

These protein bars are gluten free, dairy free and vegan. They are high in protein (about 16 g per bar), very low in sugar (about 3 g), low in fat and calories and a decent source of fiber. They have no processed ingredients, and rather than tasting like a chewy, chalky carb, they taste like a flavourful rice krispie treat!

The flavours are interesting, too. Varieties include chocolate peanut butter, chocolate raspberry, caramel peanut, cinnamon vanilla, cinnamon pecan, cocoa raspberry, lemon coconut, and my favorite: coffee cocoa.

Give these a try! They usually retail for about $2.69 each and I find them at Loblaws, Bulk Barn, and Whole Foods.