Mother’s Day Gift Guide

Mother’s day is fast approaching and if your April has been anything like mine, you haven’t had a whole lot of time to prepare.  There’s always the fall-back bubble bath and flowers, but if you’ve got a cool mom who deserves something special, I’ve put together a few ideas that I curated with my own mom in mind.  These items are (almost) all available in Toronto or if not, can be ordered fairly expediently online.

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Clockwise(ish) from top right: Hashish candle by Jonathan Adler; a hilarious mostly-true memoir by Jenny Lawson; a quirky card to piss off your siblings via Etsy (other great cards available at Red Pegasus on College st. in Toronto); a southwestern style yoga mat by Magic Carpet; Ikea MALM occasional table for impromptu breakfasts in bed; pretty floral pajamas by J Crew; a customizable name necklace by Toronto based Citrus Silver; an alpaca blanket by Cambie (previously obsessed over here); colourful lightweight scarves from Chapters; a cheeky throw pillow by Alexandra Ferguson; Mother’s Little Helper tea from David’s Tea; recycled wine bottle scented candles (I adore the Cab Sauv).

I’m expecting to get a phone call this afternoon from my own mother asking which of these I’ve purchased for her and yelling at me for telling all of you that I immediately thought of her when I discovered Jonathan Adler’s hashish candle several months back.  LOVE YOU MOM!!!

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Decadent Cooking Ingredients

Kelly and I seem to be on a bit of a wellness kick this week! I’ve taken to spending more time than usual in the kitchen lately and have been playing around with a few new (to me) ingredients in my recipes and snacks. These five have been pretty epic for various reasons and most definitely worthy of sharing with you.

1) Coconut Oil

I’ve been reading about the benefits of coconut oil for ages. The first recommendation came to me from a friend who suggested I use it directly on my face, mixed into my regular face cream. It makes a great body cream and lip balm, too. But forget its topical uses – I’ve been playing with it in the kitchen. Coconut oil has a higher smoking temperature than olive oil, making it a great oil to use for frying and other cooking at high temperatures. It can also be used a replacement for butter or shortening in your baking at a 1:1 ratio.

I’ve tended to use coconut oil in recipes where I think the subtle flavours will compliment the ingredients. Some ideas: in curries, on top of popcorn, as your oil when you make pancakes or french toast… the possibilities are endless!

2) Sea Salt

More natural? Yes. Less processed? That too. Less sodium? NO! I know sodium levels are of grave concern to many people, but we all love a bit of salt to augment flavours in the food we eat. I’ve been turning to sea salt lately for both the taste and the texture. The coarser grain packs a bigger punch and with all of the different varieties of sea salt, I really taste a difference in my food. I realize how pretentious this may come across, but so be it :) My favorites are grey sea salt the Himalayan pink sea salt.

3) PB2

Have I spoken about how I’ve banished nut butters from my home? I can’t think of many things I love more than peanut butter and almond butter, but moderation is a struggle. Sometimes it simply has to be all or nothing! After months of missing peanut butter in my life, I read about PB2. PB2 is made by slow-roasting peanuts and pressing them to remove 90% of the fat. What’s left is a powder made of peanuts. So maybe this isn’t the most natural, whole food I’ve ever eaten, but it is most definitely a less fattening way of eating one of my favorite things. Add a bit of water or almond milk and make a paste and dip your celery sticks and apple slices in it like you normally would with a nut butter. Add the powder to your oatmeal or your smoothie for all of the flavour but not all the fat.

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Green Beauty

In my teens and early 20s I was lucky to have pretty easy, clear skin and never gave much thought to what I was putting on it.  This laissez-faire skin care routine of mine backfired a couple years ago when my skin suddenly became prone to mysterious rashes.  Combine that with the fact that I am no longer 20, live with a green-friendly vegan, and have learned that 60% of what you put on your skin gets absorbed into your body, I’ve started paying a bit more attention.  I won’t claim to be a green warrior, but I do try to do my part for the environment, and more importantly, for myself.  A startling number of ingredients in most drug store beauty products (shampoos, body washes and lipsticks being amongst the worst) contain known carcinogens and other toxins that can mess with your hormones and increase your risk of cancer and other diseases (for a scary summary of the worst offenders, click here).  Whether or not the regulatory agencies charged with such tasks tell me that the levels of these chemicals are dangerous to me, I don’t particularly like the idea of swiping lead on my lips or massaging petroleum derived sulphates into my scalp.  I can’t claim that my beauty routine is totally chemical free, but I’m working on it and have so far been pleased to discover that healthier, more natural options that actually work are not only available, but both accessible and affordable.  I’ve compiled a list of my favourite brands and a few I’m hoping to try below.

Burt’s Bees -This is an easy one.  If you’re a lip balm addict like me, you’ve probably already used this product a few times in your life.  But Burt’s isn’t only about lip balm – the company has over 150 all natural products, from eye cream to aftershave.   I adore the Milk & Honey body lotion and the tinted lip balm (which uses only natural colours and none of those scary sounding dyes your mother is always warning you about).

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Yes to Carrots
– While I haven’t yet used this brand of products, I vowed while writing this post to make the shift.  I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a sucker for branding, and this company rocks it.  The “Yes To” company has 5 lines of skin care products, tailored to your particular skin-type and needs: carrots for nourishing, cucumbers to sooth, blueberries for aging skin, grapefruit to correct and repair, and tomatoes for acne prone skin.  These all natural skin and hair care products are made with organic fruits and vegetables and contain no parabens, petroleum, SLS or phthalates.  Just check out the chart below – doesn’t that sound more appetizing than the impossible to pronounce chemical ingredients slapped on the back of most drug store products?

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Toronto’s Discovery Walks

A few weeks ago, I made a personal declaration to spend the best of this upcoming summer’s days on Toronto’s islands, having picnics and soaking up the sun (there and at Kelly’s  family cottage, of course :)  ).  It looks like I’ve got some time to go before  it’s warm enough to explore the beaches and share with you my favorite spots and picnic snacks.  In the meantime, I’m on the hunt for other outdoor activities to get me out of my apartment and enjoying some fresh air… something other than shopping along Queen West!

Did you know that there are 15 km of urban trails well-marked around the city called “Discover Walks”?  I’ve seen this familiar sign before, but didn’t realize the paths to which they lead are so expansive.  These discovery walks will take you through, gardens, beaches, parks and ravines and get you seeing new parts of Toronto.  Most of the paths are right downtown, meaning you don’t need access to a car to get hiking. There are about 12 paths to take, and maps are available for all of them on the City of Toronto’s website.

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Take a look at this map to get a sense of which paths will have you walking in a new direction.

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Urban Patio Prep

Given the weather we’ve had so far this spring, I’m not optimistic that the sun is here to stay quite yet, but that hasn’t stopped me from preparing for patio season.  While many of us Torontonians don’t have the luxury of a sprawling backyard, even the smallest balconies can be transformed into luxurious summer escapes.  Here are a few of my favourite inspiration photos and some resources to help get you started on your own planning.

1) Bohemian Balcony

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Keep it relaxed and comfortable with a basic black and white sectional, then add some whimsy with these awesome mosiac tables from West Elm.  Throw in some plant life, a few colourful outdoor throw cushions, an Ikea lantern or two, and bam – an eclectic outdoor chill space.

2) Elegant Oasis

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