Happy International Women’s Day!

Hello, readers! How are you celebrating the women in your life today? 

International Women’s Day is a wonderful yearly reminder of the strength and resilience of the women who gave us life, raised us, and overcame numerous obstacles to get where they are today. Those of us lucky enough to come from families where women are wholeheartedly celebrated, supported, and encouraged to succeed have been given extraordinary role models; we can learn so much from the triumphs of our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and sisters. 

This day is particularly important in 2017, which, just 9.5 weeks in, has already seen worldwide marches and protests against the sexist comments and bigoted views of Donald Trump. Today, the organizers behind the Women’s March on Washington encouraged women around the world to go on strike in a “one-day demonstration of economic solidarity…recognizing the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system – while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequalities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity.” Go, ladies!

You can check out some awesome history and facts about International Women’s Day here. Thanks for reading! 

In the Spirit of Family Day, Here Are 5 Meaningful Ways to Help Local Families in Need

For those of you who may not know, Family Day is a statutory holiday in February that occurs in certain Canadian provinces. As the title suggests, the holiday was created so Canadians could spend the day at home with their families instead of at work or school. It’s a cute concept, right?

I spent the long weekend enjoying time with my family as we soaked up the unexpected sunshine and had a barbecue for the first time since October. As we ate, however, I couldn’t help feeling sad for those people who were unable to gather with their families this past weekend. We often forget that so many Canadians come from broken homes, live below the poverty line, and/or are homeless. According to Canada Without Poverty, an estimated 1 in 7 Canadians are currently experiencing conditions of poverty. That’s not okay.

Here’s a quick list of how you can help families in need. Remember, every little bit counts…

  1. Make a donation to a Canadian charity. Whether you can spare $25 0r $250, this is one of the simplest ways to make a difference. Here is an excellent list of the top-rated charities and foundations across the country – they’ll put your money to good use.
  2. Donate your old clothes, toys, books, and furniture to those who would cherish your used items. Ideally, this is something you should already be doing! We all have old items sitting around and collecting dust. Torontonians can check out this list of where to donate and which organizations offer free pick-ups.
  3. Volunteer. Try local homeless shelters, Indigenous groups, soup kitchens, poverty organizations, and social justice foundations – they’re often searching for more help.
  4. Get involved. Become an advocate for a charity, foundation or organization that helps eliminate poverty, such as Make Poverty History Canada. Sign petitions and help spread messages of how we can help eradicate poverty in our country.
  5. Take action. You can sponsor a refugee to come to Canada and reunite with their family, you can protect trafficked persons in Canada, you can build homes for homeless families…the list goes on!

There are so many ways for you to roll up your sleeves and help make a difference in the lives of those in need. Don’t forget to ask your family and friends to get involved with you – you’ll be able to enjoy time together while joining forces to ease the burdens of other families. Thanks for reading!

Don’t Get Angry About Donald Trump’s Presidency – Get Educated!

Well, folks, the thing we never thought would happen has just happened. This morning, American businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, and not many people are happy about it. 

After the nation made the progressive decision to elect Barack Obama as president in 2008 and again in 2012, a certain amount of excitement and hope surrounded the 2016 election: was America finally going to elect a female president? The numbers were close, but ultimately, the people of the United States made the mind-boggling decision to elect a man who appeared completely unqualified to lead the most powerful country in the world. 

Even Canadians (such as myself) know that Trump was one of the least popular presidential candidates in U.S. history. Examples: Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the 2016 election against him, despite losing the presidency. Multiple world-famous performers declined invitations to perform at his inauguration ceremony. His vulgar and shockingly offensive comments about women and minorities kicked off protests and marches in at least 60 countries. Frustratingly, many Americans – women and minorities included – still support both him and his agenda.

If you’re angry, devastated and/or thoroughly confused about Trump being elected, my advice is to educate yourself and others about local and global issues that will be affected by his presidency. Think climate change, women’s rights, immigration, LGBT rights, international trade and relations, etc. Once you know the facts, let others know what his being elected actually means. Find out his plans (or lack thereof) to resolve society’s most urgent and important issues. Reread his latest speeches and learn more about who he has appointed to his cabinet. Knowledge is power, friends! Use it wisely. 

Hollandaise Diner (Danforth East) 

If you’ve seen my Instagram posts over the last few weeks, you’ll know how much I love Toronto’s Hollandaise Diner. After eating there three times in the last six weeks, I figured it was high time to tell all of you what makes this place so great!

Chef Josh prepared a massive feast for us! You can see why I’ve been back twice.

Located just east of Woodbine, this cozy brunch spot opened a little over a year ago. I first heard of it when a fellow Instagrammer (find her awesome page at @reesestdot) invited me to an event for “influencers”, i.e. bloggers/active people on social media who often post about Toronto eateries and are able to reach a large audience. In a nutshell, the influencers show up, take pictures of the dishes the chef has prepared (to later post on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), and then get to share the food. It’s a win-win: the restaurant gets free advertising, and the influencers get a free meal and great company.

That Thursday evening, after the diner had closed for the day (it’s open daily from 7 AM to 3 PM), owners Josh and Marisa greeted us at the door. A young and friendly couple, Josh is the head chef and Marisa pulls double duty as a waitress and hostess. The influencers were a small group – just five of us – but, during the course of the evening, Josh was busy whipping up seven or eight of the diner’s most popular brunch items. I love brunch food, especially eggs Benedict, so I was in heaven! Their delicious Hollandaise sauce comes in five varieties (original, zesty, coconut, Cajun, and HP-infused) and is made in-house and from scratch, as are their lightly-fried home fries. Of their seven eggs benny combinations on their menu, they served us four of their favourites, listed below.

The Classic ($10.62), an English muffin with peameal bacon, two poached eggs, classic Hollandaise sauce and paprika:

The Coconut ($11.95), bitter greens and grilled tomato topped with two poached eggs, coconut Hollandaise sauce and toasted coconut:


The Cajun ($11.95), two pieces of baked polenta, sautéed Cajun spice peppers, two poached eggs, Cajun Hollandaise sauce and fresh chives:


The Meatloaf ($11.95), two pieces of meatloaf on top of a ketchup glaze with sautéed mushrooms, two poached eggs, HP-infused Hollandaise sauce and fresh parsley:


I’ve also had their Florentine eggs benny ($10.62), which substitutes sautéed spinach for meat:


Of the eggs bennies, Coconut and Florentine are my favourites. The melt-in-your-mouth Coconut benny is a lighter option as it substitutes grilled tomato for English muffins, while the Florentine benny is simple and delicious comfort food. FYI, Marisa and Josh were happy to do whatever they could to accommodate allergies, substitutions, and dietary restrictions. They even have an awesome vegan option called The Mighty Vegan ($12.95) – a tofu-based baked frittata with asparagus, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers, and served with a side of fresh fruit.

Next up were to die for coconut pancakes ($8.85), made with coconut milk and infused with bits of toasted coconut. They’re so good that I couldn’t resist ordering an extra coconut pancake on the side the last time I ate there! Homemade blueberry sauce added to the mouthwatering flavour. Clearly each of us influencers was in the mood for pancakes, because these disappeared in seconds!

Chef Josh also whipped up his original buttermilk pancakes ($8.85), which we were all eager to drizzle with maple syrup! A little magic in the kitchen turned them into colourful “Funfetti” pancakes, which Josh would be serving a few days after the influencer event, as part of a celebration for the diner’s one-year anniversary:


And finally, Josh brought us the Mushroom and Brie Frittata ($12.39) – three large eggs with portobello mushrooms, Brie, asparagus, and a side of sweet and spicy red pepper jelly:

At Hollandaise Diner, the food is delicious, the ingredients are fresh, the creations are unique, and the staff is warm and welcoming. They don’t take reservations, but the space sits 24, so even at peak hours you won’t have to wait more than a few minutes for a table. If you live in or around Toronto, you’ve gotta visit them at least once. Their menu truly has something for everyone, so you won’t be disappointed!

15 Awesome Things That Happened Around The World in 2016

There’s no denying that 2016 was a rough year for many. Situations in Syria and Istanbul worsened, terrorist attacks happened everywhere from Florida to France, and many issues surrounding climate change and human rights went unresolved. To those of us who were paying attention to the daily news, it felt like the bad stuff just kept piling on. However, like I wrote in my previous post, there’s no use in condemning the entire year because of what happened during it. 2016 saw many positive changes in the world, too! Here are some of them:

  1. Child mortality rates have decreased by more than half since 1990!
  2. Volunteers in India planted almost 50 million trees in one day in order to help reverse effects of deforestation and climate change! In a country where smog levels are at an all-time high, this is a big deal. Read more here.
  3. 600,000 square miles of Antarctica’s Ross Sea will be designated as the world’s largest marine life sanctuary, safe from detrimental human activity!
  4. Pakistan finally made “honour killings” punishable by law! More here.
  5. The World Health Organization has declared Sri Lanka malaria-free! The country has not reported a single locally-transmitted malaria case in three and a half years.
  6. Eight months of passionate protesting at the Sioux Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota resulted in the U.S. government rerouting the Dakota Access Pipeline! It would have transported 450,000 barrels of crude oil daily underneath the Missouri River (close to the reservation), leaving the tribal land vulnerable to devastating oil spills. Major victory for locals, although the fight is not over.
  7. As of 2016, the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities agreement has been signed by 160 countries and parties! The international human rights treaty is intended to protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities.
  8. Graduation rates have reached an all-time high in high schools across the United States!
  9. The Paris Climate Agreement, which has been joined by 122 parties (including China and India), entered into force on November 4, 2016! The central aim of the agreement, as stated by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, is “to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius” and to “combat climate change and adapt to its effects.”
  10. The number of homeless veterans in the United States has decreased by half since 2010, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Interagency Council on Homelessness!
  11. The number of wild tigers is increasing for the first time in a century! Why is this important? Giant pandas and manatees were also taken off the endangered list in 2016.
  12. Groundbreaking peace talks happened between the Colombian Senate and the Farc (the country’s largest rebel group) after victims of the country’s bloody conflicts lobbied the government for peace! According to the BBC, the revised agreement aims to end an armed conflict that has killed 260,000 people over 50 years.
  13. Kenyan grandmothers in the shady Korogocho slum received praise for learning self-defense moves as a way of preparing to fight off potential attackers! You go, grannies!
  14. In 1999, Bertrand Piccard became the first person to fly successfully around the world in a hot-air balloon; in 2016, he completed the first circumnavigation of the globe without using any fuel, flying 40,000 km on solar power to promote the use of renewable energy! More on this incredible story here.
  15. 2016 was one of the safest years in aviation history! Despite the horrific plane crashes that did happen, there were relatively few crashes and deaths compared to other years – the current statistic is 1 death in every 10.7 million travellers.

There you have it, friends! A list of 15 incredible advances and accomplishments that 2016 should be remembered for. Feel free to leave a comment detailing other awesome changes that you know happened last year. We have a long way to go in making the world a near-perfect place, so here’s to hoping 2017 will see even more positive changes!

Happy 2017! Let’s Make This Our Best Year Ever

Welcome to 2017! Here’s to good health, happiness, and success. How did you all ring in the New Year?!

What a year 2016 was – there was a lot of devastation both locally and globally as well as a collective horrified disbelief at the outcome of the recent U.S. presidential election. However, there were also a number of very positive things (coming up in my next post) that were happening in the world at the same time. This year, I really hope the scale of these positive changes will widen to include issues in countries that have ongoing crises, such as Syria, Turkey, Iraq, South Sudan, and the Congo. Additionally, I’m hoping to see more global developments in the areas of climate change, minority rights, women’s rights, persons with mental health issues and disabilities, and prison conditions. A few ways we can help include educating ourselves and others about world issues, becoming activists to represent issues we’re passionate about, doing what we can to ease the suffering of those who need help, and reminding ourselves and others to never lose hope. Continue reading

Architectural Digest’s Style & Design Tips for December 2016

This month, the magazine explores the Obama family’s modern White House style, shows us how to display artistic sculptures in our homes, and gives examples of how lush greenery can compliment both architecture and personal style.

I hope you all had a happy and festive Christmas! Now that the excitement of presents and Christmas dinner has come to an end, many of us are coming up with our New Year’s resolutions and making personal goals for 2017. A common goal for the new year is to renovate or redecorate certain spaces (i.e. bedrooms, dining rooms, bathrooms and offices), which is why I wanted to share with you this month’s design tips from Architectural Digest. Even if you’re not planning to redecorate for a while or are on a budget, hopefully this post will help you gain some style and design insight for your future projects!

1. Use “dynamic” artwork and furniture to set the tone for your space.

Display unique photos, paintings, furniture and sculptures in rooms where they’ll have the most impact – think your foyer/entrance, dining room and living room. Whether it’s a photograph displayed in an elegant frame, a colourful painting or portrait, or a funky sculpture or table that really pops, those look-at-me pieces can bring life to small and plain spaces or give modern spaces a more casual vibe.

By the way, sculptures and art can double as furniture if you want to kill two birds with one stone. Check out this stunning Yves Klein coffee table, this Tommi Parzinger studded credenza, this Maria Pergay glass table and this Maria Pergay lamp. If you’re on a budget (or simply not made of money), you can find similar items for less at local housing ware stores like IKEA. They boast an assortment of unique shelves, lamps, storage units, cabinets, tables, chandeliers, etc. If you’re in Canada, you can also try Artemano, Structube, Urban Barn and Leon’s for funky yet functional household items.

2. Copy the Obama family’s White House style by using punchy artwork and earth-toned accents to make a “modern splash” amid a traditional theme, i.e. rich mahogany furniture coupled with beautiful rugs and carpets.

You can see pictures of their home here – notice how the rugs, dark wood furniture and subtle greenery (i.e. small plants or flowers) are a running theme throughout almost every room? This really ties the whole house together, as each room is complimentary of the next one but has memorable accents unique to that room (such as a plush sofa for the family room, breathtakingly beautiful artwork found in dining rooms and entertaining spaces, and antique desks and armchairs for executive rooms). Continue reading