Tasty Tuesday – Apple Stuffed Pork Loin

Hello everyone! It’s time for another Tasty Tuesday, this one’s coming to you a little later than normal because I wanted to wait until I actually ate some of it before sharing it. You know, just in case it turned out horrible and I was left to write a totally different blog post.

I’ve searched up and down for the video on Facebook that this recipe was inspired by but I can’t seem to find it. From what I recall the video involved making a teriyaki glaze for the pork loin to slow cook in but since I’ve opted for a different glaze, I guess it doesn’t really matter too much whether or not you see the video. Turns out there are lots of different apple stuffed pork recipes out there but this one is mine!

The ingredients you’ll need to replicate this recipe are:

  • Pork tenderloin (2 pieces)
  • 1 apple
  • Extra virgin olive oil (or some other oil to make dressing)
  • Dijon mustard
  • Honey
  • Apple cider vinegar

I’ve never worked with pork tenderloin before so this was a bit of an experiment. I’m really into crockpot recipes right now so I figured I would give it a try. Plus, pork loins were on sale last week at the grocery store we go to so it was budget savvy as well!

To start out, cut up 1 medium sized apple into thick slices. My apple yielded 14 slices (after I had munched on a few of them) so I did 7 slits in each of my pork loins. Then you just slide the apples in the slits (make sure you don’t cut all the way through!) and place these in the bottom of the crockpot.

I did something that I don’t normally do: I measured the ingredients I used! What I used for the glaze is a homemade salad dressing that I make all the time but rather than just throw it together I actually measured it out just in case anyone here wants to try this recipe for themselves.

The dressing is based off of one from Walt Disney World. A couple years back we had lunch at Liberty Tree Tavern and tried the Colony Salad which you can check out here. As far as salads go it was one of the best I’ve ever had so when we got home we looked up the recipe on All Ears since they’re recipes for Disney Theme Parks food are pretty on point. I use this dressing a lot when I’m in the mood for salads, it’s low calorie and really simple to make.

I don’t actually use the full recipe all the time and in this case I brought it down to four ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of oil (canola, olive, etc.)
  • 2 teaspoons of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard

If you check out the recipe on All Ears you’ll see they use more oil than vinegar but I prefer the sharp taste the vinegar gives it over the oil so I’ve switched things around. Plus I like the thinner consistency but I’m sure it would be good either way!

Once the dressing was made I poured it over the two pork loins, slapped the lid on the crockpot and left it on low for 8 hours. The smell of the apples and the vinegar really permeated the room whenever I lifted the lid to check and I was dying to have a taste of it all day.

Now after having more than just a tiny bite after packing it away, I’m pleased to say it turned out awesome! It’s got a sharpness to it from the dressing and the slow cooker made the meat nice and tender. It shreds apart really nicely but also has a wonderful crispy outside. Definitely a recipe I suggest and one I’ll probably end up making again!

What have you been making lately? Please feel free to share any food posts you’ve made recently and I’ll be sure to check them out!

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Fitness Friday – Fuel Me Up Before You Go-Go

This is a bit of a Fitness Friday post mixed in with a Tasty Tuesday post since I am still going to be talking about part of my fitness routine but specifically I’m going to be talking about the foods I eat before and after.

I used to be the kind of person who would go to the gym on en empty stomach, thinking it would make me work harder. I learned very quickly that this was not the case. I was tired quicker and the hunger pain made me ache to leave. I cut my workouts short and I didn’t work as hard throughout my workout so while I may have been burning fat, I wasn’t optimizing my workout.

I am not going to the gym anymore but I am constantly working out and I’m also making sure that I am eating before and after my workouts. I generally like to work out in the morning just after breakfast. I will eat my meal, give myself 30 minutes or so to digest and them jump into a workout. My workouts generally last 30-40 minutes so even after I’ve hit the shower I’m not really ready to have lunch just yet but I always make sure I have a post-workout snack.

After taking some time to read some different articles from Men’s Fitness, Fitness Magazine, and Pop Sugar Fitness, I have crafted some basic go-to foods for my pre and post workout eating that seem to fulfil most suggestions out there.

Here are some of the things I use to fuel up before a work-out:

Bananas and Oats – I’ve started making homemade granola bars from bananas and oats in order to reduce the amount of money we’re spending on snack foods and because they’re a little healthier than any of your boxed variety granolas. My recipe for these is at the bottom of this post in case anyone is interested in giving them a go!

1 Slice of Toast with Peanut Butter – My go to for the most part. While I know I should be swapping out my white bread for wholegrain bread I just haven’t got there yet. Eating only one slice stops me from consuming too many carbs that I’m bloated and sluggish but gives me the boost I need to remain full throughout my workout and the peanut butter fulfills the protein suggestions I found on most fitness blogs.

Fruit and Yogurt – We generally have either Source or Activia in our fridge and we always have an abundance of fruit. Bananas are a good one to put with this because you get the carbs and the potassium from the bananas and some protein from the yogurt.

Cottage Cheese and Fruit – I am not always in the mood for yogurt so cottage cheese is a great substitute when I want something a little more savoury. 1/2 cup of cottage cheese with a small bowl of fruit is enough for me to kickstart a great workout.

And here are some foods I eat to refuel after the gruelling 30-40 minutes of my workout are over:

Milk – Milk is my number one post workout food. There are studies that suggest that drinking milk after a workout promotes muscle gains and strength. I also find it incredibly helpful because I’m not eating a full meal afterwards and milk is just filling enough to push me through until lunch time. Chocolate milk is also apparently very good to drink after a workout but I simply cannot be trusted to drink only an appropriate amount if it’s in my fridge.

Tuna Salad on a piece of Toast or with Crackers – If my workout is leaving me incredibly hungry and drained this is the choice I will usually go to. I love tuna and it’s an excellent source of protein (plus it’s always cheap). A little bit of light mayonnaise goes a long way and a single piece of toast or some calorie / carb friendly crackers make it the perfect bridge between snack and a full meal.

Hard Boiled Eggs – I am not a huge fan of fried or scrambled eggs. I will eat them if I have to but for the most part I steer away from them which is fine because hard boiled eggs are better for you anyway. I’ll usually have one or two of these with some fruit.

Fruit and Cottage Cheese or Yogurt – these are equally as good after a workout as it is before in my opinion. I try to pick a fruit that I find filling like bananas or apples as opposed to berries which are much more of a snack to me.

As you can see, all these foods are pretty quick and easy grab and go foods. I have a feeling this is going to become increasingly important now that I’ll be working and I won’t have as much time at home.

Finally, as promised, here is the recipe for my banana oat granola bars!

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 cup of oats
  • 1 tablespoon of Peanut Butter / Almond Butter (optional)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of cinnamon
    Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mash ripe bananas until almost smooth.
  3. Mix in oats and cinnamon (and peanut butter or almond butter if you want a protein kick).
  4. Lay out the mixture on the baking sheet as evenly as possible. Another option is to fill muffin liners instead (Matt prefers them this way, I am just too lazy to do it sometimes).
  5. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let them cool. Once cooled cut them into bars!

There you have it! Don’t forget to fuel up and refuel before and after your workout, and don’t get trapped by the myth that working out on an empty stomach will burn more fat, it’s just not true! I hope this post gave some of you a few ideas and I’d love to hear what your workout foods are in the comments below!

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Tasty Tuesday – Mariposa Market


As you’ll probably quickly note from the pictures of Christmas cakes and other holiday goodies, this Tasty Tuesday post is pretty much a month delayed. I thought about writing this post a couple of times in the past few weeks but I really wanted to focus my Tasty Tuesday posts on some healthy meals before I jumped back into showcasing another place I like to ‘cheat’ at.

Mariposa Market in Orillia, Ontario is one gem of a bakery that I have been going to since I was a kid. We used to camp just outside of Orillia and Mariposa was somewhere in town we would always go to pick up treats. It’s basically been our go-to place for birthday cakes and Christmas dessert for the past decade or so.

Well, the cake was great.

A photo posted by Casandra Miller (@casandramillerr) on

(The Caramel Mountain cake Matt & I had for our birthdays last year)

They have recently renovated and almost doubled the inside which is nice because this place is always crowded during the holidays. The back half of the shop which used to just consist of a single long hallway has been turned into a second serving area with sandwiches, desserts, and drinks. The second serving area is nice if you’re just jumping in for lunch and don’t want to go into the madness of the rest of the place.


Mariposa is great for getting cakes, cookies, and all sorts of sweet things but they also have a great selection of savoury items. You can get fresh bread, preserves, quiches, and a whole bunch of others delicious eats. Mom and I generally share a sandwich and some sort of goodie so it’s cheating but on a smaller scale. On this particular trip we shared the turkey croissant sandwich which consists of turkey, havarti cheese, mixed greens, alfalfa sprouts, and cucumbers on a cheese croissant with red pepper jelly. It’s definitely out go to sandwich, especially because they didn’t have any holiday turkey sandwiches with stuffing and cranberries. We also had an After Eight Bomb which wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be but good enough that it was ate before a picture was taken. We took our lunch upstairs and ate in the expanded seating area which used to be all of ten little two seater tables but now has big long tables and an area with couches.


After lunch we went to pick up the goodies that we had come for for Christmas. I did do some Christmas baking as well but since we have Christmas with our extended family who number over 20, it’s easier to just pick up a bunch of desserts instead of baking all day. Plus, this saves me from eating a whole tub of icing while I’m waiting for things to finish baking.


In addition to the cookies we picked up for Christmas, my mom had ordered a small Yule Log for ourselves at home over the holidays. These things are just like a giant Swiss Roll covered in chocolate icing. They’re super sweet and we love them so much that sometimes we’ve ordered them out of season for birthdays (yes, we did get a kind of confused reaction for this since my birthday is in October but it was worth it.)

So if you ever find yourself in Orillia looking for somewhere to grab a bite to eat or just a sugary snack, I seriously suggest checking this place out! Anyway, I’ll be back with the healthy stuff next Tuesday!

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10 Things I Do For Self Care

Since this blog is about really growing myself as an individual both in mind and body, I figured it would be nice to highlight some of the things I am currently doing to keep myself mentally healthy. I know there are a ton of these lists out there, some a lot longer than ten items, but I still wanted to share this with my readers. Hopefully it will inspire some self-care practices in others, and remind me to keep these practices up for myself.

I’m also hoping to add to this list this year as I find more things to do to keep me in a positive mood but for now here are the top 10 things I do for self-care.

1. At Home Spa Days – I have had my fair share of mani-pedis and I’ve been lucky enough to experience the Rainforests at Disney’s Senses Spa on one of their cruises but for the most part spa days are a little bit out of my price range right now. There are some beautiful beauty bars and day spas in Toronto that are on my bucket list but these are definitely ‘treat yo self’ items and not things I could consider routine.

That being said, I do feel like the relaxing atmosphere of a spa is just the kind of thing that promotes self-care so I often try to replicate that at home. Whether it’s just cleaning up my nails or having a bubble bath with candles and a book, I find that little at home spa days are a great way to relax and unwind without the hassle and cost of going to an actual spa.


(Bubbles brought to you by my Santasaurus bubble bar featured in my Christmas post)
2. Reading – I am someone who has always loved to read but reading really fell wayside while I was in university. I was so consumed in reading for my courses that I found it hard to pick up a book for pleasure. I read a couple books after I graduated but it was really only this past summer that I fully got back into reading. This year I’ve decided to take the Goodreads Reading Challenge and I have challenged myself to reading 30 books. I’m already way ahead of schedule and I’m hoping to keep it up. Reading is a great way to have down time and to just let your mind escape to another world, especially if you’re into fantasy books like I am.

3. Journalling – This past December I started hearing more and more about Bullet Journalling and after looking into it a bit more I decided to try my hand at it. I started off just trying to do some basic weekly spreads in a little notebook that I already had. After a few weeks I became more serious about it and while I definitely don’t have the most beautiful spreads they have certainly improved.

After Christmas I bought myself a new journal (the red one) to do my journalling in while I transformed my old journal into a planner for my writing. I have a goal this year to get the first draft of my novel finished so I’m using my old planner to keep me on track while the new one has everything else.

Bullet Journalling can take as little or as much time as you want it to. Some days I spend hours writing in the pages of my journal while other days I just quickly check things off. It’s been great for helping me track my goals and to set new ones as well. It’s half a planner half a diary so it’s a great way to keep organized and to reflect on yourself.

4. Lengthy phone calls – My friends can all pretty much attest to this: sometimes I suck at texting. I will either text you non-stop, answering right away or I’ll take days to reply. But I’m much better at phone calls. There are very few days where I don’t have at least one phone call home to my mom just to talk about our days or whatever else is going on in the world. While it’s important to have self-care things to do on your own so you can take care of yourself without relying on anyone else, it’s also important to remember that talking things out is a great way to relieve some pressure off of yourself. So if you haven’t picked up the phone and actually talked to anyone lately, I strongly suggest giving it a try.

5. Exercise – Despite the fact that I really fell off the exercise train last year and I am just getting back to it, I already know from previous experience that exercising is a great way for me to keep myself busy and to steer myself away from negative thoughts. It will also help me transform my body, which in turn will be good for my self-confidence so this one kills two birds with one stone.

6. Cooking – When I am living healthy, as I am now, most of my meals are home-cooked. There will always be the occasional night out because I’m such a foodie and there’s just too many great restaurants in Toronto to always eat at home but for the most part you’ll find me cooking away in my kitchen, prepping meals for both Matt and I to make sure we stay healthy, and because cooking helps me clear my head.

I am the type of person who likes to cook everything all at once because I like the busy nature of working on a bunch of different dishes, and I like only having to do one big cleanup at the end of it instead of cleaning up after every meal. I’ve come to substitute cooking in for baking because it provides the same stress relieving process without leaving me with a tub of cupcakes at the end to eat all by myself.

7. Buzzfeed quizzes – Yes, they’re incredibly silly and most of the time they are very arbitrary but I see tag lines like “What Cliche Holiday Movie Trope Are You?” (Fake a relationship to save face, but end up falling in love) and “We Know Who You Want To Take To The Hogwarts Yule Ball” (Luna Lovegood) and I just find myself wanting to know. My friends and I often send these to each other when we’re chatting just to get a laugh in and it always gives us something interesting to talk about.

8. Adventure days – The best part about this one is that it is about to become my job! I like spending days wandering around the city, exploring the old and the new. It’s something I’ve done since I was a kid and now that I actually live in Toronto it’s ten times easier. I have just accepted a position with a hostel downtown to coordinate and lead activities for them which means I’m going to be taking tourists on adventure days as part of my job. This is great because it means my work will be part of my self-care routine as well!

My most recent adventure was a trip to the nearly empty St. Lawrence Market one early morning after I had a job interview. I expect there will be plenty more trips to the market now that I am working just up the road!


9. Sing-alongs – There are two types of sing-alongs in my house and they generally happen at very different times. The first type involves your regular music-playing in the background, singing out of tune and screwing up the lyrics (unless you’re my friend Jess who legitimately knows every lyric to everything). This type of sing-along happens in the car or just at home while I’m making dinner or cleaning.

The second type of sing-along generally happens sometime after midnight when I can’t sleep and I am apparently determined to keep everyone in my general vicinity up by belting out lyrics to the best of my ability with absolutely no musical accompaniment. And it’s not just one song, it’s usually a Disney soundtrack (my 3AM Frozen karaoke is legendary) or anything I can remember from the Hamilton soundtrack.

Regardless of what type of sing-along I choose, I find that music is a good way to relax and belting out the lyrics, no matter how horrible your voice is, releases a lot of tension in a positive way.

10. Photography – Last but certainly not least is a hobby I picked up from my dad. I always liked taking pictures but it was after he got himself a professional camera that I decided I wanted one too. I absolutely hate carrying my camera around but I really do love using it so for the most part I suck it up. I’ve captured so many memories and often find myself going back through my old pictures when I’ve got nothing to do. Honestly, I don’t even think you really need a fancy camera to enjoy the benefits of photography, a fun photo shoot with your phone’s camera can be just as good!

    
The pictures above are just three of the thousands I took while Matt and I were in Europe in 2015 (I’m sure I’ll show off more of these as time goes on). I love taking pictures of architecture and still life but even more so I love doing portraits and just capturing my friends in the moment. Oh, and sometimes I’m lucky and capture our Prime Minister instead!


(Disney Prince Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Toronto’s Pride Parade)
So there are my ten things. This was definitely meant to just be a list post but I got a little charged up talking about the things I do to promote positivity in my life. I’m always looking to add to the ways I can pull myself out of a bad mood or even just to get myself out of bed in the morning so I’d love to hear about any of your self-care routines if you feel like sharing!

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Fitness Friday – Just Keep Walking

I want to start off this post by saying that I in no way am against fitness trackers. I believe they work for some people as a way to track your progress and to challenge yourself to keep going. I think they’re a great piece of technology, they’re just not for me. It’s another one of those things, like ditching the scale which you can read about here, that I’ve decided to keep out of my fitness routine this time around.

I don’t have a Fitbit or any other sort of fitness tracker outside of my phone for a few reasons. The main reason is that knowing myself and my temptations, I know that an activity tracker, especially those that show how many calories I’ve burnt, has a potential of actually being detrimental to me. There is a chance that I will see the calories I’ve burnt and use it as an excuse to cheat. Basically “Oh look, I’ve burnt 500 calories, I can have this 300 calorie chocolate bar now.”. So while my activity may be up what I’m putting into my body might not be quite as good.

Similarly, I do believe there’s a chance, a lesser chance but a chance still, that I may look at my tracked activity and not continue to push myself harder. For instance, if I reach the recommended 10,000 steps early in the day, it provides me with the opportunity to say I’ve done enough and just spend the rest of the day on the couch instead of continuing to be active throughout the day.

Lastly, I hate wearing things on my wrist all day. I don’t mind wearing the odd bracelet out for an evening or something but for the most part I prefer my wrists bare. I know this from multiple trips to Disney World where I can constantly be seen avoiding wearing my Magicband on my wrist by attaching it to my belt loop or the strap of my camera bag.


All this being said, the one reason I do wish I had an activity tracker is to count my steps mostly out of curiosity.

After most of our Disney trips where we had spent 16 hours in the parks, walking thousands upon thousands of steps around all the magic, my mom and I would always come home with the good intention that if we could just keep our walking up we could lose some weight. Based on my phone’s recordings the record for my last trip to Disney was “22,053” and the one for our trip to Universal was “22,390”. On the Universal trip my friend Keeragh was wearing a Fitbit and on average my phone was registering within 500 steps of her tracker so I’d say it was fairly accurate.

I am afraid to say I mostly fell short on our post-trip walking goals, not making time for any more walking than I usually did. But with all of this in mind, I have decided that getting back to walking a lot is something I should focus on.

When I’m out, I tend to walk almost everywhere. I like exploring and I find the best way to do that is to just walk from one location to the next instead of hopping on and off transit all the time. However, since I’ve been unemployed for the past four months (Not anymore! More on this later) I don’t actually spend as much time out of the apartment as I would like and therefore there are days when I have been pretty sedentary outside of my workout. I have since decided that I need to change this. Unfortunately, it is winter and winter in Canada is accompanied by cold weather, snow storms, and my nemesis ice (I’m a Canadian who can’t skate and therefore a shame to my country). But winter hasn’t totally stopped me from getting out: I went to the Royal Winter Fair with my friend Keeragh, I went to several Christmas markets, and I’ve done my fair share of steps wandering around Yorkdale Mall and the Eaton Centre.

So much Christmas magic 🎄🎄🎄

A photo posted by Casandra Miller (@casandramillerr) on

Coming into the New Year, I still felt like I wasn’t moving around enough and with the weather getting worse I knew I needed an option other than walking around outside. Since the gym in my building is still not finished I decided to make use of what space I have so I began walking around my apartment.

Before you get the image in your head of me pacing the floor of my 550 square foot apartment, staring at my phone, waiting for it to up my steps, I should explain that I’m not just walking. Instead, when I’m taking time to read I do so walking around instead of laying in bed, sometimes I’ll throw a show on the tv and walk during it, and when the phone rings I generally hop up and have my conversation walking around.

You might think this is silly but I’ve seen some pretty good results recorded on my phone’s health app.

Those are both days where I never left my apartment once. I didn’t even have my phone on me the whole day, I just had it in my pocket when I was purposefully walking around. It might not be a 20,000 step Disney day but it’s definitely a start.

What do you do to keep active when it’s cold outside? Please feel free to let me know in the comments below, and if you’re stuck in an apartment like me consider getting up and stretching your legs a bit! It can’t hurt!

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Tasty Tuesday – Crockpot Chilli

Today’s Tasty Tuesday is a highlight of an old favourite of mine. It’s one of the first things I learnt to make on my own and it’s definitely one of my go to meals.So what is it?

Crockpot beef chilli!

Before I had a crockpot this was just regular beef chilli which would be made the same way but on the stove. It really doesn’t make too much of a difference because you’d still be slow cooking it on the stove but this frees up one of my burners and can just be tucked away in the corner.

Chilli is one of my old favourites when it comes to healthy eating because it’s easy and it’s packed full of protein. Now that I’ve been working out again and cutting a lot of carbs out of my diet I’ve found that I’ve really needed extra protein to keep me full and energized throughout the day. Chilli is one of those meals that really lasts for me; not only am I getting protein from the lean ground beef but I’m getting it from the beans as well.

While canned beans aren’t always the greatest because of the high amount of sugar used in the preservatives, they are a high protein / low carb food that I like to cook with. This journey is all about learning how to be healthier one step at a time so I have to make the occasional concession. Plus there are so many great health benefits to eating beans that I think this one probably balances itself out. Everything in moderation!

As I go along, you’ll probably notice a trend in my cooking endeavours, and that is that my meals usually don’t have that many ingredients. I like to keep things simple, especially because I generally cook multiple meals at once which means it’s convenient and budget savvy to cook things with not much to them. It also helps when multiple recipes call for the same ingredients. For example, I almost always have lean ground beef, taco/chilli seasoning, and bell peppers in my house because I use them in a lot of different things!

My chilli is made from 5 main ingredients*:

  1. Baked Beans in Tomato Sauce
  2. Red Kidney Beans
  3. Bell Peppers
  4. Packaged Chilli Seasoning (or Taco Seasoning if you’re run out like I did!)
  5. Lean Ground Beef

*In this version I also added cajun spice just to give it a bit of a kick since I substituted taco seasoning in for chilli seasoning. I’ve really got to remember to pick up chilli seasoning the next time I’m at the grocery store.

As I’ve said before, I’m a throw everything in and hope it works kind of cook so I can’t tell you how much ground beef I used but I threw it into a frying pan on medium heat, browned it up and let a few of the pieces get nice and crispy before I put it into the bottom of my small crockpot. Meanwhile, I chopped up the bell peppers, drained and rinsed the kidney beans, and opened up the baked beans (there are two cans pictured but I only ended up using one). Once everything was in the crockpot, I mixed it up, threw in the pack of taco seasoning and covered the top with the cajun seasoning before giving it one last mix.

I turned the crockpot onto low and let it cook for 4 hours, stirring occasionally. That’s it! So easy. This particular batch yielded 2 servings each for Matt and I.

You could easily replicate this recipe with additional ingredients (corn, celery, etc.) or even switch the ground beef out for ground turkey or chicken. It’s an easy recipe, not much to it, and it’s very little work which is exactly why I love it!

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They Let Women Do All Sorts of Things – Hidden Figures Review

As you can probably tell from the picture of me on the right (or at the bottom of the page if you’re on mobile) I am white. I also happened to grow up in a very white city with very little access to diversity. Therefore diversity and race is something I’ve really had to come outside of myself to learn about.

Studying Sociology in University was one of the things that really brought me out of my White Suburban Bubble. By White Suburban Bubble I’m referring to the fact that I grew up in an all-white family with almost entirely all-white friends from a very white Catholic school in an incredibly white neighbourhood.

My point is that until university I didn’t have much exposure to issues of race outside of a few lessons in my history classes and the few movies I had seen tackle the issue. Sure, I was still upset by family members using racial slurs or yapping on about stereotypes that I didn’t think were fair to put on anyone but I had not yet really learnt enough to understand it all. University began to change that.

Race is something that comes up over and over again in most Sociology courses. I have talked about race and poverty, race and gender, race and crime, and in my final year I took an advanced seminar on race issues in general which gave me the chance to explore many of these topics in depth. All of this helped open my eyes, not just to the history that I was used to seeing in movies like Hairspray or 12 Years a Slave but to the current state of affairs and the way history had played into that. I read more, I researched, I listened, and I tried my best to understand.

And of course I’m still learning, and I don’t think I’ll ever be done learning.

It is with this context I want to talk about Theodore Melfi’s new film Hidden Figures. The film is based on the true story of some of the African-American women working at NASA during the 1960s space race. I saw this movie twice in the span of a week and while I thought about waiting until February for Black History Month to share my review with you, I figured it was important to get this out there while the film is still in theatres.

Now, I don’t believe it is my place to define the importance of films like Hidden Figures, but I do believe it is valuable for everyone to acknowledge that films like this are absolutely essential, no matter the colour of your skin. Rather than just give you my take on the movie, I want to highlight some of the uplifting reactions I’ve seen on social media, particularly from women of colour who were moved by this masterpiece. Then, at the end I’d like to share my own experience.

The first review I found of the movie was on another WordPress blog: ThinkFashionThenStyle. The review, “Hidden Figures: A Black Girl’s POV”  is not only a lovely highlight of the movie, it’s an uplifting piece of writing that really made me smile. You can feel her energy in every word; in fact, while reading it I almost wished I could go out and see the film again.

“The color of ones skin does not define our beauty, our brilliance nor our abilities to be great.” – ThinkFashionThenStyle

Next I found that Taraji P Henson who stars in the film as Katherine Johnson reposted an image of a young fan whose mother posted the original image to express that her daughter had found a new role model in Henson’s role. This reminded me of the image of young fans with Kristen Wiig when the Ghostbusters remake came out and how inspired they looked. Representation matters especially in the male-dominated world of STEM education.

Next up is a review I found from a retired teacher here on WordPress. You’ve of course heard to never judge a book by it’s cover, but in this case never judge a blog post by it’s title. The post “Hidden Figures Made Me Want to Spit Nails!” by Pamela Barbee Marshall certainly drew me in with it’s bold title but it is the content of this post that I think is really important to share. The post talks about how there is so much missing history in today’s education system, how so much goes untaught and not talked about. This is certainly and unfortunately true from my experience.

“I am angry because after 38 years of teaching, I had never ever heard the story of these amazing women. Not once has any of their names been attached to the history books or curriculum guides, noting their monumental contribution to the space program. And it was monumental!” – Pamela Barbee Marshall

I am thankful for films like Hidden Figures for opening my eyes to a history I didn’t know about, though I find it terribly worrisome that there are so many films that do just that. I’m someone who takes pride in knowing a lot about history but there is a lot missing from the books I’ve read in and out of school. It makes you really wonder if you’re just learning what a few people want you to learn instead of knowing the whole story.

In searching for more voices to include in this review I happened to stumble upon a lovely story about Katherine Jackson’s great-grandson, Trevor Boykin, who organized a screening of the film in his great-grandmother’s honour. Part of the proceeds from the screening were put into a scholarship fund for a future STEM student at the University of Guam where Boykin studies.

There are many more lovely reviews on WordPress if you search Hidden Figures and lots of great reactions in the #hiddenfigures tag on Instagram so definitely check them out. I wanted to highlight more but this post is turning into a novel!

For me, this movie was incredibly important, not only in order to further my learning but also to inspire me as a woman. Katherine Johnson, along with Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, are three women we could all inspire to be more like: bold, intelligent, and invincible.

Moving to the city has had an impact on me that I never really expected. It has come from being around more cultures, more races, more diversity. I loved every moment of Hidden Figures but it was actually the experience of watching it that has really stuck with me. When I first saw the film the majority of the audience I was in consisted of people of colour. I didn’t really think anything about this at first, it was just another night in North York, but the moment the movie started I realized that the make up of the audience actually mattered.

Being in a theatre with people of colour brought an energy to the room that overwhelmed me in the best ways possible. The people around me were vocal: they sneered, they groaned, they applauded, and they cheered. It was something that could have been considered distracting but I found it inspiring to be sitting amongst people who could see their own struggles and their own feelings in these women. I believe my experience of the film was heightened simply by being in this room full of strangers.

I strongly encourage you to go see this movie. It’s completely family friendly (Rated PG) and is definitely an excellent option for a family night out. Let it start a conversation that needs to be had. A conversation that, like the women in the film, should never be hidden.

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Fitness Friday – I don’t want to get out of bed!

I am the type of person who likes to spend a lot of time in bed. Not only am I a big fan of napping and going to bed early, my bed is also just a place I like to hang out. When I was still at university I would say at least 80% of my studying at home was done in my bed despite the fact that I had a perfectly good studying area at my desk.

Our bedroom in the new place is pretty damn small but it’s still one of my favourite rooms to be (not that I have many options in my apartment). I love our teal chevron bedding from Target and the artsy pastel city pictures from Ikea that we have above the bed. It’s definitely the most pinterest worthy my bedroom has ever looked and admittedly it makes me feel that much comfier.

Bedroom cuteness accomplished… it's nice to not be sleeping on the floor.

A photo posted by Casandra Miller (@casandramillerr) on

So what’s the point of all this bed talk? Well, for this Fitness Friday I want to highlight another Youtube fitness guru like I did with the Fitness Marshall in one of my previous Fitness Fridays. However, this time I am just going to highlight a single video: Joanna Soh’s 5-Minute AB Exercises in Bed.

I found Joanna Soh’s channel a long while ago while just looking up workouts I could do at home. She has a bunch of videos focusing on healthy eating, meal planning, and of course working out but I will admit I haven’t had much chance to try out anything more than this one video. Still, it’s one I come back to when I just can’t seem to pull myself out of bed right away to do a full workout.

Now, we all know you aren’t going to get a flat stomach or a six pack with a five minute workout that you do laying on your bed but some activity it better than no activity so I like to throw on this video on those days where I just need a bit more time cozied into my mattress.

The workout is simple and low impact, plus it gives your muscles a good stretch. My favourite part of the workout is the Wide Leg, Cross Sit-Ups the best because I feel my core working while also improving my flexibility. Generally I’ll do the workout through a few times and then do some light stretching afterwards.

There we have it, another Fitness Friday complete! Consider this workout the next time you’re struggling to get yourself out of bed, it may even give you the boost you need to pull yourself away from those cozy covers!

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Tasty Tuesday – Chicken Fajita Rice Bowls

It’s time for another Tasty Tuesday! Rather than showing you my whole meal prep for the week as I did in last week’s post, I’m just going to spotlight just one of the meals I made: Chicken Fajita Rice Bowls!

I’m a big fan of Chipotle’s burrito bowl but it isn’t exactly the healthiest option especially since I can’t remember ever not getting a little bag of nacho chips to go with it. When it comes to meals I get cravings for I usually try to make a healthier version at home to satisfy the craving and to stop myself from getting off track. That’s what I was doing here!

This meal was completed with eight easy ingredients:

  1. Long Grain White Rice
  2. Bell Peppers
  3. Taco Seasoning
  4. Cajun Seasoning
  5. Chilli Pepper Flakes
  6. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  7. Onion
  8. Boneless / Skinless Chicken Breasts

While the oven was preheating to 350, I cooked up about 2 cups of long grain white rice and threw in some cajun seasoning at the end. Next time I’d throw in a little hot sauce or something as well because the rice was a bit plain for me, which is nothing unusual since I’m not a huge rice fan to begin with but now I know for next time.

Everything else was done in one pan: I sliced up the peppers and onions and threw them on either side of a glass pyrex dish. I then placed two boneless chicken breasts in the centre, gave the entire dish a sprinkle of olive oil and then dusted it in taco seasoning, cajun spice and a few chilli pepper flakes. I gave it all a good mix up, seasoning the other side of the chicken breasts as I did, and then I tossed the dish in the oven.

I let the dish cook for about twenty minutes before flipping the chicken and tossing around the vegetables. Another twenty minutes later the chicken was cooked through and the veggies had gone nice and soft. I then put a pillow of rice onto the plates (and into some Tupperware containers for this week’s meals) and placed the mixture on top. Voila!


(This is Matt’s portion, mine had a lot less rice and a side of roasted veggies!)

Another easy, healthy meal done!

I’d love some recommendations on how to put some more flavour into the rice without upping the calorie count too much so if you have any suggestions please drop them in the comments below!

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Britney or Christina? How my preference in pop stars determines whether or not I get a job.

You may be surprised to hear this: I love job interviews. I mean, I don’t enjoy the hours of anxiety, the sleepless nights, and the shaky hands that usually come with preparing for a job interview but in general I find the actual interview process quite refreshing and positive. Even if I don’t get the job I take it as a learning experience, a way to develop my interpersonal skills and to challenge myself to become better. That, and I have some pretty cute interview outfits so that’s always fun.

But outlook on interviews is changing, and not for the better.

As I explore my way into a whole new profession, throwing resumes in all directions, I have come across various different forms and structures of interviews. I’ve had phone interviews, Skype interviews, the online ones where you’re awkwardly talking to no one, and then of course your typical in person interviews.

Since I am delving into new territory a lot of the jobs I’ve applied to are non-traditional start-up positions. Many of the companies are young and have therefore steered away from a lot of your conventional hiring practices. I’ve had a job interview in a room with a William Shatner cutout, one that was a written test that you could never actually get through in the allotted time limit, and one that was in a giant ball pit. I actually got a kick out of these experiences, while they were a bit odd they challenged me in new ways.

So where did everything go wrong?

It’s the interviews that focus soley on favourite movies, tv shows, and books rather than your job qualifications. It’s the ones that ask you how you would most like to die or which villain you’d like to be instead of talking to you about your skills.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think adding in these random, quirky questions like “Who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman?” or “If you were a type of jello what kind would you be?” into interviews is a great idea. The interviewer can gauge a person’s comfortability with innovation and creativity, in addition to seeing how that person’s personality might fit within the company. It’s about comfort, charisma, and general personality, all important things to take into consideration when hiring a new employee especially when it comes to customer service positions like the ones I’ve been applying to.

It’s when the whole interview consists of these questions and nothing else that I find it problematic. This was actually what my ball pit interview consisted of but I had no complaints because I had already gone through a more traditional interview about my work experience. I had been able to show the hiring manager that I was suitable and qualified for the role based on my previous experiences and they’d moved me to the next round where they evaluated whether or not I’d be a good fit for the company personality wise.

Since then I have had interviews that only ask you the weird questions and I’ve come out feeling a bit ripped off. Can these ‘this or that’ questions really tell you if I’m going to be able to do a job well? Can my favourite book series tell you if I’m going to show up to work on time? Will you know if I’ll be able to work well under pressure if I tell you a certain tv series that I like to watch? Does Downton Abbey say I’m stuffy and uptight or does it say I’m classy and academic?

Maybe I don’t sound very ‘fun’ right now, or you’re thinking I need to relax and just go with the flow. But here’s the thing: I’m not bothered by the unconventional interview questions, I’m bothered that no one bothered to ask me about my work experience or the skills I have that directly relate to the job. But my job history is on my resume so maybe you shouldn’t have to ask me about it.

No, stop! Of course you should!

My resume tells you that I worked at Walt Disney World, that I served popcorn and made sure the guests has a magical day. It does not tell you about the time our computer system went down and I led my team in manually selling products to dozens of hungry guests, avoiding a huge customer service problem for our department completely.

My resume tells you that I was a Corporate Events Coordinator at Canada’s Wonderland, working with clients and assisting staff to run catered events. It does not tell you that one morning I got a call on my way across the parking lot from the Sales Rep that she wasn’t coming in and that she was trusting me to cover her 1,00 person event from start to finish.

My resume tells you that I was a teaching assistant at my university. It does not tell you that I managed this job while juggling a full course load and maintaining a high academic average. It does not tell you how I improvised in the middle of my lessons when the students weren’t following the lesson plan, or how I made the material more engaging and accessible in different ways to suit the diverse learning styles of my students. It does not tell you that I worked with students with disabilities, students with mental health issues, students who were shy about talking but blossomed throughout the year.

It doesn’t tell you any of these things because there’s just not enough page space.

But my interview would’ve told you all that, it would have shown you why I’m a valuable employee, how I can benefit a team, lead when I am needed to, and what skills I’m bringing to the table. You would’ve known it all, if only you had cared about more than who I liked better: Britney or Christina?

In better news, I have two more interviews coming up this week. Here’s hoping they go a little smoother.

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